Why Black Fin Is the Leader in Law Firm SEO: An Attorney’s Guide to the Galaxy of Law Firm SEO

I probably don’t have to convince you that your law firm’s Google rank matters. We probably aren’t even the first attorney marketing team you’ve dealt with.

You already know the internet is where clients and cases from in 2017.

But you also know most web marketing agencies are, well, awful.

Clients are constantly telling me about the terrible agencies they fired before they hired us. They’re flaky. They use tactics from 2012. Their bills are big but their results don’t match. And they can’t answer your questions (or the phone, for that matter).

Perhaps you’re ready for a different experience?

My name is Gerrid Smith, and I’m the CEO at Black Fin, the #1-ranked law firm SEO company on Google.

The story of how we got there is a long one, and I’ll share a reader-friendly version of it below. But fundamentally, it’s the story of any service provider able to actually make a difference for its clients — the story of hard work, hard-earned knowledge, and a commitment to kicking ass.

I don’t want you to hire us because we promise to make a difference. I want you to hire us because you believe we will. And on this page, I’m going to make that case. I’ll explain how attorney SEO works, why you’ve had issues in the past, and how we can help.

More importantly, I hope you’ll walk away with an understanding of why I am, what my company does, and why we’re a choice you can trust.

There’s a lot of information on this page, but think of it this way: if your law firm’s SEO and digital marketing is the thing that drives clients your way, is there anything more important to your bottom line?

Long Story Short(-ish): How We Became the Top-Ranked Law Firm SEO Company

I started in this business about twelve years ago, but back then I was merely a student (and a geek). I knew I wanted to become an SEO expert, but the entry to that market wasn’t clear. All I really knew was what my father told me: you have to give your career 110% for it ever to succeed — even if that means nights and weekends.

I went to every SEO seminar and training summit on my side of the Mississippi, pouring myself into the art and science of organic search marketing. And eventually, I created an online attorney directory. It quickly became the largest personal injury lawyer directory in the world.

But here’s the thing — I hated selling simple directory listings. In fact, I hated having to sell anything over the phone. It felt slimy.

The call that changed my life, though, was one where I was the buyer. The man I dialed owned a domain name I desperately wanted for my directory.

“What do you want to do with your directory?” he asked. “And how much do you think my domain name is worth.”

Clearly, I hadn’t read The Art of the Deal, because I put all my cards on the table. In great detail, I laid out my vision for the future, and I admitted his domain was worth a lot more than $1,000… but I was 20 years old and that was all I had.

“Keep your money,” he told me. “My son’s an attorney. Give his firm $1k worth of SEO services instead, and you can have the name.”

I improved that firm’s ranking in 30 days and found my calling.

Black Fin followed. And that man’s son’s firm is still among our clients. We help them capture hundreds of new cases — online alone — every year.

The Wisdom of Will Ferrell

“If you’re not first, you’re last.”

I might have heard that quote in Talladega Nights, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful. In six words, it sums up the biggest challenge in law firm SEO.

Google now displays four Pay-Per-Click ads — followed by three map listings — all before anyone can see what we used to call the “top hit.”

So even if you’re ranking at #1, you’re really #8. That’s a new wrinkle in the SEO fabric, and it has totally changed the game — both for marketers like me and for lawyers like you.

The Truth About Law Firm SEO

Attorneys take the bar exam. Doctors complete a residency. Even hairstylists have to get a license.

But SEO experts can just create a website and call themselves SEO experts. How can you possibly tell the professionals from the phonies? Is the whole industry as spammy as it seems? Is every SEO “professional” really the basement-dwelling equivalent of a used car salesman?

Unfortunately, there are tens of thousands of bad SEO professionals out there, and hundreds of them claim to specialize in legal marketing. But here’s the truth about what they’re doing:

  • Using outdated tactics
  • Violating search marketing guidelines
  • Outsourcing all their SEO services – and I mean all of them – from strategy to execution
  • Using the same tired SEO plan for every client, no matter what the client’s needs are
  • Cashing your checks without producing results

Every week at work, I hear a different “SEO expert” horror story from a client. And guess what? I understand why.

I’m not going to lie. SEO is hard. Every part of SEO is hard:

  • Staying on top of Google’s always-in-flux algorithms
  • Understanding new SEO technology
  • Accurately analyzing results and outcomes
  • Creating affordable and realistic SEO strategies
  • Coming up with better plans than the competition
  • Actually executing all of the above.

There is no playbook. No magic bullet. There’s only hard work and smart strategy. That’s what I’ve learned, and that’s what I offer our clients.

5 Reasons to Choose Black Fin for Your Firm’s Search Marketing Campaign

  1. #1 for Years – We’ve been able to rank our own website and many of our clients’ at the top of Google. Why couldn’t we rank yours?
  2. Transparent Reporting – You should be able to understand our reports, how you’re improving, and what we’ve completed for you in the previous month.
  3. Focused On Your Needs – We only give you what you need. We aren’t desperate to sell you as much as possible. We’re here to serve your interests, not the other way around. And our monthly reports should reflect that.
  4. Nationally Recognized – We’ve won awards, we’re the top result for “Lawyer SEO” all over the country, and our CEO is frequently featured and quoted in our industry’s most respected publications.
  5. We eat, breathe, and sleep SEO for Lawyers – It’s been our core competency for 10 years. Gerrid Smith is frankly obsessed with it. That’s the only reason we’re able to deliver the results we do.

I See You as People

In the online services industry, there’s a tendency for us all to see each other as email addresses. But I’m a real person and you are too. So are the many bright professionals working in your firm — and at our agency. And so are the clients you fight to serve every day. They deserve the best and so do you.

My passion is to help people. Our business hasn’t always grown as quickly as some of our competitors precisely because I am totally committed to giving my clients their money’s worth.

Every time I bring a new member aboard the Black Fin team, I make that same mission clear to them. This is about you, the client. You only hire us for one reason: to get you results. So we’re going to get you results. And if we don’t, I don’t expect you to continue on with us.
That’s why we don’t ask for long-term contracts, and we’ll never send you a monthly report or a bill that doesn’t make sense.

That’s why we don’t ask for long-term contracts, and we’ll never send you a monthly report or a bill that doesn’t make sense.

At Black Fin, we’re people helping people, and I want us to help you. I believe that when you see your clients as people — and when you really care about those people — excellence follows. Especially when that care is coupled with real experience and know-how.

An FAQ with Attorney SEO Veteran, Gerrid Smith

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the art and science of ranking web pages in the organic section of the search results.


For simplicity sake, because there are over 250 factors in Google’s algorithm, Google is primarily looking at relevancy and authority.

Relevancy is all the things — both on your site and off — that tell Google your site is relevant for a particular niche. If you’re a personal injury lawyer, what are the things on your site that tell Google you’re an injury lawyer? Aside of the fact that you reference it on your site, you probably have pages on your site that target medical malpractice, dog bites, car accidents, and slip and fall injuries, which are common on many PI sites across the country. Google looks specifically for a theme on your site, so if you tell them “I’m a personal injury lawyer,” they will actually look for the car accident page to make sure you really are.

Authority is much trickier to build. Think of relevancy as a bucket. All of the personal injury lawyers in your market are in a single bucket because they all include works like “your city,” “personal injury,” “car accidents,” etc. on their website. With maybe 100 competitors in the bucket, how does Google determine which site should rank first, second, third, etc.? They are primarily going to look at authority, which involves the number and quality of websites that link to your website. If you have 50 quality websites that link to you and your top competitors have 25 websites linking to their site, your site will likely rise to the top of the bucket. Again, there’s a lot that goes into ranking a site, but that’s the simplified version.

The next level analogy I use is that there are four primary pillars for any SEO campaign:

  1. Maps/Google My Business SEO – This is crucially important these days.
  2. Content Optimization – Making sure your content is optimized so Google can categorize your website properly.
  3. Site Structure – This includes things like site speed and crawlability so Google can find all of your web pages.
  4. Link Building – Getting quality sites to link back to you.

Generally speaking, we like to tackle the first three points in months 1-3 as that really sets the foundation for the site. From there, we focus on increasing your domain authority by getting other quality sites to link to yours.

Here are some other factors Google may consider for your attorney SEO campaign:

  • The age of your domain name.
  • How long your domain name has had a live website.
  • How much time people spend on your website.
  • If people quickly bounce off of your website and back to the search results.
  • How many times you mention your keywords on your web page (more isn’t necessarily better).
  • How many related/LSI keywords you use on your web pages.
  • How many local directory listings you have.
  • How those directories use your firm’s Name, Address and Phone number (NAP) and how consistent it is across all the directories, your website, and your Google My Business listing.
  • The length of your content.
  • The grade-level of your content.
  • If your content was written for users: use of bullet points, small paragraphs, lots of sub-headings, etc.

First off, the price you pay depends generally on two factors:

  • The strength of your competitors
  • The strength of your own website

Let’s say you had an estate planning firm in Cleveland, OH. If you ranked #3 in Google for “Cleveland estate planning lawyer,” I may bid $750/month on your campaign, whereas if you were just getting started and had no history in Google, I may have to charge more like $3,500/month for the campaign.

Most of the reputable companies I respect charge a minimum of $1,500 for smaller cities and upwards of $7,500-$10,000/month for larger cities. On an hourly basis you can expect to pay between $50-$250/hour. You should never choose a provider simply based upon price. What’s cheaper? A company that charges you $2,500/month that ranks you in six months on the first page of Google, or a company that charges you $1,000/month but you never rank anywhere?

Do you know how you always get those sales emails from SEO companies sharing how many issues your site has? They tell you that everything your current SEO company is doing is all wrong.

Next time that happens, drop the domain name of their site into this tool and you’ll see if they actually know anything about SEO: https://www.semrush.com/

(Screenshot of a tool we use called SEMRush that shows how much traffic a site is receiving each month from search engines. Our client received a sales email from this company and they were claiming to know SEO, even though their own website receives 0 visitors per month in traffic from SEO.)

There’s a number of factors here. Assuming you’ve chosen a quality digital marketing company, I would primarily look at the strength of your competitors and the strength/weakness of your website. If your site has been around for awhile, you have a number of quality sites linking back to you and your competitors are weak, it shouldn’t take long (maybe 3-5 months). But if you’re new and you have strong competitors it can easily take 12+ months to rank.

You have to understand that in 2017, it’s not uncommon for firms to have been doing SEO for 10-15 years. Even the best strategy won’t help you win in the short-term if your competitors are strong. The fact is, you’re probably the new kid on the block and Google already trusts your competitors. Trust is never built overnight.

Over the years we’ve been able to help a wide range of law firms:

  • Personal injury lawyers
  • Criminal defense lawyers
  • Estate planning lawyers
  • Bankruptcy
  • Family Law/Divorce Lawyers
  • Financial Fraud Lawyers
  • IP Litigation Lawyers
  • …and many more

We can help just about any firm, regardless of market size.

Of course, at the end of the day, I believe you’re looking for an agency that can solve a problem for you and produce real results… an agency that you can count on… an agency that reduces the hassle in your life rather than the other way around.

That’s the kind of agency we’ve been for hundreds of law firms that have seen their success grow immensely as a direct result of our passion at Black Fin. And it’s the kind of agency we can be for you too.

-Gerrid Smith, CEO, Black Fin

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"I cannot be happier with Gerrid Smith and Black Fin, and highly recommend their services."

- Seth Gladstein, Gladstein Law Firm

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