Editor’s Note: It is a great pleasure to announce a new short series of blog posts about SEO (search engine optimization) from our new friends at Atlanta-based search marketing agency EverSpark Interactive, creators of the Legal Ranking Formula. These posts are in question and answer format and focus on how to maximize SEO for solo and small law firms. We hope you enjoy and learn from these posts and feel free to submit questions in the comments section at the end of each post. (Click here for Part 2)

How can a solo or small law firm with limited experience and resources compete with much larger firms that may practice in the same line of law?

This is really a question of picking your battles and knowing that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Law firms of all sizes have the same 2 options when it comes to internet marketing, being, paid traffic and organic traffic.

If a smaller firm wants to compete with the bigger firms with paid traffic then we recommend the following strategy.

  1. Don’t bid on main keywords.

Many solo or small law firms make the mistake of bidding on the main keywords in their industry. These keywords represent a very expensive option. The bigger firms can afford to out bid you, and they will. So a better strategy is to look into the ‘long tail’ of search: find keyword variations that are more specific to your prospects needs. For instance, if you’re a ‘Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer’ – don’t bid on ‘Chicago Car Accident Lawyer’ (which is currently $100 per click) – instead look for keywords like ‘What to ask a Chicago car accident lawyer’ (which is currently $1 per click).

Click to Tweet: “Many solo or small law firms make the mistake of bidding on the main keywords in their industry.”

The best way to research the long tail is to set up a Google Adwords account – all the research you need can be found (for free) inside of Adwords. (https://www.google.com/adwords)

Long tail search volume is far far less than the main industry keywords – however they tend to convert at a much higher level, so start out with 10 variations and see if you can make your smaller PPC (pay per click) budget go much farther and convert at a higher rate.

  1. Don’t just drive traffic to your home page

One of the biggest mistakes lawyers make, both big firms and small firms, is they set their monthly PPC budgets, choose their keywords, then send every click to their home page. Don’t do this. Take the time to follow these steps and do everything you can to improve your page conversions.

  1. Study the long tail and make a short list of 10 keyword variations.
  2. Once you’ve got your 10, find a page on your site that is the best fit for each of these keywords – often it will be the same page and that’s fine.
  3. Make sure the page has truly educational information on it – spend time writing a Wikipedia style page that answers every imaginable question someone who has clicked on the ad might ask.
  4. Make sure there is a strong call to action on all of these pages, not just a contact phone number. Add a ‘contact form’ and/or a ‘chat feature’ and/or a ‘free download’.
  5. Spend $100-$200 on excellent design. Once you’re happy with the page content and call to actions (CTA’s) – go to E-lance.com and find a designer that can really make the page pop. Most attorney pages are boring, don’t be just another attorney attracting clicks to boring pages – make yours stand out.

If a smaller firm wants to compete with the bigger ones with organic traffic (SEO) then we recommend the following strategy.

Lets again assume you are a ‘Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer’ – you started your practice a year ago and get hardly any cases from your website. You’ve listed in the standard directories like Findlaw and Lawyers.com – but your site is still buried on page 4 of Google.

Don’t feel bad, this is far more typical than you might think.

The rule of thumb with top ranking on Google, even after all the Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird updates still has to do with content (relevance) and links (popularity). If you have better content and more people like that content, then in theory they will link to your content and Google will reward you with higher rankings. However, good luck writing such riveting content that people will care enough to link to you so many times that it causes you to top rank for ‘Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer’.

You first have to focus on the basics then you have to skin the cat a different way.

What we mean by ‘the basics’.

  1. Get your site professionally audited by a qualified SEO company. You could have some major problems that are stopping your site from being indexed or crawled properly, so you first have to make sure to identify all of these kind of blockers (code errors / duplicate content / page speed / mobile ready / link analysis, should all be included in a thorough audit). Some audits are free, however you should be prepared to spend anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 on a serious audit. EverSpark Interactive offers an audit here – but feel free to look around and find one that your comfortable with.
  2. Then fix the problems  – depending on how bad your problems are, you could spend anywhere from $500 to $10,000 on getting everything fixed. For instance if you have a Google Penalty resulting from 10,000 spammy inbound links then that kind of fix can take 60-90 days with an outreach program before submitting to Google for a ‘reconsideration request’.
  3. Make sure all of your Google My Business (Google Maps) are claimed and clean – claiming your listing is quite straight forward, it’s the ‘clean’ part that can be challenging. If you don’t know how to research this and then do something about it (using such local tools as Google My Business + Whitespark.ca) then you’ll want to hire a ‘Local Search’ expert. This doesn’t have to be a long term contract, just be very specific and let them know that all you need done is to research your local presence for Google My Business, make sure there are no duplicate listings, perform reclamations (if necessary) and advise on a citation building strategy – this should take no longer than 3 months with a smaller number of ongoing citations being built after that.

What we mean by ‘skinning the cat a different way’.

If you are a Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer, then go ahead and optimize your home page for that term. It is, after all, what you do. However, there’s a very good chance you won’t top rank for that term until you have many years under your belt, thousands of pages indexed on Google and a mature and powerful link profile.

Remember those 10 designed pages you wrote for those long tail keyword phrases – these are also the same pages that you should focus on for organic rankings. The same elements that make a page convert, will tend to be what makes a page top rank. However, you need to go a little further, just having the pages up, won’t necessarily make other sites link to them so you have to engage these 2 additional steps.

  1. Add more content (via your blog)  – you need to research this first, find out what your target market is talking about. There are many ways to do this, some of your options are listed below:
  1. Develop a specific link building strategy.  Again, if you don’t know how to link build or the difference between ‘good links’ and ‘bad links’ then this is something you’ll need to hire an agency or professional to do for you. (more on this topic below).

Click here for Part 2.

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