Category Archives: SEO

SEO For Attorneys

Attorney Search Engine Optimization (SEO) requires strategic planning, careful techniques and smart tactics to attract more prospective clients to your law firm.

If you’re unfamiliar if SEO, this is the standard practice of configuring both on-site and off-site elements of your website. The purpose of SEO for lawyers is to push their website to the first page of search engines (e.g. Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.). This is important.

In this article, you will get some insights on SEO for attorneys while learning a few skills to improve your website and increasing the likelihood of finding more customers online.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT ATTORNEY SEO

Before revealing some methods you can use to improve your website’s SEO, you should know a few things about the nature of search engines.

First, Google dominates the search engine industry. There are somewhere between 60 to 80% of searchers using their service. However, when it comes to SEO for lawyers, other search engines like Yahoo and Bing should be considered as prospective clients can be found there too.

Next, getting your law firm’s website ranked is both vital and challenging. Research on Google’s search results has discovered that about 91.5% of searchers make their choices based on what they find on the first page. Take a look at the remainder of the pages:

  • Page 2: 8%
  • Page 3: 1%
  • Page 4: 4%

There are paid methods of getting your website to the front page, (i.e. PPC lawyer campaigns), however to save on spending SEO allows you to drive more organic visitors to your website.

Did you know? Depending on your niche, industry and the keywords your web pages rank for, organic listings can receive up to 90% of clicks.

SEO FOR ATTORNEY: WHAT TO DO

 There is a critical thing to know about SEO for attorneys. Marketing online for lawyers and law firms must abide by the rules and regulations detailed by the state bar associations.

Careful considerations must be made when representing your law firm online. Performing ethical SEO will allow you to rank on the first page of search engines without any penalties. Here’s a few things you can do.

Lawyer SEO Keyword Research

Keyword research is always the foundation for any SEO strategy. You can optimize your website by focusing on keywords that have purchasing intentions. This means that you should use specific words people are searching for which will lead to them sign up for your services.

You will find that these search terms and phrases will have a high volume compared to others.

Also, slight variations in phrases can lead to a significant difference in the volume of traffic and click you receive. For example, if someone was searching for “NYC divorce attorney” they are likely to receive more searches than for “NYC divorce attorney.” The term “lawyer” tends to be used more frequently than “attorney.”

You can use Google’s keyword planner to get a basic understanding of which keywords are being used and which ones you should add to your website.

Here are some tips to guide your keyword research for effective attorney SEO:

  1. Make a list of terms related to your practice area (i.e. divorce lawyer, Family divorce lawyers, etc.)
  2. Compare multiple variations of your keyword phrases to find what people are actually searching for.
  3. Focus on high search volume keywords with moderate competition.
  4. Also, consider low competition keywords that can be easily targeted.
  5. Dedicate pages using phrases and terms that are related to your main keyword phrase (i.e. divorce lawyers in NYC, NYC divorce lawyers, etc.)
  6. Research the keywords your competitors are using and ranking for, then make better content that ranks higher.

Local SEO for Attorneys

Most law firms are operating from a single community which makes targeting prospective clients very competitive. In order to get your website noticed, local lawyer SEO allows you to target your website toward particular demographics in your area.

Here’s a few ways to improve your local attorney SEO:

  1. Sign up for Google My Business profile.
  2. Sign up for Bing Business Listings.
  3. Sign up for Yext and get your website listed on hundreds of local websites.
  4. Sign up for AVVO.
  5. Create a location specific page (i.e. Divorce Lawyer in NYC) using specific terms that get your page ranked.

Attorney SEO: Schema Markup

Schema markup is HTML code which makes the content on your website easily understood by machines. Schema’s are important as they allow search engines to figure out the real meaning behind the content being displayed on your website.

There is a dedicated set of schema you can apply to your website that lets search engines understand that your website is related to a law firm of legal profession.

You can apply this schema markup to content like:

  • Addresses
  • Attorney Biographies
  • Attorney Names
  • Client Reviews
  • Emails
  • Phone Numbers

Using schema is a great way to get your site to stand out in the search engines. When you use schema markup, your website will have additional visible features such as star ratings, business logo, and contact info.

SEO Attorney Strategy: Link Building

In 2016, Google announced that links were one of the major factors that influence how a page is ranked in the searches. To get your push your rankings toward the first page, you will have to dedicate a significant amount of time building links from other websites. However, not all links are the same.

You need to get your lawyer website on high ranking websites. For lawyers, these are websites like AVVO, Lawyers.com, Justia, Super Lawyers. Getting your website linked on these sites will add authority and can likely boost your rankings in the search engines.

Keep in mind, it takes more than one or two links to start seeing some changes. Getting quality backlinks is a tiresome and exhaustive effort. When building backlinks to your law firm, be sure not to put your links on too many bad sites. You don’t want your site to be penalize for unethical backlink marketing.

Summary of SEO For Attorneys

SEO for attorneys is a necessity in order to get your law firm or legal service to stand out in the search engines.

Start with researching the right keywords for your website. Once you have those, build pages and posts around those keywords. On a deeper level, add schema markup to help search engines understand what your website is all about. And finally, make as many high quality backlinks as possible.

7 Simple SEO Tips For Lawyers and Law Firms

You don’t have to be a computer programmer to understand the fundamentals of marketing your law firm’s website. To increase the number of clients inquiring about your legal services, there are a few easy steps to take. Let’s get started by laying a foundation for the basics of law firm SEO.

Some SEO Advice from a Google Expert

If you plan on getting your website on the front page of Google, it is important to know about Matt Cutts, an SEO Specialist and Engineer with Google.

To stay on top of your website’s optimization and attract new clients, here are a few tips from Google’s search engine expert:

As you can see in the video above, how your website is structured, the quality of your backlinks and the authority (or the importance) all play a part in whether your website shows up in the search results.

Now, let’s see if your attorney website is search engine friendly. Here are 7 SEO tips for lawyers and law firms:

SEO Tip #1: Improve Site Speed

Your website’s load time has a direct impact on both a visitors experience and your search engine rankings.

Think about this: a one-second delay in page load time could:

  1. Reduce page views by 11%
  2. Increase visitor dissatisfaction by 16%
  3. And, reduce client acquisition by 7%

The speed of your website can have a dramatic effect on your business. Prospective clients searching for a lawyer may not be patient to wait for your website to load before jumping back on Google to find a faster loading lawyer website.

To put this into perspective, Google has performed some research on the average site speed for websites in the United States:

To check the performance of your law firm’s website you can use Google’s free Page Speed Insights Tool. If we take one of the top search results for “California law firm” and put it into this tool, here’s what you’ll see:

Marshall Law Firm has a good score for the desktop version of their website and offers suggestions to improve its performance.

You may want to talk to your web developer to make the appropriate adjustments to your law firm’s webpage load time (i.e. reducing web coding and server response time).

However, according to Yahoo 80% of your website’s load time comes from the different images, videos, and design style to that page. If you can reduce either the size of these files or minimalize your site design, you can improve the performance of your load times.

SEO Tip #2: Focus on Visitor Experience

Google and other search engines want you to focus on user experience and site design. Their goal is to offer the best websites to provide only the best experience.

Your law firm’s website should be responsive which means it can be viewed on both a desktop and a mobile device. Since so many people are using their smartphones to find information, you don’t want to lose potential clients to a competitor staying ahead in the digital race.

Another feature about user experience includes the content on your pages. All your pages should have text and a few images, this is what search engines use to determine what your pages are all about.

Think about some of the best websites you enjoy. That’s the kind of experience you want to provide when someone visits your website or reads your law firm’s blog.

SEO Tip #3: Use Words People Search For

Understanding which words are being used in search engines is the most important part of your law firm’s SEO strategy.

Keywords, the words or phrases used in searches, should be used throughout your website and blog to increase your website’s search engine rankings and help you attract potential clients.

There are a number of free research tools you can use to find exactly which keywords people are using. Here are a few you can start using now:

  1. WordStream
  2. SERPS
  3. Google Keyword Planner
  4. Keyword.io (for longtail keywords)

SEO Tip #4: Create Keyword Specific Pages

Once you have discovered the keywords related to your law firm, the next step is to start building pages or blog posts with them in it.

Be sure to use specific keyword phrases and don’t be afraid to create pages from keywords that have low competition. For example, if a keyword phrase like “low price divorce attorney” only gets 10 to 50 searches per month, yours may be the only website specific enough to answer their questions (and potential business inquiries).

SEO Tip #5: Avoid Penalties

No one fully understands how a website is ranked by search engines, however, there are a few known penalties that can affect you. Here are a few you should know about:

  • This penalty occurs if your website is showing full content to Google and partial content to your visitors. For example, if you force users to sign-in, register, or log-in to see the full content.
  • Hacked Site. If your website has been hacked and its redirecting visitors to spammy sites, search engines like Google will quickly pick up on this and flag it. The results can lead to your website getting buried in the search engines.
  • Keyword Stuffing. From time to time, using keywords in your law firm’s blog is how search engines know which content to offer their searchers. However, if you use the keyword too many times, known as keyword stuffing, your website can be penalized for it.

Getting a penalty on your website can dramatically damage your standings on the results pages of search engines. Here, the best SEO tip for lawyers is to avoid these penalties and use search engine webmaster tools (such as Google Search Console) to monitor your website. If there’s ever a problem with your website, for example, if it gets hacked, Google Search Console will send you an immediate notification.

SEO Tip #6: Add Your Law Firm’s Website to Google My Business

Google My Business is extremely important to your website’s search rankings as it affects your local SEO. After you sign up, you have to wait for a postcard to be sent via mail to verify your business. As soon as you get it, verify your website so you can show up in localized and map searched.

Other search engines have their own local listings and directories which you should add your website to:

In addition to these popular business directories, you should also put your website up on these lawyer specific listings:

SEO Tip #7: Use a Strong CTA

Of all the lawyer SEO tips to help improve your website’s search rankings and attracting more visitors to your website, this is the one tip that matters most.

A call to action is a unique and noticeable statement telling visitors what to do when they arrive at your website. When potential clients are coming to your website you should have a dedicated page with a contact box, location, and other ways to reach you.

Additionally, you should think about how to make your number and contact information pop-off the page. Or, consider offering a free consultation if they schedule an appointment online. Whatever you do, after putting all this work into getting people to your website, contacting you should be obvious and easy to do.

.attorney vs .lawyer vs .com domains. What Should Small Law Firms Do?

There are a couple of new top level domains that are opening up for registration in the next few weeks, and the announcement has attorneys wondering what, if anything, should they do?

What’s the deal?

Well first, let’s talk about what the change is.  Around 2006, ICANN, the governing body for domain names on the internet started taking bids for new generic top level domains (gTLDs).  Since most lucrative and/or useful domains have been taken up by domain squatters and the occasional legit business, folks welcomed the opportunity to get a branded domain name that was relevant to their business.

So, they offered companies and investors the chance to own and manage new top level domains.  Some of them are innocuous (.ceo, .bike, .directory, .beer), some are scandalous (.sexy, .xxx), and some are just industry specific (.plumbing, .attorney, .lawyer).

What makes the .attorney and .lawyer gTLDs interesting, is that they are intended to act like the .gov, .edu, and .mil “sponsored” top level domains.  Sponsored TLDs act as a signal of trust since not just anyone can get one of those domains.  You need to meet a managing body’s criteria. In the former, you need to prove you’re an attorney (or attending an accredited law school), and in the latter, you need to be a government, educational institution or branch of military service.

That’s the theory anyways.

Without going into the threat this imposes on existing ethics regulators (a threat that Carolyn Elefant covers in depth in her post “Should Lawyers Mark A Spot With With a Domain Dot – And Will Ethics Regulators Say Yay or Not?“) it’s important to note that even if regulators embrace the new gTLDs, the real question is whether potential clients will.

I’ve always considered sites with the newer TLDs as somewhat suspect.  It’s not a perfect system, but the fact that you need to pay a decent amount of money for a great .com domain is such a good filter that it tends to cloud my judgement when it comes to trusting other domains.

At least, that’s my bias.  But I’m not one to assume that everyone is like me.  I’m a computer nerd by trade, and as such have a fairly biased opinion when it comes to technology in general.

Enter real data…

Instead, I ran an experiment to find out for real, whether the regulated TLDs accomplish the task of inspiring trust in normal, everyday folk.

Here’s how it worked.  Using Google’s awesome Consumer Surveys tool, I asked a simple question of 100 people.  If you were looking to hire an attorney, based only on the domain name, who would you choose?

  • www.john-smith-law.com
  • www.johnsmith.lawyer
  • www.johnsmith.attorney

The idea for those three is based on the following scenario.  Let’s assume you’re trying to find a domain for your solo firm.  And let’s say you have a fairly common name where you can’t get the exact johnsmith.com or johnsmithlaw.com (because if you can, you should do that right now and stop reading.)

You might then consider, do I get my exact match domain with .attorney or .lawyer instead?  Will that get more clients to trust me?

Well, survey says…

Overall, I was surprised by the results. I thought the .com would absolutely trounce the gTLDs and that appears to be absolutely wrong.

.attorney and .com lead the way.
Turns out, while almost noone prefered the .lawyer domain, .attorney actually appears to hold roughly equal to slightly more trust than .com when you take into account the error margins in the survey.

Here’s the preliminary result:

.lawyer vs .attorney vs. .com trust

Younger folks prefer .com, older folks, .attorney
While that’s the general population, it’s interesting that there are fairly heavy splits when it comes to the age of the recipient. Something that might be useful to know for all your elder law folks out there.

age_split

Upper income clients still prefer .com
If your clients tend to be wealthier, or you hope to get more wealthier clients, it’s interesting to note that upper income individuals still prefer the .com.

Upper income folks seem to prefer .com dmoains ober .attorney and .lawyer

Upper income folks seem to prefer .com dmoains ober .attorney and .lawyer

Want to analyze the data for your target clients?
If you want to comb through the data to see what your target clients might prefer, head on over to the Google survey results page and tinker to your heart’s content.

And if you think this data is bunk, or if you want more info for your own purposes, this survey is set for 100 responses and only cost $10. You can set one up yourself and target the results by geographic region and income, and you’ll have the results in a few days.

I see the data, so what should I do?

Well first, don’t panic. It might seem like there’s a great gold rush out there for these domain names, but the population that uses them is tiny (relative to other TLDs) and an even smaller fraction will actually purchase the domains. And since switching and/or deciding on a domain is a BIG deal, don’t make the decision rashly.

Should I switch to a .attorney domain?
Probably not, definitely not right away, and MOST DEFINITELY, not without some professional help.

There are a number of things to consider when considering a domain switch. You’ll need to consider the cost of replacing any marketing collateral you own like business cards, pamphlets etc.

You’ll need to perform an audit of your existing site to make sure any and all pages on your site are redirected to the new domain properly (for any site with more than 5 pages, seek professional help with this).

You’ll need to update all of your DNS records to match the old domain so things like email will still work… in other words, it’s not as simple as just changing your domain.

Should I register my existing domain with the .attorney and .lawyer TLDs?
If you have $35-$100 burning a hole in your pocket and it would make you feel better to have them just in case, go ahead and buy them. But remember, if you buy both at $35, that’s $70 every single year you own them.

But what if I want to prevent someone else from registering them?
Unless you’re a giant brand with money to spare, this is generally a false worry. First of all, as a small law firm, you’re not big enough for most squatters to care about.

Second, unless the squatter commits to building content in your niche, search engines will never find the squatter’s site anyways.

And thirdly, if you’re concerned about someone coming along and registering a domain just to bad mouth you or your firm, well, the only way to prevent that is to buy up every gTLD out there, and that’s going to cost you a whole lot of money just to prevent a hypothetical.

However… one case where I’d consider squatting is if your firm is hyper personalized and your name is reasonably common. For example, if you own “marystevens.com” or “marystevenslaw.com”, consider picking up “marystevens.attorney” and “marystevens.lawyer” as building a little moat around your personal brand is important when you have a common name.

I am just starting out, should I go .com or .attorney?
Based on the data, it looks like we can rule out .lawyer. And if you can get a decent .com with no dashes, go that route for sure.

But, if you found a really nice .attorney domain in a competitive niche, like say “nydefense.attorney” or “thepersonalinjury.attorney” go for it! Given that it appears that the trust is there, it can’t hurt.

But, one thing to consider is whether having the singular “attorney” or “lawyer” as a domain name will be limiting if you want to grow your firm. The domain seems to imply a single individual, and that might become an issue down the road if you suddenly have a couple of associates or additional partners.

I already registered the domains, if I don’t switch, what should I use them for?
First, redirect them to your existing site by using a CNAME or URL record with your DNS provider. I know that’s really techy, so if you need help, just email me.

Second, if you’re not changing your primary domain, do not use your new domains for things like email or other branding materials. Besides confusing your clients, it also confuses google into thinking there really are two sites and that hurts your SEO.

Should I buy up domains for multiple practice areas?
Not unless you’re creating separate sites for each and have the time to maintain them.

Just owning the domains and pointing them all at your existing site won’t really make a difference for your site traffic. Google will only recognize those domains if you actually have content on them and have links coming in using the new domains. And since it’s highly unlikely that any consumer is going to type “newyorkpersonalinjury.attorney” into their browser bar without some sort of marketing material to prompt them, you won’t get any additional direct traffic either.

But what if I’m squatting, hoping to sell the domains to other attorneys?
Well, sorry to be the one to say it, but you’re the reason we can’t have nice things (like reasonable .com domains.)

That’s it! Any more questions?

If you like this kind of no-nonsense marketing advice for solo and small firm attorneys, sign up for our marketing bootcamp where you’ll get one email every week with easy to digest marketing plans that let you get back to being a lawyer.

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Why Google’s Cracking Down On Non Mobile-Friendly Sites And What Attorneys Need To Do

You may have heard whisperings that Google is going to be cracking down on non-mobile-friendly websites starting April 21st.

That’s absolutely correct.

For a while now they’ve been keeping track of whether sites are optimized for small screens and slow data connections. Up until now they haven’t changed any of the rankings based on that information and instead, just show a little “Mobile-friendly” label on search results when searching from your mobile device.

But now, they’re taking the next step, and using mobile-friendly as a ranking signal when someone searches for your firm on a mobile device. We don’t know how much it will affect rankings just yet (but we’re watching closely and will report as soon as we can measure it), but we know that it will drop rankings for searches from mobile devices, and it’s expected to drop them considerably.

What does that mean for you?

Well, it depends on if your site is mobile-optimized. Here’s a link to check if your site is mobile-friendly. If it is, then you should be all set.

But if it’s not, come on back here and we’ll discuss the options you have for avoiding the Google hammer in a few weeks.

So here’s the link to Google’s mobile-friendly tester.

Go check your site and see if Google thinks it’s mobile-friendly. I’ll wait.

How’d you do? Did your site pass?

It passed!

That’s awesome. Gold star for you! You may want to read ahead though to see if one of the other options here might be a better option for you.

It didn’t pass?

Don’t worry all is not lost. Consider this a bit of a wake-up call. After all, you still have a little time to right the ship, so to speak.

First of all, these changes won’t affect your rankings when someone searches for your firm on their desktop. Which, is still somewhere around 75% of search traffic in the US depending on whose stats you use.

But, that still means you’ll start to lose out on 1/4 of your traffic.

A better way to think about this might be to consider the following scenario. Let’s say a potential client just got into a cab when they received an email from a friend referring your firm to fix their problem. The first thing they’ll do is google you or your firm.

If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, your firm website might not be right there in the first spot in their search results. Instead, they might see your Avvo profile (which you may or may not have done anything with). Or maybe they’ll see a complaint a bitter client left on a review site.

All that effort crafting your brand and your message, and it’s all for naught because your site wasn’t the first one listed.

Obviously, that’s not a great place to be in. So it begs the question…

“How do I make my site mobile-friendly?”

Well, you have two options. You can redesign your site, or you can create a separate mobile site that lives at mobile.myfirm.com.

Each has their benefits and drawbacks, but I’m going to strongly recommend a site redesign over creating a separate mobile version of your website.

The main reason is maintenance. With two different web properties to maintain, you’ll need to have a way of keeping them in sync. And what’s more, you’ll need to be diligent about telling Google which version of a page is ‘canonical’. Meaning, which version is the “one true version?” Fail to stay on top of that and Google will dock you for having duplicate content.

The second reason is just common sense. For the same cost it would take to build a mobile-specific site, you could redesign your site to be mobile-friendly and avoid the mess of maintaining two properties altogether.

No need to worry about whether the mobile site matches your desktop branding. No worrying about duplicate content. And hey, you get a fancy new desktop and mobile website for the same investment.

How large is that investment? Well, it depends on what you’re starting with.

I use wordpress or another CMS.

If you already use a content management system like WordPress, it could be as simple as finding a theme you like. A decent responsive theme can be had for peanuts on sites like themeforest.net. You might get lucky and be able to just swap in the new theme and call it a day and you’re done in ~$50.

More likely, you’ll want to find a developer to customize the theme in a few places to fit your brand. That could cost you ~$50-$100/hr for a few hours of work. A far cry from building a new site from scratch.

I had a custom site coded for me.

But if your site was a custom job, as we typically see with agencies or with one-off website designs, your options get a (little) bit more expensive.

You’ll likely need to go through that process again. Which is a pain, I know. This time through though, keep an eye on an ability to upgrade in the future. If you’re working with a developer or agency, make sure they’re using a commonly-used CMS that will be around for a while. WordPress would be my recommendation (outside of using AmazeLaw of course.)

For an idea of what a site should cost these days, check out our guide to How Much a Law Firm Website Should Cost.

But regardless of your starting point. This update is a good thing for your firm. Sure it requires some investment. But that’s exactly what it is. An investment that you’ll most definitely see returns on.

Again. This is a GOOD thing. Think of it this way.

Imagine you had a 20 year old car. It’s worked well for you in the past. Sure, it’s not shiny, but it’s gotten you where you’ve needed to go.

But, a lot has changed in 20 years. Technology has gotten exponentially better. While you might say “I don’t need my car to talk to me,” it’d be hard to argue against the safety, fuel-efficiency, and reliability improvements that have come along with it.

On the road, states incentivize adoption of new technology through car inspections. On the internet, Google is taking on that role by rewarding sites that stay current with better search placement.

So rather than lamenting the fact that it’s become necessary to upgrade your website, you should also feel excited. You can now take advantage of advances in technology that make marketing your firm much easier.

Does your site need a mobile upgrade?

Our sites are all fully-mobile-optimized. If you want to see what mobile magic AmazeLaw can do for your firm…

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