Digital marketing for lawyers can seem overwhelming; the fast pace of innovation and change make it seem like you can never catch up. In this article, we break down the basics of Search Engine Optimization. By understanding your site’s ‘digital footprint,’ you can better guide your law firm’s digital marketing strategy to the next steps.
We will divide this into two main sections; 1) on-page optimization, or anything that is done physically on your site, and, 2) off-page optimization, or anything that happens outside of your own website.
On-Page Optimization For Legal Websites
On-page work is, you guessed it, work that is done on your actual website. This means that this work is full of opportunities that we can control, in contrast to off-page work, which is often left to the discretion of other marketers, companies and webmasters. Our content should always be unique, informative and engaging. We can use visuals to guide users through the content and keep them engaged for longer, but the actual subject matter requires a deeper dive.
Some of the more technical aspects of your website may be a bit more complicated to understand and execute, but they can make a huge difference in your online presence. We have listed a few of those important factors below.
- Site Speed: Google has recently been reported to start using mobile page speed load time to rank websites. Studies have also reported that 40% of users will click away from a page if it loads in more than 3 seconds.
- Mobile Responsiveness: Your website’s mobile responsiveness is also a huge factor in not only the way robots interact with your site, but also the way users interact with a site. How many times have you been on your phone and visited a website that loads a desktop version? Search engines don’t like it, and neither do people.
- HTTPS / Secure protocol: Google started to really crackdown on unsecure websites recently. This year, Google Chrome browsers started to issue warnings whenever a user landed on an insecure site. Using HTTPS also allows for increased site speed.
- AMP pages: AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages, is one way to create super fast loading pages. Launched by Google a few years ago, AMP pages are lighter in code and load faster on mobile phones. This is worthy of consideration and can easily be added to your SEO regimen.
If you have been diving into online marketing, you have likely heard the phrase “Content is King.” This is fairly accurate, since without grade A content on your site it will be very hard to move the needle.
We consider the following pieces of content must-haves for law firms:
- Firm information: This should include how long the firm has been in business and talk about the overall culture of the firm. This is also a great place to include a unique value proposition (UVP). Your UVP is what sets you apart from your competition what makes your business unique. Examples could be that you offer a free consultation, have been in business for over 20 years, or that you have a state-of-the-art case-management system.
- Attorney and Staff Biographies: People are hiring your firm, but they really care about the person who will be handling their case. Provide detailed information about your attorneys and staff members, including their experience in the legal world. This is a great place to brag about awards, education, and even personal achievements.
- Testimonials: Our online culture lives off reviews and recommendations, so featuring testimonials on your site is a critical component to converting clients.
- Case Results: This is another great place to show off what your firm has accomplished for your clients. This is an opportunity for the firm to show their strengths across different practice areas.
- Practice-related Content: Now that we have given users an opportunity to get to know the firm via the above bullet points, we can really dive into content related to legal issues. Content related to your practice areas is what will bring people into your site via online searches. The information about your firm is what will help to keep them there and convert them into leads and hopefully into case signups. We want our practice-area- related content to touch on all areas of practice that the firm wishes to take cases in, but it should not overlap or compete with itself. For more information on what type of content Consultwebs creates for our clients, visit this link.
If you are planning to operate your website in multiple languages, keep in mind that you will need a translator for your on-page content. Your firm also needs to have a plan for handling contact by clients in other languages. We recently created a comprehensive guide to creating a multilingual web presence.
No doubt your firm is involved with numerous organizations in the legal industry. Many of these organizations give out awards, ratings and membership badges that can be displayed on your site. Featuring these relationships is a great way to build trust with users since they may not have heard of your firm before, but they have likely heard of bigger-name organizations such as Avvo, Nolo, US Business News and World Report, etc.
Local Business Information
This may seem like an obvious piece of the digital puzzle, but oftentimes we find websites that do not mention the firm’s physical address or contact information. Having your firm’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) listed consistently in a centrally located place on the site is essential to gaining local rankings. We typically place this in the footer to ensure it is rendered on every page on the site. In our off-page section, we will discuss more about why this consistency is important.
The content section above outlines what users are looking for. This section focuses on structured data, or what search engine robots are looking for. Structured data is a way for webmasters to explicitly tell search engines what is on a website with no guessing. In the past, SEO was very focused on creating websites that were optimized for search engines instead of users. This often led to extreme keyword stuffing and other unsavory practices. Over time, Google and other search engines have been hard at work creating robots that think more like humans. They now claim to favor websites with content that is optimized for humans instead of robots.
While technology has made incredible advancements, search engine robots are not perfect. Therefore, we use structured data or pieces of code that spell out exactly what is on a website in terms robots can easily understand. Some examples of structured data are fairly straightforward, such as adding heading tags to content, instead of subheadings, to say what is the most important heading on a page.
Another more recent development in structured data is schema markup. This markup is the most inclusive and widely used external markup that covers almost everything under the sun that could be on a website. Schema, or rich snippets, not only helps robots understand what is on a page, but lately Google has been featuring schema-based data boxes in searches. The example below demonstrates the structured data markup results for a recipe on pumpkin pie;
Off-Page Optimization for Law Firm Websites
Earlier we touched on the importance of having NAP (name, address, phone) consistency on your own website, but did you know that search engines use NAP consistency across the web to aid in local rankings? Optimizing local citations is a key part of your local digital footprint as local rankings have become more and more important over time.
Keeping your main local citations that also double as social media sites like Google, Yelp, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn are crucial to your local footprint. Google is arguably the most important of these local citations and has its own set of best practices that are ever changing. There are also many legal and local-specific directories that your firm can be added to or have the information updated on for consistency. Beyond these most important directories are a plethora of citation websites. There are ways to audit all of your existing citations in order for us to ascertain what needs to be updated. Often for new firms, these come back with hundreds of issues to clean up.
One way to make this cleanup easier and faster is by cleaning up the aggregators that populate data on many of the smaller sites. The top aggregators are Localeze, Factual, Acxiom, etc. There are also websites that make it easier to submit updates to these aggregators to aid in cleanup.
Link-building is likely not a familiar term if you have not been in the digital marketing world long. In a nutshell, links from one website to another pass on authority and help search engines understand the overall topic and relevance of a particular site. We created an in-depth article on what exactly link equity/authority/juice is and why it’s important.
There are many ways to earn links back to your website. Here we will touch on a few of the main ones, but keep in mind that there may be more opportunities for your firm beyond this list.
- Incredible Content
- The best way to earn links to your website is to make it attractive to link to by creating stellar, unique content that other sites naturally want to link to. This can be easier said than done but here at Consultwebs, we have a knack for creating one-of-a kind special projects that earn links on their own.
- Local Citations
- The local, legal and business citations that we touched on earlier are also a great way to earn links since many citations also have an opportunity to link back to your website.
- Guest Blogging
- Another great way to easily earn natural backlinks to your site is via guest blogging. Guest blogging or guest posting is exactly what it sounds like. A website will allow a guest to blog on their site in order to gain relevant content from the experts. In exchange, the author is given credit for their work and often a link back to their website. Chances are the attorneys at your firm are already members of at least one or more local legal groups. Most of these organizations will have a blog on their website and often seek submissions from their members. Even if they do not advertise guest post opportunities, it is always worth asking about.
- Gaining links via sponsorships is another way for firms to capitalize on existing relationships and create new ones. There are plenty of nonprofits seeking financial sponsorship, and many do this in exchange for a bit of marketing collateral, including a link back to the firm’s website. Our outreach specialists can help create new relationships with organizations or foster existing ones to create an effective marketing strategy.
- Press Releases
- Your firm likely has many newsworthy happenings, but are you taking full advantage of these? A great way to make announcements about recent verdicts, community partnerships or upcoming events is via press releases. The links in a press release are also valuable to search engines. A double win.
A firm with a strong social presence can create a whole new channel for bringing in new potential clients. Consultwebs has a team of social media experts who stay up-to-date on the constantly changing trends and regulations in social media marketing. In our experience, firms that do the best on social media allow their marketing partners to create, post, and “boost”relevant content from the site, and then also do their part to show the human side of the firm. Parnall Law Firm’s Facebook page is a great example of a firm that does their part to post firm news such as events and birthdays and anniversaries of staff members.
Reviews on Third-Party Websites
Gaining reviews is a crucial part of your digital footprint. According to a study by Brightlocal, 84% of consumers say that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. One rebuttal we often hear from our clients when speaking about the importance of reviews is, “What about negative reviews?” A negative review here and there is not the end of the world, especially if you create a tactful response. Often having no negative reviews at all can make the positive reviews seem less trustworthy, as we all know that no one is perfect. Reviews on sites such as Yelp have been rumored to help increase local rankings directly and are also associated with voice searches.