A 2023 Conversion Benchmark Report for Legal by RulerAnalytics found that over 50 percent of website visitors came from organic searches. If your law firm is not already engaging in SEO marketing, you’re missing a significant source of potential clients. However, SEO marketing can be daunting if you don’t know where to begin. This guide is here to help. We’ve broken down all the steps it takes to get started with your own SEO, from research to production. You can use this guide to learn how to do your own SEO or to gain a clearer understanding of what to look for in an SEO marketing agency. Let us help you get started on your SEO journey.
Search engine optimization, backlinks, local SEO — it’s easy to become overwhelmed with all of these terms when all you want is for your law firm’s website to perform at its best. To help you, we’ve broken the process down based on where you may be in learning about law firm SEO.
If you’re brand new to search engine optimization marketing, this is where you should start: chapter one. Take the time to familiarize yourself with some of the vocabulary in the glossary and the concepts introduced here. Then, reach chapters two, three, and four.
In chapter two, you’ll learn about ranking factors as well as how Google decides what results show up for searches. Then, in chapter three, you’ll learn the importance of keyword research and how you can start doing your own research to create the most useful — and high-ranking — content!
In chapter four, we’ll go into detail about content marketing and how you can produce the best content for your potential clients while also meeting the needs of Google so you can rank well.
For those who have some insight into SEO marketing and perhaps some technical skills, check out chapters five and six. These discuss onsite SEO and link building. In chapter five, we talk about technical SEO, optimizing your website for user experience, and how to use structured data to your advantage. Then, in chapter six, we break down strategies for getting high-value domains to link to your website to create helpful backlinks.
Array Digital can help those who have a good amount of knowledge of SEO as well. If you are familiar with the purpose and techniques used in law firm SEO, we suggest skipping ahead to chapters seven and eight. This is where you’ll learn about SEO metrics, KPIs, and budgeting for your law firm marketing.
Chapter seven breaks down SEO metrics, which give you insight into how your website is performing. We’ll talk about the most important metrics for law firms and what tools you can start using now to track those metrics. We also break down KPIs or key performance indicators. These are the most important metrics you need to use to evaluate how well your SEO strategy is working.
In chapter eight, we go into detail on how to create an SEO marketing budget. Don’t worry — you don’t have to give away the profits of your law firm to get exceptional attorney SEO results.
Here’s a list of some of the most important digital marketing terms you should know that we’ll refer to throughout our guide.
Let’s start with SEO and how it impacts a law firm’s website. The ultimate goal for any attorney’s website is to ensure it provides high-quality and valuable information for your potential clients — the people visiting your website who you wish to turn into clients using your legal services.
However, for people to find your site, we have to design it in a way that allows Google and other search engines to recognize its value and position it in front of them when they search.
SEO marketing for law firms refers to the efforts we take to improve your website’s rank in search engines with a primary focus on Google. By doing this, we can increase the number of people — who we call traffic — that are visiting your website. The more people that get to your website, the more likely they are to convert from a visitor to a client.
To do this, we’ll design an SEO marketing campaign. That involves a number of tools to improve your organic search results. Your campaign will address the following:
All components together create the results you need — a website that brings clients to your office.
You’re designing a website to get new clients. To do that, you need to rank high on Google. Ranking high has its perks, including a high click-through rate. This figure is a measurement of how many people click on a link in the search engine results to get to a website.
Research indicates the number 1 organic search result on Google accounts for about 27% of all click-through traffic. To be clear, “organic search results” are those that are unpaid compared to the use of paid advertising.
Also important, research shows that organic and local searches drive about 69% of all web traffic to a website. It also brings in about 67% of all website revenue.
By contrast, just 8% of website traffic comes from paid search, which includes the use of search engine ad spots. To be clear — by optimizing your website for Google, you’ll be focused on that 69% of traffic. If you decide to launch just a paid campaign, you would get a fraction of the same traffic.
The more website traffic you get for relevant searches — meaning people who actually can benefit from what you have to offer — the higher your chances are of converting those visitors into new clients.
A 2019 Legal Trends Report asked clients how they select a law firm for their needs. The results showed that 57% of respondents conducted their own research to find a suitable law firm. That means they are not just asking their friends for a referral. Instead, they are doing their own homework to find someone to contact.
That same report found that search engines account for 17% of all client searches for lawyers, and another 17% of clients relied on lawyers’ websites to choose a firm to work with. Another 24% of respondents say they used lawyer directories like Justia, as well as law blogs, to do their research to find a law firm to contact.
Think about the last time you searched for anything on Google. When was the last time you actually clicked on any link that was not in the top 10 on the list?
Most Americans will scroll through about 10 listings before they try a new search query. They would rather not dig deep into the search results trying to find the information they need. They type in a more specific query.
A survey from Backlinko in 2022 found that less than 1% of all Google users actually click on links that are below the top 10.
You cannot pay to be in that top 10. You have to optimize your website to meet Google’s expectations to position you in that place. Google your practice area now. Scroll down — you can see how many competitors there are for that top 10 placement.
If you are not using SEO, you are not likely to rank for any keywords that bring in significant traffic within that top 10. That means you’re leaving a major source of leads on the table — and helping your competition to get them. Your competitors are certainly working to rank high in these results, even if you are not.
Now, we go one step further with this. If you are driving traffic to your website (which is good), but you are not optimizing specifically for lead conversion, using things like calls to action and contact forms, all of your SEO efforts will not reach their highest ROI. You’ll end up with fewer leads than you should be getting.
The purpose of your SEO strategy is to drive business to your website to expand your client list. An unoptimized lead conversion means a lower return on investment than your site is capable of — you’re leaving money on the table.
SEO is one marketing strategy. It is not the only thing you can or need to do to attract prospective clients. However, you should understand how SEO compares.
A conversion occurs when a lead becomes a client. This is where you start to see revenue from your marketing campaigns. Ultimately, this is your goal. So how does an SEO campaign differ from other marketing techniques regarding conversion rate?
RulerAnalytics conducted a survey in 2022 and found that organic search had the second-highest conversion rate of all forms of marketing campaigns. The only method that ranked higher was email marketing, which beat organic conversions by less than one percent. Organic conversions had a rate of about four percent, outranking both pay-per-click (PPC) ads and social media campaigns.
Every factor that goes into website design and marketing will cost something, but some marketing tactics cost less than others. Ultimately, you need to look specifically at not just the price tag but the return on the investment. Let’s compare several forms.
PPC advertisements cost a fixed dollar amount for every click-through to your site. When someone sees an ad and clicks on it, you pay a fee for that. The amount charged to you with that click will change due to changes in your competitors’ budgets. If there’s plenty of competition, the cost increases.
The value of pay-per-click ads is that they tend to create immediate results. You’ll get more people to your site. However, this method is much more expensive than SEO. Remember, you pay for that ad no matter if someone converts to a lead or not.
This type of advertising also becomes very expensive if you have a lot of competition, such as operating in a high-density city or targeting a very competitive keyword.
To engage in a competitive PPC campaign, your firm must be able to afford to compete with the budget of your largest competitors. For small firms, that’s tough to do. And remember, only a small fraction of PPC leads actually convert. It’s simply not the right ROI for many firms, especially small firms working with a limited budget.
Another valuable form of law firm marketing is the social media market. Here, you are not just targeting searchers but building your brand on social media websites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube. There are two forms of marketing on social media: paid advertisements and unpaid posts. Both can be extremely useful for law firm advertising when done well.
Social media marketing typically costs less than a PPC campaign but also takes longer to see results from your marketing efforts. Many people use social media, which means you have so many opportunities to reach prospective clients with this form of online marketing.
However, social media has a relatively low conversion rate. While it can be great for branding, you are not likely to see as many clients come to your firm from social media.
The key to doing well here is to combine social media marketing strategies with other marketing methods to create another source of leads. When people see your posts on social media, they may click on them to get to your site, increasing your traffic.
You want your website to be top-ranking. The bottom line is you need to master SEO to do so. How do we do it? Here are some of the fundamentals of SEO you need to factor into your overall digital marketing strategy.
Search engine rankings have a basis on a wide range of information, not just the search terms used on a website. These are called ranking factors. They are what search engines like Google and Bing use to determine where a business will appear in search engine results.
Google doesn’t provide all of its ranking factors to the public. That helps to minimize the risk of unscrupulous websites manipulating their algorithm. However, they do provide a good amount of information about what matters to help boost SEO ranking.
There are five categories of ranking factors considered:
To determine if landing pages and the overall website of an attorney is a quality website, one that it wants to direct searchers to, Google will use E-E-A-T: experience, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.
These are very important for law firm websites because Google classifies these websites as YMYL (your money, your life) content. That means that these websites have a significant ability to impact the user’s well-being and finances. As a result, Google holds YMYL websites to a higher standard of scrutiny than it would on a craft or hobby website. That’s because the consequences of misinformation are much higher.
In chapter two, we’ll go into more detail about how to optimize your site for search engine ranking factors and how to measure your rankings.
The next important component of SEO is keywords. Any SEO company will tell you keywords matter, but SEO success does not come from placing dozens of keywords on your website and hoping something sticks.
Keyword research occurs to determine which keywords people are using to search for the services you offer. It helps to provide information on the volume of searches that happen for that particular keyword as well as just how difficult it will be to rank for that keyword.
Here’s how this works. SEO ranking uses keywords to determine where to position websites on the search engine results pages. However, if a website is targeting a very competitive keyword, which means its competitors are using that keyword heavily as well, that means there’s a lot of competition. High-volume searches like these have a lower conversion rate for those who are ranking first.
Even if you try to focus on target keywords that have search volumes that are in the thousands, they are overall less likely to generate revenue for your law firm.
How do we know what keywords to target, then, that will be beneficial to Google rankings? To understand this, we have to consider keyword intent.
Here’s a simple explanation to get started. Let’s say you are a criminal defense attorney. When someone goes to Google to find an attorney, you do not want Google to send those looking for a personal injury attorney to your site.
Now, consider user intent a bit more in-depth. By understanding search intent — or why people are searching particular queries — we want to ensure that the related content actually satisfies the goal of the query. Consider this example next.
Let’s say a person opens a law firm called “Nike Law Offices.” The term “Nike” is certainly going to be used on the website if that’s the name of the company. However, that term gets tens of thousands of searches every month. That sounds great, right? Not so much.
People who are searching for “Nike” are not searching for your law firm. They’re searching for apparel. It is ultimately a waste of money to go after a keyword like this that is going to bring the wrong people to your website.
There are three stages to what is known as the customer’s journey (and this applies to your clients, too).
When we fully understand the client’s journey, we can better understand what they are searching for. Why are they using this keyword in the first place? By understanding this, we can then create high-quality content that resonates with them and satisfies their search.
We’ll dive deeper into keyword research in chapter three. Remember, it’s not just about picking words but researching the right words to get conversions.
After doing your keyword research, the next step is to create content for your website. This component of lawyer SEO is not something to take lightly. It’s important to provide high-quality content that provides your readers (real people) with the information they need. At the same time, we need to write content that’s designed with legal SEO in mind.
The goal of your content is to build topical authority. If a website has topical authority, it is a source recognized as a reliable resource of information on that particular topic. That’s what you want and what most SEO experts will target.
As a law firm, the topical authority you’re after will be your practice area, such as personal injury lawsuits, estate planning, criminal defense, and so on. Sites that have developed their topical authority can appear in search results snippets for “People Also Ask” queries and can increase your firm’s brand awareness with readers. Take a moment to Google your practice area. Do you see the section of the results page that’s labeled “People Also Ask?” If a person is looking for a question that’s positioned here and read the answer from your website listed here, they are going to head to your site to learn more.
More so, high-quality content also helps with building your brand image. You want to be sure your brand is fully understood by anyone that is searching for the legal services you offer.
How do we do this? Focus on the site’s E-E-A-T and build your site’s topical authority by creating well-researched articles in your area of expertise. You want to be sure that information is supported by quality references and updated on a consistent, routine basis.
Search engine algorithms reward original content like this. That’s going to help your business to stand out from the crowd.
For more information on content marketing, read chapter four.
On-site SEO is the process of optimizing your website’s internal structure and content with the goal of ranking higher in search engine results. One of the ways that Google determines who will be on the first page (or the top 10 listings) is through user experience. If your website isn’t easy to navigate, that’s going to impact how successful visitors are to it.
Combine optimized user experience along with best SEO practices. When do you, your site ranks more visibly in Google results. That means people are able to find your website, and once they get there, they are more likely to stick around on it, hopefully converting into a client.
There are a number of ways we can improve this, including:
Applying schemas to your site, which is a type of structured data that helps Google to generate rich results
A good deal of this is behind-the-scenes type of work, but it is very important to achieving the best SEO possible for your site.
Legal marketing can be confusing — how do you get people to find you who are looking for the service within the area you operate? Local SEO can help with that. In later chapters, you’ll learn more about the depth of this type of tool, but let’s provide some basic information here.
Local SEO focuses on optimizing your business to appear in “near me” searches. For example, someone may be looking for a personal injury lawyer, but they need one close to home, not in another state. Local SEO helps to make sure your firm is visible to the people who are within your operational or desirable area and who are looking for just what you offer, even if they do not use a city name in their query.
There are various local SEO strategies that can work with Google’s algorithm to create this type of highly targeted result. One of the most critical is claiming and filling out your Google Business Profile (GBP), once known as Google My Business (GMB). This is a business listing that shows up when searchers are looking for someone that can solve their problems within their local area, and you appear in Google Maps within that space. Your GBP should include the following:
There are other local SEO strategies to include as well, including local quality backlinks, creating geo-targeted content, and managing your online reviews (positive reviews are just one component of that!)
For more information on local SEO, check out our 2023 Ultimate Guide for Local SEO for Law Firms. It’s so important we have a complete guide for you to apply to this area of your legal marketing.
We’ve mentioned link building a few times, but what is it, and why does it matter? Link building is the process of gaining links from outside of your website that point people back to your website. These are called external links or backlinks. Link building is a signal to Google that your website, and by extension, your law firm, is reputable and authoritative. Other parties trust it. A backlink is a vote of confidence from an outside source that Google values.
There are some links you can build yourself, including your GBP. You can also incorporate links to your firm’s site from business listings on legal directories, including Justia, Avvo, and FindLaw.
Any website that links to your website is called a referring domain. The higher the domain authority is for that referring domain, the more impactful their link to your website will be. We find that some of the best places to aim for links, then, are Forbes, university websites with .edu URLs, and major news outlets.
You cannot control the success of your firm’s link building fully, but there are SEO services and strategies you can employ that help you gain high-quality backlinks that directly impact your domain authority and help bring more traffic to your website. That traffic is called referral traffic — it means someone else is recommending your law firm in some way.
In chapter six, we dive deeper into high-quality link building.
So far, we’ve talked about a lot of methods an SEO agency (or you) may use to help you to rank in the search engine. But how do we know it’s working?
To better understand how effective your SEO strategy is, you need to understand the various metrics used to measure SEO success. SEO metrics measure different data points from your website, including:
These metrics are called KPIs or key performance indicators. They measure the success of your strategy based on the goals you set. Some of the KPIs most important for monitoring law firm websites include:
For example, we measure cost per lead as a way to see how many leads you are getting based on your marketing budget. We can then use that information to determine which marketing strategy — PPC, SEO for organic traffic, social media, etc. — is providing you with the best, most cost-effective method of marketing.
We’ll break down more information on this topic in chapter seven.
It can be difficult to know how much to budget for SEO marketing efforts for your law firm’s website. To determine this, we need to first think about the following:
The lower your budget, the longer your strategy will take. If you have an aggressive budget right now, you can use it to execute your strategy faster, which creates faster results in most cases, especially when you include paid search methods.
SEO takes time to start producing results. That timeline is affected by numerous factors, but most law firms can expect to see positive results from their SEO campaign within six months to a year. This varies widely depending on your location, which impacts just how competitive specific keywords are for your law firm.
Create a budget that you can afford to spend monthly for at least a year.
Consider your SEO budget a long-term investment in your business. The money you put into your marketing now will eventually provide a solid return on investment in the form of new clients. It also continues to work for you with little upkeep — this is not a simple ad that you have to pay for over and over again, but a constant work in progress that continues to improve.
Most law firms are investing in SEO marketing. It can be daunting to consider how potential clients can hear your business in all of that noise. We employ numerous methods that help distinguish your firm, including those that revolve around the principles of adding unique value to the internet and producing high-quality content.
Many factors impact your Google Analytics, but the ultimate goal is to ensure you have a way of providing your website visitors with exceptional content (that’s going to help Google, too). Google’s algorithm rewards originality. Websites that regurgitate the same content that’s already on the internet ranking are unlikely to gain significantly in their own rankings. When you offer something new and useful, such as original quotes from your legal team or client testimonials, that’s going to add something of value to your readers.
Speaking of originality, AI content, by nature, is not unique. So, if your firm is contemplating using these platforms, think again. AI generators rely on a bank of information, called a data set, that draws from and rearranges answers to questions. It cannot make anything truly original and new to appease Google’s requirements.
If your competitors are relying on AI to write their content, they may end up facing consequences for lack of originality. You can stand out by producing original content. This allows you to stay ahead of AI-driven SEO even if they are putting up a massive amount of content.
Remember, too, that your website is a reflection of your firm and the work you do. It should reflect your work, mission, and philosophy. Show a commitment to high-quality, factual, quality content that is helpful, packed with authoritative citations, and truly valuable to your readers. That shows you have a dedication to your clients.
Producing content that adds value to your clients is at the root of everything. From research to publishing, your SEO content should center on answering the questions that your potential clients are looking for, which helps your firm stand out.
What will help your firm rise to the top? Here are a few of the strategies we employ.
The world is always changing, and new systems, technological developments, and changes to laws mean new legal queries. Look for topics that impact your practice area and produce content that answers those questions.
For example, cryptocurrency is a big shift in financial sectors. If your law firm manages estate planning matters, you may want to produce content on cryptocurrency and how it applies as an estate asset. Law firms that began implementing this type of content early on when crypto was just emerging were able to gain some boost from doing so and met their clients’ needs early.
Help a Reporter Out is a site that connects expert sources to journalists who need some help and quotes for their content. Sign up to receive daily emails from reporters looking for specific topics. Then, respond quickly to them. If they use your quote, that is going to create a high-quality backlink to your website from a new source. That helps to give you a boost in link building and SEO.
Frankly, SEO marketing is a lot of work, and it takes expertise. Hiring an SEO marketing agency is a solid investment.
However, not all companies are the same, nor can they produce the same level of results.
When considering the options in organizations, there are several key things on which to focus. These are warning signs to find another provider.
If the content on their website contains many spelling and grammatical errors, that’s a sign there’s a quality control issue. If they have errors on their site, there will be errors on your site. This impacts your website. Nonsensical grammar is also an indication of AI-generated content with no human oversight, which can lead to penalties on Google. Again, if they do it on their site, they’ll certainly do it on yours.
Some SEO techniques fall in the area of “black hat SEO,” which means that they are unscrupulous SEO methods that Google discourages and recognizes. Keyword stuffing, hidden text, and highly spammy content are all good examples of this.
This makes your site untrustworthy. It also means Google will rank it lower because the domain is untrustworthy. Your site may not even appear in Google results, and it can be very difficult to recover your domain’s trustworthiness once that happens.
Ethical SEO agencies do not guarantee results to their clients because SEO is a constantly shifting, moving target. Google is always changing the algorithm to improve searcher outcomes, meaning ranking changes often. Competitors are also changing their websites, which directly impacts your rankings.
No SEO firm can guarantee results to their clients. Google lists guaranteed results like this are a violation of their company’s policies. Even Google says it cannot happen.
Often, those that make such promises use black hat SEO tactics that ultimately create a spike in rankings and then lead to being blacklisted by Google. In the meantime, they’ve moved on to another law firm, and you’re stuck with a site that’s hard to recover.
Some firms offer only technical SEO, but they are ignoring a significant factor in how your site will rank. That’s content marketing. Content helps establish your E-E-A-T, answers questions users have, informs Google where you should appear in local searches, and directly contributes to what happens when people reach your website.
If an SEO firm is just focusing on the behind-the-scenes aspects of your website, like improving code and page loading speed, they are neglecting a crucial component of SEO. Search for a law firm that can perform all aspects of SEO, including legal content writing.
Another warning sign that you may be working with the wrong firm is that they are charging you based on performance. We strongly advise against using agencies that use this pricing model because it encourages deceitful techniques to maximize profits. Law firms must maintain ethical transparency to avoid penalties from Google or the American Bar Association. These methods put ranking higher than user experience. That leads to lower-quality content that backfires.
Google’s algorithm is liable to change at any time, and manipulating the algorithm only works for a short time. More so, Google’s algorithm always puts user experience at the top of the most important factors for ranking. Quality sites with valuable information are rewarded no matter if the algorithm changes.
No one likes a bad review, but even some of the best law firms in the country will have them. The same applies to SEO agencies. If a company has no reviews, that’s not a good sign. If they have reviews that mention core problems — like a lack of communication or transparency, that’s also a bad sign. A quality SEO firm is one that’s open, honest, and communicative with its clients.
You should be able to understand and see the value in any recommendations an SEO firm offers. SEO is complex, but it should not be confusing. Don’t work with an SEO firm that cannot or will not explain its processes in a way that makes sense to you. Would your clients trust you to take legal action on their behalf if they didn’t understand what was happening?
You shouldn’t be left in the dark when your firm’s money and reputation are on the line. You deserve to understand what is happening, how to evaluate it, and what the results should be.
Conversely, there are some factors that indicate an agency truly cares about the success of the law firm websites it helps create.
A quality SEO firm cares about the details and produces content that’s well-researched, thoroughly edited, and free from errors. SEO firms who are familiar with law firm SEO will also know that the ABA has set certain limitations to what lawyers can claim online and will know what language to avoid, including comparative language and ensured results.
Quality SEO firms will also fact-check their content with lawyers to avoid inaccuracies.
Choose an SEO firm with a knowledgeable staff that’s happy to guide you through their processes. This level of transparency indicates confidence in both strategy and results. You should be able to evaluate your SEO strategy’s effectiveness, not just rely on the SEO firm’s word.
They should also set clear expectations and timelines. It takes, on average, 6 to 12 months to see positive results from a quality SEO campaign. That means they should be planning for long-term growth and communicate that to you.
As stated, SEO takes time. If a firm cannot keep clients for more than six months, that indicates a major internal issue. The best firms retain clients for years because their work speaks for itself and continues to add value to the client’s practice.