Category Archives: SEO

Local SEO 101: What You Need To Know To Dominate the Listings

Chances are, you’ve heard of SEO. SEO is short for search engine optimization, and it’s the practice of doing everything you can to get as high up in the search engine results page (SERP, for short) as possible.

You see, landing on the first page of Google (or Bing) is not an accident. It takes deliberate effort to catapult your lawyer website (and by extension, your law firm) to the first few results, and there’s a lot of stiff competition vying for that coveted spot.

Here’s a free checklist to help you boost your SEO. Subscribe to receive this extra checklist.

Being on the first page of Google (or Bing) is absolutely crucial to grabbing potential clients. These people are on the Internet right now looking for the very legal services you offer, but studies show that most people never click beyond the first page of the search results. If you want to reach them, you’ve got to be on that first page, too.

What is local seo?

Local SEO is slightly different from normal SEO. Local SEO is about getting your website to hit the front page for a specific location, i.e. your city or state.

For example, the results that pop up when someone searches for “law firms Tucson” have all been optimized for a local search.

Local SEO is important for businesses with physical locations. When Internet users search for a law firm online, they usually want to make contact immediately. They’re not going to spend an hour searching through hundreds of listings to find your contact information that’s nestled somewhere on page seven. They’ll likely go with one of the first few listings on the first page.

So, how do you dominate the local results? Let’s take a look at a few proven strategies.

A Word About Keywords

Before we go any further, let’s talk about keywords.

Keywords are words that you type into a search box to call up a particular topic.

To dominate local results, you need to use relevant and local keywords on your website. If your law firm specializes in family law in Birmingham, AL that’s exactly what phrase you should use to describe yourself on your website. An example of this would be in your About Us page where you describe your practice as “family law Birmingham, AL.”

This small effort makes it much more likely for you to show up in the search results when someone searches in Google for that very phrase.

key-words

Image Courtesy of Google

It would be a mistake to overlook your city name here and go generic. There are hundreds, thousands, or even millions of other websites that could turn up for a generic keyword like “legal advice.”

While Google can put together a list of local law firms, if you haven’t optimized your content to indicate that you’re local to that specific area, you’ll get overlooked in favor of your competitors.

The moral of the story? Make all of your websites optimized for local keyword search inquiries by adding your city name.

By the way, don’t go crazy with keywords. Your site’s ranking on the search engine won’t improve from keyword stuffing.

Keyword stuffing is when you list a whole bunch of keywords (usually at the bottom of your page) in hopes that the search engine will select your site when a specific keyword is searched for. While this was a common practice once upon a time, you can’t trick the search engine crawlers this way anymore.

The good news is there are plenty of ways to still optimize your online presence, and we’re going to delve directly into them right now.

Pay for Ads

You need a paid ad strategy if you’d like to dominate local search engine results. That’s because the very first search results on Google happen to be advertisements.

The ads look similar to regular listings except for the telltale orange “ad” icon. They get a lot of clicks. These ads compete with regular “organic” search results and usually win.

A round of ads are also displayed near the bottom of the page, too.

Paid advertising doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Here’s a simple overview of how Google’s paid advertising works:

  • You choose a keyword phrase you’d like to rank for. This means when someone types in this phrase in the search bar, your ad will return along with the search results, hopefully at the top of the page.
  • You decide how much you’re willing to pay. Google ads are pay per click. Every time someone clicks on your ad, your account will be debited the specific amount you agreed to pay.
  • You can determine how much you’re willing to pay each day. If your limit is $5.00 per day, your ad will disappear after meeting that quota until the next day.
  • You create an ad, paying special attention to making it relevant for the keyword phrase you’re bidding on. Be sure you link to a relevant page on your website that discusses that very keyword, or else visitors will feel like you’ve tricked them. (This will negatively impact your ad campaign and cause your ad to disappear from search results.)
  • You then bid on the ad. You’re not guaranteed to win the bid. Sometimes, other competitors are also bidding for that same keyword phrase. Google doesn’t automatically choose the highest bidder, either. Instead, Google uses a quality score to decide who should receive the coveted spot.

Bing works similarly to Google.

While you’re never guaranteed a spot in the top results, optimizing your content and making sure the ad links to a relevant location will increase your chances.

Utilize Google My Business

We’ve talked extensively about Google My Business in this post: Pick Me! Your Beginner’s Guide on How to Attract Local Clients via the Internet. If you’d like to really understand how to list your law firm with Google, definitely check it out.

While I won’t rehash what we discussed there, I will say that getting listed on Google My Business is one of the smartest things you can do to influence where you land in the local search results.

Studies show that clients are more likely to visit a business with a completed Google My Business page.

google-my-business

Image Courtesy of Greg Gifford, DealerOn

Make it a priority to list your business on Google My Business today. In fact, you can do it right now. I’ll wait. It’s that important.

Get Reviewed

In that previous post on attracting local clients, we also talked about the importance of getting reviews, with heavy emphasis on Yelp. Be sure to check that post out, too.

While reviews on third party sites like Yelp are important, you should also actively seek reviews on Google.

These reviews help Google determine whether to display your listing in its Google My Business local results. Because an initial trio of listings feature prominently on the search results page (it’s located right underneath the ads and before the organic search results), you need to do whatever it takes to get a spot on this list.

get-reviewed

Image Courtesy of Google

Encourage your clients to leave a review of your law firm with Google. Unfortunately, there isn’t a straight link you can give them, but you can provide a series of short instructions along with a visual reference like this:

get-reviewd2

Image Courtesy of Google

Create a Blog

If you don’t have a blog already, consider creating one. Websites with active blogs rank higher in search results. Why?

Search engines love to see a freshly updated website. While you’re probably not going to change the core information on your website very often (this includes the content on your About page, your Contact Us page, and your Services page), you can provide fresh content on a blog.

This is also another opportunity to appear in local search results for a specific keyword phrase. You can write about topics that your potential clients are likely to search for. An example of this may be “applying for a K-1 visa in Portland, Oregon.” Your blog post can rank near the top because it contains relevant keywords.

create-a-blog

Image Courtesy of Google

This is the most important thing to remember when writing your blog:

Focus on local keywords (i.e. city, state) everywhere especially in:

  • Your blog post title
  • Your meta description
  • The alt tags on your images

Final Thoughts

Local SEO sounds a lot more complicated than it is. Your law firm can totally dominate the local search results if you follow this advice. Ask any questions you have in the comments below and we’ll be sure to help you.

Here’s a free checklist to help you boost your SEO. Subscribe to receive this extra checklist.

Avvo For Beginners: What It Is And Why It Will Benefit Your Practice

Love it or hate it, Avvo, along with other third party lawyer review sites, is an inescapable part of the Internet landscape. Clients (past, present, and possibly imaginary) can leave reviews about your service that can either mar or bolster your law practice, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Or is there?

Like the old adage says, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. In this post, let’s discuss how you can use Avvo to attract more clients, build your brand authority, and win at life.

What is Avvo?

Avvo is a service that provides legal resources. In addition to its function as an online legal directory, Avvo makes it possible for users to review and rate attorneys.

Lawyers can easily interact with the Avvo community at large, either through Avvo’s premium-level Advisor service or through the free Q&A forum.

Avvo is one of the most popular and well respected services of its kind.

Why should I be on Avvo?

If you’re a lawyer, you’re probably on Avvo anyway. It’s suggested that 95% of all US-based attorneys are listed on Avvo– whether they want to be there or not. This is because Avvo populates its site using public information obtained from the State Bar Association.

That said, you don’t really want to leave it with just that basic information, do you? Especially since it’s free to claim your Avvo listing, why not optimize it with the type of information that will win you leads?

Check out our tips for creating a winning profile on Avvo!

If that’s not enough to convince you, here are a few other compelling reasons to claim your Avvo listing now:

+Avvo is great for SEO

If you’d like to get found via search engine (and who wouldn’t?), don’t overlook Avvo. Avvo frequently ranks on page one of search engine results for both individual and generic results, as you can see here:

avvo seo generic

avvo seo

That said, I wouldn’t recommend putting all of your eggs in the Avvo basket. You should also have a solidly built website that serves as your online hub. (We can help with that. Click here for more information.) This website should be search engine optimized and the definitive resource for your legal practice online.

However, actively maintaining a profile listing on Avvo will only help your search engine rankings, and may even drive more traffic to your website.

+Clients use the Internet for researching attorneys

While word of mouth is important, clients also turn to good ‘ole Google to find out more about an attorney before even the initial consultation. Clients don’t just look for your phone number and hours of operation online, they look for reviews, areas of expertise, and a winning smile.

This is why full representation on Avvo is a must. You need to be everywhere that your prospective clients are looking for you.

+Control the conversation

While you can’t exactly change what the reviews say about you, you can make it a two-sided conversation.

A lot of attorneys make the mistake of pretending like a bad review doesn’t exist and never responding. Ignoring an unfavorable review doesn’t make it go away. In fact, it reflects badly on you, making it look like you don’t care.

When you get actively involved on Avvo (and other review sites), you can add your response to a review, whether that review is good or bad.

When you respond, keep in mind the prospective client who will read what you’ve written. Choose words that are professional but warm, with a hint of appreciation and insight. Those are the responses that will win the argument every time compared to a “this client was horrible” type of response.

Here’s a Beginner’s Guide to Using Avvo

In order to reap the benefits of being on Avvo, you must actively participate. In fact, the more you participate, the more you can positively impact your Avvo rating. Here’s a rundown of how to use Avvo effectively:

Claim your listing right now for free, and then optimize it.

After claiming your listing, it’s time to optimize it. Be sure to subscribe to receive a list of our top tips for creating a winning Avvo profile.

avvoImage Courtesy of Avvo

Participate in Avvo’s legal Q&A section.

If you’d like to build authority and raise your profile with site visitors who are looking for answers, get involved with the legal Q&A section on Avvo.

Consider upgrading to Avvo Pro.

Use Avvo Pro to track important analytics, such as how many people are contacting you based on your Avvo listing. You’ll also receive a “Pro” sign next to your name, which indicates that you are invested in the Avvo community (quite literally).

Another benefit of Avvo Pro is the ability to remove your competitors’ ads from appearing on your listing.

Advertise with Avvo.

Speaking of showing up on a competitor’s profile, you can opt in to Avvo Advertising. This service allows you to create an advertisement for your service that pops up on another attorney’s free listing.

One of the benefits of going with Avvo advertising, aside from greater exposure, is the fact that you can also target your ads to a specific demographic.

Get as many reviews and ratings as possible.

Avvo offers two types of reviews: client and colleague. Urge your clients to leave feedback for you on Avvo after successfully rendering a service. Similarly, court peer endorsements by asking for them the same way you would on LinkedIn.

To clarify, your Avvo rating is not the same as a client review or peer endorsement. Avvo ratings are determined by how active you are within the Avvo community, along with professional achievements and other information. For a more detailed look at the differences between ratings and review, check out this post: What is the difference between the Avvo Rating, Client Reviews, and Peer Endorsements?

Join Avvo Legal Services.

Another feature that Avvo offers its customers is a fixed-fee advice session. You provide the service and Avvo works as a marketer. It’s offered only to those local to your geographic area, and it’s not available in all states.

Why should you care?

Participating in Legal Services gives you more opportunities to increase your ratings. And higher ratings means that you look better in the eyes of prospective clients.

For information about Avvo Legal Services, check out this page: Avvo Advisor.

Final Thoughts

If you’re an attorney, Avvo is an essential part of your online branding efforts. Your name’s on there whether you like it or not, so claim it and control how prospective clients are introduced to your brand.

Check out our tips for creating a winning profile on Avvo!

Should A Lawyer Have A Blog?

If you already own a website, why should a lawyer have a blog?

Nowadays, when people have a problem they immediately turn to Google and other search engines to find the answer. The way things work online, a few words or phrases are typed into the search bar and websites that best match it will show up.

For certain legal concerns, you may see searches like this:

  • Wife wants divorce
  • Can my brother sue me
  • What do I do if I get arrested?

In these situations, having a blog and writing about the legal perspective can bring more visitors to your website and potentially lead to new clients.

To achieve this, you will need to write articles with headlines like the following:

  • 7 Things You Must Do When Your Wife Wants A Divorce
  • What To Do When Your Brother (Or Family) Wants To Sue You
  • How Your Arrest Will Affect You And Your Family

Blogging is a powerful tool that takes time, commitment and a little online knowledge to make it work. Here’s a few things lawyers starting a blog should know.

Guidelines For A Lawyer’s Blog

You may not be a web designer, but there are a few things you should know if you intend to provide your thoughts, ideas, and professional advice online. A website is just like your office space: the way it is organized, the overall aesthetic, and the level of professionalism all play a part in whether people will stick around or click away.

Here are a few guidelines to consider when it comes to lawyer’s having an online blog:

  1. Create a responsive website. Many people are navigating the online world from a smart device. This means that your lawyer website has to be 100% responsive and mobile friendly. When it comes to the design elements on the page, keep it simple and keep it clean. And, don’t over complicate the language. People from all kinds of backgrounds will be reaching out to your online. Using simple, everyday language will be the best way to connect with potential clients.
  2. Have a clear way to contact you. There is a purpose to providing a website and this is amplified by adding a blog. Whenever you have visitors coming to your site, your contact information should be clear and distinct. Visitors should be able to send an email with ease or touch your number causing it to instantly dial. Reducing the level of frustrations on your website and in your blog will make the experience that much better in the palm of their hand.
  3. Educate your prospective clients. The main purpose of blogging is to exemplify your professional and answer any questions they may have. The information you provide is often the best place to begin a relationship with you. They can get to know who you are, what you offer, and how you think. Your blog is the place to build trust so that the consultation can happen without any doubts and uncertainties.
  4. Answer questions and solve problems. You might think that there is already a lot of information on the web and as a lawyer, it may be a waste of time to be blogging about it. Your competitors may be hundreds of articles ahead of you and you keep wondering why they continue to get more and more clients. Start blogging. This is an investment in your services and the easiest way to get started is by answering the most common questions your previous clients have asked you before. When people are coming to you online, they are hoping you have the answers to your problems, which the only way you can prove to them that you have it is by writing a blog.
  5. Add special offers. As a lawyer with a blog, this is a great opportunity to attract new clients. One of the best way to do this can be done by offering a free initial consultation. Inside your blog as well as on the side, you can create banners and advertisements that tell your visitors they can sign up for a risk-free, no obligation and no money consultation. Or, perhaps you are doing something special and offer flexible phone consultations.

 SEO Benefits Of Blogging

There’s a few things behind the scenes that lawyers should know about blogging. If you’re unfamiliar with how websites work and how Google shows your website to people searching you could be wasting your time blogging online.

Here’s a little summary of lawyer SEO and how a lawyer that blogs can benefit from it.

  1. More authority. There are elements of your website that determine your overall “web authority.” This is known as Domain Authority (DA) and is ranked on a 100-point-scale. Websites that provide more content will have a higher DA which boosts their rankings in the search engines.
  2. More web pages. Whenever you publish a new blog post, you are expanding the depth and details of your website. Each page URL gets indexed by Google and other search engines which increases your likelihood of being found and is supported by all other benefits found in this list.
  3. More Links. Links are an important variable that determines how well you are ranked. When you link out from your site to another authority site, Google recognizes this. However, when you link to other pages on your own website, this too is counted toward your overall ranking. Blogging gives you the chance to greatly enhance the quality of your site and give it that added boost.
  4. More trust. Many people are seeking solutions to their problems online. If you can position yourself in a way that provides online advice and trusted information, this too helps your ranking. Google tends to favor sites that give visitors trusted information that people actually need. Having a blog will provide that added trust that other websites lack.
  5. More traffic. Publishing regularly will allow you to generate significantly more traffic to your website, and ultimately, to your legal services. Google will often refer people using its search engine to sites that are active and consistently providing relevant and trusting content.
  6. More long tail keywords. Keyword stuffing (i.e. using a common keyword or phrase over and over again in an article) can lead to Google penalties. When you are blogging with quality, original content, you will end up with much more “long tail keywords” in on your website. Over time, this will increase your chances that you will be able to answer specific problems that prospective clients are seeking for online.
  7. More user experience. Google wants people to have the best user experience. To ensure this, Google expects websites to provide visitors with real answers and solutions to their problems. This will be measured by the amount of time people are spending on your website. If many people are leaving, you site is likely not the solution. However, that’s where blogging can help.
  8. More SEO. Blogging is content marketing. And, when you are blogging you are directing your content to a specific, target audience. In doing this, you are already creating the right SEO conditions to succeed online and the more you publish the more you can expect will return.

The Value Of Blogging As A Lawyer

Aside from the technical benefits your website receives with having a blog, there is considerable value when a lawyer blogs.

Take these into consideration:

  1. Save time and improves services. Imagine dealing with a client who didn’t do a background check and they continue to ask basic questions before even getting to a consultation. Having content in your blog is a quick and simple resource to redirect inquiries to the answers they are looking for. After they get the information they need, the next steps can be made with less hassle.
  2. You get noticed more. You already learned a little about the influence that Google has, however, if the information your provide is truly valuable, it’s going to be shared. When a lawyer has a blog and they can connect with the needs of people experiencing legal conflict, it’s quite common that they will share this advice with their friends and family.  Blogging allows you to share your experience and expertise as well as provide trust and support for those in a legal crisis.
  3. Perfect for advertising and announcements. Another great advantage for a lawyer to have a blog is that you can showcase your past successes. Perhaps your firm was featured in the news for a big case, or you were appointed an award in your community. Posting an update about this and sharing this online gives your website that dynamic edge and professional appeal.

There are all kinds of reasons for a lawyer to have a blog. However, as a final note, the most important reason for any lawyer to start blogging, whether you are a fresh our of law school, an experienced attorney, or a retired judge, is that you can continually develop and hone the legal skills as a lawyer.

Should Lawyers Buy .law Domains?

If you are considering a website or a blog to showcase your legal services and expertise, there are many different Top Level Domains (TLD) to choose from:

  • .com
  • .gov
  • .org
  • .law

This article will examine whether lawyers should buy .law domain and briefly review a few methods to succeed online.

What are Top Level Domains (TLD)?

Without going too in depth about the concept of domain names, here’s a simplified version of what domain names are.

Domain names are the important piece of information that provides a readable internet address of your website. The ending of the domain name is what is known as a Top Level Domain with the most common being .com, .org, and .net.

Overall, there are more than 1000 TLDs available.

Is There Any Significance In Having A .law Domain Name?

Having a TLD can be useful in marketing, search engines, and website optimization. When you consider the most common TLDs like .com, .edu, and .gov, these are recognizable, popular, and rank well courtesy of their authority.

They is some speculation that having these TLDs do not provide measurable proof that you will get ranked higher (such as with .edu and .gov domains).

Also, according to Matt Cutts, new TLDs, like .law, might not receive a boost in the search rankings. Your .law domain will not be treated much differently than other domain names already available.

“Sorry, but that’s just not true, and as an engineer in the search quality team at Google, I feel the need to debunk this misconception. Google has a lot of experience in returning relevant web pages, regardless of the top-level domain (TLD). Google will attempt to rank new TLDs appropriately, but I don’t expect a new TLD to get any kind of initial preference over .com, and I wouldn’t bet on that happening in the long-term either. If you want to register an entirely new TLD for other reasons, that’s your choice, but you shouldn’t register a TLD in the mistaken belief that you’ll get some sort of boost in search engine rankings.”

While Google may not rank a .law domain higher, from a personal point of view, there is significant value to be considered.

What Are The Benefits Of A .law Domain Name?

From a branding point of view, having a .law domain allows you to position yourself as a professional and a figure of authority.

Anyone who registers a new .law domain, must provide a phone number from the licensing of your agency or firm.

Having to go through this additional step during the registration process creates a trust factor for those searching for you.

Buying a .law domain name will provide an additional layer of credibility courtesy of the verification process required.

This is a summary of some the benefits you’ll receive when you buy a .law domain:

  • Brandable & Authority. Using this TLD allows you to create a strong and memorable brand. A .law domain can be descriptive and capture the core of your practice. When deciding on your domain name, consider using your own name, area of practice, or your target market.
    • Examples:law, NewYorkCity.law, StultzandBrinks.law, jones.law
  • Verified & Trusted. When you register your .law domain, you become verified and trusted by those seeking your services online. Only qualified lawyers can apply for this domain. Once approved, you will have a branded and trustworthy domain surrounding your legal profession.
  • Competitive & Professional. Your new .law domain will stand out amongst others. The .law is exclusive to lawyers and provides a distinct and official finish to your online presence.

If You Already Have Another Domain Name, Should You Transfer To A .law Domain?

As mentioned before, there may not be any considerable boost to your rankings in the search engines. If you already using a domain and it is working well, you may not want to transfer your website to the .law domain.

Consider .law as an investment in your practice but only if you don’t have a domain name already. When you transfer a website over to a new domain, you may lose traffic and potential clients.

Getting a new .law domain is an ideal choice for those starting a new website.

Aside From A .law Domain, How Can Lawyers Succeed Online?

A domain name is only one of many factors to consider when putting your law practice online.

One of the most critical areas of getting noticed and finding new clients comes from the content you provide.

Here’s a few things you may want to keep in mind:

  • Offer meaningful, relevant and original content. Most search engines approve of original content. However, they should be written in a way that’s natural and connects with your target audience.
  • Create backlinks on authority sites. When you have published quality content, try to get your site linked with .edu or .gov sites as these have authority. Read law firm SEO Tips hereNote: Never buy backlinks — you could be penalized.

As an authority on the web and a professional of law, you have a responsibility to provide quality content that is relevant and informative to your visitors.

This update from John Mueller on Google’s Webmaster Central makes it clear that content is crucial and the domain name is not given “artificial advantage in search.”

So, Should Lawyers Buy A .law Domain?

Getting a .law domain could be the strategic edge you need to have a competitive advantage online.

However, while a TLD like .law adds a professional touch your online service, providing good content that follows Google’s recommended practices will be much more powerful.

If you are preparing to settle on a .law domain name, remember to incorporate this into your website development:

  1. Publish high quality, original content on your site
  2. Provide relevant content to your potential clients and targeted audience
  3. Avoid SEO practices that could penalize your website (i.e. keyword stuffing, purchasing links, or other Google violations)

Achieving this will lead you to an authority site on the internet especially if you’re considering starting a blog.