You may have already read our earlier blog on why solicitors need SEO for 2021. SEO is fast becoming one of the most highly sought marketing services for legal firms, after some recent surveys revealed that 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine query and 57% of marketers report SEO as their most effective sales lead generator.
However, did you also know that 46% of local searches are seeking local information? And that 88% of mobile device searches for local businesses either ring or directly visit the business within 24 hours?
We have compiled this guide for both individual solicitors and solicitor firms to help you improve your local SEO performance. By the end of this article, we hope to have not only convinced you of why local SEO is pivotal to your online growth strategy, but also helped you improve your own website traffic and client leads.
How does Local SEO differ from regular SEO?
Local SEO differs from regular SEO because it focuses on achieving higher rankings for searchers that are geographically close to the business (as opposed to a high ranking for a search result that is generally searched often). For a law firm, an example of this would be:
Local SEO – trying to target nearby searchers who want to find a ‘divorce lawyer near me’
Regular SEO – targeting anyone who is using a search engine to find out ”do I need a solicitor to get divorced?’
The advantages of local SEO are that they can yield stronger sale leads, as even in the internet age customers are still much more likely to choose a service from a business that is geographically closer to them – making it an essential consideration for small businesses and a great place to start for law firms wanting to tip their toe into the world of SEO. It can also be easier for firms to achieve results faster through local SEO; though this can depend on how competitive the area your business is located.
The disadvantages of local SEO however, are that results can be extremely limited if you are only focusing on a local audience. Not all customers choose their solicitor based on just being close by; they also want to know that they are knowledgeable and experienced in the area of law that they practice – not to mention having a winning track record with clients!
It is important that law firms couple local SEO techniques alongside traditional SEO i.e., content that showcases their solicitors’ ability; such as news and updates on court cases, deals that they have carried out for clients, commentary on court cases getting media attention etc.
Local SEO for Solicitors Tip 1 – Know what your local audience are searching
As a solicitor, you may already have an idea of what your target customer wants based on the queries you see most frequently in your inbox or noticing a difference in the type of legal services sought in various firm offices (if you work for a national firm that has more than one office across the UK). However, customer behaviour online is often different to what you may see every day at the office, which is why it is important to know what your local customer base are actively searching for prior to marketing your legal services.
An example of geographical search differences in the legal sector is with divorce. Despite divorce representation being the most popular type of family law service sought in UK, you rarely get searches for ‘international divorce lawyers’ outside of London.
Why is this? Well, it’s not just about London’s large scale of international workers. The UK legal system is widely renowned for dealing with divorces quicker, more effectively and at a cheaper cost than anywhere else in Europe. Couple this with the fact that large London law firms are more likely to have the thousands to spend on Google Ad campaigns targeting ‘international divorce’ and you will see why many UK citizens (or those married to one) seek divorce in the UK capital in the hope of achieving a more favourable outcome.
This was the case with Pauline Chai – the ex-wife of Laura Ashley chairman Khoo Kay Peng – who successfully petitioned to take her divorce from their native Singapore to London based on the couple owning a marital home in Berkhamsted.
How do I find out what my local customer base is searching?
So how do you find out what your local audience are searching? Luckily, there are databases that track monthly search volumes that can also forecast the times of year that search term queries are at their highest. The most popular and reliable example of these being Google’s Keyword Planner, which is also completely free to use (if you sign up for a Google Ads account). Google Keyword Planner not only tells you the estimated monthly search volume for any given search term; it also recommends similar terms that may be receiving higher search volumes and supplies a forecast on how it predicts these terms are likely to perform throughout the year.
Find out what your local audience are searching for and make sure your webpages and blog content reflect that. This includes terminology that they use for your services – if you are finding that your audience are more likely to search for a ‘lawyer’ as opposed to a ‘solicitor’ make sure that you are using that – it will make it much easier for Google to match their search query to your website!
Local SEO for Solicitors Tip 2 – Ensure your Google My Business account is regularly updated
Google My Business is where you can edit the local listing that displays for your business when searchers look for a service. Here you can add your business’ address, opening hours, website URL, social media links, contact details and images. If you are a solicitor firm, these images need to be high quality and reflect the types of services that you offer. Professional images of your business premises and your workforce are also a good addition.
However, that’s not all – actively posting on the Google My Business platform has also been found to have a positive effect on Google rankings. This is especially important if you wish to get an edge on your competitors, particularly if your business location or area of law is highly competitive. Start by posting on Google My Business at least once a week, publishing short posts that cover one of the following:
- Announcements or general information about your business (opening time reminders, landmarks that your premises are close to etc.)
- Live and online events that your business is running or participating in
- Special offers and discount voucher codes
- Product or service promotion
Local SEO for Solicitors Tip 3 – Encourage and Respond to Google Reviews
There are three reasons why we always recommend that clients start responding to Google reviews (and we mean both good AND bad ones):
- Customers will think twice about leaving a bad review if they can see that the business is actively responding. Most reputable review sites allow the business to have the last word, giving business owners the opportunity to correct any misgivings and miscommunications that occurred, and to attempt to salvage the situation by providing excellent customer service!
- It signals to customers that you care about their feedback, further building trust in your brand.
- Studies on Google reviews have found that they contribute around 15% to your overall local SEO ranking, and even responding to Google reviews (whether they be positive or negative) can help your SEO ranking. Why is this? Well, actively responding to reviews sends signals to Google that you interact positively with your customers, and for this they will reward you with higher visibility. Just make sure that you are responding to customers professionally and with courtesy, as replying with angry and accusatory comments will cause this method to backfire!
There are many ways you can encourage your clients to leave you a Google review. You could include a ‘Leave us a Review’ graphic in your company email signature and website, start a competition where reviewers are given the chance to win an Amazon gift voucher for leaving a review…or you could just ask clients directly yourself!
Local SEO for Solicitors Tip 4 – Create Content Based on Local News & Events
Is there an ongoing court proceeding, disgruntled customer or recently discovered criminal activity that has been grabbing your local headlines?
All these news stories can make excellent subjects for short, bi-weekly opinion pieces, where either you (or another solicitor on your team) can contribute commentary breaking down what the legal ramifications for each case are, what the best course of action would be for the people involved, how others can protect themselves from similar situation etc.
Why does this help local SEO? Well, it relates to the exact keyword matching rule in SEO, where the more a certain phrase is repeated, the more likely it is to appear on the first page of that search query in Google.
The days where website owners could secretly hide repeated keywords within the coding and image alt names in order to appear on the first page of Google are long gone (the search engine algorithm is now more sophisticated and in fact, websites caught doing such actions can be reprimanded with Google penalties). However, it is still understood that using the same keyword/phrase repeatedly throughout your webpages does boost your search rankings for that phrase.
Therefore, if you want to start targeting customers close to where your business operates, the more content you curate on your geographical location the better.
Local SEO for Solicitors Tip 5 – Ensure Your Site is Mobile-Optimised
Most internet searches are now conducted via a mobile device, whether that be a smartphone or tablet. Yet many law firms have not optimised their websites for mobile, and for most, it is losing them hundreds (if not thousands) of website visitors every month.
Ever conducted a Google search and found that the results you are getting on your mobile are different to those on your desktop? When website owners that extra measures to ensure that their site is fully optimised for mobile devices, it signals to Google that it will provide better user experience for those on mobile devices, and therefore will reward that site with higher page rankings on mobile searches.
How to Mobile-Optimise Your Site
So what do you need to do to comply to Google’s mobile optimisation standards? Some things that you can do to improve your site for mobile optimisation include:
- Testing your site for mobile optimisation using Google’s Mobile-Friendly test tool, which will provide you with a report of where it can be improved and what to do to fix issues
- Increasing font sizes and cutting down the amount of text. Remember that your site will be viewed and read on a small screen, so make sure that the design and text can adapt to this.
- Considering a more sophisticated design – if it is in your budget! It is shown that customers are more likely to perceive your product or service as high quality if the website is high quality and aesthetically pleasing.
- Changing webhosts if your site is running too slowly. Site speed is very important to Google’s algorithm, with the ideal website speed being 1-2 seconds. This is because 53% of websites are abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load. Google itself aims for its load time to be half a second.
- Implementing a caching plugin to your site. These decrease download time every time a site user visits a new page on your website, as the caching tool will save your website files to the users’ local device (or another more convenient location).
- Ensuring that all aspects of your site (such as software, plugins and themes) are updated to ensure security and optimal performance.
- Compressing site images. PNG and large file size images can also contribute to site slowness. We recommend that all images loaded to sites are JPG, however if you are dealing with a large site that has been following bad practice for some time, then there are several plugins that can reduce image file sizes for you without compromising on quality.
Local SEO for Solicitors Tip 6 – Refer to local landmarks and amenities on your business location page
It’s not just mentioning the name of your town or city that can have a positive impact for moving your website to the top Google spots. Including references to local landmarks and nearby amenities (such as car parks, supermarkets, shopping centres etc.) can also contribute to improving your local SEO performance.
These tactics are best implemented on your ‘Contact us’ pages where you list your office address. Be sure to include enriched descriptions of how to find your premises by mentioning local landmarks of places of interest that your building is close by to.
Local SEO for Solicitors Tip 7 – Make sure online business directories are up to date
Although business directories do not have a direct influence on improving SEO, if Google detects that there are multiple different addresses, phone numbers or website URLs for your business across the internet, it will confuse the algorithm and therefore not recommend your website to its users.
Therefore, it is important that you not only claim your associated business pages but ensure that all the information they contain are updated and accurate.
Some business directories for solicitors are:
- Review Solicitors
- The Law Society
- Legal 500
- The Lawyer
- Solicitors Regulaton Authority
- Law Society of Scotland (for Scotland-based solicitors and firms)
- Business Directory UK
Local SEO for Solicitors Tip 8 – Ensure you have a webpage for each business premise
It is no longer efficient enough for a solicitor firm website to simply have a single page listing their various office locations. In order to rank locally, firms now need to have a page for each branch location that provides details about the area it is located (see tip six for more info). These branch pages should also list:
- The areas of law that they cover, which link to pages on your site that give more information about that legal subject and procedure.
- Google Map feature that shows location of office. This is also useful for mobile users, as they can click on the map to receive more clear directions on how to get to your office.
- The address, telephone number and a general email address that enquirers can contact
- Branch office hours
- How to reach the branch (by train, bus and car)
If you get stuck, a good example of how this can be done can be found on Bell Lax Solicitors website.
So there we have it, our top eight tips for improving your local SEO and search engine rankings in 2021!
Just don’t forget that in legal SEO, local techniques may be a good starting point, but content and backlinks are key for achieving search rankings that drive high traffic to your site.
We hope that we have helped you with starting your journey in SEO development – be sure to keep an eye on our blog for more guides and tips on SEO, design, PR and much more!