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What’s The First Step In Law Firm SEO?

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What’s The First Step In Law Firm SEO?


Getting a law firm to rank at the top of Google Search is often a hefty task.

As one of the most competitive industries out there, legal professionals can struggle to stand above the rest.

Most lawyers know SEO is the key to ranking high on Google.

But how do you know where to start?

And how do you know if the first step will set you up for success?

Here I reveal the first fundamental step to SEO for law firms – plus what’s next in creating an effective legal SEO strategy.

Step 1: Familiarize Yourself With SEO

The first step to SEO for lawyers is to familiarize yourself with the subject of SEO.

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This may seem backward since you don’t know where to start with your SEO strategy, but this is exactly the point.

Education is the key to establishing an effective, data-driven strategy.

Further, learning the fundamentals will equip you to hold your internal team or external partners accountable for getting you the results you expect.

That way, you aren’t going in blind and you can set realistic expectations for your SEO team.

You can familiarize yourself with SEO by watching YouTube videos, joining Facebook groups, attending conferences and masterminds, or reading articles about the subject online.

There are also books on the topic, (such as Law Firm SEO) that help educate and empower attorneys to increase the visibility of their website, leverage SEO, and increase Google rankings, web traffic, leads, and signed cases.

Some Of The Best SEO Professionals Are Self-taught

When search engine optimization first emerged as an area of practice, there were no college courses, books, or videos on the subject.

Many early SEO professionals learn by doing; by creating a website, optimizing it, watching it rank, and measuring the results.

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This means that many of the best SEO pros are self-taught, and today self-education is still a great way to learn SEO.

SEO is accessible to everyone, and today there are more resources than ever to learn SEO – even for free!

Where To Start? – Basics Of Law Firm SEO

Every SEO strategy is built on the fundamentals.

Even the best “SEO strategy” won’t succeed unless there’s an understanding of basic SEO practices.

Later on, you’ll build upon these fundamentals by testing different approaches and discovering what works best for your website.

Here are the basic SEO fundamentals you should know.

Keyword Research

Keyword research involves identifying the search terms (“keywords”) users search for in search engines to find businesses, products, services, and information.

Your SEO strategy is based on optimizing your website and platforms for the keywords your target audience is searching for as they relate to your services.

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When it comes to law firm keyword research, search terms are primarily aligned with two audience personas: Legal information seekers and lawyer seekers.

There are users looking for information about a legal issue or problem, and there are users looking specifically for a lawyer or law firm.

When doing keyword research for your law firm, you’ll want to identify search terms for both categories.

For example, if you are a family lawyer, you might identify terms like “how to file for divorce” or “how to settle a custody dispute” for information seekers, and terms like “family lawyer Kirkland” or “Kirkland divorce lawyer” for lawyer seekers.

Screenshot from author, March 2022

Website Compliance

Law firms face specific regulatory and accessibility requirements in website marketing.

In particular, The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) provisions now apply to business websites, physical offices, and businesses with websites.

That means your website needs to make accommodations for those who have auditory, visual, or physical disabilities.

When it comes to SEO, this may mean optimizing image alt text for e-readers or adding subtitles to your YouTube videos.

Another consideration is your marketing content.

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Lawyers must adhere to certain advertising rules that may not apply to other businesses. For example:

  • Avoid making claims of being an “expert” unless you are certified or accredited.
  • Don’t make false or misleading claims, such as saying you are the “best” law firm. The State Bar of California’s rules on advertising requires law firms to avoid any solicitations that are “untrue, confusing, deceiving, or misleading” to users.
  • Check your state laws before operating under a trade name. For example, practicing under a trade name is not allowed unless under certain circumstances.

Off-Page SEO

“Off-page” SEO is optimization that occurs off of your websites, such as Google Business Profile optimization, link building, or directory listings.

Off-site SEO is an important way for law firms to drive backlinks, referral traffic, reviews, and leads via online listings.

Positive reviews can help build trust with potential clients and even help your Google My Business profile rank higher than other lawyer profiles.

However, keep in mind that the American Bar Association Rule 7.2 (b) specifies that lawyers cannot compensate anyone for a testimonial or recommendation, so make sure your testimonials adhere to this.

Local SEO

Local SEO involves optimizing your website and online platforms for geo-specific search terms.

It takes advantage of proximity signals to help you rank for the localized terms users are searching for – and target users in a specific location.

You can improve your law firm’s local SEO by using keywords that specify your law firm’s location or service area – for example, “LA Personal Injury Attorney” or “Denver Family Law.”

You can also include your address, directions, and a map of your law firm’s location on your website.

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Technical SEO

Technical SEO involves addressing your website’s site structure, security, indexation, and speed.

To ensure your website is fast, accessible, and crawlable by search engines, you’ll need to address technical SEO.

The basics of technical SEO for all types of businesses include:

  • Optimizing page speed/website load time by reducing image sizes and improving content rendering on your website.
  • Fixing broken links/404 pages with redirects.
  • Avoiding duplicate title tags, meta descriptions, page content, and H1 headings.
  • Ensuring your website has a secure SSL certificate (HTTPS) set up.
  • Making sure your website design is optimized for mobile and desktop.
  • Finding and fixing crawl errors and sitemap issues.

Content

“Content” can refer to any visual or textual content on your website but most often refers to the words on the page – such as on your web pages and blog articles.

Your content tells users and search engines what your business is about.

Law firms can attract users organically through both web page/service page and blog article content.

For example, you may have several service pages (optimized for service- and geo-specific keywords) and blog posts (optimized for informative, “long-tail” keywords).

Think back to the two audience personas – information seekers and lawyer seekers.

Try to create content for the two audiences by providing informative blog articles and pages and more descriptive service and sales pages.

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Link Building

Link building is an important activity in SEO and involves actively, passively, or organically attracting links to your website from other websites.

“Backlinks,” as they are called, add authority to your website.

We talk more about link building for law firms below.

Tracking And Analytics

Platforms like Google Analytics and Google Search Console tell you how much traffic you’re getting, where it’s coming from, and more important metrics to your business.

Tracking and analytics are important for determining if your SEO strategies are working.

For your law firm’s marketing purpose, you’ll want to pay attention to a few key metrics:

  • Impressions – The number of users who see your page URL in the search results (can be found via Google Search Console).
  • Clicks – The number of users who click on the URL to your web page or post (can be found via Google Search Console).
  • Users – The number of users who have visited a particular page or within a particular period (can be found via Google Analytics).
  • Goals – Conversion tracking on your website; how many users complete a specified action (can be found via Google Analytics).
  • Bounce rate – The percentage of times users visit a single page on your website and then immediately leave the page or your website overall (can be found via Google Analytics).
tracking law firm seo metrics using google analyticsImage from Google Analytics, March 2022

The above metrics can tell you how many people are visiting your website, from which channels, and how many users are taking action (like completing a contact form) on your website.

This way, you can measure the effectiveness of your SEO and marketing campaigns.

What’s Next? – SEO Strategies Going Forward

The first step of SEO is to learn the fundamentals to build a more advanced strategy off of the basics.

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Not only will education make you more well-versed in SEO, but it will also help you see through any shady tactics other SEO salespeople may present.

Whether you choose to DIY your SEO or hire an agency, here are some other steps to take in your law firm’s search strategy.

Develop A Content Strategy

The content on your website serves a valuable purpose in telling Google and users what your site is about.

Further, optimized content can work to attract new users to your site via keywords.

Developing a content strategy is one of the best early steps for setting your site up for success.

This means publishing descriptive and engaging web page content, posting blog articles, and experimenting with media like images and videos.

Build Authority With Article Marketing

The content on your website plays an important role in SEO, but creating content off-site can be valuable as well.

Article marketing presents many ways to generate great results from your content.

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You can publish content on your blog, post on other blogs, write articles on LinkedIn, become a contributor to other publications, and so much more.

You can generate organic traffic to your site, referral traffic from other sites, and grow your authority with expert-level content.

Earn High-Quality Backlinks

Once you have great content on your site, you can start driving links to it.

Sometimes, this will happen organically, such as when other websites find you and choose to link to you; other times, you will take a more active role, such as through outreach or content marketing.

There are a few ways to earn backlinks naturally.

These methods can include publishing “link-worthy” content, sharing valuable tools, creating a resource guide, showcasing an infographic, and other creative ideas.

Link building is an activity you should always keep in mind to improve your website’s authority.

Take The First Step In Law Firm SEO

SEO shouldn’t be intimidating.

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In fact, one of the best ways to demystify SEO is to just start reading.

Read articles about SEO online.

Read books about SEO.

Read how-to’s from expert forums.

Over time, you will become more confident in your skills and be able to develop a well-informed strategy.

Search Engine Journal is a great source of accurate, free information about SEO.

Start with the fundamentals, try out more advanced strategies, and implement SEO on your website.

Who knows, maybe one day you’ll become an SEO pro yourself.

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More resources:


Featured Image: create jobs 51/Shutterstock





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SEO

WordPress Considers Historic Development Change

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WordPress Considers Historic Development Change

Matt Mullenweg, developer of WordPress and CEO of Autommatic, proposed no longer adding new features to the WordPress, pivoting instead to a plugin-first policy.

This new approach to the future of WordPress has already resulted in a new feature intended for the next version of WordPress to be dropped entirely.

Canonical plugins are said to offer a way to keep improving WordPress on a faster schedule.

But some WordPress core contributors expressed the opinion that publisher user experience may suffer.

Canonical Plugins

First discussed in 2009, canonical plugins is a way to develop new features in the form of plugins.

The goal of this approach is to keep the WordPress core fast and lean while also encouraging development of experimental features in the form of plugins.

The original 2009 proposal described it like this:

“Canonical plugins would be plugins that are community developed (multiple developers, not just one person) and address the most popular functionality requests with superlative execution.

…There would be a very strong relationship between core and these plugins that ensured that a) the plugin code would be secure and the best possible example of coding standards, and b) that new versions of WordPress would be tested against these plugins prior to release to ensure compatibility.”

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This approach to features and options is also referred to as Plugin First, to emphasize how features will first appear in the form of plugins.

These plugins are called canonical because they are developed by the WordPress core development team as opposed to non-canonical plugins that are created by third parties that might limit features in order to encourage purchase of a pro-version.

Integration of canonical plugins into the WordPress core itself would be considered once the plugin technology has proven itself to be popular and essential to the majority of users.

The benefit of this new approach to WordPress would be to avoid adding new features that might not be needed by the majority of users.

Plugin-first could be seen to be in keeping with the WordPress philosophy called Decisions, Not Options, which seeks to avoid burdening users with layers of technical options.

By offloading different features and functionalities to plugins, a user won’t have to wade through enabling or disabling functionalities they need, don’t need or don’t understand.

The WordPress design philosophy states:

“It’s our duty as developers to make smart design decisions and avoid putting the weight of technical choices on our end users.”

Canonical Plugins the Future?

Matt Mullenweg published a post titled, Canonical Plugins Revisited, in which he made the case that this is the way that WordPress should be developed moving forward.

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He wrote:

“We are reaching a point where core needs to be more editorial and say “no” to features coming in as ad hoc as they sometimes do, and my hope is that more Make teams use this as an opportunity to influence the future of WordPress through a plugin-first approach that gives them the luxury of faster development and release cycles (instead of three times per year), less review overhead, and and path to come into core if the plugin becomes a runaway success.”

The first casualty of this new approach is the cancellation of integrating WebP image conversion into the next version of WordPress, WordPress 6.1, currently scheduled for November 2022.

Plugin-First is Controversial

The shift to a plugin-first development process was subjected to debate in the comments section.

Some developers, such as core contributor Jon Brown, expressed reservations about the proposal to switch to developing with canonical plugins.

They commented:

“The problem remains that there are too many complicated plugins standing in for what would be a simple optional feature.

Plugins are _not_ a user-friendly option to core settings. First users have to discover there is a plugin, then they have negotiated yet another settings screen and updates and maintenance of that plugin.”

The commenter used the example of a commenting functionality that is currently served by mutliple bloated plugins as a less than ideal user experience.

They noted that having one canonical plugin to solve a problem is preferable to the current state where desirable options can only be found on bloated third party plugins.

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But they also said that having a settings option within core, without the need for a plugin, could present a better user experience.

They continued:

“Now, I do think Canonical plugins are a better situation than 6+ bloated plugins like exist here, but so would a single checkbox added to the settings page in core to do this. Which would further improve the UX and discovery issues inherent in plugins.”

Ultimately, the commenter expressed the idea that the concept of canonical plugins seemed like a way to shut down discussions about features that should be considered, so that the conversation never happens.

“Canonical plugins” seems like a weaponized tool to derail discussions the same way “decisions not options” has become for years.”

That last statement is a reference to frustrations felt by some core contributors with the inability to add options for features because of the “decisions, not options” philosophy.

Others also disagreed with the plugin-first approach:

“Canonical plugin sounds grand but it will further increase maintenance burden on maintainers.

In my opinion, it’s no go.

It will be much more better to include some basic features in core itself instead of further saying – It’s a good place for plugin.”

Someone else pointed out a flaw in plugin-first in that collecting user feedback might not be easy. If that’s the case then there might not be a good way to improve plugins in a way that meets user needs if those needs are unknown.

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They wrote:

“How can we better capture feedback from users?

Unless site owners are knowledgeable enough to report issues on GitHub or Trac (let’s be honest, no one reports plugin issues on Trac), there’s really no way to gather feedback from users to improve these recommended/official plugins. “

Canonical Plugins

WordPress development is evolving to make improvements faster. Core contributor comments indicate that there are many unresolved questions on how well this system will work for users.

An early indicator will be in what happens with the cancelled WebP feature that was previously intended to be integrated into the core and will now become a plugin.


Featured image by Shutterstock/Studio Romantic

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