SEO For Lawyers

TLDR: SEO is complicated. If you read this entire treatise and understand it, then you will know far more than most. If you don’t want to spend an entire afternoon learning the art of SEO, give us a call.

A Word of Caution!

SEO is just as much an art as it is a science. There is no secret formula. Quite often what works for one law firm will not work for another. If you are looking for a recipe or checklist that guarantees success, you won’t find it here or anywhere else.

THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS FOR SEO SUCCESS. YOU EITHER UNDERSTAND SEO AND CAN ADAPT TO CHANGE OR DON’T AND CAN’T.

As opposed to building out some arbitrary checklist, we have thoroughly discussed the concepts of SEO here to help you think like a marketer. SEO isn’t black and white, and neither are the lessons provided in this guide.

SEO Fundamentals

  1. What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a digital marketing strategy to acquire traffic from search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. The defining characteristic is that the law firm does not directly pay the search engine to show up in the results, which distinguishes SEO from Pay-Per-Click (PPC).

  1. SEO affects two sections of the Search Results Page (SERP).

The local map pack and the organic listings are both attained through SEO tactics. While the ranking factors for the two overlap, there are differences which can mean your law firm can rank in one section but not the other. The SERP below illustrates three sections of the results for a search of “criminal defense lawyer lexington”:  PPC Ads, Local Maps, and Organic Results.

Google Search: Criminal Defense Lawyer Lexington

  1. Sometimes Google will show additional sections on the SERP.

Google is obsessed with making the SERP as quick and easy as possible. That means Google will try to solve someone’s problem without their having to leave the SERP. These most often show up for question-based phrases. The two most common for attorneys are called featured snippets and knowledge graphs. Though rare, these are highly valuable. Samples are shown below. Click To Read More

Google Search: what is an injury attorney

  1. Utilizing a Search Engine is the most common way people learn about the law and find an attorney if they don’t get a referral from someone they know.

Hiring a lawyer is not something most people do on a regular basis. It comes with a certain amount of anxiety. What do people do when faced with anxiety? Research and confide in friends. Thus, the two most common ways people find attorneys are asking for referrals and using a search engine. Oftentimes they will do both, because they may get several recommendations.

  1. What type of return should a law firm expect from SEO?

For a full analysis on ROI you can read our white paper. For the quick and skinny:

  • 2X – This is when a firm breaks even.
  • 3X – Equal to the standard attorney referral fee.
  • 5X – A return that is good enough to begin to grow your law firm.
  • 10X – Typically the highest a firm can expect to sustain year over year.

If a firm spends $50,000 on SEO, at a minimum they should want to get $150,000 in attorney fees.

There are four primary stakeholders when it comes to the return your firm will achieve.

  1. The SEO Agency – Some agencies and SEOs are just plain better than others.
  2. The Law Firm – We have seen two similar practices, with similar rankings, with similar monthly leads, produce two very different returns. Some law firms are better at closing leads than others.
  3. Competition – The legal industry is over-saturated. Not every law firm tracks their return. We frequently speak with law firms that are significantly over-spending. This hurts everyone in the market.
  4. Google – Google makes the rules. Google doesn’t tell anyone else what the rules are. (They mostly speak in riddles.) Google can change the rules or leave them be, and no one would know. Google holds the keys; it is what it is.

The fact of the matter is, the law firm and the agency could do everything right and still not get the return you are looking for. Law firms will continue to pursue SEO so long as SEO remains one of the leading drivers of leads. This is as frustrating to us and as it is to the law firms we work with. That is why finding an agency you can have a partnership with is so important. You need to be in the fight together.

  1. What Position Your Firm Ranks Matters

The percentage of people who click on the first organic result is substantially different than the percentage of people who will click on the fifth result. So much so, that we believe if you aren’t ranking in the top five, then your firm is unlikely to feel like SEO is working.

The best data we have found on this topic is from Advanced Web Ranking. According to their data, legal searchers will click on the first result 27.7% of the time. Position No. 5 receives a click only 4.18% of the time. Position No. 10 receives a click only 0.97% of the time.

If that is not bad enough, these numbers may be inflated. The reason is because many people will click on the first result and call that firm. When the inquiry is poor, the firm turns down the case. That person then clicks on the second result and calls that firm. Some individuals will go right down the list. Thus, the quality of clicks in the tenth position is lower than the quality in the first position.

  1. If your page over-performs the base click-through rate, Google may increase your ranking.

As the previous section mentioned, it is expected that the page ranking in the tenth position will receive a CTR of 0.97%. If your page is able to attain a 2% click-through while in that position, Google may reward your page with a higher ranking.

  1. Google is constantly A/B testing the SERP. This may benefit or hurt your site.

The most efficient way to improve any system is to A/B test. It should come as no surprise that the SERP is A/B tested. This may be something simple, like changing a color or font of text. It maybe something more impactful to your firm, like testing your website in position five instead of six. Alternatively, Google may decide to show four listings in the maps as opposed to the normal three. There is not much that we can do about this split testing, but it is important to know that it exists.

  1. SEO is a medium to high-risk tactic.

It is incredibly important for law firms to understand the risks involved in pursuing SEO. Listed below are the most critical risks that all lawyers need to comprehend if they are spending money on SEO.

  • Competition Is Fierce – Sometimes, what it takes to compete is more than what the market will provide.
  • Budget Is On A Bell Curve – You can’t spend a little and get a little. If you can’t spend enough to be dominant, find another marketing strategy more suitable for your budget.
  • SEO Is Complex – Just look at the web page you are currently reading as proof. There are hundreds of factors to consider with SEO. Those factors are changing every day, especially since Google introduced Rank Brain which makes real-time adjustments to the algorithm.
    • Incompetence could be a sub-risk. There are a ton of agencies out there taking money from law firms and not doing any work on their behalf. Read your SEO agreement just like you would for a client.
  • SEO Takes Time To Work – Don’t take it from me, take it directly from Google. The linked video says that, at a minimum, it takes six months for their algorithm to work. In more competitive markets, which most legal markets are, this can take years. Want to hear something scarier? The average age of a page which ranks on page one is three years, according to Ahrefs, a leading SEO software provider. SEO has a huge up-front commitment beyond just designing a website.
  • Google Can Change – In fact, Google will change. Hopefully they won’t change just as your firm starts to rank well.
  1. Here is a dirty little secret: SEO doesn’t work for every law firm.

There are a few situations in which we will not recommend SEO. It mostly comes down to search volume. If enough people are not searching for your services, then ranking organically may not produce a high enough return for it to be worth it. If your firm doesn’t get above a certain quality benchmark, your site just won’t rank. See our section on YMYL for a more complete explanation.

Geography is a major factor here. Some practice areas will do very well in major metro areas but horrible in rural areas because of the population.

Some practice areas are just searched for less. It is particularly difficult to get consistent returns for B2B practice areas. That is mainly because the more educated and connected a person is, the more likely they are to get a referral from someone they know.

If there is doubt about the viability of SEO, we recommend running a search PPC campaign. This will produce analytics for your target audience and geography, which will answer the question about search volume. Search PPC can be turned on and off and works instantly, so you can run a campaign for a month or two, rather than committing yourself to years of SEO.

  1. Exactly how do search engines decide who to rank?

  • Crawling – First, the search engine will crawl your website, along with every other website.
  • Indexing – Second, the search engine will take the information it learned from crawling and store it (put it in the index).
  • Ranking – The algorithms are applied to the index data; when someone searches a phrase, the search engine will decide what information in the index to show.

Google, Yahoo, Bing, and any other Search Engines will have their own proprietary algorithm. Google is most commonly analyzed because most people use Google. Conveniently enough, Google has produced a guide on how its algorithms work. While that guide is a good high-level overview, it does not go into the technical details. We suggest reading this post from MOZ if you want those details.

It is also important to note that different factors will influence the rankings on the various sections of the SERP. Just because your firm ranks well in the maps does not mean your firm will rank well in the organic listings. We will be covering the most important factors, but if you want a full breakdown of all known factors, Brian Dean has an excellent list.

  1. SEO can largely be broken into two disciplines: on-site and off-site.

We are going to get into substantially more detail with each of these components further down into this document, but here is a brief high-level overview.

  • On-Site SEO
    • Content –Content should be written to quality for specific keywords and phrases that have the potential to create leads for your law firm.
    • User Experience – Getting someone to your website doesn’t do any good if the experience once there is sub-par.
    • Technical Optimization – There are a variety of settings and adjustments that help the search engines know what your website is about. Getting these wrong is an easy way not to rank.
    • Expertise, Authoritativeness, & Trustworthiness (EAT) – Does your website paint you as an authority figure for your practice areas?
  • Off-Site SEO
    • Back-links – The strength of your website is determined by the number of websites that link back to yours.
    • Reviews – The more stars and the more total number of reviews, the better.
    • Citation Consistency – Your law firm’s Name, Address, and Phone Number should be consistent across the web.
    • Expertise, Authority, & Trust (EAT) – Yes, this one is on both disciplines. Is your firm being mentioned off site, getting awards, and having a voice that people listen to?
  1. Local SEO can mean a couple of different things and impact how you go about trying to rank your website.

Local SEO can refer to ranking in your local area, but it could also refer to ranking in the maps. The two are related but also distinctly different. The factors that help you rank in one of them will also help with the other. Google weights the factors differently, thus it is important to understand both strategies.

  1. Some ranking components are outside your control.

The most common constraint is physical location. If Google wants to rank local firms, you are going to need a local office — not a P.O. Box or rent-an-office. At one time, law firms could build out ‘community pages’ to help rank in locations where there wasn’t an office. This tactic can still work, depending on the level of competition.

Additionally, Google does take into consideration other personalized factors when ranking the website. It is unclear what all those factors are and how much weight Google gives them. One example is a person’s search history.

  1. Is there any way to know what Google is really thinking?

Yes, quite a few actually. The big picture, though, is that Google wants to rank the websites that are best suited for the unique search query. This is in direct conflict with every website out there, because all websites want to rank, whether they are the best or not. Most algorithm updates have occurred because marketers were taking advantage of a weakness in the algorithm.

Here are some ways to get into Google’s head:

  • Quality Raters’ Guidelines – Google hires what we would consider ‘secret shoppers.’ They are contractors who are trained to evaluate search results and report back to Google on the quality of those results. Google then uses this information to make changes to their algorithm. Fortunately for all of us, Google publicly released the guidelines it uses to train these secret shoppers. You can get your copy here; it was recently updated in May 2019.
  • SEO Mythbusting – This is a new series that has been released by Google to help educate the public. There are only a few videos so far, but they are well worth your time to watch.
  • Stalk Googlers On Twitter – These are some of the top minds at Google that work on the SERP:
  1. Quality Raters’ Guidelines are super-important for lawyers, especially the most recent release that was accompanied by the Google Medic Update in August 2018.

There are three concepts that you must know if you are going to pursue SEO.

The first is a categorization known as Your Money, Your Life. YMYL sets a higher benchmark, in terms of quality, for businesses that could impact a person’s money or life. Lawyers are specifically denoted as belonging to YMYL (see bullet #4 in their guidelines, shown below). In plain English, if your website doesn’t meet a certain quality threshold, it flat-out will not rank.

Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) Pages

The second important concept is Main Content, which Google defines as any part of the page that directly helps the page achieve its purpose. Google goes on to say that Main Content (MC) takes a significant amount of at least one of the following: time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill.

The third is Expertise, Authoritativeness, & Trustworthiness (EAT). This is the most complex component and is the core driver Google is using to combat unworthy websites from taking up space on the search results. For decades, businesses have been able to cheat the system. With EAT in place, it is much harder to do that now. How do you fake a reputation? How do you fake getting invited to be a guest speaker? How do you fake having a record-setting settlement? How do you fake getting in the news? The answer is, you don’t. The most pressing concern for SEOs around the world is trying to figure out how to account for EAT.

  1. Penalties do exist, but just because your website isn’t ranking doesn’t mean that it has been penalized.

If your website has been penalized, then Google will notify you by sending a message to your Search Console account. If you don’t have a message, then you have not been penalized.

If your rankings have significantly dropped or never materialized, then your website may be not be optimized to industry best practices. Here are some of the most common reasons websites lose traffic.

  1. What do the bar rules say about SEO?

An oversimplification of the rules is, don’t lie. This really isn’t too difficult to abide by, but there are some tips and tricks to be aware of, especially when an agency is going to be working on your behalf and it is your license on the line.

  • Reviews – The biggest issue we face with the bar rules occurs when a law firm wants to distance themselves from online reviews. The attorney-client privilege is what is cited as an area for concern. If you want to compete online, reviews are something your firm is going to have deal with. Here are a few considerations:
    • Review Solicitation – There is nothing wrong with asking a client to leave a review. If they don’t want to, they won’t. In fact, most people who say they are going to leave a review never will.
    • Responding to Reviews – For positive reviews, keep it simple with a quick ‘Thanks.’ For negative reviews, empathize with them and ask them to contact the office. Don’t mention anything that validates the fact that they may have worked with you. Speak in generalities and speak to the people reading the review, not necessarily the person who wrote it.
  • Back-links – One of the most common ways that links are created is through content promotion on third-party websites. This content can be written in the name of the attorney or it can merely reference the law firm’s website. This is a key difference, because if the attorney is listed as the author, the attorney is responsible for that content. It is important to know how links are being created and who is authoring the content. If that content merely references your website, then you don’t need to worry about what that content says.
  • Don’t Claim To Be Something You Aren’t – Don’t say you are the best; you can’t prove that. Don’t say you are board-certified if you aren’t. Don’t claim settlements that aren’t yours.
  • Abide By Required Disclaimers – Some states require an advertising disclaimer; make sure that is on your website in the right place.
  • Don’t List Information Your Bar Prohibits – Some states don’t want you to list past settlement figures, for instance. If your state has restrictions, be sure to adhere to those.

Keyword Research & On-Site Content

  1. Keyword Research Should Not Be Neglected.

Even if your firm has been doing SEO for two decades, there are still changes that occur which require on-going attention. Keyword research isn’t just figuring out what people are searching — it is also figuring out which keywords deserve their own page, which keywords should be grouped together on a single page, which keywords will lead to conversions, which keywords will convince Google you know what you are talking about, and whether those keywords should be on practice-area pages or blogs.

  1. History of How People Search

How people search has changed over time. When search engines first came about, people were very short with their wording, searching perhaps for “Minneapolis Family Lawyer.” Then people started to realize that the more words they used, the better the results … “Minneapolis Family Lawyer For A Single Dad.” Then people started to use their phones and texting was cumbersome. So, the searches went back to being short. A few years later, the functionality of phones improved, texting was easier, and voice-activated searches started to become common. Because of this, search phrases became longer again.

If that isn’t complicated enough, Google got better as well. It used to be that if you wanted an attorney in Minneapolis, you needed to use the word Minneapolis in your search. Now that Google knows where you are, that is an extra word that is not needed. Thus, most people will leave off the geographic modifier. Welcome to personalized search results. Google will also consider other factors, such as search history and demographics.

  1. Implicit Keywords vs. Explicit Keywords

  • Explicit Keyword – Minnesota Bankruptcy Lawyer
  • Implicit Keyword – Bankruptcy Lawyer

Most people do not use explicit keywords unless they are in one location but want results in another. We see this frequently when people search from work but want results where they live, or vice versa.

You should optimize your website for Explicit Keywords, because you need to tell Google where you want to rank.

  1. Money Keywords vs. Informational Keywords vs. Topics

Keywords are directly tied to content topics. In some ways, the topics themselves are more important than the keywords, as Google is getting better at understanding that Car Accident Lawyer is roughly the same as Car Accident Attorney. You would target both of those keywords through the same Car Accident Page. With this example, Car Accidents is the topic and the keyword phrase is Car Accident Lawyer.

Money Keywords are the phrases that are most likely going to lead to a new client. Information Keywords are used by people to learn about a topic. Your law firm needs to target both, even though the informational pages may never lead to a conversion. Here is an example:

If someone searched for Boston Car Accident Lawyer, it is pretty safe to assume that the person is looking for a lawyer to help them with a car accident. You want to rank for that. If someone searches for the phrase Boston Car Accident Statistics, they are probably getting information for some purpose that is unlikely to be because they need an attorney. However, you still want to rank for that because you want Google to view your website as an authoritative voice on all topics related to car accidents in Boston. If you rank for these other phrases, you are more likely to rank for the phrases that will lead to conversions. To recap:

  • Topic – Car Accidents
  • Money Keyword – Las Vegas Car Accident Lawyer
  • Informational Keyword – Car Accidents In Las Vegas.
  1. What do we mean by keyword volume?

We are referring to the number of searches a keyword gets on a monthly basis. Google AdWords provides a keyword planning tool that is most frequently used. If we have a batch of keywords to get volume for, we will use that tool. However, there is a plugin available for Chrome and Firefox called Keywords Everywhere. This will allow you to see the search volume directly on the search results page, as shown below.

Google Search: Personal Injury Lawyer

Most of these tools will not report on volume that is less than 10 searches per month. Once you start to add geographic modifiers to keywords, the search volume substantially drops. Firms that are in rural areas may not see any search volume for their explicit phrases.

The screenshot above shows that the phrase Personal Injury Lawyer receives 49,500 searches per month, but this is on a national basis. Consequently,  it is very difficult to get an accurate estimation for how many searches are performed each month on a local level. These tools are best used to prioritize keywords and understand whether people are actually searching for a phrase.

Running a search PPC campaign is the best way to gauge market demand. The analytics that will be provided will show you exactly how many searches were performed. The downside is that this could be very expensive; but if it is set up appropriately, the campaign should pay for itself with signed cases.

  1. User Intention Is Used for More Than Topic Selection

As you discover the keywords that are going to be important to your law firm, it is important to know what Google believes the intention is behind that search phrase. To find out, it is as simple as searching for the phrase yourself and looking at the results.

If Google ranks pages that are FAQs, then Google believes people want to see an FAQ when they conduct that search. If Google is ranking a bunch of directories, then Google believe people want to compare firms. If Google ranks pages that are guides on a given topic, then Google believes people want to read a guide. Google may rank a variety of different types of pages because Google believes people want a variety of different options. Therefore, when you type in Car Accident Lawyer in most cities, both local firms and directories show up. Some people want a directory and some people want to go straight to a law firm’s website.

  1. Don’t Just Evaluate Results; Evaluate The Ranking Content, Too

When doing competitive analysis for searches, you need to put on your detective hat and figure out why Google likes this content. You can’t just look at the titles of the results and who is ranking. Click on the results and evaluate the content. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How long is the content?
  • Does it include a video?
  • What subtopics are covered?
  • What is the quality of the writing?
  1. Don’t Assume You Know Who Your Competitors Are

We frequently speak with attorneys that tell us who their competitors are, only to realize in our analysis that none of them are online. When it comes to competition that you should be paying attention to in regard to SEO, it is the competitors who are ranking that should be of concern. Other law firms may be competitors in the grand scheme of things, but if they aren’t ranking, they are a non-factor with SEO.

  1. Take the time to develop a complete website architecture plan.

First and foremost, I highly recommend putting together an architectural document for what you believe a complete website will look like. This takes a little more time up front but will save you more time in the long run. This architecture plan should be updated on an annual basis.

We have provided an example template that you can work from and download here.

Website Architecture Plan

We discuss below a few suggestions for filling out this document.

  1. Copy A Competitor’s Architecture

By far, the fastest way to put together an architecture document is to look at a competitor. Most keywords/topics can be found by looking at a handful of competitors and compiling them all together. If your marketing doesn’t have a strong competitor to look at, do a few Google searches for similar firms in major metro areas. We particularly like this method for DIY law firms, because it cuts down on the amount of SEO knowledge you need. You won’t run the risk of content cannibalization issues or duplication of effort.

  1. Not all websites will have a public sitemap, but this is a quick way to get a competitor’s architecture all in a single page. To find the sitemap, just type in sitemap.xml at the end of the URL. Example: lawfirm.com/sitemap.xml
  2. Alternatively, you can use siteliner.com, which will provide you a list of pages. This tool is free for up to 500 pages on a single site.
  1. Use a Keyword Research Tool To Find A Competitor’s Hidden Keywords

There are a few different tools that you can use to find keywords to target. This method becomes more useful when your website is already built out and you want to quickly find keywords that your competitors are ranking for but you aren’t.

  1. Ahrefs or SEMRush – Each of these tools has the option to show you which keywords your competitor is ranking for. This is necessary because a single page on that site may rank for more than one keyword. Thus, you won’t get the full picture from merely looking at the competitor site’s architecture.
  1. Use Your Own Knowledge To Provide Something Unique

What are people asking you when you first meet with them? These are likely the same questions people are typing into a search engine. Just because it isn’t on the internet already, this doesn’t mean that it won’t provide additional value.

  1. Use Search Console To Find Low-Ranking Keywords

This method works only if your website is already ranking in some capacity. You can go to your website’s search console account and it will provide you a list of all of the queries your website has shown up for. Look for queries that have a high volume but low average ranking and click-through rate. These are prime opportunities to write new content specific to those phrases to try to rank better. You may want to add that content to an existing page or write a new page entirely.

  1. When does a keyword warrant its own page?

This is a strategic decision and is part of the art behind SEO. You could ask ten different people and get ten different answers. As an agency, we have the benefit of looking at dozens of websites that focus on the same practice areas. We have data that is not publicly available. Consequently, our approach to this conundrum is different than what I would recommend for a firm taking a DIY approach. Here is what I recommend for those firms:

  • Start with the parent-level practice-area pages first. Even if your website is not ranking, it still needs to accurately reflect what you do.
  • If there are very specific types of cases that you know are underrepresented online, write out that content. One of the law firms we work with frequently get cases from people hurt by a specific local company. It is a smaller firm in a big market, and we have been able to get some low-hanging-fruit type of cases because no one else had content specific to that company. The danger with writing only pages that everyone else has is that the competition to rank will be greater.
  • Look for informational pages that other firms are not writing about that are related to the main practice-area pages that you want to rank.
  • Begin to write out the most common sub-practice-area pages after you have accomplished the above.
  1. Your Site Can Have Too Much Content (Content Pruning)

You don’t want your website to get too big. You shouldn’t add content unless you can maintain it, update it as necessary, build links, write supporting content, and monitor the performance of the page.

Additionally, having too many pages that are not ranking can be detrimental to the overall SEO. Google doesn’t like content that is not serving a purpose. Think of it this way: if half of your content isn’t getting any organic traffic, what does that say about the overall quality of your website? If Google believes the overall quality of your site is low, then your primary practice-area pages may not rank even if they have great content.

We recommend that you export a list of all pages from Google Analytics at least once a year. Look for pages that did not get very many organic visitors and consider merging that content with another page or getting rid of the page altogether.

  1. How Do You Create Great Content?

Does your content provide the most value to someone facing the problem you are writing for? If you want your content to rank, look at the page from your client’s perspective.  This is a good opportunity to revisit how Google defines quality content per the Quality Raters’ Guidelines:

MC (Main Content) takes a significant amount of at least one of the following: time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill.

You need to provide better content than your competitors, and here is how you do that:

  • Understand User Intent – We have devoted an entire section on this previously in this document. The bottom line is, if your content is not written for the intention Google believes is required, it won’t rank.
  • Keywords – Your firm needs to use software when developing content. There are some fabulous artificial intelligence platforms that will crawl your competitors’ websites and develop a brief that you can follow when writing the content.
    • Keyword Density – Most SEOs do not believe that keyword density plays much of a factor in rankings. However, all SEOs still check the keyword density because there is no proof that it doesn’t affect rankings. The software we mention will let you know what keywords to include and how often.
    • Local Keywords – If you are trying to rank in a specific city, you need to ensure you are using locally-based keywords in the content.
      • This doesn’t just mean the city and state. The content itself needs to be unique to the location where it makes sense. Your content should reference local laws, the local court system, local roads and attractions, and local statistics if available.
    • Content Software
      • Grammarly – Your content needs to be written using proper grammar. This tool can help with that, and there is a free version.
      • SEMRush has the content briefs built into its software, if you want a more all-in-one solution.
      • Brian Dean has some great tools listed here. Neil Patel has his own list here.
    • Writing Level – Many attorneys want to write their own content because they believe they can do it better. Sometimes that is true, but sometimes the content is written like a law school term paper. Content needs to be written on an educational level appropriate for your clients. Our recommendation is to hire a writer to put together the first draft and then have an attorney write the second draft. Attorneys can provide a unique viewpoint that no agency or outside writer can. If you are willing to put the time into the content, it will pay dividends. Just don’t get too complicated. If you are working with an agency, don’t be afraid to provide your two cents’ worth.
    • Length of Content – You will find ranking content that is as short as 500 words and some that is thousands of words long. The desired length of content depends on competitiveness of the keyword. High-volume words are unlikely to rank without at least 1,500 words. More niche keywords may rank with as few as 500 words. We do not recommend adding any content to the website that has less than 500 words, or else you run the risk of Google’s deeming the content too thin.
    • Accuracy of the Content – It should come as no surprise that your content must be accurate. This means…
      • You need to update your content if circumstances change.
      • You need to have credible sources. Do not link to websites that may have false information or be of low quality. Always try to use information that is as close to the source as possible. If you are citing statistics that you found in a New York Times article, try to find the actual study the New York Times is referencing as opposed to merely linking to NYT.
    • Unique Content – Writing unique content is a challenge for lawyers because of how much content is already on the internet. Here are some easy ways to separate yourself:
      • Talk about yourself, your firm, and your approach to the law.
      • Provide testimonials and describe past successes.
      • List awards and accomplishments of your firm.
      • Conduct your own research.
      • Keep it up to date. Don’t write it and forget it.
    • Expertise, Authoritativeness, & Trustworthiness (EAT) – You have seen this mentioned here before. You need to sell yourself to Google and to readers of your own site. Some SEOs believe that you should be putting the biography of the person responsible for the content on the page. If you do this, ensure that the person has an excellent biography that tells why they have EAT.
    • Content Structure & Formatting – Google has said that if the content is on your page, you get credit for it, whether that content is at the top of the page (a good thing) or the bottom (not so good). We believe that over time this is going to change, and it may already be indirectly changing. We say that because we know that on-site metrics, such as time-on-page and bounce rate, do impact rankings. If you can keep people on your website longer, your rankings are going to benefit. Thus, if you put your most important and engaging content first, people are going to stay longer.
  1. What Are The Types Of Content You Can Write?

Most law firm websites are built on WordPress. The most common words used to discuss on-site content are “pages” and “posts” (Webpages and Blog Posts). This is because WordPress categorizes its content in the backend of its software as pages and posts.

The truth is, that categorization is important to WordPress but not so much to Google. It is a means to help you organize your website more efficiently. In most cases, all of the types of content described below except for blogs will be pages. Some people may decide to call the informational pages blogs, but that is a personal preference.

  • Practice Areas (Money) – These are the pages that are going to drive leads. They are designed to get people to your website who have the problem being discussed. Example: Wisconsin Probate Attorney Page
    • Tip: These pages should be able to convert a reader without their having to go to other pages on the site. This means it should inform them, answer their question, tell them who you are and why they should hire you, and how to contact you.
  • Informational – This content is designed to educate people about components of the law. It may lead to conversions, but it may not. The main purpose is to inform the general public, which in turns makes your firm appear as an authoritative voice. Example: Statute of Limitations In Oregon
    • Tip: There is a ton of information that attorneys can share on their website. If people are not actively looking for that information, then it isn’t worth having on your site. You don’t want a bunch of content that no one is reading. If you have a great idea for content, write it and put it on your site. But if a year goes by and no one is searching for it, take it down or combine it with another page.
  • Blogs – The way blogs are being used is changing. We are seeing more law firms put their informational pages in the blog section. In years past, it was common to write about current events and happenings in the community. This would help your firm rank for long-tail keywords. However, as Google has begun to rank businesses that make the most sense for the individual query, this tactic is less practiced by law firms. An example of that logic has to do with current events. Does it make more sense to rank a law firm or the local newspaper? We suggest leveraging the blog section of your website to answer question-based phrases that would make sense to be on a page of their own; this is usually because the volume of that question is high.
  • Attorney Biographies – Your firm must have well-written biographies on each of the attorneys. This content should also be condensed into a byline format to be used on other pages of the site. Treat the biography as a job interview. Why should someone hire you? Be compelling in the way that you present yourself, and don’t just stick to professional facts and accolades. Let your personality come through. You don’t have to be warm and cuddly on your biography if that isn’t you, which is a common concern of attorneys. Be the person on your site that people are going to meet at the firm.
  • Testimonials – Testimonials are critically important. People want to know that you have worked with other people just like them. If possible, have pictures of your clients associated with the testimonial. This builds a stronger connection and trust with the reader. A video testimonial is even better. One of the biggest mistakes we see attorneys make is that all the testimonials are on a single page and nowhere else. Every practice-area page should have a testimonial on it.
  • Past Successes – These are similar to testimonials but distinctly different, because they are in your words, not your clients’. These may be as simple as past settlement figures, or they may be case studies and your approach to a typical case.
  1. Other Forms of On-site Content

There are a variety of other forms of content that can be added to a website. The most common mistake we see attorneys make is that they got the content created and then began to think about how to use it. Or, they thought about how to use it but didn’t fully understand how their plan works and why it was faulty.

  • Video – We are big proponents of video, but only if people are going to see it. Sounds like common sense, right? We have seen countless law firms spend a disproportionate amount of money on video production, be happy with the videos themselves, but be utterly underwhelmed with the cases generated. That’s because no one ever saw the video. If you don’t already have exceptional SEO or a large PPC budget, video should not be utilized. See the next section below, which is completely dedicated to video.
  • Infographics & PowerPoint Presentations – These are most often created as a link-building strategy, which we will go over in more detail later in this document. They are an excellent way to convey information in a graphical manner. The way they can help on-site is in keeping people on the page longer. If you choose to put these graphics on your website, we suggest condensing them down so people need to click on them in order to read them. This keeps your main page from getting too cluttered.
  • Guides – x
  • Books – x
  1. How to properly leverage video.

x

  1. Funnel Systems: The 5Ws

x

Technical On-Site SEO

A core component of any SEO strategy is ensuring the content on the website is properly optimized. Think of on-site SEO as settings. If you don’t have the correct settings in place, then your website won’t function on Google like you intend it to.

On-site SEO doesn’t change as much as other components of SEO. Most of the best practices from five years ago are still best practices today. Despite this, on-site SEO is still one of the components of a campaign that is most frequently correctly implemented.

  1. URL Structure & Site Architecture

The URL is the address for your website (e.g., lawfirm.com). SEOs have differing opinions on the effectiveness of some of these techniques; however, we generally take the approach of ‘just in case.’

‘Lawfirm.com’ is the root domain. When choosing a root domain, it is wise to include the geography and main practice area you are targeting. This is not a requirement, but it may give your firm a small boost. The downside to including a geography and practice area is that it could limit further growth. Adding divorce services onto ‘caraccidentlaw.com’ wouldn’t really work.

There is an ongoing debate about when to use a subdirectory or subdomain.

Blog.lawfirm.com = Subdomain

Law.firm.com/blog/ = Subdirectory

We rarely see law firms use a subdirectory. One of the biggest downsides to using a subdirectory is that it can be viewed as an entirely separate entity from the root domain, meaning the two are entirely different websites, which waters down the strength of the site. This is the main reason law firms prefer to use subdirectories.

Lawfirm.com/medical-malpractice-lawyer/birth-injuries/

You should use the main keyword you are trying to target without overusing the term ‘lawyer’ or some variation of that word. The Birth Injury page would target the keyword ‘Birth Injury Lawyer.’ That is why the first-level subdirectory uses the term ‘lawyer’ but the second with Birth Injuries does not; it still has the unique portion of the target keyword, ‘Birth Injuries.’

Keeping the URLs structured and organized helps Google understand the relationship between pages. This URL structure lets Google know that Birth Injuries are related to Medical Malpractice.

The organization gets a bit more complicated if there is a tertiary option for organization. For instance, what if the firm were to have a separate page on Cerebral Palsy? We have two options:

Option 1 – Lawfirm.com/medical-malpractice-lawyer/birth-injuries/cerebral-palsy/

Option 2 – Lawfirm.com/medical-malpractice-lawyer/cerebral-palsy/

Our recommendation is to use the second structure as we believe it is better to keep the URL short. Google will already understand that there is some relationship between the two because they are in the same subdirectory.

Another common discussion is how to structure blog posts. If we were to write a blog post on which nursing homes have the most reported cases of abuse, we have a couple of options:

Option 1 – lawfirm.com/dangerous-nursing-homes/

Option 2 – lawfirm.com/blog/dangerous-nursing-homes/

Our preference is the second option because it makes reporting on the total performance of the blog easier. The argument against this goes back to the concept of keeping the URL short.

  1. Page Title

The title of the page is the most important technical optimization component. We have seen basic changes to page titles improve the rankings from page 5+ to first page. The Page Title is what is shown as the title of the page in the SERP. Page titles serve two primary purposes:

  • It tells Google the primary keyword you want the page to rank for.
  • It has a direct impact on click-through rate. The better your CTR, the more likely your rankings will improve.

There is also an art to limiting the amount of conflicting titles present on a website. For instance, a personal injury attorney is going to have a page dedicated to Car Accidents, in which case the title is likely to be something like ‘Car Accident Lawyer | Free Consultation.’ But if that site also has a blog post about car accidents on I-75, what should that title be? Something like ‘I-75 Car Accidents On the Rise’ would be appropriate, but ‘I-75 Car Accident Lawyer’ would be too close.

The length of the Page Title should be between 55 and 65 characters. There are a variety of different ways to structure the page title, but they will all have the same options to choose from when piecing it together:

  • Keyword – Car Accident Lawyer
  • Location – Jacksonville
  • Name of Firm – Your Law Firm
  • Call to Action – No Win, No Fee.

A good way to optimize your titles at first is to see what ranking competitors are doing. But don’t fall into the trap of merely copying the titles and not looking at the content. If one of your competitors is ranking with an informational page using a non-standard Page Title, you can’t copy that Page Title if your own content is not also in line with it.

Once your own pages start to make it onto the first page and your rise in the rankings plateaus, adjusting Page Titles may be an option.

  1. H1 Title

The H1 title is the main title visible on the page itself. However, this line of code can technically be placed anywhere on the page. It is not uncommon for websites to incorrectly place the H1 or to have more than one H1.

To find the H1 of your page, right click on the page and then click on ‘View Source Code.’ Search the code for <H1, which will show you the beginning portion of the line that has your H1 Title. If you have multiple lines with <H1, then you may have multiple H1 Titles.

The H1 should be reflective of your content and include the main keyword. Example: A Divorce Lawyer Who Knows How To Fight

  1. H2, H3, H4 Titles

The H2, H3, or H4 are the subtopics on the page. The structure breaks out as follows:

  • H2
    • H3
      • H4
      • H4
    • H3
      • H4
    • H2
      • H3
    • H2

H2 Titles are the titles of your main sections. H3 Titles are sub-sections of H2 sections. H4 Titles are subsections of H3 sections.

These forms of titles are not nearly as important as the Page Title and H1 Title, but they are still important nonetheless. A common belief is that you should include variations of the main keyword you want to rank for. So, if Divorce Lawyer was the main keyword, some secondary keywords maybe Divorce Attorney or Divorce Law Firm or Divorce Attorney for Dads.

H-Tags can be overused to try to manipulate the SEO value of the page. The thought behind this is that Google gives the H-Tags more weight than the normal content. This is true to an extent, but it can also be harmful if the website uses the H-Tags beyond their purpose, which is…

Think of the pages on your website as individual books. H1 is the title of the book, which is why you want only one. The H2s are the chapter titles, and the remainder of the H-Tags are subsections of those chapters. As such, the H-Tags should describe what the reader is going to read in the upcoming section.

One of the ways in which we have seen H-Tags abused is by using an H-Tag when a P-Tag is more appropriate. This is a programming element to help with the design. I won’t get into the technical programming component of this, but it usually happens with images that have text overlays.

Another common way H-Tags are abused is by using the keywords you want to target when it isn’t appropriate to use those keywords. For instance, lets say you have a paragraph on the statute of limitations and the H2 reads ‘Criminal Defense Lawyer.’ Well, that isn’t descriptive or about the statute of limitations; rather, it is the primary keyword the page is probably trying to rank for. A better H2 would be ‘Statute of Limitations.’

  1. Alt Tags

These tags are placed on images and are meant to tell blind users what the image is about. Some websites are legally required to use Alt Tags, which is outlined by the Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards under section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

It is considered best practice to use Alt tags on all images. These tags should be reflective of what the image is, but many SEOs will try to incorporate keywords into these tags as well. That is ok to do, but it shouldn’t be overdone. .

  1. Meta Description

For almost a decade, SEOs have been under the impression that the meta description was not a ranking factor, meaning the algorithm did not consider the meta description. SEO Mythbusters, which was released in May 2019 by Google, may change that thinking. Here is a quote from one of their recent YouTube videos:

We have over 200 signals to do so. So we look at things like the title, the meta description, the actual content that you’ve got on your page, images, links…All sorts of things.

If you want to read more of that transcript, click here.

Whether or not the meta description is a direct ranking signal is still up for debate. What is definitely not up for debate is that the meta description will affect click-through rate, which will affect rankings.

A good meta description will accurately describe the content while also enticing people to click the link.

The length of the meta description should be between 155 characters and 320 characters. The reason there is a range is that Google changes this portion of the SERP dynamically. Google may allow the top-ranking page 300 characters but every other page 160. Our advice is to write meta descriptions that are 300 characters in case Google gives you that much to work with. However, the first 155 characters should be the most impactful, since that is what you are most likely to be allowed.

155 characters is not much to work with especially when you need to cram these things into it:

  • The Main Keyword
  • An accurate description of the content
  • A compelling argument for someone to click on the link.
  1. Schema

This is code that is placed either on the entire site, typically in the footer or header, or on an individual page. The purpose of Schema is to alter the way a search result is displayed. You might have seen a star rating next to your own links or those of a competitor. These stars are placed on the result by putting Schema code on the page. It is important to note that Google decides what to display. Just because you have Schema on your website, this does not mean you have complete control over how your search results will look.

You can visit this website for a full list of potential Schema variations.

If you want to test code, see whether your page has Schema, or test the Schema on a page, Google has a tool you can use. You can also use this tool to see what your competitors are using Schema for.

  1. Above the Fold

Above The Fold refers to everything someone can see without having to scroll. What is further down the page is considered Below The Fold. We believe that every page on the site should try to answer the following questions (I say “try” because it is very difficult and, depending on the design of the page, it may be impossible…)

  • Can you help me? – The first thing people want to know is whether you can solve their problem.
    • Your H1 should be above the fold and usually answers this.
  • How can you help me? – This can be accomplished with a short one-liner, kind of like an elevator pitch in a single sentence.
  • Why should I let you help me? – Have testimonials or past successes somewhere close. This is the section that is often the hardest to include above the fold and frequently is the next thing shown when someone starts to scroll.
  • What do I need to do next? – They need to contact you, so show them how to do that.
  1. Attorney / Author Biography

The second-most-viewed page on a law firm’s website is the attorney biography section. Once people know that you can help them, their attention turns to who you are and why they should let you help them. Your biography needs to be compelling and an accurate reflection of who you are. You can’t be “The Hammer” in your marketing but a teddy bear in person.

Your biography is also an opportunity to sell yourself to Google. Don’t be bashful. List your accomplishments and accolades. If you don’t have any awards, like SuperLawyers, then figure out a way to get them. Local awards are great as well.

I can’t stress the importance of making yourself seem like a real person. That doesn’t mean you have to be warm and cuddly. If people hire you because of your no-BS nature, then paint that picture of yourself. Do likewise if you want to be warm and approachable.

  1. Inner Linking

This is another area that marketers used to abuse when they found out that inner linking could help with rankings. Because of that abuse, we now operate under the less-is-more philosophy.

Inner linking should be used when it adds to the user experience. Don’t put in a link to your Car Accident page every time ‘car accident’ is mentioned. If you believe that someone may legitimately want to visit your car accident page because of what they just read, by all means link to that page.

There are two other important components when it comes to links on your own website:

  • Anchor Text – This is the text that is linked. Here is an example link that takes you to a page on MOZ about onsite SEO. The anchor text I have used in the foregoing sentence is ‘example link.’ The way SEOs would manipulate the system is by using ‘rich’ anchor text, or anchor text that includes the main keyword. This anchor text would tell Google that the page is heavily related to the anchor text. Now that we are taking a ‘less-is-more’ approach, you don’t need to worry about not using rich anchor text. Just remember that you should put in place an inner link only if it is going to be helpful.
  • No-Follow – There is no reason to put in place a no-follow for links that go to important pages on your website. Some SEOs may suggest using the no-follow for links that go to unimportant pages that Google doesn’t need to see. This is a way to control your crawl budget.
  1. Outbound Links

Most SEOs agree that outbound links do play an important role in SEO. These outbound links can either help your site or harm your site. An outbound link is a link on your site that takes people to a different website. You should be linking to the sources used to substantiate your content. If you are citing statutes, then link to the government site with those statutes.

That would be a good link. What you don’t want are links to untrustworthy websites or outbound links that do not work. It is important to check all outbound links before they are placed on your website and also to periodically review those links to ensure they still work and go where you think they go. Occasionally, the owner of a website will allow their domain to expire or be purchased. After this occurs, that linking website may no longer be trustworthy. This is a good example of why websites do require ongoing maintenance.

Another factor to consider with outbound links are no-follow tags. This is a small piece of code that is associated with a link that tells Google to ignore the SEO relationship between your website and another website. It is like saying, “I need to link to this website, but I don’t want to vouch for it.” Google has specific guidelines on when to use the no-follow tag. This includes links to untrusted content, paid links, or due to crawl prioritization. You should never link to untrusted content. There really is no reason to sell links on your website, so that should not be a factor either. The only reason you would want to use a no-follow internally is for crawl budget, which we discuss more below.

  1. HTTP Status Codes

Before we get into how or why status codes should be used, we should discuss what they are. Visit this Wikipedia article for a full run-down on HTTP Status Codes.

  • 1XX – Informational
    • You won’t really work with these because they are in the backend communication between devices.
  • 2XX – Success
    • The most common code is 200. You probably won’t use this for anything but are likely to see these codes used in some of the tools. For instance, many webpage crawlers will list the HTTP status code next to each page crawled. A 200 code means OK, or that the page is normal.
  • 3XX – Redirection
    • Lets pretend that you wrote five pages on mesothelioma but you decide they would function better as a single page. Thus you have four pages that will be going away. What if someone has one of those four pages bookmarked or there are links to those pages? You need to put in a redirect so people who click on those links will be taken to the new consolidated page.
      • By far, the most commonly used redirect is a 301. This is a permanent redirect.
    • 4XX – Client Errors
      • These are errors that are occurring on your own website.
      • The most common error is a 404. This occurs when someone tries to go to a page that does not exist. This might happen because they typed in the wrong URL or the page has been deleted and no one put in a redirect.
    • 5XX – Server Errors
      • As the name sounds, these are errors that occur on your server. The distinction is important, because a 4XX means you need to fix your site. A 5XX means you need to troubleshoot the server or contact your server admin.
  1. Redirects (3XX)

There are server-side redirects and client-side redirects. The result is the same; what is different is where you physically input the redirect.

  • Server Side – To accomplish this redirect, you log into your host server and navigate to the redirect section. If you use WP Engine for your hosting, here is an article on how to do it. If you use a different hosting platform, you can search their how-to database for a guide.
  • Client Side – The best way to manage redirects on WordPress is through a plugin. These make it very easy to see all redirects and create new redirects. For a full walkthrough on placing redirects, here is a fantastic article.
    • The article recommends the plugin Redirection. The best part about this plugin is that it is free and will also report on 404 errors.
    • If you have the premium version of Yoast, you can use that plugin instead.
  1. 404 Errors

It is important to have a custom 404 page, because you want to help people get back to where they want to go. The default 404 page is just going to tell people that the page they are trying to visit does not exist. But there is a better way to handle this. Here is what you want your 404 page to be …

  • Simple – Don’t overcomplicate the page with excessive navigation options.
  • Explain Why – Tell people why they are there, i.e., because the page they were looking for doesn’t exist.
  • Tell People What To Do – We know they are looking for something, so tell them to either:
    • Select from a list of available pages or
    • Utilize a search bar to find what they are looking for.
  • You can also include a small call-to-action to contact the firm if that is easier for them. You never want to lose out on a potential sale because people can’t get hold of you easily.

Here is a great walkthrough video of creating a custom 404 page in WordPress.

The most common redirect that every website uses is listed in the below example.

  1. http://www.yourlawfirm.com
  2. https://www.yourlawfirm.com
  3. http://yourlawfirm.com
  4. https://yourlawfirm.com

Each of the above addresses could be considered a different website, but to most businesses, they are all the same. That is because the website owner has put in place a redirect on the versions they don’t want. If number 4 is the way the firm prefers their address to look, then numbers 1, 2 and 3 should point to number 4.

  1. Canonicalization

A canonical tag tells the search engine which page is the original in case you have multiple versions. This is similar to a redirect, except if a visitor lands on a page that is not the original, they won’t be taken to the original. Instead, they will stay on the page. A redirect would automatically take the person to the page the redirect points people to. If you want the full technical breakdown on canonicalization, you can hear it from Matt Cutts.

  1. Crawl Budget

Every website is assigned a crawl budget. Websites that are more popular and get more traffic will have a larger crawl budget than smaller websites. If your website has more content than the crawl budget allows for, your entire website will not be crawled, which could lead to indexing issues. (Some pages may not be available to show in the search results because Google didn’t have enough time to find them on your site.)

Here are a few tips to ensure your website utilizes its crawl budget efficiently.

  1. Periodically review the content on your website and remove content that is not being used. If a page goes a full year and doesn’t get many organic visitors, then it might be a waste of space.
    1. Does that page target high-volume keywords but just doesn’t rank? Then you might not need to get rid of the page but instead work on rankings.
    2. Does that page rank for niche keywords with very low volume? In that case, the page may be worth keeping because it still adds value to the internet.
  2. Diligently Add Content – Don’t just write a bunch of content because you believe it is interesting. If people aren’t going to be searching for it, and you are adding it for an SEO purpose, then it is just a waste of space.
  3. Use The No-Index Tag – If you have content on your website that is not meant to rank in the search engines, add a no-index tag to that page. These could be PPC landing pages, category pages, or supplementary pages that add value once people get to your site but aren’t suited to rank.
  4. Consolidate Pages – Sometimes you can improve your organic traffic by consolidating pages that are similar.

Here is Google’s explanation on Crawl Budget.

  1. Website Speed

How fast your website loads is a ranking factor. There are two tools that I recommend using because they both provide different information.

The first is Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool. This tool is important because it is published by Google and tells you exactly how to improve your speed score.

Amazon Speed Score

The above is a snapshot for Amazon. I use that site to show you that even large websites don’t get perfect scores. If you can get your website to score a 90, then do it. A better score will give you a boost. But realize that speed is a push-pull conundrum. Amazon could easily make their site faster by removing all the functionality of the page, but that would kill the user experience of the site. So Amazon sacrifices speed to better meet the needs of its users, and they still rank very well.

The second tool that we recommend is GT Metrix. This tool provides an incredible amount of detail and offers ‘a second opinion’ on your site speed.

Most ways to improve the speed of your website require advanced knowledge of programming and WordPress management. This is not the type of work you want to do yourself.

  1. Google AMP

Google offers content publishers the option of hosting content on Google Servers. AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. This allows the page to load substantially faster. News publications must use Google AMP in order to rank No. 1. It is a requirement set by Google.

Law firms are less reliant on Google AMP. In fact, most law firms will not use AMP. The benefits just don’t outweigh the costs. AMP requires technical knowledge to implement correctly; AMP can impact backlinks which are critical to SEO; and the branding of the firm can suffer.

Unless your firm publishes a large amount of content, we don’t recommend Google AMP. Instead, focus on getting your website as fast as possible, provide an exceptional user experience and, above all else, have the best content possible.

  1. Mobile-First Indexing

In 2017, Google stated that they were going to begin indexing websites based on (1) what the bot finds on the mobile version of the website and then (2) the desktop version. This is in response to most of the internet traffic coming from phones. Google also mentioned this change was going to take several years to complete. In December of 2018, Google announced that over half of search results are now on mobile-first indexing.

In a nutshell, you need to pay just as much attention to the mobile version of your website as you do the desktop. This can be difficult for working professionals because we spend so much time on laptops or desktop computers.  We naturally use the full desktop experience more than potential law firm clients do. Here are a few things to look at:

  • Page Loading Speed
  • Ease of Navigation
  • Site Functionality
  • Ensuring that the content on mobile is the same well-written content from the desktop version.

More on Mobile First Indexing.

  1. Website Security

    1. Viruses & Malware – Keeping your website safe for website visitors is imperative. Fortunately, law firm websites are not prime targets for attacks, because they usually do not store personal information. That means there isn’t much financial opportunity in attacking a law firm website. Hosting your website with a host company like WP Engine is a good start. Yes, they are more expensive. But they also take a more proactive approach to keeping your website clean.
      1. Website Scan Tool
    2. Privacy & Disclaimer – Privacy laws in the USA are behind those of other developed nations. However, domestic laws are beginning to come under increased scrutiny. It is a best practice to let visitors know what information you are collecting and how you use it. Some jurisdictions, such as California, may require it. Here is a good guide to start putting together your policy.
    3. HTTP vs. HTTPS – Here is a direct quote from Google: “You should always protect all of your websites with HTTPS, even if they don’t handle sensitive communications.” That is cut and dried. HTTPS is a way to keep your visitors safe. This is accomplished by encrypting the connections with your website.
      1. To implement an HTTPS certificate, it is easiest to do it on the website’s host server.
  1. Last Updated Date

The freshness update by Google was most prominently seen by news organizations. This makes sense, because if you Google ‘Indiana Tornado,’ you most likely are asking about a recent tornado. So, Google wants to show results from the past several minutes, hours, or days. If someone Googles ‘Defense Lawyer,’ time is substantially less important. Still, there is evidence to suggest that the freshness update affected 35% of results.

Because of the reach of the freshness update, many SEOs believe it is important to list the date the page was last updated. The thought process behind this is that new content may rank better because Google will believe the most recently updated pages will provide the most accurate content.

The key concept with this is accurate content. We believe the most important thing is to ensure that your pages always have the most up-to-date information possible. If your site references old laws or statistics, then it isn’t providing information that users can trust, which Google may be able to detect.

It is a matter of preference whether you want to list the last updated date. There are arguments to be made on both sides.

  1. Uptime Monitoring

At a bare minimum, you or the agency you work with should be monitoring the website to ensure it is up and running as a whole. This usually means monitoring the homepage. But issues could arise on the other pages on your website. It is a good idea to set up a monitoring system to ensure the most important pages on your website are always available.

We recommend www.uptimerobot.com, which will let you monitor 50 pages for free.

  1. Clean Code / Programming

There really is no way for a layperson to know whether their website uses clean code. The best thing that you can do is not skimp out on the costs for a good programmer. Clean code has to do with accomplishing what it is that you want to accomplish, with as few lines of code as possible (as well as a few other things). The benefit of clean code is that it is easier to understand, especially when you weren’t the one that wrote it. This is true for both humans and bots. Cleaner code means bots can use it quicker.

  1. WordPress & Plugin Updates

WordPress is a phenomenal platform, but it does have some drawbacks. Since it is open source, you can do a lot with it with plugins. However, both WordPress and plugins need to be updated; and each time they are updated, there is a chance the website will break. This is also true for every time browsing software (Chrome, Firefox, Safari) is updated.

In regard to how this affects SEO, if your website is broken, it won’t provide a good user experience … if it provides anything at all.

Here are our best tips when it comes to the maintenance of your website:

  • Keep it simple.
  • Use plugins only if you absolutely need them.
  • Keep regular backups of the website.
  • Don’t update the WordPress or plugin software during normal business hours, in case something breaks.
  • Don’t ignore updates. This causes security issues and may make your plugins not play nicely with others.

Off-Site SEO

Ah, finally, the holy grail of SEO. This is what makes your website strong and can cause it to go from ranking on page 5 to ranking on page 1. Unfortunately, this is the hardest part of SEO, because it is never static. What works today may not work tomorrow, or it may even get you penalized.

Off-Site SEO: Backlinks

  1. What are backlinks and why are they important?

This is when a third-party website links back to your website.

Think of it like a high-school popularity contest. The kids in school with more friends were more popular. And the more popular their friends were, they would, in turn, become even more popular. Backlinks work the same way. The more backlinks to your website, the stronger your website becomes. The stronger the websites are that are link to you, the stronger your website will become.

  1. Why does Google secretly hate backlinks?

Because they have and always will be easy to manipulate. In the 2000s, SEOs would spend their day creating crappy websites and linking to all their clients, and it worked. The agencies that could build websites the fastest won. So, Google shut that down. Why? Just because a website has more backlinks doesn’t mean that business is the best at what they do. But that was the idea behind backlinks — surely websites that got more links were more popular.

Google had a long-term vision. They knew they couldn’t just kill backlinks altogether, but they needed to work toward an algorithm that could tell good links from bad links. It has taken almost two decades, but Google is finally getting close.

  1. What is Google moving toward?

Links are still important, but they need to come from relevant websites that are legitimate. Additionally, Google would love to move away from links, or at least diversify their algorithm even more so that they would be less susceptible to manipulation. Here are a few things that Google is trying to prioritize.

  • Reviews – These can be faked, but Google is getting better at finding fake reviews. Using fake reviews is also illegal and can put your bar license at risk. So, don’t try faking them.
  • Awards – Some are earned, and some are bought. At this stage it doesn’t matter too much, but eventually Google will be better at distinguishing the difference.
  • Authority – How can a law firm fake being in the news? Or fake getting a historic settlement? Or fake being a guest on podcasts? They can’t. And if Google can measure those things, their algorithm will provide a better experience for searchers.
  • Natural Links – Google always has wanted to use only natural links in its algorithms, but it is very difficult for Google to tell which links have been earned. A natural link is one that the firm had nothing to do with. Perhaps a third-party website owner decided that your content was so good, they wanted to reference it in content they wrote.
  1. Can law firms get natural links?

Not very often, and not enough to be competitive. It is an issue of supply and demand. Legal content is not in demand, but there are a ton of law firms trying to compete online. If you don’t try, it won’t happen. Here are a few ways that natural links can and do occur.

  • Legitimate News – If you ever have something big happen, make the most of it.
  • Networking – A friend knows you and so decides to use your content.
  • A Unique Idea for Content – This is hard, because unique content is expensive and there are no guarantees people will be interested in it. So, is it worth spending money on something that might not work, as opposed to other areas that are more guaranteed? Additionally, people still need to get exposed to the content you create. So just because you make it, doesn’t mean the right people will find it.
    • Original research and data fall into this category as well.
  1. How can you tell if a backlink is good?

That is the magic question whose answer is forever changing. It is best not to rely on a single source, but to look at a few different factors.

  • Does the link make sense? – This is a simple question to ask. Are you a personal injury lawyer getting a link on a restaurant’s website in China? That would be a bad link.
  • Differentiation – Looking at the links your competitors have is a good place to start. But how does Google determine who to rank if the links are the same across all websites? You need to get links that your competitors don’t have.
  • Does the website look legit? – Many websites built just for links look awful. Is there a purpose to the website? Can you envision someone bookmarking this site and referencing it often? If the website has no appeal, why would you want a link from it?
  • Relevance – This is a bit tricky. It would be great if we could get nothing but links from legal websites. However, there just aren’t that many legal websites to work with, and most lawyers will get links from those sites. So, getting a link from those sites won’t help differentiate you. Let’s pretend you are a divorce lawyer. It might make sense to have a link on a blog for moms, especially if that post discusses the issues that moms should consider before filing for divorce.
  • Domain Rating (DR) or Domain Authority (DA) – There are a few software companies that provide metrics which guess how strong a website is. The problem with this is that those metrics are easy to manipulate. So, websites that intend to sell links will heavily inflate the metric so they can charge a higher price for links. A DR 50 website will charge more than a DR 20 for a link. Using DR or DA as part of the process is okay — it just can’t be the sole factor that is looked at.
  • Organic Traffic – This is an excellent metric to look at and is the trendiest variable SEOs are talking about. Some SEO tools will guess how much traffic a website gets based on the keywords it is currently ranking for. If you get links from websites that have organic traffic, that site is likely a strong website.
    • Page Level – Those SEO tools will report on organic traffic at the site and page level. Obviously, you have no idea what a link will get you until the content goes live. But if you can get links from pages that people are actively reading, that is better than some random page on a site even if that site gets traffic on other pages.
      • Click-Through – The absolute best-case scenario is that people read the article where your link is and then click on that link to come to your site. This means the website is high quality and the content was so good that it got people interested in your law firm.
    • Locality – Getting links from other local websites can help. This sends strong geographic signals to Google and helps set your firm up as a local authority.
  1. List of Link Sources

Put simply, the easier a link is to obtain, the less SEO value it is likely to provide.

  • Link Exchanges (Reciprocal) – “I give you a link if you give me a link.” These typically cancel each other out.
  • Link Networks – Owning 20 different websites and linking them all together. This could also be called a link wheel.
    • A dead giveaway is if all the websites are hosted on the same server.
  • Directories – Good, high-authority directories are okay. But getting 100 links from low-quality directories that exist only to provide backlinks is bad.
  • Comments and Forums – Going to websites and posting worthless answers that link to your website won’t help.
    • What does have some validity is creating well-thought-out answers on reputable websites. (AVVO and Quora are two websites that have Q&A sections.) This does two things. First, it increases your authority online if people respond well to your answer. Second, it may help SEO if people click-through the answer to your website.
  • Bookmark Websites – There are websites that exist just to post a link on.
  • Self-Publish Websites – Getting links on websites that allow you to publish your own content won’t help. A classic example is blogger.com.
  • Guest Posts
    • Purchased – There are a plethora of companies that will sell you links on blogging websites. Most often these are low-quality Private Blog Networks (PBN). That is a fancy way of saying a website that exists only to sell links.
    • Outreach – This works by contacting website owners and asking whether they would be interested in content. If they are, you supply them with content that happens to include a link to your website. Most website owners are onto the game and will often require a posting fee, though this is technically against Google’s rules.
  • Profile Links – Many websites will allow you to have a profile page. These don’t do much for you, because Google can tell whether a link is coming from a profile. Google understands these are easy to obtain.
  • Curated Links – These links are typically purchased through a vendor or directly from a website owner. This is a link that gets placed on an old piece of content. These can be harmful if it is obvious the link doesn’t fit. Because website owners must browse through their old content and find a sentence where they can squeeze a link in, these links often feel forced.
  • Awards – There are hundreds of awards for attorneys. Most of these offer a link on the website, and most of these awards are more or less purchased. It is debatable how much these links help, but it should also be noted that Google specifically says they reward businesses who have been given awards. Our professional opinion is that these are good to get for now, but will likely be devalued over time as Google figures out which ones are earned and which are purchased.
  • Sponsorships, Donations & Charitable Giving – Many websites will give you a link if you sponsor their business. This could be a scholarship, buying a booth at a conference, making a donation, or sponsoring an event. These aren’t bad links to get. But don’t expect a lot out of them either. Supporting your community is a good thing to do, which helps strengthen the firm’s place in that community. This will help SEO but should be a small portion of your overall link-building effort.
  • Resource Links – These are good links to get if you can find the opportunity. Many websites want to make it easy for their own readers to get the help or information they need. They will often have a resource page that links to various businesses that may suit their readers’ needs.
  • PowerPoint, Infographics & Other Media – There are many websites that exist to promote various forms of media. The idea behind these sites is to act as a repository where people can go if they are looking for that media. An example is dailyinfographic.com. If other website owners want to feature an infographic in their content, they may go to that website to find one to use. There are dozens of similar sites. The benefit is that you get a link on that site but also may pick up additional links if authors use your infographic on their own site.
  • Sponsored Content – This is content that is sponsored by the firm. Most often this content is on news websites and sold directly by the media company. Here is an example in a Dallas newspaper: https://www.dallasnews.com/sponsored. At one point, these worked well. However, this is something Google can detect, and they understand that the content was paid for. These aren’t bad links to get, but they won’t directly improve SEO.
  • Naturally Procured – These links are created by other people who find your content and decide to link to it on their own. These are extremely rare for lawyers.
  1. Anchor-Text Strategies

One of the ways that SEOs would spam the Google algorithm was through manipulating anchor text. SEOs figured out that if the anchor was ‘Car Accident Lawyer,’ the law firm would be more likely to rank for that exact phrase. Therefore, Google has built into their algorithm ways to discourage this tactic. Anchor text is important, but it is best to use anchor text that appears natural. If you were the author, how would you type the anchor text to help your readers the most?

Here are the different categories for anchor text:

  • Branded – This is the name of the firm or attorneys. This is an extremely safe anchor text to use.
  • Naked URL – This is the URL of the link.
  • Generic – Click Here, Website, Visit Us…
  • Rich – A good rule of thumb is to keep your rich anchors to 5% or less of your anchors.
    • Exact – If your targeted keyword is ‘Car Accident Lawyer,’ then an exact-match anchor would be ‘Car Accident Lawyer.’
    • Partial – Example: lawyer with experience in car accidents.
    • LSI – Car Accident Attorney, Car Accident Law Firm
  • Reference – This is a clever anchor to use. Find phrasing on the page you are linking to and use it as the anchor. Statistics or quotes are good for this.
  • Page Title – Use the full page title, which will include your targeted keyword.
  1. How do you know which page on your site to build links to?

There are two situations in which you are going to build links:

  • Natural Process – By natural process, we mean that the opportunity has presented itself through your normal business operations. Nine times out of ten, you are going to link to your homepage or the attorney biography page. Additionally, you will almost always use the name of the firm or attorney as anchor text. Here are a few situations that would fall under the natural process category:
    • Won an award, signed up for a directory, made a donation, or quoted in the news.
  • Deliberate Link-Building – You are gaining the link because you are trying to increase the SEO value of your website. Here are three basic outcomes you may want to achieve through link-building:
    • Increase Authority of the Firm – The site has its own authority, which derives some of that authority through every link that is coming into the website. However, the links coming to the homepage are particularly important.
    • Increase Rankings for a Specific Page – If you want your DUI Page to rank for DUI Keywords, then you need to build links to the DUI Page.
      • Indirect Approach – Alternatively, you could build links to other pages or posts that reference your DUI page. By building up the strength of other pages on your site, you can pass some of that strength to your more important pages by inner linking.
        • Example: Build links to a page that discusses what happens with a third offense. Then link that page to the main DUI page.
      • Increase Authority of an Attorney – This is a new concept, but it is believed that the authority of individual attorneys may begin to affect rankings. This means you may need to build up the authority of the biography pages by building links to those.
  1. How many links does my website need? What about quality of links?

This is entirely dependent on the competition. However, since Google implemented YMYL, if your website does not meet a certain threshold for authority, it may not rank.

In order to find out how many links you need to build, you will need to use a tool like Ahrefs to analyze your competitor. Don’t just look at the site as a whole — also look at the links coming in to individual pages. How many links does the competitor’s page have? How much organic traffic do the pages that link to the competitor get? What about the organic traffic for the entire site for those links? What is the linking site’s Domain Rating?

When analyzing a competitor’s links, you can’t merely count them. This is not an easy or quick analysis. You must look at each individual link to evaluate the quality of the link. The firm may be pursuing link-building tactics that no longer work, or bots may be creating spammy links, or they may be using black hat techniques that you don’t want to mimic. We will frequently evaluate a page with over a hundred links and find that only five will be authoritative.

  1. Don’t build links too quickly.

If your website didn’t get a single link for six months and then all of a sudden it gets 10, that isn’t very natural. SEO takes time … don’t rush it. Look at the velocity of inbound links that your competitors have and build up to that. Keep in mind that if you merely match your competitors, you may never catch up. So, to beat them, you will need to build more links, better links, or both.

Off-Site SEO: Reviews

For an agency, these are incredibly frustrating, because we have very little control over them. The firm must take an active role in generating reviews and managing their online reputation. Agencies can help, but they can’t do it for you. Reviews are a ranking factor. If you do not have reviews, the likelihood of ranking is slim. If you have bad reviews on average, the likelihood of ranking is even worse.

  1. Offense is your best strategy.

Every law firm gets bad reviews. We have seen…

  • Competitors leave reviews.
  • People leave reviews for the wrong law firm with a similar name.
  • The family of a victim leaves a bad review for a defense attorney.
  • A person who got a $2 million settlement but thought they deserved more.
  • People who are mad because the firm wouldn’t take their case.
  • Random strangers that didn’t like a Facebook post.
  • Random strangers that no one has heard of.
  • We saw a person create 20+ fake Google accounts over the course of three months. And then they had their friends do the same thing.

If your firm has 10 positive reviews before it inevitably gets a bad review, it is much easier to deal with.

  1. Respond to every review, good or bad.

Many attorneys do not want to respond. Often, they are afraid of stirring up more ‘crazy,’ or sometimes they don’t want to breach confidentiality. There are ways to minimize the likelihood of either of these things.

  • Keep your response short. If the review was positive, it could be as simple as ‘Thank you!’
  • Don’t mention any specifics about the case. Don’t say you appreciated their business; this reveals the working relationship.
  • For bad reviews, empathize with them so they feel heard, and speak generically. Pretend you are speaking to the people reading the review, not the person who wrote it.
    • “We are sorry our firm has not met your expectations. Each case is unique. We would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you directly. Please call the firm at…”
  • Be cautious of other online tips with reviews. They are generic and may not work for law firms.
    • Address the person by name – This is borderline acceptable and makes the review more personable. The downside is it starts to creep on confidentiality.
    • Include Keywords – There is a theory that using the keywords in reviews will help your firm rank better for those keywords. The downside is that it could reveal how you helped them, which would break confidentiality and privacy.
    • Don’t Take Responsibility – Publicly admitting to wrongdoing isn’t a great idea. Instead, discuss how you take your work seriously.
  1. Where should law firms get reviews?

There are many different places from which you can and should get reviews. If you have a particularly loyal client, they can certainly leave a good review in more than one place. A good goal is to get 10% of your clients to leave a review, so getting two might be stretching it with most clients. Here is where we recommend getting reviews, listed in priority order:

  • Google – It should be no surprise that Google tops the list. This is where most of your website traffic will come from, and it is likely that Google weights reviews on its own platform as being more important.
  • Facebook – The second-most common place that people will see your law firm is Facebook. The other reason why getting reviews on Facebook is a good idea is that most people have a Facebook account. Making it easy for people to review your firm is important.
  • AVVO – This is a good source because AVVO has a system that makes soliciting reviews easy. AVVO frequently ranks in the search engines when people search for your firm or attorneys.
  • Paid Directories – If your firm is paying to be in a directory, and that directory allows people to leave reviews, your firm should get reviews on that directory. People use directories because they want to compare firms or attorneys. You need to stand out, otherwise you are wasting money with that directory.
  • Yelp –Their filter is extremely sensitive, so it is likely that the majority of reviews you get on that platform will not be shown. However, Yelp is used frequently, though not as frequently for law firms as for businesses like restaurants. Because of how difficult it is to get reviews to stick, we do not recommend asking people to review your firm on Yelp. Asking for reviews on Yelp is also against Yelp’s guidelines. The danger is that if you end up getting one bad review on Yelp, it is extremely difficult to get good reviews to bring up your star rating.
  1. How can law firms get more reviews?

Ask every client. If you don’t ask, you can expect as few as 1% of clients to leave a review. If you ask, you should be able to get 10%. In addition to your first request, you should send follow-up requests. You don’t want to harass your clients, but sending one or two follow ups after the initial suggestion is not going to be intrusive. People are used to being asked for a review; they understand the importance of reviews to businesses. There is software available to help with this process, or you can manually send out emails or text messages.

  1. Fake Reviews Suck But Should Be Expected

It is estimated that 52% of reviews on Walmart and 30% of reviews on Amazon are fake, according to Fakespot. While these two sites do not impact attorneys, it should be alarming that reviews are this easy to fake.

What is more troublesome for attorneys is when competitors get fake positive reviews. When a competitor inflates their reviews, it can be hard to compete.

Another problem we have run into is when an agency gets fake reviews for a law firm but doesn’t let the law firm know. This can jeopardize the bar license of the attorneys. We have uncovered fake reviews for some of our audit clients, and they were quite surprised.

What is even more frustrating is getting fake reviews removed, because there is very little that can be done. If the review does not violate the guidelines of the review site, there is nothing you can do. There are some things you can look for in the review; if they are present in the review, then you have a chance of getting it removed. If these are not present, it isn’t worth your time. Google Review Guidelines.  Look for …

  • Profanity
  • Not a Customer – For example, we got a review removed because they revealed they were a friend of the client, not the actual client.
  • Threatening

If the firm believes they have a case, there are two things that can be done:

  • Flag the review as inappropriate.
  • Request a review on Google’s spam forum.
    • This forum is a good place to report other firms that may be breaking Google’s guidelines when it comes to reviews or their Google My Business profile.

Website Design & Programming Impact on SEO

This section is not intended to tell you how to design your website. It only covers a few design components that can heavily impact rankings.

  1. Navigation Must Be Easy & Familiar

The website may be easy to use, but if it isn’t familiar, people will give up and move on to the next law firm website. Marketing prospects do not have loyalty. You need to make it easy for them to find the information they want.

  • Use a standard main navigation header. Many firms want to look different, so they have a left sidebar main navigation because no other firms do that. The reason other firms don’t do that is that people expect your main navigation to be at the top. Google knows this, and your website rankings may be harder to maintain if your navigation is non-standard.
    • Navigation is not where you want to be different.
  1. Keep your programming simple.

Another way law firms fall victim to wanting to be different is through programming. Having a really cool animation or various forms of movement is nice; but if it hurts your SEO, is it worth having? The problem is that additional programming slows down the site, is subject to breaking when other updates to the site occur and can detract from the main message you are trying to get across.

  1. Limit the use of popups.

These are intrusive and slow people down from accomplishing what they want. If they can’t find the X or are just plain annoyed, they are going to leave your website.

  1. Make Sure Your Text is Readable

Content needs to be readable on both desktop and mobile. Small text, broken design elements, or poor color combinations can make words difficult to read.

Measuring Success

No tracking mechanism is 100% accurate. No tracking mechanism will give you all the information you need. The same can be said of the various SEO tools available. You can buy software that is a Swiss Army Knife of features, but none of those features are going to be industry leading. To get the most complete picture about your SEO campaign, you are going to have to piece the right information together and make some judgment calls.

  1. How to appropriately use Google Analytics.

This software is free and provides data about what happens on your website. It can tell you how people arrived at your site, what pages they viewed, how long they were on the site, and some basic demographics about who they are (among other things).

We highly recommend that you monitor the total number of organic visitors to your website over time. Additionally, we recommend that you track this on national, state, and local levels. If your firm is in Denver and you want cases only in Denver, then overall national traffic is not going to be meaningful. Within the past year, Google has begun to rank high-performing pages on a national level. Ranking nationally is a good thing, as Google clearly views your website as authoritative in at least one area. But looking only at national traffic can set your firm up to misinterpret meaningful performance.

Depending on your desire for complexity, the above may be all you need if you want only a high-level view. If you would like to be more granular, you can also track organic traffic to specific page paths and/or pages. For example, this would give you information on just the Medical Malpractice page, as well as all pages combined that are in the Medical Malpractice directory.

If you want to understand Google Analytics enough to troubleshoot the website, we suggest getting certified. Google provides a free training course which you can access here.

  1. Are keywords important anymore?

Yes, but realize that search is highly personalized. What you see in your results is not going to be the same as someone else, or another piece of software. Keyword rankings give you one more insight into the performance of your campaign. Here is our best advice for keywords.

  • Rankings go up, and rankings go down.
  • Don’t fixate on any one, single keyword. No firm ranks for all the keywords they are targeting. For every yin, there is a yang.
  • Rankings can be different for Desktop and Mobile.
  • Track your map rankings separately.
  1. Google My Business has its own set of analytics.

Many firms don’t realize that GMB has its own analytics that are separate from Google Analytics. It is worth giving this data a look to see how your listing is performing over time. To access this data, visit https://business.google.com and click on Insights once you have logged in. (It can be found in the left-hand navigation.)

Insights will let you know how many people saw your listing, whether they searched for your brand or for a service you are associated with, how many people asked for directions or called your firm, and it will also tell you what people searched for to find you.

  1. TRACK YOUR LEADS! TRACK YOUR CASES!

For decades, marketers have been telling law firms to track their leads. Most law firms do not take that advice. It is critically important so that you know if you are getting a good return on your marketing dollars. With SEO, there are typically three ways you can be contacted:

  • Phone – Utilize a call-tracking service such as Call Rail. There are some complicated setups you can get into, but at a minimum you should have a dedicated phone number that appears only on your website. If someone calls you on that number, it will be clear that they came from your website.
  • Chats and Forms – These are easy because they are built into the site itself. If you get one of these, you know it came from the website.

At a minimum, you should track where inquiries are coming from and see how that changes over time. Are the inquiries going up or down? Are they affected by the seasons? Ideally, your firm will also take the time to determine which of those leads actually became cases.

There will always be bleed-over from other forms of marketing or from referrals. It is very likely that a referral may look you up online before contacting you. Thus, they could get wrongly categorized as a marketing lead. There is also the potential that the person got two or three referrals and chose you because you showed up first. So, you might categorize them as a referral because they told you they came from ‘so and so,’ but your SEO helped seal the deal.

Adapting to Change

SEO is one of the fasting-changing forms of marketing. It is why SEO is hard and frustrating for many firms. It is important to keep up to date on the industry’s latest trends. The below should help keep you as up to date as we are.

  • Marie Haynes – She produces an outstanding newsletter. There is a free version and a paid version, which is worth the cost.
  • Search Engine Journal – This a typical industry news website. I set my browser’s homepage to it. This site is a great way to stay up to date on the industry. One caveat is that many of the articles are a bit watered down for my taste, but they’re still accurate.
  • Search Engine Roundtable – This is one of the top publications for SEO news, if not the top publication.
  • MOZ Whiteboard Friday – This is another staple of good information on SEO, and one that all SEOs are familiar with.
  • SEO Mythbusters – This is a new YouTube channel that is created by Google. It is very promising thus far.
  • Google Webmaster Guidelines – Hear directly from Google about what isn’t allowed. This link will also get you to the community help section for Google.
  • Google SEO Starter Guide – Exactly as it sounds, a guide written by Google.
  • Quora – This is a question-and-answer forum which an excellent place to find information or ask your own questions. You can also ask anonymously, which may be beneficial.
  • Warrior Forum – This is an SEO-specific forum. It is a hangout for all sorts of characters. If you know what you are doing, it is a great place to test ideas and get feedback. Not all ‘experts’ are really experts.
  • Top Googlers Twitter Accounts
  • Content Marketing Institute – For all things content, you can’t beat the CMI.

SEO Tools, Software & Vendors

  • All-In-One Software
    • MOZ – I think their interface is probably the easiest to use for a law firm. It is as simple as you are going to get. The downside to MOZ is that their index for backlinks is not as complete as other options, which makes competitive analysis difficult. They have also been slow to adapt to industry changes at various times.
    • SEMRush – This tool is a headliner when it comes to SEO tools. It does not have much to help you with competitor backlink analysis. But it does have a nice content brief tool which helps you understand the keywords you are going to need on each page of content.
    • Ahrefs – This is the tool that most SEO agencies rely on. The downside is that it can be a little technical, even though their interface is easy to use.
    • Enterprise Solutions – These software options are expensive but high quality. For an agency, they are overkill, what amounts to a Swiss Army Knife when what we really need is a scalpel. For a law firm that is spending a ton of money on advertising and doing it in-house, these might be a good option because it will simplify the managerial aspect of running a campaign in-house.
    • Linkbuilding
      • Majestic – This tool separates itself from the rest of the pack by offering relevancy metrics, citation flow, and citation trust. You can read more about CF/TF or relevancy.
      • SEO Jet – This is a neat little tool that will help develop a plan for building backlinks. It is not 100% perfect, and some of the features don’t work like you would expect. The interface is a bit wonky at times, as well. But if you are looking for a way to keep track of your backlinking efforts and you want to simplify that process, it is a good tool to add to your arsenal.
      • Linkbuilding Vendors – Buyer beware! Buying links is against Google Guidelines. If you insist on going down that path, here you go.
      • PR and Contact Databases
        • 24-7 Press Release – This is the most affordable option for press releases. If you have legitimate news to get out, it is a good option.
        • Meltwater – They have a wide array of different products available to help out with public relations. For most law firms, this would be too much. If you are with a larger law firm that would benefit from having the contact information for some of the largest media brands, then this might make sense.
          • These are other options that do the same, more or less.
          • NAP, Citations, & Reviews
            • Yext – They were one of the first on the scene with citation management.
            • Bright Local – Mass citation building is no longer as important as it used to be, but this is still a good option to submit your info to the major aggregators when needed. They are also working on review generation.
            • Synup – This is a low-cost option to manage your listings and reviews in a single place.
            • Podium – Every interaction, one platform. At least that is their slogan. This software combines numerous tools like chat and review generation.
              • BirdEye – This is a similar solution.
            • Rank Tracking
              • Rank Trackr – This is an affordable yet capable system for tracking your rankings. Most law firms would be better off signing up with an all-in-one software.
            • AI For Content – These tools are relatively new to the scene.
              • Frase – This is a lower-cost option if you just want a little help putting together your content.
              • Market Muse – This software does more than just help you write content; it helps you manage your on-site content as well. The software is not cheap, but it provides some tools you won’t find anywhere else.
              • Clearscope – Here is another option if you want some help ensuring that your content is on par with competitors’.
            • Contractor and Freelance Help
              • UpWork – This is a catch-all platform for any type of contactor you can imagine. If you need to find an expert, you can find it here.
              • Writers Access – This is a well-put-together platform that allows law firms to contract out writing, proofing, editing, and translating.
              • 99 Designs – If you need some basic design work, like a logo, this is a good place to get started. The quality is going to be rather generic; this is not a high-end option. But if you need something simple or have a low budget, it is a good place to look.
              • FiverR – This is another popular place to find contractors that advertise niche offerings.
            • Chat and Call Tracking
              • Ngage – This is one of the oldest providers of chat for law firms.
              • Apex –The main competitor to Ngage, it also got its start with law firms.
              • Juvo Leads – This is a good option if you want to combine phone call tracking, form tracking, and chat.
              • Call Rail – Because it has many features, this is a fantastic platform to use. For instance, you can have the 800 number forwarded to your office during the day but to your cell at night or on the weekends.
              • What Converts –A slightly more affordable option to Call Rail, especially for 800 numbers, this doesn’t have as many advanced features.
            • Customer Relationship Manager
              • Lead Docket – If your existing intake manager lacks sophisticated reporting for sales, this is an excellent tool to add. Our clients that use it say it is worth having, because it helps them feel more in control of where their cases are coming from. Lead Docket helps automate the process of tracking leads and following up.
              • Algoroo – This is a nifty tool that shows you how volatile the rankings are — as in, how much are the rankings changing? If there is a large amount of volatility, then dramatic changes to the algorithm could be taking place.