The secret to SEO success for small law firms

The secret to SEO success for law firms on a budget is specialization.

When we ask attorneys at small law firms about their budget for SEO, $1,500 per month is a common answer. Most of the time, these attorneys want to promote several different practice areas.

This chart illustrates the fundamental problem with this:

Law Firm SEO Budgets

So, if you’re monthly SEO budget is $1,500, and you want to target six practice areas, your monthly budget for each practice area is only $250!

The misconception that we need to clear up is that your $1,500/mo investment is adequate for competing for keywords in several areas of law; it’s not. It IS however adequate for competing for keywords in one area of law.

To illustrate: Let’s say you want to promote divorce law and personal injury law, specifically auto accidents. Your SEO company publishes an amazing data visualization on your site that depicts the average settlement amounts for a variety of common auto accident scenarios. It gets shared widely on social media channels and linked to by legal bloggers. This helps establish your firm as an authority on auto accident law. Nice!

But, it does nothing to establish your firm as an authority on divorce law. In fact, it may actually make you look like less of an authority on divorce!

Ok…where’s your proof?

Glad you asked. Last spring we decided to test the efficacy of hyper-specialized law firm websites, so we built them for a couple of our oldest clients. The sites focused on these two legal niches:

  1. Reckless Driving in Virginia
  2. Insurance Bad Faith in Colorado

For each site, we had our writers create a handful of articles which addressed the most common questions for each niche. We put up simple, mobile friendly WordPress websites (each one took about 5 hours to configure once we had the content). We kept the calls to action to a minimum; great information first, everything else later. We added just a few back links to each (from the firm’s Avvo profiles, social media profiles, etc.), then, we let them sit.

Here’s what has happened since…

Virginia Reckless Driving site:

Virginia Reckless Driving Analytics

Here are the site’s organic search performance stats half-way through March 2015:

Virginia Reckless Driving Organic Traffic Analytics

This site, which has roughly $4,000 total invested in it, is on pace for roughly 1,800 organic search visits this month…that’s crazy!

Colorado Insurance Bad Faith Law site:

Colorado Insurance Bad Faith Analytics

Here are the site’s organic search performance stats for February:

Colorado Insurnace Bad Faith Organic Traffic Analytics 2

Not quite as impressive as the reckless driving site, but still substantial considering the low volumes surrounding keywords in this niche, and the fact the we set the whole site up for about $2,000 and then let it sit there! No continued content production, no social media, no link building, nothing.

*Note: I have been doing SEO for law firms for four years now. I’m not proud to admit this, but these two sites out perform many others that have had tens of thousands of dollars poured into them.

What is it about these sites that Google loves?

First and foremost, the content was created to answer questions on a very specific legal topic. Google loves this. They love when a user searches a keyword, clicks to a site, finds the answer, and is done searching. This is a concept known as time to long click, and it’s one of the metrics that Google’s search team cares about most. Specialization is at the core of why these sites are performing well.

Next, we chose domain names that contained relevant keywords; partial match domains. What better way to show commitment to a specific area of law than by describing it with your domain name?

Finally, we didn’t do any aggressive link building. We added links only where it made sense, on the firm’s social media and lawyer profiles.

Here’s how to build one of these specialized legal sites:

1. Choose a Domain Name

We suggest using a partial match domain. For example, if you want to target Nevada Divorce Law queries, you should purchase a domain like:

  • NevadaDivorcePlaybook.com
  • GetaNevadaDivorce.com
  • NevadaDivorceSource.com

2. Develop Content Topics and Get ’em Written

Next, you’ll need to determine the most important topics to write about. To do this, simply think about the most common questions your clients have. Make a list out of them, and prioritize them by frequency. For example, the topics for our Nevada Divorce site might be:

  • How long does divorce take in Nevada?
  • What is the timeline of events in a Nevada divorce?
  • Do I have to hire a lawyer to get divorced in Nevada?
  • What are the grounds for divorce in Nevada?
  • How is alimony calculated in a Nevada divorce?
  • How does property division work in Nevada divorce?
  • How does Nevada divorce affect retirement plans?

3. Develop the Site

You’ll need to:

  • Purchase your partial match domain.
  • Purchase WordPress friendly web hosting.
  • Install and configure a mobile-friendly WordPress theme and publish the content
  • Create a simple logo for the site (here is an example of a simple logo), and custom banner image for the home page.
  • Optimize the site’s pages for relevant keywords by ensuring that all pages have optimal page titles, heading 1 (H1) tags, meta descriptions, and internal linking.
  • Add a contact form to every page, along with a tracked phone number, and a LiveChat client.
  • Install and Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. Make sure you are tracking contact form submissions, phone calls, and LiveChat through Google Analytics.
  • Add links to the site from your social media profiles and your lawyer profiles (Avvo, Justia, etc.).

All-in, this project should cost you about $3,000. Based on our experience here, and without any additional investment, is likely that the site will generate leads within a year.

I know what you’re thinking: “You’ve only given two examples. How can I be sure I’ll see the same results?” The truth is, you can’t be sure you’ll see the same results as we have. But isn’t a one time investment of $3,000 worth the risk? If you’re a personal injury lawyer, one new case EVER will likely get you your money back; one new case per year, and you’re way up; one new case per month, and your ROI is astronomical.

TL;DR

Much has been said about small and solo firms being “priced out” of SEO. The remedy for this is for small law firms to take a specialized approach to SEO.

Google loves websites that address a specific topic because these sites tend to result in long clicks. For a reasonable investment, small law firms can carve out a niche online and generate quality leads, at an amazing ROI, by choosing to specialize.