⚠️ IMPORTANT ⚠️
If you’re an attorney, I know how busy you are – you won’t have time to read this entire article. I’ve summarized each of the 7 tips with a TL;DR at the top. Read those and you’ll have everything you need.
1. Understand the state of Google results for legal search queries
Google’s top spots are dominated by paid ads and local results
Among the 10 organic results, almost 50% of the sites are large aggregator sites like Avvo, Justia, Super Lawyers, etc
Only 25% of organic traffic is available to individual websites
The competition is huge and CPC is insanely high
You can’t outrank the aggregator sites so you should rank your profile on them instead
You can also run ads on sites like Avvo and avoid the ridiculous CPCs for legal keywords in Google
Google’s search results are changing. There’s currently 19 result types that dominate Google’s top spots.
This applies to the legal space as well. When searching for “Miami DUI attorney“, there’s a lot of noise:
7 paid ads (4 on top, 3 on the bottom)
3 local results (“Maps” pack)
10 organic results (“blue links”)
Think about that – of the 10 organic results, half of them are aggregator sites (Avvo, Yelp, etc) – only 25% of organic results are really available.
The competition for those spots is tough – you need to be realistic about your campaign and adjust strategy accordingly.
Aside from just ranking your website, there’s other tactics that will increase your overall organic exposure.
My best piece of advice as it relates to attorney SEO is instead of fighting aggregator sites, leverage them. Avvo, Justia, Super Lawyers – they’ve done the hard work, they rank for everything.
The beauty of these sites is they have their own internal algorithms to rank profiles.
If you optimize your profile to rank in Avvo, you’re essentially ranking for your “money” keywords right off the bat.
On top of that, you can pay for ads within Avvo. These are a great way to bypass the ridiculous CPCs for legal keywords in Google, and capture that traffic through Avvo.
The point is, in competitive spaces, you have to realistic about your goals. The competition is only getting stronger, keep your mind open when it comes to capturing “organic traffic” – it doesn’t have to come from Google.
2. Select your keywords based on intent
Keyword mapping is the process of optimizing pages according to the keyword intent
The “Funnel” model gives us keywords for the Awareness, Interest and Action intents
The intent for the Money keyword is that someone is looking for your services
The intent for Discover keywords is that a user is looking for information on your services
The intent for Attention keywords is that the searcher is looking for information on their case
You should try to rank for all three types of keywords because it will triple your organic exposure and get traffic in the door much faster
I’m not going to cover how to find keywords – others have already done that (see Brian Dean’s guide).
Instead, I’m going to cover keyword mapping.
Keyword mapping is the process of optimizing pages and based on keyword intent.
We like to visualize using the “funnel” model.
Intent: Looking for your services.
KW examples: Hire a Miami DUI attorney, Boston defense attorneys near me.
Intent: Looking for information on your services.
KW examples: Miami DUI attorney reviews, Miami DUI attorney cost,
Intent: Looking for information on their case.
KW examples: How to fill out EB-5 Visa, DUI prison sentence length.
The main goal is to rank your “money” keywords. But … we want to dominate and rank for everything.
This strategy allows you to triple your organic exposure and get traffic in the door much faster.
To do so, you need to clearly understand how your keyword list maps to intent.
It’s a tedious process, but it helps you clearly understand how your website should be setup and the type of content to populate it with.
3. Alter your website structure to optimize for search
Organizing and grouping content, navigation and URL structure will help you rank well
If your firm specializes in only 1 type of service using an exact match domain name (EMD) is advised
To rank for niche searches add additional service pages
The more pages / content you create, the more niche traffic you can capture.
If you run a multiple service law firm use branded domain because using EMD will send mixed signals to Google
Rank for multiple offerings by adding separate pages for each additional service you offer
Capture additional traffic by adding sub-service pages to target long-tail searches
If your law firm operates from different locations instead of adding your office locations in a single page create separate pages for each location
Add city into the URL for each office location and rewrite its content to avoid content duplication
To inject the city into the URL add menu navigation for locations at the top of the main menu
It’s important for rankings and user experience to have an easy to use site.
That means grouping content, navigation and URL structure into organized buckets. Sounds easy, right?
It gets a little more complicated depending on your firm. Speaking strictly from a website perspective, there are 3 types of law firms:
Most sites with multiple locations add a page for “Locations”. In a competitive niche, this cuts off your ability to rank in multiple cities
To rank for local searches, it helps to have the city within the URL string. This requires you to essentially create a new site for each city (within your existing site)
This also will require you to rewrite content on your site to avoid duplication penalties
Include a menu navigation to switch between cities.
Example: (see screenshot below)
There needs to be a way to inject the city into the URL. Some sites do this via footer, I like to add it above the menu (see below)
The way this works is simple – when a user clicks on the “Boca Raton” link, the URL shifts to example.com/boca-raton. This creates the proper hierarchy for search engines to understand your site and rank for multiple locations
4. Optimize for local search as well
To show up in localized / maps searches, set up and verify your Google My Business listing
Optimize GMB listing titles that get displayed in localized results
To create a more click-able title name the page with your main keyword first, followed by your brand / business name
Write a 150 – 200 words description of your services and link directly to the services pages on your website
Manage your reviews, local citations and build your firm’s listing in the relevant directories
Most of “local” SEO is covered by the traditional SEO discussed throughout this guide.
However, there are a couple of additional actions you’ll need to take to make sure your site is optimized for local search as well.
Google will send you a post card in the mail with a verification code. Sometimes you may be able to verify by phone. Your listing may still appear in local search even though it isn’t verified but you won’t be able to fully control your listing until you verify it by pin.
Optimize Your Page
Once you get your code, log in to your Google account and enter it:
First, edit the title of your page:
Click the pencil icon next to”Business Name”
Use your actual real-world business name. There is some information out there about using your main keyword first, followed by your brand/business name (ror example: Miami DUI Attorney – Smith / Stewart P.A.) however if this is not how your firm is commonly represented on your site, your marketing, in the real world, etc, it’s best not to do this. Google maintains strict guidelines for representing your business online.
Next, we’re going to edit the description of your page:
Click the pencil icon next to”Introduction”
Write up to 750 characters about your law firm
Include a description of your services
Reviews not only help your website rank for local searches, but they pull through valuable stars in the SERP listing.
I’m not going to cover how to get reviews in this post however Bright Local has an excellent post on how reviews impact local rankings.
In general, attorneys should focus on the following tactics when it comes to reviews:
Get reviews on top platforms like Google My Business, Facebook, and Yelp.
Respond to all reviews that are left on your profiles.
Re-purpose reviews (with permission) on your website.
Get reviews on secondary platforms important to the legal industry like Avvo, Justia, FindLaw, etc
Local Citations / Directories
Local citations and directory listings are business profiles on websites like FourSquare, Yelp, Yellow Pages and Brown Book.
These citations are valuable to local SEO because they’re essentially online phone books that associate your website with a physical location.
There are hundreds (thousands) of potential sites to build your firm’s listings in.
It’s a mind numbing process to manually create these listings and it’s easier to outsource.
5. Create content that attracts new eyeballs to your website
Target one purchase intent keyword per page in each of your sales / service pages
Use the selected keyword once in the URL, page title, H1 tag, 1 image title, 1 image alt tag and 2 – 3 times in the body
Target info intent keywords in your service pages
Build your blog content around info keywords
Create unique and useful content that searchers can’t find elsewhere
Your blog is your chance to prove your worth and good blog content will help you generate social signals, backlinks, and traffic
In other words, you need to create pages that are a valuable resource for your target audience. Top of the funnel content for example needs to be all-encompassing and informative. The NJ Lemon Law Firm pictured below is a great example of a page that focuses on a broad keyword phrase on a page educating consumers about consumer protection laws in New Jersey related to automobiles.
I hope you’ve stuck around to this point – your SEO success hinges on the ability to create and distribute content.
You’ve heard it before: “content is king”.
I hate it.
This buzzword has sites launching blogs with content adding no value. In fact, it’s driving potential clients away.
Allow me put it in perspective.
Let’s say you’re in the market for SEO services. You do a Google search for a couple of agencies in your area and you click on the first couple of results.
Let’s be honest, they all say the same thing. How can you tell the difference?
Every business’ website claims to be an expert. A great blog proves it.
Assigning keywords to your content
Start by heading back to your list of keywords separated by intent.
Use keywords tagged with “Purchase” in “Services” type pages.
Use keywords tagged with “Info” in “Blog” posts.
Using “Purchase” Intent Keywords
This is SEO 101 – I’m not going to spend a lot of time on it.
Keywords with purchase intent should be targeted at sales / service pages. Each page should be themed at one main keyword. Include that keyword in:
Title of the page
1 image title
1 image alt tag
2 – 3 times throughout the content (page should include at least 350 words of relevant content)
I’ll use the keywords from my “Miami DUI Attorney” as an example.
Main KW: Miami DUI Attorney:
Page URL: www.miamiduiattorney.com
Page Title: The #1 Miami DUI Attorney – Stewart, P.A
Heading 1: Drunk Driving Arrest? Hire The Top Miami DUI Attorney
Image Title: miami-dui-attorney-stewart-pa
Image Alt Tag: Miami DUI Attorney Ryan Stewart P.A.
Content: Write out 500 words on Miami based DUI attorney services. Include 5 – 6 high volume keyword variations as well
Repeat this on every page for every “Purchase” keyword you’re targeting.
Using “Info” Intent Keywords
99% of SEO agencies will stop at “purchase” keywords.
Thing is, you need more than words on a page to get Google’s attention. You need social shares, brand mentions and a lot of high quality links.
Why would someone share your homepage? Why would a website link to your services page about DUIs?
They wouldn’t. I know this. You know this. Google knows this.
If your website has a ton of links pointing to 1 page it looks like spam and your website is going to get bitch slapped by Google.
“Info” type content is what generates real shares and links. That’s why you need a blog.
Let’s go back to the “Info” keywords I generated earlier. Keywords like “DUI trial”, “DUI first offense” and “DUI trial questions” generate a good amount of monthly searches.
These are the keywords to build content around.
That’s the easy part. The hard part is creating content people actually care about.
People don’t care about “10 Reasons to Hire an Attorney”. Give them something they can’t find anywhere else.
You paid $300,000 for an education – show us what you learned!
In depth guides – “What to do When Arrrested for Your First DUI”
Case studies – “How to Beat Your First DUI Arrest”
Infographics – “Visual Guide to Getting Off Your DUI Arrest”
Don’t skimp on the details. Prove you’re an expert. Show why you’re worth $300/hour.
This content drives social shares, links and traffic. More importantly, it establishes your firm as a trusted voice and industry leader for legal advice.
6. You need high power links, at scale
You need different types of links to build authority in Google
Build social media and forum links to create a buzz around your site
Drive traffic to your website by searching Quora for questions related to your business and provide useful information in your answers
Pass link juice from your blog content to your money pages with internal linking
Create link-worthy content and do a link outreach
Search Google for resource pages and reach out for inclusion
Dig out which websites are linking to your competitors and find opportunities to get links from the same sites
Use guest posting to acquire links
Purchase links from news media websites by calling them instead of emailing
Links are still the #1 ranking factor. However, it’s not as easy as it used to be.
14 months ago I could rank a site with click of a button. Literally – it was that easy.
Unfortunately, those days are over. Now, you need more than a handful of links.
In competitive verticals, Google ranks sites with authority and trust. Authoritative and trustworthy sites don’t have 1 type of link pointing to 1 page.
Building trust with Google is a process. Here’s how I do it:
Social media and forum links to blog content
Link outreach to blog content
Internal links to money pages
White hat link building to money pages
Link buying to money pages
This is a long process – it takes a lot of time, resources and effort. I promise you – if you do what I’m telling you, it will pay off.
Social media and forum links
It’s not enough to post links to owned accounts. You’ve got to build a buzz around your site.
The best way to do start is get your content in groups and forums.
The mistake most make is pushing content in front of their target audience.
No one with a DUI is going to share an infographic about a DUI. However, if the content is good enough, your peers will.
Quora is a high visibility question and answer site. I’ve driven thousands of visits in the last few months alone using it.
The key to Quora is finding threads related to the content on your blog.
Let’s say you took my advice and wrote the guide: “What to do When Arrrested for Your First DUI”.
Start by doing a Google search command: site:quora.com what to do dui
This search brought back 6,350 results. Click through and find questions you can answer with your content.
Write a response (150 – 300 words) of advice and drop a link at the end.
Rinse and repeat.
Linking pages internally passes link equity and ranking signals. You can use them to pass that valuable juice from your blog content to your money pages by interlinking them.
Link outreach is great because you can score high powerful “white hat” links for free.
Link outreach only works when you’ve got content worth linking to. You can write perfect emails but no one is going to link to your home page.
These are dedicated pages listing links to useful resources. To find these pages, use Google search operators:
legal “resource pages”
law “resource pages”
You get the point. I like to add a city into the search as well. Here’s what I found:
Brought up this result:
Bingo! A perfect opportunity.
Reach out with a nice note about your law firm and what you should be included in their list of resources.
Well, not borrowing, stealing. I love this technique because it evens the playing field.
If you land the same links as your competitors you can neutralize their advantage. From there, all you need is a few additional links to easily push past them.
It’s extremely easy to do. In fact, you already did the leg work in your competitive analysis. Remember this?
Google your main keyword
Click on the first result
Run Majestic SEO browser plugin
Click through to the Majestic site
Click on the Backlinks tab
You’ll now see a list of the website’s linking to your competitor’s. Simply click through on to each site and look for opportunities to drop a link. These usually come in the form of:
Link round ups
The majority of sites will be tough to get links, but the ones you can will give you a huge boost.
I don’t care what Matt Butts says – guest blogging is a great way to build quality links to your site. Use advanced Google search operators to find opportunities:
legal “accepting guest posts”
legal “write for us”
legal “submit guest post”
legal “guest post opportunities”
legal “guest post courtesy of”
legal “guest bloggers wanted”
legal “contributor guidelines”
legal “contribute to our site”
legal “become a guest writer”
I strongly suggest you write the content yourself – don’t outsource it. It will be a complete waste of your time. Here’s a snippet from a legal website that accepts guest posts:
Any website worth posting on will have high standards. Read through their articles, get a feel for what they publish and replicate it.
I’ve been using this technique for a while but have yet to share it.
SEO agencies have been taking out “press releases” for clients for years.
These are merely syndicated statements on sites like PR.com that have little effect on SEO and zero effect on traffic/PR because nobody sees them. They claim that they get sent to real news sites, but never do.
I go straight to the source. Newspapers make money from 2 sources:
Since more people turn to the web for their news, revenue models have shifted towards selling ad space.
I’ve landed dozens of links on MiamiHerald.com by reaching out to their advertising team. You can find contact links in the footer:
CALL them, don’t email. Email responses generally get ignored or they tell you they don’t offer that service.
When you call them directly you can negotiate with a sales person. Simply tell them you’re with XYZ law firm looking to drum up online PR and you’re not interested in traditional media buys.
Everyone has a price – it generally ranges in the $400 – $600 range.
It’s expensive, but you get a high quality link, traffic and exposure for your firm.
7. Track results and scale efforts
It takes about 6 – 12 months to reach the top of Google so till that time measure your SERP visibility using tools like SEMrush
SERP visibility will tell you how many keywords your site is ranking for, estimated traffic and its cost
After a few months analyze your organic traffic using Google Analytics
Using Google Analytics examine where your traffic is going so you can see if it is benefitting you or not
Track your firm’s leads and phone calls from the organic search using Google analytics
Organic traffic is not free – there’s a considerable investment of time, resources and capital to get results.
To justify the cost, we need to understand the outputs of SEO.
Overall search engine visibility
Overall organic traffic
Organic traffic to “target pages”
Leads and phone calls from organic search
The following sub sections will outline everything you need.
See how we build custom SEO reports for our clients.
Overall search engine visibility
It takes a while for your site to reach the top of Google and start getting traffic (6 to 12 months).
In the meantime, we can measure “SERP visibility”.
SERP visibility = the total number of keywords your website is indexed for.
To check overall visibility:
What it tells you: How many keywords your site is ranking for over time. It also estimates traffic and the cost of that traffic (if you were to buy it through PPC ads)
Analyzing Organic Traffic
After a few months, your traffic from Google should be picking up. We can easily verify this using Google Analytics:
Tool: Google Analytics
How to view the report: Audience > Overview (add Organic Segment)
What it tells you: How many visitors are coming to your site through search engines
Organic traffic to “target pages”
While overall organic traffic is good, we want to make sure it’s meaningful traffic. We can dig into that by segmenting organic traffic reports to look at where traffic is going.
Tool: Google Analytics
How to view the report: Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages (add Organic Segment)
What it tells you: The pages on your website that are receiving organic traffic. These pages should be your “target pages”, i.e. important landing pages on your site.
Leads and phone calls from organic
Most importantly, we want to know how SEO is impacting your top line. It’s tricky, but we can use analytics to track your firm’s leads and phone calls from organic search.
Tool: Google Analytics
How to view the report: Conversions > Goals > Overview (add Organic Segment)
What it tells you: The number of completed goals from organic search. This should be setup to track both form submission and phone calls.
Frequently Asked Questions
We get tons of questions from attorneys but these are the ones that are asked the most (in one variation or another).
Why do lawyers need SEO?
Data indicates that about one third of consumers use a search engine to find local businesses on a daily basis. Mobile device usage has more than eclipsed desktop usage for location-based searches so it’s clear that consumers are using search engines as the dominant method for finding local businesses like law firms.
If it wasn’t obvious, law firms who want to generate leads and grow, need to have a presence in search engines.
How long does SEO take?
There are numerous factors that influence how long it takes for a website to rank for a given keyword phrase but they can all essentially be boiled down to the following:
The competitiveness (demand) for the target keyword phrase(s).
The degree to which a site has already been optimized.
The amount of money and effort allocated to an SEO campaign.
In other words, the current condition of a site and how much is invested into it to rank impact how long it takes to achieve first position rankings. In general it can take anywhere from 4 months to more than a year to get where you want to be.
Do I have to change my website to rank higher in search engines?
This also depends.
There are always onsite improvements and changes that need to be made but in terms of whether a site is built on a CMS or as a traditional custom site, it doesn’t really matter.
There are clear advantages to using a CMS (content management system) including ease of use, ease of updates, the ability to add functionality with no programming knowledge, and more consistency but not having a CMS does not automatically mean a site won’t rank well.
How much do lawyers pay for SEO?
Cost can vary greatly for an SEO campaign. What an attorney pays for their campaign can be a reflection of their current resources, the amount of money it will take to gain market share in search, the competitiveness of their keyword phrases and their niche practice areas, and (to a smaller extent), the SEO company they go with.
SEO in the legal space is competitive and there’s so sign of this changing anytime soon. If you want to rank, you’ve got to do things the right way.
For a lot of attorneys, this is the first time where most of their business (i.e. consultations, team meetings, signing contracts, etc) has to be conducted remotely.
I’ve been working in a remote field and in similar capacities for almost a decade now and I can tell you from experience; with the right tools, doing your job from home (or from anywhere for that matter), is not only doable, but very efficient.
Like anything that’s new, it’s hard to know where to start.
So here’s a list of the tools and platforms I’ve used or had interaction with over the years that can enable pretty much any aspect of an attorney’s job to be done remotely.
(Disclosure: I’m in no way compensated for promoting any of the tools on this list. They’re just the ones I find easiest to use and most cost effective)
DocuSign is a digital document sharing and signature platform that allows users to send, receive, and sign documents. It’s extremely easy to use allowing people to sign multiple documents in just a few clicks. It’s also highly secure and much more cost effective than traditional paper signing which takes additional supplies, time, and staff to complete.
Slack is a digital collaboration tool for teams. It’s main strength is as an instant messaging platform but users can also share documents, images, links, organize conversations into channels, and make video and phone calls from within the software. You can use it as a web-based service or download the desktop and mobile applications.
Trello is a a project management and workflow platform that helps teams work together and keep track of projects. There are a ton of these types of services out there and the reason I like Trello is because it’s not overly complicated and it uses the KanBan Method for moving work from start to completion. Another huge plus is that you can use the site for free with limitations on file upload size, support, and team boards. For many small law firms, you can get away with using the free version for a long time.
Basecamp is a direct competitor of Trello and is similarly easy to use. It uses a different workflow but has integrated chat and makes it easy to keep track of work. We’ve used both Trello and Basecamp extensively at our sister companies and they both have their strengths. Out of all the project management software out there, these were the ones we liked best.
Google Drive (docs, sheets, slides, etc)
Google docs, sheets, and slides are a super easy way for teams to collaborate in real time on documents. I’m sure Microsoft has their tools and there are other solutions out there but Google has worked really well for us since we use Google mail and other services that integrate really well with the platform. One thing I really like about Drive (and that takes some getting used to) is that it saves your work automatically. There is no File > Save like in modern word processing programs.
Video conferencing is a huge topic right now and Zoom is one of the best platforms I’ve seen out there. As video conferencing goes, you don’t really have an idea of what’s good and what’s not until you use it. The key difference here is, you guessed it, ease of use. I’ve tried Join.me, Google Hangouts, Slack video calling, Skype, Go-to Meeting, and Webex. With the exception of a couple of those, most are confusing, have compatibility issues, don’t recognize microphones, cameras, headsets, speakers, etc, and are just plain hard to use. Zoom is free to use for up to 3 people on a call for greater than 40 minutes (although that limit has currently been suspended in light of the pandemic).
Clio is a legal practice management website and many of our clients use it. It digitizes many common tasks performed by law firms like client intake, billing, document and relationship management, and overall case management.
Like Google Drive, Drop Box is a file storage solution using the cloud to store document safely. If all you’re looking for is an online storage space for your files that’s inexpensive, Drop Box is great for that. They have limited functionality for real time document editing and collaboration. They do have a solid desktop and mobile app for keeping frequently used files on a local drive. Whether you go with this site or another, it’s a must to have your files backed up to the cloud as it’s a primary defense against ransomware attacks.
Having the right hardware will be key in making sure your current and potential clients have a good experience working remotely with your firm. Implementing all of these suggestions will take any headaches out of an already challenging way for people to connect with your firm.
Get a decent web cam
When I first started working remotely, I dug up an old web cam that was probably 10 years old. It worked but I didn’t realize how poor the video quality was until I purchased an inexpensive (modern) upgrade. That made a world of difference in how people saw me. Instead of a grainy, faded video picture, they could see every detail. That may not seem important until you’re reminded that up to 55% of communication is non-verbal.
Put in a hard-wired connection
WiFi is reliable most of the time however video calls can take up a lot of a computer’s resources. When WiFi falters for just a second, your calls can freeze, drop, or audio can become distorted and hard to hear. I used a wireless connection for all of my video conference calls for about 2 months before I took the time to run an Ethernet connection to my computer. After that, not a single dropped call due to connection speed.
Your microphone and sound settings
You don’t have to buy an expensive mic to have good audio quality on your calls but there are some things you should do to ensure people can hear you well. A lot of people do things they aren’t even aware of that makes it hard to hear you.
Choose a mic to use all the time: Most software will allow you to choose among available mics on your computer. The one you choose will determine what you do in the next steps. For the most part, you’ll have the choice between a built in mic on your web cam or laptop, or you’re plugging in headphones or a head set that has a mic on it.
Reduce echoing and feedback: If you’re using a mic on your web cam, make sure any built in mic on a laptop or elsewhere is shut off. Otherwise you’ll get an annoying (and sometimes ear-piercing) audio feedback loop or echo.
Choose a mic-friendly location: If you have a headset or headphones for your microphone solution, you can probably do your meeting in any type of quite environment. If you’re using a built in mic on a laptop or web cam, avoid big open rooms as that can make it hard for sound to reach the mic.
Upgrade your PC if necessary
If your computer is several years old, chances are you may need to upgrade in order to have successful virtual meetings. This is especially true if your law firm is going to consistently be doing new client consults over video. Here are some signs you may need to upgrade:
You keep getting errors from video conferencing software that video card drivers are not compatible
Frequent computer crashes, freezing, or glitching when other hardware issues have been ruled out
Incompatibility with upgraded hardware like web cams, mics, or other devices
Making all these changes may seem like unnecessary expenses in the short term but the fact is, law firms may need to be doing business virtually for a lengthy, and yet undetermined amount of time. Rather than limp along until we can return to business as usual (as most of your competitors are probably thinking), why not get out ahead of the pack and make the virtual experience for your potential clients as seamless and positive as the in-person experience was.
Keep in mind that when this whole thing is over, virtual consults can still remain apart of your firm as a value-added service for those clients that are unable to or don’t feel like driving to your office. Being virtually accessible can also enhance your overall web presence as an attorney.
10 SEO Performance Metrics Attorneys Can’t Afford to Ignore
Whether you’re doing your own SEO or you have an agency doing it for you, there are certain metrics you should be watching closely. Granted there isn’t a one-size-fits-all measurement for all law firms and practice areas but in general there are some basic things you should be paying attention to.
Your performance in organic search
The first step in the process for leveraging search to grow your law firm is high rankings in search. A KPI of your SEO campaign is the ranking of pages in SERPs. Benchmarking is important here. After all, you can’t tell how far you’ve come if you don’t know where you began.
These simple steps will help you keep track of your progress:
Identify priority keyword phrases (and their associated pages) that you would like to rank for
Take note of the average position of each keyword/page combination (Hint: Excel and Google Search Console are a big help)
Re-check the page metrics every 4-6 weeks (sooner or later depending on the aggressiveness of your SEO campaign)
Number of linking root domains
This metric should also be associated with some kind of link building campaign. For instance a common strategy is to make content that serves as link bait (extremely well-researched blog posts, infographics, embeddable videos, etc).
Use a program like ahrefs.com to periodically check and see if you are gaining links as a result of your efforts. If you notice an up-tick over time, your strategy could be working well. If not, perhaps the content isn’t resonating with your target audience.
You should also keep an eye on this metric in general. Learn about what domains are linking to you and why. It’s good to know just for peace of mind as well as to notice immediately if something fishy is going on.
Number of indexed URLs
This is a basic metric but an important one. Search engines index URLs and if a page has not been saved in the index, it is not appearing in search results.
A low number of indexed URLs could suggest an issue with accessibility on your site. It could also mean important pages are not showing to searchers.
You can see which of your URLs Google has indexed by using simple Google search operators to see what URLs exist in its index.
Example: by using site:esq.marketing, Google returns all URLs in its index for that website.
Traffic from organic search
Ranking on page one is great but if no one is visiting your site from search it doesn’t really matter where you’re showing up. Reports in tools like Google Analytics showing organic traffic can often be the first sign of any kind of issue with your site.
If organic traffic is falling, it could be a sign of a drastic position change in SERPs (search engine results pages). It could also be a sign that there are issues with indexing pages. Organic traffic reports can also give you a glimpse at whether or not you are successful at driving more traffic to your website.
New vs. returning visitors (visitor growth)
This another measurement that can show you how you’re doing with gaining more visibility in search. You can use new vs returning reports in analytics platforms to tell a story. For instance if you are seeing an uptick in new visitors you know that more people are finding your site.
Impressions from organic search
While this metric gives only a partial picture of your overall presence in search, it’s helpful to know both on an overall and keyword basis. Impressions are simply the number of times your site appeared in search results for a given keyword phrase. You will not be able to see this metric without configuring Google Webmaster tools or by using a third party software program.
The number of impressions for your site for certain keywords can tell you if Google (and searchers) find your pages relevant for a given query. If you’re getting a lot of impressions for a term you want to rank for but no clicks, chances are searchers aren’t finding that page relevant.
Click through rates
The CTR of your search results can indicate that users don’t find rich snippets related to your site relevant to their queries. Users tend to scan search results from left to right looking for the query language they used as well as information related to the query.
Rich snippets (i.e. typically drawn from title tags and meta descriptions) are your chance to grab a user and make them click through to your website. If your CTR is low, try changing up your meta description or titles. You can see meta descriptions as well as what your snippets look like in search by using Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.
The rate at which users complete the actions you want them to complete on your pages can be a good indication on the relevancy of your pages. A conversion could be a form fill, calling a phone number, downloading a white paper or any number of other actions.
If you can get your page to rank well, get people to click on it but they aren’t doing what you want them to do when they get to the landing page, that is a good indication that it needs to be changed.
Bounce rates on practice area pages
The rate at which users view a landing page from search and leave without viewing any other pages on your site can also give you a good idea of how relevant it is to them.
For search engines, links and copy and other optimization tasks can make a page relevant. For users, if the page doesn’t contain information that helps solve their problem (no matter how relevant), they will leave.
Anchor text distribution
The distribution of anchor text (which is the variety of type of anchor text used on hyperlinks to your site) is important to watch. You want to make sure abnormal patterns aren’t showing up along with spikes in data.
When people build links, their first thought generally isn’t to help a site they are linking to rank for a particular keyword phrase. When lots of links are built with anchor text that the target site is trying to rank for, that looks suspicious.
Local SEO for Lawyers: How To Dominate in Local Search
According to the most recent data from the Pew Research Center, roughly 90% of U.S. adults use the internet. According to respondents surveyed by Statista, one third of people used the Internet daily to search for local businesses.
In other words, it behooves attorneys to find ways of enhancing their online presence. One of the most cost-effective, long lasting, and powerful ways of doing that is through SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
To perform well in search, a website must be structured in a way that makes it easy to find online.
For attorneys serving a local market, there are a specific set of tasks that can help them gain more visibility in search.
By harnessing the organic (or natural) traffic from search engines, they can drive more visitors to their sites.
More visitors means more leads, more clients, and more cases.
That being said, here’s an overview of what we will cover:
What local SEO is and why it is important.
All the moving parts that make up the local SEO landscape.
How to optimize your website without diminishing user experience.
The technical aspects of SEO.
Why links are one of Google’s most important ranking factors and good sources to find them.
SEO tools that can help you optimize your site for local SEO.
How to leverage reviews, your firm’s physical location, and your practice area to improve your local SEO.
What is local SEO?
Local SEO is a sub-category of search engine optimization. It is a set of strategies and tactics to rank local business websites and other properties in Google search so that they can be found by location-based searchers. The target audience for these strategies is often searchers in the research or buying phase of their search process who are looking for local products or services to fill a need.
Why Should Attorneys Care?
People use the internet for information. It has become incredibly easy to get access to a wealth of information on all sorts of topics.
The internet is being used as a tool to research and evaluate local businesses like law firms. Where people traditionally used word-of-mouth or maybe the phone book to gather information and then make a decision, there is now an added layer of research online before they finally decide to hire an attorney.
They are visiting firm websites, reading reviews, articles, blog posts, and other content to “size up” a law firm before contacting them.
To compound this phenomenon, mobile device usage has surpassed that of desktop and people are more likely to be searching for local businesses while they are on the go as opposed to sitting at home.
A more dated study from the Yelp Blog and performed by Search Engine Land in 2012 reported that 85% of consumers use the internet to find local businesses.
The survey used local consumers in the U.S., Canada and U.K. There were over 2,800 respondents. The survey showed that only 15% of consumers had not used the internet to find a local business.
Benefits for Your Practice
Enhancing your presence in local search is also an opportunity to market your business. By performing some simple (and some not so simple) tasks related to SEO, attorneys have a chance to show up in front of customers that may not have known they were out there.
What does local SEO look like?
If you are new to optimizing a site for search, it can be hard to visualize all of the components. The diagram below shows some of the key areas of local SEO.
Here’s some more background on each of these elements:
Citations: These are mentions of your firm name across the internet. In SEO, it’s important to have consistent name, address, and phone information (NAP) any time it appears on other websites.
Reviews: Evaluations of your firm from your clients and/or your peers are great for local SEO. Star ratings in search engine results pages can improve click through rates and positive reviews can add more content to your online presence not to mention paint your firm in a positive light.
Local links: Links are one of the most important ranking factors in search. Local link signals can tell search engines that your site is more authoritative than other sites with fewer inbound local links.
User experience: Also known as UX, making your site easy to use is beneficial for ranking well in search. Elements like well-organized content, working internal linking, and a logical content hierarchy (among others) all help promote a positive user experience.
Google My Business: Also known as GMB, this is Google’s business listing that shows up for location-based searches. Claiming your GMB profile is one of the single most important parts of local optimization.
Keywords: The terms and phrases people use to find your firm are the foundation of everything else you do to optimize your website. Making sure you are targeting the right phrases is critical to your success with SEO.
Site speed: Google sometimes makes public the factors that it uses to rank websites and site speed is one of them. If your pages are loading slowly, Google is less likely to show your site for relevant searches and people are less likely to visit other pages on your site.
Local Content: Location-based content ranks very well for local searches. It provides search engines with relevant content to serve to searchers and it also makes visitors confident they’ve found the right pages.
All of these elements work in concert to improve a website’s position in search. There are also many other technical and content-based optimization tasks that need to be right before a website is good to go.
Local SEO content strategy
For any kind of SEO campaign, you should design and write for users first and think about search engines second. After all, the content on your site plays a critical role in SEO. The following are some examples of content written for search engines and content written for real people.
Examples of content written for search engines (and that should not be used) include:
Spun content: This is content written by a software program. In general, they are hard for real people to read and have little to know editorial value.
Keyword-stuffed content: This includes blog posts, articles, web page copy or any other text that is filled with a target keyword phrase. Generally these types of articles are so packed with one keyword phrase and its variants that it doesn’t sound natural.
Cloaked Content: This is an advanced technique where a webmaster will show one type of content to users and another type to search engines.Search engines will think a page is about one particular topic when it is really about something completely different.
Examples of content written for real people include:
Well researched articles, blog posts, or other copy that provide true value to website visitors.
Content written for search and written for real people can take the same form (i.e. blog posts, web copy, video, images, etc) but the key difference is that content for real people actually provides value.
No matter what you write about, try and approach it from the perspective of helping your readers. What content would they find useful? How can it help alleviate some kind of pain they are having? Consistently producing content that satisfies those things will create loyalty for your brand.
At the same time, content production should be incorporated into any law firm SEO strategy. Yes you want to think of your users but you want to think about search engines too.
Do keyword research to find out what phrases people are using to find information that your firm could help out with.
Use best practices for keyword inclusion, LSI keywords, and other onsite optimization so it’s not obvious that the piece is optimized for search.
Promote your content like crazy. Get other people to link to it, share it on social networks, etc.
Attorneys are unique when it comes to content marketing. Information related to their practice and to the law is highly technical, dependent on context, and if written improperly, could cause problems.
Overly optimized content can cause algorithmic penalties.
Portraying legal services as ‘the best’ or using other flamboyant language can get attorneys into hot water with state bar associations.
When looking for someone to generate content for an attorney website, find someone who has a JD. This goes for articles on web pages and blog posts or any content that could be seen as legal advice.
Optimize for search and for visitors
Before diving into the next section, it is helpful to understand what “on-site” optimization is.
For SEO, there are some tasks that can be performed to a website directly (such as having the right keywords in text) and others that are performed elsewhere on the internet (known as off-site tasks).
Tasks performed directly to a site are called on-site or on-page. Tasks performed on other websites are called off-site.
You’ll want to make sure you have the following elements squared away for your on-site optimization:
Keyword + Location in meta description and title tag
Keyword + Location in copy of page
Your Firm address
Attorney schema on the page (more on this later)
Keyword + Location in URL of page
Keyword + Location as file name of images rendered on the page and in their alt attributes if appropriate
Content should be well organized
Your website should have an overall theme on the home page and then drill down into sub-categories of that theme. For instance, a personal injury lawyer would have personal injury law as the over-arching theme.
Sub-categories of that site would be car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, slip and fall, etc.
Each page of the site should then be focused on a specific keyword. Each page should only talk about that keyword topic area. For instance a car accident page would only talk about car accident legal information.
For location pages, there should be one page for each specific location or office that the attorney has. Then if a firm is targeting a location-based phrase like personal injury lawyer Detroit, a page optimized for that phrase should be easier to rank.
If the practice is actually located in Detroit, it will rank very well for that localized query.
In the image below, a simple content umbrella architecture is illustrated.
Keyword + Location in copy of page
In the actual paragraphs of information on your page, you should have a target keyword phrase (for example “lawyers”) and the location your office is located in (i.e. Philadelphia).
Your page would then be trying to rank for the phrase “lawyers Philadelphia”.
Note that you could also rank for variations of this phrase like “Lawyers in Philadelphia”, “Philadelphia lawyers”, or “find a lawyer in Philadelphia”.
Those keyword variations as well as synonyms of those keywords should be included in the copy.
You can find appropriate synonyms to target (known as LSI or Latent Semantic Indexing) by looking at what people also searched for found in the footer of an SERP (Search Engine Results Page).
Address relevant to location on page
This would simply be your firm address. It should be located somewhere on your location-specific page.
What is Schema?
Schema is code that can be applied to content on your website that makes it machine understandable. That means that search engines will be able to interpret and understand it more like an actual person does.
For example a computer sees 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as a string of alphanumeric characters.
By adding schema, the computer now knows this is an address of a physical location and that it has significance to Americans and their government.
Where Schema Should Be Used?
Schema can be applied to virtually any kind of content but lawyers should keep in mind their goals for search.
Here are some types of content attorneys definitely need to apply schema to:
Articles or blog posts
Operating hours for the office(s)
Attorney names (on bio pages)
Attorney emails (on bio pages)
Types of Schema
There are three types of structured data or schema markup.
Microdata: This is specification that nests structured data within HTML. It’s an open-community standard and used to be the recommended standard by Google.
RDFa: This is an HTML5 extension that leverages HTML tag attributes to make content machine understandable.
It’s great to have a topical knowledge of structured data however unless you are a developer or employ one, these standards will be difficult to implement on your own.
If you are a WordPress user, there are a variety of plugins online that will help you get schema going on your site easily (more on that later).
It should also be noted that schema will not cause your site to rank better in search but it will enhance the way results for your website appear in search. This can then make it more likely that a searcher will click on your SERP result.
Attorney Specific Schema
There are different types of schema and within those types there are specific schemas for different people, places, things and concepts.
For the purposes of this eBook, we’ll be talking about microdata and attorney schema. For an in-depth education on schema, you can learn more at schema.org.
The purpose of this section is to show the three ways to add schema to your site.
Manually add HTML code to your content
Use The Google Data Highlighter
Google’s data highlighter
If you don’t have a working knowledge of HTML, you can still markup content on your site. Google has an excellent tool called the Data Highlighter in the Search Console interface.
You will have to verify your site with Search Console first in order to use the tool but it’s free through Google.
Attorneys can use point and click functionality to highlight text, images and URLs on their site to help Google learn about their content.
Note that you must have your website configured in Search Console in order to use Data Highlighter.
Once you’re in the Search Console interface, click on Search Appearance -> Data Highlighter.
The default page has a lot of information and a video on how to use the Data Highlighter. If you feel comfortable go ahead and click the “Start Highlighting” button.
After you click the button, a prompt will appear asking for the page and type of data that you want to teach Google about.
Once you submit the URL and other information, you’ll be taken to a view of the page from within the WMT interface.
Now all you have to do is highlight the text or images you want to submit to Google. Once you highlight something, a drop down menu will appear asking for the type of content that you’ve highlighted.
When you’re done, click the red publish button in the top right corner of the page.
The Data Highlighter works in the same way schema does. It creates structured data that Google can have a deeper understanding of.
Note that marking up your content won’t help your pages rank any higher in search but it will help Google to display your data more accurately and in new ways. This can help increase click through rates to your site.
Another important thing to mention is that using the data highlighter won’t help other search engines understand your content, only Google.
Local directories for attorneys
Directories are still a good source of links and traffic for attorneys. The trick is to submit your site to attorney-specific directories. You should also watch out for ones that provide little value. These are often easy to spot because they are shallow in terms of content and easy to submit your site to.
The following is a comprehensive list of more than 100 attorney-specific directories we’ve compiled with their corresponding cost, DR (Domain Rating) and where to sign up.
Local citations: Mentions of your law firm across the web
It is estimated that more than 80% of internet users leverage a search engine to find what they are looking for online.
The more opportunities you can provide yourself to show up in search results, the more traffic you are likely to receive.
Local citations are simply mentions of your business name and information on some other website.
The primary goal should be to drive people to your website but you can increase the chances of that happening by making local citations.
These are third party websites where you can list your firm information. Common examples from listing sites include a Google My Business, a Bing Business listing, Yahoo’s business directory, Yellowpages.com, etc.
Creating Your Business Listings
Whether you have filled out 1 or 100 citation profiles online it is vital that you do it right, therefore here are some quick tips for filling out profiles correctly:
NAP: This acronym stands for name, address and phone number. Make sure all profiles you fill out have at least your name, address and phone number (NAP)
Keep the information consistent across all profiles
Fill out listings completely
Use keywords related to your practice
Include your website and links to any social sites you are active on
Remove duplicate listings
If you’ve been in business for a while, chances are that there is already basic business information on many of these kinds of sites (i.e. business listing websites).
Claiming your profile on these sites is all that is necessary instead of starting up new accounts.
If you are filling out profiles manually, make sure you search for your business name on a website first to see if a default profile already exists. If it does, follow the site’s instructions on how to claim the listing.
Filling Out Your Profiles Completely
Filling out profiles as completely as possible helps provide maximum opportunity to capture all available traffic in search. We want to point out that building citations manually is a very inefficient way to go about things and it’s better to use a software tool to do the job (which is covered in the next chapter).
Add images and logos
Add videos if you have them
Fill out category information accurately and sub-category information as well. For example if you are a an attorney select that and if your practice area is available (such as personal injury), make sure that is selected as well
Add keywords relevant to your practice if a space exists for that
When you add images or video, make sure their file names, descriptions or other keyword fields associated with them have geo-specific keywords in them
Make sure the description in a profile has your geo-specific location keywords inserted
NAP (name, address, and phone number) consistency
It’s important to make sure your name, address and phone number is consistent across your profiles.
Inaccurate information can result in confusion among searchers and search engines as to which information is the correct information.
Aside from smaller business listing sites, there are much larger data aggregation companies.
Smaller websites typically get their information from these larger data distributors.
These are important because if you don’t have the right information with these entities, chances are the rest of the information across the web about your business will also be inaccurate.
The major data aggregators include: (See appendix for a comprehensive list of smaller business listing sites)
If you don’t fill out business listing profiles on any other sites, you should still make sure your information is accurate with the larger organizations.
Optimizing your GMB profile
Claiming and optimizing your Google My Business (GMB) profile is one of the most powerful local SEO activities lawyers can do. GMB listings are often the first things to show up for location-based searches. At the time of this writing, only three business listings are shown on the first page of results. More are shown on maps but far fewer users actually click through to look at those listings.
Claiming your profile Pretty much all law firms that have been around for a year or more have information on Google. Claiming your profile is the first step toward optimizing it.
Enter Complete Data Google gets its information from a variety of sources around the internet. That information may not always be accurate so Google relies on attorneys to provide that when claiming a GMB profile. Fill out every single field in your profile.
Verify Your Listing You can let Google and searchers know they’ve found a profile that has reliable information by verifying you are the owner. Google will typically do this either through regular mail or a combination PIN/phone verification. Verifying your listing builds trust with searchers and it also prevents people from editing your profile information.
Manage Your Reviews We go over how to get reviews on different platforms later in this guide but here are a couple of tips on reviews specific to Google. Respond to every review on your profile, not just the negative ones. The more content you have related to reviews, the better your profile will rank.
Add Images Profiles that have more images than their competition get far more views. Add at least 30-40 images to your profile. They can be pictures of your office, of your staff, your logos, the surrounding area, etc.
Another great optimization feature that attorneys can leverage are custom links for specific actions. For example attorneys can add a link to their contact or appointment scheduling page right in their GMB profile.
GEO-targeting your pages
Targeting pages with a combination of keyword + location name is an effective way of combating Centroid Bias (Google’s tendency to show GMB profiles based on the real world firm’s proximity to the city center).
Here is the basic strategy for making pages that rank well for location-based terms:
Step 1: Keyword Research
Find the keywords people are using to find your legal services. Make sure you find phrases that are not too broad, have a decent amount of search volume, and that will get you the kind of leads you are looking for. Phrases should also have some type of city, town, or region identifier in them because you are targeting searchers in that geographic region.
Step 2: Find LSI Keywords
LSI keywords are terms and phrases that are synonymous with your main target keyword phrase. LSI stands for latent semantic indexing and the easiest way to find these terms is by plugging your main phrase into Google and then scrolling to the bottom of the page.
Step 3: Make location-specific pages
Now all you have to do is include your location-specific keywords on a page on your site. The page should be all about that location. It helps to include a local phone number, address, and other relevant location information. It should also have the target location-based keyword in the title, in headings, in the meta description, and the copy of the page.
Social proof is all about how your practice looks online. What professional organizations you belong to, the accomplishments you’ve had, and the visual representations that go along with these are all great for your online presence.
A great resource for attorneys is local trade organizations, chambers of commerce, Better Business Bureau branches, and other similar authoritative entities.
When consumers can see that your practice belongs to these trustworthy organizations, it proves to them that you are a part of a community.
Developing a practice area-specific page
Location-specific pages are good for businesses including law firms but practice area-specific pages are a unique task that attorneys can take advantage of.
Building a practice area specific page is a lot like building a location specific page.
Finding your Target Keyword Phrase
For location pages you’re looking for keyword + location to optimize a page for. This time you’ll be optimizing for just practice area.
You can use another term with practice area however if you do a little bit of research, you’ll find that most combinations that aren’t just the practice area also include a location.
Structure of Your Page
Like other pages on your site, your practice area specific page should be just about the practice area. You should only use the keyword phrase (i.e. personal injury lawyers) along with its close variations.
Density of the keyword isn’t as important as that the overall theme of the page is about the practice area.
Keep the semantic web in mind when writing your practice area specific page. Words that are synonymous with the target keyword phrase, variations and relevant concepts should be used in your copy.
For instance if your practice area specific page focuses on the phrase “divorce lawyer”, using the terms lawyer and divorce in other combinations throughout the copy as well as the term “attorney” and “divorce attorney” is ok.
Tools for local SEO
If you are submitting local citations yourself, you will find that it is extremely tedious and time-consuming work. Websites that populate business-listing profiles allow you to get back to what you do best, working with clients.
This is one of the leading citation companies on the market. For a fee, Yext will populate dozens and dozens of business listing profiles on sites like Yellowpages.com, Superpages.com, Yelp.com, and many others.
The way it works is that you create an account, log in and then fill out one profile on Yext’s interface with all of your business information.
You can include name, phone number, URL, social profiles, business description, keywords, photos, logos, videos and a host of other information.
Now you can sit back and relax while Yext disseminates the information to dozens of different websites.
This comes in extremely handy when you don’t have a lot of time to do the work yourself or if you need to change a lot of listings quickly.
Of all the citation services, Yext has a reasonable monthly service plan however, you have to sign up for a year in advance and you can’t actually pay monthly. When you consider the cost of doing all the work yourself though, it’s a bargain.
Google Search Console
This is a free service from Google that can tell you all sorts of things about your site. It used to be pretty limited but these days you can do and learn a lot with your site. For example with WMT you can:
Test how a site appears in search
Highlight data for Google to learn about
Monitor HTML improvements
Learn about your site links and demote them if necessary
Learn about search queries people are using to find your site
See data on internal links on your site
Get alerted to any manual web spam actions leveled against your site
Monitor your site’s index status
Remove URLs from search
Evaluate the keywords most prevalent on your site
Submit URLs to Google’s index
Identify security issues
Get links to helpful resources
Check out new tools that Google is testing out
In addition to all that you can monitor multiple sites, invite others to monitor your site, submit sitemaps, and export all of the data you see as many times as you want.
Ironically Google’s free web analytics tool is also one of the most widely used and it isn’t because it’s free. Google’s analytics platform is one of the most robust and versatile in the industry.
Granted you need some know-how to get it to work for you but other than that it’s completely free.
With Google Analytics you can see:
Number of pages viewed per visit
Custom interactions like clicks on links and buttons
Visitors common paths through your site
Geo-location, device usage, browser usage and other data on visitors
Real time information on your site
Other features include:
The ability to export reports in a variety of formats
Set up email alerts and automated reporting
Filters for data
Customizable dashboards and reporting
That’s only a fraction of the reporting and features you can get with analytics. Google also provides a library of videos call Conversion University where people can get tutorials on how to use features of analytics.
Search has become the method by which people find information about local businesses. Phone books and 411 has gone the way of the VCR, the Walkman and home phones.
Increasingly, people are using laptops, tablets and mobile smart phones to look up addresses, phone numbers, directions and a host of other locally relevant information.
Attorneys who do not have sites optimized for local are missing out.
These days if you can’t be found online, you aren’t relevant. This guide is here to help you bring your website to the next level and you should be well on your way if you apply these practices.
We understand that Local SEO is a highly technical, complicated (and boring) practice. Not everyone can do their own SEO work so if you’re finding yourself stuck in one spot with your search marketing efforts, contact Rankings.io today! We can help you articulate your goals and show you how local SEO can help you meet them.
AdWords Call-Only Campaigns: How Lawyers Can Get the Most Out of Google
Google’s commitment to mobile is no secret especially after their announcement about mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor in search. Even before that algorithm change, Google introduced call only campaigns specifically designed to generate phone call conversions from users who are not interested in visiting a landing page to fill out a form. According to Com Score, roughly 29% of search queries were performed on a mobile device (phone or tablet) making call only campaigns a very attractive strategy for the legal industry.
Why Mobile Click to Call is Important
Once mobile browsers that were actually usable hit the scene, mobile web browsing became more than the cumbersome novelty that it was born as. Now mobile devices have become so powerful that consumers are using them as their go-to device for contacting local businesses at home and on the fly.
A study commissioned by Google on the mobile browsing habits of respondents aged 18-74 found that when phone numbers were associated with ads in search results, click through rates increased an average of 8%. The study also pointed out that for 48% of mobile searchers the stage of overall “path-to-purchase” when click-to-call is most important is when they want to make their final purchase.
That last statistic is very significant. When people call a business, they are usually ready to make a purchase or take some other big step forward in the purchase process. For lawyers, that could mean consumers setting an appointment to talk about their legal situation. This makes a well-configured click to call campaign a very powerful lead generation tool.
How it Works
Call only campaigns are configured in the same way search campaigns are except ads are not served for desktop searches and they are optimized for mobile device searches. Otherwise lawyers set up campaigns and adgroups that contain targeting and keyword information just like search campaigns. Optimization however is a different story (more on that in a moment).
Differences from search campaigns with phone number ad extensions:
Ads have less room for text (there are only two lines in call only campaign ads as opposed to 4 in search)
Unlike ad extensions for AdWords, phone numbers are replaced with call buttons making them easier for people to see and use
Conversion tracking is simpler: You can record conversions right from Google’s SERP as opposed to happening on your website. This eliminates the need for installing conversion tracking code on a site and conversions can be counted as phone calls come in. For example a call lasting longer than 60 seconds could count as a conversion.
Setting up A Call-Only Campaign
Call only campaigns are very easy to set up especially if you are already familiar with AdWords search campaigns. Log into your AdWords account and go to your campaigns tab.
Click on the +Campaign button and select a new search network only campaign.
At the beginning of the campaign creation process, Google will ask you what kind of campaign you would like to create. Make sure that call only is selected.
The next steps in the campaign creation process are pretty much the same as for creating search campaigns. You will create adgroups, set targeting settings, set your budget and create your ad. Since call only was selected at the beginning of the process, Google already knows to show your ad on mobile devices. Make sure you set the right phone number where you want calls to be forwarded.
Here is an example of what ads look like on mobile (before the click):
Call only campaigns can be very effective but there are some important things to consider if you want to get the most out of the feature.
Define your firm’s conversion: A conversion on a call only campaign is a phone call. When you think about it, just counting a phone call as a conversion without regard for length is a bad strategy. There could be wrong numbers, irrelevant client inquiries or the call could simply be too short to convert someone.
Figure out how long a call needs to be in order for you to count it as a conversion in your data. For example maybe a call only needs to last 90 seconds before you can say it is a real lead. Some firms may need a call to last 5-10 minutes before they can legitimately say the ad worked at bringing in a new client. Whatever that time frame is, set it in your account so you can get good information on your campaign’s success.
To add a new conversion tracking rule to your account go to tools -> Conversions and click the red +Conversion button.
Choose phone call conversions from the options on the next screen
In the prompt that appears choose the ad extensions phone option
Next you will set the call duration for your campaign. The default length is 60 seconds. You can also set many other values on this page. Once you are satisfied, you will be prompted to pick the campaign where you want the conversion tracking applied. Note that you will have to make your call only campaign first in order to assign the conversion to it.
Tailoring Your Calls to Action
This may seem obvious but be cautious about how you write your calls to action for your call only campaigns. In search, display and remarketing campaigns, the goal is usually to get people to click. In a call only campaign, searchers are still clicking but they are not going to a landing page. Calls to action like click here, apply now, contact us today, visit us now, etc do not really fit well. Call only campaigns are targeted at people already looking to make a phone call. Instead use CTA’s related to making a phone call (i.e. Speak to a legal specialist today, Call now, Talk to a professional now, etc).
Scheduling of your call only ads becomes more important because the nature of their use is different. People may browse on websites during evening or late night hours making the opportunity to generate conversions with form fills more likely. Most people are not calling businesses (especially attorneys) late in the evening or during the night. Unless your firm operates during late hours, you may want to schedule your ads to show during traditional business hours to save money and enhance the overall health of the account.
Schedule your ads to run during your normal business hours where someone will be around to answer the phone. Of course you should also keep a close eye on your data to make sure you are not missing out on potential voice mails that could also be viable leads for new clients. Ad scheduling can be configured during your new campaign creation process. You can also go back in and do it afterward.
Call only campaigns can be extremely useful for the legal industry because people do not always want to fill out a form and wait for a response. Lawyers may find it a better use of their money to generate phone calls from search as opposed to traffic to their site. There is still a place for traditional search and display campaigns but call only ads fill that gap for people who just want to make a phone call.
New websites need a lot of attention to start ranking well in search. A new domain is not trusted by Google and is typically buried deep in search results to start. It takes time to build up the authority on any website but here are the key activities lawyers should be doing first.
Submit site to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools
Google and other search engines will index your site regardless of whether you tell them about it or not. There are still some good reasons to submit to these leading search engines.
Lawyers can get their pages indexed faster.
Initiating a manual crawl from Google and Bing alerts them to your pages a little sooner.
Search Console gives site owners other valuable information about their domain such as keyword positioning, technical information and alerts about potential issues.
In as little as 15-20 days, you can have some good information on how people are finding your site
Search Console from Google and Webmaster Tools from Bing are free to use and relatively simple to set up.
Build Citations and Other Links
Citations can help a new domain get a good web presence quickly. Lawyers should use a citation service like Moz Local or Yext to get a new domain out on the web. This can also be a good way to get multiple local links to a site in a short amount of time.
Most citation services and websites will allow for links to be placed but higher quality links should be obtained from other sources. Here are some good places to start:
Submit your site to top legal directories (both paid and free).
Create social profiles.
Look for guest posting opportunities on niche-relevant websites.
Submit your site to local directories and authoritative business related websites like the Better Business Bureau.
The idea with citations is that your firm will be listed in dozens if not hundreds of locations online all with the same consistent information. This can improve your rank for local searchers. Links are a core part of Google’s ranking algorithm which makes earning them one of the most important tasks in SEO.
Keyword Research and Content
Content is another top ranking factor so it should be a primary focus for lawyers working on ranking a new domain. A core focus of attorney SEO should be making well-researched, helpful content that is beneficial to a law firm’s audience. Along with good content, it’s important to keep the keywords that you want to rank for in mind when generating new content.
Here are some best practices for keyword research and implementation:
Each page on a website should target a specific keyword phrase.
Look for purchase intent keywords (i.e. personal injury lawyer cost, bankruptcy attorney pricing, etc.).
Use synonyms of your target keywords on your pages.
Insert target keyword phrases in page titles, headings, meta descriptions, image file names, alt attributes, anchor text of internal links pointed at the page and in page copy.
It should be noted that having a blog can increase the number of pages (and hence the number of keywords that can be targeted).
Lawyers should use tools to find out search volume of keyword phrases before going after them. After all if an audience is not using a phrase to find legal services, it doesn’t make much sense to target it in search.
Here are some good tools to get that data:
Google Keyword Planner
Ahrefs Keywords Explorer
Google’s keyword planner can be used to figure out search volume for specific phrases and it’s free. Ahrefs Keywords Exlporer can be used for the same thing although you can only use it so much for free before having to sign up for a subscription.
Use these tools by plugging in a few phrases as ‘seed’ keywords (starter phrases). The tools will produce more phrases that searchers are using to find legal services like yours.
Onsite SEO refers to things you can do to your actual website to rank well in search. This builds a solid foundation for a site to perform well in search. Here is a short list of onsite elements that should be optimized:
Write a unique and compelling title tag and meta description for all pages with important content (especially practice area specific pages)
Make sure your target keyword phrases are included in page copy and other key areas on the page
Check that each page has an h1 tag (just one) and if necessary, subsequent header tags (h2, h3, h4, etc)
Add alt attributes to images and try to work your keyword phrase in there
Make sure you have a properly configured Robots file
These are powerful business listings for local businesses. Google in particular has a strong interest in delivering relevant local results to users. When people look for law firms, Google tends to serve results that are close by a searcher’s location based on their IP address. Lawyers who do not have a robust Google Business listing are not going to show up in those results.
Bing has a good listing service as well and being present there helps for a lawyer’s presence on that platform (which has surpassed 20% market share in search). For both of these services, it is important to fill out profiles as completely as possible which includes:
Adding Name, Address, phone number to the profile
Adding website URL
Add as many images and videos as allowed
Add accurate categories including practice area categories
Add a keyword-rich description of the business
Verify the listing
Add a local phone number and not a toll free
Adding as much content as possible to a listing makes it more useful for users. More useful content is more likely to be served.