It’s a fairly common scenario: a law firm has a great website, but it’s not seeing much in the way of quality leads. What’s going on? Assuming the site’s up to the job – meaning it’s packed with great content and offers a stellar user experience – it’s probably time for that firm to invest in SEO.
SEO – Search Engine Optimization – describes the tactics and methods digital marketers leverage to improve a website’s rankings on Google and the other search engines. Giving SEO the attention it deserves increases the odds that a site will appear on page one of the search results whenever a prospective client queries relevant keywords.
Once a site is ranking well, the organic traffic and high-quality leads every law firm needs to thrive should naturally follow.
Why is SEO important?
With today’s internet-savvy consumers heading online to find the legal services they need, a law firm must have a well-designed and easy-to-navigate site that clearly communicates its expertise and that of its attorneys. But even the best site won’t be of much value if potential clients aren’t finding it.
Legal marketers can’t expect prospects to enter their firm’s name into the search engine, or even the names of specific attorneys. In nearly every case, queries are going to be far more general, something like “Contract Attorney in LA,” “New York Personal Injury Lawyer,” or “Family Lawyer near me.” Once they’ve entered the query, they’re unlikely to venture beyond the first few pages of search results. In fact, most won’t make it past page one before settling on a firm or attorney to contact.
How does a law firm ensure its site makes the first page? That’s where SEO comes into play.
To understand the importance of SEO, it’s imperative to understand how Google and the other search engines work. First and foremost, they aim to connect users with content most relevant to their needs. Bots are used to crawl and index the millions of web pages available online. Then the search engine algorithms rank the pages, awarding those that best match a searcher’s intent based on the keywords entered.
When the algorithms are happy—that is, when the bots recognize stellar user experience and high-quality content—a website’s rankings will improve. Once a site consistently appears on the first page of search results, prospective clients will find their way to it and begin to engage with that firm.
Benefits of first-page rankings
Obviously, increasing a firm’s brand visibility and connecting with internet searchers who need its legal services are the primary benefits of SEO. But when a website consistently ranks on page one, there are many other benefits to be had, including several that could encourage those visitors to engage with the firm and take the next steps toward becoming valued clients.
Many tactics that encompass an effective SEO strategy also give law firms greater credibility in the eyes of potential clients. Keyword research, for example, is driven by searcher intent and ensures that visitors will find insightful content that showcases the firm’s ability to help clients solve their problems. Other SEO activities, such as link building and guest blogging, help establish trust and position a firm’s attorneys as thought leaders within their fields of practice.
Increased visibility and traffic, better user experience
Most law firms serve clients within a specific geographic area. Google shows local results at the top of the page, listing several nearby businesses, including their phone numbers, link to their website, and location. Firms able to claim those positions are likely to be the first to be contacted by potential clients. Local SEO tactics like optimizing a Google Business Profile and submitting listings to local directories are especially beneficial when a law firm is located in a highly competitive market.
Improving a site’s rankings can help bring a law firm to the attention of other websites, blogs, and online publications. If the operators of those platforms find the content compelling, they might link to it, boosting the firm’s visibility further and helping drive more referral traffic to its site.
An effective SEO strategy focuses as much on the user experience (UX) as it does keyword research. Because the elements that encompass UX – loading speed, interactivity, and accessibility – account for a significant portion of Google’s known ranking factors, striving to create the best possible experience will improve a site’s overall rankings. An optimal user experience will also encourage visitors to spend more time exploring the website. The longer they remain on the site, the more likely they’ll be to fill out a form or take another desired action.
Although improving a site’s rankings requires time and effort, consistent attention to SEO will eventually result in a steady stream of highly-targeted organic traffic, reducing a firm’s reliance on paid digital ads. The content created as part of an overall SEO strategy can, in theory, live on the web forever, where it will continue generating leads and driving engagement for weeks, months, and possibly even years.
Few digital marketing tools are as powerful or as cost-effective as SEO.
An effective strategy allows a law firm to connect with potential clients just as they’re researching the legal services they need. The added benefits – improved credibility and authority, increased referral traffic, greater local visibility, reduced reliance on paid advertising – make the investment in SEO well worth the time and effort.
Kevin J. Vermeulen is a partner in Good2BSocial LLC, a digitial marketing firm that works with law firms and companies in the legal industry. He can be reached at 212-634-7657 ext. 701 and at [email protected]