Law Firm SEO: What Attorneys Should Know About SEO in 2019
The good news? By the end of this post you’ll have a pretty good grasp of what SEO is, how it should be done in 2019, how it should NOT be done, and how to be absolutely certain that it hasn’t been done right.
Marketing for law firms: What is SEO
Any and all type of work that enhances your website’s visibility on any and all search engines, excluding paid advertising, is called Search Engine Optimization. Since Google gets nearly 93% of all search traffic, Comrade, as well as most digital marketing agencies in USA that offer marketing for law firms, focus on optimizing your website for Google.
However, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines tend to use very similar algorithms, so what you’re doing for Google usually works for them too.
Why you need SEO
Most of your potential clients’ search for a law firm begins online. What do they do? They type in a question in Google and go through the first 5 organic results. Why the first 5 and not the first 3 or the first 6? No one can say, but the reality is this: the top 5 organic results that come up on any search query get 65% of all clicks.
Notice we say the top 5 organic results. The paid ads usually get about 5-10% of the clicks that the organic results get. So if 100 people click on the first 5 organic Google results, only 5-10 will click on the ads.
SEO for Lawyers: 6 things to know
So, you’d love to get those clicks? No problem, all you have to do is increase the authority of your website on a certain subject. Here’s how that happens:
- You get authority when your website has more (or as much) and better-quality content on a particular subject. For example: for a family law firm, having a larger number of pages each addressing specific question related to custody-related issues more in-depth than others do, will lead to gaining authority on the matter.
- You get authority when you get clicks. If your website comes up on a query, but people don’t click on it, this means they don’t feel like they’ll find the answer of their question on your page. The more times that happens, the lower your authority on the subject. You need to make sure not only that your website is visible, but that it gets clicks.
- You get authority when people spend a lot of time on your website. If they read your article, open multiple pages on your website and seem to “dwell” on it (that’s why it’s also called “dwell time”), your authority goes up.
- Bounce rate. If people leave your page immediately after landing on it, your authority level plummets.
- The authority you have with others. How many websites link to your website as a source of information? Do these websites have authority? If your competitor’s website is featured on 20 directories, speciality legal directories and other platforms, and yours is featured on 100, your website is more likely to get higher Google rankings. Positive reviews also play a huge role here.
- Your website’s authority drops when Google penalizes you. You could get penalties for various reasons: how quickly your website loads, whether your website is secure, whether the pages are optimized for mobile devices and more. Overall, there are hundreds of factors in Google’s algorithms that can boost or destroy authority. It sounds like a difficult thing to do on your own, doesn’t it? Well, it is…
To get the results you’re looking to get with SEO, we highly recommend that you hire an expert agency that provides SEO services for lawyers. At an agency, you usually get 8-12 people working on various SEO areas: technical optimization of your website, creating listings, researching and creating relevant content for law firms and more.
Contact us today if you are not getting the number of clients you want through your website.
To us, as marketers, it’s obvious which marketing companies offer high quality SEO for attorneys. It’s also obvious which ones are trying to win clients over with low price and usually generate minuscule (if any) return on investment.
Here are a few signs that you’re dealing with the second kind:
- Six months in, you still get most of your leads from PPC (Pay Per Click) traffic. There’s a lot to be said in the SEO vs PPC discussion, and there are times when paid advertising is exactly what you need, but it should not be your main source of leads in the long run.
- Your agency creates content on demand. You have an interesting case study, you call them, they write it up. That’s not going to work. A good agency actively seeks frequently asked questions that relate to your industry and creates pages specifically designed to answer those questions.
- The quote you get for their service is much lower than that of a marketing agency with proven expertise in SEO.
- You don’t get a definitive, easy-to-understand answer on your question “What do your SEO services include?” Here’s where you can go through all the questions you should ask an agency that offers marketing for law firms before you hire them.
And then there’s…
The #1 Sign Your SEO Agency Sucks
If you’ve been wondering whether to change marketing agencies, here’s the one and only sign that you should:
You’ve given them 6 months and you don’t see a huge bump in your revenue.
Yes, it’s that simple.
Now that you have a better understanding about what SEO is and how it works to get you clients, we hope you use this knowledge to find and invest in the right SEO service and finally see the results you want.
Comrade is a Chicago-based digital marketing company that specializes in marketing and website design for attorneys. Read more about our SEO service for law firms
What’s the Myth with Law SEO?
Natalie: In one of the subjects today, a big subject we’re going to talk about is SEO. A personal injury attorney out of New York, his name is George, he’s saying that he’s had a marketing agency who was trying to help him with SEO, didn’t really go anywhere. He’s not seeing much results from his website, so we’re trying to help and bust the myth about the SEO, and what it is really, and how it can help you, and what can you do to best utilize it.
Sasha: Okay. We’ve been serving attorneys for quite some time, and here’s something that they find absolutely bewildering. So, with all the people that are trained in Socratic thinking, and most attorneys are like super-inquisitive, just incredibly inquisitive. Whenever they buy marketing services, no one actually asks what is it that they get for this SEO stuff? What’s actually inside that SEO box? The search engine optimization.
Natalie: Black box!
Sasha: It’s a black box. Most people don’t get it. My hypothesis is that people do not want to ask that question, so they do not appear arrogant, right? Like, everyone’s been using the Internet for 20 plus years, so it’s kind of like you need to know. We assume that we know what SEO is, but in reality, nine out of 10, probably 99 out of hundreds of attorneys have no clue what SEO means. They kind of get what it’s supposed to do, but they don’t know what it means, what’s included, and here’s what very, very, very often happens. You hire a firm, and it offers you this low-level list of services, and there is a line item that’s called search engine optimization. You’re, “Oh, good. It’s on the list, so I got it.”
Sasha: Then you sign the contract for a year, or whatever your marketing company might’ve asked you to sign this for, and then you do not get very much improvement, if any, through your website other than paid traffic, like ads on Google. There are some very large competitor, one large competitor that we know that really focuses on pay traffic and doesn’t do much in terms of organic traffic, which is a huge mistake, but we know that it’s easier to do paid than it is to do organic, so they’re a machine that has thousands of clients, and this is how you really scale up and get big, but not necessarily very good for your clients. We’re going to omit their name, but you probably know who they are. So, what is SEO, and why you really need to know it?
Sasha: Search engine optimization includes any and all type of work that helps your website become more visible online through any and all channels. So, when people search for you, they can actually find you. I am going to focus on one search engine, and one search engine only, because Google has nearly 93% of all search traffic. Bing and Yahoo are, for all practical purposes, are nearly irrelevant, right? Yes, there is still plenty of searches that happen there, but for the purpose of this video, it would be foolish to talk about them, although they work very similar to the way that Google works, so you can assume that the same information really applies to them. Search engine optimization makes your website more visible to search traffic, so whenever anyone uses Google, you are more visible. Now, what is included in search engine optimization?
Sasha: There’s actually a lot, but the primary thing that we need to focus on is really bringing more relevant traffic to your website. That’s what SEO supposed to do, and when I say relevant traffic, it’s people who are looking for answers to their questions that you and other attorneys in your practice area can answer. And, we as marketers want you to pop up in number one position in Google, or at the worst in number five position goal, because vast, vast majority of all search traffic goes to the first five positions in Google. Not 10, not hundred, but the first five. This is where 65% of all clicks happen, and by the way, a number of clicks that happen in paid traffic, those paid ads, way fewer. It’s about 5% of what happens in the top five, so you get 100 clicks here, and you get like five clicks there, so you definitely want to be found here.
Sasha: Now, how does Google determine whether you should be listed in the top five or not? It really comes down to one word. Authority. How much authority your website has on the particular subject, and overall as a website, right? How do you gain authority? That’s a great, great, great question, and there is no mystery in it, and here’s how it works. Authority starts with someone putting an inquiry, or query, in the search bar in Google, and when they see your website, then click on it. To Google, that indicates that the search query matches the listing, so because it is a good match, Google says, “We have a match.” So, your website gets a little authority simply from that act, right? If they see your listing but don’t click on it, Google thinks that your website is irrelevant to that search for that person, so the more that happens, the less authority that your website gets.
Sasha: The second thing that happens is when people spend the time on the page, so they search, then they click, then they spend time on the page. The more time they spent on the page, the more authority Google gives you, because Google looks at this factor as what they call dwell time, so the more dwell time, the more relevant the information is supposed to be to the person who searched for that information, so Google says, “That’s great. This content is definitely relevant.” Google is in the business, aside from making money, they’re in the business of delivering the most relevant information to the users who are searching for that information. So for them, first click through from doing the search, they’re looking at the listing to clicking on the listing as the first factor. The second factor is dwell time, right? The negative factor that they look at is bounce rate. How quickly people bounce out of your website after they visit that just one website. If you can get them to go to another page and another page on your website, Google looks at it very favorably, so the lower the bounce rate, the better.
Sasha: Now, the other factor that Google looks at is how much authority your website has with others. How many other websites are pointing to your website, and how credible, or how much authority those websites have. So for example, if you have high authority websites, like hundred high authority websites pointing to your website, and all of your competitors have like 20 websites, on average, pointing to their website, your page is going to rank higher than your competitors. Remember that in Google it’s all about competition. That real estate is highly limited. Those top five are just that. They’re five, not six. They’re five. This is where 65% of all clicks happen, right? So, if your website has more authority than my website, your website is going to be higher ranked than my website. So, your goal is to make sure that whenever someone looks for the information, is that the listing matches that information.
Sasha: How do you do that? You don’t just have a homepage. The practice here is a few other pages. You actually have pages that actually answer the most common inquiries, right? So, when someone searches for a topic A, B, C, D, E1, F, G, you actually have landing pages. That’s what we call them, because people land on those pages when their search matches those pages, if they have each page answering that one particular inquiry, and Google loves that because that page is much more relevant than the home page, right? You need to make sure that that search matches, and then you have other websites pointing to all of these pages. That gives to your website even more authority, and then when you’re listed in all of the directories, like general directories like Yelp and Google, who actually also is a directory website, right? And then, you have specialty directories like [Avol 00:09:00], Nolo, et cetera, pointing to your website, and then you have other high authority websites listing, having links to your website.
Sasha: All of that just gives a credibility boost. Reviews, positive reviews on Google and elsewhere, you have a positive credibility boost. So, as much attention as you can get from outside sources as possible, do that. How do you do that? If you’re an attorney, I don’t suggest you do this at all. I suggest that you hire a highly proficient agency that can handle this for you, because when you hire an agency, typically there are eight to 12 people working on your account doing different things. This is not something that you can replicate within your office unless you actually have the budget to hire eight to 12 people doing all of this work. So always, always, always hire the right agency, but before you do, ask them the right questions.
Sasha: What do they do for SEO? Is it just like some of our competitors do? Is it just the listings that are optimized for search? Is it like really basic stuff, or will they go much, much, much, much further? And when I say much, much, much, much further is making sure that, for example, that for every search query you have a landing page that matches that search query. People search differently. They use different keywords and terms to look for information relevant to your business, so you’ve got to make sure that for all of those you do actually build up landing pages. Landing pages that do have information path that follows the landing page so they actually spend more time on your website than just that one page. And again, all of those inbound links from other websites are highly, highly important, and sometimes those links go away for whatever reason.
Sasha: The owner of the website deletes that page, and it’s the page something happens, so you have to monitor it. It is a highly competitive game because your competitors are vying for the same attention. So, you got to play the game day in and day out. You never stop and rest on your laurels. You’ve got to make sure that you keep on building, or your marketing agency keeps on building. I think we have another video where we talk about what questions to ask for the marketing agency?
Sasha: Let’s link up to that, that video under this video, so people can actually watch and learn what questions should be asked, just to make sure that the agency that you hire is highly proficient in SEO. Did I miss anything?
Natalie: I’m going to-
Sasha: It’s such a big subject.
Natalie: … It is a big subject, and I think you narrowed it down pretty well, but one more thing I wanted to talk about as far as the questions to ask your agency, to this day, we’re still getting a few clients that are come in, and then we check what was done for their SEO in the past, and it’s nothing. Why? Because when we look at the previous contract or proposal, it does say SEO, so sometimes for attorneys, that’s enough. The line there says SEO. We’re going to do a search engine optimization. Okay, that’s good. But that’s not good enough.
Natalie: You do need to ask, “What kind of SEO?” If it’s SEO done just on the website, maybe tweaking something, which is called onsite SEO, which is still important, but if there is no offsite SEO, it’s not really a full SEO service. So, please be careful about this, and do ask a lot of questions like what exactly does it mean? What exactly will you do? Okay, well what exactly does this involve? So, because attorneys are by nature are curious, I guess, so just curious with SEO and ask that.
Sasha: Inquisitive. Be very, very inquisitive. And, Natalie, yeah, I think that’s spot on. You can’t do one thing and ignore others. That’s not going to work very well. It will really not work very well. SEO has to be done holistically. There is a list of things that need to be done, and they’re only focused on a couple of really big ones, but there’s really a list of things that need to be-
Natalie: There are.
Sasha: … there’s a lot.
Natalie: So many technical things, and even on the website, if this is not done, then Google kind of penalizes. Gives you like minus one, and all of those minuses kind of, a lot of them can trigger this effect where, okay, you do have three big pluses, but you have those 15 minutes, which is not good enough. Yeah. Unfortunately, it’s not a game where you can personally, or someone in your firm can do this. You do need to have a firm to help you with the SEO, or an internal person who is just dedicated to digital marketing and SEO.
Sasha: Yeah. Sometimes, I’m glad that you mentioned like losing points in SEO. Google will penalize you for things that you would never think about. Like, how quickly your website loads actually affect whether you will be highly ranked or not. If your website loads to the slow, Google will actually penalize you for that. If your website doesn’t have an SSL certificate, you don’t need to know what that is, but it makes your website secure, Google will penalize you for that. If your website is not optimized for mobile, Google will penalize you for that. There are so many different ways to get a penalty assessed against your website, it’s mind-boggling. So when you think about SEO, there are 200 factors that Google has in its algorithm that are all working for you, or against you, or there’s usually some sort of a mix, some working for you, and some work against you.
Sasha: So, when we see a competitor, who after a year hasn’t accomplished much for our client, and we’ll look at what’s been done, and what Natalie has said, there isn’t very much or nothing at all that’s been done, it’s a crime, and here’s why it’s a crime, right? It’s not the money that you spent with that agency, it’s the money that you didn’t make because of the agency. So, demand that whoever you hire actually gives you a list of things that they’re going to do for your search engine optimization, because if they cost you $500 a month, or $5,000 a month, right? It doesn’t matter. It’s about the results that they’re going to deliver, and if those results are this much for this much money versus this much for this much money, you want a company that’s going to charge you this much for this much money rather than this much for this much resolved, or something. It’s like nothing at all.
Sasha: You’ve got to be very, very strategic when you think about those things, and be very inquisitive, and ask them, “What are you going to do with an SEO?” I heard stupid things, like creating content. One of our competitors would create content when you asked them to, and they wouldn’t create any specific content unless you tell them what to write about. So for example, you solved a case, and you call them and you say, “Hey, I want you to write about this case I solved.” Great, that goes into the case studies, but so what? You need to create content that answers those search queries, and there could be many, many, many of them, so it’s a continuous process. You really need to demand more information, because SEO should be leading to a huge bump in your revenue and your bottom line. That’s really why you’re supposed to do it, or why you should hire a very proficient marketing agency that does it for you, so, you really need to understand what they will do.
Natalie: For one of our clients, we actually achieved great results just by doing SEO, and basically replacing all of his PPC leads-
Natalie: … with SEO leads. With leads that came from SEO, so this strategic longterm SEO investment into SEO, basically have replaced all of his monthly ongoing investment into PPC, or-
Natalie: … pay per click, like AdWords, so it is a great opportunity.
Sasha: And that’s, by the way, that’s a really important point. If you can do without spending money on paid ads, you do. If you can’t, you supplement your organic leads with your paid leads. However, here’s one thing that we do know about paid ads versus organic listings. If you stop spending money on paid ads, the moment you shut it off is the moment that the ads go away, and the traffic those prospective clients go away in an instant. With organic, once you build up solid positions, you will continue generating business for some time, even after you stop. It usually takes some time to start really slipping in your positions as your competitors are taking over, but if you continue on maintaining, you just keep on gaining momentum until you reach that critical mass, and you’re just getting a ton of new business, which is not something that you can do with ads, because once again, once you shut them off, they’re gone. Yeah. All right. I think that’s a wrap. Thanks for watching.