Ranking highly for your area of practice may not be a panacea
Search rank for generic terms can be crucial for certain types of practice, but not all.
There are lawyers that focus on areas of practice that cater to clients with an immediate need, and others that offer services that may be of use down the road. The customer journey—that is, the process from a client becoming familiar with your services to the point at which he or she actually hires you—differs greatly depending on the type of client you are serving.
If your clients have an immediate need for your services, ranking on page one for your area of practice could potentially make your practice. It can be extremely beneficial for an attorneys to rank highly for keywords related to worker’s comp, DUI, family law, personal injury, and such time-sensitive areas of practice. Generally speaking, potential clients that search for such terms are ready to hire an attorney and are not interested in deliberating. Often, they don’t have time to ask around and interview five lawyers; those are the ones that are turning to Google to find representation fast.
If your clients are businesses, the process is more deliberative. Businesses that need help with real estate law, tax law, or corporate law are not going to Google, searching “corporate lawyers” and hiring the firm occupying the #1 spot in the SERP. If your goal as a tax lawyer is to build a practice by ranking #1 for “tax lawyer in baltimore,” you will be sorely disappointed once you reach your goal.
So if I do personal injury or criminal law, SEO can help me, but if I handle landlord-tenant matters, I shouldn’t bother?
That’s not what we’re saying.
If you happen to focus on an area of practice that focuses more on establishing long-term relationships vs. generating a revolving door of new clients, your goal should be thought leadership, not search rank for generic terms.
Let’s take the example of an attorney that handles landlord-tenant matters. These are the organic results for “lawyer to evict tenant” from our office in Marlton, NJ:
Generally speaking, it is going to take a lot of time and money for a local firm to outrank these national websites, and even if one were successful in doing so, it may not see the business come in. For matters such as real estate, a landlord is not very likely to be in a rush and hire a lawyer because she was the first he could find. He is more likely to hire a lawyer because he trusts her, and thought leadership is how she generates that trust.
Let’s take the example of a different kind of search:
Buildium.com is one of the first organic results and it gives me the information that I am looking for. Once I click on the link, I’ll come to learn that it is a property management software, which may be of interest to a landlord. This is thought leadership and SEO is one means of attaining it. A lawyer that wishes to work with landlords in NJ should focus on creating content that would be of value to landlords in NJ and should focus all of his SEO efforts on providing (and promoting) valuable content to them. If we were working with such a lawyer, our focus would be on ranking for searches like this one.
If your website is the one that businesses turn to for information, they are more likely to turn to you for your services
Businesses do not hire attorneys because they happened to rank highly; they hire them because they trust them
The aim of your SEO practices should be to create that trust. Identify your business clients’ areas of interest, create content to serve them, and promote that content. If you have a practice that caters to businesses, do not focus myopically on search rank for generic terms. Focus on being the authority that those businesses find when they search for information related to your services. Answer questions that you know they might have.
What if my firm focuses on an area of practice that relies on a constant stream of new clients?
If this is the case, your SEO strategy should focus on your rank for focused, relevant long-tail keywords such as:
- “Divorce lawyer in vineland nj”
- “Lawyer for dog bite in bucks county”
- “cherry hill lawyer for social security disability claims”
The best way to achieve high ranking for clients searching for these terms is the same as it is for the B2B lawyer, but the end goal is different. You want to become a thought leader in order to drive SEO, which will help your pages rank highly, which in turn will get clients on the phone. If your website becomes the authority for info on DUI defense in Pennsylvania, generating hundreds of 4-5 minute visits a day, you are going to rank well when someone is simply looking for a “DUI lawyer in Ridley.”
So what should my law firm’s SEO look like?
Your law firm should aim to be a thought leader. If your firm caters to businesses, this will create trust that could lead to a long-term relationship. If your firm caters to a revolving door of new clients, your online thought leadership will have aided you in ranking for the specific terms that you targeted in your local SEO efforts. Finally, your SEO efforts should have an offline component. You should be participating in conferences, encouraging people to follow you on social media, and telling everyone you know about your blog.