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SEO Basics for Attorneys: What You MUST Know, Even if You Outsource the Work

You can be the most skilled, dedicated attorney in your field. You might have a sterling reputation within the legal community, secure brilliant outcomes for your clients, and possess an in-depth understanding of the law’s intricacies. But if your website remains lost in the vast expanse of the internet, your expertise may as well be invisible. Sadly, many attorneys pour money into marketing campaigns but neglect the power of SEO. As a result, potential clients with urgent legal needs simply never find them.

Understanding the core principles of search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t just about gaining a technical advantage. It’s about empowering yourself to make informed decisions regarding your firm’s online presence. With a basic grasp of how search engines function, you’ll be able to protect yourself from ineffective, or even damaging, practices that some less-than-reputable SEO firms engage in. This knowledge maximizes your marketing investment and ensures your firm consistently attracts qualified leads organically. You can learn more here about SEO for attorneys in our guide, so keep on reading.

Decoding the Search Engine Algorithm

Imagine search engines like Google as a massive, endlessly curious librarian. Their goal is to provide the most useful, relevant information to people asking questions (typing in searches). To do this, they index billions of websites, sorting and “reading” your content to figure out what you’re truly an expert in. Understanding this process is key to ensuring your law firm’s website gets recommended in the right searches.

Keywords are foundational to SEO, but it goes deeper than simply inserting variations on “divorce attorney” into your content. It’s about understanding the intent behind searches. Someone typing in “how to file for divorce myself” isn’t looking to hire a lawyer. But someone searching “contested divorce + my state” is far more likely to need your services. SEO tools help you identify those high-value keywords relevant to your specific practice areas.

Think of links from other websites to your own as votes of confidence. A link from your local Bar Association carries more weight than a link buried in a spammy online directory. Backlinks function as endorsements. When reputable sites link to your content, search engines see this as a signal that you’re a trusted authority on the topic.

User experience may sound like a techy buzzword, but it has real-world consequences for your law firm’s website. Slow-loading pages, especially on mobile devices, increase abandonment rates. If your site’s design makes it hard for potential clients to find your phone number or practice area information, they will click away in frustration. Search engines notice these behaviors and see them as signals that your site isn’t providing a good experience, which hurts your rankings as a result.

Common SEO Mistakes That Hurt Law Firm Rankings

The law is complex. You spent years studying intricate legal nuances, not deciphering Google algorithms. Yet, the way your website is structured and the content you provide has a profound impact on your ability to attract clients. One well-intentioned but uninformed tweak to your website can have a ripple effect, causing your search rankings to plummet. Let’s look at a few of the most common issues.

Perhaps you’ve heard that regularly updating your site signals to search engines that it’s relevant. In an effort to stay fresh, you copy an informative blog post about a recent change in case law and add it to multiple sections of your website. Seems logical, but search engines see this as duplicate content. It can make them think your site is low-quality and less deserving of a high ranking.

In the past, shady SEO firms used manipulative tactics to try to game the system. Keyword stuffing, where you cram a page full of “personal injury lawyer + city name” might have briefly worked way back when, but now gets you penalized. Similarly, purchasing links from low-quality sites does more harm than good. Today’s search engines value quality over quantity.

Technical SEO issues often lurk unseen by lawyers themselves. A missing sitemap makes it difficult for search engines to understand how your pages are connected, impacting the overall indexing. Complex website code created by DIY website builders can negatively impact load speeds. These seemingly small things add up, and you may end up completely invisible to those potential clients searching for the very services you provide.

“I’m a Lawyer, Not a Web Developer” – When to Hire Out

SEO, at its most effective, involves a certain level of technical detail. Unless you’re a lawyer with a passion for coding and keeping tabs on Google algorithm updates, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed trying to DIY. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to outsource! However, it’s important to recognize that seeking outside help transforms from a luxury into a necessity.

Stagnant growth in terms of attracting clients through your website is a red flag. If you haven’t seen your numbers budge in months, despite creating blog content or updating things yourself, that’s a good sign you might be inadvertently engaging in practices that hurt your visibility. Similarly, a sudden drop in search rankings should set off alarm bells. This often points to either an algorithm change you missed or a competitor stepping up their SEO game.

Speaking of competitors, if firms who weren’t outranking you consistently start to surge ahead, this warrants investigating what they’re doing differently. Sometimes, even a small, expertly implemented, SEO campaign can have a big impact. Trying to reverse-engineer their strategy on your own is likely to be an exercise in frustration.

Finding the right SEO partner for your firm requires due diligence. Look for firms that specialize in working with attorneys. They’ll understand the unique nuances of legal marketing and ethical considerations. Ask for case studies! These prove they have a track record of getting law firms results, not just generic rankings boosts. Agencies with a deep understanding of your specific needs, like those at Grow Law Firm, can often identify opportunities for improvement that a generalist SEO firm would completely overlook. 

What You Should STILL Know, Even with an SEO Team

Hiring an experienced SEO firm specializing in the legal field is a wise investment. However, this doesn’t mean you can completely wash your hands of everything related to your online presence. To ensure the partnership is successful, it’s essential to maintain a basic level of understanding about what’s happening behind the technical optimization and link-building campaigns.

Be wary of anyone promising immediate page-one search rankings. SEO is a long-term strategy. Solid, sustainable results take time to build. While experienced firms can certainly expedite the process, those guaranteeing overnight success are likely engaging in tactics that could get your site penalized by search engines, undoing their work and damaging your long-term potential for attracting organic leads.

Reporting from your SEO team is crucial. However, avoid getting dazzled by vanity metrics alone. Sure, seeing your site rank higher is exciting, but what truly matters are conversions. Dig into the data. Are those higher rankings actually translating into more phone calls or form submissions from potential clients? Understanding those key performance indicators (KPIs) helps you assess the real value of the SEO work being done.

Remember, you are the legal expert! SEO specialists have the knowledge to get your content in front of the right people, but they rely on you to provide substance. Work collaboratively with your team, creating relevant blog posts, practice area summaries, and answers to FAQs. This type of high-quality content not only establishes your authority but provides the foundation that your SEO firm can then optimize further.

DIY SEO Wins for Attorneys

Even if you’ve decided to outsource the more complex aspects of SEO, there are still proactive steps you can take to improve your online visibility. Start with claiming and optimizing your business profiles on platforms like Google Business, Yelp, and other directories relevant to your niche and location. Ensure your name, address, and phone number (NAP) are identical across all listings. This consistency is crucial for local SEO, allowing people searching for “[your practice area] lawyer near me” to easily find you.

Reviews hold immense power, not just for convincing potential clients to choose you, but for SEO purposes. While you cannot offer incentives in exchange for reviews, you absolutely can ask satisfied clients to leave one on Google or other relevant platforms. Fresh, authentic reviews signal to search engines that you’re an active, reputable business.

Don’t be afraid to link out to credible sources within your website’s content. Incorporating links to relevant government websites (.gov), bar association pages, or even reputable news articles about changes in the law all contribute to building topical authority. Search engines see these outbound links as a sign that you prioritize providing accurate, well-supported information – a hallmark of a trustworthy site. As a bonus, if you find an excellent resource, use the link to it on your own site, enriching the experience for the potential client.


In the realm of digital marketing, SEO ignorance is a costly disadvantage, even for the most brilliant attorneys. Without a fundamental understanding of how search engines operate, it’s impossible to make strategic decisions that maximize your firm’s growth potential. Whether choosing to build an in-house marketing team, engage with a specialized SEO agency, or employ a hybrid approach, having this foundational knowledge allows you to remain actively involved.

Understanding even the basics of SEO empowers you. You’ll be able to ask the right questions, interpret analytics reports clearly, and avoid falling prey to the empty promises sometimes made by less reputable SEO firms. This knowledge helps you invest your marketing dollars wisely, ensuring consistent lead generation through organic search traffic.

If you’re unsure where your law firm’s website stands in terms of optimization, take advantage of our offer for a free website audit. Visit website and learn how targeted SEO strategies can attract the right clients and help solidify your firm’s reputation as a leader in your field.