Ultimate Local SEO List for Lawyers
Chris Dreyer | December 06, 2016
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO simply refers to the tactics used to optimize a website for a local audience (as it relates to search). There are many elements of local SEO that overlap those of search optimization in general. Local SEO, however, involves configuring a website, off-site strategies and content for local searchers.
Chapter 1: Location-Specific Pages
What are they?
Location-specific pages are pieces of content written to be geographically relevant. They often contain an attorney’s practice area, but are framed in the context of a specific city, state, county, and/or region.
The pages follow the common search-optimization practice of content siloing, where the page is only about that particular location and practice area. For example, a personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles could write a page with that city name and the phrase “car accident attorney”. That marries the location and the practice area to make a location-specific page about that service.
Location-specific pages should contain a location and be only about that location as it relates to an attorney’s services. Here are some other tips:
- Put the location in the title of the page
- Put the location in the meta description of the page
- Name images on the page after the location + service or practice area
- Put the location in the header ( h1 ) tag of the page
- Use Attorney schema that relate to location on the page
- Use the actual city name + service area in the copy of the web page
- Put name, address, and phone number in the page header
- Links built to the page can have the location as anchor text
Attorneys should list all the locations they want to make a page for. Typically, it is good to target major cities that are close by, but it can also be a good idea to target less-competitive city phrases.
Create a new page in WordPress or whatever CMS you are using, and make the city name + service area the title of the page. Note that WordPress will automatically make the page title the URL of the page.
Add copy that talks about performing your service or practice area in the location you have targeted. Make sure the content is at least 500 words or more. Include images named after the location-based keyword. Images already present on a page can be downloaded and renamed.
It is also important to have the keyword phrase + location name in the heading of body copy, in the title of the page, in the meta description of the page and in the URL.
Chapter 2: Practice Area-Specific Pages
What are they?
A practice area-specific page is a single page on an attorney website that is about a single practice area. Instead of listing all practice areas on one page or having a services page listing all the firm’s services, attorneys should make a page for each of their firm’s practice areas.
Like location-specific pages, practice-area pages should contain the practice area (for instance, family law or divorce law) as a keyword phrase on the page. Practice-area pages can help divide content into logical areas for both users and search engines.
The following best practices can help practice-area pages perform their best in search:
- Each page should be about a single practice area
- Practice area pages should contain substantial amounts of content (500+ words)
- The more content that can be placed on the page, the better – as long as the content is useful to visitors
- The practice area should be placed in the title, headers, body copy, meta description, URL of the page and the file names of images on the page, as well as any alt text (where applicable)
- Use close keyword variations for each practice area
- se words that may be synonymous with your practice-area target keyword phrase
Setting up practice-area pages is very similar to setting up location-based pages. If you are using WordPress or some other CMS, simply create a new page and use the target keyword phrase as the title of the page.
Write content about the practice area itself. It helps to provide as much useful information as possible (which applies to other pages of your site as well). Google rewards websites that have more than just topical information on a topic. Your practice-area pages can also attract links from other websites if they have content that is useful and thorough.
Ensure proper keyword placement and inclusion, as mentioned in the best practices above. Publish the page in a logical category on your attorney website.
Chapter 3: Attorney Bio Pages
What Are They?
A bio page is simply a single page about an attorney. It describes who that person is, what their role is in the firm, and their background. The biography also provides relevant contact information, awards and accolades about the attorney.
The attorney bio page plays a crucial role in ranking for attorney brand and firm name searches.
It also helps provide social proof. A good bio page should contain:
- An image of the attorney
- A 200-300 word biography
- Awards, certifications, accreditations, and/or other relevant accolades
- Phone number with extension, if applicable
- Links to professional social accounts
- Email address
- Attorney name in header, URL, title and meta description of page
Make sure the content is unique (not the same as any other profile you have on the web)
Start by creating a page on your site with the attorney name as the title of the page. In WordPress, this will become the URL and be placed in the page header by default. Other CMSs may require manual placement in these areas.
Write a compelling and professional bio about yourself. It can also be worth the cost to hire someone to write a bio for you. Make sure it includes important accomplishments related to your legal career that visitors would find valuable.
Remember that each member of the firm should have their own bio page.
Chapter 4: Local User Experience
What is it?
The user experience for local searchers is unique. The local user experience refers to the design characteristics of a site that make it useful for a local audience. A person looking for an attorney in their local geographic region often has very specific goals.
Attorneys should configure their site in a way that helps local searchers satisfy their needs.
- Have name, address and phone number in the header of every page of the site
- Provide an easily accessible contact page
- Provide links to local resources that are relevant to a typical visitor to your site
- The site should be mobile-responsive
- Local attorney schema should be used
- Provide map directions
Designing a good user experience will vary from site to site. Attorneys should find a website theme that allows contact information to be placed in the site’s header and footer. Embedding maps is as easy as copying and pasting from Google Maps.
Many WordPress themes are already mobile-responsive. If you do not have a website optimized for mobile, switching themes or having an attorney web design company do the work for you is ideal.
Chapter 5: Contact Pages
What Are They?
A contact page is just a page on an attorney website that is used to provide contact information about the firm as well as a means of communication. They typically contain things like a contact form, email, address, phone number, and other contact methods.
Contact pages are important for local SEO because local searchers are often looking for the contact information of local law firms. Contact pages are frequently promoted as site links in organic search due to their relevance to local searchers.
Contact pages tend to be an afterthought in website design. They are the pages where the least consideration is given with respect to design and content. Contact pages are extremely important for local searchers. Here are some best practices for making a killer contact page:
Make contact methods simple and straightforward. Don’t make visitors guess where to look or dig for information.
Offer multiple options. People don’t always want to fill out a form. They may want to email you directly, chat, make a phone call or send a text. Not all of these are necessary, but lawyers should offer at least a few of them.
Provide links to social accounts. Depending on your demographic, visitors may prefer to reach out to a law firm via a social media website.
Don’t make people work too hard on a contact form. Ask for as much information as necessary to be able to follow up with someone. Typically a name, email, phone number and message field are all that is required.
Creating a contact page is very easy using WordPress. There are several plugins that make adding a contact form simple and effective.
Contact Form 7 is a WordPress plugin that enables you to create high-quality forms without having to know any programming language.
Once you have a contact form plugin installed, start by creating a new page on your site. Name it something logical and intuitive, like ‘contact us’ or just ‘contact’. Insert a form on the page, and make sure it has phone numbers, address, email, links to social accounts and chat (if you’re offering that feature).
Chapter 6: NAP In Header
What is it?
NAP stands for name, address and phone number, and a common usability practice has been to place it in the header of every page of a website. Having the contact information in the site’s header helps local searchers find contact information more quickly. Search engines can also find and crawl that data faster when it is front and center.
The concept is pretty simple, but it’s easy to get it wrong. Here are some tips for having consistent NAP on your attorney website:
- Ensure the phone number you’re using is the same across your entire web presence
- The name, address and phone number of your firm should be on every page of the website, up top in the header
- Schema markup should be applied to the contact information
- The experience on mobile should be optimized so visitors can easily see and use the contact information.
Many WordPress themes come equipped with headers where contact information can be inserted. Attorneys with themes or websites that do no support that kind of functionality will have to add it manually. A developer can easily add contact information to a template so that it appears in many different places on the site.
Alternatively, there are some plugins for WordPress that can work well. For example, Speed Contact Bar helps you put contact information in the top of every page across an entire website.
Chapter 7: Attorney Schema
What is it?
Schema is HTML markup that makes content machine understandable. Attorney Schema specifically is a subset of that markup that identifies content as being related to an attorney or law office. Schema does not help web pages rank any better, but it does help search engines interpret content more easily. When search engines can more easily understand the content, they can more easily differentiate and display it.
Schema can be implemented on many different types of content. Here are some best practices for some of the most common schema implementations:
- Use schema on as many types of content as you can, such as contact information, names, logos, articles, geographic location information, and blog posts.
- Microdata is a widely accepted format for schema implementation. While there are other forms, this one is easiest to use.
- Use a microdata generator whenever possible, or some kind of Schema plugin (if available) for your CMS (there are lots for WordPress).
- Use Google’s structured-data testing tool to make sure your schema implementation is accurate.
Setting up schema on your attorney website can be tricky, and there are a few different ways to do it.
Using WordPress Plugins
The easiest and most accurate way to add schema to your attorney website is by using one of the many WordPress plugins available for it. Writing schema is just like writing code, so not only is there a learning curve, there is also a lot of potential to make mistakes. Here are some plugins to check out:
- All-in-one Schema.org Rich Snippets
- WP SEO Structured Data Schema
- Rich Snippets
- Schema App Structured Data
Plugins like these are easy to install and configure in WordPress. Unlike installing schema manually, setup usually involves clicking check boxes and filling in fields rather than programming.
If you have content that you want to add schema to and then paste onto your site, schema generators come in handy. These are websites that offer free generation services that will attach schema markup to your content.
Here are some schema generators:
- Schema Generators from SEO Chat
If you have a site that is traditional and not a CMS (or if you just like a challenge), installing schema manually is always an option. Again, be forewarned that writing markup can be an extremely challenging (but rewarding) task.
We won’t go into great depth on how to write HTML microdata markup here, but Wordstream has an excellent tutorial on adding schema manually to a website.
Chapter 8: Citations
What are they?
Citations are mentions of your firm name on some other website. They typically show up along
with business contact information, links to a website, and other information about the firm.
Citations play an important role in the local SEO ecosystem. Search engines rely on data produced by other websites to display to their users. The consistency of the information found across the internet for any given firm influences what is shown in search. For example, if citations across different websites are inconsistent, search engines lose confidence in that information.
Citations are easy to set up, but they are also easy to get wrong. Other than the following best practices, you are strongly encouraged to use a service to set up citations and not do it manually.
- Make sure the name, address and phone number information is consistent across all citation-based websites.
- Include a link any time you can in a citation.
- Fill out the same citation information on as many citation sites as you can find.
- Look for attorney-related sites.
- Include important listing sites that the services may not integrate with, like Google Business Listings.
- Use a service like Yext, Moz Local or Bright Local to populate business listings quickly.
The fastest and easiest way to get citations set up accurately and quickly is to use a service. Leading citation services can set up listings for their customers in a matter of days, all on an automated basis. All lawyers have to do is enter all their information once, and the service does the rest.
Yext is one of the most well-known citation management services. They can populate dozens and dozens of citation sites with information in a very short time. Pricing varies based on the account level, and subscriptions are sold on an annual basis.
Moz used to be exclusively an SEO software company, but they now provide citation-based services to businesses. Moz does not have relationships with hundreds of citation-based websites, but they do push data to all the major aggregators, which is where the rest of the internet gets information about local businesses.
Chapter 9: Consistent NAP
What is it?
Consistent NAP refers to having a consistent name, address and phone number across the internet. Search engines use contact information from around the internet in results pages. The reliability of that information is based in large part on its consistency.
Google also relies on consistent business information for its own business listing service. These listings all revolve around the confidence that search engines have in other information around the web.
Above all else, attorneys should ensure that whatever contact information they are using is the same on every website where it is listed.
NAP should be the same, wherever it is. Even slight variations can be seen as different by search engines.
Services like Yext, Bright Local, Moz Local and others can help distribute and/or fix inconsistent NAP.
Run a search for NAP across the web, identify any inconsistencies, and fix them.
The best way to ensure consistent NAP is to use a service that scans the web for business contact information. Services mentioned in previous chapters (like Yext or Moz Local) are great for finding and fixing inconsistent NAP.
Here’s what that looks like on Yext’s scanner:
Attorneys should sign up through Yext or another leading service in order to scan and fix their inconsistent information across the web quickly.
Not all listings are a part of these networks. Lawyers should also do a search of their firm name in quotations (“Your Firm Name”) to find mentions of it on other websites. Look for any other inconsistent information and fix it if possible.
Chapter 10: Google Business Listings
What is it?
A Google Business Listing is a profile for a business on Google’s listing network. Lawyers can use it to enter their firm name, address, phone number, practice areas, hours of operation, and other data for local searchers to find. Data is aggregated and shows up in a variety of locations such as desktop search and Google apps like Maps for Android and iOS.
Google Business Listings are one of the most ubiquitous business profiles on the web. Millions of users search for local business information every day using Google’s services, and being listed with them is important for being visible in local search.
Here are the keys to getting the most out of a Google Business Listing profile:
- Claim your listing so that you can make edits
- Fill out your profile as completely as possible
- Include your main practice area as your main category
- Ensure consistent NAP with other listings on the web
- Upload accurate and relevant images
- Ensure your hours of operation are correct
- Check that any links to your site are accurate
- Encourage local reviews of your firm to help your listing stand out among others.
Setting up a Google Business Listing can be broken down into some simple steps.
1.) Search for and verify your existing profile. Chances are you already have a profile on Google. Search for your firm name and see what comes up. When you see your business listed, click on the link titled ‘Own this business?’
2.) After you click the link, you will be taken through Google’s verification process to claim the listing. Indicate that you are authorized to claim the listing, and then click continue.
3.) Next, Google will provide you with some methods by which you can verify your listing. Typically it is done through the mail; Google sends you a postcard with a 4 digit PIN on it. Some businesses may be provided a phone option. In either case, you will have to verify the listing in order to take ownership of it. Note that you can still edit information for the time being without verifying. Those changes just won’t be published until you’ve verified the account.
4.) Once you have gotten that out of the way, go to work filling out your listing as completely as possible. Don’t leave any field blank, and make sure you add your primary practice area as your category on Google’s listing service.
Chapter 11: Local Directories
What are they?
Directories are listings of websites. They may contain other information, but their original purpose was to provide people with a list of websites relevant to whatever they were looking for. Some directories are very broad in nature, such as the DMOZ directory. Others are niche- specific.
For lawyers, there are directories that focus on law in general, and practice area-specific directories. These websites provide a unique value in SEO because they are a source of easily obtainable links, and they can also be contextually relevant to attorneys.
Directories (like a lot of other tools related to SEO), have fallen under a negative light in recent years. That is due in large part to their exploitation as a source of website optimization as well as the low quality that many of them provide. Here are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to directories:
- Look for authoritative directories that have a high Domain Rating or Domain Authority
- Lawyers should look for law-related directories and practice-area-specific directories
- Paid directories are often more reliable than free directories (but still do your homework on them)
- Do not join a bunch of irrelevant and low-quality directories
- Keep your directory submission frequency low. Do not submit to a bunch of different directories all in one day, for example.
The submission process varies from directory to directory. Basically the process goes like this:
- Search for directories online (or use one of our curated lists in the Further Reading section below).
- Ensure that they have a decent DA or DR (note that you can use Moz Open Site Explorer or Ahrefs for free to check a minimal number of domains).
- Start the submission process by looking for a ‘signup’, ‘join now’, or similar call to action on the directory’s home page.
- Typically lawyers will have to fill out a form with their firm’s contact information, web address, practice areas, payment info if applicable, email, etc.
- Some directories will allow you to be listed right away. Others may have a verification process (especially high-quality legal directories).
Chapter 12: Social Proof
What is it?
As it relates to digital marketing, ‘social proof’ refers to the psychological phenomenon where users place trust in a website or its owner based on the presence of accreditations like badges, awards, endorsements, reviews or other accolades.
On the web, users are removed from the face-to-face interaction and experience that allows them to ‘get a feel’ for whether or not the law firm they are dealing with is reputable, experienced, trustworthy and/or knowledgeable.
Social proof can take many forms, and there are a variety of ways to make it stand out on your site. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Have a section for social proof badges and icons on your home page.
- Make a menu item in your navigation that leads people to a page with social proof badges.
- Put reviews of your services on your home page.
- Try to obtain at least 3-4 pieces of social proof from industry-related organizations. This helps visitors understand that your industry views you as an authority in your profession.
- Do not push social proof in people’s face. It’s important to balance its prominence on your website and the risk of bragging too much. People want to know that you’re capable, but they don’t want to hear you boast about yourself constantly.
There are many good ways for attorneys to get social proof for themselves or their firms.
Join a law-related association that recognizes lawyers for outstanding work in the legal community. Some examples are:
- Million Dollar Advocates Forum
- Multi-million Dollar Advocates Forum
- Super Lawyers
- Top 100 Trial Lawyers
Reviews from clients: Get reviews from previous clients for your website. Many people look to reviews before they make a decision about whether or not to choose a particular law firm.
Reviews from other lawyers: Expert opinions are always powerful. Get reviews or endorsements from other lawyers that you do not compete with directly and post them on your site.
Ratings from industry-related websites: Sites like AVVO have rating systems and reviews for lawyers. Achieve high marks on those sites, then post the information on your own website.
Chapter 13: Reviews
What are they?
Reviews are appraisals of your law firm given by current or previous clients, colleagues and/or acquaintances. They are typically related to a specific service provided, but can also be about the firm as a whole.
Spending time getting reviews will provide one of the largest payoffs for local SEO. Here are some best practices for obtaining reviews:
- Solicit reviews from people you know will have something positive to say.
- Get reviews for multiple practice areas or services that you provide.
- Get permission from people to post reviews on your site.
- Use schema markup on reviews posted to your website.
- Provide detailed instructions for more than one platform so that people know how to leave a review for you.
- Solicit reviews for platforms that are off your website (i.e., Google, Yelp, Facebook, etc.).
One of the best ways to get reviews is to have a process in place to ask for them. Lawyers also have to be diligent about working the process so they can generate a steady stream of reviews.
Template Your Process
Start by sending current and previous clients an email asking them for a review. We have a created a review template to give you a place to start your review campaign. Develop a list of all your potential clients who might give you a review. Then send each one of them an email asking them to leave a review for the firm on their favorite platform.
Chapter 14: Duplicate Listing Cleanup
What is it?
Duplicate listings refer to Google Business listings that are the same or very similar to other listings in Google’s database. These could have wrong numbers, old addresses, old websites or other outdated information.
Duplicate listings can occur for a variety of reasons. There may have been changes to a listing, and instead of claiming an existing one, lawyers may have inadvertently created a new listing. Marketing firms may have created new listings without knowing that one already existed.
- Search for your firm name in Google to determine if there is in fact a duplicate listing.
- Make sure you claim all listings that could potentially be yours
- Keep at it. Deleting duplicate listings can be a long, tedious process.
The process for reporting and deleting a duplicate listing has been the same a while, but the path you follow today may be slightly different than a lot of the advice you’ll find online.
1.) Search for your firm name on Google. You can either do a search and click on the map result in the right sidebar, or search directly from within maps.google.com.
2.) Next click on the ‘Send Feedback’ link in the bottom right corner of the map. Note that at this point if there is an ‘Own this business?’ link in the listing, lawyers should go through the process of claiming the duplicate.
3.) Once clicked, a list of Send Feedback options will show up that you can choose from. Choose the ‘Report a data problem’ link.
4.) In the editing section, mark the business as permanently closed. Make sure at this point that the business you are dealing with is the actual duplicate.