Co-Founder of Custom Legal Marketing, focusing on new business development and strategies for highly competitive practice areas.
SEO and content marketing deliver the lowest cost per acquisition (CPA), or cost per lead, of any other form of digital marketing. Even if your law firm dedicates most of its marketing budget to television or a robust pay-per-click campaign, you should still have a search engine marketing campaign to bring in those coveted low-cost leads.
For 2019, law firms can expect more competition as more lawyers fight for placement on the search engine results page. Here are five strategies your law firm can use to stay competitive:
1. Don’t just look like the best; be the best.
A common misconception about search engine optimization is that it is all about tricks and gimmicks to get Google to think you have the best content. However, the search engine knows what is happening behind the scenes of your website marketing, so gimmicks are not going to fool the algorithms.
Rather than thinking about your law firm’s SEO as a magic show, think of it as a fitness test. Focus on building the best content. Look for questions that your clients are asking, and see how your competitors may be falling short on answering those questions. Whatever content your competitors are publishing, make sure yours is more informative, easier to understand and quickly answers your visitors’ questions.
Compete with strength, not gimmicks.
2. Page one, rank one is so 2014.
Over the last five years, Google has been selecting page content that gives a concise answer or definition to a search query and placing it in a box at the top of the search results page. This box is called a “featured snippet.” In the SEO community, it is referred to as “position zero.”
With well-written content, you can earn featured snippets through Q&A or blog content. When crafting questions, do so in a manner that is similar to how your clients search. For example, nobody is searching for “Will a grocery store’s premises liability policy help me if I’m injured?” Instead, you should write a Q&A title like: “Should I sue the grocery store after slipping on a wet floor?” By presenting questions followed by concise answers, you can encourage Google to use your content as a featured snippet.
Not only can a featured snippet lead to more traffic, but it can also help you optimize for voice searches, which leads us to No. 3.
3. Optimize for voice search.
Research shows that voice-first devices like Alexa and Google Home are currently owned by 39 million Americans. But those devices are just a small fraction of the 2 billion+ activated smartphones that are connected to the internet.
It does not stop there. Windows 10 and newer versions have the Cortana personal assistant; Apple iPhone, iPad and MacOS users have Siri; Android users or anybody who has downloaded the Google App on their mobile device has Google Assistant. Plus, every Chrome browser comes with Google Assistant, which can be activated by clicking on the blue microphone icon.
Voice is only getting more popular. With Google Assistant, whenever you ask a question, those answers are powered by websites that have featured snippets. If your law firm has the featured snippet, a voice searcher will hear an answer that starts with: “According to [Law Firm Name]” and then the content of the featured snippet.
To optimize for voice search, write content that answers the question first and then goes into details. For example, one of our clients is currently listed in a featured snippet for the question: “Are programmers exempt from overtime in California?”
They answer the question in the first two paragraphs but then provide examples of exempt salaries. It offers readers a lot of valuable information on the topic.
When answering a question, start with what the user is looking for. In this case, it might be something along the lines of: “It would depend. The law states that to be exempt from overtime, computer professionals or programmers must be paid a minimum salary and have advanced job duties.”
Start with a concise answer, and if the topic warrants it, go into more details.
4. Remember that link-building is a two-way street.
The value of links in search engine marketing is well-known. Of course, the days of bulk directory submissions, link-buying and link exchanges are behind us. Link-building is not entirely about getting websites to link to your law firm’s website. You can boost the quality of your own website by linking out to high-authority sources.
Outbound links give your content authority by showing that your content is well researched and backed up by legitimate sources. For example, if you are writing about car accident rates, you could link to a government study or a report published by the insurance industry. If you are writing about estate planning, you could link to a news publication regarding either change in the law or perhaps a situation relating to a celebrity.
The goal of outbound linking is to show both search engines and your readers that you are not just making something up. Your content is based on facts, and the sources of those facts are well documented.
5. Update your website.
If it’s been a while since your website has been updated, it might be time for a rebuild. A new website can be built around Google’s mobile-first indexing, include schema markups, which can help you earn more featured snippets and overall improve your user experience.
A great website experience is one that:
• Loads quickly for mobile users.
• Offers interactive elements that keep visitors engaged with your content.
• Clearly describes what your law firm does, showcases your results and helps visitors get to know the attorneys on your team.
• Offers a combination of in-depth content and short question-and-answer content.
• Is designed with easy navigation and clear calls to action and makes it easy for visitors to contact your firm without having to figure anything out.
By focusing on the user, delivering high-quality content and refreshing your website, your law firm can compete in the crowded search results pages in 2019.