Mention search engine optimization (SEO) to any lawyer, and you’ll probably get reactions ranging from confusion to anxiety. After all, lawyers are focused on running their firm and helping their clients and aren’t always experts in marketing. While most lawyers understand how important it is to grow their client base with digital marketing, many think that creating a basic website will suffice.

But the truth is, a website that’s isn’t optimized for search engines just won’t draw in the traffic that you need to grow at a steady pace.

Since the dawn of digital marketing, appearing at the top of search engine results pages has been a constant struggle for businesses in any industry, including law firms. Competition is strict, and it’s important to grab every possible advantage to get a leg up. SEO gives you just that. But there are a few problems with using SEO as a marketing tactic. The first problem is that search engines are constantly changing how their ranking algorithms work, which means that SEO is always changing too. Strategies that worked well yesterday may not work well today.

The second problem is that SEO can be industry-specific. There are different laws that govern SEO for different industries. For example, law firms have access to a special kind of paid advertising called local service ads that require certain SEO tactics to be successful. You can read an article online about the best SEO strategies, but it may not apply to your specific industry.

Another problem is that you need a holistic strategy to make SEO work for you. You cannot just implement one or two tactics and expect them to work. Instead, you need to set a specific goal and implement a complete plan that incorporates many strategies.

But perhaps the most challenging thing about law firm SEO is putting it into words. It can be a difficult concept to explain, and an even harder concept to master. Even the most savvy lawyers and firm owners can be unsure about which SEO tactics to prioritize and which marketing goals will lead to the most growth for their business. Luckily, there are some great SEO strategies that any law firm can use to increase its organic traffic without increasing its marketing budget. Below, we’ll take a look at the four most important components of SEO and how you can use each to your advantage.

What are the Four Components of SEO?

The first thing to understand about legal SEO is that it’s different from SEO for other industries. If you’re reading SEO advice that’s not directed at law firms, you may be getting information that’s not applicable to the legal industry. The most important thing you can do is adapt an industry-specific approach to SEO for law firms and understand exactly what makes it so unique. Legal SEO has four primary components. Each of these components needs to have a different strategy, as each has unique rules and KPIs. Here’s a quick breakdown of each of these parts:

  • Technical SEO – Technical SEO focuses on behind-the-scenes aspects of your site like site indexing, page redirects, monitoring the health of your site, and fixing any errors that may slow down navigation on your site.
  • Directory SEO – Directory SEO takes a look at how your business appears on local directories, and helps you spot any inconsistencies that might be affecting how your pages rank.
  • Brand SEO – Brand SEO uses brand keyword ranking and brand paid advertisements (using your brand as the main search term) to give your site a boost.
  • Non-Brand SEO – Non-brand SEO is similar to brand SEO but focuses on non-brand-related keywords.

Using these four elements, you can build a strong SEO strategy that will help your site’s ranking, so you can score the most organic traffic.

1. Technical SEO

As the name implies, technical SEO focuses on back-end features of your site and how your site is built. A site that meets all the required technical specs will be easy for search engine crawlers to scan, and will deliver positive results on search engine results pages. In this section, we’ll take a look at what a great technical SEO strategy may look like for your law firm, and how you can best measure your SEO strategy’s results.

What Makes a Great Technical SEO Strategy?

Each page on your website must be indexed by search engines. A search engine index is a vast database that collects and stores records of every webpage. Your webpages can’t be ranked by search engines unless they’re indexed first. So that’s why you must start with making sure all your pages are indexed. In order to make sure all your pages are indexed by Google, head to Google, and type in site:yourwebsite.com, with your website URL. If you notice some of your pages aren’t indexed, you can request indexing on Google Search Console.

It’s also important to make sure that none of your pages are broken or display errors when someone lands on them. Make sure to check your entire site regularly and fix errors promptly. All of these aspects indicate your website’s health. After all, if Google can’t find your pages, they can’t rank your pages for others to find!

A great technical SEO strategy ensures that your website offers visitors a smooth and enjoyable experience on your site, which is becoming more important every day. In 2020, Google announced that they will be updating their algorithms in May of 2021 so that pages that offer a great user experience will rank higher. This algorithm update is known as Google Page Experience, and it measures a page’s core web vitals, like how quickly your site loads, how fast it responds to user input, and other technical elements.

Measuring Technical SEO

When measuring your technical SEO efforts, you can check your site’s health via Google Search Console. This way, you can know how your site is performing on a technical level. Take a look at how quickly your site loads, how your pages are indexed, and how people navigate your site. These all impact user experience, which, in turn, affects your search engine rankings.

2. Directory SEO

Word-of-mouth recommendations have always been an important part of how law firms find new clients, as many firms serve a local client base. This is why directory SEO is so important. Directory SEO helps search engines find out correct information about your firm’s location, hours of operation, phone number, and web address. When search engines display the correct contact information and map location for your firm, new clients can find you and get in touch with you more easily.

There are dozens of business directories online, including Google My Business, Yellowpages.com, Yelp, Facebook, LinkedIn and more. It’s important to make sure your listings are consistent across all directories.

What Makes a Great Directory SEO Strategy?

As mentioned above, the most important thing here is consistency. If people who are searching for your firm see two different addresses or multiple phone numbers for your business, they may get confused or unsure of which is the correct one to use. Even small inconsistencies in your NAP (name, address, and phone number) can impact your search engine rankings. Your firm should also have a profile on all the major legal directories, like AVVO, Justia, Martindale, Superlawyers, and Best Lawyers.

Measuring Directory SEO

If you want to see how your local directory SEO is performing, search for important keywords plus your location. For example, search for “lawyers in Billings, Montana” and then see where you rank. Remember to also track and monitor all of your directory listings and make sure. There are listing directory tools you can use to help monitor your listings.

You can also measure directory SEO by viewing analytics for how many impressions your listing had on third-party websites. Look at tracked calls and clicks to your website. While the amount of traffic sent back to your site matters, being included in directories create citations that firms will need to rank competitively in maps and organic listings.

3. Brand SEO

Brand SEO involves how your page ranks when keywords related to your brand are searched. This means that when people search for your firm’s name or the name of professionals employed at your firm, with or without other keywords, you should rank highly. To get the most out of your SEO strategy, you should use both paid and unpaid tactics in conjunction. While they may seem like two totally different strategies, failing to look at them holistically can be detrimental.

These two tactics go hand-in-hand, and it’s essential to understand exactly how they work together to use them synergistically.

Paid vs. Unpaid Search

Paid search refers to those ads that often appear at the top of a search engine results page. Businesses pay a certain amount based on the keywords they’re trying to target. This means that, if your brand name isn’t copyrighted, your competition can use it in their paid search tactic, and anyone searching for your business name will see your competition first. Unpaid search results appear below any ads. You should focus on grabbing the top spot in both paid and unpaid searches for your brand.

What Makes a Great Brand SEO Strategy?

A great brand SEO strategy will get your firm ranking highly when people search for your firm’s name alone or combined with other keywords. Use part of your marketing budget to place paid search ads using your brand as a keyword, and be sure to optimize the content on your page to rank for your name and other keywords. When you combine this with a great directory SEO strategy so that you rank highly on Google My Business, you have a great chance of increasing traffic to your site.

Measuring Brand SEO

To measure the success of your brand SEO tactics, you can see the ROI of your paid ads in Google Analytics. Look at metrics likes search volume (how many people are searching for a query),  impressions (how many people saw the ad), clicks, conversion rate, and average cost per click to get a good picture of how your ads are performing. In regard to unpaid search, you can track how much organic traffic you’re getting from Google, but you can’t necessarily see if people were searching for keywords related to your brand.

While you can look at these individual metrics, remember to see both unpaid and paid ads as two parts of your overall brand SEO strategy. Keep an eye on more holistic stats like how many people are filling out online forms, if you’re getting more inquiries, or if your bottom-line revenue is on the rise.

4. Non-Brand SEO

Non-brand SEO is similar to branded SEO, but the search keywords aren’t related to your brand. So, if someone searches “personal injury lawyers in Billings, Montana,” this would be an example of non-brand SEO. The most important part of non-brand SEO is selecting keywords strategically. At first, you want to select keywords that are low-volume and are relevant to a small geographic area. The more specific the keywords, the easier it is to rank.

Over time, though, if you want to reach more organic traffic, you’ll need to reach for higher volume, larger area searches. Use a combination of keywords that target ready-to-convert customers and longer tail keywords that target customers may be searching for.

This type of SEO takes a look at how well you rank for relevant keywords in both paid and unpaid spots on search engine results pages. However, you’ll notice that many of the top unpaid spots on the SERPs for people searching competitive non-brand keywords point to legal directories, which means it can take time for smaller firms to build the reputation and authority needed to surpass larger sites in ranking.  This is why grabbing the paid spots is so essential.

Paid ad options include local service ads, which appear above paid search ads. And unlike paid search ads, which are pay per click (PPC), local service ads are pay per lead. That means that you only pay for visitors who click on your ads and who then become serious leads. Because of this, local service ads make it easier for small law firms to compete on a level playing field with larger firms.

And the best part about local service ads is that they are specifically designed to generate more telephone leads, which means your firm will get more consultation calls. However, these ads are not available to everyone just yet. Check to see if your firm is eligible.

What Makes a Great Non-Brand SEO Strategy?

In the beginning, great non-brand SEO often involves a market matching your leveraged asset with a strategy, as it can be difficult to rank organically when you’re just starting out.  For example, if you have a lot of reviews, a marketer may first optimize local maps. If your firm has great video content, it may start with video optimization.

Over time, you can work more and more on ranking organically. First, identify search queries that you can rank for (i.e. ones that are less competitive). It’s important to diversify, because it can help you rank in other areas. Keep in mind that Google isn’t the only search engine. You want to also aim to rank on social media sites, directories, news searches, and other engines like Bing or Yahoo, or searches on YouTube or Facebook.

To boost your organic strategy, on each page (or in each post, if you have a blog), aim to target one non-brand keyword or key term by using it at the proper density. In terms of paid advertising, choose keywords that you think will drive the most traffic at the lowest cost, which will maximize your ROI.  In general, you can expect non-brand paid advertising to be a bit more expensive than brand paid advertising, because the keywords are more competitive.

Measuring Non-Brand SEO

You can measure the ROI of your paid advertisements using Google Analytics. A standard SEO report will measure referral traffic from directories and social sites. Local maps reports will show your visibility and interaction rate. Non-brand keyword searches can be tracked closely to see where your site is ranking. In general, you want to aim to rank on the first three search results pages, as people rarely click beyond those first three pages. If you aren’t ranking on the first three pages, it’s a safe bet to say that your unpaid efforts aren’t generating as much revenue as they could. Look at keyword placement and impression share, and use tools like SEM Rush or Ahrefs to gain insight on what areas you could improve to overtake your competitors.

Get Started with SEO

Even if you aren’t savvy in technology or marketing, SEO doesn’t have to be a nightmare! If you want to give your law firm a boost and stay ahead of your competition, SEO can help drive traffic, which in turn will generate more leads and help you build your client base.