Learn how to do highly effective SEO for Family & Divorce Lawyers.
It’s a tough time to practice Family Law; the market size of this sector has been shrinking since 2017. The biggest portion of industry revenue comes from divorce proceedings, the rate of which has been in steady decline for the last 20 years. Competition among family law firms is fierce, highlighting the need to establish a strong online presence. A “strong online presence” doesn’t just mean having a website. That’s part of it—and so is social media—but to ensure your firm’s visibility online you’ll need to create a long-term plan for search engine optimization. It’s 2023, and digital marketing is a necessity for everyone. The phrase “SEO for family and divorce lawyers” might have sounded like a joke 10 years ago, but it’s no laughing matter now.
To be found and seen by search engines, your website needs to be optimized for relevant keywords. Those are the search terms that potential clients type in that you want your website to show up for. But to do that, there are dozens of other tasks that you need to accomplish on a daily basis in support of this effort. You can’t just stuff your website with keywords and assume Google will serve your website up to anyone who types “family lawyers near me” in the search bar.
In this guide, we’ll go in-depth into the topics of “on-page” and “off-page” optimization. On-page optimization consists of the things you can do to your website itself that help search engines understand what your industry is—the law—along with your specialties and areas of expertise. Off-page optimization refers to any of the actions you can take outside your website to drive traffic to it. These are things like guest posts, backlinks, social media posts, and blog content. Our goal with this guide is to help you understand the strategies for each of these areas of SEO so that Google and other search engines serve your website to the audiences you want to target.
When you’ve finished this guide, you’ll have a firm understanding of what actions can make a website rank for specific audiences and keywords, and the requisite knowledge to expertly take these actions. We understand that, as a lawyer with multiple advanced degrees, you aren’t just educated: you’re probably also in student loan debt and you’re running your own business. This is why the strategies and techniques we recommend are time-tested and proven to work.
That doesn’t make this some “miracle cure,” and we certainly aren’t teaching you “one simple trick” to guarantee success. This is a guide to a complex (but not complicated) methodology that takes commitment and patience. SEO, whether for law practices or grocery stores (or anything, really), is like a recipe. Use the right ingredients, follow the instructions closely, and you’ll end up with something decent the first time you try doing it. But keep practicing, using the same recipe, and you’ll get better and better at it—and have the results to prove it.
With all that said, let’s dive into the world of SEO for family and divorce lawyers. Follow the recipe, and with time it’ll be the catalyst for aggressive growth.
Before you build a website that markets your services, you need to understand who you’re building that website for. We call it “search engine optimization,” but the reality is you’re optimizing your website for specific audiences. The search engine is really just the middleman. Your website needs to speak to the audience that you’re trying to attract.
First things first, you’ll want to map out a “customer persona”—a description of a representative customer who is likely to require your services. Family law is a big umbrella; zero in on your specialties and then map out the type of person who is looking for an attorney that does what you do. This will help crystallize the copy of your website, both in the kind of content you offer and its tone. The content will, of course, depend on your services. You’ll highlight what you do through a list of services and also with blog content that demonstrates your expertise. But the tone of the website copy should match your prospective customers’ own circumstances.
Understanding your audience means a lot more than just identifying demographics. The situations that cause a person to seek you out are generally pretty personal. Quite often your new clients will be emotionally raw. People don’t really seek out lawyers when everything is going well.
For this reason, the copy you write for your website needs to strike just the right tone. It should be authoritative without being cold; practical without being unfeeling. You don’t want to just establish your expertise with the law, you also want to demonstrate your “bedside manner,” as it were. You want potential customers to feel at ease when they reach out to you, and the tone you set on your website can establish you as both professional and caring.
At the same time, you want to optimize your content around the services you’ll be offering. To truly connect with potential clients, you have to cater to their needs before they even tell you what they are. This is the most important aspect of defining your ideal customer persona. If you’ve done it right, then when those people find you they’ll feel as if your website was written specifically for them. So before you get too deep into building and writing your website, go deep into the minds of your target customers so you can understand what motivates them to seek legal assistance.
With your ideal customer sketched out, it’s time to start brainstorming and then researching the keywords that will bring people to your website. Keyword research is possibly the most critical component of SEO. This is another reason why you want to really get in your ideal customer’s head: keyword research is essentially guessing at what search terms people are going to be typing into a search bar and then looking up the stats on those terms to see how competitive it is.
Counterintuitively, if a keyword or phrase has a high volume of searches, it’s going to be harder to show up in the search results for it. It’s much too competitive. Broad keywords like this should be included in your SEO planning, but with the understanding that it’s for the long game. Potential clients who are searching these more generalized terms are likely in the early stages of their search and are just looking for information. While you want to capture their attention, a more intentional focus should be placed on finding keywords with greater specificity. Something like “family law firm New York estate planning” has a lower search volume and is generally less competitive, making it easier to be found.
These are called “long tail keywords,” and it’s worth spending the time to research which ones will work best for you. Long-tail searches are usually done by someone who is ready to take action—they are more likely to have “purchase intent” then someone just searching broad terms. Finding a balance between these narrow keywords alongside the broader ones is crucial to your success. More generalized keywords will result in a larger volume of traffic but generally don’t result in conversions; they’re more effective at raising top-of-funnel awareness.
To figure out which keywords you want to rank for, there are a number of software tools available to help you. Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, ahrefs.com and Moz are some of the more popular keyword research tools and using them can give insights into a number of metrics around keywords, like search volume and the difficulty in ranking for them. They can also suggest related keywords based on what you’re researching that could be easier to rank for. Each of these tools has its pluses and minuses, but using any one of them is infinitely better than using none at all.
As we mentioned in the introduction, on-page optimizations are the tweaks that you perform to the actual pages on your website that a search engine algorithm will pick up on and index into its database. There are a number of simple things you can do to your website that help tell the algorithm about you and your services.
The title and meta description of your site are what users see when you show up on a search results page. The blue clickable link is the title tag, and it’s important to have relevant keywords as part of the title. What makes those keywords relevant? They’re the ones you decided you wanted to rank for in the results.
As for the description, this is a concise summary of the information contained within the page. While the description doesn’t directly impact your ranking, it’s still necessary. If you don’t include a meta description, then Google will just take the first ~160 characters of your page and put it where the description should be—which usually ends up being a sentence that gets cut off in the middle. Not a great look. Part of SEO is making sure your website provides a good experience, and the meta description is the first proactive step you can take to orient your site visitors.
The days of typing in complete URLs are long gone. Auto-complete saves us a ton of keystrokes, and most people are content to leave off the “.com” and end up at Google in order to click the link. Still, no one likes an ugly URL, including algorithms.
One of the key elements of SEO is to employ a clean and legible URL structure. The address should contain an easy to remember domain name, with real, descriptive words as the names of files and folders. Best practices dictate using a hyphen to separate words (underscores are annoying to type) so that the URL isn’t an affront to the eyes. Which of these web pages would you rather visit?
Besides looking unappealing and unprofessional to your prospective clients, it can also serve to “confuse” a search engine. Algorithms look for context clues in the URL to get an idea of what a page is “about” and that second URL doesn’t give it a lot to go on. A good rule of thumb is: if you can’t make sense of it, neither can a search engine. By sticking to clean and concise URLs, you improve your chances of getting found and make for a better experience for site visitors.
In addition to writing copy that reads well, you also want to organize it on the page so it looks good, too. The most SEO-friendly way of doing this is using what’s known as “header tags” through the body of your content. These tags structure the content into well organized, readable chunks of text. They improve the user experience by making it easier to read and navigate the page, altering typeface size and boldness to make certain strings of text stand out. They also make your site more accessible: screen reader plugins for the visually impaired look for header tags to help users navigate. And, because search engines don’t have a sense of aesthetics or legibility, they’re looking for these specific tags as signifiers that you took the time to make your site look good.
The three main tags you’ll use in a webpage are:
Typically only used once in a web page, the H1 tag is used to make the title text at the top of the page appear large and bold. It’s reserved for the headline above the fold and should include your long tail keyword.
Breaking your content into multiple sections keeps the information organized and easier to digest. Algorithms look for H2 tags to announce the beginning of a new subheading. H2 tags have a direct impact on ranking, so you’ll want to incorporate keywords here, too. It’s a good idea to use variations of them throughout. Repeating the same phrase over and over again makes for bad reading.
The H3 tag is for sub-subheadings, nested within an H2 tag in the hierarchy. H3 tags don’t have a direct impact on SEO, so you don’t have to worry about using your keywords here. Still, algorithms like to see H3 tags in use, simply because it means the page is likely well organized and offering a good reading experience. You do get an indirect bump from things like this. And, regardless of search engines, your site visitors appreciate the clean structure.
Getting local isn’t always necessary for a lot of websites, but it’s absolutely crucial for SEO for family and divorce lawyers. Even in this age of distributed offices and remote working, a law firm is a business that’s firmly rooted in the physical world. The law itself is local: a divorce attorney licensed in one state can’t practice in another, so finding customers outside your local area is just a waste of resources.
To ensure that you’re attracting people from the region where you’re licensed, you’ll need to sprinkle local keywords throughout the copy on your website—and in your title tags, meta descriptions, header tags, and URLS. It’s not enough to have your address in the footer and/or on a “Contact Us” page. Include keywords in natural language throughout the site copy to bolster your local presence. Your copy could have phrases like “family lawyer in [city name]” or “divorce attorney near me,” or “child custody lawyer in [your state].” Doing this can increase your visibility in local search results.
There are also off-page optimizations you can do to enhance Local SEO; it doesn’t only have to be well-placed keywords. Make it a priority to maintain consistent business details across multiple online business directories and review sites. This means ensuring your Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP) data are accurate wherever your firm is listed. Having one phone number on Google My Business, for example, and a different one on Yelp confuses prospective clients—and gets your ranking penalized by algorithm.
Some claim that consistent NAP info improves the credibility of your business, the idea being that you’re obviously on top of things and an established presence. To be honest, this might be overstating things a bit, in the sense that no one is really going to be impressed that you know your name and address on every directory. That said, if you have differing information across multiple sites, you absolutely lose credibility. You should know your name and phone number.
We briefly touched on off-page optimization with regards to local SEO, a good introduction to the idea that wherever there’s information pointing back to your site it can impact your ranking. With that in mind, it’s fair to say that there are only two places where you need to worry about SEO for your website: on your actual website, and the entire rest of the internet. Sounds daunting, yes?
It’s not that bad. The good news is that, beyond the local SEO, there are only three other methods of off-page optimization you need to concern yourself with. There’s a lot to it, and the work is never ending—but by being methodical you can perform these tasks once or twice a week to make sure your rankings don’t drop.
One of the determinations that an algorithm makes about a site when ranking it is whether it has the necessary amount of topical authority for its content. In the case of SEO for family lawyers, topical authority means having a firm and commanding expertise in your industry. The way search engines do this is by taking stock of all links pointing back to your site (called “backlinks”). When another website cites yours as a source, that’s seen as a kind of social proof that you’re the real deal. A regular task with SEO will be to cultivate relationships with relevant quality sites in pursuit of backlinks.
Not all backlinks are created equal, though. Authority is contagious, so when a relevant and authoritative-in-its-own right website points back to yours, that’s a meaningful vote of confidence. If the American Bar Association links back to content on your website, that’s going to improve your rankings. If a CourtTV junkie cites you in her blog, it doesn’t hurt, but the impact won’t be the same as the link from the Bar. Links from disreputable sites can hurt: if Alex Jones is linking back to you from his Colloidal Silver product page, it doesn’t speak well of you.
This is why a good portion of SEO isn’t just link building, but also link breaking. You can use tools like SEMrush or ahrefs.com to monitor all your backlinks. You want to find any broken ones coming from high authority sites and reach out to their webmaster to get that fixed. And you’ll want to find any working ones coming from the Alex Joneses of the world and do what you can to get rid of them.
There is no shortage of business directories online. And while you’re browsing through them and making sure your listings on these sites have consistent NAP information, you should also take the time to read through reviews. Negative reviews can impact both your search engine visibility and credibility with users who read the reviews. If you should get a negative review, you might be able to get it taken down, depending on the site where the review is and whether or not it was a fair review. In most cases, though, all you can do is respond to the negative review, non-confrontationally and with an eye toward resolution.
Even better than responding to negative reviews is encouraging your current clients to leave positive ones. Of course, you shouldn’t explicitly ask for a positive review—lawyers have enough problems with their ethical reputations. Still, you know your clients. You know the ones you’ve done right by, the ones whose cases you won or who you assisted through an adoption, for example. Without telling them what to write, it’s perfectly fine to ask them to submit a review to a website.
In addition to the SEO benefits of good reviews, there is also the lift that the social proof of these reviews can get you. Especially when shopping for legal services, it can be hard for consumers to choose the right lawyer. We rely on the recommendations of others to clarify our doubts.
While there’s no doubt a very frivolous aspect to social media, it’s still a vital marketing channel for all kinds of businesses—including family law firms. For some businesses, getting on social media is necessary to show off brand personality and to engage with consumers in fun and lighthearted ways. This, obviously, is not the way to go for law firms.
For a family law firm, social media is a way to drive traffic back to your website, where you can demonstrate your authority and expertise. You can use the blog section of your website to write case studies, talk up your experience, and to share legal insights, information, and advice. It’s that last one that helps you to build up domain authority, that important part of SEO that tells search engines you’re a reputable source of information for your industry. Whenever you write and post something, social media is the perfect channel to share it.
Of course, not all of social media consists of silliness and hijinks. There are plenty of websites, like Reddit, X, Threads, and even Facebook, where discussions of likeminded people happen. By participating in legal forums where you offer your own insights and knowledge, you can increase your online presence in more personal and intimate ways. Maintain a professional, yet approachable, demeanor as you engage in dialogue and discussions with a larger audience/community.
Remember, SEO for your legal website is an ongoing project. It’s not a vending machine that dispenses new customers when you feed it content. It’s a daily set of chores and tasks that has you constantly trying to raise your visibility until your practice fills up. For every piece of content you post, every review you get, and every ad campaign you run to drive traffic, there are results to those actions you need to monitor and analyze.
Google Analytics is a free tool that you can use to monitor your web traffic, user behavior, and demographics. By cross referencing the data you get from GA with the dates and times of your SEO initiatives you can see how effective (or not) your efforts were. There’s a wealth of information you can get out of the tool. Seeing where your traffic is coming from lets you know which channels work the best for you, allowing you to double down on those in the future. Correlating bounce rates with certain pieces of content lets you know which topics are resonating. You can take everything you learn about the past to make data-driven decisions for the future.
Another good analytics tool is the Google Search Console. It can give you in-depth data on website indexing, site queries, and backlinks, highlighting any technical issues for both desktop and mobile platforms. And while you’re spending all this time getting cozy with Google, you should make sure to stay up to date with their latest SEO trends and best practices. Like it or not, in the current moment (and the last 20 years), Google has absolutely owned search and they are setting the rules for SEO. That may change in the future, but for right now it’s their world. We just live in it. By staying in the loop with their updates and using their analytics tools—and following the advice contained in this guide—you’ll stay ahead of the curve and continue to win at search engine optimization.
Need help with SEO for your law firm? Contact the Gladiator Law Marketing team. For over 10 years we have been helping family & divorce law firms grow with actionable, data-driven marketing strategies. Our track record speaks for itself, with a remarkable 95% client retention rate. From award-winning websites to high-ROI SEO, PPC and Social Media campaigns, Gladiator Law Marketing can help your law firm stand out in a crowded marketplace. Contact us at 888-683-3212.