Local SEO (search engine optimization) is an absolute necessity for lawyers. The simple reality these days is that people look to Google for just about everything they need. Regardless of the legal services being offered, law firms need to show up on relevant Google searches with the name of their city or state attached.
Personal injury attorney Los Angeles
San Diego lemon law lawyer
Divorce lawyer in Boston
Tax lawyer in central Iowa
And so on.
Whether you practice law in a small town or a giant metropolitan area, the need for local SEO cannot be overstated. Investing in the right services, however, is not always apples-to-apples.
If you’re a new law firm, or have recently decided to look into local SEO, here are five major factors to keep in mind during your search.
1. Organic Results Take Time
Perhaps the most important thing to know about SEO is that you will not see instantaneous results. Search engine marketing (SEM) is made up of two distinct categories: SEO and PPC (Pay Per Click)
- SEO = Strategy to bring unpaid (organic) traffic to your website.
- PPC = Strategy to quickly place your website on the top of the Google search results. But, it costs money every time someone clicks on the link to visit your page.
So when we’re looking at seeing organic results from SEO, this always begs the question: How long will it take to start showing up on local searches?
The truth is that there is no definitive answer to this. Google’s search algorithms are famously mysterious and the company makes a serious effort to keep the finer details quiet.
Fun Fact: 75% of Google searches never go past page one of the results.
That being said, SEO specialists across the world spend their careers trying new tactics and gauging the results to get those golden “page one rankings.” In other words, there will never, EVER be a guarantee that your website will be placed on the very top of Google searches for your area of expertise.
While there are certainly SEO tactics that have generally yielded positive results, nothing is set in stone. Perhaps the biggest general consensus about SEO is that good organic rankings do not typically happen overnight.
However, there are a number of factors that go into how long it might take to see good rankings.
If you are a personal injury lawyer operating out of a tiny town with a population of 20 people, you aren’t going to run into much competition to rank for the term “personal injury lawyer [Name of Your Tiny Town]”. However, there probably isn’t much of a search volume (if any) for that particular term.
So, getting page one rankings probably wouldn’t be super difficult here, but how much would it help your bottom line if no one is searching for it? Probably not much.
In this case, your money is better spent working to target keywords with higher search volumes — perhaps this would be “personal injury lawyer [The Closest Big City].
On the flip side, if you operate out of New York City, trying to rank for a search term like “personal injury lawyer NYC” is likely going to take a long time. The search volume is quite large (1,900 searches/month) — not to mention there are tons of other personal injury lawyers in the area trying to rank for the same keyword.
In this scenario, a SEO agency might encourage you to start by targeting more specific keywords like “personal injury lawyer in Manhattan,” “personal injury attorney Brooklyn NY,” etc.
Generally speaking, the higher the search volume/competition of a keyword, the longer it will probably take to rank for.
Inbound links from External Websites
Gaining inbound links to your website from another is a key component in a sound SEO strategy. When other websites in the law industry place a link to your site on theirs, it works to improve your credibility in the eyes of Google.
Moreover, the credibility of the site linking to yours plays a big role in the SEO value you gain from it. This is called link equity. If a highly respected law website links to you, it acts as a high level endorsement.
Think of it this way: If a bunch of people swear by a restaurant and talk about how amazing the food is, you are probably going to have a good perception of that establishment. Additionally, if a respected chef praises the food at this restaurant, it’s likely going to improve your perception even further!
It works in the same way with SEO; the more credible sites link to yours (endorsing it), the more trustworthy Google will see it. And in turn, hopefully rank you highly on relevant searches.
This is why many local SEO services push link building in addition to a keyword strategy.
If your site isn’t getting good inbound links, it’s probably going to take a bit longer to gain valuable rankings. The faster you can earn relevant, high quality links to your website, the quicker it will (ideally) rank.
Content creation and SEO go hand-in-hand. In many ways, you can’t have the latter without the former.
The most important thing to know about Google is that it LOVES high-quality content that provides meaningful value to the user – and tends to reward it accordingly. That being said, creating this type of content optimized for SEO takes a great deal of time and effort.
Given your budget and time constraints, the frequency in which you can get comprehensive, SEO-friendly content churned out will play a large role in how quickly (or slowly) you gain local organic search rankings.
Overall, you can’t go into the process of SEO with the expectations that you’ll top page one rankings in a couple short weeks. This is why most SEO agencies have clients commit to a minimum of six months to a year.
2. Google Rankings Can Take a Hit at Any Time
To rehash on the last section a bit, Google is notoriously secretive about what all goes into the search ranking algorithms. Additionally, they make adjustments to them practically on a daily basis to become more user-centric.
Websites don’t typically see big changes to their search rankings from day-to-day. However, some algorithm updates are bigger than others. A handful of times every year, Google rolls out a massive algorithm update that makes huge impacts on a number of sites.
For the most part, these algorithm updates come out of the blue and send businesses and SEO specialists into a frenzy. In the past couple years, some of the bigger updates have had the biggest influences on Your Money Your Life (YMYL) websites. This includes industries like food, health, finance, and law.
In the unfortunate scenario that your website takes a hit in search rankings one day, it’s probably not your SEO agency’s fault. Google algorithms change and websites are forced to adjust. That’s just the reality.
If you look at most SEO agencies, they will mention something about “Update Recovery.” This means that their specialists will examine the results of a Google update under a microscope and will work to get those rankings back up to snuff!
Basically, ANY site can take a nasty hit in rankings after a Google update. While you can certainly keep your fingers crossed, you should always be braced for it!
3. You Need a Long-Term Blogging Strategy
In addition to seeing you produce high quality content that provides exceptional value to users, Google loves to see you do so on a consistent basis.
With this in mind, a sound, long-term blogging plan is going to be a key component in your local SEO strategy. This will serve a couple distinctive goals in gaining search rankings.
It Works to Maintain Your Status as a Credible Source of Information
Google is on a never-ending mission to provide users with the websites that provide the best possible information based on search queries.
If you consistently publish high quality content on your site related to your area of expertise, this signals to Google that you care about providing people with fresh, reliable information.
For this reason, many lawyers work to get fresh content published on their website each month. For the most part, these blogs offer advice to people searching for more information about their legal situation.
For instance, if you are a divorce lawyer, a good, informative blog post might be titled “X Legal Tips to Get Through a Messy Divorce” or “X Ways to Protect Your Children in a Divorce,” and so on.
In essence, if you add stellar and relevant content to your website on a frequent basis, the more credible you will (ideally) be seen in the eyes of Google.
Blogs Are Gold Mines for Local Keywords
Consistently producing fresh, insightful content on your blog is great. It’s even better if you can naturally incorporate your local keywords.
Truth be told, there is only so much you can do in the way of keyword optimization with your static website content (home page, “about us” page, local services page, etc.) This is where your blog content will come in super handy.
Not only will fresh, high quality content work to showcase your expertise to both Google and users, it will help you rank for relevant keywords and drive interested traffic to your website.
If you don’t have time to write the blog posts yourself, it’s a wise choice to ask your SEO agency if they offer content writing services. Ideally, you want the SEO specialist and writer working together!
In regards to the volume, most lawyers strive to have two to four new posts published on their blog section every month.
4. Quality Content Creation Comes at a Premium
Content writing services come in all shapes, sizes, and price points. If you look at freelancing websites like Upwork and Freelancer.com, you can certainly find people who will write content for dirt cheap — like $10 for a 1200-word blog post or $5 for your homepage content.
While this might sound appealing, 99 times out of 100 the content will be very low quality and not properly geared for SEO. It doesn’t matter how much content you put on your website or on your blog section, if it’s poorly written and doesn’t provide any real value, it’s not doing your local SEO any favors. In fact, it might even hurt your rankings!
Simply put, if you want to rank well on Google searches, you need A-grade content.
Skilled content writers do not grow on trees. Marketing agencies know when they have talented writers/SEO specialists, and they will charge a premium for these services.
You are probably looking at about $300 for a top notch, 1000-word piece of content optimized for SEO; this is a bargain! With a topic as dense as law, some agencies charge upwards of $800 for a single blog post!
Even though a 1000 to 1200-word blog post or a 500-word piece of website content might not seem like much, there is a great deal of planning and critical thinking that goes into the process of getting it to rank on Google.
In the grand scheme of things, a piece of SEO-optimized content will be helping you gain rankings on Google searches, driving website traffic, and ultimately, gathering leads for as long as your website exists.
A few hundred dollars to get professionally-crafted content on your website is miniscule compared to its long term revenue potential. Even if you get one inquiry from a blog post that results in you getting the case, the investment was well worth it!
5. Not All Marketing Agencies Are Winners
As a legal practice, you are a hot commodity for SEO agencies. Chances are, you get bombarded with cold emails regularly about local SEO.
Just like any other business, not all of them will give you excellent work.
When you choose an agency to manage your local SEO, there are a few telltale signs to run for the hills! Let’s go over the major red flags to watch out for:
They Don’t Start the Relationship by Listening. If the agency doesn’t insist on getting to know your practice, its challenges, market, key areas of focus, and so on before diving into the strategy, they are not a fit. A good marketing agency prioritizes the discovery and research of what you’re currently working with, what you need, your expectations, etc.
They Make Bold Promises. To reiterate, there is no such thing as a guarantee that you will get page one rankings on Google searches. If any agency tries to tell you differently, walk away. No one (except for Google) has any control over Google search rankings.
They Lack Transparency and/or Have Slow Response Times. A good agency will make it a point to keep you in the loop on everything related to your SEO. If the agency is giving you vague, infrequent updates and hiding results, find someone else!
If you go days – or weeks – without your SEO agency checking in and giving you updates, it’s likely that they are either super disorganized or are hiding something.
Not all SEO updates are going to be amazing, regardless of how awesome the marketing agency is. There are many factors that are simply out of their control. However, a trustworthy agency will keep you in the loop regardless and won’t try to sugarcoat bad news. They will give you the update and convey how they plan to move forward positively.
They Overuse Fancy Marketing Jargon. As a lawyer, you probably understand how important it is to speak in a language that clients (without a law degree) can understand. The same principle applies in marketing. Like a good lawyer, trustworthy marketing agencies know how to convey their value without confusing everyday people.
If the agency is throwing excessive amounts of marketing jargon at you in the initial conversations, do yourself a favor and move on.
They Won’t Give You Client References. This is perhaps the biggest red flag when shopping around for local SEO agencies.
Unless they are brand new, a good agency will be more than happy to provide case studies, testimonials, and contact information of previous clients for reference. If an agency refuses to provide any sort of evidence that they do good work, it’s probably best to avoid them.
The world of consumerism is moving online more and more every day. Local SEO is the key for law practices to get their services in front of interested eyes.
If it isn’t already, getting a local search strategy off the ground needs to be on just about every lawyer’s radar. Hopefully, this article has given you a good idea of where to start!