My Law Firms SEO Isn’t Working.

AttorneyBusinessLawyerLegal SEOSearch Engine OptimizationSEO 101SEO Audit

The legal industry is probably one of the most competitive industries when trying to rank on Google. I am sure you know that, and realize that’s where the majority of your potential customers will find you. Maybe you have been doing SEO for years and recently noticed a decline in potential client signups. Maybe you are a brand new law firm and your in-house SEO tactics are not working. I will try to give you an understanding of how we audit and review SEO campaigns which are no longer working or have never worked.

Here are 4 Steps We Take To Identify Why Your SEO is Not Working.

There are four key areas every SEO expert knows and optimizes in order to produce results for clients. These are technical SEO (speed times, errors, redirects, code and etc), on-page SEO (content, keywords, internal links, title tags), backlinks (anchor text links, directories etc..), and citations (yellow pages, Findlaw, AVVO).

Technical SEO Audit

Google has spent the last couple of years updating their algorithm with a goal of identifying technically sound websites. They have created their own standards and given us the tools and reports necessary to realize how they grade a website. The most important tools are Google Search Console and Google Insights. With a tech audit, you have dozens of factors to review. This is where professional SEO tools like Moz, Ahrefs and Semrush come in handy. They have built advanced tools to audit every single aspect of your websites technical health. From 404s to broken links, slow loading pages, and so much more. This can make or break a campaign from ranking in the top 3 on Google.

If you are handling the technical aspect yourself, we suggest creating an account at Google Search Console and fixing every error you can find. This includes page experience metrics, which represent some of the more recent metrics Google has integrated into their algorithm in 2021 and 2022. Find a developer you trust and make sure they have an understanding of SEO. We also handle these types of projects, and you are welcome to reach out if you want our SEO developers to make your website technically sound.

For DIY tools like Semrush, Ahrefs and Moz, we recommend Ahrefs or Semrush over Moz. Although, Moz has finally started to catch up to the competition, they are still a bit clunky and not an all-in-one solution on one dashboard.

On-Page SEO Audit

Content is king is a saying used by SEOs since the creation of the search engine. This type of an audit centers around content users want to read, that answers their questions and encourages them to the information on your site. With this type of an audit, you are reviewing every page of content on your website, whether it’s a blog post or a practice area page for a divorce lawyer or car accident attorney. There are specific metrics Google likes to see in order to rank a website. You are also using these metrics to send signals to Google and tell them what you would like to rank for. Sometimes the slightest mistake can cost you several spots on page 1. It takes experience to understand what to look for, but the same tools mentioned above can help.

For on-page audits you want to focus specifically on the following factors.

  •  Make sure every page of content is unique and your content on one page is not competing against other pages on your site. Duplicate or too-similar content will hurt rankings. If you need to create two pages, make sure they are very specific and do not target the same terms. You can see how we did this with our client Simmons & Fletcher, P.C. The menu is where we targeted specific areas of practice, and their home page is their most competitive term, “personal injury.”
    • Every page of content should have informative, helpful content. You can describe the legal issue on the page, cite the law and repercussions. You can also create a Q and A by creating paragraphs with titles that highlight questions you are regularly asked by your potential clients. Look at competition that ranks and create competing content that is more concise, informative and easier to read.
  • Title tags and meta descriptions should all be complete and unique. Make sure every page has a unique title tag and that you do not compete against other pages on your site. For example, you might be doing SEO for a divorce attorney where the home page is targeting the term “Divorce lawyer,” but you also have a page that outlines divorce in Texas. In this scenario you want to title the home page “Divorce Lawyer Houston,” and the internal page would be titled “Everything you need to know about Divorce Laws in Texas.” Here is a client of ours Dallas, who is a criminal attorney. You can see how we wrote his title tags and organized the content.
  • Internal links are also very important. This is an approach to creating user friendly content, but also telling Google what keyword represent which pages. Do not spam your pages with internal links from other pages. Create unique links from other pages to your main practice area pages. For example you might have a blog post which supports your main practice area. These types of posts would contain an internal link to the practice area page. Audit your internal links and make sure you aren’t linking to multiple pages with similar keywords. This will confuse google and you will hurt rankings. Be consistent with internal link building. Semrush and Ahrefs both have tools that allow you to see your internal links.
  • There are many other factors you will find on the tools we recommended, but the previous points are the most important.

Reviewing a Backlink Audit

This is by far the hardest to teach anyone. It takes years of experience and a very keen understanding of how Google views backlinks. Here are a few points to consider.

Start with the tools we mentioned above to run backlink reports, and also use Google Search Console (these are links Google see and are allowing to effect your SEO positively or negatively).

There are a couple of fundamental ideas regarding good versus bad backlinks. A bad backlink is one that is spammy, where the content is poorly written, it links to a website that real users do not visit, the domain does not match the topic of the content, the content on the website is covering dozens of topics, and/or the website admin contact info is not available. You can also review the toxicity/spam score of the website on Semrush and Ahrefs and selectively document them.

You can drop heavily in rankings if you have a high amount of spam links pointing to your website, or somebody created too many anchor text links with a goal of ranking you for that keyword. What does this look like? Ratio is important, you want it to look natural, because unnatural is what causes problems. Moz is probably the best source for academic SEO education and this is their backlink class.

If you have found a large amount of spammy, low quality links pointing to your website, the next step is a disavow file. This type of file is where you upload a list of links to the Google Disavow Tool. You are telling Google you do not want these links to effect your SEO rankings. It can take 1-2 months and sometimes longer for these to kick in. Be careful when you add links because this is not reversible. You can remove the links from the list, but these links may never benefit you again. Hire a professional; someone with experience helping law firms clear up their backlink profile.

Citation Audit

A citation is a directory that contains your business name, address, phone and website link. A few good examples are AVVO, Findlaw, Yellowpages and similar websites. A healthy citation audit is where every citation is exactly the same, i.e. your business name, address, phone and URL do not vary. Start with the top citations and use Brightlocal to start your audit.

All of this is to help your Google business listing rank. This means your Google My Business (GMB) profile is the source and all citations should represent exactly what’s displayed in your GMB listing. The next most important listings are Yahoo, Bing local and Apple Maps.

A couple of tips: Create an account at Moz Local or Yext to take ownership and update all your citations without having to manually update them individually (this can take days). You can also use bright local to manage and create citations unavailable on Moz and Yext. They also have a great tool that helps you audit your citation health. Lastly, make sure your website displays the same NAP (name address phone) as GMB and use schema markup on your website for SEO boost.

Incorrect citations, or a lack of citations, can cause big problems for your website. Get these fixed asap, and you will notice an increase in rankings if your citation health was poor or even around 80%.

Here is our guide to local SEO for business owners. 

Hire Experience, battle-tested SEO professionals.

There are many other factors and topics that can be discussed. The key point here is to have an understanding of what causes a drop in rankings or lack of rankings. You need to be able to identify these, and for most law firms this means hiring an SEO expert with the experience you need. Call their references, qualify their experience and reputation with their clients. Read their reviews and spend your money wisely. Hire the right people for the job,  not a sales person who says yes to everything. You get what you pay for is a long standing phrase used over years, and it is very true in the field of SEO.

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Keith Nichols MDKeith Nichols MD
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