Multilingual Law Firm Websites and SEO Best Practices

If you are an attorney who speaks with clients in two or more languages, or a member of a law firm that provides multilingual client communication, this article will show you the best ways to capture the most revenue from your broadest possible addressable market.

This article assumes that the law firm wants to attract clients who speak different languages but who reside in, or have matters, in the same geographic area of service, and need help with the same practice type(s).

Multilingual Law Firm Website and SEO Strategy Overview

We start with the assumption that a primary goal of having a law firm website is to capture the greatest possible number of qualified potential clients who search Google in their native language, click on a Google result that goes to your law firm’s website where they absorb information that they need to cause them to contact and hire your law firm. To accomplish this, it’s important to consider:

  1. Client personas.
  2. Website strategies.
  3. Content strategies.

As it turns out, there is a simple approach that works well for nearly all US-based law firms. 

Client Personas For Multilingual Law Firm Website Marketing

It is important to be clear about who the firm is targeting and where the firm is targeting. The preferred language that your potential clients use to search for legal information and help is a big part of that persona. For multilingual firms, your client personas should define at least three things:

  1. The language that the client is most likely to use to search Google, and in which the client would prefer to read your law firm’s website.
  2. The physical location of the client or the jurisdiction of the client’s matter.
  3. The type of matter or case the client needs help with.

Well-developed client personas are essential to focusing on the right things and ignoring things that don’t move the needle. For more specifics on client personas for law firm websites, I recommend listening to this podcast episode, or reading this article about why personas are important in legal marketing.

Website Strategies For Multilingual Law Firm Websites

If you want to maximize the flow of potential clients to your law firm’s website via free search engine traffic, it’s best to have a separate website (on a separate domain) for each language. Before explaining why, let’s briefly look at the less optimal options:

Separate navigation on the same website. This is the strategy of having two or more different languages on the same website and having a navigation toggle to switch the site’s navigations (and pages contained within each navigation menu) between languages. This strategy is confusing for the search engines. It also results in a suboptimal user experience for potential clients who have to go through an extra step to determine whether the firm’s site is worth looking at. It can also be a turn-off for native speakers of one language (especially the culturally dominant language) to see that the firm is trying to cater to other languages as well.

Separate menu items. This is the strategy of having a dropdown menu for each language visible at all times to all visitors. This is a viable interim strategy for very small websites in practices that are not yet ready for separate domains, but one that any firm that wants to truly maximize its flow of cases in all addressable languages will eventually outgrow.

Embedded translator services. This is the strategy of using 3rd party tools to translate text on a website from the original language to any other language. The most commonly used tool was the Google Translate Widget, which Google officially deprecated (it’s currently available on a temporary basis for government, non-profit and non-commercial websites that focus primarily on COVID-19 response, but not for law firm websites). It was a bad tool for law firm websites from the start because it provided inaccurate translations that could not only distort the legal meaning of the original words, but could also make the firm sound bad as things got lost and botched in translation. If Google couldn’t provide a decent translation for law firm websites, then it’s unlikely that any other alternative AI translators will provide what lawyers need anytime soon.

Why It’s Best To Have Dedicated Law Firm Websites For Each Language

Why should lawyers have dedicated websites for each language? Doing so provides the best experience for all of your firm’s potential clients and makes it easier to rank well for relevant searches by all of your potential clients. This is because each website, written entirely in one language, most efficiently:

  1. Communicates intention to the search engines. Having a single language on a website makes it easier for search engines to index, classify, rank and serve results that include your website in response to client searches.
  2. Communicates accessibility to potential clients. When your clients don’t have to hunt around a website to find the language that they can read (or are more comfortable reading) they are more likely to stay on your website and have a good experience. This directly influences into how they feel about your firm. The more accessible your services and your communication feels to them, the more likely they are to do business with your firm.
  3. Provides room to grow. When you put multiple languages onto a single law firm website, it’s hard to grow. When you add a page about a topic in one language, you must immediately add a page in the other language(s) or you risk creating an imbalance towards one language that can negatively impact how search engines and potential clients view your website. When you have separate websites for each language this is not an issue, and you can add content to each website at your own pace.
  4. Provides a better experience around attorney bios, results, recommendations, etc. It’s a bad user experience to make website visitors sort through foreign language recommendations, case results, and attorney bios. When you have a dedicated language website you can curate bios, results, and recommendations in that single language so that you avoid having duplicates of these things on the same website and confusing both the search engines and your potential clients.

Domain Strategies for Multilingual Law Firms

If you decide to have separate websites for different languages, you’ll need to have a domain name for each site. If you are in the United States, we recommend keeping it simple and going with .com domain names. If you are in Canada, we recommend going with .ca domain names. 

A discussion of the best methods for picking the domain name for each language-specific website is beyond the scope of this post. If you are a LawLytics customer thinking about adding a new language-specific site to your account, we can help guide you to pick the best domain name based on your practice and geographic areas, firm name, target language(s) and goals.

Content Strategies for Multilingual Lawyers

When you have dedicated language websites there are some decisions that you’ll need to make about content:

  1. Who will write (or translate) the content for each website?
  2. Will the websites have parity of content, and if so which language will the original content be written in?

Some firms write all of their content on their primary language website first (usually in English), and then translate the pages onto the other language site(s) as they have time. This approach is scalable, allows the firm to safely go at its own pace, and allows the easy use of bilingual staff members or 3rd party translation services.

Other firms write original content that they think is most needed for each individual language. While this is typically a slower process, it allows the firm to think through the cultural and conversational nuances that move the needle with native speakers of each language.

How LawLytics Works for Multilingual Law Firm Websites

With LawLytics, it’s easy to start, build, and manage multiple websites in different languages. The unified control panel makes it easy to share resources like images and other elements that each site may have in common without having to enter them multiple times. It makes it easy to manage all of your leads from all of your websites in one place. It allows you to selectively provide access to content writers or translator services without giving them the keys to your entire web presence. It eliminates the technical, design, and guesswork that can otherwise be amplified when attorneys try to maintain multiple websites. And it gives you access to our support team to make sure that you always follow the best strategy and best multilingual law firm website practices to get the best results for your firm.

If you’re a current LawLytics customer and would like to discuss adding an additional language website, we’re here to help. And if you’re not yet a LawLytics customer and want to learn more, the best place to start is by scheduling a 20-minute interactive demo to see how it works.

About The Author

Attorney Dan Jaffe previously built successful small law practices in WA and AZ. He currently serves as the CEO of LawLytics.

Other posts by Dan.