Local SEO Guide for Attorneys: 5 Steps to Rank Higher in Google

/Local SEO Guide for Attorneys: 5 Steps to Rank Higher in Google
Local SEO Guide for Attorneys: 5 Steps to Rank Higher in Google 2017-11-12T10:14:41+00:00

Whether you practice law in a metropolitan area or a small town, you already know the importance of high rankings in local search results. While this may sound like an “easier said than done” proposition, there is a proven 5-step search engine optimization (SEO) process that can maximize your visibility in local search results and put your law practice in front of clients who are looking for your services.
Local SEO for Lawyers

But before we go into this process, let’s consider why local SEO has to be a primary focus of the marketing initiatives for your practice:

3 Reasons Lawyers Should Invest in Local SEO

Reason #1. The Yellow Pages are Dead – Long Live Google!

Gone are the days of looking for professional service providers in a Yellow Pages book. Today, when people look for an attorney the vast majority will search online – if people can’t find you there, the prevailing assumption will be that your practice doesn’t exist. Still need convincing? Here are 4 local search stats from Google

  • 20% of all search queries are for local businesses
  • 40% of all mobile searches are for local businesses
  • 50% of mobile searches for local businesses are followed by a visit or another type of contact
  • 97% of consumers search for local businesses online – yep, only 3% are not searching online

Reason #2. Free Traffic that is Looking for Your Services

Ranking at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) on Google provides the opportunity to convert free visitors into paying clients. The constant flow of free traffic makes local SEO one of the best marketing/advertising investments you can make for your law practice.

Reason #3. Local SEO Can Deliver Fast Results

When you are competing on a national or international basis, getting ranked at the top of Google’s SERPs can take 6 months to a year. However, positive results often come much faster on the local front for three reasons.

1) Many attorneys aren’t paying attention to local SEO at all
2) Many that are trying to do some SEO aren’t following best practices
3) By following the steps detailed in this article, getting on the first page for local rankings can happen within 30 days.

With that being said, here are the 5 steps to building a local SEO campaign that can put your practice at the top of local search results, attract your targeted clients and increase your revenues.

Key #1. Keyword research

The keywords that will serve as the foundation for your SEO campaign will be directly related to the legal services provided by your practice. For example, your keywords might include “estate planning attorney” or “criminal defense lawyer.” After developing your list of keywords, set up an account with Google’s AdWords platform.

Don’t worry, you won’t be paying to advertise with Google – setting up an account gives you access to the search engine’s free Keyword Planner tool, which can be used to get additional keyword ideas and to identify the search terms that will deliver the best results for your local SEO campaign.

There are 2 keyword categories related to legal practices:

1) Hiring intent

Hiring intent keywords should be prioritized in your local SEO campaign because they signal that a search is being done for the purpose of taking some sort of action. For example, a keyword like “estate planning attorney” indicates that the person doing the search is ready to hire an attorney.

Hiring intent keywords should be used to optimize the homepage on your website, as well as the pages that describe the services offered by your practice.

2) Research intent

Keywords that indicate research intent are primarily used for gathering information or learning about a topic. These keywords are much less likely to result in an action being taken after the search. For example, if a person searches “Do I need a will?” they aren’t necessarily ready to speak to an attorney – they’re just doing research.

Research intent keywords can add value as topics for blogs or the FAQ page on your site. While these keywords are less likely to result in conversions, they can be used as branding materials and to build awareness of your practice.

Key #2. Optimizing Your Keywords

Your keywords will be optimized both on and off your website. The first page to prioritize that is not on your website will be your Google My Business page. You will then want to optimize the “core pages” (Home and Services) on your site, followed by your content pages (the blog and FAQ section).

Your Google My Business Page

You are probably familiar with Google My Business pages – they are the ones that show up in the “Maps” results for local attorney searches. Optimizing your Google My Business page will deliver 2 key benefits in your SEO initiatives. First, optimizing this page creates a mini-site for your practice within the Google framework. The second benefit of optimizing your Google My Business page is that it’s often faster and easier to get a Google My Business page to the top of Google rankings than it is for the pages from your site.

Here are 6 tips to get this page optimized:

Verify Your Practice

To optimize and edit your profile page, you must first claim and verify your practice/business with Google. This step has already been completed if you see a checkmark and the word “Verified” next to the name of your business on your “Google My Business” dashboard. If your practice hasn’t been verified, click the “Verify Now” prompt on your dashboard. Depending on the particulars of your practice, Google will either send a text to your phone or a postcard to your office address with a code that can be entered on your dashboard to complete the verification of your practice.

Name, Address and Phone Number

The name, address and phone number of your practice should be consistent on your Google My Business page, your website, other web pages and directory listings (including your Facebook page, Yellow Pages and other online listings). Use the official address of your firm to ensure that your office location is mapped properly. Always use a local phone number as your area code will be one of the indicators that Google uses to make sure you have a local presence.

Categories

When you are selecting your business categories, Google’s guidelines for local pages call for categories that describe the services offered by your practice, but not the results of those services. For example, you could add a category for “estate planning”, but not “reducing estate taxes”. You’ll want to include all of the relevant categories for your practice.

Some examples of available Google My Business categories for lawyers are:

  • Bankruptcy Attorney
  • Divorce Lawyer
  • Employment Attorney
  • Estate Planning Attorney
  • Family Law Attorney
  • General Practice Attorney
  • Immigration Attorney
  • Labor Relations Attorney
  • Lawyer
  • Trial Attorney

In this step, you’ll want to pick the 3-5 categories that are most relevant to the services offered by your practice.

Description

The description provides a brief introduction of your practice to prospective clients. You can think of this description as an “elevator speech” about your practice that includes the services you offer, the history of your practice, the reasons that clients choose to work with you and a call to action. Be sure to incorporate all of the hiring intent keywords related to your legal services/specialties.

An example format for your Google My Business description would be: {Name of Practice} offers professional {list legal services} in {Your City}. {Provide some information about the history of your practice, and/or why clients choose you.} Call {Phone Number} today for a free consultation!

Try to keep your description to about 100-200 words in length.

Hours

Like your business name, address and phone number, make sure the hours of operation posted on all of your online listings are accurate and uniform. If your practice offers after-hours services, list times and contact information separately.

Images

Google My Business allows several pictures to be displayed on your page, as well as the logo for your practice. In addition to the logo for your practice, consider adding a group shot of the lawyers in your office and head shots of partners in the firm. Make sure your images have a sharp focus, are sized between 10KB and 5MB, and have a minimum resolution of 720px x 720px. We also recommend replacing the generic Google My Business background image with a branded image.

Optimizing Your Website

Optimizing your website starts with the homepage and service pages. Referred to as your “core pages”, the goal here is to integrate the keywords that prospective clients are using to search for the services offered by your practice. Specifically, the primary focus will be to integrate hiring intent keywords on your core pages.

Home page

For SEO purposes, the most important element to optimize on your homepage is the title tag, which is also referred to as the page title.

Title tag

The title tag isn’t visible on the page; it is displayed on the web browser after your root URL. Title tags are also shown as the blue text that is underlined when web pages are shown in Google’s search results.

The title tags for each page on your site work in the same way as chapter titles in a book, with the title tag on the home page serving as the title of the book. Because the title tag for the home page is an essential element of the SEO process, you’ll want to optimize it for your primary keyword.

If you’re unsure of what your primary keyword is, think about the most basic keyword people would use to search for a lawyer in your area. An example of a primary keyword would be “Lawyer (or Attorney) in {Your City}”. You can start this step by developing a list of category/location keywords, and then check them against data from Google’s Keyword Planner to determine the phrases that prospective clients are using to search for practices like yours.

A fully optimized title tag for your home page will include 3 pieces of information; category, location and the name of your practice. The format would look like this: Lawyer in {Your City} | {Name of Your Practice}. For example, if you’re a lawyer in NYC and the name of your practice is “The Manhattan Law Group”, your title tag might be: Lawyer in NYC | The Manhattan Law Group. Generally speaking, the ideal length of your title tags should be 50-65 characters.

Meta description

The meta description, like the title tag, is another essential SEO component that isn’t visible on the page – it’s the text that Google shows below the blue underlined link in the search results that highlights the services you provide. You can think of the meta description as the text that will convince prospective clients that your practice offers the best solution for their inquiries.

An example of a meta description format would be: {Name of Practice} offers professional {list legal services} in {Your City}. Call {Phone Number} today to schedule your free consultation! A sample meta description might look like: The Manhattan Law Group offers professional estate planning legal services in New York City. Call 212-XXX-XXXX to schedule your free consultation! The meta description should be 100-150 character in length.

H1
The next optimization steps involve the content on your homepage that will be seen by your visitors. Start with the headline on the page. Also known as the “H1”, the headline should be descriptive, concise, and include the primary keyword for your practice. A sample format for the headline would be, {Type of Law Practice} in {City, State}. Using this format, the headline might read: Estate Planning Services in NYC.

Body copy

Your home page should have a minimum of 200 words of copy, but 500 to 1000 words will provide the best results for SEO purposes. The content on your homepage should provide an expanded description of your practice, including background information, the various services offered by your firm and at least one mention of your primary keyword. In addition to these SEO measures, write professional copy that reads naturally, is compelling, and encourages your prospective clients to contact you.

There are other minor tweaks that you can make to your home page for SEO purposes, but these are the main ones.

Service Pages

The first thing to do regarding your service pages is to avoid the common mistake of listing all of your services with brief descriptions on one page. Pages written in this manner rarely rank in search results because of the dilution created when content is spread out over multiple subjects. Instead, you’ll get much better SEO results by creating a single page for each service with a detailed description. Each of these pages should be 500 to 1,000 words in length.

For example, if you provide family trust and estate management services, a separate page should be created for each one. You can also add sub-pages for highly specific types of services, such as durable power of attorney. These types of specific, targeted pages will then be returned on search engine results pages when prospective clients search for your services.

The same elements that were optimized on the home page should also be optimized on each service page. These elements include:

  • Relevant keywords
  • The title tag
  • The meta description
  • The header (H1)
  • Content on the page

Important: While the optimization steps for your core pages are the same, it is essential that each page of your website has a unique title tag, meta description and content. Any duplication of these elements across your website is likely to hinder your SEO efforts and may prevent your web pages from ranking higher in Google.

Content Pages

Content pages (which we refer to as “content assets”) are informational pages outside of your home page and service pages. One of the key differences between content pages and core pages is that your content pages will include keywords that signal research intent versus the hiring intent keywords that were integrated on your core pages.

To find the research intent keywords that are both relevant to you practice and driving traffic, go back to Google’s Keyword Planner Tool. Once there, you can enter keywords that are related to your services and identify the topics that are currently being researched. For example, if your practice provides family trust services, you might find that people are searching “do I need a will?” or “what is a family trust?” You could then create a dedicated page on your website that explains what family trusts are and how they work.

Where should you host these pages on your website?

Setting up a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section on your website is a great way to share your expertise and introduce your firm to people who may become clients at a later date. To get started, make a list of the questions that are commonly asked in initial consultations and other meetings with clients. If your clients are asking these questions, the odds are good that other people are asking them online as well. The optimal format for your FAQ section is to set up a main page of questions with links to the answers, which are hosted on separate pages. Generally speaking, each question-and-answer should have a minimum of 100 words ranging up to 1000 words (or as much content as you need to provide an answer to the question).

Writing a blog provides the opportunity to post content on your website as well. In addition to providing another channel to share information, Google tends to reward sites that consistently post fresh content. We recommend going a bit more in-depth with your blog posts, with word counts ranging from 300 words to several thousand words (for very detailed articles, like the one you’re reading now!)

Like the core pages, be sure to optimize your content pages with unique title tags, meta descriptions and well-written content that incorporates the relevant keywords.

Key #3. Citations and Links

At this point you have created your local SEO foundation by optimizing your website and Google My Business page. The next step, which will start separating your practice from the competition, is to build on that foundation with citations and links.

Citations

Citations are mentions of your practice’s Name, Address and Phone number (also known as your “NAP”) on sites around the web. You can start this process by making sure that you have included your NAP on your website, specifically the contact page and the footer of each page.

You can then start building citations on other sites across the web by applying for listings in various directories. The most important of these is your Google My Business page, which we’ve already covered. There are, however, dozens of other business directories that can list your practice and help you push your web pages higher in Google’s local rankings.

There are 3 main categories of directories:

1. General and National Business Directories

Examples of major general and national business directories include Yelp.com, yellowpages.com and citysearch.com. We also recommend setting up a Facebook page for your practice.

2. Industry-Specific Directories

Examples of industry-specific directories for attorneys include Findlaw.com, Avvo.com and Justia.com. Many industry-specific directories will not require a fee to list your business – we recommend focusing on these first. If you’re interested in getting listed on paid directories, be sure to track whether you’re getting traffic and conversions from those sites with Google Analytics.

3. Local Directories

Get your practice listed in local directories in your area as well. Examples of these types of directories include the local versions of Manta.com and bizjournals.com, as well as your local Chamber of Commerce website.

Important: Make sure that your business Name, Address and Phone number information remains 100% consistent across all directories.

Links

Links are defined as the hyperlinks that originate on other websites and point to pages on your site. Google places a lot of emphasis on these signals, also referred to as “inbound links”, depending on the types of websites that are linking to you. For example a link from CNN.com to your site would carry more weight with Google than one that originates from an unknown blog. As a general rule, the more links you have, the better, but a few links from websites with authority in your field and relevance to your practice will be more powerful than hundreds of links from unrelated sources.

So, how can you build links to your website?

Directories

Like getting citations, you can build your link profile with submissions to general, legal and local directories. In addition to benefitting your SEO efforts, directories are designed to connect prospective clients with law practices, so you may get some business from these listings as well.

Offline Relationships

Make a list of the offline affiliations you’ve built, and see if there might be an opportunity to gain links from those relationships. One example of a beneficial relationship would be a law practice that refers clients to you. In this type of relationship, both sides could benefit by linking to each other as recommended resources. Association memberships and sponsorships of local events or teams may also provide linking opportunities.

Research Your Competitors

A tactic to gain potentially valuable links is to find the websites that are linking to those of your competitors. If you offer similar legal services, you may be able to get similar links as well. This information can be found with a tool like the “Moz Open Site Explorer”. With this data in hand, you may find directories that you missed previously or come across other linking opportunities.

There are several other strategies for gaining links, but those tips will give you a good head start.

Key #4. Reviews

Reviews are an important factor that can give you an edge over local competitors and push your web pages to higher rankings on Google’s SERPs.

Focus on Google My Business Reviews

The web is full of places to get reviews, including Yelp.com and legal sites like FindLaw.com. That being said, we recommend focusing your attention on gaining positive reviews on your Google My Business page.

Positive reviews on your Google My Business page will help the page rank higher for searches, which will increase your practice’s visibility with prospective clients. A collection of positive reviews may also convince prospective clients that they should contact you instead of your competitors.

How to Get Reviews

Positive reviews start with providing excellent service. After that, you need to ask clients to review your practice (make this process as easy as possible). Taking a direct approach often yields the best results. All you need to do is email a “review request” to satisfied clients with a link to leave a review on your Google My Business page.

To find your Google My Business page, enter a search that includes the name of your firm followed by “Google My Business”. Your Google My Business page will be the first result. To test this out, you can find our Google My Business profile by searching with: Main Street ROI Google My Business. You can run the same search using the name of your practice, copy the page URL and then include it in your emails that request a review.

Here’s an example of an email requesting a review: “If you have a moment, we would appreciate your feedback on our services. As you may know, many of our clients find us via Google. Would you please take a minute to post a review on Google? {Link to Google My Business profile}. Thanks in advance!

We recommend sending out request-for-review emails to all clients who have been happy with your services but haven’t yet left a review. Including this step in your day-to-day operations can help your business and your SEO efforts as a steady stream of reviews on an ongoing basis can help to bring in new clients and boost your local search ratings.

Key #5. Tracking

After getting everything set up, tracking your results is the best way to maximize the returns on your SEO campaign. Here are the 3 core metrics you’ll want to track, and how to track them.

A) Rankings

Tracking your rankings can reveal the overall performance of the keywords being optimized, as well as the number of clicks and impressions being generated by each one. To track your keywords, you can use the Google Search Console, formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools. Have your webmaster install the platform for you, and use it to track your rankings once or twice per month.

A second tracking option is the paid tracking tool provided by RankRanger.com. The RankRanger tool delivers automatically updated ranking reports for your SEO campaign across multiple keywords. The tool provides the added advantage of tracking your Google My Business rankings as well as your website rankings. By the way, we use the RankRanger tool when we track rankings for our clients.

B) Traffic

SEO isn’t just about rankings. The next thing to track is the traffic being driven to your website by your campaign. Specifically, you’ll want to measure the amount of traffic that is coming in, as well as where it is coming from.

Google Analytics provides the best solution for tracking traffic. The platform must be installed on every page of your website, which can be done either by you or your webmaster. After installation, you’ll be able to assess your traffic numbers, how many visitors are coming from Google and where the traffic is going on your website.

We recommend that you review your traffic metrics on a monthly basis to review long-term trends and see how your SEO traffic is growing over time.

C) Conversions

Ranking and traffic will be important aspects of your SEO campaign, but the money is in the conversions. Conversions are defined as specific actions you want your website visitors to take. For example, if you’re offering a free consultation, you may have a webform on your site asking clients to “Schedule an Appointment.” In this example, using Google Analytics to track conversions on the pages that have webforms can tell you the services that are bringing in the most clients, how many conversions you’re receiving per month and how many are coming from your SEO efforts.

Conclusion

A local SEO campaign that starts on a solid foundation and builds from there can be one of the best marketing investments you can make for your law practice. For the best results, follow each step of the process to its completion before moving on.

To review, the 5 keys to building a successful local SEO campaign are:

  1. 1. Keyword research
  2. 2. Keyword optimization
  3. 3. Citations and Links
  4. 4. Reviews
  5. 5. Tracking

The results of following these steps will be higher rankings for your web pages, a steady increase of traffic to your website and more clients for your practice!

Want help with SEO?

At Main Street ROI, we specialize in helping lawyers attract more local clients from Google. If you’d like help with your SEO, contact us for a free quote.

peterroach
Peter Roach | Syosset, New York
Principal of Peter T. Roach & Associates, P.C.
Before I started working with Main street ROI, my website was nowhere to be found. I knew there were potential clients searching for my services, but since no one could find my website, I was not getting any new business. Main Street ROI showed me how to improve my website and gave me other strategies that caused my website to be noticed. Today, my website is the very first listing for many keywords and I’m getting phone calls every day from prospective clients. I highly recommend Main Street ROI to any business owner seeking to increase its business from internet exposure.

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