What you are about to read is the most transparent article ever written on the internal workings of elite-level law firm SEO agency systems and processes. Brace yourself.
The Truth About SEO For Lawyer Guides
Google “law firm SEO” and you’ll find yourself suffocating from an avalanche of results that are mostly SEO guides on how to rank law firms on the first page of Google.
If it were only that simple.
The purpose of this guide is to break the mold, come out of the shadows and tell you the truth about how to rank your law firm on page one.
Prepare to have your mind fully blown. I am about to expose the entire industry so you can finally make an informed decision about your campaign. Let’s begin.
The reason most of the agencies are now producing so called guides instead of sales content on their SEO for lawyers pages is for two main reasons:
- Google loves informational content for those search queries
- Guides convert visitors like you into leads
The drawback to these guides is they are more about filler and less about actionable intelligence.
INSIDE SCOOP: Agencies know most lawyers reading their guides will not engage in their own SEO campaigns. Why release intellectual property and known industry trade secrets?
The fact is, all those agencies care about is snagging high rankings and getting a lead capture. Value is a casual side effect.
How To Really Do Law Firm SEO
I’m not going to talk about content, links, Local SEO, or any of the sort right now. You want to know what you really need to rank?
Prepare to Invest In Your Marketing
What’s needed at its core is a proper budget. You can know all there is about optimization, but without the fuel to make it happen, you’ll spin your wheels.
Let’s go under the premise that you’re doing your own lawyer SEO on your firm’s website or you have a marketing manager following this guide for you. Here are the realities of the situation. Organic traffic is only free after you’ve acquired it. Getting it is relative to the competition in your local market. The more competitive your city, the more you should expect to spend.
The days of writing your way to the top are over in the legal vertical. After optimizing and ranking firms for some of the most competitive terms in the country, I’ve come to the following realizations:
- Content written by a licensed US attorney costs a lot money
- Law firm web design is a worthwhile but heavy investment
- Citations cost money
- Quality, well-trafficked white hat links cost a tremendous amount of money
Breakdown of Expenses
Content should be informative, yes, but also enticing to the reader. It should provoke an action, such as encourage them to engage with the website, be it your live chat, tap-to-call, or fill out a lead gen form.
Expect to invest $250-$400 per 1,000 words for a best-in-class writer. I strongly encourage you to use a US licensed attorney to make sure the content is not only legally accurate, but stays compliant with state bar marketing and advertising guidelines.
PRO TIP: When hiring a legal content writer, ask for references, samples, rates, and example content briefs up front. The secret to getting solid results from a writer is in the content brief. A content brief is a document outline that details what you are looking for from the writer. Include a brief for every piece of content you have written.
Each brief should contain the primary keyword, secondary keyword(s), pages of inspiration, sections (go into great detail here), general writing guidelines (use bullet points, AP style, etc) summary of the firm, and so on. Remember, the better your brief, the better the asset. If you’ve ever wondered why law blog writing always appears stale and boiler plate, chances are it’s because it was composed without a brief.
Follow this link to view my article on legal content writing tips.
Your website’s design is the very first impression a potential client has of your capability as an attorney. As basic as it sounds, clients have no other basis to judge you by other than your website. Investing in a proper design that is professional, attractive, and most important, converts, is one the smartest decisions you can do for your campaign.
Expect to spend about $5,000-ish on a template-based design and $10,000 – $15,000 on a custom design. A custom attorney website is recommended for full effect. They just look so much better.
I created a free, informative guide on law firm website design if you’re interested in giving your site a professional facelift.
Ranking in Google Maps is particularly important for service-based businesses due to one major feature, and that being the tap-to-call telephone feature on mobile devices. This isn’t to diminish the benefits of other features found on Google My Business (GMB), such as consumer reviews, of course. Google Maps is a powerhouse. Getting in the Top 3 of Maps can be a game changer.
There are many elements to having a properly optimized Google My Business account, but some of the main ones are:
- GMB Category selections
- NAP consistency
- Favorable reviews
- Robust suite of photos
- Solid organic rankings
Google My Business optimization is one of the few parts of SEO that is more straightforward and systematized. Meaning, there isn’t much open to interpretation. It is what it is.
In terms of investment, citations will run about $200, vendor dependent. There are many citation providers; Bright Local is good for beginners.
Bank on that figure if you go with manually acquired citations instead of an automated, dynamic service like Yext or Synup, which will cost upwards of $500 per year.
Pros of Yext:
- Can update all your citations across the Internet in an instant
- One dashboard to dynamically update all citations
- Has fantastic inventory of citations
- Google My Business integration
Cons of Yext
- You may lose all your citations upon account cancellation
- Support is lacking
- No legal niche specific citations like its manual-based agencies can provide
WARNING: Services such as Yext may only maintain citations during the duration of your subscription.
Backlinks: Keys To The Kingdom
Excuse Me, You Have a Guest (Post)
You may have heard “content is king,” inferring if you write good enough content, potential clients will discover your firm. That’s what many have been led to believe.
FACT: The legal industry is the most competitive service-based vertical on the Internet. I’m sure you already know this, but the reason I bring it up is to illustrate why simply writing optimized content alone is not enough to rank page one. It’s too stiff. You’re going to need serious firepower to fuel that well-written content.
FACT: You’d be hard pressed to find an elite-level agency that does not have to pay an administration fee for their links. There, I said it.
Website owners know the value of their sites. These webmasters spend countless hours slaving over code, and potentially thousands of dollars investing in hundreds of pages of content to build their site (and links, too).
The end result is they have a well trafficked website everyone wants to publish content on. And, now they realize they can charge a healthy administration fee to publish that content.
Furthermore, as a campaign manager, we need links to transactional pages. Decoded, that’s fancy talk for, we need to get links to your practice area pages for maximum effect. Well, no one is going to naturally link to transactional pages like that. It’s pages with informational value that get links naturally. Not promotional pages.
That’s how it works at the very top. It’s just the way it is. Now you know the deep, dark secret no attorney SEO agency will ever admit.
Expect to invest $250 – $1,000+ per quality, high trafficked white hat link, plus content cost.
WARNING: Not all links are created equal. Click here to learn more about potentially dangerous and illegal link types you need to know about.
Pro Tip: You’ll need to supply the content for your links (also known as “guest posts”). One way to save on resources is to hire a non-attorney writer for your guest posts. A decent writer can be had within the $25 per 1,000 word range strictly for guest posts.
“Pillowing” is a link building strategy where one lays down a foundation of links. This is your base. Then, you dial in your campaign with precise links from powerful sources, such as guest posts. It works like a charm.
Good sources of pillow links are directory links. But, not just any directory link will do, in my opinion. I encourage you to stick with legal/law niche legal directories. There are many free ones, but don’t skimp out. Buy all of them.
Simply Google “law firm directories” and compile a list of directories. Then, hire a virtual assistant to acquire them.
Expect to spend a monthly fee on premium directories, anywhere from $20 per month on up. Some will be flat rate.
Pro Tip: Avoid general, non-law directories. We’re going for relevance here. Also, for hyper-relevance, make sure you get the directories with keyword-in-domain. An example would be, lawyer.com, lawguru.com, etc. Google puts a great deal of weight on a domain with a keyword in it.
Media & Public Relations Links
Media placements are simply gorgeous. Often extremely strong, highly relevant to your local city, and well trafficked, these hyper local magazine sites are awesome choices for publishing content to promote your brand (and get a link, too!).
Investment can be higher, though, as these sites are owned by bigger companies with a full staff, advertising reps, and so forth. Expect to spend $500 to over a thousand dollars for a placement.
PRO TIP: Ask for a “sponsored content” post. Some reps may not know what you are looking for in a link building campaign, and will most likely try to sell you an expensive impression-based traffic ad.
This time-tested link building strategy has fallen out of favor as of late but still yields nice gains. It’s a bit involved as a lawyer SEO strategy in and of itself–it’ll require an outreach person and a campaign manager. There are no transactional components to it.
Investment: $1,000 to $2,000 is a good target to give to a scholarship winner, and it goes to a good cause.
Don’t forget about social media sources. There are two tiers, basically. Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc can be considered Tier-1. Others such as About.me, WordPress.com, etc would be the Tier-2 of the social links (also known as Web 2.0’s).
There are literally hundreds of web 2.0 properties out on the web. I’d get all the tier-1 socials, but limit the tier-2’s to about a dozen, tops.
WARNING: Due to rampant abuse of all methods imaginable, web 2.0 use can backfire. Do not over optimize the anchor text used on this part of your campaign. Fair warning.
As you can tell, links really do play a huge role in your overall campaign. Additionally, there is a tremendous amount of work that goes into optimizing a law firm website, along with quite a bit of inside baseball.
Can a practicing lawyer really optimize his own website? Yes, I’ve seen it. But, only twice in my career, and they had a powerhouse agency backing them up in certain parts of their SEO campaign.
Most of the time, the partner oversees the firm marketing, including the attorney SEO. It seemed to be when the hiring attorney understood SEO, both in what it was and how it worked with a gungho, positive attitude about it–that is when the magic happened.
While I certainly won’t tell anyone reading this what to do, the best advice I can give you is, to some extent, to educate yourself on what SEO is, how it works, and what it’s worth so you can communicate properly with an experienced agency or solo operator.
The benefits are two-fold:
- You won’t get ripped-off
- You can communicate exactly what you need
It warms my heart when I can collaborate with a client and they’re able to speak my language. For those of you interested in going the agency or solo operator route instead of doing it yourself, click here to read my agency survival guide.
Channel The Power of SEO
Organic search (SEO) traffic isn’t the only channel out there. Some are making Facebook Ads work, although it is very challenging for most operators. Of course, there are Google Ads. It can be expensive but so can lawyer SEO retainers. Just keep this in mind. The main difference with paid traffic–expenses aside–is the media itself.
Paid traffic is temporary traffic. SEO is owned.
I’ve seen small, local law firms literally transform into multi-location juggernauts right before my very eyes thanks to the power of SEO.
I’ll tell you how this happens.
- Educating yourself
- Making the right choices
- Working with a team that is extremely talented
- Providing your team with enough budget to get the job done
- Being a good partner; building an alliance
The reason I’ve seen such transformations is because I’ve been responsible for them. I speak from experience when I say, a top of page one ranking is definitely possible. However, the greatest challenge isn’t Google; it’s finding the right agency.
And that’s the real secret.