Guide to Attorney Search Marketing
When people need an attorney, they ask their friends and relatives for recommendations. And they search on Google. You don’t have control over their friends and relatives. But showing up on a Google search? That’s something you can work on.
The process of presenting your webpages so that Google will determine that they are the best candidates to present to people searching for your niche is called Search Engine Optimization – SEO.
What do people see when they search on Google? And which parts can you influence?
Here is a typical Google results page for Birmingham workers compensation lawyer
So how do you get there?
To get into the ads, the paid listings, all you need is a big pocketbook. Bids on keywords for attorneys can run as high as $100 for 1 click!
Sites in the top 5 organic (not ads) positions get anywhere from 43% to 77% of all the traffic searching for a particular keyword.
Google used to put only three ads on top, and had space for ads on the side, as seen here:
Recently, they removed the right-rail ads and added an ad to the top, making both ads and organic positions more competitive.
To get into the organic positions, you need time, patience, effort and know-how. This ebook will give you the know-how. (The time, effort and patience are your responsibility. Although if you decide you want someone to take over the time and effort, don’t hesitate to be in touch.)
Choosing the right keywords
The foundation of successful SEO is choosing the right keyword – one that’s relevant to your business, has enough people searching for it, and has reasonable competition. Miss any one of those points, and your keyword’s a dud.
If it’s not relevant to your business, you may get tons of people coming to your site, but none will ever buy from you or hire you.
If it doesn’t have enough people searching for it, even if you rank in position one, very few people will search for it and get to your site.
If the competition is too stiff, you’ll never make it onto the first page.
So how do you figure out the right keywords for you?
Go to the Google Keyword Planner. You’ll have to sign up for a Google Adwords Account. Don’t worry – you don’t have to give any means of payment, so you can use all the tools without ever being charged anything.
You’ll get this:
You’ll get a whole list of relevant keywords in topically organized groups:
Click on any one of the categories to get:
When you have gone through all the keywords and chosen the relevant ones, download the list into a spreadsheet program, and sort according to number of Avg. monthly searches.
Now it’s time to check the competition. Do a Google search for each one. Use an add-on like Google Global to de-personalize the results and see them for the geographic area you want (United States, or Alabama).
For each results on the page, you’ll want to look at the Title Tag (see the image below) and check if the keyword is in it and how close to the beginning it is. Those are both ways of optimizing the page for the keyword. A page that has the keyword in the beginning of the title tag will be harder to beat.
You’ll also want to install the MozBar and activate it when you’re looking at the search results. The MozBar tells you the page’s PA (page authority) and DA (domain authority), which is a number representing the incoming links and other ranking factors the page/website as a whole possess. In short, the higher the number, the more likely the page is to rank. Check your own site’s PA and DA. If it’s significantly lower than most of the page one results AND the title tags of your page one competitors are reasonably optimized, you’re going to have a very hard time getting to page one.
Keep notes in your spreadsheet of which keywords you think are relevant to rank for.
Important to note: Google is getting better at understanding language and intent, and so your keywords are interpreted more broadly than they once were. Not so long ago, websites were optimizing one page for birmingham lawyer and another for birmingham attorney and yet another for law services in birmingham. That’s no longer helpful. Instead, pages should be optimized for keyword topics. By all means, pick the keyword that looks the best as your main keyword (there still are slight variations), but use the other related versions of the phrase in your copy, also.
Where should you put your keywords on the page?
Title tag – that will show up as your page’s headline in Google search results. Put your keyword as close to the beginning of the title tag as possible (while still sounding natural and appealing).
Meta-description – this doesn’t appear anywhere on your webpage (and also doesn’t affect ranking) but does appear as the “snippet”in Google search results (and impacts whether people click on your page when they see it).
Content of the page – include your keywords and variations thereof in the content. Make sure the average reader would be able to say clearly what the page is talking about – but wouldn’t say, “Wow, this sounds awkward!”
URL – if you can get your keyword into the URL, so much the better.
Images – use your keyword as the file name for your images (i.e. birmingham-lawyer.jpg as opposed to stockphoto79263,jpg.) and in the Alt text. (The alt text is text that’s assigned to images but only read by computers for the visually impaired – or search engine bots.) You can usually add that from your website’s backend.
Don’t just try and optimize for [location] [specialty] lawyer. It’s a competitive world out there. So unless you’re a Bonanza Colorado real estate lawyer (Bonanza has a population of 16), you’re going to be putting all your eggs in a pretty shaky basket. (Although, come to think of it, trying to be a real estate lawyer in a town with a population of 16 is a pretty shaky basket altogether.)
What topics interest your target audience? If you’re a real estate lawyers, your audience may be families looking to buy a house in your area. What other topics are important to them? Maybe the job market in your location, or the education, or the shopping, or the cultural events. Do a little bit of keyword research (as explained above) and see which topics have significant search. Write amazing, comprehensive, entertaining articles on the topic, and put the keywords in the right places.
Here are some ideas to get your brain juices flowing:
- Newly decided cases
- Recently enacted laws
- Recent controversies
- Information on your practice area for the non-lawyer / potential client
- All questions clients ask you and your associates
Post your articles on your blog and share them around: on social media, in your email signature, etc.
One of the important factors in ranking high in Google is links from other sites to your website. The more authoritative the site linking to you, the more it will help you. By and large, a link from the New York Times is worth much more than a link from a comment on a forum.
The anchor text of the link does have an impact on ranking. Anchor text is the text that contains the link. This is anchor text, for example. If your keyword is in the anchor text, that will help your page rank for that keyword – but not if too many incoming links have that anchor text! Otherwise it will look unnatural (come on, how many people spontaneously linked to you using the words best birmingham lawyer?) and Google will penalize you. So some anchor text should be keyword-based, the majority should be your domain or brand name, and the rest should be varied.
Where do you get links from?
These can be attorney-specific directories, or general local directories. Don’t spend lots of time or money registering, because directory links are generally not the highest delivering links, and you can probably invest that time and money better elsewhere. But you should spend some time registering in directories like (approximately in order of importance):
Local news sites
Any particularly striking or education cases you’ve been involved with recently? If yes, especially if it has local import, tip off your local news site. If you’re a Birmingham lawyer, it could be http://www.al.com/birmingham/ or http://wiat.com/category/news/.
HARO (Help a Reporter Out)
Help a Reporter Out is a service designed to connect between news sources looking for information, and people looking to serve as information sources. It’s free to sign up and get a three times a day email of all the reporter queries. If anything is relevant to your expertise, answer the query and you might be used as a source for the article. It’s free PR for you, and the online sources usually include links to your firm.
Do pro-bono work for non-profits or other organizations? Ask them if they’d be willing to give you a mention on their website. Nothing too ostentation. A line or two in the About Us page about Thanks to the lawyer _________________ of law firm _____________________ who donates of her time to help our organization understand and deal with legal issues successfully. And then a link to your law firm from its name.
Do you use any service provider with a website? Virtual assistants or transcriptionists? Catering company? IT support? They’d probably be more than happy if you volunteered to write them a testimonial for them to place on their website. And it’s only natural that on the web, your law firm name after the testimonial would link to your law firm.
Chambers of Commerce
Law firms are businesses, too! Many Chambers of Commerce actively support lawyers, like the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. If you’re a member, check into the benefits: is there a directory? Or special site advertising opportunities?
A popular news site where people submit stories (with or without links), and other user comment and vote the story up or down. Subreddits for law topics include
You could also look for your specialty, such as:
For any subreddit, don’t just start posting links. Marketing-type links will for sure be frowned upon, and even informational links may get a raised eyebrow if it’s the first thing you do. First, get into the community. Read post, comment, help out. Every so often, you can then post some relevant content.
Note: Visually Reddit is a fustercluck (see below). Seriously, it’s impossible on the eyes. I recommend perusing on your iPhone or Android using an app like Bacon Reader which will make the experience much more tolerable.
If you’re a fast worker, you can use some of the questions to inspire content where you answer it in long form on your site, then go back to the question, give a short answer, and say, “For anyone who wants to know more, I actually wrote an article about this very topic,” and give the link.
You can use the same strategy on other question and answer sites, such as Quora.
Create really good content
This is the critical center around which all website marketing activities pivot. Do you have good content? Informational, not just commercial. Do you have legal advice or FAQs? Can you give insights into recent cases and decisions in your field? Is what you write impressive, unique, tempting to read and share? That’s what you’re aiming for. When you have great content, and promote it so the right people are exposed to it, likes and links will come of their own accord.
Great content is even better on other sites, where whole other audiences can be exposed to you and your expertise. Don’t offer to write posts for other sites that aren’t so relevant or top quality just to get a link. It won’t be helpful. Find sites that have actual audiences that want to read what you have to say. Be in touch with the site managers and pitch some ideas.
How do you find relevant blogs?
Search Google for [your topic] blog, e.g. divorce blog, real estate blog, drunk driving blog.
To find blogs that have been updated recently (a blog last updated in 2010 won’t help you!), use Google’s search tools:
Check each blog to make sure it has either a large number of comments per post,a large number of social media shares per post, or a large number of email subscribers. If it has none of those, it’s probably not worth the investment.
As a shortcut to finding blogs that accept guest posts as a matter of course, try searching for your blog topic, plus the words (in quotation marks):
“write for us”
“contribute an article”
“become a contributor”
Create a resource list/post.
Create a shout-out list of relevant resources in your field. It could be other lawyers, non-profits or other professionals. Write them up, give each their due, explain why they’re helpful. Post it on your site. Let all those who are mentioned know about it. They’re very likely to share the list and link to it
While most social media doesn’t get you links that help directly (Google+ being the exception), if you have content worth sharing, you have a good chance of people linking to it. Once you’ve written your great resource lists or other helpful and engaging pieces of content, share it on social media. LinkedIn is going to be the best place for most law professionals. Share it in a status update, or in groups relevant to the field.
If you’re an environmental lawyer, for example, you could share relevant posts on EHS – Environmental Issues. Like Reddit, don’t jump in and start posting. Take some time to see how people behave, make some comments, and only then start sharing your own content.
Have you won a really big case or made exceptional news? Go send out a press release. Don’t base your site promotion strategy on this, however. It’s an easy thing to do, and in the world of internet marketing, usually easy activities are not so worthwhile. It’s If you have a good link profile already, though, and you have made an excellent achievement, go ahead and share it,
Good PR services are:
Aside from the regular Google organic results, when people search for a phrase with local intent (read: it’s obvious they’re looking for a business in a certain geographic area), Google will also return special local results. That was the map with the place notations we saw above:
Google keeps changing the way they feature the local results. One of the most recent changes (as of this writing in 2016) was changing the list so that it only displays 3 businesses (instead of sometimes 3 and sometimes 7, depending on the query).
It can be very beneficial to your business to get into the local results – they’re eye-catching and they’re often at the top of the page.
So how do you do it?
Claim your listing.
Your firm might already be listed in the Google local results, from all the data scoured by Google across the web. To have the best shot at getting your firm ranking, though, you’re going to want to claim and edit that listing.
You can check if your listing is claimed or not by going to Google Maps and writing in the name of your firm, as well as the location..
If it doesn’t appear – you know it’s not in Google and you can go to Google My Business and create a listing. If it appears but says “claim my business,” click to be transferred to Google My Business and claim it.
If you decide not to now, you can always claim it later. The sooner the better, so your clients can get started finding you.
Fill out your company information as thoroughly as possible – hours of operation, images. And make sure you choose your business category wisely – it’s one of the biggest factors in how Google ranks you for local queries. Moz has a free category choosing tool – worth checking out and using.
No, don’t fall asleep.
NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone. These are the identifying details of your business – kind of like “Name, Rank, Serial Number!” The most basic criterion – to make sure you even have a shot at showing up in the local results – is to have your NAP show up on your website, and for it to be consistent across the web.
If some places on the web have Black, Forest and Kaik Associates at 123 Frost Street and others have it at 78 Sprinkle Drive (because it’s on a corner, so it has two entrances) – there go their chances of ever showing up.
Google your firm’s name, within quotation marks, and check the results. Any of them have addresses other than the one on your site? Contact the site owner and get that fixed.
Bonus points for marking up the NAP on your site with semantic markup. That’s code that tells search engines, “This isn’t just a bunch of words. This is the name of a company. And this isn’t just a bunch of numbers and words. This is a street address. And this street address belongs to the company we just mentioned.”
Now, in machine terminology, that looks something like this:
<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/Attorney”>
<span itemprop=”name”>ABC Law Firm</span>
<div itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/PostalAddress”>
<span itemprop=”streetAddress”>123 Main Street</span>
<span itemprop=”addressLocality”>New York</span>,
Phone: <span itemprop=”telephone”>(212)123-4567</span>
You can use the above code and plug in your firm’s data. Or you can generate your own using the Microdata Generator for Attorneys or a different generator.
If you’re code-shy, you can try out Google’s Data Highlighter to just highlight and click to tell Google what text means what.
And while we’re on your NAP and finding places that list your NAP, let’s talk about…
One of the keys to Google identifying and ranking your law firm is the number of times your firm is mentioned on the web, otherwise known as “citations.” Only a mention of your complete NAP. qualifies as a citation. Otherwise, how is Google going to distinguish between Smith, Brown and Associates in Kalamazoo, Michigan and Smith, Brown and Associates in Honolulu, Hawaii?
Above we discussed making sure your citations are consistent. Even consistency in the details (W Main vs. W. Main vs. West Main) is worthwhile.
Now let’s discuss getting more citations.
You could, of course, search for general or niche directories and input your site information one directory at a time. You might be doing that until next year, though, at which point all your competitors will have upped the ante.
Fortunately, there exist a number of services that take care of checking and creating citations for you.
Current top contenders include:
Moz Local (paid tool, has some free aspects)
Universal Business Listing (paid tool)
Whitespark (free trial for paid tool)
BrightLocal (free citation tool, among other paid tools)
Yext (paid tool, mainly available through agencies))
Some of these tools charge monthly and some charge yearly. It’s worth investing in one of them, especially when you’re starting your Local SEO efforts, just to get everything in order. When your subscription is coming to an end, you can decide if it’s worth renewing, or if you’re better off using free tools to keep up your efforts.
Are you a five-star lawyer or a two-star lawyer?
Reviews matter for search engines and for potential clients. Encourage your happy clients to leave reviews. Point them to Google, to Yelp, to Avvo or to Lawyers.com
Paid Search Marketing
SEO and content marketing take time to yield results. If you need results fast, the quickest way to high Google ranking and more leads is to pay for it.
Unfortunately for law firms, the pay can be quite steep. Let’s take a look at the different options.
Google/Bing PPC (Pay-per-click)
The tried and true of paid search marketing. The searcher types in a search query into a search engine, and along with the regular, “organic” listings, sponsored ads appear as well. You pay only if someone clicks on your ads. How much you pay and in what position on the page your ad appears is a function of how much you’re willing to pay (your “bid”) and how good your ad and landing page are.
On Google Adwords, attorney keywords are sky-high, some running upwards of $100 a click! On Bing Ads, the estimated amount you’ll pay is much lower, but so is the number of people searching for the keyword.
You choose your “bid” – the maximum amount you want to pay per click. Google and Bing run an “auction”, taking into account the amount you bid and your quality score (a number that reflects how well they think your keyword matches your ad and how well your ad matches your landing page). The auction determines if your ad will show up on the page and in what position it will show up. To show up higher, you need to either increase your bid, or increase your quality score.
Obviously, it’s less expensive to increase your quality score. For this reason, you shouldn’t have 100 keywords all sending to one ad, because there’s no way your ad and landing page can be targeted to that many terms.
Break your keyword list up into Ad Groups of closely related keywords. Have one (or more) ads per Ad Group, that reflect the keywords. Each ad should have its own landing page that reflects the keywords – and the other wording you used in your ad.
The actual cost per click will usually be lower than your bid. Google and Bing determine what you pay based on your bid and your quality score in comparison to your competitors in the ad auction.
With 1.5 billion users worldwide, and up to 1 billion users checking in daily, your potential clients are most likely on Facebook. And Facebook Ads are much less expensive than Google Adwords.
If you have a Facebook account, you can start creating ads immediately. Go to your menu and click Create Ads.
Pick an ad type from the displayed list.
For conversions and leads, you’ll need to put a “Facebook pixel” – a little piece of tracking code – into the code of your site. For some types of ad goals, you may need to associate your ads with one of your business pages. So make sure you have a law firm business FB page.
Now you can move on to creating your ad and choosing to whom to display it.
The Detailed Targeting is where you can get the most specific. Click in the field and you’ll get this dropdown:
Demographics include things like education, relationship status, and what industries they work in.
Interests include anything someone on Facebook might define in their profile as an interest, or pages they like.
Behaviors include how often or recently someone travels, or what internet browser or email service they use.
More Categories varies based on your location (most are only available in the US, Canada, France and Germany), and can include income, what type of car they own, or what type of products they purchase.
Think about what defines the people who come to you as clients and see if it’s available for targeting.
Demographics > Relationship will be helpful for lawyers specializing in marriage, divorce, or child care post-divorce cases.
Behaviors > Expats > Expats (US) will be relevant for tax lawyers who specialize in US expats’ taxes.
Demographics > Work > Industries > Construction and Extraction would be a more likely category for workers’ compensation cases.
Once you have your targeting set up, it’s time to decide how much you’re willing to pay for it.
Most Facebook ads are charged on a CPM (cost per thousand impressions). Facebook will automatically optimize your budget according to the goal you chose (leads, conversions, getting people to your site), to try and give you the most bang for your buck. Advanced users can tinker with those settings a bit under Show Advanced Options.
Okay – last step: actually creating the ad!
You’ll be asked to choose images:
Upload an image, a bunch of images that will rotate, or a video.
Choose text for the headline and the ad text.
Then choose where your ad will show:
There are five places where your ad can show up (although not all the places are available for every type of ad):
- Desktop news feed
- Mobile news feed
- Desktop right column
- Facebook partner network (other mobile sites and apps Facebook has an arrangement with)
- Instagram (yep, it’s not Facebook, but they have a partner arrangement)
You’ll be shown a preview of how your ad will appear in each one of them.
Pick which places you’d like your ad to show (they’re usually all selected by default, so UNpick the places you DON’T want your ad to show).
If you want to show up in the News Feed, you’ll need a Facebook page for your firm that the post will be seen as coming from.
Start your ads and hold on tight! After they’ve run for a while, you can look at your analytics. Facebook has some great information on the demographics of who clicked on your ad – gender, age, location.
Retargeting is showing ads to people who have viewed your website or taken specific actions on your website. Retargeting has a much higher return on investment rate than regular ads. It stands to reason – they’ve already identified themselves as interested in what you have to offer! With both Google Adwords and Facebook Ads, you can perform retargeting. It usually involves installing a small piece of code on your site pages, to “mark” visitors’ browsers. Then when Google or Facebook sees that code marker on your visitor’s browser, they show them the ad.
The more specific you can get with retargeting (e.g. showing a discount on a pair of boots for shoppers who added that pair of boots to their shopping cart and then left without purchasing), the better.
How to create landing pages that convert
Getting people to click on your ad is one thing. But then you have to inspire them to take action on your landing page. Easier said than done.
Here are our top 14 tips for making landing pages that work:
Clearly state WIIFM (what’s in it for me).
Your visitor doesn’t care about you. Not your company. Not your product. Not your services. She cares about HER. How will your company, product or service impact her life for the better? Make that very clear. Make it the first thing she sees.
The lawyers at Jasper & Fuldridge have a combined 50 years of experience in tax law..
The lawyers at Jasper & Fuldridge will get you up to $10,000 in tax refunds..
I’d care about that!
Be very targeted – not everything to everyone.
Who do you want as your customer? If the answer is “anyone and everyone”, you’re probably doing yourself in when it comes to conversions.
“Expert law services for the state of Alabama for the last 28 years” is broad. Very broad. At least they said “Alabama” and not “citizens of the United States.”
How about: “expert real estate law services for Montgomery residents facing foreclosure.”
Wow! If I’m a Montgomery resident facing foreclosure, I know who I’m going to go to! And if I can make it even more customer-centered, more WIIFM, even better:“Expert real estate law services for Montgomery residents facing foreclosure: over 75% chance you’ll get to keep your home.”
Answer the customer’s objections.
If you were having a face-to-face sales conversation, the customer would likely bring up their concerns and objections.
- Sounds great, but is it really worth all that money?
- My situation is complex because…
- Maybe a different solution is better…
- What if I try it and it doesn’t help?
You would have good answers, right? (If not, figure that out first.) So get your answers onto your landing page, where they’ll see them when they have the objection in their minds. As soon as they have the concern, they’ll have your reassurance and they’ll relax.
Don’t ask for too much.
What information do you really need from your customer to sign them up, send in the form, or request their free trial?
Their name and email? Good, put it on.
Phone number? Okay, that too.
Umm… do you really need their mother’s aunt’s maiden name? No? Good.
Can you do without their fax, company name, or credit card? Great – take that out, too.
You want to make this as friction-free as possible, Otherwise, people are likely to get overwhelmed or annoyed and abandon.
Guarantees and free trials
In order to get your visitor to buy or sign up, you need to break the trust barrier. Your customer has never met you – how do they know you’re not going to take their money and run? Or, not as bad but still just as bad for your customer, maybe you’ll take their money and keep it even if they’re not happy with what they received. How can you reassure them?
By providing a no-risk policy. In commerce, this translates into easy cancellation, free returns with no questions asked, and free trials with no credit card. Personal injury lawyers who only get paid if their client wins the case, and if not all their services were free, are a great example of this. The client feels that he can only win from engaging this lawyer, so why not?
The bolder you can get with your guarantee, the more effective.
Testimonials are also effective at breaching the trust barrier. If so many people are pleased with your service, why wouldn’t your visitor be? Video testimonials are the best, followed by testimonials with a picture, then testimonials with just a name. But even anonymous testimonials are better than nothing!
Other social proof
Have big numbers of clients? Tout them.
Logos of prominent clients? Display them.
Media spots you’ve been featured on? You know what to do.
Use ANY social proof you can dig up.
Test different calls to action.
Calls to action (what you want your customer to do next) can be direct (“Contact Us”) or indirect (“Learn More.”) Generic (“Subscribe”) or a little off the beaten track (“Send me great content!”) Try all of those, and especially try ones that underscore the value to the customer, like this:
Make your Call-to-Action button catch your visitor’s eye.
Make it larger. Make it brightly colored. Try a different color. That’s where you want the visitor to go – draw their attention.
Scarcity pushes people to act now – for fear they’ll lose out. Don’t use falsehood, obviously. But DO use natural scarcity wisely. Create time limits for your sales. If you only have a certain number of slots for your services, make visitors aware of that.
On some travel property websites, the site will note the number of other site visitors looking at that property. Pressure, anyone?
You don’t want your visitor to be about to click the call-to-action button, only to see a link to your blog post and click away. Clean up any important conversion pages: get rid of extraneous links, images – even navigation.
Be sure your site is speedy – not a slowpoke.
If your site takes a long time to load (read: more than a second or two), some people may lose patience and go find a faster moving site. Use a tool like the OctaGate Timer to test the load speed of your site. Google Analytics and Webmasters Tools will also tell you how fast Google thinks your site is – and that has an impact not only on your customer, but on how Google ranks your site in search results.
Add audio and video.
Audio or video can be customer testimonials. It can be you describing your product or services and what it will do for the visitor. People connect to people – and audio and video bring the personal to your site.
Ditch the cheesy stock photos of anonymous smiling people. Well, if you need to put them up as a placeholder until you get better ones, probably better than nothing. But honestly – you have people in your company, right? You have clients? Take REAL pictures of your business – and if the real clients are figures your customers will recognize, lots of bonus points (do make sure you have permission, though)!
Finding a lawyer is not like deciding on a new couch. Legal consumers feel significant emotional pressure to take action, and their decisions are quick. A FindLaw survey found that 51 percent of respondents with a legal need took action within a week of their incident, and another 25 percent took action within a month.
There isn’t a lot of shopping around. 72 percent of respondents who decided to take legal action looked into only one attorney before making their choice. You want that one attorney to be you – don’t give them any reason to pass you by. Make sure you have the following items in order:
- Respond to leads quickly. If they call you on the phone, they should be able to get to a person that can help them within a few minutes. If they contact you via email, the quicker you can get them a response, the less chance you’ll lose them to the next firm they contact.
- Make sure your site and landing pages are optimized for mobile. If they have to pinch and swipe to read your site, they’re gone. Pages should load fast, no matter the device.
You have the basics of internet marketing success for your law firm. If there’s anything we can help with, be in touch.
Ready, set… SEO!