UPDATED MAY 2023
Law firm SEO is a highly competitive legal market, and reaching your target audience organically may not be enough. Writing the best law firm content will improve the quality of your website and help you obtain higher rankings on search engines.
Luckily, when you need the best legal content writers for attorney search engine optimization (SEO), Blue Seven Content can offer considerable insight.
- Why is SEO Important for Law Firms?
- You Need Fresh, Well-Researched Content for SEO
- YMYL and Law Firms – What You Need to Know
- Google Search and AI-Generated Responses
- What You Should Know About Keywords and Keyword Phrases
- Why Style is Important When Writing the Best Law Firm Content
- How Important is a Blog to Your Law Firm SEO?
- What Are Some SEO Do’s and Don’ts for Law Firm Websites?
- Law Firm SEO Considerations for State Bar Ethics and American Bar Association (ABA)
- Why Lawyers May Not Be the Best Legal Content Writers
- Why You Need a Law Firm SEO Copywriter
Why is SEO Important for Law Firms?
Having the best legal content means nothing if your target audience never sees it. A recent study analyzed billions of search results on Google:
- 70.7% of users click one of the first five rankings
- The 10th position on Google only gets a 2.5% click-through rate
Users rarely proceed to the second page of a search engine. If your website is stranded in Google’s “no man’s land,” it’s time to step up your SEO.
You Need Fresh, Well-Researched Content for SEO
Google’s search criteria change constantly. For 2022, SEO focused on fresh, quality content. According to Google Search Central, the search engine defines quality content as content containing expertise, content that is authoritative, and content that is trustworthy (E-A-T). What you previously knew as E-A-T, though, has transformed into E-E-A-T (but if you say it out loud as one word, people will think you’re having a medical emergency) in search and SEO.
What is (E)EAT?
Under the Quality Rater Guidelines, Google released a 167-page document describing E-A-T and how the search engine is focused on the human experience, not bots. In December of 2022, Google updated E-A-T to E-E-A-T, and it was clearly a response to the late November 2022 release of ChatGPT from OpenAI. The guidelines emphasize the following:
- Experience. Does the content you put on your website convey to the reader that you have some degree of experience related to the topic at hand? That’s what this new “E” is all about. Artificial intelligence programs like ChatGPT don’t have their own experiences – they take information from others and create a conglomeration of, sometimes incorrect, responses. This “experience” factor works to build on the other three parts of EAT by establishing the author as someone who has “walked the walk.” Google is looking mainly for first-hand life experience.
- Expertise: Expertise is difficult to attain in the legal field. New practices may need to publish a substantial amount of content over time to be considered an expert by Google standards. Keep in mind that SEO expertise is very different from claiming legal expertise, which can put a law firm on ethically shaky ground. The idea is to have enough well-researched content on your site to position yourself as highly knowledgeable on the subject.
- Authority: Authority represents the evidence of your expertise online. How many other sites link back to yours? Do visitors to your social media sites find their way to a blog or news article you have published on your site? The more recognition your legal pages receive, the stronger “authority” you’ll have in your niche.
- Trustworthy: Making your law firm website trustworthy in the eyes of SEO involves proving your site as a quality source of information. Using external links to government sites and unbiased studies are great sources of data. Conversely, using an external link to an unreliable source, or source whose information can be altered by anyone, may hurt your SEO standing.
Reader-friendliness is crucial to any site. A lack of readability can increase your bounce rate, impeding your website’s ability to convert visitors to clients. Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who leave your legal website after viewing only one page.
According to research:
- The average bounce rate is 41-55%
- A high bounce rate is considered 70% or more
- A bounce rate of 26-40% is excellent
A good bounce rate tends to vary by type of business. For your law firm website, aim for a bounce rate of 50% or less.
To reduce your bounce rate, consider the following reader-friendly factors:
- Avoid long, wordy blocks of text
- Too many or too few images
- Too much clutter (e.g., pop-ups, banners, pages without headers)
- Reading level
Lawyers have years of education and experience to offer prospective clients. Still, no matter how educated you or your audience, keeping your readability at an 8th-grade level is important.
Keep Content Fresh
Google loves fresh content for several reasons. Fresh and recently updated content tends to be more accurate, adding to the expertise and trustworthiness of your site. In addition, fresh content gets indexed more frequently, usually resulting in higher search engine rankings.
To keep your website fresh, consider creating a schedule to add new content regularly. Your law firm website could benefit from adding:
- Practice pages
- Sub-practice pages to focus your service areas
- A weekly or bi-weekly blog
- Firm news and community
Also, make sure to update old content. Refresh the statistics on your practice area pages each year. Update old blogs with recent news stories. Check external links and update the source information. If you have similar blogs, think about combining them into a new one.
YMYL and Law Firms – What You Need to Know
“Your Money or Your Life.” Maybe you’ve heard that before, but you may not know why that matters for your law firm website content or law firm SEO strategy.
YMYL refers to how Google classifies certain content that could impact “a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.” There is no hard and fast rule about what is for sure considered YMYL, but some topics are clear. For example, pages related to medical advice, evacuation routes for hurricanes, local news about an ongoing natural or manmade disaster, how to fill out tax forms, etc. Law firm content/legal queries should be YMYL, but that’s not a guarantee.
There are also topics that could be YMYL, like weather reports, information about how to use certain products or when to replace products, and repair advice.
There are many other YMYL topics, but Google clearly states that YMYL topics should demonstrate the highest E-E-A-T levels of any content on the web. Google has not said that law firm content is for sure YMYL, but a few things are true – law firms and attorneys certainly help people in ways that affect their happiness, health, financial stability, and even safety.
As an industry, we NEED law firm website content to be considered YMYL, because that’s the only way SEO and SERPs matter. Google is experimenting with Bard, and AI responses could potentially be the norm at the top of the search results when you type in a query.
Google Search and AI-Generated Responses
Of course, Google had to respond to the rapid changes in internet user behavior brought on by ChatGPT. Millions of people were using OpenAI’s program within a week of its release, and it’s no longer a mystery that ChatGPT has affected many industries, including content writing, academia, medicine, coding, and others.
You may have seen the rollout for certain users as Google experiments with its own Google Bard to provide answers to users based on their search. They’re calling this Search Generative Experience (SGE). These answers pop up before any of the search results, paid or organic. The answers are presented similarly to ChatGPT, except in your regular search instead of a separate website. It’s an experiment right now, but you can expect it to become a reality. Google can’t fall behind because they know what happens to big tech that falls behind new competitors (anyone still missing their adjustable Myspace backgrounds?).
Google has said that this new SGE experience won’t affect YMYL queries, including legal ones, but that’s not a guarantee. Regardless of whether or not law firms get sucked into the AI responses for Google (we think organic and paid search will still matter for law firms), the content produced and put onto your web pages MATTERS.
Law firms should put out quality content that the reader can use and trust. They should do this for their potential clients and for their website’s trustworthiness factor, but they should also do this to prepare for any AI upheaval. Once ChatGPT and other AI platforms connect to the internet, the game changes.
But law firm websites won’t be replaced. Other YMYL websites will still matter. But these websites will be incorporated into the AI landscape somehow. We just don’t know what that will look like yet. We’re still figuring this new tech out. One thing we know is that 90% of what people think new tech will do for the world isn’t what actually happens. AI platforms like ChatGPT will grow a life of their own and, as with other tech in the past, carve out their own future while we play catch up.
What You Should Know About Keywords and Keyword Phrases
SEO basics center around the common keywords people search for a given topic. For example, if your law firm offers personal injury services in New York, some common keywords may be:
- Car accidents attorneys in New York
- New York Truck crash lawyers
- New York Slip and fall injuries attorney
Keywords and keyword phrases help Google better categorize your page. A skilled team with experience handling content for law firm websites can help incorporate these keywords seamlessly.
Keywords for Law Firm SEO
Think about your legal practice and what services you offer. Do some practice searches in your area or use a keyword tool. A few companies, including Google, offer a keyword planner to get the best phrases for your SEO goals.
Consider the following when doing your keyword research:
- What is the user’s intent?
- How competitive is the keyword phrase?
- Should you use long keyword phrases or short ones?
User intent, i.e., query intent, is what the user wants to find when doing a search. Does the user want information about a subject, or are they looking to hire an attorney? Keywords are phrased to capture the motivation of the user.
In addition, finding a set of keywords that are too competitive may leave your site stuck on page 2 or 3 of a Google search. Ideally, your keywords should be unique enough to offer low competition. Longtail keywords may be a great solution to lowering your SEO competition.
An example of a longtail keyword phrase could be, “Best legal content writers in Chicago.” A short keyword phrase may be “legal content.”
The latter offers a much more generalized term, making SEO more challenging. Long keyword phrases provide focused results to drive prospects to your site.
Don’t Forget to Include LSI Keywords
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords relate to the meaning of your overall content. Mixing short and longtail keywords is important, especially for headers. However, LSI keywords help Google recognize that your entire page relates to the topic.
For instance, suppose you are a criminal defense law firm in New Orleans and would like to focus on DUI defense. Your short keywords may be “DUI defense,” and your longtail keywords may be “best DUI defense in New Orleans.” An example of some LSI keywords may include “defense for driving under the influence in Louisiana” and “New Orleans defense attorneys for a DUI arrest.”
Learn how your clients (or prospective clients) are searching for your service. The power falls to those who know what their clients’ needs are before they need them.
Why Style is Important When Writing the Best Law Firm Content
Writing style builds your online brand. For legal sites, the difference between using victim or survivor is can make a deep impact on the tone of your page. Consider the impression you want to make using your blog or practice area page. Which stylistic terms suit your target audience?
- Claimant/Liable party
- Header capitalization and punctuation
- Descriptive bullet lists/H3 (heading size 3)
Whatever your choice, remember to stay consistent. Style fosters your developing voice and brand. Inconsistent styling can make your legal site seem poorly managed.
How Important is a Blog to Your Law Firm SEO?
A blog is an excellent way to add continuously fresh, quality content to your law firm website and establish credibility in your niche. It’s also a great tactic to build trust with your prospective clients.
Unfortunately, the legal profession has led to some unfair stereotypes. Users looking to hire an attorney may feel put off by in-your-face advertising, especially if their legal issues are of a sensitive nature.
According to a consumer research study, 82% of prospects feel more positive about a company after reading the company’s blog. Having a blog that helps the average user answer some simple legal questions or highlights a local matter can help bridge the gap.
What Are Some SEO Do’s and Don’ts for Law Firm Websites?
SEO is complicated, especially for those just getting started. For law firms, there are a few do’s and don’ts for the best legal content.
Legal SEO Do’s
- Break up text blocks with bullet lists and headers (H2’s and H3’s)
- Keep your sentences and information short and simple for the average reader
- Get to the point and avoid lots of unnecessary fluff
- Use the FAQ format for your headings to improve your organic searches and the possibility of a Google Snippet feature
- Remember to include a call to action (CTA) on every page
- Make sure you include relevant internal links and well-researched external links
- Pay attention to your keywords and phrases
- Remember your location matters in your keyword longtail phrases
Legal SEO Don’ts
- Use too much CTA. A sentence at the beginning and end is sufficient
- Use legal jargon
- Offer guarantees or absolutes
- Write strictly for SEO
Remember, your audience is human. While much of SEO involves keyword phrases and other taglines, your content should appeal to humans. Don’t write for a Google bot. Write for your prospective clients.
Law Firm SEO Considerations for State Bar Ethics and American Bar Association (ABA)
After years of schooling and experience in the field, you’re likely familiar with all the ethical considerations for your practice. However, writing ethically for a website practice page may prove challenging.
Specialization or Expertise
After years in a particular field of law, you may feel like a true expert. Unfortunately, stating that you are an expert or specialist in a field can violate state and ABA ethics codes. The American Bar Association has its own board certification and specialization programs.
Some examples of bord certifications include:
- Board Certification in Family Law Trial Law
- Board Certification in Criminal Trial Law
- Board Certification – Consumer Bankruptcy Law
State bars also have their own certifications and specialty programs. Unless you are certified through the ABA or state board, refrain from using the terms expert or specialist.
Keep Legal Information General
While you have the experience and education to accurately answer legal questions for your clients, remember to avoid giving legal advice. Instead, keep your explanations of law generally. For complicated topics, giving a hypothetical can help sidestep giving direct legal advice while keeping things simple for the reader.
As a rule of thumb, it is best to avoid words and phrases that are definitive or absolute. For example, replace always with can be or may be.
Criminal trials are always a lengthy process.
Criminal trials can be a lengthy process.
Speaking in generalities is a great way to stay compliant with the ABA and the State Bar Ethics Advisory:
Careful with Results
Many law firms like to put verdicts and settlements on their webpage. Showcasing your past successes can add credibility to your practice and value to your services. However, state ethics bards may regulate how verdicts and settlements are presented. For instance, South Carolina requires all favorable verdicts and settlements to be displayed with a clear disclaimer.
Contingency fee structures can be a touchy subject online. While offering contingency fees can help drive prospective clients to schedule a consultation, the wording can be tricky. To avoid any issues with the bar requirements, use general terminology when describing your fee structure.
Advertising vs. Blogs
Advertising is another tricky area in the ethics department. The ABA regulates how attorneys advertise for their services. In addition, many state bars have created advertising rules and regulations.
Blogs, however, may not fall under the same strict code of ethics. Check with your state bar to see if blogs are free from ethical review.
Why Lawyers May Not Be the Best Legal Content Writers
Writing the best legal content requires continuous upkeep, researching new guidelines, and knowing content style guides. While you know the law best, professional legal content writers know your target audience’s online behavior and how to drive them to your site.
Whether your firm has been in practice for decades or is just hitting the stage, consider the following reason to outsource your legal copywriting.
You would rather spend your time lawyering.
Writing copy tailored for SEO takes knowledge and work. Every hour you spend writing a practice page, a blog, or updating old pages is time away from lawyering. Every twenty minutes here and there you spend researching how to improve your website’s rankings on a search engine is a minute not billable to a client.
Spend your time doing what you love. Leave the rest to a legal SEO copywriter.
Why You Need a Law Firm SEO Copywriter
You are a professional. Shouldn’t your law firm website support that? Point your law firm SEO strategy in the right direction.
Your legal content is an extension of the hard work and dedication you’ve given your field. Just as clients come for your experience and skill, every attorney deserves to have their content handled professionally. Contact the Blue 7 Content Founders Allen Watson and Victoria Lozano today by phone or email to learn more about our tailor-made legal content pages. You can reach us at (843) 580-3158.
Written by Morgan Sprinkle – Legal Content Writer
Updated by Allen Watson – Co-Founder of Blue Seven Content