This is an article for SEOs who have attorney clients, as well as for attorneys who need to know what they are paying for when they pay their SEO.
Lawyers and other highly educated professionals know that when you need to get something done well, you need a special set of skills. SEO is no different.
This typically leaves you with two options: hire someone with that special set of skills required for effective SEO, or take six months and learn it yourself. This post is going to shine a light on aspects of SEO you may not be aware of, dispel some myths you have heard, and help you to ensure your SEO efforts are most effective whether you hire an SEO or learn to do SEO yourself.
1. The Search Term You Think Will Get You the Most Business Likely Won’t
Every law firm SEO deals with an attorney client who demands to rank for “XYZ City Divorce Attorney”. That attorney thinks that when people are considering divorce in their city, that’s what they search for. While this may often be the case, in many instances potential clients do not begin the process of hiring a divorce attorney with a search for “XYZ City Divorce Attorney”.
And, “XYZ City Divorce Attorney” is likely very competitive to rank for in that market,
For these reasons, while ranking for “XYZ City Divorce Attorney” will drive business to you, the considerable money and effort it would take might be better spent optimizing for other relevant long tail keywords that are also highly searched-for.
“XYZ City Divorce Attorney” is likely a head term with many valuable sub-terms that are less competitive to rank for. A good SEO won’t stop with the head term but will research what sub-terms are easier to rank for AND searched for often. These subterms will be the questions people type into Google, such as “What is legal separation in XYZ City” or “I live in ABC town but have a child custody problem in XYZ city, what do I do?”
Also, rather than relying on ranking for “XYZ City Divorce Attorney” to capture local traffic, an attorney must have a website with effective location pages that rank well in the “divorce lawyer near me” and “divorce attorney near me” searches – searches which the attorney SEO will make sure actually do occur in a volume that makes sense for the investment.
Attorney, you are paying your SEO to identify the relevant long-tail keywords with a high number of searches, determine which of them it is possible to rank for in your market and within your SEO budget, and create content that not only gets impressions and ranks well, but that gets clicks and converts those clicks into clients for you. This means that your online content has to be authoritative, thorough, optimized for search, and start the searcher on his or her buyer’s journey.
For this reason…
2. Let Your Law Firm SEO Write Your Online Content so it is Optimized
Attorney, you CAN write your own web content if you take the time to learn how. But if you don’t have that time there’s a good chance you’ll be better served by letting your SEO write your web page content and your blog and guests posts for you.
Your SEO will have identified the relevant keywords that are frequently searched for that you can rank for, and will research topics, write content on those topics, and place those keywords and related words strategically in the content. The content’s structure will also be optimized for Google ranking and for reader engagement on both desktop and mobile devices.
Why is an attorney often not the best person to write his or her web content? First, it does not make business sense – an attorney’s valuable time is better spent practicing law and running the law firm, not trying to figure out how to write web content. Second, attorneys are trained to write from a legal perspective, and the person who lands on your website will almost always be a lay person.
What is missing from an attorney’s writing for the web?
- Lack of understanding of what people are actually searching for;
- Legal style, often using long sentences and paragraphs, is inappropriate for mobile devices – big blocks of text are off-putting and thwart reader engagement;
- Lack of knowledge and use of effective copywriting methods that increase reader engagement.
Attorney Review of Content is Necessary Prior to Publishing
While many SEO firms do not insist on this, to comply with ethical rules in your jurisdiction you must review the drafts your SEO sends you prior to publication.
- Check the substantive content for legal accuracy. As an attorney, you are required to put out correct legal information.
- Web pages and blog posts should in most cases carry a disclaimer that this is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.
- If using case and client examples, a disclaimer such as the following should be used: “while we were successful in this case, we cannot guarantee the same or similar result in any other matter.”
- Check your jurisdiction’s ethical rules on attorney advertising and be sure everything you put online complies.
3. There is Such a Thing as Over-Optimization
Every law firm SEO company has that attorney client that insists on writing his or her own content, and randomly peppers that content with variations on “XYZ City Divorce Attorney”, “Divorce Attorney in XYZ City”, Divorce Lawyer in XYC City,” etc. Little does this attorney know that Google recognizes over-optimization and penalizes sites that indulge in this.
So, if you insist on writing your own content, listen up – sure, you are a good writer, and you might be writing high-quality legal material, but you won’t be able to optimize that material for the searches that are actually happening because you have not done any keyword research, and, you may get your site penalized by Google for doing what you *think* is search engine optimization. And, even if the topic you chose to write about is something that people who might hire you search for, your SEO has to go in after you and optimize what you wrote, both language and structure.
In other words, you are wasting your time and money writing your own content. Trust your law firm SEO professional. If you review and edit his or her work for legal accuracy and ethical compliance, you get the best of both worlds.
4. Sometimes Grammar Suffers if Long-Tail Keywords Are Targeted
So, attorney, you’ve relented and allowed your SEO to write your content for you. But you are reviewing a draft blog post and thinking, no one writes or speaks like this!
You’re right. It is almost as if a new dialect is being created by the necessities of SEO. Some of the grammar will feel awkward and it is in those moments that you know your SEO found a long-tail keyword that must be reproduced exactly as searched for, with no variation.
An example: A header on a blog post about bankruptcy might be, “Are You Thinking, I Need a Lawyer to Help Me Get a Fresh Start?” Yes, awkward. But your SEO has done the research and discovered that the long-tail keyword “lawyer to help me get a fresh start” is searched often in your market, so, that’s the way your SEO had to work it in, word-for-word.
That’s the result you want. You should be worried if there aren’t any awkward moments like that in your content.
5. In Order to Rank Well, You Need Backlinks
This topic is somewhat controversial in the SEO world, however, in my experience the number of backlinks correlates with the rank of the post, most of the time.
What is a backlink?
It is when another site links to a page on your website using anchor text that you want to rank for.
What? Okay, backing it up…
Anchor text is the term for the word or phrase that forms the hyperlink to your site, that the reader clicks on to get to your site.
The anchor text should be a word or phrase (most often phrase) that you want to rank for. Your SEO will know what anchor text should be used, having done the keyword research.
So, a backlink is a link to a page on your site that appears on another site. The hyperlink is a phrase that people search for and that your SEO thinks you can rank for.
Think about it… if someone is reading an article online, say, on the website of their local newspaper and there is a hyperlink to your site in that article, don’t you think that creates a feeling in the reader that you are an authority in [anchor text]? Yes, Google thinks so too. More authority = higher rank.
How do you get backlinks?
The most “white hat” (legitimate) way to get backlinks is to write guest posts for other sites. How does one identify guest post opportunities? Your SEO has software that combs the web, searching for suitable sites to host your content. When a site agrees to host your content, you (meaning your SEO) write a guest post suitable for the host site and containing that all-important link to a page on your site, using anchor text that your SEO thinks you can rank for.
Hope this helps both lawyer SEOs and their lawyer clients!