One of the most asked questions Work PR receives from solicitor firms is “how do I get my law firm to rank on the top spot of Google?” The answer is SEO.
SEO is fast becoming one of the most popular and frequently pushed marketing specialisms in the legal industry and in recent years, the number of agencies claiming to specifically provide “law SEO,” “SEO for solicitors” and so on has soared. As this trend is looking to continue into 2021, we have written this article to inform you why solicitors need SEO more than ever.
But firstly, what is SEO?
To put it simply, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a marketing strategy that focuses on driving a website to the first page of a search engine for specific search queries. There are a few search engines out there (Yahoo, Bing and DuckDuckGo to name a few) however as Google is the largest (owning 92.26% market share as of October 2020) we will be focusing primarily on how Google SEO works in this article.
Google determines which pages make it to the top page rankings through a combination of complex algorithms, which engineers are updating constantly to improve Google’s user experience and retrieve the most relevant search query results for searchers. For instance, one of the most significant algorithm changes in 2020 was the ‘Featured Snippet Deduplication’ update, where webpages in a featured snippet position would no longer be repeated in organic listings on page 1. This helped declutter search results so that users could find the information they were looking for easier - as well as making another slot available for different websites to rank for.
Most of Google’s algorithm changes are minor and go largely unnoticed. However, what most SEO experts can agree on is that the algorithm tends to generate results based on several variables, including (but not limited to):
- Data that Google has collected on the individual, including their demographic location, interests, age and previous search history.
- Keyword and phrase inclusion. Google recommends pages to searchers that have the most common lexical match to what they have typed into the search engine. Which is why every SEO expert worth their salt will usually start the optimisation process by conducting keyword research. These keywords need to be included throughout the copy (so repeated more than once), in your headings and subheadings, and in your meta descriptions.
- Meta descriptions (also known as Google snippets) that include both relevant keywords and are written in a way that engage more clicks.
- Your website bounce rate. This is a new SEO update that Google are planning to roll out in 2021 called Page Experience. If your bounce rate is high, it will indicate to Google that people did not enjoy your website, and therefore the search engine will be less likely to suggest it to searchers.
- The number of backlinks a website has. If several verified and non-toxic sites are linking to blog posts and pages of a particular website, it increases the ‘domain authority’ of the site – which can have a positive impact on page rankings. However, if there are a lot of toxic back links from spammy website, Google are less likely to recommend your site to users.
- Site health. There are many factors that can affect a sites health score, with some of the most common ones being site speed, broken links and website security. If Google’s crawlers detect several errors, it will deem your website as having poor user experience and not recommend it to searchers.
- Social media presence. Although it will not affect your rankings directly, social media plays a crucial role in an SEO strategy as it can be used to increase your brand’s content visibility.
Why Solicitors Need SEO in 2021 - It drives more customers to your website
It probably goes without saying, but there are more people making purchase decisions based on Google searches than ever before – with this only being further the case during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Constantly changing lockdown limitations and closures of business premises and offices has forced more solicitor firms than ever to prioritise online promotion. Even pre-pandemic, most searches for legal service queries were happening on Google, accounting for 97% of legal service searches.
From rising divorce rates to an incline in people seeking will writing services, we have seen how the pandemic has influenced the way people are seeking legal advice, which is why it is now more important than ever to ensure your online presence is grabbing the attention of this increased influx of potential clients.
Even law firms who have not yet invested in an SEO strategy may find that they are still gaining business through their website from local SEO – where Google recommends to searchers businesses that are close to their geographic location. Which is why it is always important to include addresses for your law offices on your website!
Why Solicitors Need SEO in 2021 - Keyword research provides insight into your potential clients that you would not find anywhere else
The terminology used in the legal industry often does not match what your target audience are typing into Google to find your services. By conducting keyword research using tools such as UberSuggest and Google Keyword Planner, you gain insight not only into the specific language used to find legal information, but related searches that can generate content ideas.
For example, we recently wrote a blog post for a client about pre-nuptial agreements. From conducting keyword research, we were able to identify the questions searchers had around pre-nuptial agreements and include them in our copy to enrich its content. These were queries such as “pre nup vs post nup”, “cohabitation agreements for unmarried couples”, “cohabitation for senior couples” etc. This additional information not only made our blog more interesting and informative for readers, but the inclusion of more key search phrases attracted higher and more diverse traffic to the website.
For clients asking us to design new websites, we often recommend researching the common questions and problems their target audience are facing and structuring their webpage and Google snippet copy as solutions to these problems. For example, if you are a solicitor specialising in family law, you could take a search term with high volume such as ‘fathers rights’ and create an entire webpage for answering frequently asked questions around fathers rights, what the laws for fathers rights are in the UK and how your services specific cater for this issue. This will likely lead to more engagement than just a general page about ‘child custody’, as the subject is more niche and specific.
Why Solicitors Need SEO in 2021 - It may be more effective than Google Ads
To fast pass their way to the top ranks of Google, many of the larger UK legal firms choose to instead invest in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, otherwise known as Google Ads.
There are many pros and cons for using Google Ads, and case studies on their return on investment vary from firm to firm. However, it is worth noting that Google Ads can be costly for specific types of law and for certain locations. For example, a London solicitor specialising in divorce law could be paying around £60 a click for the most competitive search terms!
There is also little you can do to control who clicks your ad (whether it be a bot, competitor or someone with no purchase intent) and it can be easy to lose money on if you don’t know what you are doing.
SEO can be a more cost-effective option – there are several free site audit tools to help get you started (such as Pingdom, Ubersuggest and Google’s array of SEO tools) though it is a long-term strategy that takes time to build results from. However, it is worth the extra time because it has a staying power that Google Ads does not have. Get outbid on a keyword or can no longer afford to run your Google Ad? Then say goodbye to the web traffic that you were gaining from that investment. Whereas a good guide on a complicated legal subject that gets updated yearly can attract web traffic for years to come.
So if you are a small law firm, we usually recommend prioritising SEO first, and looking into PPC campaigns as a later strategy.
Why Solicitors Need SEO in 2021 - It establishes your solicitor brand as knowledge leaders
How do you convince your target audience that you are an expert in your subject and therefore the best solicitor for representing their legal interests? By publishing content of course!
It is useful to think of content as the method for showing off your expertise and passion, and SEO as the tools you need to ensure it is discoverable and relevant to your audience. Publishing information that is both useful and relevant to your target audiences needs (even though some may see it as giving away valuable advice for free) helps establish your brand as trustworthy and as one who puts the needs of others before profit.
A brand which we think does this well in Co-op Legal Services. On their Prenuptial and postnuptial page they are upfront about the costs of their service as well as the uncertain legally-binding status of pre-nuptial agreements in the UK courts. However, by choosing not to hide this information from the reader and offering arguments for why it may still be worth getting an agreement in place ahead of their wedding, they are showing a transparency that assures potential customers that they are trustworthy and will keep the process as easy-to-understand as possible.
Taking this approach can set you apart from your competitors, as the more useful your content to your audience, the more likely site visitors will remember your brand and choose to engage with your other articles. Who knows - maybe the strength of your articles will lead to some of your casual readers becoming future clients!
Why Solicitors Need SEO in 2021 - Even if your Google search brings up your website, that doesn’t mean it is doing that for others
This is something that we often get asked by solicitors looking to boost their Google rankings:
“But I just googled our page and it came up first for me!”
As we addressed in our paragraph ‘But firstly, what is SEO?’, there are a number of factors that Google takes in for every unique searcher that uses its engine, and one of them is their previous search history.
If you are an employee of a company it is highly likely that you spend more time than the typical user on their website; whether it be to proof changes to a webpage, from clicking links sent through your company emails, finding information to direct clients to etc. Google picks up on all of this, so that when you Google a service your company provides, of course the search engine will recommend a website that it believes you already highly engage with!
It is important to keep this in mind when analysing search results for individual webpages, which is why it is better to use software such as Google Search Console or SemRush’s position tracking tool than your own Google searches. Although everyone’s search results are going to be slightly different, these tracking tools will give you a picture of what the average search position for your page is.
Why Solicitors Need SEO in 2021 - Although it sounds easy, it really isn’t
There are a number of free SEO guides online that can aid you through the process of optimising your website, however for many solicitors, finding the time to go through all the steps and correct page errors that have only accumulated over the years is a painstaking process that can quickly become overwhelming.
What’s more, if you are only just learning about keyword inclusion, writing content that adheres to all the SEO rules (such as keyword repetition, keyword density, synonym inclusion, external linking) can be exhausting, and make the blog writing process even longer than it needs to be. Let alone researching relevant online publications to contact and pitch for backlinks to!
About Our SEO & Content Writing Services for Law Firms & Solicitors
Work PR are a PR & marketing firm with a specialism for the legal industry. If you are a law firm or solicitor wishing to improve your website and Google ranking performance, we provide a free SEO report that includes the following:
- Site health audit – we crawl your website and identify any errors and issues that are affecting your user experience or Google performance such as duplicate content, broken links and images, missing meta descriptions, slow site speed, poorly written coding and HTML etc.
- Keyword research – we will draw up a list of the popular Google search terms that relate to the services your business provides as a foundation to build an SEO strategy on
- Position tracking – using our list of keywords we will identify where your website ranks for each of them, including how your pages are ranking based on local and national geographic locations and for mobile and desktop devices
- Competitor tracking – we will show you how your website SEO is performing in comparison to some of your main competitors
- Backlink audit – we find out what websites are currently linking to your website and what your domain authority score is. We also identify if any of these websites are toxic and therefore need to be disavowed by Google.
- SEO recommendations – based on these findings, we will make some short recommendations on what changes need to be done and the best places to start.
Get in touch via email to find out more about our SEO for law firms service and to receive your free SEO audit today.