Law Firm SEO in 2017: Where to Focus Your Attention

law firm seo 2017 Thinking about your law firm’s SEO priorities for 2017? Well 2017 is here, and just like in previous years we’ve seen a lot of changes in both the way people search, and how Google presents its results. We have come a long way since the days of 10 blue links.

These days, if someone is looking for an attorney online, they might search for a specific type of lawyer or ask a question pertaining to their case on their mobile device, desktop computer, tablet, or even a voice assistant. As technology evolves it has become easier for people to search using whatever method causes the least friction. It is our job as marketers to ensure that our websites are well optimized for the methods of online discovery that our customers use most.

In 2017, like every year, it’s going to be essential that your firm focus it’s marketing budget on activities that maximize return on investment. Toward that end, today we’re going to look at exactly what tactical steps you should take in 2017 to increase your overall online search visibility and improve your law firm’s SEO.

What’s Changed In Google’s Search Results Over the Past Year?

While there were hundreds of changes last year in the search results the most prominent ones that will affect you are:

  1. Increase in paid ads at the top of the search page.

    Now you will see four paid ads for most searches before the local pack shows up beneath it.Four Paid Ads in Search Results

  2. Addition of paid local ads

    In addition to having normal free results in the local pack, Google now offers paid local ads. These are marked with a green “ad” button which you can see in the example below:Ads in the local pack

  3. Introduction of answer box results

    Google introduced answer box results where the #1 ranking listing gets it’s own box. This leads to more clicks to that result.google-answer-box-example

  4. Visibility increase of legal directories

    Another major change was that fact that local law firms took a hit because Google prioritized high quality legal and review directories. In the example below you can see Yelp and Findlaw show up for the keyword: San Jose Car Accident Lawyer.Organic SERP directories

What does this all mean? It means that you need to diversify your digital marketing efforts. Putting all of your eggs in one channel will end poorly.

Where Should I Focus My Online Marketing Efforts in 2017?

I’m going to make a few assumptions and assume you already have a highly tuned, properly optimized, and fastest loading website that’s possible to have. Making changes or adding content to your website may not help you if you’re under a penalty or not properly optimized.

Here are my top tactical suggestions for law firms to get more clients in 2017.

Local SEO

Local SEO is still the bread and butter for most of our clients. We generate a large amount of traffic to our clients through local results and these tend to have high conversion rates because Google prioritizes local businesses in the local pack. Ranking in the local pack can be a bit tricky and there is a lot of competition there. Assuming your listing is properly optimized and you have done the basics, this is what you need to focus on next.

Where To Focus Your Local SEO Attention:

1. Reviews, Reviews, Reviews

Multiple click test studies have shown that consumers trust reviews and may prioritize where they click based on these numbers. Even if you’re ranking in a lower position, having more reviews can really help you get more clicks.

Impact of reviews in SERPs

If you are having trouble getting reviews check out our post on 5 easy ways to get reviews or use our review generator to get a link generated that you can send directly to happy clients. If you need more suggestions on how to get good reviews or implement a system internally that helps run this smoothly check out Get Five Stars.

2. Legal Backlinks

Links are still the biggest ranking factor we use to move our clients up in the local and organic search results. Getting quality links will move the needle for your firm in a big way. The problem is that not all links are created equal. These days the links I recommend most often to our legal clients are links from legal-related websites. When you’re starting a link building campaign it’s essential that you focus on getting highly relevant links that may also bring business.

In the next few weeks I’ll be releasing a post on which websites do this the best but a few good ideas to start with are legal directories such as Findlaw, Nolo, and HG.org.

If you focus on a link building campaign in 2017 for your firm and it’s not a PR related activity, think about how you can earn mentions and links from legal websites which are highly relevant links that will pass more equity.

3. Top Citations

First you need to check your top citations and ensure you don’t have duplicates and the listing information is 100% accurate across the top citation sources. If you do have incorrect citations you need to fix them. I suggest worrying mostly about the top citations for lawyers list here.

Organic SEO

Organic SEO will likely be the main traffic source of visitors to your website. Organic traffic is great for law firms and you can get a lot of it by following a focused strategy. One strategy we use for our clients is the FAQ strategy. Creating great content around a topic and answering real questions people have when they need a lawyer is a great way to get strong traffic and increase your reputation. Here are a few of the areas of focus for our clients in 2017.

Where To Focus Your Organic SEO Attention:

1. Answer Box Strategy

Answer boxes are stealing a lot of clicks and earning a lot of links to those pages because Google promotes them so effectively. If you want to earn more mentions and get more traffic for answer based queries then you should think about the “Answer Box First” mentality. Ask yourself what queries your website deserves to have these results for and create the great supporting content to get it ranked.

2. Blogging

Blogging has always been an effective means of driving quality traffic to your firm’s website. The problem with most blogging is that its sporadic and without a strategy. Make sure your digital marketing team has a solid strategy in place to produce consistent content, prune or combine irrelevant content, and re-optimize older content that was great but needs a lift. Make sure you understand your goal for every blog post you publish.

3. Legal Links

Just as I mentioned above in local SEO, Legal Links will move the needle for you. Use the strategies I outlined above to take advantage of this.

Barnacle SEO

Barnacle SEO is something that was highly talked about but never done really well by most. I still see examples where people are not taking advantage of this. Barnacle SEO is really considering everything ranking for the keywords that are important to you and attaching yourself to them. For example, if Yelp ranks for Car Accident Lawyer like in the example above you should consider how you can also rank #1 in Yelp to get those impressions and higher conversions.

Where To Focus Your Barnacle SEO Attention:

Identify The Top Directories & Get Listed.

Start by conducting a visibility study. Get all of the keywords you’re most interested in ranking for and plug them into a tool like GetStat to see who the visibility winners are. An example that I pulled from GetStat is below and you will see that out of the 200+ keywords I’m interested in, Findlaw and Yelp have some strong visibility.

Share of voice

When I dove into the research deeper I also found that they typically rank in the #1-3 spots. Since I can identify which directories are ranking for the keywords most important to me I can determine where I want to rank. I can then reach out to these companies and consider whether I want to take a paid placement or work on an organic strategy to increase my rankings on these websites.

For the record, I commonly do not recommend Yelp advertising for most lawyers.

 

Paid Advertising

The year of paid advertising is upon us. While many people have had a lot of success with paid advertising we have seen a lot of Personal Injury Lawyers struggle with it and the exorbitant costs. We do recommend paid advertising to our clients now and there are two specific strategies that we’re most interested in.

Where To Focus Your Attention:

1. Google Adwords

It’s no secret that most search engine clicks come from Google. Although the costs can be higher at first it’s a great idea to start testing the water with Google’s paid ads. There are two options that make the most sense for our clients right now and those include the typical Google Adwords ads as well as the paid local placements. This budget should be well defined for the year.

Performance typically gets much better with time and once you know what works you will have very predictable numbers on your cost per case. Most of the time when people drop out of an adwords campaign it’s because the marketing agency was not giving enough attention to the program. Integrating this with your organic and local campaigns will product the best results.

2. Remarketing

Remarketing is still one of the most overlooked ways to advertise and it’s a bit shocking. When a potential client is looking for a lawyer they’re shopping around. If they visit your website and then bounce and start their research elsewhere, you need to be there. You can do that with remarketing. Remarketing allows your ads to serve to people who have previously visited your website.

It works on popular websites like CNN and many others. Have you ever felt followed around the internet by a product you looked at? This is good remarketing. Setting this up on a low budget can produce great results. Just make sure your conversion tracking is setup properly and to analyze the results monthly.

The Secret Is Everything

Do you want to know the secret to success? The secret is that doing all of the things I mentioned above the right way will create a lot of new business for you firm. In fact we have found that our highest pay per click performers are those who already rank high organically and locally. When you’re doing well in all of these areas you’re getting a lot of touch points and you’re recommended anywhere potential clients are looking.

There is no better way to increase your visibility in 2017 than by having a targeted and focused digital marketing campaign across multiple channels.

Are you running a successful marketing campaign with strong results? I would love to hear whats working for your firm. Please let me know in the comments below. 

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Casey Meraz

Casey is the founder and president of Ethical SEO Consulting and Juris Digital based in Denver, CO. Casey's specialties are in organic and local SEO. He is a regular contributor to the Moz Blog and the author of How To Perform The Ultimate Local SEO Audit. If you have an SEO question or need advice please feel free to reach out by email: cmeraz@jurisdigital.com. Follow Casey on Twitter @CaseyMeraz.