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SEO for Lawyers: What to Know for 2021 (Report & Strategy)

SEO for Lawyers: What to Know for 2021 (Report & Strategy)


If you want your law firm to grow in 2021, you need to improve your website’s search engine optimization (SEO). 

The National Law Review reports that 96% of people use a search engine to get legal advice. High-quality SEO leverages that trend. 

SEO makes it easier for search engines to find your website. That increases the likelihood that people searching for legal help will see your website on their search results page. 

Keep reading to learn about critical SEO trends in 2021 and how to use them to blow your competition out of the water.

We’ll begin by analyzing trends you need to know as you develop your SEO strategy. From there, we’ll discuss how your law firm can benefit from these trends.

Search Intent is More Important Than Ever

Keywords aren’t the goal of SEO, but they are the first step.

Google is a search engine. When people use it, they’re looking for easy, fast answers to their questions. That’s why less than 1% of Google users even bother to check the sites on the second page of their search results (Backlinko). 

If you want Google to identify you as the best answer to your target audience’s search term, you need your website to contain keywords that match their search intent

Keywords are essential tools for matching user intent, but Google’s only getting better at knowing what users want. 

Google uses more than 200 factors in their algorithm (Backlinko). Wishing on a star, throwing in a few keywords, and neglecting to update your SEO strategy just isn’t going to cut it anymore. 

Stay relevant to your target audience by naturally placing a combination of short-tail, long-tail, fresh, and evergreen keywords that match your target audience’s intent in your content and on your pages.  

It’s a Mobile-First World — Optimize for It.

Mobile traffic on the web consists of 52.6% of all traffic.

Most users access your website from their phones, not their computers.

Google takes this into account in the algorithm, boosting mobile-friendly websites over others.

Google implements a “mobile-first” indexing solution, which means that it’ll look at your website’s mobile version instead of your desktop version to determine rank.

While this might not seem like a huge deal at first, it can make a significant difference if you don’t design your website with that in mind.

The User Experience Will Make or Break Your Website

User experience (UX) is another crucial element to SEO quality.

According to Intechnic, your website’s UX can either make or break your business:

  • Excellent UX design can increase your conversion rates by up to 400%
  • Approximately 70% of customers give up on their purchase because of poor UX design 

Streamlined designs, modern aesthetics, and easy-to-navigate organization are all factors that mean more in 2021 than they ever have before. 

If you have valuable content on your website and offer your clients excellent service, don’t let poor UX design send your site visitors to your competitors. 

Snippets: A Hidden Gem to Take Your Website Past Result #1

As competitive as it is to rank #1 in Google search results, we think you should set your sights even higher. That’s right — there’s a spot above 1st place, and it’s called a snippet.

Google snippets are the exceptional results you’ll see at the top of the page for some of your searches. You know, the ones that look like this:

When snippets appear on a mobile user’s screen, they cover about 50% of the visible screen (Search Engine Journal).

A billboard advertiser would kill for that kind of ad space. You can get it for free by optimizing your pages so that Google turns them into snippets.

We’ll explain how you can use SEO to make a section of your website a featured snippet later on in this article.

Don’t Neglect Local SEO

Did you know that 76% of people who make locally-related searches end up visiting a business within one day (Think with Google)?

The vast majority of people start their searches for businesses online — whether they’re looking globally or locally. Practice local SEO to capitalize on local searches in your area (the vast majority of your target market). 

Forming Your Law Firm SEO Strategy for 2021

Let’s start with some of the basic 2021 SEO tenets:

Keywords are Important

Keywords serve a major purpose: to categorize your information. When Google is sifting through its metaphorical filing cabinet after a search, it uses keywords to separate the relevant pages from the irrelevant ones.

In addition to identifying relevant keywords, you need to know why your target audience is typing them into Google. 

For example, if someone types “chocolate chip cookie” into a search engine, they could be looking for:

  • Brick and mortar shops selling chocolate chip cookies
  • Online chocolate chip cookie stores
  • The definition of a chocolate chip cookie
  • The nutritional value of a chocolate chip cookie
  • Chocolate chip cookie recipes

You get the picture. 

But with all of the information in its database, Google has become frighteningly accurate at predicting a user’s intent.

For instance, we can infer that the vast majority of people who type “chocolate chip cookies” are looking for recipes.

How can we infer this?

Take a look at the results we get.

When writing online content, don’t just optimize for keywords. Place your keywords in the text with your target audience’s needs in mind. 

Focus on Value First — Education-Based Marketing

Marketing isn’t just about selling your services anymore; you’ve got to show potential clients that you care and that you’re more focused on their success than the competition is.

Education-based marketing prioritizes helping and providing value to your customers over making a sale. 

Thought Industries found that customers who engage with a brand’s educational materials are 29% more likely to purchase those exposed to the product through traditional advertising. 

As the number of new visitors and repeat visitors to your website increases, so will your rank on Google. The higher you rank, the more website traffic you’ll generate. 

Are you starting to see the brilliance of effective SEO marketing? 

Don’t Rely on Promotional Content

People can smell a snake oil salesman type from a mile (or a computer screen) away.

If you design your website purely to sell services, prospects who aren’t quite ready to convert are going to bounce. 

Providing valuable material like blog posts, educational videos, infographics, downloadable information, and other resources allows you to court visitors until they become leads. 

3 Rules for SEO in 2021 

Creating a website optimized for 2021 and beyond is more straightforward than you might think.

Keep these 3 rules in mind, and watch your website turn into a lead-generating machine:  

Rule #1: Provide Value to Your Audience

The entire goal of SEO is to connect website users with valuable information. 

Creating a value-packed law firm website is a multi-step process requiring the following features:

  • Visually engaging images 
  • Aesthetically pleasing formatting
  • Reputable sources and information
  • Links to helpful resources
  • Freebies and educational content 

Your target audience wants you to answer their questions, and they want you to do it in a way that is as interesting, convenient, and helpful as possible.

Make Your Content Eye-Catching

People don’t like reading long, drawn-out paragraphs. We need something to break up that monotony and to help us remember what we’re absorbing. 

The best way to do this is to incorporate high-quality images on your web pages. When you pair information with exciting visuals, people will remember up to 65% of what they learned 3 days later (Brain Rules). 

Whether you’re writing content for your blog or designing a landing page, make sure the visual element is strong enough to engage even the shortest of attention spans.

And keep it pretty. Hubspot reports that as much as 38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the content or layout is unattractive.

Format for Attention

People don’t like to read. 

According to the Nielsen Norman Group, as many as 79% of internet users scan online content versus the meager 16% who read a page word for word. 

Keep that in mind as you format the content on your website. As an example, let’s take the last section I wrote and compare it to a non-formatted version.

Here’s the formatted version:

And here’s the same text but unformatted:

See how drastically different they are — even though they’re using the same words? 

That’s the power of optimized formatting. 

Using italics and bold fonts in the right places, spacing out your paragraphs appropriately, and keeping your information cohesive make your website digestible and easy to read.

Don’t fall into the trap of writing school essays. You’re not creating an academic paper; every web page or blog post you create is a marketing piece. Design it like one.

Use Reputable Sources & Information

Another great way to provide value and get on Google’s good side in one swoop?

Include external links to other sources in your content.

It may seem counterintuitive to include external links, but Google loves it — and so do your blog’s visitors.

When you link to external content, you do a few things:

  • Linking to reputable external links improves your website’s credibility. High-quality external links tell Google that you’re more trustworthy by proxy. If the websites you link to are all worth their salt, there’s a good chance that the content on your website is valuable, too.
  • External links show readers you’ve done your research. Anyone can make claims on the internet, but backing it up with your sources through citations and hyperlinks? That’s taking it a step further than most.

Link to Helpful Resources

And a step above linking your sources?

Provide links to more (non-competing) resources that can help your audience out.

Say you’re a personal injury firm and don’t take anything related to criminal cases as they’re out of your expertise — don’t be afraid to send people in the right direction if they’re looking for services you don’t provide.

When you make referrals to trusted professionals, you build a name for yourself as a trustworthy law firm that prioritizes people over profit. You’ll likely get referrals in return, especially if you set up partnerships with law firms in separate practice areas.

Freebies and Educational Content

While not directly related to SEO in any technical sense, providing free information and similar resources is another great way to boost your rank. 

Between 25% and 35% of people given free food samples will end up buying the product they’ve tried because the instinct toward reciprocity is so compelling (Upserve). You’re not in the food industry, but the same principle applies:

Give your visitors something for free, and a good portion of them will give you their business.

Study Your Competition, Then Take the Extra Step

Whether in marketing or war, knowing your opponent is more than half the battle.

Examine the SEO practices your competition puts into place, then use that data to take the steps they didn’t.

Read through a piece of your competitor’s content, and ask yourself the following questions:

  • If I were new to this topic, what unanswered questions would I still have after reading this?
  • What (or who) did my competitor leave out? 
  • How user-friendly is my competitor’s website?
  • How well did they implement images? 
  • Did they include links to any helpful resources? 
  • Did they put a unique spin on the topic?

There are endless directions you could take, but it all comes down to finding the gaps in your competition’s strategy.

Rule #2: Invest in Excellent UX Design 

Exceptional UX looks professional and protects your potential clients from the frustration of navigating a poorly designed website.

And that doesn’t just lead to your prospects’ comfort. It also means you get more out of your website than you put in. Intechnic reports that every $1 invested into UX generates $100. That’s an incredible 9,900% ROI. 

But how do you build a website with UX in mind?

How to Create a User-Friendly Law Firm Website

Whether or not a website is user-friendly generally comes down to four things:

  • Is it designed well?
  • Is it responsive?
  • Does the structure make sense?
  • Is it matching user intent?

If your website meets all of those points, it’s more than likely a user-friendly website. So we’ll cover each of them one-by-one.

Know What Visitors Want for Each Given Page

When website visitors click on your links, they expect the page they retrieve to meet their needs or answer their questions. 

Users navigate to your “About” page to learn more about your firm.

Leads check out the “Contact Us” page because they’re ready to talk to you directly.

And while these things may seem obvious, they’re very easy to overlook when creating your website.

For any given webpage, whether it’s a blog post, a landing page, or your “About” page, take some time to think about your target audience’s “why.” Why is your site visitor going to that page?

Once you’ve determined the “why,” you can ensure that the page matches that intent in the same way you’d match your user’s intent for a keyword.

Design an Easy-to-Use, Responsive Website

As important as design is, don’t get caught up in creating the most complex, technologically groundbreaking website possible. 

Simple is often better. Given that 89% of users will shop with a competitor after having a bad website experience, you should focus on simplicity and convenience (Web FX). 

Remember, no one is visiting your law firm website to be blown away by its features — your visitors just want a good lawyer.

Website Design Tip 1: Follow Good Examples, Learn From the Bad Ones

Here’s a lesson that will take any of your marketing endeavors up to 11.

Instead of doing it from scratch as you go, take notes from the law firms who’ve ventured into the rough waters before you to help you on your journey.

Look at the best websites from the most successful practices and study what makes them great. Then do the same analysis on the worst firm websites.

Use all of these notes to avoid similar law firms’ pitfalls while taking advantage of the strengths that you find in other law firms.

Tip 2: Use a CMS to Make Things Easier

A content management system (CMS) is a service that allows you to create a robust website without worrying as much about the technical backend processes like programming and HTML.

WordPress, Wix, Webflow, and Shopify are frequently used by businesses both small and large.

These platforms take a ton of the legwork off of you so you can focus on the things that generate revenue instead of hiring programmers.

Tip 3: Don’t Worry About Perfection.

Don’t wait until your website is perfect for publishing.

Whether it’s a specific page or your initial website launch, things are never going to be as flawless as you’d like them to be. And while it’s important to iron out the flaws in your systems, waiting until you’ve reached the ideal will slow you down.

Remember, you can make adjustments as you go. The best SEO strategies involve constant updates because user needs are ever-changing. 

Tip 4: Check Out Our Guide on Website Design

Web design is a complicated and sometimes challenging beast, so we can’t go over all of the fundamentals now. 

If you want to know more about designing a well-converting attorney website, check out this guide on website design.

A Note on Website Speed

A final word on design — make sure your website’s features don’t cause load times to lag. 

According to Think with Google, the probability that visitors will leave your page increases by 32% if load time goes from 1 to 3 seconds. 

So before you worry about polishing your website to be as shiny as it can be, make sure the pages load as fast as they can, too.

Rule #3: Invest Your Efforts in Local Optimization

When people think of SEO, they usually begin with big goals.

For example, you might already be thinking about how to make your website the #1 ranked site for “law firms.” 

Getting on the first page for such a common keyword would be phenomenal, but unless you’re already #1 for that term, chances are you’ve got a while to go before you can get there.

For bigger results, think smaller. 

Social Media Today reports that 46% of all Google searches are looking for local information. That’s especially important for lawyers. 

Here’s why: 

Say you’re a resident of Albany, New York and happen to be looking for a personal injury attorney to help with a case.

Are you going to type “attorney” in the search bar, or are you going to go with something more like “personal injury attorney in Albany”?

Chances are, you’ll go with something closer to or even more specific than the latter. 

So the goal isn’t to rank for global short-tail keywords. Instead, target precise, localized keywords so you can bring in the most business. That’s the magic of local SEO.

Write Content That Attracts Local Visitors & Ranks on Google

The value of content writing is straightforward:

Write more valuable content on your website, improve your website’s SEO, and rank higher on Google.

On the other hand — it can seem so complicated:

What are the right keywords? 

When will you see results? 

How do you create engaging content that attracts the type of leads you want?

The good news is you can write content with excellent SEO without getting a marketing degree. Here’s how: 

Optimize for Search Intent First & Foremost

Before you get into the weeds, keep this goal in mind for every piece of writing you post on your site:

The content should give visitors the information they’re looking for.

Your job isn’t to include every keyword or to ensure that each title follows a specific SEO guideline to a Tee. Your job is to make sure your content is worthwhile for any potential visitors.

Do they want a quick guide, or are they looking for something more in-depth?

Are competing articles listicles, intensively researched articles, formal, or more casual?

Once you’ve discovered what searchers are looking for, the rest of your job is easy — you just have to give them what they want (with your twist on it, of course).

Format to Grab Attention

Hey you!

Yeah, you, dear reader.

Remember when we talked about formatting to make the reading easier on your website visitors? There’s more to it than that.

Your formatting shouldn’t just be passable to visitors. It should hook their attention:

  • Use short sentences to break up longer sections of text. 
  • Throw in the occasional exclamation!
  • Bold important words or phrases.  
  • Italicize content to add emphasis. 
  • Experiment with other formatting tricks — (within reason) — to keep the reader engaged in your content.

We’re not writing novels, we’re writing online content, and the internet is a distraction-filled place. If you want to hook and keep attention, boring blocks of text aren’t going to do it.

Put Your Unique Spin on Things

Want to know how to find yourself on the 2nd (or 10th) page on Google?

Create more of what’s already out there.

There’s a difference between studying your competition for inspiration and replicating their content — and that difference is one many law firms fail to see.

Whenever you put out new content, ask yourself: “Did I add anything new?

You don’t need to discover something brand new. You can use tone, format, and even content type (blog, video, infographic, podcast, picture, template, etc.) to set yourself apart. 

Whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of producing content that doesn’t add value to the conversation.

Don’t Try to Cut Corners

When it comes to content marketing, some law firms just don’t have the resources to do it themselves, so they outsource the writing to a content marketing, SEO writer, or similar professional in the area.

Delegating is a smart way to approach content marketing — if you do it right.

The phrase “you get what you pay for” is highly applicable here.

If you plan on outsourcing your writing and content marketing, never cut corners.

If SEO marketing goes for cheap, there’s probably a reason, and you’re likely to pay for it eventually. 

If you want to outsource your marketing, take the time to find a high-quality, reliable service that won’t jeopardize your hard-earned reputation.

Optimize Your Business’ Listings Around the Web

Google My Business (GMB) is crucial for finding local leads.

According to Bright Local, the average business listed on GMB is found in over 1,009 searches each month. 

Make any search for a business on Google, and you’ll see listings on the screen that look a bit like this:

These are GMB profiles, and they’re excellent ways to show off your business to online viewers.

If you want to rank on Google, make sure you create a GMB and provide as much information as possible, even if it doesn’t seem immediately necessary.

GMB isn’t the only place where your business appears online. You can also add yourself to directories like Yelp, AVVO, and more.

Creating your listings on each of these sites is a simple, relatively short process that makes it easier for prospects to find your law firm. 

Correct All of Your NAP Citations

NAP stands for name, address, and phone number.

If your goal is to bring in more local customers, correct every NAP citation error that appears on the web.

Again, maintaining your NAP citations isn’t an arduous task, but it’s one small step that keeps you from losing a prospect because of the wrong phone number.

Collaborate with Other Local Businesses Offline & Online

Create strategic on and offline partnerships with local businesses to expand your reach.

Guest posts on social media and non-competing blogs to get more domain authority and brand recognition.

Get permission to leave business cards in local stores and businesses frequented by your target market. 

Alone, any one of these tactics might be small. Collectively, they can all contribute to your marketing and SEO machine. 

The more people who know about your business and website, the more traffic, referrals, and clients you get. 

Avoid These Practices if You Want to Rank in 2021

As tempted as you may be to game the system, unethical SEO practices can destroy your marketing gains.

Stay away from the following SEO pitfalls to keep your reputation intact:

Black Hat Tactics

Black hat tactics refer to underhanded practices that attempt to “cheat” the system.

Black hat tactics include things like buying website traffic to boost your metrics, buying backlinks from other websites, and keyword stuffing, among other things.

You may be able to get away with these strategies for a time, but Google is getting better at figuring out when websites are up to no good and shutting them down for it. 

Any attempt to undermine Google’s algorithm generally ends in a penalty to your site, making it pretty much impossible to rank.

Optimizing (Purely) for Word Counts is Out of Date

The value your content provides matters much more than the number of words you use. 

Word count is just 1 metric to consider.

If you add words to an article for the sake of adding words, all you’re doing is creating unnecessary fluff. That’s both obvious and annoying for your readers. 

If you can provide just as much value in 750 words as you could in 1000, remember that people generally don’t like to read. 

They just want you to answer their questions as quickly and interestingly as possible. 

The point of writing long articles isn’t just more words. It’s more value.

Don’t Rely on Keywords Alone 

Yes, it’s essential to include the right keywords in your headings and title, but the main focus of keywords is intent.

Google’s algorithm is trying to determine if your article fits what people are looking for.

If you have all the keywords you need but none of the valuable, relevant information — you’ll likely get outranked by an article with less of those keywords but more of the value and relevance.

Keywords are important because they represent the bigger picture: whether or not your article has substance.

Watch Your Links

Backlinks are among the top 3 factors Google considers when ranking a website (Search Engine Land). 

Since more than 66% of pages have zero backlinks pointing to them, marketers believe backlinks can be an easy way to boost SEO (Ahrefs). 

But your links should come from the right spots.

If you’re getting loads of backlinks from unreputable sites and unreliable sources, tell Google to disavow them.

Improve Your SEO to Grow Your Firm in 2021

Right now, thousands of potential customers are browsing the internet looking for answers you can provide. Improved SEO helps search engines connect your website with those queries. 

The outcome? 

You generate leads, and your target audience finds the solution to their legal issues. 

You’ll have to be patient, though. SEO is a long-term game. 

Roughly 60% of the top 10 Google search results are at least 3 years old (Ahrefs). 

That means it’s critical to get started right away! 

Read to invest in SEO? Avoid these common mistakes to get the highest ROI on your SEO strategy.