Basic SEO for Law Firms

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Free: 10 Things the Best Law-Firm Website Designs Have in Common

For seven years, Lawyerist has published an annual list of the best law firm websites. Now, you can find out what they have in common.

Guest post by George Murphy
As an attorney, you’re probably too busy practicing law or running your firm to spend time learning search engine marketing and actually handling your website’s SEO/SEM efforts.

You don’t have time to Tweet, to read and comment on blogs every day, or to build links and optimize your website so that it does better on organic Google searches.

While this may be true, there are still a few things that you want to keep an eye on when it comes to your website’s appearance (and your reputation) on Google and other search engines, and there are some easy ways to automate the way you view these things.

Here are three things that you should be monitoring on a regular basis, and some easy ways for you to do so:

1. Your Website/Blog’s Keyword Rankings on Search Engines

This is usually a no-brainer but, believe it or not, the majority of lawyers that I speak to don’t have a way to monitor their current keyword rankings other than checking them manually.

This can be a problem seeing as, most of the time, the rankings that Google and other search engines will display for keyword searches are based on your browsers’ history. In other words, they already know that you have visited certain websites, and will adjust the rankings accordingly.

This means that the rankings you see are not the same as what your potential clients and others searching for the same keyword or keyword phrase will see.

Sure, you could simply clear out your browser history every time you perform a search, but that can be a tedious and painful process as the rest of your search engine data is then lost.

I recommend using a site called Zoomrank to monitor your search engine rankings. They are cheaper than most full-scale SEO software companies (they charge $9-$15/month depending on how many keywords/URL’s you want to track), and they send you regular colorful e-mails that include up-to-date data such as change(s) in search engine ranking positions (SERPs).

If you are looking for a tool that offers search engine ranking monitoring AND some additional SEO tools such as competitor analysis, on-page optimization audits, backlink monitoring, etc., there are providers out there such as Raven Tools ($19/month), Bruce Clay’s SEO Toolset ($90/quarter), and SEOMoz’s comprehensive SEO tools ($99/month) that you can utilize as well.

2. What Comes Up When You Google the Attorney or Law Firm’s Name?

When people see your television advertisement, Yellow Page ad, or banner advertisement on another website, when people hear you on the radio, or when a past client gives your name to a friend who is looking for a lawyer, what do you think most people are going to do?

That’s right, Google yourself. And don’t assume that what is going to come up on page one is what you want them to see.

One benefit of having multiple websites such as blogs, practice-area-specific sub-sites, etc. is that those websites serve as additional resources for your potential clients to find you on for a variety of different keyword searches. If you have these types of websites, hopefully they will rank on page one of Google when someone searches your name, but that’s not always the case.

Remember, it’s not all about marketing and getting new clients when it comes to search engine marketing. There is also a public relations aspect to it, and maintaining a positive reputation is key to the success of your brand on the web.

A few sites that usually rank well for attorneys’ name searches that you may want to become active on or try to get listed on:

  • Avvo.com
  • Facebook.com Business Pages
  • Twitter (make sure the username is the lawyer or firm’s name if possible)
  • Youtube Channel if you have any videos (be sure to name the channel your name or the law firm’s name)
  • Award sites such as Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, and Martindale Hubbell
  • Press release sites such as prlog.org and prweb.com (draft and release a press release on a big case, new website launch, new attorney added to the firm, etc.)
  • Naymz.com

Add whatever sites you are able to sign up for/get listed on to your keyword ranking monitoring using your name or your law firm’s name as the keyword and keep an eye on what ranks on Page One for those searches.

You can also simply perform the searches manually from time to time after clearing out your browser’s history.

Also, if you’ve decided to sign up for SEOmoz’s SEO Tools, you can use their “Keyword Difficulty” tool to easily find out what websites rank on page one of Google for a particular search at any time.

And lastly, if you’re not doing this already, setup a Google Alert so that anytime a piece of content including your name is added to Google’s index (including blogs, news, etc.), you are know about it.

3. Inbound Links

Hopefully you already know that quality inbound links from a large number of relevant and authoritative websites are important for your website to gain authority with Google and to improve your website’s search engine rankings, but are you actually monitoring the backlinks that you’re acquiring?

Sometimes the website linking to your website may take the link down for whatever reason, the Pagerank of that page linking back to your website may change over time, the anchor text of the link may change, etc.

Well, this on the advanced reporting side, and you’d probably want to invest in any of the paid tools that I laid out in the first section to monitor changes in inbound links.

BUT, wouldn’t it be nice to know when a new page is linking to your website? Wouldn’t it also be nice to know when a competitor has obtained a new link so that you could possibly “cherrypick” that links and apply for it yourself? Yes, that’s right, spy on your competition (evil laugh).

Well, using practically any RSS reader and a free Yahoo! Tool (you’ll need to setup a Yahoo! Account if you don’t already have one), you can actually be alerted whenever you or one of your competitors have obtained a new backlink.

Here’s how:

  1. Go to http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/
  2. On the top right search bar search for “backlinks”
  3. Select “Backlinks to URL”
  4. Click on “Clone”
  5. Click on “Edit Source”
  6. In the “Enter site URL” blue box, enter either your or your competitor’s URL in the default field
  7. Click on “properties” on the top right
  8. Change the name to either your or your competitors’ URL backlinks
  9. Click on “save”
  10. Run the pipe

On the next window, click on “Get an RSS”, take the URL of that RSS feed, and add it into Google Reader or any other RSS reader that you may use.

Do this for your website, in addition to your competitors, and you’ll be automatically alerted (using an rss reader) whenever your website or your competitor’s website has obtained a new backlink.

These are just three ways that you can easily monitor three important factors of your search engine marketing efforts. Also be sure to keep an eye on your regular traffic reports using Google Analytics, Omniture, or any other analytics program. You can usually setup these programs so that you can receive e-mail updates on a regular basis updating you on increases or decreases in your website’s traffic count.

(Photo: http://flic.kr/p/qqZfB)

George Murphy is the director of web marketing and search engine optimization at Foster Web Marketing, an attorney website design firm.

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  • Good stuff George. With Google’s recent Place Search change, I would add:

    4. Citations

    Citations are basically “mentions” of your name (or law firm name) and address on other webpages. These mentions are important even if there is no link to your website. Citations include mentions on legal directories, like Avvo, where your business is listed. It can also be a local chamber of commerce, or a local legal association even if they are not linking at all to your website.

  • dave matson

    Agreed, every law firm should take the time to claim and fill out all fields of their Google Places listing, as well as Bing Local Listing, Avvo profile, Yelp, and CitySearch. Soliciting reviews at these sites can be quite helpful for local rankings.

    Good tips, I didn’t know about Yahoo Pipes!