What Lawyers Really Need To Know About SEO

Written by greg on April 23, 2015

Law Firm SEO

Recently, I evaluated an attorney’s website to give recommendations about internet visibility for that website.  Most attorneys have no idea what SEO or search engine optimization involves.

Search engine optimization is getting a website to rank or show up in the search results for Google, Bing or Yahoo.

For lawyers, this means getting visitors to your website without paying per click (PPC).

Search engine optimization is an art that requires forward thinking with the constant algorithm changes of the major search engines. Google, in particular, has demonstrated its commitment to customers and advertising revenue. Google’s ranking system is constantly changing. This makes SEO much more unpredictable and harder to get meaningful, consistent results.

The Nuts and Bolts of Law Firm SEO

There are two parts to the optimization process.  The website itself and off website factors that the search engines take into consideration. Both are important in determining where your website will fall among millions of other sites.

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”750px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Lawyers unfamiliar with the search engine optimization process are susceptible to being sold a “bill of goods”.[/dropshadowbox]

Fast talking salespeople with the jargon of the industry can sound convincing.

The following is a guide for attorneys considering retaining SEO help.

On-site work

The website itself must be set up properly to rank for key search terms that are important to the law firm.

If you practice bankruptcy in the Phoenix area you may want to “rank” for the term “Phoenix bankruptcy attorney”.

The site itself must be “optimized” to show up for terms that the website owner believes are important to them.

Popular content management systems such as Word Press allow easy optimization and update of information.

Firms considering a website or an updating their current website should be looking at a CMS or content management system. The main ones are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.   I suggest WordPress as the simplest of the three.

Off-site factors

You can have a website that is optimized perfectly internally yet the site can hardly be found. If so, the site probably has not had enough off-site work done to help the site rank with the search engines. If you are not on the first two pages of search results you are probably wasting your money.

Years ago, the key ranking factor was “links” from other websites that clicked back to your website. That no longer is the case.  Google, in particular, started manually and algorithmically lowering sites that had too many links from shaky sites or keyword stuffing.

Today, the search engine optimization process is in a state of flux. But low value backlinks will still hurt your ranking. Obtaining authoritative links to your website from highly regarded sources (think Wikipedia), remains a viable method of improving your search engine ranking and increasing your sites authority.

Additionally, some SEO experts believe that back links will become less and less a factor, if a factor at all in the near future.  Mentions of your firm from credible online sources are predicted to become the most important factor in your ranking.

Tips for selecting an SEO company

The following are suggestions for lawyers looking to hire an SEO firm.

  • Always control your website – some companies insist they host the site as part of their package. As long as you are doing business with that company your website is safe.  But, if you become dissatisfied with the service, you may be putting your website at risk. Despite assurances that your site can be easily moved, it is not always true.

Be careful not to get caught in the trap where you can’t move your site without ranking consequences.  I suggest you have an outside host for your website.

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”750px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Retain control of your website to avoid having to make monthly payments simply because you are trapped with an SEO company.[/dropshadowbox]

  • Conduct your due diligence – by looking at results for other websites handled by the company and speaking with current or former clients.
  • Avoid the page 1 promise – reputable SEO companies cannot guarantee page one ranking. You must look very closely at any company that guarantees rankings. Some may use “black hat” (techniques outside of Google’s recommendations). That may sound great at the time, but it will come back to haunt you.
  • Require monthly reports– the reports should include what was accomplished and a plan forward.
  • Don’t forget local– local maps listings can be as important as “organic” ranking as far as local consumers goes. While local ranking is a topic for another day- any SEO project for lawyers that serve consumers should include local SEO.
  • Get a no compete in your market– if you don’t and your efforts are successful, you may find the SEO company is now working for your competition.

It is easy for attorneys who don’t know SEO to get taken, even by “reputable” SEO companies.

Time spent investigating providers is mandatory and following these suggestions will save frustration and money in the long run.

Greg Baumgartner is the founder of the Baumgartner Law Firm based in Houston, Texas.

Follow Greg on Google+ and Twitter.

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