4 Tips For Your Law Firm’s Local SEO Strategy
Before diving into local SEO for your law firm’s online marketing, it helps to do some strategic planning. Without taking this step, attorneys may waste time and money pursuing ineffective tactics that don’t help drive local business to their law firms.
Here are four ways to kick-start your law firm’s local SEO planning and start developing a strong local online presence that attracts potential clients who are looking for specific location-based information that is relevant to your practice.
1. Think like a (non-lawyer) local
Begin your local SEO planning by thinking about your potential clients’ problems from a local perspective: What problems do they have that could relate to a local area, function, landmark or event? How would they characterize their problem? What words would they use to describe it?
Effective local SEO doesn’t necessarily require in-depth legal analysis. Most of your potential clients probably don’t want to read a legal brief or journal article about their problem. They do want clear, accessible answers to their questions.
For example, if your potential clients are likely to interact with a local court, many of them may think of courts as unfamiliar and intimidating places, and they are likely to search for information about what to expect in court. Your law firm could create relevant content that answers their basic questions about the local court: where to park, what to wear, how early to arrive, what happens at security, where to get food, etc.
This type of location-specific information may seem obvious and mundane to you or to other attorneys, but it is not always obvious to potential clients. And they will appreciate it when you provide them with helpful information that answers their questions.
2. Consider how potential clients search for information online
Attorneys often assume that potential clients know they need an attorney before they conduct a search, and that they search for attorneys directly using basic keyword searches. Both of these assumptions are usually incorrect, which can result in attorneys pursuing local SEO and keyword tactics that don’t help improve their law firm’s visibility in search engine results.
Your potential clients may not know they need an attorney, and therefore they may not be searching for terms such as “Dallas DUI attorney” or “Phoenix criminal defense lawyer.”
More often, your potential clients will search for answers to more complex questions, such as:
- “What do I do if I’m arrested for a first-time DUI in Dallas?”
- “Do I have to report a DUI to an employer in Arizona?”
- “What happens at a hearing for a second DUI in Phoenix?”
When someone types a query into a search engine, the search engine tries to return the most relevant results for that query.
Content quality is a major factor in Google’s search results algorithm. If your law firm website and blog includes helpful high-quality content that answers potential clients’ specific questions, your law firm is likely to be among the first firms that potential clients are exposed to. Whether or not a potential client knows they need to hire an attorney, that content helps to build a bond of trust between you and the potential client before they contact your law office.
Websites that provide specific local information are also more likely to rank well in local search results than websites that attempt to rank well for general search terms, such as “Dallas DUI attorney.”
3. Be aware of your law firm’s online competitors
When planning your local SEO strategy, it is helpful to be aware of your online competitors. This includes local attorneys in your practice area(s), but also local websites (such as courts and governing bodies) and legal directories. All of these websites may be competing with your law firm’s website for the attention of web visitors who conduct local searches.
By creating hyper-local content that answers potential client’s questions, your law firm website can potentially rank better than other attorney websites for relevant local queries. As we’ll discuss in other posts in this series, most attorneys don’t invest the time and effort to create effective, engaging hyper-local content.
Because many attorneys have not used a local strategy, or have executed their local strategy poorly, this is an area that’s open for attorneys to benefit from. Attorneys who create and execute a local content strategy correctly are likely to see the biggest benefit.
Legal directories and local SEO
We’ll cover directories in greater depth in a later post. But at a high level, when you’re planning your law firm’s local SEO strategy, it is useful to understand the business model of for-profit legal directories, such as Avvo.
A major part of legal directories’ business model is trying to rank highly in the search engines for local searches and law-specific local searches, which means these directories are your law firm’s competition. However, it is possible to leverage these directory listings strategically to increase traffic to your law firm’s website.
A website that you own and control should be the foundation of your law firm’s online marketing efforts. By developing high-quality local content on your website, you are building a local infrastructure that will benefit your law firm for years to come.
Your goal should be to drive traffic from legal directories to your law firm’s website, not the other way around. If you create in-depth, locally-relevant content for directories (rather than for your website), you are likely helping the directory increase its local search engine rank and authority at the expense of your law firm’s local online presence.
4. Develop a local content plan for your law firm
Planning can be a challenging part of building a strong local online presence.
For effective local SEO (and for successful online marketing in general), it is helpful to develop a detailed content plan. Our on-demand Content Planning Clinic can help you get started.
When you are developing your law firm’s content plan, think about ways to incorporate local content into the mix. To do so, it can be helpful to think about jurisdictions as a series of smaller and smaller nested boxes. Your state is the biggest box. You can drill down from there to the county or parish, municipality, smaller towns or cities, then local landmarks and locations, such as courts, hospitals, schools or other relevant landmarks for your practice area.
At each level, think about what is significant to potential clients in that area and how your law firm’s website and blog content could answer the questions they may have.
Even if the law is the same throughout the state, you can still develop content that can inform and engage potential local clients. For example, perhaps the local police in your state handle misdemeanor arrests differently in different jurisdictions. That information doesn’t add to the online conversation about the state-wide law itself, but it is likely to be helpful to a local client who wants to know what to expect in their specific geographic area.
You can keep drilling down until there is nothing left to say or cover within that geographic “box.” For example, if you’ve drilled down to the hospital level, you can probably drill down further to create content about specific parts of that hospital (birth center, burn ward, etc.).
The next post in this series will offer tips for creating effective, engaging local pages on your law firm website.