Having been on a trip to the United States last month, I found it impossible to ignore the amount of advertisements for legal services on billboards, on the radio and (of course) online.
The legal sector is a lucrative industry and one that is highly visible in the US, though practitioners vary massively in their appetite to capitalise on law firm SEO opportunities.
This is the case even though contemporary, content-first legal SEO strategies that search engines respond to are particularly suited for law firms who want to get ahead by demonstrating competence, driving brand awareness and providing trustworthy resources for potential clients.
More than this, when it comes to sensitive areas like divorce, family law, malpractice, motoring claims and personal injury, the stats show that demand is going to be high for quite some time-
As we can see, there’s been an upturn in recent years – which may well be sustained.
There’s clearly no lack of cases in highly rewarding and often deeply personal areas of law.
However, the best law firm SEO practitioners know that law firm SEO must be grounded in search strategies that actually work in 2023 from onsite content and technical performance, to off-site link acquisition and particularly local SEO.
More than this, firms must give potential clients a reason to trust.
This blog covers some fairly straightforward legal SEO tips, with examples to give food for thought and keep the intent behind prospective client searches at the heart of your 2023 SEO strategy.
As Google becomes sharper in identifying content that fulfils its expectations in terms of Experience, Expertise, Authority and Trust (more on that here) there are risks for law firms who don’t take a ‘client first’ approach to their digital strategy.
For those that do, there may be even more reasons to be cheerful from May 2023 onwards with Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan commenting that the latest additions to the Helpful Content algorithm update are designed to;
“…identify and show more 'hidden gems' on Search, along with still working to ensure unhelpful content is not performing well."
If the impact of these changes is to actually reward sites with the best content and most appropriate insights, rather than those with the “best site” more generally, it’s all to play for – particularly for local law firms who seek to rank for high intent keywords familiar to practitioners of personal injury and family law SEO.
An effective approach is to create a content strategy that supports potential clients and builds trust, to bring them closer to a confident decision to engage your firm.
It’s possible to be on-brand and muscular about SEO, while also giving step-by-step, actionable information that potential clients can benefit from.
Giving away uncontroversial and “obvious” insights will help non-experts (i.e. the vast majority of potential clients) to find their way in potentially stressful times.
Being as specific as you can be in the regions where you’re active can help hone in on high-intent keywords - and if you work across multiple disciplines of law and multiple geographical areas, a logical approach to site hierarchy and navigation is useful for both search engines and potential clients -
‘Personal Injury Lawyer Miami’ SERP -
Keeping that local focus will reassure that a.) the shared information is relevant to them b.) the shared information can be found by relevant audiences and c.) you are tacitly reconfirming that your legal services are available where the potential client lives or has their potential case.
In the site hierarchy and navigation, stick to common terms that are easily understood with a logical structure with sensible internal linking between inner pages.
Get these fundamentals right and you have greater scope to a.) rank and b.) earn a confident click from the search results page as the ranking URL chimes with what the potential client is searching for.
Vanity rankings may generate traffic, but not much business so don’t be tempted to ‘spray and pray’.
Google is increasingly adept at policing thin content so even though such strategies may have had an impact in years past, this is not the direction of travel.
More than this, you certainly won’t benefit from positive word of mouth if search engine users feel like they’ve had a ‘bait and switch’ enacted on them at an important moment in their lives.
As an industry, the legal sector thrives on qualified leads - traffic without potential clients isn’t the goal.
Empathetic, detailed and helpful content builds trust – but it can also attract attention in the first place. Extensive – and repeated – keyword research is key to bring qualified traffic to your site.
In this it’s important to take an ‘outside in, not inside out’ approach to keyword research and content – what this means is understanding how potential clients search, even if they’re using ‘incorrect’ terminology.
The benefit of this approach is firstly to build empathy for clients into your content and SEO strategy but in practical terms, if you can rank for the terms clients use, you have a competitive advantage over firms who don’t go the extra mile to truly understand traffic-driving keywords.
As part of this research, it can be beneficial to look at the click costs for keyword clusters in paid advertising – it’s not a perfect solution but as a rule of thumb the keywords that rivals are bidding on the most in paid search are likely to be good options to build into your organic strategy.
After all, if competitors have already done the work to identify profitable keywords with a high propensity for converting visitors into clients, why shouldn’t you be guided by their legwork?
It’s important not to get hung up on any individual keyword, but to look at clusters of terms. Some of these may result in a low volume of searches but if you can rank for these terms which illustrate intent or at least a desire to find authoritative information, this is potentially a quicker path to profitable traffic.
In researching how users search, also take account of the type of material that Google and other search engines surface in response to such queries - it likely isn’t just paid ads and text links.
As you can see in the table above, the search engine results page can feature internal links, video, related searches and lots more.
So - consider how to maximise the real estate you take up on the page by producing more than baseline text content, and use technical SEO insight to ensure that each page can be indexed, understood and ranked to maximise your chances.
That ‘outside in’ approach only goes so far – always abide by regulatory guidelines, and don’t skip content that may be harder for audiences to grasp but is nevertheless key for their decision-making process.
Don’t skimp on doing the work to keep content maintained, fresh and up-to-date, being mindful of Google’s increasing desire to reward timely, expert content. In short – don’t rest on your laurels.
Keeping case studies simple and to the point are key - again taking an outside-in approach, clients don’t necessarily know (or want to know) the legal mechanisms and methodologies used to get the right result.
In short, they want to know that you can achieve that result in cases similar to theirs.
In this regard quantity and quality are worth bearing in mind - firing out flimsy case studies in high volume without sufficient depth to be relatable is not an effective strategy but having a certain critical mass of reassuring credentials is a different story.
As well as the audience of potential clients, you should also bear in mind how this case study content is found, evaluated and ranked by search engines so fundamental on-page legal sector SEO strategies are key.
That includes correctly titled headlines and subheadings, and taking advantage of semantic markup and rich media content such as high quality video where possible, at every point emphasising the timeliness, relevance and results-based approach your law firm takes.
Of course it’s critical to create legal case study content that is easy to understand - but it should not be simplified to the point of inaccuracy, take shortcuts that undermine trustworthiness or over-promise with blanket or absolute statements.
It can be a fine line, particularly as law is considered a YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) niche that Google scrutinises closely for unsubstantiated or extravagant claims.
With that in mind…
What NOT to do: Don’t use embellished or misleading case studies and testimonials.
Authenticity and trustworthiness are crucial for search engines and perspectives so only showcase genuine experiences. If you have case outcomes that are not easily summarised - don’t run the risk of introducing inaccuracies.
For instance, if you have a blog post on "How to Maximise Personal Injury Compensation" and this topic fits with someone non-controversial in the news cycle, reach out to legal journalists, mainstream media outlets or (genuinely respected) influencers to see if they would be interested in covering the topic and linking back to your post.
To earn mainstream media links to get extra authority into your site, consider how you can contribute reliably to local and national media - there’s always demand for legal comment on topics big and small.
In these cases, a short contribution sharing your expertise, even for a publication that is based outside of your usual field of operations can be worth it for the SEO value of the subsequent link/online media coverage.
In the table above, all of the Texas law firms listed have obtained links from the high authority sites on the left - and there’s multiple ways to make this happen for strategic law SEO professionals and marketers at firms of all sizes.
Don’t forget - while it’s vital to maintain and grow trust among prospective clients (and search engines) at every level, this doesn’t preclude creative marketing - consider legal PR services that can earn brand coverage and SEO-boosting links..
While there are some aspects of law that don’t develop as quickly as others, being able to tap into current debates and provide thought leadership on evolving legal discussions in the public sphere is another way to earn backlinks, as well as amplify your brand locally and nationally.
Where there have been substantive changes to your areas of legal specialism, emphasising in fresh onsite content and in the media that you are indeed up to date with the latest regulations and guidance is key.
Remember, many potential legal clients will have done extensive research on you and your most aggressive and impressive competitors before they ever speak with you.
So - don’t rely on them assuming that you’re at the cutting edge of your field. Lay the groundwork for them, and energetically demonstrate your expertise - even if you’re a ‘name’ law firm.
Once again, the temptation to simplify can be damaging both in the eyes of potential clients, and search engines.
Taking the high road and making clear caveats about the need for individual advice based on the unique situation isn’t just the responsible thing to do - if your SEO and content strategy is performing well, it’s also the most powerful call to action.