Law firms rely on search engine optimization (SEO) far more than the average industry. Unfortunately, having a strong motivation to use a marketing technique and knowing how to master that marketing technique are two completely different things. As a result, many law firms are committing grave SEO sins.
Bad practices, from keyword stuffing to featuring links from sketchy sites, can all hurt your user experience and your ability to rank. Never forget that Google wants what’s best for your website visitors, so think about how to make your site intuitive and enjoyable rather than trying to game the system.
To help you get down the right path, here are eight common SEO mistakes lawyers make for you to watch out for.
1. Using Short, Thin Content Throughout Your Site
We know this first technique simply doesn’t work any more because we’ve tracked the results ourselves over the years.
Just two or three years ago, a law firm website could get away with repackaging a news story into a short 300-400 word blog post and find decent SEO results. All they had to do was find coverage of their firm, write a summary, inject a few keywords naturally within the text, and wrap everything up in a strong call-to-action. These small bite-sized morsels of content were sufficient to indicate relevance to a search term and identify certain firms as “newsworthy.”
Not anymore! A combination of short content length and questionable relevance to search users made these short articles perform very poorly over time. Now, they are all but ignored by search engines for high traffic keyword competition.
These days, search engines favor longer content. According to the most recent SEMrush ranking factor study, the best-performing websites for high-traffic keywords all had content with an average of 750 words or more.
When talking about voice search, which more and more people use, the results are even more surprising. Even though the average voice search result is just 29 words long, the average word count for the content it was pulled from was 2,312 words.
Solution: Put effort into your content, aim for over 750 or more words, and ensure the content provides some sort of value to visitors.
2. Relying too Heavily on Boilerplate and Repetition
Here’s another content trap lawyers fall into. Perhaps they’ve gotten too used to their professional habits, where verbatim boilerplate documents hold a lot of water and get the job done right.
But online, search engines like Google outright discourage this level of repetition. Writing in their recently updated SEO guide, Google suggest that site owners avoid “having duplicate or near-duplicate versions of your content across your site.”
In their webmaster guidelines, Google also suggests that websites “minimize boilerplate repetition. For instance, instead of including lengthy copyright text on the bottom of every page, include a very brief summary and then link to a page with more details.”
Boilerplate content can refer to legal disclaimers as well as generic, repeated elements, such as copy/pasted calls to action at the end of every page.
Solution: Strive to make your content unique, and put effort into being descriptive rather than dumping the same lists of practice areas or qualifications on every page.
3. Not Deciding Upon a Brand Niche
Clarity is the ultimate tool in marketing. It differentiates you from your competitors and makes you memorable. Law firms that are able to brand themselves or decide upon a target niche can therefore enjoy improved SEO and overall digital marketing performance.
If you’re able to rank for phrases like “DUI lawyer in Kennesaw” by way of content that explains why you’re the go-to for that practice area in your region, then you stand a better chance at earning those all-important clicks and leads.
Yet, many law firms tragically spread themselves too thin. They can’t decide on a single area of expertise or brand differentiator, so they go for all of them. This “shotgun” approach dilutes your impression upon search users and it can also confuse search engines.
In fact, even the way you structure your site can tell a search engine whether or not you prioritize certain practice areas over others.
Solution: Pick a few niches, feature them prominently near the top of your site navigation, and ensure your language on your home page and technical SEO element prioritizes these practice areas to send a strong signal to search engines and potential leads.
4. Ignoring How Vital Mobile Is
Research shows that an overwhelming majority of online traffic now comes from smartphones and other mobile devices. Chances are great that if someone is looking at your website, they are viewing it on a smartphone. This is especially true for criminal defense lawyers, whose potential clients may be looking for representation immediately.
Your law website therefore absolutely has to be responsive. It should be easily viewable and intuitively navigated on a touchscreen. If you haven’t changed your site code since 2014 or earlier, now is the time to do it!
Solution: You can start troubleshooting by entering your URL into Google’s mobile friendly test tool. If your test comes back with more than a few red flags, you may need to start from scratch. On the other hand, if your site just has a few nitpicks, then consider fixing those and making notes for priorities next time your site is due for a redesign.
5. Failing to Integrate PPC Campaigns With Content
Law firms regularly have the highest cost per click when it comes to search engine marketing. Those PPC campaigns certainly pay off, especially when they are continually monitored, experimented with, and optimized.
But far too many law firms squander their PPC leads by effectively bringing them to a dead end. If you manage to capture someone’s interest with a killer PPC ad but they find themselves at a vague, irrelevant page after clicking, that $6 or so (or, in some cases, closer to $60) the law firm just spent has gone to waste.
Instead, law firms should integrate their paid and organic search marketing tactics. They can do this by creating a relevant landing page for each major campaign segment and practice area.
Creating all those pages — and making each one unique — may seem like a lot of effort, but the result is that your SEO and SEM get synergized, earning you more together than they would when treated separately.
Solution: Create a PPC strategy that dictates specific content you’ll need as a landing page. Make each landing page unique, informative, and highly relevant to the marketing copy used for the PPC ad.
6. Incorrect or Missing Local Structured Data Markup
Structured data markup refers to easily inserted snippets of code on your website. Search engines like Google use this data as a sort of note-taking flag, allowing them to hone in on important information like your office hours, address, and the services you offer.
In turn, Google uses this data to make your search engine results look more complete. Search users get more accurate information right from the search window, which helps them make the split-second decision they need when weighing their legal counsel options.
Google does a fair job of pulling this information from your website text on its own, but this method isn’t bulletproof. Instead, you will want to increase the chances that your information is accurate, complete, and up-to-date by injecting Schema markup where it’s relevant. This will help you especially in a local market, where search engine results tend to gravitate towards listings with the most robust information available.
Solution: Review your “Contact Us” and “Areas We Serve” pages to ensure you have Schema markup for your business name, address, phone number, office hours, and business category. Run your page through Google’s Structured Data Testing tool to make sure everything works.
7. Ignoring Your Online Reviews
Modern consumers depend heavily on online reviews. According to one study, more people trust online reviews as their main source of business information compared to recommendations from their own friends, family, and coworkers.
You may think you have no control of your online reviews, but you actually do! For one, you can dispute the accuracy of certain negative reviews that are tanking your score. Getting a score removed is difficult and requires some extenuating circumstances, such as the reviewer not being an actual client, but it is possible.
Also, actively encourage people to leave reviews. People who had a good experience with your firm may be forgetful or have no personal interest in leaving a review, but they might do so with encouragement. If you do have negative reviews, don’t hesitate to publicly or privately respond to the reviewer to determine if you can take action to change their mind.
Solution: Request reviews from all your clients, and make sure to get feedback so negative sentiments are discussed in-person before they show up online. Monitor reviews for fakes, and use recurring positives and negatives mentioned to influence your client service policy.
8. Having Brutally Slow Page Speeds
Having a fast website isn’t just “nice”; it’s expected! Google even gives a ranking boost to sites that have a great page load speed, and it can punish pages that load too slowly.
You also need to think about your client experience, especially if they’re viewing on mobile. According to Google, the likelihood that someone will abandon your page and try another result doubles if your website takes 10 seconds or longer to load.
Solution: Run every website page through Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. Make note of the recommendations. Common fixes include reducing image files sizes, turning off slow plugins, and streamlining your HTML code.
Making SEO for Lawyers More Effective Overall
These are just some of the general things most law firms can improve, but each firm is unique. They have a unique relationship with their client base and a unique set of strengths and weaknesses with their digital marketing assets.
Create a personalized digital marketing and SEO strategy for your law firm when you work with seasoned experts at EverSpark Interactive. We can evaluate your current strategy, help you set goals, and pursue those goals by building out high quality and highly effective content aimed at your visitors.
Contact us now to start improving your law firm digital marketing strategy today!