There is no shortage of marketing channels to market your law firm. Radio ads. Billboard adverts. Television commercials. Direct mail. Together they can help your firm reach even more prospective clients and increase your bottom line. But there is one marketing channel that deserves more attention: law firm SEO(search engine optimization).
Visibility in the search results is incredibly valuable as it puts your firm in front of potential clients in desperate need of legal services. A survey from FindLaw found that 38% of respondents indicated that they would rely on the internet to find an attorney. And 71% noted that it is important to work with a local attorney.
Chances are your law firm already markets to a specific geographic location. So how can you rank in the local search results?
The 2015 Local Search Ranking Factors is a report that compiles data from leading experts in the industry on the most important ranking factors for local search. Here is a summary of the data:
What exactly do these ranking factors for law firm websites mean?
Here we cover the most important ranking factors in complete detail and how to optimize for each.
My Business Signals
Google has its own platform made for specifically for businesses called Google My Business. An account is an absolute must to improve visibility across Search, Maps, and Google+. Make sure to fill out all the following details:
- Business name
- Phone number
- Operating hours
Choose an appropriate category that best describes the services offered. Then write a brief introduction about the law practice and upload quality images that best reflect the firm. Google displays this information for relevant searches so make sure everything is accurate.
External Location Signals
Google often pulls data from a number of trusted citation sources to assess the legitimacy of a business. Citations are defined as mentions of your business on other sites and are similar to votes. But the quality and consistency of those citations matter more than anything.
Here are some of the most important external location signals:
- NAP consistency: NAP refers to Name, Address, and Phone Number. This information should be consistent across all citation sources so double check all your profiles to confirm the details. Any inconsistencies could actually negatively impact your site.
- Citation quality: Any type of spam is seen as an effort to manipulate search rankings which could result in a ranking penalty. The quality of the citation matters as a link from a legal directory carries much more weight.
- Volume: Ideally you would want your site listed on as many sources as possible to improve your search engine rankings. Remember never to spam your site using automated tools and focus on getting listed on relevant sources.
On Page Signals
Content is easily one of the most crucial ranking factors as Google examines every single element on your pages to assess their relevance. Be sure to include your target keywords in the following:
- Title tags: Your titles are the first thing that visitors see in the search results. To attract local traffic, include the primary keywords (e.g. family lawyer, personal injury attorney, etc.) as well as the city name that your firm practices in.
- Meta descriptions: These are short snippets of text that display in Google for each result. Be sure to write a descriptive paragraph for each page and include the target keywords. Keep the description under 155 characters.
- Content: Searching for a lawyer is not an easy decision so visitors should be provided with as much information as possible. Include comprehensive details as well as target keywords on your service pages to display subject matter expertise.
Just as your profile pages on local citation sources should include the Name, Address, and Phone Number of your law firm, the same also applies for your site. These details should be clearly visible on your site.
Links continue to carry a great deal of weight in the ranking algorithm. Each link is essentially seen as a vote. The more you have, the better you can expect your site to rank. But there is one caveat—Not all links are equal.
Here are the link factors that matter:
- Anchor text: Anchor text is the keywords contained in a hyper link. An optimized anchor text is one that includes your target keywords and improves the relevancy of that page.
- Relevance: As stated earlier, not all links are equal. A link from an authority site in the legal field carries much more weight than a link from an irrelevant site.
- Quantity: All other factors being equal, a site with more links will outrank another site with fewer links.
There is no question that links are crucial to ranking.
But a strategic approach is necessary given Google’s constantly shifting algorithm. The Penguin update penalized sites suspected of engaging in manipulative link building practices with lower rankings. Some sites were even removed from the search results entirely.
Never resort to link spamming as doing so will eventually catch up to you and cause rankings to tank. Instead focus your efforts on building links from relevant sources as well as getting listed on legal niche directories. Slow and steady wins the race here.
Review signals account for a small percentage (8.4%) of the data compiled in the Local Search Ranking Factors survey but that doesn’t mean they are less important. A survey from BrightLocal found that 92% of consumers read online reviews to determine the quality of a business.
Here are the key factors of customer reviews that matter:
- Quantity: Each review your law firm receives online is essentially a form of social proof. The more reviews your site has (especially positive ones), the better your practice is received by potential clients.
- Velocity: Having too many reviews all at once is a major red flag as it is an indication of spam. Reviews to your practice on other sites (such as on Google+ or Yelp) should be in a steady progression to avoid any suspicion.
- Diversity: Reviews shouldn’t be from only one source as it looks completely unnatural. If you ask clients to leave reviews for your practice, let them use their own preferred platform rather than forcing them to a particular one.
Reviews matter as they can affect purchasing decisions.
A potential client may choose your law firm simply because of the glowing reviews. It is perfectly fine to ask clients to leave reviews, but don’t resort to paying for them or spamming the review sites. Doing so could get your firm blacklisted on those sites.
Google is by the most popular search engine as it processes billions of queries every single day. Search is extremely competitive so actually ranking requires a lot more effort than simply having a site. While there are hundreds of factors that Google assess to determine rankings, only a few really matter.
Ensure that details about your business (NAP) are consistent across all online profiles, optimize the content on your pages to improve their relevance, focus on building quality links to your site, and obtain customer reviews in a natural manner. Focusing on these law firm local SEO aspects is the key to increasing visibility in the search results and attracting local clients.