Why invest in a SEO strategy for your law firm?
Over the last 5 years the UK law services market has grown each year. It has remained relatively buoyant through 2017-2018 and the predicted growth in 2019 – 2025 is relatively slow, depending on the impact of Brexit. According to a Google Consumer Survey from 2013, 96% of people seeking legal advice start their search online using a search engine. This means online competition for paid and organic positions in Google will most likely increase in the following years.
Lets’s look at some of the numbers.
This Google Trends graph from 2013 – 2018 shows the interest for the query ‘solicitor‘. In 5 years time an increase of ~25%.
Looking at the growth for the query ‘solicitor near me‘ it’s clear your law firm is missing out if a local SEO strategy is not in place yet.
Benefit of SEO for high value keywords
Converting a single lead to a client is very profitable in most legal sectors. Therefor the cost of paid advertising campaigns will run high very quickly when using PPC platforms such as Adwords (if you have little experience). That doesn’t mean search engine advertising has no place in the marketing strategy of a law firm, but it can be too risky for many (smaller) firms to bid on certain expensive keywords.
Let’s look at some real life Cost-per-Click (CPC) examples in Adwords for keywords relevant for law firm websites:
- personal injury solicitors – £ 64.25 CPC
- no win no fee – £ 75.43 CPC
- whiplash claims – £ 44.64 CPC
- accident solicitors – £ 61.97 CPC
- work injury lawyer – £ 47.37 CPC
Imagine having 1000 people click on your £ 64.25-per-click ad only to find out your page does not convert at all. Ouch!
Thankfully with SEO, when 1000 people click on your organic result you pay absolutely zero. That does not mean SEO is free, but it might be more interesting to target these keywords organically. Let’s explore how to do this.
Table of contents
Customer journey and sales funnel
Before diving straight into keyword research, take a second to think about the customer journey of your target audience first. Consider the stages of the sales funnel they go through before they become a client for your law firm.
Let’s take an individual who has suffered from a medical misdiagnosis:
- Search intent: Seeking information on their situation. Hard conversions are expected to be low, although soft conversions are possible. For example by converting a visitor to a lead though a PDF whitepaper accessible by e-mail.
- Possible keywords: “doctor misdiagnosed me”, “types of medical malpractice”, “can you sue the nhs”
- Type of landingspage: Guides, FAQ’s, most likely long-form content in a cluster of pages around relevant topics the user can visit next to deepen their search.
- Search intent: Seeking more information on the type of services you offer.
- Possible keywords: “solicitors liverpool reviews”, “what is no win no fee”
- Type of landingspage: Testimonials, Case stories, Explanation of certain terms such as “no win no fee”. From this point try to steer visitors down the funnel, not upwards.
- Search intent: Seeking for your service. Conversions are expected to be highest for these type of keywords.
- Possible keywords: “medical malpractice solicitor”, “solicitor near me”
- Type of landingspage: Conversion pages. The top of the page should contain the USP’s, display elements that signal trust, contain a very clear Call-to-Action and very little distraction.
Keyword-based content creation
Understanding the intent behind keywords helps in determining how to target them. Also it gives some handles on setting an estimated ROI on keywords, although of course very roughly. Moz published a very good guide on how to project results and asign tasks to keywords.
Where to use keywords
To summarise very briefly, primary keywords should be used in the following elements:
- The page URL
- <title> tag
- <h1> tag, primary keyword
- <h2> tags, secondary keywords
- At least a few times through-out the content, definitely in the first paragraph. Don’t stick to a keyword density target, keep it natural.
- Alt tag of image(s)
- Text anchors of internal links towards the page
Let’s start out by making a clear distinction between 2 types of law firms:
- Law firms offering a broad amount of legal services (Corporate tax, Family law, Personal Injury etc.). Example: Irwin Mitchell.
- Law firms specialised in a single legal service (Medical negligence, Personal injury, Criminal etc.) Example: Patient Claim Line.
Single service law firms
If your law firm only specialises in family law cases, consider going for an Exact Match Domain, such as https://familylawsolicitors.co.uk/. An EMD will limit your ability to rank on other keywords, so only go for this if your law firm definitely only focuses on one legal niche.
- Add services pages that go down deeper into the niche, such as https://familylawsolicitors.co.uk/services/prenuptial-agreements or https://familylawsolicitors.co.uk/services/inheritance-claims
- Use a blog or some type of subpage setup to target keywords in the top funnel.
- As Google is putting more emphasis on brand reputation this tactic might loose power over the next years. It is wise to also have a invest in having a website for the actual law firm company name.
Broad service law firms
A law firm offering a broad range of legal services will be best off by building a website around their company name from the start.
- Also add service pages for each expertise, i.e. https://lawfirm.co.uk/criminal-law/ and https://lawfirm.co.uk/corporate-tax/
- Deepen the services with subpages, i.e. https://lawfirm.co.uk/family-law/divorce/
- Instead of having a blog, this type of website can be better of creating content silo’s, i.e. https://lawfirm.co.uk/industrial-accident/diffuse-mesothelioma-compensation-payment-scheme
Internal linking and information architecture
The internal linking structure of a website determines for the largest part how link equity is shared throughout the domain.
- Use breadcrumbs. This shows users and search engines relations between directories and their subpages. Don’t forget using the correct structured data mark-up as this shows the bread crumbs in the rich snippits of the SERP.
- Create interlinks between relevant pages and update this whenever you post new content.
- Optimise text anchors of internal links for keywords.
As the graph at the beginning of the article shows, people are increasingly searching with phrases such as “solicitor near me”. Looking at the results page for this query, the first half of the page if completely filled with the local pack.
The only way to display your website in the local pack is through Google My Business (GMB). You have to get your account verified through https://www.google.com/business/ before it will show. A postcard (yes, a piece of paper) will be sent to the address where the company is registered. Only by using the code that is on this postcard can the account be activated.
How to optimise your Google My Business
- Google guidelines state you must strictly use only your business name as it would be used on your business paper for the title of your GMB account. However, it is common practice to also put a keyword in here as it has a big impact on local rankings. Don’t overdo this, be very clean.
- You can put links directly to your service pages in the “Introduction” field of your GMB account.
- Get more reviews for your business. Create a direct link to the Google review form for your business. Include this link the e-mail signature of your employees.
Google is increasingly capable of understanding the quality of content and websites. Since Google has shared updated versions of a document called the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines it has become evident that Google looks more strictly at page quality for so called YMYL (Your Money Your Life) websites, i.e. sites dealing with legal advice and services.
“ In 2013, we published our human rating guidelines to provide transparency on how Google works and to help webmasters understand what Google looks for in web pages.
– https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2015/11/updating-our-search-quality-rating.html ”
I recommend anybody responsible for the website of a law firm to read these guidelines and look at examples given of high quality and low quality results.
Changes to the Google algorithm
The second part of 2018 has seen Google algorithm updates that have impacted YMYL websites big time. If the organic traffic and rankings of the site of your law firm has seen significant changes around August 1st and/or between 23-27 September 2018, you have been impacted by the Google “Medical” and/or Google “Birthday” updates.
A few important points to understand:
- Determine what E-A-T (Expertise, Authority Trust) means for your website. Make it a part of your SEO strategy to improve on this continuously.
- Make it clear who works at the law firm, what they specialise in and why they are experts.
- Don’t cut corners on content creation. Make sure both the quality as quantity is sufficient and each page serves a clear unique purpose.
- Manage your online reputation well. This not only means review websites, but also forum discussions etc.
- Don’t forget SEO maintenance tasks such as fixing 301 redirect chains having a custom 404 page that actually helps users.
- If you have not switched to HTTPS, do that now.
- Mobile has become an increasingly important factor. Websites in the legal sector will often have very long and tiresome forms to fill in. These forms can be horrendous to use on mobile phones. Optimise the UX and length for mobile devices.
- Make sure NAP (Name, Address, Phonenumber) details are clear and consistent.
Last, but definitely not least important is how to successfully track results of your SEO efforts.
Using free tools such as Google Analytics makes it easy to track organic traffic. There are several ways to segment traffic and performance.
- For SEO campaigns you will most likely be looking at Behaviour > Landingspages segmented on Organic Traffic most of the time, comparing Week on Week, Month on Month and Year on Year results.
- Don’t forget to add annotations in GA when you run campaigns or make changes to the website. It’s a nightmare to have to figure this out in retrospect when something happens to the traffic.
As legal matters tend to deal with sensitive matters, many people feel more comfortable picking up the phone instead of filling in an online form first. If phone calls aren’t tracked, it can seem that organic traffic isn’t bringing in any conversions, even though it is.
- Be sure to use the tel: href tag
<a href="tel:+4412345689">so users can click/tap to dial. You can track these clicks using Google Analytics and GTM.
- An other option is to use 3rd part call tracking software that dynamically changes the phone number displayed on pages based on the traffic source. This makes it possible to see the conversion to calls from SEO vs. SEA. vs. Direct Traffic. This way the ROI of campaigns can be calculated. If set up incorrectly, this will have a negative impact on SEO so be sure to consult a SEO specialist for the setup.
Conversions and goal setup in Google Analytics
Using Google Analytics and if needed Google Tag Manager, it’s possible to set up Goals and track conversions. Examples of tracked goals could be:
- Claim form submissions
- Phone calls
- E-mails sent
- Contact page visited
- Downloads of PDF guides on how to claim
If conversions aren’t tracked, your basically running campaigns blind. It’s surprising how often we still see accounts without any goal or conversion tracking.
These days organic keyword rankings can be quite volatile and variate from day to day. It’s not a good idea to go into alarm phase one whenever keyword X drops from #4 to #5 compared to yesterday. Also only focussing an entire SEO strategy on 1 or 2 keywords is very outdated. However, it is very important to track a wider scope of keywords and look at these on a week to week, month to month basis. Significant changes should not go unnoticed and SEO efforts should be judged on results.
Google Search Console provides some keyword data. However, for a serious SEO campaign it’s best to do proper keyword research, pick target keywords and track them using one of a the many tools available. A few options:
- Advanced Web Ranking (AWR)
That wraps this post up. This article will be updated frequently and we also are planning to release a few more articles dealing specifically with SEO for law firm websites.