Boosting Leads and New Business with Search Engine Optimization

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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.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the science of refining your website so that it attracts more visitors, thus producing new business leads and calls from potential clients. Research shows that firms that the top fact that the No. 1 online marketing tactic used by high-growth firms is search engine optimization.


I have always believed that the purpose of a law firm website is to generate new business and inquiries from potential clients — not to be a pretty online marketing brochure — and SEO is the way to get those leads.

When it comes to SEO there is one game in town: Google, which accounts for 65% of all searches. Only 16% of searches are conducted on Yahoo and only 14% are conducted on Bing, according to comScore research. Google ranks websites based on its algorithm — a set of rules a computer will execute.

To rank high in “organic” search results — the free kind that Google supplies — two key factors are keywords and inbound links (or “inlinks). Of course you can buy your way to the top of the search results with a Google Adwords campaign, and this is covered in Adwords For Lawyers.

Keywords are the terms that clients and prospects type into the search box to find you. You should sprinkle keywords liberally in the headlines, heading and text of your website. Keywords work especially well in boosting your search engine ranking if they appear in your site’s web address, or URL, and it the site’s title (which is set in the site’s HTML code).

But don’t go overboard. If you jam too many keywords into a web page, Google may disfavor you for engaging in “keyword stuffing.” SEO experts spend their entire days on ascertaining how much is too much.

The very best keywords are the words that your clients use to describe their legal matters. Listen to what they say and you’ll hear the keywords you should use.

Inbound links — meaning links appearing on someone else’s website that lead to your website — are critical, because Google will count the “inlinks” to determine how high to rank your website.

Accordingly you should write for government, educational and news websites and include your web address in the article. By including your website address in the article, you’ve created an inbound link.

Online profiles also play an important role. Be sure to complete your profile on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Lawyers.com and Martindale.com and to include your website address.

It does matter where the link comes from. A link from the Facebook page of a 12-year old will not be regarded as authoritative by Google. On the other hand, a link from the New York Times website is considered to be very authoritative.

Whatever you do, avoid buying links from a “link farm.” This occurs when you pay someone who has 1,000 websites and to put a link on each site that leads to your website. Google can tell when this manipulation is happening and will severely lower your search engine ranking.

If you follow these best practices of seeding your website content with keywords that your clients use and building links from authoritative sites, your website will finally produce the leads and new business that you’ve been waiting for.

(photo: Shutterstock)

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  • Other than the basics of SEO (use keywords & attract inbound links), I disagree with almost everything in this post, even the basic premise that SEO is the best way to get traffic to your law firm website.

    As Gyi pointed out recently, a healthy majority of search users (65%, I think) don’t care whether a website shows up as a paid result. Since SEO is a LOT more expensive than just buying search terms, it’s often a poor value by comparison.

    If SEO isn’t the best way to get people to your website, then stuffing your pages full of keywords instead of creating informative, useful content is a waste of space. The best websites (and the ones that convert the most potential clients to actual clients) are written for the people who visit it, not the search engines that index it.

    Further, even if someone wanted to incorporate some basic SEO principles into his or her law firm website, this post is far too cursory to be helpful.

    In the end, one thing matters: great content. It’s the same whether you are writing a blog or building a law firm website. Create great content, make it clear and easy to digest, and you will attract both traffic and clients.

  • Pat Stoneking

    Sam is right on here. The best part about this article is that link to Gyi’s post in November.

  • Sam – while I agree with your comment, I’m a bit confused as to why you let the post go up if you not only disagree with it, but find it useless on top of that. Was this a ‘sponsored post’ or something? Just curious.

    Also, if anyone has any additional SEO advice, I’d be glad to hear it as my site is currently sitting around the 10,000th page of any search terms I think clients may use.

    • Our writers are responsible for the content of their own posts. Even if I disagree with the content of Larry’s post, I think there is more to gain from discussing it than from not publishing it.

    • By the way, sponsored posts are always conspicuously labeled as such.

  • I think in broad strokes Larry’s post is correct. Keywords and links are two huge factors in determining rank of a website. However, let’s remember it is only two of over 200 factors Google considers. Therefore, things like time on site, bounce rate, return visits, anchor text of the link (huge), etc. are also very important. Sam is right though, high rankings with low conversions still equals no money and a damaged “brand”.

    Three other quick points:

    First, I don’t think you choose between pay per click (PPC) and organic SEO but, instead, you implement both. When starting up you use PPC to get on the radar immediately and use the valuable info Google gives you in the PPC dashboard to do keyword research to know how to best structure and build your website for your target audience. If you target It should be PPC + SEO not PPC or SEO.

    Second, I would sugget folks trying to establish an online presence turn their attention to Google Places. Depending upon your market, you can climb the ranks fairly quickly and, best of all, it’s completely free.

    Third, set reasonable benchmarks. A new website most likely will not climb the ranks for a decent period of time. Even with Google’s Panda release, they will still value an authoritative, established website over a new website. A new website can get great traction if they are in a small market. However, if you are practicing in a larger market realize your success rate for your target terms most likely won’t be there at first. Instead, target “long tail” keywords to get more immediate results.

    I’m amazed at how many times I see attorneys in larger markets just completely give up on their online presence when they don’t see results in 60-90 days.

  • Larry, please correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t it true that a link from a 12 year old’s facebook page (per your hypo above) won’t carry any weight whatsoever with Google because of the way the links are formatted? For instance, a link from a facebook page has a facebook url first and is then redirected, as opposed to, say, the link in your bio above, which can be read by google as a link to your website. And this isn’t rhetorical…I’m not a tech person but this is my understanding and I could certainly be wrong…Thanks.

  • Sam: You are missing the point. Of course great content matters. And there are thousands of law firm websites with great content that no one can find — because they fail to use basic SEO techniques such as putting the terms that searchers use find them in their website text. Lawyers will describe themselves with terms like “litigation” or “personal injury,” when their clients are using search terms like “car crash” “hurt on the job.”

    Great content will build traffic on a website over three years, whereas SEO will build traffic in three months.

    You mention Gyi’s article reporting research from 2005, which is interesting, but pay-per-click advertising (PPC) was not a topic raised in the article. Many people confuse SEO with PPC. Effective SEO involves on-site optimization and building in-bound links to your site. PPC is one of many other SEO techniques. PPC will produce instant traffic results, but there are many other more effective techniques.

    As for “stuffing your pages full of keywords instead of creating informative, useful content,” the article specifically cautions against using this approach.