Search Engine Optimization for Criminal Defense Law Firms
A large percentage of people do not trust ads. It is estimated that up to 70% of people skip right over them and proceed to what we call the organic listings. These are the listings in the maps section and the non-paid listings usually just below the maps. You achieve these rankings by:
- Having a great looking website.
- Writing content that people want to read and offers solutions.
- Utilizing appropriate on-site optimization techniques.
- Promoting your website so that Google views it as an authoritative source of information.
- Getting great online reviews.
Website Design & User Experience
See the above section on website design for more details but know that design does impact your rankings. If people don’t like it, they will leave quickly. We call this the bounce rate and having a high bounce rate is something that Google monitors. You want people to stay on your website because this is an indication that the user found what they were looking for.
Content That Ranks
There are two categories of content: Practice Areas and Supportive.
Practice area content are the pages that you want to rank for your ‘money phrases’ that are most likely to convert. Defense Lawyer is an example. Other examples are DUI or Domestic Violence Charges. As we mentioned previously, defense lawyers have more sub-practice areas than any other consumer-based focus.
Start big and then get more focused. For example, write a single page on drug possession charges. In the future, you may want to have pages dedicated to all of the various types of drugs that are common in your area.
The key aspect of these pages is that you want them to be more comprehensive and helpful than your competitors. Conduct searches to see what pages are ranking for the phrases you want this page to rank for and ensure your page is better.
- What subtopics are other attorneys writing about?
- Is the order of the subtopics appropriate?
- What sources are the competitors using?
- Is there information your competitors aren’t providing? (You want to differentiate your page somehow.)
Those concepts can also be applied to the supportive pages. These pages play two important roles. First, some people may be searching for questions before they decide to look for an attorney. So, this is an opportunity to help them get familiar with your firm. An example topic may be, “Is a public defender free?”
The second purpose supportive content plays is making your firm appear to be an authority on the topic of criminal defense. If your website ranks for a variety of criminal defense topics, then your site is more likely to rank across the board. The key aspect here is that you need your supportive pages to rank for the phrases they are targeting. Adding large amounts of content can be hazardous because Google only wants to see high quality content on a site.
Checkout our main page for SEO for a full walkthrough on how to optimize your website. Here are a few key parameters that you want to make sure are correct:
- Page Title – This is the title that is shown in bold when your website ranks. You want your main keyword to be in this title. If your firm has a strong enough brand presence that many searchers will recognize, you can put your brand at the end of the page title. If you don’t have household recognition, you will be better off using a call to action.
- Meta Description – This is the description that is shown on the search results page along with the title. Use this space wisely to entice people to click on the page.
- H1 Title – Your main keyword should be in this title as well. This is an easy title to get confused with the page title because this is what is shown at the top of the page of your content. This does not show up in the search results. Keep it simple.
- H2/3/4 Titles – These are the titles for the subtopics. You want these to be descriptive of the content people are going to read below. If you can also make these titles variations of what people are likely to search for, then mix those keywords in. But you don’t want these sub-titles to get spammy. An example would be to use the word attorney instead of lawyer if you used lawyer in the H1.
- Alt Tags – These aren’t just important but are also legally required. They tell the visually impaired what a picture is about.
- Calls To Action – I know you don’t want to be salesy but that is what your site is supposed to do. You need to include subtle calls to action to tell people what their next step should be.
There are other components to on-site optimization that are important but beyond the skill-set of a do-it-yourself firm. We recommend you consult with an agency or designer to ensure the following is adhered to.
- Have a fast site. Use the Google PageSpeed Insights tool to check the speed of your website and the individual pages on your site. This test is on a page by page level.
You will quickly see a bunch of gibberish that Google recommends you fix. This is why a professional is needed. Google wants to rank websites that are fast because people do not have much patience and will leave quickly if your site doesn’t load as fast as they want.
- Use HTTPS on your website. Google wants to rank websites that are secure and save for its users.
- Use appropriate anchor text and have a solid inner-linking plan. Big picture, link to pages where it will help the user.
Off-Site Promotion (Link-Building)
There are hundreds of factors that go into the Google algorithm. One of the most important are back-links. When a third-party website links to your website, they are telling Google they trust your website. It is kind of like a big popularity contest. The more websites that link to yours, the more popular Google believes your website is. The more popular those websites are, the more ‘street-cred’ that link will get you. Another big component is topical relevance. If the third-party website is closely related to criminal defense, then that link will be more impactful.
It should come as no surprise that online reviews are important. This is an area that is extremely difficult to fake, thus Google puts a tremendous amount of trust in these reviews. These can make or break your ability to rank, especially if your firm is in a major metro market. A good goal to strive for is to get 10% of your clients to leave a review. Get reviews on these websites, in this order: Google, Facebook, and AVVO. Don’t stop pointing people to Google until you have more reviews there than any of your competitors. Google is that important.The best game plan for bad reviews is to be offensive. Try to get good reviews so the bad ones don’t hurt as severely. Most of the time I see a client get a bad review, it wasn’t deserved. So, don’t think that merely doing a good job is going to prevent bad reviews. I have seen:
- Competitors leave bad reviews.
- People leave a bad review on the wrong firm.
- Family from the victim or the victim themselves leave a bad review for the defense firm.
Search engines love seeing websites and pages that are designed with the end user in mind. By offering your visitors substantive content in a well-functioning site, you improve the overall quality of the search engine and the internet as a whole. You get internet karma by getting a boost up in page ranking.