SEO for Lawyers


As a private practice attorney, you’re the one who makes sure lots of people know about your law firm so they can come to you for legal services. In addition to networking and traditional advertising, you probably have a website and social media presence. You may even have explored pay-per-click (PPC) online advertising, with varying results. But if you want the kind of organic traffic that translates into long-term legal leads and more potential clients, the answer is search engine optimization (SEO).

To help you get started making this “superpower” work for your law firm, here is a step-by-step overview of SEO for lawyers.

Do Law Firms need SEO?

Yes! Almost every legal client uses an online search engine when they start looking for legal advice. You want your law firm’s website to show up in their search results. SEO makes this possible by giving the search engines what they need to understand what your site is about so they can send relevant traffic your way without ongoing ad spending.

Your law firm needs SEO to ensure that your site appears as high as possible in search engine rankings for keywords that are relevant to your legal practice. If your law firm doesn’t use SEO or is not optimized for search engines to find it, your website will become lost in the forest of search engine results. It will be buried at the bottom with hundreds of other law firm websites. Having your law firm’s website at the top of search result rankings will bring in a steady stream of potential clients. Otherwise, you will lose clients to law firms that have invested in SEO to be at the top of Google rankings.

What is SEO?

Search engines use complex algorithms to rank websites when they provide search results, and these algorithms are constantly being updated and refined by the search engine companies. SEO is a set of practices that make your website easy for both human users and search engine algorithms to understand. SEO is based on well-established principles and techniques that are rooted in how search engines work.

While there are technical aspects to SEO, it can be learned and applied by anyone with the right knowledge and resources. You may already know that keywords are an important part of SEO, but they are only one factor that search engines consider when ranking websites. Other factors include the quality and relevance of your website’s content, the structure and organization of your website, and the presence of high-quality backlinks from other websites.

Because the competition for top rankings is always evolving, you need to regularly update your website’s SEO to maintain and improve your search engine rankings. It also takes time for the effects of an SEO campaign to become apparent. Search engines need time to index and rank your website’s pages, so be patient because it may take several weeks or months to see the full benefits of your SEO efforts.

Why is SEO Important for Lawyers/Law Firms?

SEO allows you to maximize the time you spend working in your law firm (as a lawyer) rather than ON your business (as a marketer). While SEO requires some time investment to setup, most of it is front-loaded such that you can generate the keywords, content, etc. initially and then maintain it. Unlike PPC or social media campaigns which are time-intensive on a daily basis, SEO isn’t a daily or even weekly requirement.

SEO also lets you stop paying for every legal lead and helps you get leads that are relevant to your legal specialization, unlike PPC or phone leads. SEO is about making your existing website as attractive to search engines as possible, rather than expending additional cash on placing advertisements in other areas. As such, SEO will bring in more clients with your existing resources instead of becoming a money sink like other forms of marketing.

Picture this: your website is fully optimized with substantive content, keywords, and fully linked to your other business profiles and social media accounts. Your website sits at the top of keyword rankings for your local business areas and is bringing in a steady flow of potential clients week after week. Your firm doesn’t have to expend any extra money or cash other than to keep your website updated periodically. You’re free to meet with your new clients and work with your existing clients without having to appear in advertisements that would otherwise annoy or alienate people who dislike advertising.

SEO is the key to making your firm independent of advertising by placing your website at the top of search engine results. Of course, SEO can work alongside traditional advertising or other forms of internet advertising, but it is a fully operational form of marketing all by itself.

How SEO Compares to Other Marketing Options

SEO can be a more efficient marketing tool than other options if you use it properly. The return on investment for SEO is potentially higher than most other forms of advertising. To put it simply, SEO can generate the most leads for the least amount of money spent. Phone leads and social media campaigns can be expensive and time-consuming, especially if a marketing company charges your office for every lead. SEO must be constantly maintained, but it is by no means a daily or even weekly requirement. Proper SEO use means that attorneys can maximize their time practicing law rather than finding the next client.

SEO is also very successful in comparison with other marketing options online. A top search engine rank typically generates 66% of call conversions in the legal sector. SEO often outperforms social media outreach and internet advertisements. SEO has the advantage of being organic. Most people do not want to be bombarded with advertisements and pop-up ads. SEO directly gives prospective clients a method to address their legal issues – your law firm.

SEO is long-term advertising. Its purpose is to provide steady leads for lawyers. It may take several months for an SEO strategy to become fully effective though other forms of internet advertising, such as social media or pay-per-click advertisements, may be faster. However, SEO typically outperforms other forms of lead generation for attorneys. Most people with legal issues will actively seek out an attorney. SEO is an essential tool of online marketing to generate traffic but it can and should be supplemented with other forms of marketing, at least in the short term.

Implementing SEO

  • Keywords

    The first step in SEO is to include such keywords organically so that the search engine will display your website in the search results. This will take a little time to research, as keywords may differ between legal fields and geographic location. Your keywords should be relevant your field and have search value, based on search volume, cost-per-click, and relevance to potential clients’ needs. For instance, a family law specialist can focus on keywords such as “divorce” or “child custody.”

    Think of keywords like a term of art. Words like demurrer or voir dire have almost no meaning to anyone outside the legal profession, but such words are frequently used in courtrooms and legal briefs to refer to a complex process quickly. Keywords serve a similar function for SEO. Search engines look for certain terms of art on millions of web pages to quickly find the “needles in a haystack” that the user requests. Using the correct keyword will enable the search engine to find your website out of the millions of other web pages that the search engine is scanning through.

    Organic use of a keyword is essential if you want SEO to succeed. Web pages should not merely repeat the keywords a hundred times. You should work search words seamlessly into the webpage’s content. No one wants to read a book about child custody that simply repeats the phrase “child custody” every sentence. Instead, the book should be informative about how child custody in the legal field works. Websites should be functional and useful and with keywords to rank the website highly on Google or Bing.

    However, not every keyword is created equal. Your keywords should be relevant to your industry and have search value based on search volume and relevance. For instance, if you practice in employment law, you might want to include key phrases on your web page such as “wrongful termination” or “illegal firing.” Keywords should be phrases that your potential clients will be searching for if they are looking for your services.

  • Website Structure

    Your website should make a good first impression when someone first looks at it. Is it cluttered and difficult to read and scroll down or is it organized, easy to follow, and accessible? Search engines will prioritize the latter in order to give users the best results they can. Think of website structure as the table of contents and introduction for your website. The reader should understand what is going on the instant they open the page and be able to find what they’re looking for instantly if they want to find specific information about your firm.

    Good website structure serves as its own form of on-page SEO. The website itself serves as its own SEO. Moreover, this is something you want to do with your website anyway, regardless of what the search engine may be looking for. A website that is easy to understand and navigate will naturally retain more views than a website that is hard to comprehend. You should organize your website in a similar manner to how you organize your legal briefs. Use headings and subheadings to organize and divide separate and distinct thoughts. Utilize bullet points and numbers if you have lists. This will not only help any readers on your website but also increase your SEO.

    More advanced features will make your website both user friendly and move it up in SEO rankings. For instance, if your office contains a large number of attorneys and staff, consider building in a search function so that a client can look up a specific person’s biography and contact information quickly. You can also include backlinks where appropriate so that your website is easily navigable from one page to another. For example, a page that talks about divorce can be linked to a page about legal separation for ease of use.

    Website structure is not only integral to SEO, but also good web design in general. Website structure, like SEO itself, leans into one of the greatest strengths of SEO: it comes about naturally without making it seem like a user is looking at an advertisement. If done correctly, most users won’t notice that you built your website structure to increase your rankings on Google or other search engines.

  • Backlinks

    Your website may also rise through search engine results through the use of backlinks. Backlinks are hyperlinks that lead to related web pages. Search engines look for websites that are interconnected through links. When you conduct legal research, you may find that many courts or attorneys cite the same case over and over. When that occurs, you know that the cited case is a landmark case for your subject. The same is true for search engines. If search engines find that multiple websites keep linking back to the same website, the search engine will know that the cited webpage is an important one. On the other hand, if your website is isolated to a single blog or article, it will not rank highly on Google or Bing.

    Your main home page should contain links to a contact page, client testimonials, a small biography, and other information about you and your firm. The information should be diffuse across different pages rather than condescended onto a single screen. You should also connect your website to outside websites, such as social media sites like Facebook, or review pages like Yelp.

    As with keywords, backlinks can and should arise organically. A social media page on your website should lead to outside social media websites. Website tabs for client testimonials should be linked to a webpage with client stories about the wonderful job you did for them on their case. Search engines look for the websites that are part of a wide network. You can learn to develop backlinks to help advance your website to the top of search engine results. The best way to do this with modern SEO is to focus on generating useful content for your audience, such as blog posts about timely topics that relate to your category of law.

  • Local SEO

    Local SEO focuses on optimizing a website for local search results. Local SEO is about search results in smaller local areas rather than trying to climb results in larger areas. This is valuable for attorneys who practice in a small area or only one or two jurisdictions. If you only practice in one county in one state, you don’t need to show up in top search results in other states or for nationwide search results. You only need to appear in top search results for your jurisdiction for SEO to be effective. Conversely, someone who has been wrongfully terminated from their job in California will not be looking for an employment lawyer in North Carolina or Florida.

    Like other SEO techniques, local SEO can be cheaper than traditional marketing practices. The goal is to affiliate your name or your office’s name with search results pertaining to the local area. Local SEO can be done by registering your Google My Business profile and updating any local directory listings with the correct Name, Address, Phone Number, Website URL and other relevant contact information. Similarly, having your name appear in local bar association websites or other local group websites may bolster your standing in local SEO searches.

Balancing SEO and Other Website Elements

Most websites must balance SEO with other website optimization elements, including conversion rate optimization (CRO) and user experience (UX). Law firms utilizing SEO are no different. You will eventually need all three of these website elements to work in concert with one another. However, they may also work against one another, depending on how your office has set its website up.

SEO is about placing a website highly on search engines so that potential clients can find your website. In contrast, CRO is about getting the user to perform a certain action once they are actually on your website. For law firms, CRO means having the user pick up the phone to inquire about retaining an attorney for their potential legal issue. SEO and CRO are not exclusive goals; prospective clients need to find your website in order to use your website to contact your office. For instance, backlinks that lead users from your Facebook or Twitter page to your contact information on your website can increase both SEO and CRO in a single stroke.

However, there is a risk that SEO can sacrifice conversion elements on a webpage and make the traffic less valuable. A website that is overly stuffed with keywords may initially drive up SEO, but will also create a lesser user experience and discourage users from returning to your website. If your website doesn’t properly balance SEO with CRO, you may get lots of people looking at your website, but most of that traffic may not retain your legal services. Conversely, an emphasis on CRO may lead to a loss of SEO ranking factors. Most of the people who land on your website will turn into clients, but the number of people who view your website may dip.

SEO and UX must be similarly balanced, though are not mutually exclusive either. UX is about the internal experience that a user has when interacting with a website. A website that makes it easy for a person to make a purchase will lead to more purchases for that website. On the other hand, a consumer who is frustrated with the website may simply close their browser tab and never return again. For a law firm, the user experience should be curtailed to make it easier for a potential client to learn about the attorneys and how to contact them.

Using SEO to Optimize Websites

Search engine optimization can be a time-consuming process initially, but you may try it out yourself. Time spent on SEO may be time better spent preparing your next brief or assisting your clients. As with the legal system, you may also want a set of objective eyes on your website rather than run your own SEO. If you decide to work on SEO on your own, there are six key factors to use:

  • Keyword Research Examine and analyze the keywords that you want your website to be listed in the top search engine rankings for. The more popular keywords will be difficult to climb the search engine rankings for, but would yield the most return on your time.
  • On-Page SEO Structure your website so that it is easy to navigate and use. This will not only help users find the information they’re looking for, but will also boost your website SEO visibility.
  • Local SEO While it may be tempting to have your firm listed as the top family law or employment law firm in the world, it’s really unnecessary unless you’re in charge of marketing for a global firm. Instead, most attorneys will want to focus their SEO efforts on their own cities or jurisdictions that they practice in.
  • Content Marketing Quality content on your website will not only garner interest from users but also improve your SEO standing. A website with substantive content will rank higher than websites that are barren or are simply marketing fluff pieces.
  • Link Building Websites consist of pages that are linked to one another. Use backlinks to make sure your website is connected to other web pages or websites as needed. Take care not to overdo it as a website that has too many links unnaturally asserted may go down in rankings.
  • Ranking Factors – The ranking factors described above need to be consistently maintained over a period of time. This doesn’t need to be done daily or even weekly, but pages need to be updated to keep them fresh for SEO to work.