As technology changes, online marketing strategies must change with it. While voice search through smartphones and smart speakers might not have mattered much even a year or two ago, it’s becoming a more and more popular way to find law firms online.
Law firm SEO has long been a text-based game, for which the objective is to appear at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) when potential clients search for an attorney in your location and practice area. Now, voice search facilitated by artificial intelligence (AI) assistants like Alexa and Siri is changing the way people search for attorneys.
An estimated 16 percent of Americans own smart speakers, according to data from NPR and Edison Research — and millions more own smartphones that are capable of voice search. These gadgets and their charming AI assistants are changing the SEO landscape, and your firm could be affected.
The good news is you can make some simple changes to your website today to help ensure that you don’t miss out on tech-savvy clients tomorrow.
How Does Voice Search Work?
“Siri, find the top personal injury lawyer near me.”
When you give your device a simple command like this, Siri, Alexa, or another AI will try to provide you with the most accurate and helpful top results. But where do the answers come from?
When Internet users search for a specific term in Google, they might type “car accident lawyer near me” and search through the top results – perhaps even the first two or three SERPs. They’ll look for the firm that appears to best fit their needs and likely go with one that ranks near the top of the first page. Voice search takes some of this work out of the consumer’s hands.
AI assistants process the spoken search query and use it to locate useful results. If you asked Siri the above question, she would use your keywords and location to identify a personal injury law firm near you.
Typically, AIs only pull the top result or two, and some read text directly from that result out loud to the searcher. While the method varies from AI to AI, the search results are often limited. For example, Alexa will only provide results that have been proven accurate. Google Assistant, however, provides the top results but only the top spots — ranking lower on the first page or on page two isn’t likely to help your firm get clients through voice search.
Natural Language Helps Voice Searches
AI-assisted voice search makes it easier to search for full sentences or longtail keyword phrases that you might not search for otherwise. It’s much more natural to ask Siri where the best personal injury lawyer near you is, rather than typing “personal injury lawyer Miami” into Google. This goes for specific queries, too, such as, “How will a family lawyer help with my divorce?”
That means smartphone and smart speaker users are likely to search for products and services using full sentences and questions. This makes longtail keyword phrases and exact-match question phrases more important than traditional searching might have made them.
These longer search terms are important for leads, too. If an AI picks up on phrases in your website content that are similar to the phrasing of the question it’s trying to answer, your content is likely to be delivered to the potential client who asked his or her Amazon Echo or iPhone the question.
That highlights the ever-increasing importance of frequently asked questions pages for law firms. A traditional article about, say, no-fault car insurance in Florida is likely to have relevant content for someone who is considering a lawsuit for a Florida car accident, but an FAQ on the same subject is far more likely to contain the exact question a person using voice search might ask his or her AI assistant.
Voice Search Users
People seeking legal services are changing. Around 77 percent of Americans have a smartphone, which means that much of the traffic law firm websites are getting comes from mobile sources. That also means more chances to appear in voice search results
Keep in mind that nearly everyone between the ages of 18 and 29 has a smartphone, and this group often has much more experience with technology and voice search capabilities. This means your younger audience is more likely to use functions like AI-assisted voice search and do so using natural speech.
Much of the mobile and smart speaker audience will be easier to reach if you emphasize content that is written naturally and focused on questions and answers. Of course, to dominate voice search SERPs, you’ll need to be at or near the top spot. But how do you get there?
What Can You Do?
If your firm is not already at least ranking on the first page for your key terms, getting the leads you need from AI-assisted voice search may be difficult. Improving your rankings should be the priority for you or your law firm SEO provider. Because AIs aren’t likely to notice your content if it’s buried under pages of other relevant results, traditional SEO is still critical to your success.
Beyond that, you can take several steps to adapt to the new world of voice search SEO. These include focusing on location and navigation and making sure your website content is conversational, clear, concise, and grammatically correct.
The Right Place at the Right Time
To capture leads from voice searches, your practice area content should include firm-specific information. Some users are looking for broader terms, such as whether they’re eligible for workers compensation in their state, but concise, localized information is just as important.
Those in need of legal services are looking for lawyers in their areas, and AI assistants tend to hyperlocalize voice search results. AIs typically use the searcher’s location as part of the criteria for determining top results.
So give them the localized information they need. Potential clients may be seeking office hours, addresses, or phone numbers. Make sure this information is clear and prominently displayed so AI assistants are more likely to pull that information for the voice search users.
The Importance of Maps
Location is also important, and it will factor heavily into your voice search rankings. When someone searches for a lawyer with the phrase “near me,” it’s vital that your site appears on the map. Integrating your firm with Google Maps and claiming your Google My Business listing can give AIs an easier way to understand whether you’re nearby when a searcher is looking for a law firm in your practice area.
If you’re not listed at all or you’re not listed properly, AIs might not realize that you perfectly answer the query, “Divorce lawyer near me,” for example.
Smart speakers are booming, sure. But smartphones are still far more common, and they’re capable of voice search. That means your law firm’s website must be mobile-friendly. This is good practice for both traditional SEO and optimizing for AI-assisted voice search.
Put simply, mobile friendliness is a ranking factor, and your site will need to be mobile-friendly to rank high enough for Alexa and Siri to notice your content.
Keeping Up with AI-Assisted Voice Search
With the advent of AI-assisted voice search, SEO is changing at a rapid pace, but that doesn’t mean your firm’s website has to fall behind. Siri and Alexa have made it far easier for Internet users to find attorneys when they need them, and you can benefit from that shift by optimizing your content and website for voice search. Tom Desmond