How to Optimize Your Law Firm Website for AI Searches

by Mar 6, 2024

For better or worse, artificial intelligence (AI) is here. As a solo attorney or small law firm, you can use AI to assist with tasks like reviewing, creating, proofreading, organizing, and analyzing contracts and other legal documents. It’s also used to conduct legal research and review documents for discovery, referred to as technology-assisted review (TAR). 

When AI is employed properly and strategically, the benefits are many for your law practice. It saves you time. It produces higher-quality work. It reduces stress. 

But when used improperly, you could put your career and reputation on the line. For example, in New York, several attorneys have misused ChatGPT, a popular AI chatbot designed by OpenAI, and have been sanctioned for it

If getting sanctioned is something that scares you, don’t worry – you can still benefit from AI to enhance law firm marketing rather than employing it to perform legal duties. Attorneys are already using artificial intelligence to write blogs, a popular marketing technique. You can also go one step further to get ahead of the competition: You can optimize your blogs and other law firm website content for AI searches. By doing so, your content will be ready for GEO, which will soon take over SEO. 

In this blog, we discuss below what the latter means and how to accomplish optimization for AI-generated searches.

Understanding SEO versus GEO for Law Firm Marketing Purposes

As a lawyer, you know the internet is saturated with other attorneys and law firms competing aggressively for the same clients you want and need to build your own practice. You have probably spent a lot of time thinking about and tinkering with SEO on your law firm website because you’ve been told it is key to getting ranked – and it is key, for now. 

Ranking well on search matters because statistically, you are more likely to be seen by prospective clients. If seen, chances increase that prospective clients will reach out to you.

SEO​​, or Search Engine Optimization, is the practice of optimizing website content and structure to increase visibility and rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). It is meant to drive organic traffic to websites, enhance online visibility, and boost the chances of reaching the target audience.

SEO Performance Pyramid

Pyramid diagram showing SEO strategies as the foundation, with successful strategies helping clients rank and convert leads to clients

The Rising Problem for Law Firm Websites and Their SEO Strategies

SEO, however, may be encountering something akin to an existential problem. Content ranked in SERPs based on their SEO strategies must routinely compete with paid ads, People Also Ask snippets, Google business listings, images, videos, related searches, and more. As such, SERPs are overcrowded and require the user to sort through a lot of unnecessary information to find what they seek.

SEO's Fight for a Piece of SERP's Pie

Law Firm SEO and fighting for rank on SERPs

Because all these other categories fight for users’ attention on a search engine results page, it is harder for law firm websites to rank and grab the same users’ attention. In other words, without getting noticed, you risk losing your share of the online market and, thus, risk missing opportunities to convert leads to clients.

Meanwhile, AI is booming. AI-generated content, specifically, is pretty much omnipresent in the legal field as it is in most other consumer markets. Almost as a natural extension, AI-generated searches are on the rise, and it’s here where solo attorneys and small law firms can outsmart competitors.

What is GEO and Why Does It Matter for a Law Firm’s Website?

GEO, or Generative Engine Optimization, is similar to SEO but is content optimized to appear in the results of AI-driven search engines, like: 

  • Google SGE
  • BingChat
  • ChatGPT
  • Perplexity.AI
  • Andi Search
  • Metaphor AI Search

One big difference between “traditional” search engines and AI search engines is the way the information is provided to the user. Traditional search engines – like Google, Yahoo, and Bing – provide information in sections and lists with links to each entry. AI search engines offer an annotated summary with links to the sources.

AI Search Results for Law Firm Websites

AI-generated search example for law firm websites

This streamlined approach is great for users who can now get a more direct, precise answer to their query. By the looks of it, however, online competition among law firms may become more fierce. Fortunately, findings from a recent study suggest otherwise.

Researchers from Princeton University, Georgia Tech, The Allen Institute for AI, and IIT Delhi looked into SEO and AI-generated search engines. Their methods and findings are outlined in their report GEO: Generative Engine Optimization. Among these findings are two important ones, namely:

  1. GEO is basically SEO with industry-specific tweaks; and
  2. If GEO methods are applied, low-ranked websites can outperform high-rank websites on traditional SERPs when AI-generated search engines are used. 

Why does this matter? The answer is simple: AI-generated search engines, though presently flawed in some respects, are gaining traction. In fact, AI searches have reportedly doubled within the last year. Soon, these types of searches will be the norm. 

Taking advantage of the potential to perform better now by using GEO strategies can preserve your position when AI-generated searches become the primary means of online searches.

What to Take from AI Search Engine Research

In the GEO study, the researchers tested nine methods that they refer to as “generative engine-agnostic strategies”, also coined generative engine optimization (GEO). They tested these GEO methods by modifying original content by: 

  1. Using authoritative language to be more persuasive while making authoritative claims
  2. Stuffing keywords (classical SEO optimization)
  3. Adding statistics to include quantitative statistics, wherever possible, instead of qualitative discussion
  4. Adding and citing relevant, credible sources
  5. Adding quotations from credible sources
  6. Making the content more easy-to-understand by simplifying it
  7. Optimizing fluency to make the content more readable (e.g., free of grammatical errors)
  8. Adding unique words wherever possible
  9. Adding technical terms wherever possible

The researchers also tracked how these approaches impacted different knowledge-based industries, like queries about business, science, health, beauty, history, and the law. 

The Key Takeaway

The research found that three of the nine GEO methods work best: 

  1. Source citations
  2. Source quotations
  3. Source statistics

These three strategies helped websites improve by 30-40% compared to their baselines.

According to the research:

“These methods, which involve adding relevant statistics (Statistics Addition), incorporating credible quotes (Quotation Addition), and including citations from reliable sources (Cite Sources) in the website content, require minimal changes to the actual content itself.

Yet, they significantly improve the website’s visibility in Generative Engine responses, enhancing both the credibility and richness of the content.”

The research also found that a website’s visibility could be improved by another 15-30% when the content is:

  1. Made easier to understand; and
  2. Optimized for fluency.

Thus, researchers found that AI search engines place particular value on the content itself as well as the way it is presented. 

What’s more, the report shows that:

“Interestingly, websites that are ranked lower in SERP, which typically struggle to gain visibility, benefit significantly more from GEO than those ranked higher.

For instance, the Cite Sources method led to a substantial 115.1% increase in visibility for websites ranked fifth in SERP, while on average the visibility of the top-ranked website decreased by 30.3%.”

When content is optimized for GEO, the website reaches a wider audience, which helps the website owner compete more effectively with competitors who once dominated the online market. 

The Key Takeaway for Law Firm Websites

For law firms specifically, the research found that statistics are particularly useful – it’s the data-driven evidence that enhances the visibility of law firm websites in these contexts. 

How to Optimize Your Law Firm Website Content for AI-Generated Searches

Understanding the results of the research, it is clear that a few steps are all that’s needed to help make your law firm’s website is optimized for AI searches. 

  1. Add statistics. This first step is critical for small law firms and solo attorneys. Go to your law firm’s practice area page, whether it’s Personal Injury or Criminal Defense, and add a statistic. If it’s a personal injury page, you might want to add a statistic on auto accidents in the state. Most states publish crash data, but you can also refer to the Federal Highway Administration or Governors Highway Safety Association for statistics. If it’s a criminal defense page, you might want to show why it is better to hire a private attorney versus a public defender. Here, you could provide statistics from sources, like RAND, that provide studies showing, among other things, how dangerously overworked public defenders are. 
  2. Add quotations. The second step is quoting credible sources. You could quote information regarding a statistic you provide, or else you could – and this is an important one – quote the law. Most states publish their statutes and codes on the internet, making it easy for you to find, quote, and link. There is one caveat: Make sure the source is credible, preferably a government website and not Justia or another similar website that may have outdated information.
  3. Add citations. You should cite any statistic or quotation you provide on your website. So, for example, you can say that the “Governors Highway Safety Association reports that….” Or, as another example, you can provide a citation from a criminal code (e.g., 21 U.S. Code § 844). You should also cite sources for any ideas or interpretations that are not your own or information that is not common knowledge. 
  4. Write in layman’s terms. Write simply and clearly. Limit the legalese but use legal terms that make sense to your targeted audience. For example, do not use “De facto” when you can say “in reality” or “Locus delicti” when you can say “the scene of the crime”. 
  5. Write with user-friendliness and readability in mind. The content should be coherently organized with headers and subtitles. Error-free and with well-crafted sentences, the content should flow smoothly. Bulleted items, when applicable, should be used to help break up the content and make the page friendlier to read or skim. 

On the other hand, the research confirms what we at LawLytics have been saying for some time: Keyword stuffing is bad policy, though many law firm marketing agencies still condone it. Google, for its part, frowns upon it, penalizing the worst offenders. 

The research indicates that keyword stuffing harms a website’s ranking, with tested websites performing worse than their baseline by 10%. It is not to say using SEO keywords is not important, but only as much as the keywords are used naturally in the text.

Tip: As a LawLytics member, you get access to our Content Generator with a library of hundreds of practice area pages for you to use in part, in whole, or otherwise customized to suit your law firm marketing needs. Each page is also equipped with tips, which we refer to as our Content Assistant, to help you further distinguish and optimize the page when you publish it to your website. On many of these pages, we already include citations, statistics, and quotations, and where we don’t, we offer tips that suggest statistics or other information that would benefit the page.

All of our Content Generator pages are designed to help you build out your website with valuable, user-friendly content optimized for search engines – including AI-generated search engines. 

So, if you want to facilitate the above GEO optimization process for your law firm website by adding another step, that step would be to switch to LawLytics today.

Get a Law Firm Website Ready for AI-Generated Searches

AI-generated search engines are not perfect. That said, it’s just a matter of time before they overtake traditional search engines. When that happens, you don’t want to be scrambling, you want to already be ahead of the game. 

That’s where LawLytics can help. We are always looking ahead and pushing forward to improve our product so that solo attorneys and small law firms like you have a competitive edge and can compete aggressively with other law firms in your jurisdiction.  

If you want to learn more about how a LawLytics membership can help you create a law firm website that gets results, schedule a demo with a product expert today. If you are already a member and want to learn more about our Content Library or other services we offer, reach out to our support team.

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