Local SEO for Law Firms
Local SEO for lawyers…
- What is it?
- How do you do it?
- And why do you need it?
We’ve got the answers to all your questions here.
Local search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most critical—yet overlooked—components of any legal digital marketing plan. If you’re not convinced of the importance of local SEO for lawyers by the end of this article, give us a call and tell us why.
What Is Local SEO for Lawyers?
Local SEO for law firms is a set of methods to help your website rank high in local search results. It’s a way to make sure your law firm shows up when someone in your area turns to Google and other search engines to help them find legal representation.
You can think of local SEO for lawyers as the best way to optimize your website so that it ranks high on the search engine results page (SERP) and Local Pack for a specific geographic area. It should be a single, targeted effort as part of your overall law firm SEO strategy.
Why Is Local SEO Important for Law Firms?
Local searches matter. People making local searches aren’t usually looking for general information—they’re looking to make a purchase. They’re not asking, “how much does it cost to hire a lawyer in Memphis” because they’re conducting an economic census. They want to hire a lawyer.
A PR Newswire report revealed that almost all consumers (97%) use the internet to shop locally. That report came out over a decade ago. The fact that most people begin looking for local products and services on their phones or computers is no longer news.
If you’re not making it easy for potential clients to find you through a simple Google search, you’re putting a barrier between your law firm and almost 100% of your target audience.
How Does Google Rank Local Businesses?
According to Google itself, the top three factors that impact local search results are:
Let’s look at how each of these three factors shapes your local SEO rankings.
Relevance refers to how closely your business offerings match the searcher’s intent.
Google has stated that your law firm’s Google Business Profile (GBP) is a key factor in evaluating relevancy. Your GBP is one of the primary ways Google understands what your business is all about in order to match your website to relevant searches.
Below, we’ll look at how to optimize your GBP to increase your visibility in local search rankings.
Distance refers to how far the search result is from the location keyword used in the search.
For example, a search for “Los Angeles criminal lawyer” should only turn up results that Google believes are actually in Los Angeles.
If there is no location keyword used in the search (such as “personal injury law firm”), Google will use the information it has about the searcher (by using indicators like GPS, wi-fi, mobile network, device sensors, past searches, etc.) to pinpoint the searcher’s location and connect them with search results nearby.
Finally, prominence refers to the local reputation of the business. How well-known is your business in the local area?
Google has shared a few signals the company uses to assess how prominent a business like a law firm is. These signals include:
- Mentions of and links to the business from across the web
- Articles and directories that include the business
- The business’s offline prominence
- Reviews and ratings of the business
- The business’s position on the search engine results pages (SERP)
Because search engine rankings are a factor in determining prominence, your local SEO efforts need to be targeted toward increasing your position in local rankings.
How do you do that? Well, that’s what local SEO for law firms is all about. Read on to learn our top tips for local SEO for lawyers.
Tips for Local Search Engine Optimization for Law Firms
If you’ve ever made a local search, you know what the Google Map Pack (or Google Local Map Pack) looks like. It features the top-ranking local listings for your search in the local area. Businesses are listed alongside Google maps, and other helpful information like hours of operation and a phone number are displayed as well.
When someone makes a Google search with local intent (like “cat grooming in Austin”), Google uses a Local Pack algorithm to choose and display what it deems to be the best local businesses, along with the location on Google maps.
As a lawyer, you want your law firm to appear in the Local Pack when a local person searches for legal help in your city. Like the rest of us, most prospective clients are going to click first on the businesses they see first in the local search result.
There is no way to simply buy a top-ranking spot in a local search. Instead, there are a variety of local SEO tactics that can be employed to help your law office show up in the Local Pack and at the top of the search engine results pages (SERP).
Here are our recommendations for how to improve local SEO for lawyers.
Make the Most of Your Google Business Profile
The first place to start is to create (or claim) your Google Business Profile listing. Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) is a free function of Google that allows you to create a summary of your business information. You can’t rank in the Local Pack without it.
It looks like the image on the right.
Most law firms with websites have a GBP, but not all take the time to optimize it. As the first exposure many people have to your law firm’s online presence, it’s important to make sure your GBP is clean, accurate, and informative. As we’ve noted, a strong Business Profile can also improve your organic search ranking.
To optimize your GBP, pay attention to:
- Information accuracy
- Updating hours and appointment offerings
- Keeping up with client reviews
- Posting new blogs and articles
- Answering any posted questions
- Featuring fitting, high-resolution photos and video
- Creating a strong business description
Conduct In-Depth Local Keyword Research
Using keywords with local intent strategically on your webpages is key to local SEO for law firms, both those with multiple locations and those with just a single location.
Tools like SEMRush and Google Search Console are valuable keyword research aids. As a personal attorney in San Diego, for example, your target keywords are probably going to involve phrases like “San Diego personal injury lawyer” and “personal injury attorney in San Diego.” But there will also be a vast network of related terms and phrases that can be employed to optimize your position in local search engine results.
Keywords should be used with intention, employing both long-tail keywords and short-tail keywords in the appropriate density in the right locations. Keywords aren’t just for use in content—a comprehensive strategy will pay attention to their use in page headers, website URLs, title tags, meta descriptions, and other areas of your law firm’s website, webpages, social media posts, and newsletters.
Be sure to watch out for keyword cannibalization. This is when your target keyword for a page is used too frequently across your site. If you’re a personal injury lawyer with multiple practice areas and multiple locations in Louisiana—but all your webpages have numerous mentions of “New Orleans truck accident lawyer”—it will be hard for Google to tell which page is actually your New Orleans truck accident page.
Build Up Local Practice Area Pages and Website Content
Once you’ve done thorough research and crafted a data-informed strategy, you can begin constructing content hubs built around your target keywords. This starts with a practice area page for a geographical territory you’re targeting and then creating a strong internal linking structure from related blogs and posts back to the main practice area pages.
For example, a blog topic like “What Happens if I Get Injured in San Diego?” might be a good way to meet searchers with an answer to what they’re looking for, ultimately leading them back to your San Diego personal injury lawyer website.
An important part of this silo technique is making sure the pages are easy to navigate and the links easy to follow. Don’t forget to use breadcrumbs to help your website users. Breadcrumb navigation looks like this and will help ensure your practice area page remains the main hub of content:
If your law firm has multiple locations, defining and separating your practice area pages by territory is especially important to your local SEO.
Ensure NAP Consistency
Your law firm’s NAP is your business name, address, and phone number.
From your Google Business Profile to your webpages to your listings in local directories, potential clients need consistent, correct contact information for your law office.
Ensuring NAP consistency is also important for improving your search results, as Google sees information accuracy as a point in your favor—and inaccuracy as a point against you.
Let Reviews Help You Tell Your Story
Reading reviews has become an integral part of choosing a law firm for many, many people. In fact, reviews are one of the top things searchers look for when researching a law firm online.
A recent local consumer survey report released in 2023 saw 98% of survey respondents indicating that they trusted online reviews enough to influence their decision-making.
Reviews left on Google, Facebook, Yellow Pages, Yelp, and other platforms are important to people making local searches. They’re also important to search engines. Law firms with more and higher client ratings and reviews are typically given a higher “prominence” score by Google. That means positive reviews can help you increase your law firm’s search visibility in the local rankings.
So if good reviews are so important to local SEO for lawyers, how do you get them?
First, encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews. Not everyone is internet-savvy—make it easy for clients to review your law firm services at home on their own time. Some attorneys include instructions for how to post Google reviews in emails to clients at the culmination of a case. And, of course, always give your clients the kind of treatment that makes them want to share their experiences with others.
Second, don’t be afraid of bad reviews. No well-known law firm with a lot of clients and a lot of reviews will be able to maintain a perfect 5-star score. If it does, something’s not right.
Instead of fearing negative reviews, see them as an opportunity. A bad review is a chance to a) learn ways your law firm can improve and b) engage directly with a former client in a way that assures new clients of your commitment to client service.
Finally, stay engaged and active in your Google reviews and other platforms. Respond to both positive reviews and negative reviews. Prospective clients will see this as a signal that your team cares, pays attention, and really listens to clients.
Don’t have time to manage and keep up with client reviews? We don’t expect you to. At GAVL, our local SEO services include managing your review platforms.
Secure High-Quality Local Backlinks
Getting high-value backlinks is central to local SEO strategy for law firms. Backlinks are links from other websites pointing readers to your website. For example, if a local library links to your law firm’s website with a story about your attorneys sponsoring a reading program at a local school, that’s a fantastic backlink.
The benefit of strong backlinks is multifold. High volumes of relevant backlinks can:
- Generate local citations
- Increase your law firm’s local prominence factor
- Raise your website’s authoritativeness in the eyes of search engines
- Connect your law firm to other businesses and organizations to increase your relevance in geo-based searches
- Demonstrate to prospective clients that your law firm is a trusted presence in the local community
Local backlinks can come from a variety of sources.
The cheap, easy, low-hanging fruit backlinks don’t help your website much—and can actually hurt your local SEO campaign. Discussion forum links, links on link-mill sites, and links from spammy websites unrelated to the legal industry cast your law firm website in a bad light.
Instead, aim for relevant links earned through honest and organic means, like:
- Local news sites, magazines, and podcasts
- Charity organizations and events your law firm sponsors
- Local awards won by your attorneys
- City-specific websites and directories
- Local community groups
- Local advocacy groups
- Schools, colleges, universities, and law schools in your area
Get Listed in Online Directories
Another great way to get reputable backlinks is through local and legal directories. Platforms like Avvo, Justia, FindLaw, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Nolo, and Apple Maps can provide backlinks to your law firm website while establishing your presence in national and local business listings.
Just like your GBP, it’s important to make sure your business name and other information are accurate and updated across every legal directory and local listing.
Make Sure Your Website Is Mobile-Friendly
The majority of users making local searches are using mobile devices. Do you know what your website looks like on a screen the size of your palm?
Increasing the usability of your website on cell phones and other mobile devices falls under technical SEO—the process of optimizing a website for both users and search engines through its technical elements.
While we won’t go into the mechanics of building an optimized law firm website here, it should be noted that making your website mobile-friendly is an unignorable step in law firm local SEO. Google treats mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor, so your local search results ranking will suffer if your website is too clunky for a mobile screen.
To display and interact well on a cell phone, your law firm’s website should:
- Be optimized for speed and fast loading
- Have a responsive layout
- Be manageable with fingertips rather than a cursor
- Be scaled in size to fit a device screen
- Have compressed images
- Use appropriate font and font size
- Be coded correctly to fit mobile devices
- And more
When someone makes a local search on their mobile phone, it should look something like this:
Lastly, your mobile-friendly website needs to have a clear and accessible call to action (CTA) button. Users on a cell phone are often much closer to making a purchase decision. Make it easy for your new clients to get in touch and take the next step.
Are You Ready To Get Noticed in Local Search Results?
Your potential clients are all around you. Right here in your own city. But how many of those people are ready to get out of their houses and walk up to the front desk of your law office? Very few. No matter how close they are in proximity, those potential clients are looking for you online.
GAVL crafts strategic, personalized local SEO campaigns that get law firms noticed in their communities. You’re already doing the hard work. Now it’s time to let people know about it.
Contact us to learn what our local SEO services can do for your law practice.
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