How to Decide the Best SEO Company for Your Law Firm

Tanner Jones discusses the differences between SEO companies, what you should consider, what you should look for, and how your choice is potentially the most important decision you could make for your firm.

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How can you make sure that you are choosing the right SEO company for your law firm?

Hiring an SEO company for your law firm could be the biggest decision you make this year. Finding the right one can end up generating literally hundreds of thousands of dollars of case fees into your firm; choosing the wrong one can cost you that much. I want to be able to talk about the ways to consider and evaluate credible SEO firms but also areas to avoid when making this important decision.

Let’s start with the areas to consider when evaluating an SEO firm. When your law firm is looking at an SEO agency you want to start with the people that make up their team. The thing about search marketing companies is that it’s a low barrier to entry model. So what I mean by that is anybody with a computer in a basement can consider themselves an SEO expert, and that’s why you really have to understand what makes up their team. Is it a one-man, two-man shop, or do they have content professionals? Ideally they have licensed attorneys on staff that’s managing the content development efforts. Do they have outreach professionals, meaning do they have PR-minded public relations or outreach people that can go out and make connections on your behalf and generate links back to your website through activities? But to get those activities going you have to be able to have programmers, have designers. You may have individuals that are local experts or individuals who fully understand Google Analytics and can get in and review your site’s statistics and make adjustments accordingly. Pay-per-click marketing professionals, those individuals that can identify key words and strategies to utilize your dollars effectively.

There’s so many areas of expertise that’s needed for a successful and comprehensive search marketing campaign that one or two people simply can’t do that. If they have multiple clients they’re certainly not able to be proactive for you and insure that you’re generating a return on investment from month to month. You absolutely want to insure that they have enough team members to support your campaign and to support your dollars within your web marketing efforts.

Does the SEO company specialize in law firm online campaigns?

The next thing is look at the specialization. Who are their ideal clients? And you can look through their client portfolio if they have that on their website; if not that’s a red flag. If they’re not showcasing their clients there may be a reason for that so dig in deeper. Ask them about their ideal client and then review their sites. If they have sites in the medical industry, in dentistry, in other white collar or even blue collar professions then they’re potentially all over the place as far as their focus.

So having a specialization allows them to understand your industry, understand the unique needs of your clients, and that’s the biggest thing. Whenever they’re designing your website did they really understand the mental state of your prospective clients? And if they don’t, they’re likely not able to convey how you can help them, your clients, in that time of need. Specialization is really a critical area when it comes to finding the best search marketing company for your firm. You can see here a jack of all trades; there are a ton of search marketing companies out there that are taking endless business regardless of where it comes from, but again when you lose the specialization you lose the ability to generate consistent results.

What kind of reputation does the SEO company have?

The next thing is reputation, and you can’t hide reputation. Either you’ve produced results and you have happy clients or you don’t. And the beautiful thing about the Web today is that if somebody has generated a negative reputation, it’s likely public; you can probably find it with a few searches. So simply going to Google and typing in the name of the SEO company and reviews will often dig up some information that will be helpful for you as you make this important decision for your firm. Looking at their Google+, their Facebook, maybe Yelp and finding out if former clients, or current clients have left reviews on their behalf will be a great place to start, but again just a general Google search will identify where those reviews lie and whether they’re good or bad.

The next piece is to look at what to avoid. So you want to avoid people or search marketing companies that are offering template pricing which means that they’re not going to shape a custom strategy around what you’re really trying to accomplish online, and they certainly aren’t able to be flexible with how to utilize your monthly dollars on an ongoing basis. And the reason that’s important is that every firm’s different, because every firm has unique goals, they’re in different market areas, and they have different practice areas that they wish to target. If they start naming out certain products or certain levels of products then that’s a quick red flag that you can identify.

Are they making promises about quick rankings?

Also, when you start talking about expectations and they start talking about how long it’s going to take to get rankings or to get cases in the door if they’re suggesting a few weeks or even a few months in competitive markets, go ahead and turn around and find another company. Because today Google really wants to see activity for an ongoing period before they really start trusting a domain so there are certainly ways to expedite rankings and get quick results but in most cases, which we’ll talk about in a minute, that’s using black hat or manipulative SEO tactics and that can actually hurt you more than it helps because it can ultimately allow your site to get penalized and you’ll never have the ability to get that site ranking down the road. So if they’re offering unrealistic expectations, you know “we’re going to get your rankings within a few months,” dig in, ask a few questions, “How do you plan to do that?” If you have competitors in your market that has been investing in their web presence for years, then it’s not likely you’re going to be able to step in with a brand new search marketing campaign and get quick results. So avoid those companies that are suggesting they can do that quickly.

The next piece, as I mentioned, black hat vs. white hat. Now that’s a phrase that’s often used in the SEO industry, and it really just describes the strategies and the tactics used to get search visibility. Now there’s a number of black hat, which is manipulative, practices out there for search marketing. One of the most common areas is generating links to a website. Google wants you to be natural and organic in getting links. They want you to be able to provide value to prospective clients, and if you’re providing value then you naturally get visitors, you get eyeballs, and you get people sharing the information on your website. And so if you provide good assets on your site then naturally you will get links, but there’s strategies where people buy packages of links, literally hundreds if not thousands of links at a time in an effort to show that you have a popular website and that a lot of people are linking to you, and that will often land you in the penalty box and you’ll quickly drop out of the search results if you’ve obtained visibility never to get up there again.

Can they show examples of clients that they have brought success to, in the long term?

You should review their clients’, their long-term clients’, rankings; if they don’t have any clients that have been around for over a couple of years, then you definitely want to consider why they don’t have long-term clients. A lot of these companies will get quick results, and certainly it’s nice to have quick results because you can get clients in the door, but you want to be able to sustain that caseload and you want that to grow month over month and unless you’re using white hat, organic, Google-approved search strategies then you’re never going to be able to sustain results for over a year. And this is an important area because if you’re investing in a search marketing campaign, you’re essentially investing in your virtual office. If you’re going to invest in your physical office you want to be able to make decisions that’s going to benefit you not just two months down the road, but two years down the road, or two decades down the road, and you want to do the same with your law firm’s site. You have the questions to ask, the criteria to review when evaluating SEO companies and that’s going to help you make the best decision for your firm. To turn these concepts into cases you have to act.