Peter Boyd is an attorney and the Founder of PaperStreet. He has successfully helped 1,500 law firms with their websites and marketing.
Strategies for search engine optimization (SEO) are critical for law firms because so many potential clients start their search for an attorney by entering terms in a search engine and considering only the first few results they see. If your firm is not ranked near the top by search engines, you are far less likely to be noticed no matter how good your firm is.
Because potential clients are trying to find not only the right lawyer but also the right lawyer nearby, law firms need to pay attention to local SEO strategies. People may be willing to travel when they’re going on vacation, and if they’re ordering a product online, it doesn’t matter how close the seller is. But when it comes to a service based on local laws and customs, and where in-office visits are likely to be involved, potential clients want local options. And that means your firm needs to invest in local SEO efforts.
Understanding Local SEO
With local SEO strategies, you are optimizing your online presence for better performance in local search results. Local SEO efforts involve multiple approaches—it is not a matter of making one adjustment based on an analytics report.
One of the most critical elements of local search results is the local pack. A local pack is usually seen with the top three organic results—with images, customer ratings, the business’s address and hours of operation. A map appears alongside these three listings, pinpointing the location of each. The businesses listed in the local pack are really hard for searchers to miss, and others seem to fade to obscurity below. However, clicking on “more places” will direct users to listings in the local finder.
Google Business Profile
While many law firms are ready to focus on their website to improve their performance in local searches, they neglect one of the most important steps, and that is building a complete Google Business Profile. This feature, which used to be known as Google My Business, allows you to list your business information to be ranked through Google Maps. The businesses selected to appear in the local pack and local finder are chosen based on their Google Business Profile, rather than their website.
By investing a small amount of time in developing a complete Google Business Profile, you give your firm an additional opportunity for visibility, and it’s one your competitors may have missed. The Google Business Profile also allows your firm to gather and display reviews from past clients, which can be highly influential. People tend to choose law firms the same way they choose restaurants—they look for the ones with a high number of positive reviews.
Many potential clients only search for a law firm when they are faced with a problem they would rather ignore. They often wait until the last minute to deal with an issue, and when they finally start a search, they want to find help close by.
Someone separated from a spouse may know they should have an agreement about custody or money in place. Or someone facing a court date for reckless driving might decide they really need to bring in a defense attorney. They are likely to search for “divorce lawyer near me” or “traffic lawyer in Town X.” Simply incorporating local place names in a law firm’s content can help increase rankings for localized searches. However, since this is not exactly a new strategy, it is important to not overdo the geographical references. The writing will not only appear clunky and unnatural but can also make the site appear less valuable to search engines.
An excellent way to add local content to a law firm’s website is to devote practice area pages and blogs to topics of particular local interest. Is there a new city or county ordinance that affects areas where your firm practices? A new interpretation of rules? A local case with interesting implications? A local regulation that is often overlooked? Content loaded with informative value with a local connection can indicate to a search engine that your site is an authoritative source that will be helpful to users and cause your site to rank high in search results.
Local SEO Should Be Part Of A Well-Rounded SEO Strategy
All the local keywords in the world could be useless if your law firm has not taken care of the basics when it comes to SEO. Your site needs to load quickly, links need to work, and everything should be optimized for performance on a mobile device.
SEO maintenance is an ongoing effort. For that reason, law firms often outsource much of the work to legal marketing companies that specialize in SEO strategies. Whether your website efforts are managed in-house or by an outside firm, make sure to include local SEO strategies to improve your visibility to local potential clients.