Consultwebs has successfully been helping law firms and clients connect since 1999. Throughout the past 16-plus years, we have gained a lot of insight about the most common SEO mistakes lawyers tend to make in their online marketing efforts.
We see a wide variety of mistakes and issues when clients come to us in search of help with their marketing needs, and recently we had a team discussion on this topic to identify the most common ones.
Topping the list on everyone’s mind are mistakes with Google My Business (Formerly known as Google+ Local). Google My Business allows you to set up your firm with Google Maps and Google+.
Whether by accident or intentionally, many law firms create multiple pages on Google My Business. Having only one page is absolutely critical for successful local optimization. If you have more than one page, you must remove the other pages. It can be a difficult process, but do not ignore this. Having multiple profiles can confuse the search engines. Having one correct profile will make your visibility much stronger.
Another common issue is having profiles for multiple-attorney firms under different Google accounts. You should, indeed, set up multiple attorney listings in Google My Business (Google+ Local), but please ensure you do this under only your one, correct account. You also need to be sure to use a standard set of location information across different citation sources. It is necessary to have consistent business listings, often referred to as NAP. NAP stands for Name, Address and Phone Number. Cleaning up inconsistencies can be very tedious and difficult, but it is worth doing to ensure high quality local optimization.
If you are a reader of our blog, you have probably heard us talk about reviews multiple times. We have several articles on the topic. We have also covered the topic in webinars, seminars and even visited several of our clients to help establish processes for gaining reviews. This topic is very important. You will be rewarded with Google’s stars on your local listing, once you reach 5 or more reviews on their platform.
An increased number of reviews on Yelp and other platforms can bring additional value. The benefits can include not just improved rankings, but also an improved click-through rate to your website. Finally, many law firms create unstaffed (sometimes referred to as virtual) offices in an effort to gain more clients from cities other than their main office location. There is nothing wrong with this, of course, but trouble can arise when firms try to add these virtual offices to Google My Business (Google+ / Local). This is against Google’s guidelines, and although it is a common practice, we strongly recommend against it.
If you truly have an unstaffed (virtual) office that you use as meeting places in other cities, you should list them on your website but not tie them into your Google My Business listings. Only staffed offices should be set up under Google My Business.
There are plenty of factors you need to keep in mind when it comes to setting up and running your Social Media channels effectively. The typical issues we see involve firms with multiple Social Media profiles that are all representing their businesses. If a prospect stumbles onto the wrong profile (an inactive one), it could give a bad impression and very well cost your firm the client. If your firm has multiple Facebook profiles, Google+ accounts, etc., be sure to remove all but one from each platform. Even though the process isn’t always easy, it is important to delete extraneous profiles to prevent this from happening.
Another common issue involves failing to regularly update Social Media channels. Firms need to leverage them to share content and build relationships and to develop their brand to enhance future content sharing. You want to build followers and engage them in conversation. Tell them about your firm, what you are doing for the community, events that you are sponsoring and issues about which you are concerned. It should be noted that a firm’s Social Media channels should probably not be used to post personal rants and raves.
We have seen this several times as we review the efforts of potential clients, build out our custom audits and help lawyers with their reputation management.
Onsite Issues & Content
There are a lot of onsite issues that we see when we start working with our clients.
The most common issues, typically, are content related. However, from a technical SEO standpoint, there are plenty to pick from as well. Keyword-stuffing, and the presence of thin or duplicate content are issues that will get your website caught in Panda filters.
This issue sometimes goes to the extreme with some law firms that duplicate their entire website on multiple domains in hopes of ranking multiple domains on page one on Google. This technique simply doesn’t work anymore.
Luckily, content corrections are usually straight-forward, although the process can sometimes be lengthy and tedious.
Focus on the user experience, find out what the user is looking for and write in-depth articles on these subjects. Google and other search engines will reward you for this.
To be successful with your content, perform keyword research and use the results. Avoid speculation as to what you think the user is looking for, and use data instead. Also, make your content visually appealing by adding illustrations, images and videos (and don’t forget to optimize these assets with proper naming and tagging conventions). This will help engage the user even further with your in-depth content.
We could write an entire article on common technical issues we find, but one major error we often see involves Schema Markup. If nothing else, make sure you have your address in the footer, wrapped in a Schema format. This will help the search engines understand who and where you are.
Google has a good tool that will assist you in checking if your site is correctly marked up: https://developers.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool/
There is a strong correlation between online and offline marketing, as well as brand building, which isn’t often discussed or focused on.
When you are strategizing for your online marketing, you should always take into consideration what your firm is doing offline. This could include events that your firm is sponsoring (for example, a golf tournament) or organizations to whom you donate, or sponsor (for example, perhaps animal shelters). With anything you do offsite, you should always ask to have your logo and URL placed on the sponsored website.
Remember, your online and offline marketing efforts should work together.
This is another topic that probably warrants its own article, but here is a short summary. Practices to avoid include: paid links, heavily keyword-stuffed anchor text and links from link farms and nonsense directories.
When we start working with new clients, we usually begin the project with a redesign of their website. We build our design around the concepts of conversion rate optimization and usability.
We perform various studies, and since we have been working solely with law firms since 1999, we have a keen understanding of conversion rate optimization for this profession.
A redesigned website is something we have full control over and to which we can easily make adjustments.
Backlinks are a different story. We spend a lot of time cleaning up “bad” or “toxic” backlinks for new clients and disavowing the ones we cannot get removed. We make sure our clients have a clean backlink profile and a fresh start. Entering the Google penalty box is something you do not ever want to experience. It was easy, especially few years ago, to take shortcuts by paying $50 to get 1,500 or more backlinks from directories hosted offshore.
Since legal marketing is a very competitive niche, a lot of law firms went that route, taking shortcuts for better rankings. Those cheap and easy tactics don’t lead to long-term success.
Our Director of Marketing, Mike Zellmer, is a barbecue nut. As we were discussing barbecue the other day (he won our yearly “best ribs” contest for the second time in a row) we talked about the similarities between links and barbecue. Both achieve the best results when done “low and slow.” It might take you 8-10 hours to smoke your pork shoulder or brisket, and it might take you 8-10 months to get good traction with the search engines.
They key here is patience. If you have patience, put in the work, and do things the right way, you will be rewarded.
It’s understandable why rankings are important to your firm, but sometimes rankings become an obsession or an ego factor. Who doesn’t want to rank No. 1 for “Personal Injury Attorney” in their city and outrank their peers? It can take a several-million-dollar investment to rank for some of the more competitive keywords, such as “mesothelioma”. Note: we have a client who’s been with us since 2002 and does very well in this particular competitive space.
With a large investment in your online marketing, it’s understandable that you would want to see an immediate return on your investment. However, building good rankings the right way takes time. You are often competing with other firms that have been investing heavily online for 10 or more years. It took your competition a long time to achieve their level of online authority. It will take you time as well.
We try to educate our readers that “It’s not where or what you rank for, but how many conversions you get, and what your cost per conversion is.” You can rank No. 1 for keywords in competitive niches, but if you’re not converting the visitor into a client, how truly valuable is the No. 1 ranking? Some of the more conversion-heavy keywords are long-tail keyword phrases where there is much greater intent from the searcher to enter the conversion funnel. It’s the low-hanging fruit that many law firms miss when focusing on shorter keywords.
Many law firms miss the opportunity to focus on videos. When done properly, videos are very user friendly. They add great value to your content and help you gain visibility. However, some law firms make videos just to make videos, thus resulting in low-quality productions that no one watches.
Before your firm starts investing in online video, think through the strategy. Good videos focus on content the visitors want to see, such as answers to frequently asked questions. Keep them relatively short and to the point. Not everyone has a super high-speed internet connection or wants to listen to a lengthy explanation of a topic for which they want a quick answer.
Once you have your video in place, optimize it. Spend time getting it placed properly on the right channels and have the video transcribed. This can make very good and interesting content. If your firm is brave enough or “out there,” you can always try to go for viral videos. I recently spoke to a friend about this topic, and said, “Do you remember that Super Bowl commercial from that lawyer?” He immediately knew what I was referring to. Jamie Casino’s commercial from 2014 has reached almost 6 million views on his YouTube channel alone.
Your mobile design needs to focus on exactly that, mobile. First, make sure your website uses responsive design. You need to understand that the behavior of a mobile user is different from someone using a desktop computer. With your mobile design, you need to narrow down what the user is looking for as much as you can. Don’t overcrowd your mobile design with too much information. You should make sure that contacting your firm is easy and the navigation is scaled down as well. With mobile usage climbing you need to not only focus on your mobile site, but also your mobile marketing and your audience. Your mobile site is just as important as, if not more than, your desktop site.
A lot of law firms run their own PPC (pay per click) accounts, rather than having professionals handle this for them. There can be a huge benefit from having an Google Ads specialist handle this for your firm. Not only will a specialist likely be able to get you more conversions for less money (read our own case study here on how we saved our client thousands of dollars per month by handling his firm’s PPC account) but they will also be able to determine the best keywords to use, and the proper geographic areas. If, for example, I search for “New York Personal Injury Attorney” in Scranton, PA, I get a lot of Scranton PI firms, although I’m searching for a PI firm in New York.
This is because the firms are bidding on broad match keywords for the phrase “Attorney.” These are high-dollar keywords that will bring irrelevant users to your site, which will lead to a low-quality score in Google Ads due to high bounce rate once the user figures out that he’s not looking at a law firm from New York City, but Scranton.
Content is another issue. You want to have unique and focused content and landing pages for different keywords you are targeting, resulting in a much lower bounce rate and a higher conversion rate. If you are running a PPC campaign targeting motorcycle accidents and car accidents, you should have a separate landing page for each.
Specific landing pages convert better than one generic accident-related landing page. Ultimately, if you don’t target well enough, and provide proper pages and content for visitors, it could cost you thousands of dollars. As you can see, there is a lot to know and think about when it comes to your law firm’s online marketing. Mistakes happen, and when they do, they can be very costly in terms of expense and lost potential revenue.
Just as we trust specialized professionals like lawyers, doctors, mechanics, landscapers and countless others to help us in their areas of expertise, it’s often best to seek out the help of an established law firm online marketing company to help your firm get more cases from the web.
To dig deeper into some of the issues that we’ve outlined, and some others we haven’t mentioned here, download our free website assessment and feel free to contact us for more information.