As more law firms get their websites online and begin to really dial in their digital marketing strategies, the competition for “screen real estate” in search engine results has certainly started to heat up.
Despite this, there are still a litany of incredibly common mistakes I see law firms make in their search engine optimisation endeavors.
Often these are just relics of time gone past, such as spam backlinks from 2011. But if you’re not doing as well on Google as you’d hope to be, they might still be having an impact on your search rankings today in 2019.
Here’s a list of 7 common lawyer SEO mistakes I see, and how they’re damaging your firm’s online visibility:
What is SEO and why is it important for law firms?
Fundamentally, Search Engine Optimisation (“SEO”) is a set of strategies, principles, and techniques you can implement to increase the ranking of your firm in Google’s (and other search engine’s) results.
With a higher ranking, more potential clients will discover (and hopefully engage the services of) your legal practice.
For example, if I’m a potential client living in Wellington, New Zealand, and I want to find a divorce lawyer, I might do a google search for “divorce lawyer Wellington”, and this is what I will see:
The goal of SEO then, if you’re a divorce lawyer in Wellington, is to get your website closer to the top of the results (or at least on the very first page) for this search term, because the reality is, 95% of people won’t look past the first page of Google results.
7 Common Law Firm SEO Mistakes:
1. Duplicate Website Content
If you hired a company many years ago to design your website, there is a not-insignificant chance that they re-purposed content from another website they worked on (Yellow Pages = Guilty).
If your website’s content is not unique, then it is highly likely that Google will penalise you for it – and this includes content that you regurgitate across multiple pages (such as having two identical pages with the only difference being the suburb you use in the title).
2. Poor Quality Website Content
In order to excel in the search rankings, it is important that the content of your website aligns with the topic/theme “ascribed” to it by Google, is well-formatted, and is grammatically correct.
Your practice’s website content should be informative and relevant – having pages dedicated to topics unrelated to law (and specifically, the law you practice and the services you provide) will damage your SEO efforts.
3. “Keyword Stuffing”
In the past, a common practice in SEO circles was to “keyword stuff”. This would entail repeating a term like “criminal lawyer Auckland” over and over in your page’s title and content.
This simply does not work anymore (in fact, the negative impact it will have on user experience will damage your search rankings). Whilst keyword optimization is still a thing, Google looks for uses of your targeted keywords in ways that are relevant, coherent, and engaging.
Here are Google’s examples of keyword stuffing that should be avoided:
4. Spammy Backlink Profile
Backlinks (links to your website from other websites) are good. Spammy backlinks are not good, and Google has become very adept at recognising unnatural backlinking patterns like these:
If a black hat SEO provider pointed a thousand dodgy blog comments to your website back in the day, it’s worth considering using Google Search Console to disavow them (just be careful).
5. Ignoring Local SEO
If you’re a lawyer in Wellington, you probably deal mostly with clients in Wellington – and you should include this fact on your website. Furthermore, in order to improve your firm’s local visibility, it’s a good idea to set up and optimise your firm’s Google My Business listing.
6. Having a Slow Website
Another ranking factor that Google puts a lot of emphasis on in 2019 is page loading speed. The reason they like fast websites is that they know users like fast websites too, especially when they’re on mobile devices, and as a result, they prioritise faster websites.
If your website is built on WordPress, it is a good idea to install a caching plugin such as W3 Total Cache. If you don’t update your website on a regular basis, this is a really good way to get things running more smoothly.
You can test your website’s speed here: Google’s PageSpeed Tool.
7. Not Running a Blog
Finally, a common phrase in SEO circles is “content is king”, and really, it’s true.
Websites with blogs rank a lot higher than those without because they contain relevant, comprehensive, and valuable content.
I wrote an article on this exact topic here.