Attorney SEO in 2020 is a highly competitive landscape. When we were approached by our first client (a Personal Injury Attorney) back in 2018, we realized that the industry used to be a lot easier, and less saturated. Fast forward to 2020, a quick google for “Lawyers in Florida” essentially leads users to aggregation sites such as Avvo, which are huge authority sites that are nearly impossible to beat for general keywords. Hence, lawyers in the attorney SEO industry should tread carefully when an SEO strategy is proposed since these huge aggregation sites are difficult to dislodge from their Top Rankings in the Search Engines.
Today, we will be talking about an Attorney SEO Case Study, revolving around our client, a Personal Injury Attorney. From our work, we draw 5 conclusions that would help attorneys out there decide on the best SEO campaign.
There are hence two ways around this difficult situation. The first of which would be based around the attorney’s particular service, and the other being directly getting onto these aggregation websites, and then optimizing the listing there. For our client, we have focused on Local SEO as the primary strategy and then moved on to other special optimization techniques for their listings, not just in Avvo, but throughout Google as well.
1. Keyword Research was not properly done
To hell with those that tell you that the low Keyword Difficulty (KD) for general law terms makes it an easy target. In the analysis of KD, the number (generally, the lower, the less difficult to rank), does not give enough information. While it is good as a general indicator, the selection of keywords must also hinge on the competitors for that keyword, and how difficult it is to take over the rankings from them.
For example, while “Lawyers in Florida” has relatively low KD, the top pages are again aggregation sites that are difficult to outrank, due to their sheer site size, and several mentions from other pages. Hence, attorneys keen on SEO must pick their battles properly by choosing specific keywords that narrow down the scope of target audiences before thinking about these high-volume keywords. It would be much easier for a firm to rank for “Personal Injury Lawyer in Florida” vs “Lawyers in Florida”, simply because there would be less competition in a niche. It is shortsighted to only pick keywords based on KD.
What we did: When we looked at our client’s competitor profiles, we ran through each keyword, and then checked one-by-one, the backlink profiles of the top competitors for the selected keywords. Only when we had enough details on the top 5 competitors did we decide on the final keywords to target. As a Personal Injury Law firm, we picked the keywords which were smaller in scope, but highly relevant.
2. Site Structure was not set up correctly
If the term “Internal Linking” rings a bell, then the explanation here would be easily understood. After the keywords have been decided, the site must establish its topics on each section of the site. Each section of the site should be targeted at different groups of keywords, and this is better explained using an example.
For example, if we are looking at a law firm named lawfirm.com and they wanted to rank for personal injury attorney and Driving Under Influence cases, then they should place these contents under separate folders
The purpose of each page on the site must be made clear, both to users and to the search engines. It would not make sense to put personal injury and DUI services under one page as Google cannot differentiate the purpose of that page. Hence, a good site structure involves the division of the subpages into different topics, and a further division if there are different subtopics.
What we did: Our client firm did not have separate locations for his offices, and also had his services and attorney lineups together on one page. We did not like that. As our client firm did not only have his location in Florida, but also Los Angeles, we split up the home page by location to get a structure like
Also, we split up their attorneys and the services into separate pages, and then further split services pages into each particular service. Hence, our client had pages that had their topics separated and is a good practice for Search Engine Optimization.
3. Site Functionality and Smoothness
Anything that takes more than 10 seconds to load is a definite SEO blunder, and the ideal is usually about 7 seconds since Attorney websites usually do not require much more functionality than providing the medium for direct access to clients.
What we did: In our case, the website was built on WordPress and only functioned as an informational page, with a direct email contact form straight to the client. However, the site loaded in 14.4 s, which was terrible for a static website. Upon further checking, we found that the site had plenty of unused plugins installed, and we had to use site speed optimization to find these extraneous plugins and remove them. Then, we realized that there were images that were above 2MB, and so we simply compressed each oversized image and re-uploaded them.
This brought the site’s loading time from 14.4s down to 6.2s. Pretty sweet for an initial kickoff.
4. Local SEO Optimization
Local SEO is done for firms that would like to attract clients from its vicinity. Because most attorneys have a physical location, this is a very powerful tool to leverage.
One thing that most attorneys can win against big roundup sites is via their local presence. Law firms can focus on SEO to gain a spot in the coveted map pack, also known as “Position 0”. However, this can only be started when the previous points mentioned are completed properly and according to best practice. Locations, Local Citations, Maps – all these are details that must be present on the website to be competent in Google’s eyes. Besides, it would help if the attorney has favorable reviews on Google from previous clients.
As this may get technical, terms such as Schema and Local Citations may get confusing to some. Schema is a set of structured data placed in websites to tell Google details about the attorney - the industry the company belongs to and where it mainly serves. Local Citations are business directory submissions that list the attorney on the internet. It helps signal that the business is active and is currently serving within its stated business address. As long as the data can help pinpoint where the attorney concentrates services, it is helpful to have.
This information takes quite some time to gather and hence are often missed out in attorney SEO campaigns. Local SEO properties need to be consistent throughout the internet to be effective, and utmost care should be exercised when dealing with citations.
What we did: We first set up Google My Business, a high authority business listing, for each of our client’s locations in Florida and Los Angeles. We then applied a Local Schema to the website, explaining that this is a law firm operating in the above business locations. Then, we went on to condense the list of legitimate business registries, and then listed the attorney on them. This makes for a strong personal injury attorney SEO strategy.
5. Aggregator and Local Listing optimization - If you can’t beat em’, join em’
Aggregator sites are not usually enemies. While they may stand in most attorneys’ way of ranking for typical terms, each of these aggregator sites has its ranking algorithm within the site itself. Hence, think of it as another Google, just within the legal community. Hence, lots of attorneys make the mistake of turning their backs of aggregator websites, not knowing that firstly, it makes for a great local business listing, and secondly, ranking tops for the number 1 website in the country for legal experts may not be a bad SEO marketing strategy.
However, it is the same process again to battle with other legal experts for the top rankings on the aggregator sites. As explained earlier, the listed keywords optimized for in the listings to establish relevancy. While the algorithm could change from site to site, the basics are always the most important to keep in mind. Even when away from Google, the techniques for doing effective legal SEO is never different.
What we did: We first did some research on Avvo itself on the top personal injury listings. We analyzed the links going onto their pages, and also the keyword density of the write-ups/reviews placed on the site. We then based our strategy on the research results and mimicked what we thought was the most suitable density for maximum ranking. Hence, it certainly felt like working on legal SEO twice; once on the Google property and another on the Avvo property.
Our clients’ performance has seen a gradual uptick at about the 6-9 month mark, due to the nature of the personal injury law industry. However, this should also apply to all other services in the legal industry, as the techniques of applying topical relevancy to sections of the website, consistency in local citations, etc. are common throughout all SEO campaigns for attorneys.
If you are looking for someone to talk about how best to help your legal practice gain more visibility in the online space, feel free to schedule a short 15-minute meeting with us here. We at Khepri Digital understand how valuable your time is – so tap on our knowledge in that short 15-minute window and come out feeling more confident in your SEO campaign.