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Why SEO is a necessity for law firm and legal websites in 2021

Large Enterprise, Medium and Small Law Firm SEO

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. That is, when anyone searches online to find a product or service, search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo provide results that it deems the most relevant. Search engine optimisation is not just one process. It is a range of processes that can be undertaken to put your product or service in front of someone who is looking for it. This is called ‘organic search’ ranking. That is, you don’t have to pay for your website to appear in the search results for a particular search query. 

For example, if I was in need of a mechanic in my suburb of Brisbane, I might type in ‘mechanic Kangaroo Point’. When I do that, these are the results that came up as I am writing this article:

small law firm seo

If anyone is paying for placement, that will appear first. You can see that the first listing is an ad because it is labelled with “Ad” before the star rating. This is known as Paid SEO or Paid Search. Below that we see what is called the ‘local pack’ (the organic ranking of local map results). Then below the local pack, there are the organic rankings. As you might expect, the first few map listings and the first few organic listings are powerful places for a business to rank. Not many people will trawl beyond the first page of results, so being in the top few spots on the first page of the search results can be incredibly powerful.

Therefore, just as someone might search for a mechanic, so too might they search for a lawyer or firm like yours. Though not always by search terms like ‘type of lawyer and location’ (for example ‘divorce lawyer Brisbane’). There are a range of phrases that people type in when they are looking for a solution provider like you.

There are a variety of different types of SEO that both small and big law firms can utilise. What is important from the get-go though is the more technical side of things. Without a technically-sound and high-performing website, ranking higher organically is harder to achieve.

Alongside high performance; if Google sees your site as of quality, trustworthy, credible, and if the information on your website is also of quality, trustworthy and credible from a content perspective, then Google will rank you higher than another competing business that has a less technically sound website or less credible content.

There are a range of layers to SEO that can then be put in place to optimise your organic search rankings.

SEO is important and incredibly powerful because it can mean that your firm can rank higher than your competitors without having to pay for placement in the search results.

Who is SEO for?

SEO is not just for large law firms, it is also ideal for new law firms, small law firms, businesses that are launching a legal product and even the most established of firms.

Because the legal industry has moved slower in the adoption of search engine optimisation, larger firms are not yet spending a lot of resources on optimising their websites for SEO because they perceive that they will always sit at the top of the rankings.

Their complacency in this area provides a wonderful opportunity for other law firms to get cut through where they might not have been able to before. 

There is a real opportunity for law firms of all sizes to optimise their website and content for SEO and have an opportunity to rank up there with the more established brands, if done correctly.

SEO also allows your law firm to carve out a larger segment of the available market. By using quality content, rich with targeted SEO keywords and phrases that resonate with your ideal client, you have the ability to rise above your competitors in your practice area/s. 

SEO is like an invisible marketing strategy. It’s not like social media where your competitors will be aware of your presence online. It is highly strategic and to be effective, is best applied by experienced specialists who have a strong understanding of the legal market.

SEO, when applied correctly, can be a very high-quality activity that can make a huge difference to your ability to be found by the market that needs services like yours.

Where To Start With SEO

Basic SEO

Google Analytics

To get a picture of the traffic that comes to your website, take a look at your Google Analytics account. Given that over 94% of Australian search is conducted via Google, this is a key place to look for valuable information about the traffic that comes to your website.

If Google Analytics was set up when your website was created, it will give you historical data about what sort of web traffic is coming to your site, what time of the day or night people are visiting, what the most popular pages are as well as some other important information about the performance of your website.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a tool that will give you slightly deeper insights. There you can review some of the queries people type into the search bar that lead them to your website.

This is also a place where you can submit your website’s site map, which essentially means as you update your content on your website, the search engines are notified that you have new content that you would like them to know about and ‘crawl’ to index on their search result pages. 

Other Tools

Then there are other tools such as WordPress SEO plugins that you may have installed in the backend of your website. These tools assist by alerting you to fixes and adjustments needed in order for your content to be optimal for search rankings. Such tools are also helpful from an SEO content perspective in terms of readability and can help you make a connection between your content and what your target market specifically searches for.

Keyword Research

An integral part of SEO is keyword research. As discussed above with the mechanic example, keyword research is about identifying how people discover your website by the words or phrases they type in Google. 

Keyword research should also involve looking at your key competitors and identifying how their law firm is discovered and potentially strategising ways to get found for some of those keywords that are relevant to your business. Keyword research is also used when people pay for placement through services such as Google Ads, which I’ll cover in an upcoming article.

Basically, there are two different types of keyword research. There are keywords for when those searching are looking for a specific service, for instance, ‘family lawyer Brisbane’ or ‘divorce lawyer Brisbane’. And then there are queries that may be related, such as ‘how to tell children we’re separating.’ 

Both types of queries indicate a different type of ‘readiness’ to engage a lawyer. The first query indicates that there is likely an intent to engage a lawyer. The second query may be more of an information seeking search (denoted by the ‘how to’) which may indicate that someone is not yet ready to engage a lawyer as they are researching the topic rather than looking for your service directly; and looking to get a few things sorted out first.

The opportunity for the second query is to be the source of the answers to that query. When you are the source, you then have the opportunity to build trust and credibility through your ideas and responses at the moment in time they are researching. Then, when they are ready to engage a lawyer, they have a connection to the firm or lawyer that answered that query for them.

These are perfect examples of blog articles. By answering a query that has a decent search volume, you have an opportunity to connect with people who are yet to choose a lawyer to help them.

So, “keywords” can be a phrase that people type in to find a product or service, or it can be a phrase that indicates they are researching to resolve their problem. The firms that make themselves the source of answers for queries like these have far more opportunities to get new business than those that do not.

Technical SEO

The third area is technical SEO. This is about optimising the website itself. There are many elements to this, including making sure your website is mobile friendly and that your website’s performance is high. Technical SEO is also about ensuring your pages load quickly and that there are no ‘broken’ links on your website and that your outbound links don’t lead to other websites’ pages that have been moved to a new web address or no longer exist. Technical SEO requires placing emphasis on discovering and resolving issues such as duplicate versions of your content, website and pages. There is quite a bit to technical SEO and is one strictly for the experts to monitor and optimise for you.

On-Page SEO

Then there is On-page SEO and content. This is where your individual pages and blog posts should be optimised for search results. It also includes fixing structural errors, such as maybe having too many headers sections, instead of breaking your content down to include a more beneficial structure of a mix of headings and subheadings.

On-page SEO also includes looking for content issues such as duplicate headings or duplicate titles, and seeing if there are duplicate meta descriptions (which is the description in the backend of your website that exists for each page). On-page SEO also places emphasis on the needs for your images file size and dimensions to be optimised, thereby improving deliverability and your web pages speed. And also, whether you have content that is perceived as ‘readable’ by the search engines, essentially meaning that the language is not too complex.

On-page SEO is also about optimising specific pages and blog posts to be found more easily. By using keywords and phrases in the content, as well as in the backend of your website, web pages can be more easily discovered by people searching online.

Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO is optimising elements that are outside of your website. Traffic can be brought to your website from external sources and you can optimise some of these sources to help you with your ranking. Optimising your Google My Business profile, analysing your competitors as well as building more internal links between relevant pages will help with this. Also, developing incoming links (also known as backlinks) from other credible websites and their related content pieces to your website and specific web pages. This can be a strong traffic source as well as adding to your website’s credibility in the ‘eyes’/algorithms of the search engines. There is quite a lot to Off-Page SEO and yet again, it’s a very powerful opportunity for legal websites.

How Do You Get SEO in Play for Your Law Firm or Legal Website?

From the brief introduction to SEO for law firms I’ve given you in this article, you should get a picture of just how involved this process can be. SEO undertaken by people in your team can become a full time job. Like most things, engaging specialists is where you have the best opportunity for great results.

The first step we take as SEO specialists working with law businesses, is to undertake an audit to have a look at the health of a client’s website. Then we investigate how effectively they are found in search, when compared to their key competitors.

We then create an action plan for how to improve their website because we want the search engines to get all the signals from their site to say it is a high-performing, high-quality and a credible source. And we get this action plan into play before then looking at the keywords. 

Next, we analyse our client’s competitors to discover which search terms (keywords and phrases) they are using that gets them traffic to particular pages of their website. We then look for similar/related keywords that may have a higher search volume so that we can get them more targeted website traffic. 

Geographically; if you service a particular local area or if you service clients nationwide, there are a range of different tactics that can be employed to optimise each of your web pages to get more specific traffic to those particular pages.

For the queries people have relating to problems you solve, you will want to answer those through your website blogs. We assist a number of firms with the creation and publishing of blog articles. As with our clients, while they are capable of writing articles, the reality is that they get busy with client work and writing content to attract new client work, drops to the bottom of the to-do list. This then results in occasional posts and therefore less traction or success with the SEO results. We take care of the tricky parts to help lawyers get those blogs published regularly while ensuring the content connects strongly with their audience and does so with the voice of each individual lawyer.

How to get your SEO under way?

Talk to SEO strategists like myself that specialises in law firm marketing and law firm SEO. Good SEO strategists will ask you about your business goals to get a clear idea of what parts need to be focused on, so that a good, targeted SEO and keyword research strategy can be developed.

Having a conversation with us will enable you and us to get a deeper insight into your needs and an SEO strategy can be created. For many clients that means we create a 12-month content strategy to lift their rankings across the board and help them rank higher for the keywords that are highly relevant to their market and practice areas.

Often when we start with businesses, they rank for 20 to 30 different keyword phrases. However, at least half of those are irrelevant or drive traffic to your website that has no intention of purchasing your services. Then within six months, we often have our clients ranking for 40-50 highly relevant keywords that are ranked in the top five search results. And depending on the space’s competitiveness; it’s upwards of that across the year and years ongoing.

SEO is an exciting space, especially for businesses in the law. As an industry law businesses have been quite slow in identifying this as a highly beneficial and measurable approach to dominate search results over time. 

Interested in learning about the search engine optimisation opportunities for your business? 

Book in a no-obligation, 30 minute conversation with one of our SEO project managers to discuss opportunities specific to your website.

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