Correctly using Google SEO to reach the top of Search Engine Result Pages for your law firm.
Hi, my name is Chris Lancaster. I've provided online marketing services to law firms since February 2014. I started my business as a SEO company and since expanded services to include Pay Per Click Ads, Social Marketing and Local Marketing.
On this page you'll learn the different factors that affect Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for lawyers.
How to build your law firm website to dominate Google Search Result Pages.
Easy understanding of website technical factors for performance.
Creating website content that provides the best use experience.
How to structure website content for people and search engines.
Why and how to build links to and from your website that boost your website.
Optimizing business listings and citations to create an online reputation.
How to use the free tools provided by Google to understand your SEO strategy.
SEO Affects Three Sections Of The Google Search Results Page.
Search Engine Ranking Process
Search engine crawl the internet by following links from website to website. That's why high quality links will boast your websites reputation. The more links from high quality websites will lead crawlers back to your website. Search crawlers also follow internal links on your website from page to page.
Search engines index website pages for placement in search engine result pages. You have the option of submitting your new website pages to Google Search Console for quicker indexing. An indexed page does not guarantee high rankings.
Search engine algorithms consider hundreds of factors when ranking your website. The factors with the most weight include user experience, content quality and depth, quality backlinks and brand recognition.
Types Of SEO Factors
The foundation of Search Engine Optimization (we will refer to this as SEO from here on) is your website.
The goal of SEO is to establish your brand identity, manage your business reputation and receive new client leads online. All of this is a byproduct of ranking high in Google search result pages for searches relevant to your practice areas.
They are two main topics to SEO:
is all the effort put directly into your website with intent to rank higher in Google Search Result Pages.
is all the effort anywhere else other than your website with intent to rank your website higher in Google search engine result pages.
The upside to SEO is that you can receive results year after year without directly paying Google Per Click.
The downside is that SEO takes more time to build and see results than a Pay Per Click ad campaign.
“SEO factors work in combination: SEO factors do not exist in a vacuum."
Website On Page Ranking Factors - technical and Content SEO
The goal when creating a website is to to be found on Search Engine Result Pages by providing a great user experience.
Websites that provide a great user experience accomplish many things quickly and efficiently.
We can break down a great user experience as:
- Fast loading pages. Not having to wait for more than 3 seconds.
- Easy to navigate. Accessing any page with less than two clicks.
- Professional design that fit all size screens including desktop, tablet and mobile devices.
- Authentic brand & personality of the law firm including logos, color palette, and design.
- Practice area content that matches searcher intent and provides in depth accurate information.
- Images, video and audio elements that load quickly.
- Social Profiles that have client reviews on 3rd party sites such as Google My Business and Facebook.
- Variety of ways to contact the law firm including email, phone, business address and access to personal attorney bios.
- Back end code (Schema Mark Up) that communicates to search engines the purpose of text and media.
Keep in mind many clients are visiting your website for the first time. A well developed website is easy to navigate for a first time visitor.
"86% of people would use Google to find an attorney online"
Domain Names / Your Website Name
The domain name is your website name. Traditional domain names include .com, .net, .org. New domain names include .law and .lawyer
As of now my recommendation is to stay with the traditional domains.
.com is still the most popular domain names in Google Search Result Pages by far. For SEO purposes I can not recommend .law or .lawyer
If you need a domain name the best generator I have found is at https://instantdomainsearch.com/
The above website will create lists of possible names from the keywords you add into it's search bar.
Credible places to purchase domains include:
It is a good idea to purchase your domain and hosting from the same provider.
A hosting provider provides space on their server for your website to store it's files. When someone visits your website they are downloading files to their web browser. The browser then interprets the files to show your website to the visitor.
Quality hosting providers will offer fast dedicated servers that have 99.9% uptime. If the server is slow your website will be slow. If the server is down your website will be down. This is why it is very important when you choose a high quality website hosting service.
I have had great experiences with these hosting providers.
When we build a law firm website we always assign an SSL certificate. This can be verified in the browser address bar displaying a lock icon and HTTPS replacing the typical HTTP preceding a domain name.
SSL certificate stands for "Secure Sockets Layer." SSL is a secure protocol developed for sending information securely over the Internet.
We use this to secure personal information including information clients send through email forms.
Google has stated this a search ranking factor.
Website Page Load Speed
Page load is speed is the amount of time it takes for your website to become functional when a searcher visits your website.
Each page is crawled by a Google bot that times website page load speed.
If your website pages are too slow when loading Google considers that a bad user experience.
Your page is considered slower than desirable if it takes longer than 3 seconds load your website page.
Your website page and all it's elements need to be fully usable as close to 3 seconds as possible.
Some of things that slow down a website include:
- Images with larger than necessary dimensions or file sizes.
- Elements being called from other website such as embedded Google Maps and embedded YouTube videos.
- Slow servers where your website files are hosted.
- WordPress plugin scripts that add time.
- Sliders with large images.
- Ubermenus with lots of functionality.
Websites that compress image file size without loss of quality:
WordPress plugins that are able to optimize page load speed include:
Tools that test your website page loading speed:
Responsive Website Design / Mobile user experience
Desktop and mobile are 50/50 of all website visitors.
Before responsive design websites would send mobile users to a seperate version of their website designed for mobile.
Google has issued a statement saying that two different versions of a website don't deserve equal rankings.
The industry standard has become Responsive Design.
Responsive design means side by side columns on desktop will stack one on to of the other when being viewed by a mobile device.
Page Title Tags
Title of the page is very important. It will be shown in Google search result pages. It is the main topic of the page. The content should consists of supporting subtopics. The page should be around 50 characters long for optimal SEO benefits.
Tips to writing an optimized title tag:
- 55-60 Characters
- Describe the page content in the best way possible
- Use target keywords
- Write unique titles do not duplicate other page titles
- Keep it simple
Meta Description / Meta Tags
The meta description is a snippet of text that explains the context of the page.
This will be displayed under the title of the page when shown in Google search result pages.
Sometimes Google will replace the meta description with more relevant information on the page to the specific search.
To write a meta dscription you need an SEO plugin.
Some of the best SEO plugins include
Keep in mind when you write a meta description it can be any length. Google search result pages truncates snippets to 155–160 characters.
Word count is the length of content on your website pages.
Word count matters when you have competition ranking higher for your practice areas. In order to outrank your competition you will need to provide higher quality, more in depth content.
A competitor website page ranking #1 in search result pages that is 3,000 words long sets the bar. You will need to create a page with more extensive content to outrank them.
Keep in mind. This is just one search ranking factor out of many but it is very important.
Consider this from Googles perspective. if you have two websites equal in all ways but one has a page providing twice the content. The only logical choice is to rank the website with more in depth content higher on search result pages.
Keywords make it possible for people to find your web pages in Google search.
A great SEO agency knows how to do keyword research. Keyword research finds the highest search volume words to use in your content.
Lawyer has a higher search volume than attorney.
Keyword "Lawyer" 165,000 monthly search volume
Keyword "Attorney" 135,000 monthly search volume
"Domestic Violence" 110,000 monthly search volume
"Domestic Assault" 1,900 monthly search volume
You would rank more often in search result pages using "Domestic Violence" keyword in title, meta description, and H1 heading.
When you are adding keywords in your content for your website keep in mind searcher intent.
A high intent keyword example would be "Best criminal defense lawyer near me."
A low intent keyword would be "How much does a criminal defense lawyer make"
Premium Keyword Research software
Free Keyword Research tools available
Images can be large files on your website causing slow load time. Slow page loading creates a search penalty.
You can have images of any size and quality without having a large file size.
There are many tools to decrease file sizes of images without loss of quality.
When you decrease the file size your website pages load faster.
There are free resources online that provide image file compression. The website I use most often
There are WordPress plugins available that offer the same service.
These are the two plugins I recommend for image optimization.
Lazy loading WordPress plugins defer images from loading until the website scrolls to that part of the page.
This lets the website page load and become usable quickly. The image loading is deferred which speeds up over all website loading speed.
When posting an image on your website you need to include an ALT text tag.
Alt text stands for alternative text. If your image can not load due to slow connection or other reasons. The web browser will display the ALT Text instead of the image.
Google's web crawler is very good at understanding what your web page is about. But that said it is still a bot or program. It can not "see" your image so ALT Text also helps Google web crawlers understand the image.
Related SEO Tips:
Why do links matter so much? Google crawls the web by following one link to another. They give a "quality score" to links based on some fairly simple factors. Those factors are
- Authoritativeness, and
Google's main agenda is to find websites for brands/businesses that have legitimate expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness and to rank those at the top of search result pages. One way Google decides if your website has more of these factors than your competition is by your websites link profile. There are many types of links with different purposes.
Below, I break down common types of links that have the most SEO impact below.
Internal links, link one page with other pages, images, PDF's, videos and within specific sections of pages (Jump Links) on your website .
Navigation menus are a prime example of internal links on a website. It is also a good idea to create links within the body text of your website pages. When a page mentions another pages main topic it is a good idea to link those keywords.
Something to watch for are broken links on your website. Broken links are links that have become outdated or dysfunctional for example by linking to deleted pages that no longer exist. Broken links can create a search engine penalty and cause your website to rank lower in search engine page results. You can check for broken links on your website with Broken Link Checker.
External Links are when you cite your sources or statistics in your website page content by linking to another website. If your website content contains references, quotes, and/or statistics from other sources you should have external links to those sources. If your website mentions another website you should most likely link to that website. Always consider when you link to another website you are passing your reputation to that website. If you do not wish to pass your reputation to a website see the No Follow Link section below.
Wikipedia articles are very good at doing citing their sources with links and have reaped the benefits by becoming one one of the most popular websites in the world.
Back links are created when a website links from their site back to yours. Back links have always been a top SEO ranking signal. Back link quality of links will always better than the quantity. Receiving one link from a website such as theguardian.com or NYTimes.com would be worth innumerable amounts of links from unheard of blog sites.
Links from reputable sources will always have more value than SPAM blog networks.
Links that are earned links from reputable sources will offer the most SEO value possible from back links. Most purchased or bought links can actually hurt your SEO efforts.
The reason for this is that earned links endorses your brand, business or website content. Earned links are a signal of E.A.T where as bought links can be built by anyone regardless of E.A.T
Examples of high quality links:
You write an article for Forbes including relevant links back to your website within the article content. You are invited to give your expertise on the local news and they link back to your website.
Google wants your website content and your law firm brand to earn links by shares and references from reputable sources, companies and people.
When you create content that is referenced by other websites they will likely create a link back to your website.
Places to earn valuable links:
- Guest posting
- Being cited and/or quoted by another website
- Local News Websites
- National News Websites
- Video content (YouTube)
- Podcast content
- Live streams
- AVVO profile
- Social profiles
- Local directories
There is great service called HARO.com
Help A Reporter Out
When you sign up they will send you daily emails. This email listed by topic is a collection of reporters needing quotes or information from professionals. This is perfect for lawyers to give their opinion, be published and possibly receive a link to their website.
From HARO's website:
"HARO provides journalists with a robust database of sources for upcoming stories and daily opportunities for sources to secure valuable media coverage."
Links can also be built on profile pages such as those provided by AVVO and other lawyer directories.
Social profiles also allow you to build links back to your website. These are lower quality because they are so easy and can be accomplished by anyone quickly without any kind of proof of E.A.T
Publishing website Medium.com and YouTube allow you to build links on your profile and by publishing content.
Links you want to avoid building are SPAM links including:
- Blog comment links
- Blog networks
- Widget and infographic embeds
- Websites with thin, little, or duplicate content
- Paid for or bought links
- Link exchanges
- Low quality press releases
- Forum SPAM
No Follow Links
Links can be Follow or No Follow.
Follow links are links the website owner adds into their content to for attribution or to cite sources. Follow links are controlled by the actual website owner and pass reputation.
The most common No Follow link are links built by users on websites such as social media platforms or in forums. The link was not created by the owner of the website. The link was created by a user of the website. The website sets all of these links as No Follow. The website owner can not control the quality of links so all links are set to No Follow.
No Follow links were previously said to have no SEO value. In 2020 Google stated they would use No Follow links as a ranking signal. Google did not say what kind of signal or how they were ranking the No Follow links. My best guess is that Google has a way of ranking viral social media content creators or industry influencers. Google could be matching social media posts to established brands and creating some kind of "clout score".
No Follow links do pass referral traffic to your website so they still have value. Do not focus on building No Follow links for SEO purposes.
Website Page & Posts Redirects
Redirects are essentially forwarding commands. It is typically used for
- Forward an old website to a new website.
- Forward an old website page to a new website page.
If you have an old website domain (www.oldwebsite.com) and decide to re-brand with a new domain name (www.newwebsite.com) you would use a redirect. The redirect would automatically send people that use the old website name to the new website.
If you have links through out the internet and you want them forwarded to a new website. Redirecting the old domain name to the new name would give you the desired result.
oldwebsite.com (Redirect) automatically forwards to newwebsite.com
If a website user visits the old website name or link they will be automatically redirected to the new website.
You can also do this for individual pages on a website.
website.com/old-page (redirect 301) to website.com/new page.
If your website has duplicate content and you want to merge one page with another you would also use a redirect.
A plugin for redirects
Google Search Engine Result Pages aka SERPs, should list websites that match the user search intent. If a searcher clicks a listing in Google SERPs that does not match their search intent they will use the back browser button to return to Google SERP and continue searching.
This is called "Bounce Rate". The higher your Bounce Rate percentage the lower your rankings.
Google recognizes Bounce as searchers not finding what they are looking for. Google succeeds off their reputation of returning perfect results for the searchers intent. If searchers bounce from websites Google's reputation will suffer. Having to scroll through search result pages for what a searcher is looking for is not a great user experience.
There are multiple factors that come together to create a great user experience.
Google's reputation is built on offering up the perfect answer to a clients questions / problems relevant to where they are in their "buyer journey".
If your website Bounce Rate is too high Google perceives that as a bad user experience. Google will demote your website in their search result pages.
Researching through trial and error strategies over time revels to a good SEO agency what best practices are that decrease bounce rate therefore creating a better user experience.
Bounce Rate is the percentage of website visitors that use the back browser to return to Google search result page.
This signals the website visitor did not find what they were looking for on your website.
The higher this percentage the more likely your website will be demoted in Google search result pages.
Google analytics will track Bounce Rate if you have the tracking code installed.
Dwell time is the length of time a person spends looking at a web page after they've clicked a link on a Google search result page, but before clicking back to the Google search results page.
The higher the dwell time the lower your bounce rate. This signals Google the searchers have found information they are looking for.
When desktop use was dominant sliders were often used.
Now that mobile is at least 50% of websites sliders have become obsolete.
There are a few reasons for this:
Sliders are large programs that take too much time to load.
Most people are not patient enough to wait for slide 2.
Sliders are obsolete due to having less utility for what you have to give up in page load speed.
I don't believe there is any good reason to use a slider on law firm websites.
Website Errors that cause search penalties
Poor Mobile User Experience
Mobile use has surpassed desktop. Google prefers your website be built mobile first. Your website should fit all device screens properly. The content should not exceed screen size. The clickable elements should be spaced properly and not overlap.
Poorly Organized URLs
URL's aka page names in the browser bar. Should be properly structured. Avoid underscores between words. Only use as many descriptive words as needed.
Example of correct use: www.websitename.com/criminal-defense/arson-charges
Missing / 404 Pages
Missing / 404 Pages are pages that no longer exist when a user follows a link they run into a dead end. You want to avoid deleting pages without redirecting those pages to an appropriate existing page. Links that lead to errors create a poor user experience.
Broken links will lead users to non existent pages or websites. If these are internal links they may lead to 404 pages. If they point to another website that no longer exists or a specific page on an external no longer exists your contributing to a poor user experience.
Duplicate content is typically two pages on your website that serve the same purpose or cover the same topic. This can be confusing for search engines and users. All relative information should be on the canonical page. This is also referred to as website cannibalization.
Scraped content is when you copy content from another website and paste it directly on your own. Not only is plagiarism illegal it's highly unethical to take someone else hard work.
Thin content is when you have apage that has very little content covering the topic. If you write a 250 word page but your competitor writes 2,500 words at similar quality you will not rank higher than the competitor. If Google can find high quality very in depth content on a topic they will naturally rank those pages higher than yours.
H1 is the #1 heading for each page. It is the main topic at the op of each page. The supporting information below should be structured as an out line.
H1 - Main Topic.
H2 - Secondary topic supporting main topic.
H3 - Supporting topic for secondary topic.
Website support H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, H6
H1 being the most important heading and H6 being the least important heading.In between headings should be Paragraph text describing each heading.
SPAM Back Links
SPAM back links are typically built or bought and not earned. Built links can often be found in forums or comment sections on websites.
Hidden Text / Content
Hidden text is an old Black Hat SEO tactic. Website designers would unnatural keywords on a website page and hide it by making the text the same color as the background. This doesn't work and will result in a search penalty.
Keyword stuffing is when you add a lot of words you would like to rank in search engines for but they don't fit in your content naturally.
White Hat SEO
White hat SEO refers to strategies that conform search engine guidelines and does not violate terms of service.
White hat avoids all forms of SPAM.
Black Hat SEO
Black Hat SEO is generally methods that involve using SPAM.
Some Black Hat methods include:
- Stuffing keywords on your website pages in the hopes of ranking for them.
- Text too small to read
- Text the same color as the background
- Text added that doesn't make sense or adds filler to content.
- Purchased links from networks.
- Private Blog Networks just for ranking.
- Forum and Comment SPAM.
- Bait and Switch website pages.
Why Local SEO matters?
Searches for "lawyers near me" and similar phrases have soared over the last few years as mobile has become more than 50% of all searches. Google also recommends as autocomplete because they are so common. These types of search phrases will only become more popular as people become increasingly comfortable with using voice search.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is a common reference to "local business SEO".
Local businesses have different options available to them due to having a physical office location for clients to walk in to.
Law firms are classified by Google as a local business. Google tries to determine the geographic location you serve as a lawyer.
Your physical business address also allows the benefit of a listing on Google Maps. The way you take advantage of this is by creating a Google My Business listing. This is also the best place online to ask for client reviews since your listing is tied directly into Google Search Pages and Google Maps.
There are many business directories that allow you to build profiles for your local business. They business listing websites that don't produce SPAM are great for back link to your website opportunities. By adding your business to these directories you also give your brand more visibility online.
What is NAP?
NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone but it means more than that. NAP is short for all your business contact information including:
- Full Business Name
- Business Address
- Business Phone Number
- Business Email
- Hours of operation
When building profiles and citations on local business directories you should keep NAP perfectly consistent. When you include your business address on a local directory it should always the same. If you use N. instead of North or St. instead of street it should always be written that way on every single directory.
"Make no mistake at the end of the day SEO is an art, one informed by science, experience and a healthy dose of trial and error."
Off Page SEO
Off page SEO is all of the activities away from your website to raise the ranking of a page within Google search result pages.
It is the content, profiles, mentions and reviews not on your website.
A big part is external links leading back to your website.
The quality of external links are based on the source of those links. A link from a major news source such as CNN or Fox will have more weight than a link in a post on unknown online forum.
Established well known websites with high quality control provide the best linking opportunities. LinkedIn is a good example of a website with very little SPAM. CNN, FOX, Forbes, Huff Post are also good examples of websites to earn quality links from.
Mentionsare sources such as your local news channel asking for your opinion on a news story. When they quote you in the article with or without a link Google can recognize this as a "Mention".
Client reviewson your Google My Business are a big part of building your reputation online. These reviews show up for search keywords with local intent (i.e Lawyer near me) usually in Google Map Listings. Having a poor rating and bad reviews can have a major impact on potential clients vetting lawyers to work with you.
Keep in mind promoting and receiving 5 star reviews can push your listing in Google map pages. They also provide positive reinforcement for clients to build rapport before picking up the phone to call your law firm.
The knowledge graph will either be on the right side or top of search results. It's a block of information that provides details about specific people.
When there’s enough data about a subject, the card will be filled with all kinds of relevant facts, images, and related searches.
Pay Per Click Ads
Ads are on all devices and are located at the very top and bottom of search result pages. Not all searches will show ads. Specific to lawyers I have never seen ads when searching for any government buildings such as search for municipal courts.
Visit our guide to learn more about Pay Per Click Ads and Search Engine Marketing.
People Also Ask
Organic Search Result Listings
SEO Tools Provided By Google
By adding tracking code to your website Google Analytics gives you detailed information about website visitors.
Reports offered by Google Analytics
Google Search Console is a web service by Google which allows webmasters to check indexing status and optimize visibility of their websites.
When you add your website to Google Search Console you gain insights to your search engine result page performance.
When you add your website to Google Search Console you gain insights to your search engine result page performance.
GSC provides a graph report on
- Search queries your website ranks for.
- Clicks on search queries.
- How many search page impressions.
- What pages shows for which search queries.
- Clicks to your website pages from search queries.
provides a graph report on Search queries your website ranks for. Clicks on search queries. How many search page impressions. What pages shows for which search queries. Clicks to your website pages from search queries.
Google Search Engine Optimization FAQ's
Does a law firm really need SEO services?
The choice is yours. The main goal of obtaining high ranking in Google search result pages is to break a law firm out of obscurity with potential new clients. If a client looks for your services and finds a competitor who has a great online marketing strategy will choose that law firm over a law firm that don't even know exist.
Google search is a powerful tool for growing a law firm. Higher ranking in Google search result pages accomplishes:
- Authority established with community and colleagues.
- Trustworthiness with lots of 5 star reviews from past clients.
- Expertise established with content marketing on your website. By showing potential clients you know and can articulate answers to their problems builds rapport.
What are some effective law firm marketing strategies?
Google search engine optimization provides the highest ROI and the most effective to build an established brand.
What is the best marketing strategy for an Attorney?
The best marketing strategy would attack multiple platforms concurrently. The most effective strategy would include building
- Website Content and Content Marketing
- Google Search Engine Optimization
- Google Pay Per Click Ads
- Google My Business
- LinkedIn Referrals
You can include other platforms but my suggestion is to focus on the four above.
How do lawyers promote themselves online?
There are many ways to promote your law firm online. A great strategy needs multiple factors work together and that's why it's best to create a strategy with a professional.
Google Pay Per Click Ads campaign will need great website content for highest conversion and lowest per click cost.
Facebook Ads you need great videos or great website content for highest conversion.
If you want to achieve high rankings in Google Search Result Pages you need great content on your website and a strong link building strategy.
Reviews Of Our SEO For Law Firms Services
I just wanted to say thank you — and also point out — look how far we’ve come together! I look at our website and cannot believe how fortunate I am to have you by my side. You’ve been an angel on my shoulder these past five years. No one can appreciate you more than I do.Greg Watt, Criminal Defense Lawyer
Chris is great. We work together to customize our strategy to what my law firm needs. Always responsive and available when I have any questions about marketing or advertising.Vinnie Rivera, Criminal Defense Lawyer
Highly recommend. Fantastic guy, great at his job. I hired somebody before and for weeks if not months the job was not getting done. Chris got a full website done with lots of potential to grow for optimization in around a week. He is a great communicator and understands what your business needs. Check out his work here: www.krupplawfirm.comRyan Krupp, Personal Injury Lawyer