Written by Christina Lyon on Dec 12 , 2022

A solid search engine marketing strategy helps you better represent yourself online so you can better represent your clients.

Here you’ll find: 

  • Law firm lead generation and client sources
  • Law firm SEO tips for increasing rankings
  • How to maximize SEM results
  • PPC and SEO marketing agencies that can bolster your efforts

Who do people call when they need a lawyer? If they don’t know one personally or have a trusted referral, they’ll likely head straight to Google search, contributing to the 42% of law firm leads that come from search engines

Tack on another 18% from marketing content and 13% for display and text advertising, and law firms definitely score leads through search engine marketing (SEM). While some consider SEM to mean paid search ads (aka PPC or pay-per-click) only, to us, search engine marketing encompasses both paid ads and search engine optimization (SEO) tactics.

There’s no reason for law firms not to take advantage of all the opportunities that lie in SEM. These digital marketing practices can bring about high-value leads, increase brand awareness, and grow your revenue as a result. 

Keep reading to find out exactly how search engine marketing for lawyers can help you dominate the search engine results page (SERP) to scale your businesses with success.

Why SEO is important for law firms

When it comes to search engine marketing for lawyers, SEO can’t be ignored.

If your potential clients are Googling legal issues, there’s likely a level of urgency to their inquiry. And while having stellar search ads is important, snagging those spots in organic search results can help position you as an industry leader and foster trust with your target audience. 

With this in mind, one of the best ways to apply legal SEO is to offer helpful content that builds your authority and, in turn, makes you a good candidate to consider hiring. 

And because searchers might be operating on a time crunch, showcasing your expertise and authority online – in a way that’s clear and concise – is vital.

Think about it: who would you rather hire for legal advice: A lawyer whose online presence features organic and paid results, a thorough Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business), and a helpful website, or one with a minimal, sparse online presence?

Chances are, you’re going to go with the former. And this illustrates precisely why trust is such a vital currency. When you establish trust, you’ll experience ample benefits.

Increased brand awareness

According to Reuters, the U.S. legal market remains one of the most competitive industries, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. Their findings also show the firms that survived had impeccable brand presence. 

Measuring firms on a brand index, Reuters crowned Latham & Watkins the top spot based on their top-of-mind brand awareness with clients. 

Just check out their comprehensive blogs, separated into categories:

Latham & Watkins blog

Image: Latham & Watkins blog

Each of these blogs highlights Latham’s expert commentary on the most recent legal issues in various niche topics. They also have a separate section on U.S. securities law, chock-full of insights and advice. And how does that translate for people searching for lawyers? You guessed it: trust.

 Pro tip: Having an active social media presence can also help boost your online credibility.

Thought leadership

Blog posts and articles are two of the most effective content types for SEO. Moz describes a few ideal topics, like direct answers to questions, comparisons, overviews, and more comprehensive explorations of a topic. Lead strategist at HawkSEM, Veronica Baas, elaborates:

“Provide content that is resourceful for someone who was involved in an incident where they may need legal counsel and would need to know the next steps to take. Topics such as ‘What are the steps you take if you’re in a car accident’ or ‘What to do if you were involved in a slip and fall incident at work’ are often the most popular.”

But beware of the legalese that sometimes clouds valuable insights. Your readers aren’t legal experts like you, so they might not understand your lingo.

“An SEO writer can definitely help here to make [content] more user-friendly,” shares Veronica. “Items such as definitions, famous examples of cases, and using simpler vocabulary can all help make content more accessible.”

Another way to boost thought leadership? With podcasts, an increasingly popular SEO tactic catering to over 177 million American listeners

Of course, your firm doesn’t have to fund an entire podcast series to generate results. You could be a guest on existing podcasts to boost your SEO efforts and receive valuable backlinks to your website. 

For example, say you and your staff have insights on maximizing efficiency with legal practice management software. Send a pitch to a legal tech podcast like Digital Edge.

This level of high-quality content promotes thought leadership. And in a competitive market, thought leadership can be the difference between a mere web visitor and a completed conversion. 

Affordability

Legal keywords have some of the highest costs-per-click. Meaning? Even if you get plenty of website traffic, you’ll spend serious coin to get it, which isn’t always worth it in the long run. 

SEO often takes longer than paid search to show results, but it’s also a more affordable way to capture audiences with keywords. What’s more, proper SEO can also bring long-term success for months to come.

Pro tip: Conduct keyword research with PPC marketing first. Analyze which ads performed best, and borrow those successful keywords for your SEO strategy.

Local traffic

Data shows more than half of legal clients find their attorney through a referral, which usually has a local connection. 

Law firms rely on local search to get clients in their geographical vicinity, even with the rise of digital operations. And if you have an older clientele, your clients may feel more comfortable meeting you in person. 

Lawyer SEO helps you get in front of the eyes of local clients where referrals fall short. 

Try Googling “[insert practice type] lawyer in [insert city]. You’ll see something like this:

defamation lawyer in la on serp

See how Azadian tops the list? They’ve certainly done work on local law firm SEO, which Search Engine Journal describes as encompassing: 

  • Strong mobile user experience
  • On-page SEO (including Schema markup)
  • Google Business Profile (GBF)
  • Link building
  • Positive reviews and testimonials from clients

Technical SEO 

Technical SEO is one of the three main SEO pillars, along with on-page/on-site and off-page/off-site. Because it’s a little more nuanced, it’s often put on the back burner — which is a mistake, if you ask us.

And while on-page SEO is more visual on the page, technical SEO is working behind the scenes, helping search bots more easily crawl and understand your site, so you surface for the right terms and keywords.

Technical SEO helps your law firm website by ensuring your website:

  • Has a fast page-load speed
  • Is optimized for mobile devices
  • Includes Schema (or structured data) markup
  • Has properly sized and titles images and videos
  • Has an easy-to-navigate site structure (including proper URLs and metadata)
  • Is safe and secure

What if your law office is brimming with clients? You still need attorney SEO. Veronica explains why:

“SEO is a long-term investment for a business, and there’s usually a point in a business’s lifecycle when they would be looking for new clientele. Having your website’s SEO already set for that time means new clientele will find you much quicker through search, without having to spend the several months building up the search engine rankings when you need new clientele more immediately.”

But SEO success isn’t a sure thing for every law firm. At least, not on its own. The second ingredient to higher visibility and traffic is paid search. 

Paid search for law firms: Why you need it

Google Ads are listed before organic results on the SERP. That level of visibility can be a game changer for your firm: especially when people simply don’t have the time to shop around. 

PPC (or pay-per-click) includes all paid search tactics that boost your visibility on search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. However, Google’s PPC ads are the most common, since Google is the top global search engine.

Law firm SEO is a long game, focusing more on long-term traffic growth and credibility. But to end up on Google’s first page? You’ll need to consistently publish quality content, and results take time.

On the other hand, paid search ads place you on page one in an instant — as long as you have the budget. 

Here’s how PPC factors into search engine marketing for lawyers:

Quick results

Building an SEO-friendly web presence takes a lot longer than crafting effective PPC ads.

Of course, you’ll still need to hit the nail on the head with superbly balanced bids, hyper-focused keywords, and meticulous title tags. 

Your ads can garner new clients within seconds when they hit the mark, while a more robust ad campaign takes 3-6 months. Still, that’s a sooner path to page one than SEO’s average 6-12 months. 

High-intent searchers

Most people don’t search for specific legal services until they need them. This means your page-one text and display ads will catch eager potential clients at the end of the funnel: when they’re ready to take action.

So, how do you ensure your ad catches them while they’re in the moment? Ad extensions and snippets will help. While your ad copy might have a strong CTA, additional information like phone numbers and addresses will make it easier for clients to reach you. 

Using SEO and PPC together will supercharge your efforts. Now, let’s talk tactics to create a well-rounded law firm SEM strategy.

5 attorney search engine marketing tips

1. Use specific, long-tail keywords and locations

Because the legal industry is so fiercely competitive, a generic keyword or search query won’t help you garner maximum traffic. 

Targeting search terms like “California attorney” or “personal injury lawyer” may not help you much. These terms are simply too broad. Instead, get hyper-specific about your services.

Target long-tail keywords like “trade secrets intellectual property legal services” or “San Diego child custody divorce lawyer for mothers.”

See the difference? 

The same goes for cities. Does your target audience live in West Hollywood or Beverly Hills? Chances are, they’re higher-income and work in lucrative industries like tech or entertainment. Target those ZIP codes when you make Google Ads bids. 

Another way to get specific is with negative keywords. If Baja, California isn’t in your practice area, add that to your negative keyword list. You might also pick negative keywords based on careers and education or qualifiers like “pro-bono” or “medical malpractice.”

Test out a few options with PPC ads briefly, then transfer the winners to your SEO strategy. Your blog meta descriptions and title tags will be optimized with half the keyword research time.

Track analytics

Did you know that 26% of law firms don’t track leads? You’ll want to know which online marketing efforts bring you the most sustainable results to build a truly effective law marketing plan.

For instance, do content updates bring you leads and conversions through SEO, or are your display ads on Google more effective? 

You can find out by tracking analytics like web traffic, leads, conversions, and revenue. 

Any solid law firm search engine marketing strategy is informed by success and progress metrics. And we’re not just talking about tracking leads: you need the full picture. 

Even if one source of leads brings you more conversions, are they high-revenue conversions? That might not be as valuable as a select few quality leads.

You can access these insights through Google Analytics. But tracking all that data is an entire job in and of itself — unless you use the right tech. 

For example, many of our clients have trouble distinguishing high-quality leads that actually convert from tire kickers. Our proprietary tech, Conversion IQ, integrates with Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising, and other tools to identify bottlenecks and wasted ad spend. The best part? It consistently helps us scale our clients’ campaigns and bring more revenue. 

Encourage positive reviews and testimonials

Law firm marketing is still very much dependent on word of mouth. The only difference moving online? Word of mouth is public. 

Customer satisfaction speaks to your credibility, reputation, and revenue. Conversely, a poor customer experience doesn’t just discourage people from seeking your legal services. It can also translate to a negative Yelp or Google review, which discourages potential clients and tanks click-through rates. 

Before you focus on getting positive reviews, prioritize positive customer experiences:

  • Offer cost estimates and realistic timelines
  • Be available (and professional) through communication channels your clients use
  • Study your audience and their needs
  • Ask for feedback 

You might go beyond reviews and ask permission to feature client testimonials on your website, too. 

Local SEO and display ads tend to feature Google reviews. While not every prospect will go through each one, an average of 3 stars on a 5-star scale speaks volumes. 

When you complete a project or win a case, include a review request in your closing communications. As legal practice management software company CLIO’s marketing experts suggest, asking for feedback should be a standard procedure.

They describe this as “free market research,” and we couldn’t agree more. 

Build backlinks

Backlinks are another website’s links to your website. These links build your thought leadership, expand your audience, and get Google’s attention.

Ahrefs studied over a billion pages to illustrate the power backlinks have on organic traffic. The sites with 30-35 backlinks received over 10,000 hits in organic search traffic. 

On the other end, sites with fewer than 10 backlinks only experienced between 1 to 3,500 organic hits. 

The best backlinks are on high-authority sites, which reputable law offices should have no problem qualifying for. Big players like Entrepreneur.com, Forbes, and mainstream news sources discuss legal topics all the time. A lawyer or law professional with industry respect and expertise boasts enough credibility to qualify as an authority. 

Wondering how to build credibility that translates to backlinks? Here are some ways:

Contribute to industry publications: Think of the legal media you consume.  Do you see content gaps or niche topics that aren’t already covered? Pull up a seat at the table by applying as a contributor to legal publications like LawTechnologyToday or The Legal Intelligencer.

Join legal directories: A legal directory is a super direct way to achieve a backlink. Apply to directories in your city and state, and for practice-specific contact lists. Lawyer Legion and CLIO offer solid options.

Respond to legal-related queries from reporters: HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is a regular email list of journalists seeking reputable sources for their articles. Anything under the business or legal categories might offer opportunities for you to weigh in. Another resource is Help a B2B Writer. 

“You want to ensure your website is featured on a website that lists your specific type of law firm to increase your credibility,” adds Veronica.

Some examples include specific roundup articles, like this U.S. News & World Report list of the “Best Law Firms for Personal Injury Litigation Plaintiffs,” or this Expertise roundup of the best personal injury attorneys in Philadelphia.

Pro tip: Veronica recommends building backlinks on other sites that appear on the SERPs for your respective type of law firm or location. 

Update your law firm website and landing pages

Does your blog feature content published several years ago? Perhaps you haven’t updated your business address, or your staff page is several years old. Even if you made it to page one in organic search results, outdated content can hinder your visibility.

Google prioritizes relevant, fresh content. Schedule a quarterly web update to revisit your content and freshen things up. Revisit external and internal links, statistics, trends, and ensure all content is relevant and up-to-date.

Here’s a fantastic, SEO-optimized home page for law firm Arnold & Itkin

Arnold and Itkin LP

  • Updated contact info and location? Check. 
  • Persuasive yet accessible language? Check. 
  • User experience? Check. 

Everyone who ends up on this firm’s website knows exactly what they offer clients.

Publish case studies

Another great way to beef-up your website’s SEO is by publishing recent case studies. These are a great way to showcase your value to potential clients. Just ensure you cover your bases and respect confidentiality before you publish. Veronica recommends “gaining permission from [your] client to use their story without any obvious identifying markers such as names or dates.”

Also, revisit your landing pages. Your PPC ad tackles half the battle — visibility and a click. After that, your landing page needs to be razor sharp to convince prospective clients you’re the right firm for them. 

Here’s what your landing page needs to turn searchers into clients: 

  • Clear calls to action: Invite your web visitors to complete an action, whether it’s signing up for an email newsletter, booking a consultation, or filling in a contact form.
  • Quick page speed: Since speed is an SEO ranking factor, slow load speed can increase your bounce rate and hinder a positive user experience (UX) on your site.
  • Relevant information: Ensure your landing page details your vital information, from your updated address and contact information to your legal specialties. 
  • Neat website design and graphics: Visual appeal will encourage visitors to stay on your site longer and convert. 
  • Mobile-friendly interface: Reuters found that 31% of legal service searches online come from mobile devices. Make sure your web images and copy don’t cut off on mobile. 

Keep up the momentum with an SEM agency 

Your law firm can create stellar blog and website content, update web pages, and manage PPC and SEO campaigns, but it’s quite an undertaking. 

Ad campaigns and content marketing require your full attention. If you miss a beat, your ad spend could shoot through the roof, or an outdated keyword might garner zero high-intent leads. 

To lighten the load, consider partnering with a qualified full-service search engine marketing agency.  

SEO pros can update your web presence and help your organic Google rankings skyrocket, while a PPC expert can carefully select bid adjustments that reduce your ad spend and maximize ROI. 

Bottom line? The right SEM company won’t just bring you results — they’ll bring you peace of mind, so you can focus on your legal work. 

The takeaway

Search engine marketing for lawyers can help you showcase your wealth of knowledge, build trust with prospective clients, and boost brand awareness.

Doing so gives an edge over the competition, which will increase conversions and revenue. And while it may feel like a lot to take on, there are experts ready to assist with your unique goals and drive real results.

Here at HawkSEM, we’ve helped attorneys and law firms streamline their digital marketing efforts into lead- and revenue-generating powerhouses through paid search, SEO services, and more.

Our agency is armed with decades of combined experience as well as proprietary tech to transform data into a tailor-made strategy that works for you.

If you’re ready to get the leads and page rankings your law firm needs (and deserves), let’s chat.

Christina Lyon

Christina Lyon

Christina Lyon is an entrepreneur and writer from sunny SoCal. She leads Lyon Content, a tight-knit team of bold creatives, and crafts engaging written content that helps brands sparkle and scale.

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