Introduction to Search Engine Optimization for Law Firms

SEO for Law Firms

What is SEO for Lawyers?

Search engine optimization (SEO) for lawyers consists of some of the specific strategies used to improve the law firm’s website for their visitors and to increase visibility and online ranking in search engine results. In simpler terms, it’s about getting your law firm found easily by potential clients searching for legal help online.

Benefits of SEO Marketing for Lawyers:

  • Attract more qualified leads: When you’re easily discoverable, potential clients in your local area are more likely to click on your website and can call from Google business profile, and potentially become clients.
  • Build trust and authority: Ranking high in search results can project expertise and credibility, giving clients confidence in your services.
  • Cost-effective marketing: Unlike paid advertising like Google Ads, and Facebook ads, SEO offers long-term organic (unpaid) traffic, potentially making it a more sustainable marketing strategy.

Key SEO Marketing activities for lawyers:

  • Keyword research: Identifying the search terms people use to find legal services like yours.
  • On-Page SEO Optimization: Making your website content and structure search engine friendly, including relevant keywords, meta title and descriptions tag, heading tags, and ensuring ease of navigation. Every visitor to your website should have a good experience with the website.
  • Content marketing: Creating high-quality, user-centric, well-described, and informative content (blog posts, articles, FAQs) that answers legal questions and showcases your expertise. Content on the website should satisfy and answer the questions/solutions visitors have.
  • Link building: Earning backlinks from other high-authority websites to signal trust and relevance to search engines.
  • Technical SEO: Ensuring your website’s technical foundation is sound for optimal crawling and indexing by search engines. The website should be free of any technical issues which will create a bad experience for any search engine.

Brief Attorney SEO Marketing Background

As we all know, potential clients “find” websites and online content by using online search engines. As we also know, after a search is entered, the search engine displays a list of websites that “fit” the search. The list of search results is ranked, with those at the top being the best “fit” to what the user has searched for. Search engine users scroll down and “click” on links that look promising. The higher a website’s rank on the list, the higher the chance that the user will click on the link and go to the website.

Generally, this is the method used by potential legal clients who are searching for legal services. However, more particularly, studies show that potential legal clients search for specific types of legal services. Legal services can be seen as discrete products like criminal defense, auto accident claims, estate planning, insurance defense, oil and natural gas contracts, commercial lease negotiations, malpractice claims, malpractice defense, family law and divorce, etc.

When potential clients are searching for legal services, they input a specific legal product and, typically, a geographic limiter. Some examples might be: “NYC car accident lawyer,” or “divorce lawyer in Atlanta,” or “New Orleans criminal defense lawyer.”

When a potential client inputs search terms, the online search engines take the search terms — keywords — and match web pages that contain those search terms. Websites and webpages with a higher number of matching keywords will have a higher ranking among the search engine results. This, in turn, will increase the chances that the potential client will visit a law firm’s website. Getting a potential client to visit your website is the most crucial step in landing the client and the case.

Why is SEO Marketing Important for Lawyers?

SEO is an aggressive marketing and content strategy that helps your law practice grow. But SEO is also a necessary defensive strategy that prevents your law firm from being competitively disadvantaged. Search engine result rankings are zero-sum. If one website’s ranking is going up, then another’s ranking is going down. As such, if your competitors are using SEO strategies to raise their search engine rankings, by definition, your search engine ranking is going down.

If you are in a pool of competitors and they are all using SEO techniques and you are not, your website might not even appear in the search results until page three or four. This can significantly impede the growth of your law practice.

Understanding Keywords

Keywords Research

What are Law Firm Keywords?

Many people define “keywords” as the specific words or phrases that potential clients type into search engines when looking for legal services or information. However, that is only half the definition since a law firm’s WEBSITE must also use the “keyword” words and phrases to obtain a “match” from the search engine. Thus, keywords and phrases must be used on the following:

  • The main website page.
  • In blog articles, title tags and meta descriptions.
  • On mastheads and sidebars.
  • On “Services we provide” or other content-related pages.
  • On general legal information pages.
  • On “Meet our Attorneys” pages.
  • On “Contact us” pages.

Let’s say you are a “Chicago personal injury attorney.” Those are the four “keywords,” and the more times those “keywords” show up on your website — everywhere on your website — the more likely your website will be highly ranked on the search engine results page when a potential customer type in their search terms “Chicago personal injury attorney.” Search engine optimization is a “whole-website” affair.

To be clear, while the use of keywords and phrases is a “whole-website” affair, use must be reasonable and limited — maybe limited to once or twice a page. Overuse of keywords is called “keyword stuffing” and has the opposite result from what is desired — search engines generally ignore web pages that are deemed to be keyword stuffed.

How to Choose the Right Keywords for Your Law Firm

For law firms, it is not too difficult to define the correct and successful keywords. Generally, your keywords will involve the practice area that you want to emphasize/grow and a geographic location.

The more difficult task is the accumulate — and consistently use — the alternatives. It is a simple thought experiment of imagining what search terms can be used by a potential client. For example, the word “attorney” has at least two alternatives that should be worked into your keywords: “lawyer” and “Law Firm.” Thus:

“Chicago Personal Injury Attorney”
“Chicago Personal Injury lawyer”
“Chicago Personal Injury Law Firm”

Another potential difficulty in choosing your keywords and phrases is to decide how narrow — or how broad — you want the practice area keyword. “Personal injury” is broad, and maybe, “auto accident lawyer” is a better keyphrase for your particular practice. It is possible to narrow the keyword/phrase even further with something like “big-rig truck accident lawyer.” This particular decision is driven by your actual legal practice and what areas you want to expand and grow.

A final potential difficulty is finding the right balance in terms of how many key phrases you want to use as part of your SEO strategy. As can be seen, SEO methods envision the use of many keywords and key phrases. But, using too many can end up diluting the efforts. Larger law firms with many practice areas will, of course, need many keywords and phrases. But smaller and boutique firms will probably want a more streamlined focus.

Using Internet Tools to Find Popular Keywords

Aside from imagining the search terms that might be used by potential clients, there are a number of internet keyword research tools. These include Google’s Keyword Planner, SEMrush, Moz Keyword Explorer, and Ahrefs. These can be beneficial for researching what potential clients are searching for and for evaluating changing and emerging trends in search term usage.

Local SEO for Lawyers -- Understanding Google My Business

SEO for Legal Firms

Some of the most effective keyword/keyphrase strategies involve targeting the geographic location of the law firm. This is evident in our “Chicago personal injury attorney” example discussed above. We call this “Local SEO.”

Why Local SEO Matters for Lawyers

Local SEO is crucial for lawyers because, as noted above, potential clients generally search for legal services in their local area. Potential clients eventually expect to visit their new Law Firm and meet their new lawyer face-to-face. If a client has a legal problem and lives in California, there is little use in searching for a law firm in New York.

Further, potential clients often search with a vague geographical term like “personal injury lawyers near me” or “criminal attorneys in [ZIP CODE].” Additionally, many search engines will “auto-fill” a search request with the “near me.” Local SEO helps your website appear prominently in these local search results. This visibility can lead to higher website traffic and more clients from your immediate community.

Three Aspects of Local SEO

There are three aspects of Local SEO. The first is finding the optimal local geographical search term. The second is setting up your Google My Business page. The third is managing your online reputation.

Optimizing Your Local Geographic Search Term

When considering your geographic keyword, there are options to be considered. In our example discussed above, there are many alternatives to the geographic keyword “Chicago.” Broader examples include “Illinois,” “Greater Chicago,” “Great Lakes,” etc. The geographic keyword can also be narrowed rather significantly.

Chicago has many clearly defined neighborhoods and districts like “Ravenswood” and “Bronzeville.” Thus, instead of “Chicago personal injury attorney,” your website might want to emphasize “Bronzeville personal injury attorney.” In truth, your website should use both geographic keywords, but using a very narrow geographic keyword will give you some competitive advantages.

Setting Up and Optimizing Your Google My Business Page

The success of a geographic keyword is maximized by the use of Google My Business (GMB). GMB is a free tool provided by Google that allows businesses to create a business listing that is geolocated on Google’s business maps.

Once set up, your law firm will appear on the map if someone locally enters a search for a “law firm near me.” Ensure your GMB listing is accurate and complete, including your law firm’s name, address, phone number, website, and business hours. Also, select the appropriate category for your practice to improve your chances of showing up in relevant local searches.

Getting Positive Reviews and Managing Your Online Reputation

Local SEO also involves encouraging satisfied clients (or visitors to your website) to leave positive reviews on your GMB page. Such positive reviews can enhance your website’s reputation and boost your local SEO.

Aside from their value in boosting your website’s search engine rankings, positive reviews can help attract potential clients to your law firm. In general, Local SEO involves managing your online reputation. This is one purpose of encouraging positive reviews and feedback. But managing your online reputation also entails monitoring online mentions of your law firm and promptly — but gently — addressing any negative feedback or inaccurate/false information.

Understanding Title Tags and Meta Descriptions

So far, we have discussed how search engine optimization can be used to raise the search engine ranking of your web pages. This is obviously a key goal since increasing the visibility of your website and web pages will lead to enhanced traffic.

But SEO can be used more directly at the point where your potential client is considering clicking on the hyperlink to your website. This involves focusing on what are called title tags and meta descriptions.

Optimizing Your Law Firms Website Title Tags and Meta Descriptions

When a potential customer receives the search result list, each matching website and link contains a “title tag” and a “meta description” of each webpage. The title tag is the main heading that appears in search results when a website shows up from the search query. It gives the potential client a short “snippet” of information contained in the linked webpage.

SEO attempts to ensure that keywords appear in the title tag. Right there, when the potential clients are considering clicking on your link, the keywords and phrases need to be there to “catch the attention” of your potential clients and to encourage them to click the link and go to your website. Same thing with the meta descriptions.

Meta descriptions are short summaries/titles of the linked web page displayed beneath the title tag. Here again, keywords and keyphrases should guide your potential client to click on your website.

Creating Quality Content

SEO marketing is not only about using keywords and key phrases. The search engine algorithms also capture information about

  • A website’s content — recent and ongoing content uploads
  • Verifiable use and engagement — number of website visitors and time spent by users on a website
  • Active linkage to and from a website — a measure of website-to-website traffic and trust

These are all signifiers of content relevance and site activity, and positive algorithmic evaluation of these factors will help lift a website’s ranking.

Generally, most law firm websites obtain a positive evaluation of content from the search engine algorithm because, ultimately, quality content is what converts a potential client into a paying client. A potential client is searching for a certain type of legal service but also wants an experienced and successful attorney handling the case or matter.

Thus, high-quality, informative, and engaging content attracts potential clients and makes them more likely to stay longer on your website (possibly exploring other pages and content). All of this user engagement increases the chances that the potential client will become an actual client.

As a secondary consequence, quality content also helps prevent algorithmic penalties that are associated with keyword stuffing and other search engine abuse and manipulation. In this manner, quality content is rewarded with higher search engine result rankings.

The Art of Writing Naturally With Keywords and Key Phrases

To be effective in helping raise search result rankings, keywords, and phrases need to be used repetitively. Typically, in a 500-word informational blog article, the keyword or phrase might be used three times — or five times in a longer 1,000-word post that is intended as an explanation of the law in a given legal practice area.

With repetition, however, there is a danger of making the content stilted, difficult to read, and off-putting for potential clients. Thus, the focus of your website must remain quality content that provides valuable and useful information to users.

Content should address common legal questions and concerns your potential clients may have. Keywords and phrases are “sprinkled” or “spiced” into engaging and useful content with a natural flow to the sentence and paragraph structures.

Common Types of Webpages for Law Firm Websites

Every law firm website is unique, but there are some commonalities driven by what potential clients expect to find when visiting a law firm website. At a bare minimum, potential clients are searching for information on legal services provided, the lawyer who might be providing the services, and where the law firm is located.

From this, there is a certain logical structure to law firm websites. The website has a main page, various pages for contact information, and directions for finding the law firm’s office. Often, there are dedicated “content web pages” that offer general information about the firm’s practice areas.

For example, there might be pages entitled “Your rights if you are arrested on criminal charges in Texas” or “How negligence is proven in Missouri.” There are also pages dedicated to the attorneys — often with photos — listing their credentials, qualifications, success stories, and more. Each of these pages offers additional opportunities to create quality content and to use keyword/keyphrase techniques.

Writing Blog Posts That Answer Common Legal Questions

A blog is another excellent tool for your law firm’s website. Blogs can be used to address common legal questions and provide helpful insights to potential clients. Blog posts are a method of demonstrating experience and competence in a practice area and can encourage the potential client to “make the call” or fill out the “contact us” page. Being a very accessible type of content, blog articles also tend to be the most effective method of attracting potential clients and convincing them to spend time on your website.

Blog articles tend to be internally linked to “related articles” and to “other articles that might be of interest.” Most importantly, blog articles are perfect vehicles for creating quality content, using keyword and keyphrase methods, maintaining your website status as current and active, and generating engagement. In other words, blog posts are a good method of enhancing your website’s search engine rankings.

As an aside, blog posts can also be very useful in broader cross-platform marketing efforts. That is, blog posts can be valuable resources for sharing on social media or in email newsletters.

Using Images and Videos to Enhance Content

Quality content can also be created by incorporating relevant images and videos. This can make your content more appealing and engaging to potential clients. Visual elements help break up long blocks of text and make the content easier to read. Also, different presentation styles may be geared to different demographics depending on your practice areas. For example, younger demographics seem to prefer video and audio presentations.


In a similar manner, podcasts can be used to create quality and engaging content. Podcasts have obvious advantages, such as allowing clients to have a very direct interaction with their potential lawyer.

Podcasts can also be much more fun and enjoyable to create. In terms of SEO marketing, attention should be paid to podcast titles and tags to effectuate keyword and keyphrase strategies. In addition, attention must be paid to file sizes and loading times. Slow-loading pages will negatively impact SEO marketing.

Link Building Basics -- Website-to-Website Linkage

Another aspect of SEO is “link building,” which is yet another indication of engagement, relevance, and reliability that is measured by search engine algorithms. A positive evaluation of website-to-website linkage is another way in which a website’s rankings can be enhanced.

What is Attorney Website Link Building?

Link building is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your law firm’s website. These hyperlinks are also known as backlinks, and they are a helpful signal to search engine algorithms that your content is valuable and worthy of being highly ranked in the search results. In effect, backlinks are a measure of website-to-website engagement.

How to Get Links From Other Websites to Your Firm’s Website

Earning backlinks requires effort and a proactive approach. Start by creating compelling and shareable content on your website, such as informative blog posts, guides, or resources that clients and other legal professionals might enjoy and/or find valuable. Then consider a potential website that might be willing to link to your law firm’s website.

The easiest-to-obtain backlinks likely come from professional organizations like local bar associations and associations of certain types of legal professionals (like a family law attorneys group). Most of these types of associations have websites that contain attorney referral pages. Getting your law firm’s website listed on such a referral page creates a backlink.

Another possibility is to reach out to other law firms which operate websites. Likely, the goal is a mutual dual-linkage. Of course, this can be tricky to negotiate since, in theory, law firms are competing against each other for clients. But, if one thinks creatively, there may be methods of finessing the problem. For example, if you run an occasional podcast, invite a lawyer friend as a guest on your podcast and arrange a cross-posting/cross-linking of the podcast on their website and yours.

Try the same thing with a jointly-written article with other professionals who might be “law-firm-adjacent,” like a law school professor or a friend who works for a not-for-profit legal organization. Something “jointly-written” will often lead to “cross-posted” and “cross-linked.”

Mobile-Friendly Attorney Websites

Another SEO technique to consider is making your website “mobile-device-friendly.” Essentially, anything that helps internet users find your website — and enjoy their experience — is part of SEO.

Websites generally load quickly and look great on desktop computers and laptops. But you do not want your website to load or look “weird” or “wonky” when accessed by a mobile device. You also do not want mobile device users to struggle when trying to navigate your site on smaller screens.

Thus, when designing — or redesigning — your website, it is essential to make your website mobile-device-friendly. From our own experiences, we know that many people use smartphones and tablets to search the internet. Indeed, many use only mobile devices for their internet connections. A mobile-friendly website design ensures that your content is easily accessible and readable on such devices (as well as desktops and laptops).

A few tips for success include:

  • Optimize your website’s loading speed, as mobile users are often on slower internet connections
  • Compress or use smaller-sized images
  • Leverage browser caching and minimize unnecessary scripts to improve load times
  • Use a standard legible font and size
  • Keep important information and calls-to-action visible without the need for excessive scrolling
  • Ensure that buttons and links are easy to tap, even on small touch screens.

Measuring Success With Analytics

There are methods and online tools that can help measure whether your SEO strategies and methods are achieving positive results. These are generally called “website analytics.” Google Analytics is one such powerful tool that allows you to gather and analyze data about your website’s performance. By understanding user behavior and interactions, you can make better-informed decisions to improve your SEO marketing efforts.

How to Use Tools Like Google Analytics for Lawyer Websites?

Website analytics — Google Analytics — generally involves signing up for the service and installing tracking and other measuring devices. There are free analytic services, and most are easy to use. The analytic programs provide information on your website’s traffic and user behavior, such as data about the number of website visitors, the pages they visit, how long they stay on your site and on a given page, their geographical location, and more.

Key metrics to monitor include:

  • Website traffic: Track the number of visitors and unique visitors to your site over time. Increased traffic can indicate successful SEO efforts.
  • Bounce rate: This represents the percentage of visitors who leave your site after viewing only one page. A high bounce rate may indicate issues with content relevance or user experience.
  • Conversion rate: Measure the percentage of website visitors who complete a desired action, such as contacting your law firm or filling out a contact form.
  • Top-performing pages: Identify which pages receive the most traffic and engagement. Use this information to create more content that resonates with your audience.

Some analytics will also provide information on how your visitors reached your website, such as from the Google search page, another website, or your social media links. By regularly analyzing these metrics, you can identify strengths and weaknesses in your website’s performance and make data-driven decisions to enhance your SEO strategies.

Social Media for Lawyers

As mentioned above, social media platforms provide another unique opportunity for law firms and lawyers to engage with potential clients. One simple method is to share blog and news posts by publishing links to your web pages.

Social media posts can also reach potential clients by creating and sharing new content, like offering brief legal insights, answering questions, and commenting on local and national legal news, etc. This is a method of building a loyal following, establishing your law firm as a trustworthy source of information, and “getting your name out there.”

When using social media for your law firm, consider the following best practices:

  • Choose the right platforms: Focus on the platforms most relevant to your target audience. For professional services like law firms, LinkedIn is often a valuable platform to connect with other professionals and potential clients. At the same time, since you may want to connect with individuals and businesses in need of legal services, other platforms like Twitter (now X), Meta (formerly FaceBook), and TikTok should also be considered.
  • Be consistent: Regularly post interesting content and updates.
  • Cross-link from your social media posts to your website posts. This is part of creating backlinks that can aid your SEO efforts.
  • Engage with your audience: Within reason, try and respond to comments, messages, and questions in a timely and professional manner. This fosters a sense of trust and accessibility.
  • Do not give legal advice (and you will want to make disclaimers): The Rules of Professional Conduct have several relevant provisions about how an attorney-client relationship can be established even if that relationship is not desired. So, for these reasons, do not give legal advice. Use social media to provide general legal information and educate your audience.

Leveraging Lawyer Social Media for SEO Benefits

Note that social media posts and accounts have general consumer/user signals, such as shares, likes, and comments. These can indirectly help your law firm’s SEO efforts. Engaging and shareable content may attract backlinks from other websites, increasing your website’s authority.

Additionally, a strong social media presence can improve your online visibility, making it easier for potential clients to discover your website through social media searches.

Frequently Asked Questions

Answering common questions about SEO for lawyers

1. Is SEO only for big law firms?

No, SEO is essential for law firms of all sizes. In fact, local SEO can be particularly advantageous for smaller firms, as it helps them compete with larger firms in their immediate area and attract clients from their local community.

2. How long does it take to see results from SEO efforts?

SEO is a gradual process, and it may take several weeks to months to see significant improvements in your website’s rankings. Consistent efforts and patience are key to achieving lasting results.

3. Can I do SEO on my own, or should I hire a professional?

While some basic SEO practices can be implemented independently, hiring a professional SEO agency or specialist can provide you with expertise and strategies to achieve better results. They can also save you time and help you focus on your legal practice.

Recapping Key Points

To recap some of the basic SEO concepts from above, remember these essential points:

  • SEO is crucial for law firms since SEO helps to raise your search engine rankings which helps to improve online visibility and, thereby, attract potential clients
  • SEO is a “whole website” approach
  • One key to successful SEO is to carefully choose — and use — keywords and keyphrases
  • Quality content is also crucial to SEO for lawyers
  • Seeking and earning backlinks from other reputable websites is also a useful technique for SEO
  • Utilize website analytics to measure your performance and make data-driven decisions.
  • Leverage social media to engage with your audience and increase your online reach.

Starting Your SEO Journey Today

There are several steps that can be taken now to begin your SEO journey and put SEO concepts into action. These are:

  • Conduct keyword research
  • Choose the best keywords that fit with how you want to expand your law firm’s practice
  • Begin optimizing your website’s content with keywords and phrases
  • Continue to create content by creating a “content calendar” or schedule to facilitate regular publishing of blogs, updates, news, and items of interest
  • Share and cross-link your posts on your other social media platforms
  • Monitor your website’s performance using tools like Google Analytics
  • Adjust and evolve your SEO methods to improve user experience, SEO rankings, and performance