Law Firm SEO Experts – Hire the Team That’s Obsessed With Rankings in Google
We know what it’s like.
You’re ready to take your firm to the next level. All you need is for the phone to start ringing.
And you’ve done everything that you’ve been told to do to raise your site to the top of the search results. You’ve listened to the so-called gurus, and might have even spent big bucks on SEO companies that promised quick results.
But when you look at the search results and see how much better your competitors are doing, all you can do is ask yourself why they’re winning and you’re not.
We get it.
We know what it’s like to know how much better you could be doing with a little more resources, a little more knowledge, a little more time.
That’s why we’re here. And that’s why we want to give you the exact game plan that you need to succeed – free.
If you are willing to invest some time watching a tailor-made audit of your site that you can view at your leisure, we’ll show you what makes Black Fin different.
We’ll show you that we can promise and deliver when we claim that we know what actually moves the needle with SEO for lawyers. Regardless of what you choose to do next, you’ll be left with this recording of our free consultation, including some smart, actionable ideas for growing your business.
“I have been in the internet advertising game for over 15 years. During that time, I have hired and fired at least 6 SEO/SEM companies. Luckily, my search is over. Black Fin is by far the BEST company I have used. EVERY SINGLE PERSON I have dealt with from Day 1 has been super-knowledgeable, as well as professional, courteous and friendly. My questions (and I have a lot of them), are ALWAYS answered beyond my satisfaction in a very quick manner, and someone is always available. Most importantly is that Black Fin has grown my business exponentially. They not only designed 2 beautiful website for me, but they have managed my PPC campaigns VERY effectively and cost-efficiently. I cannot say enough about this company, other than that I am happy I need look no further.”
“Black Fin is a powerful partner to improve your Firm’s web presence, credibility, and get new business. I’ve worked with several other companies who claim to get results and, only now, since working with Black Fin have we actually gotten solid results.”
“We have been using Black Fin more than a year for both SEO and web design. We appreciate their responsiveness to our requests and questions. They have been a pleasure to work with.”
Examples of Our Results
Below you will find just a few examples of the types of results that we have been able to generate for our clients.
The Truth About Law Firm SEO Marketing
Attorneys go to law school. Doctors go to medical school. SEO experts just have to 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 a used car salesman in a bad suit, just looking to sell at any cost? Unfortunately, there are tens of thousands of bad SEO professionals and hundreds who claim to specialize in legal marketing.
They are doing any one or all of the following:
- Using outdated tactics.
- Violating search marketing guidelines.
- Outsourcing all of 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 for lawyers is hard. Every part of SEO is hard:
- Staying on top of Google’s algorithm changes.
- Understanding new SEO technology.
- Accurately analyzing results and outcomes.
- Creating affordable and manageable SEO strategies.
- Coming up with better plans than the competition.
- Actually executing those plans.
The truth is that SEO is time-consuming and difficult and baffling. There’s no playbook. There’s no magic bullet. There’s only hard work and smart analysis and sensible innovation.That’s what I’ve learned and that’s what I offer to my clients.
Anyone who tells you different is in a bad suit, trying to sell you a lemon.
What’s Your Firm’s SEO Problem?
- You hired a “Law Firm SEO expert,” but you simply aren’t seeing any results. Just like with the last “expert” you hired.
- You are extremely busy running a successful, high-pressure law firm and don’t have time to update your website, let alone keep up with the SEO world.
- You’ve delegated SEO and marketing tasks to different members of your staff, but you don’t have an overall winning strategy. You’re constantly playing catch-up with the competition, and you aren’t getting results.
- You are blindly throwing handfuls of money at your website and SEO issues, but it just isn’t helping.
- You’re trying to utilize lawyer SEO tricks that you’ve read about on the web, but you’re not getting traffic; or, worse yet: You’re getting penalized by Google.
- You’ve searched for SEO help on the web, but you aren’t sure who to trust anymore.
- Your website was doing great, but suddenly you’ve been penalized by Google and your traffic and calls have almost stopped completely.
The Black Fin Solution: The Art & Science of Lawyer SEO
I grew up in an entrepreneurial home where good processes and systems were highly valued. I’ve also learned, through my last seven years working in SEO, that there’s also a highly creative, unquantifiable element to search engine success.
I’ve dedicated my career and my company to finding an efficient SEO system for attorneys that produces predictable results. I’ve found that the solution that works – and the solution that continues to work despite changes to the Google algorithm and other evolutions in online marketing – is a blend of art and science. We give our clients logical, time-tested strategies and solutions. But we are also constantly innovating, creating, and experimenting, based on the individual needs of our clients and the changing landscape of SEO.
And although we have a system in place, we aren’t slapping together hamburgers here at Black Fin. We’re optimizing websites thoughtfully and thoroughly. Google is making more than 150 changes to their algorithm per year. New technology is always coming out. Every client has different SEO needs. A better analogy would be that we’re making hamburgers where the lettuce, cheese, pickles, and mustard are all alive and running wild. As crazy as that sounds, we have developed a great process for creating those types of hamburgers. And they taste pretty good.
So, what is that system?
We’ve broken our SEO program into three parts: Month One, Month Two, and Innovative Maintenance.
A successful SEO campaign must start with a strong foundation. The foundation is your website. Your website is where your traffic is directed, where high-quality content lives, and where your clients first connect with you, your firm, and your brand. Our first month is spent optimizing the code and content of your site. This includes:
- Making sure your images are optimized for both SEO and loading speed.
- Fixing all indexing problems.
- Making sure that your title tags and header tags are optimized, but not too similar.
- Ensuring that internal links are set up on all practice areas.
- Checking Google Page Speed insights for areas of opportunity.
- Analyzing and updating your website content.
- And about 45 others things that you don’t need to worry about right now.
The bottom line: We want to make sure that the technical aspects of your website don’t hold back your actual marketing campaigns. We want to quickly solve the most basic, but most vital, issues with your website and make absolutely ensure that:
- Your website looks good and is well organized for users.
- Your website scans well when it comes to search engines.
- Your website loads quickly.
- Your website is filled with useful, optimized high-quality content.
During the second month, our goal is to build the authority of your brand, your website and you, the attorney. Some people still think that SEO is all about stuffing pages with keywords. The truth is that the things we do to your website account for only 30 percent of Google’s algorithm. The remaining 70 percent are things we do off your website.
Here are just ten things that we do to build your authority, on and off the web:
- Write and distribute press releases
- Claim and verify local citations and directory listings
- Set up and manage social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)
- Secure high-end directory links like BOTW.org and Business.com
- Set up website sponsorships
- Secure and publish high-end guest posts (We’ve been featured on Mint.com, BusinessInsider.com and others)
- Write magazine-style article posts (e.g., Examiner.com)
- Create case studies based upon data from Google Consumer Surveys
- Create highly shareable infographics
- Develop scholarships that are pitched to colleges to garner high-quality .edu links
In addition, we make sure that you are up and running correctly on Google+ Local. This online platform for local business is huge. From verifying your listing, to optimization, to cleaning up old citations, to creating new citations, it’s an enormous undertaking – but, it’s essential to SEO success. Not only is Google’s organic algorithm now dependent on Maps, but many of your ideal clients will look for your services using local search.
As we move forward with your website and SEO strategies, we’ll continue to work on all of the projects listed above. Our main goal is the same: Build your authority, both with search engines and within your community. This involves seven different pillars:
- Strong Structure. Make sure that nothing on your site will prevent you from ranking in the future
- High-Quality Content. Optimize for both SEO and conversions
- Trust. Ensure conversion elements are in place
- Thought Leadership. Blog to gain influence, links, and trust
- Authority Development. Link-building and website promotion
- Preeminence. Rank YouTube videos, Facebook, and Yelp profiles in Google
- Social clout. Make sure that your brand is building trust on social media websites
It is vital to understand that “maintenance” doesn’t mean blindly making updates and going along with the same program that you’ve always had. SEO changes every day. Some of these changes are huge. In addition, there is always room for innovation and creativity in SEO. Although we will always focus on the seven general building blocks listed above, our ongoing SEO campaigns are dynamic, ever changing, and forward thinking.
How Long is This Going to Take?
Building a well-optimized website and establishing your law firm as an authority can take time, as does fixing a website that is out of date or that has been “optimized by SEO gurus.” But the truth is, it really depends on the authority of your current web presence and how long you’ve been online.
Generally speaking, it takes about 6-8 months for a brand new website to generate results in Google. Established websites can take 3-5 months to start generating results, depending on the tactics from the last SEO company and how aggressive and thorough your campaign is.
How Much is All of this Going to Cost?
This is one of the many ways that we’re different from the competition. We aren’t going to give you the runaround when it comes to price. We have SEO plans that start at $750 per month and go up to $20,000 per month. Most clients pay about $1,500 per month. We work with law firms of all sizes and will work with you to develop a strategy that fits your budget and your needs.
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:
- Maps/Google My Business SEO – This is crucially important these days.
- Content Optimization – Making sure your content is optimized so Google can categorize your website properly.
- Site Structure – This includes things like site speed and crawlability so Google can find all of your web pages.
- 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 law firm 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
- Family Law/Divorce Lawyers
- Financial Fraud Lawyers
- IP Litigation Lawyers
- …and many more
We can help just about any firm, regardless of market size.
When it comes to keywords, search engines used to take things very literally. If you were interested in ranking for a certain practice of law in a certain city, using “___________ city ________ attorney” in the headline, subheadings, the body copy and metadata was a surefire way to make sure your page ranked well.Unlike the old days of SEO, the practice of “keyword stuffing” is no longer rewarded by search engines. There’s simply no point of stuffing your web pages with keywords that you hope to rank for, and it will likely lead to your site getting penalized.
Google and other search engines recognized that “Rhode Island auto accident attorney” and other phrases like it aren’t phrases that readers like to see in your content over and over.
A good rule of thumb when thinking about the content of your web pages is that if your readers won’t like it, Google probably won’t like it either. While that wasn’t the case a few years ago, the technology and algorithms that Google uses to optimize search have become ultra-sophisticated in recent years.
To think of Google’s technologies as free-thinking robots wouldn’t be very farfetched. Its algorithm values high-quality content that is useful and readable, just as readers do. That means the level and quality of your writing and diction needs to be high.
This isn’t to say that keywords don’t matter. Keywords definitely matter. However, with latent semantic indexing (LSI – basically a fancy term for synonyms), you don’t need to stuff your page with keywords for Google to recognize what your page is about.
In other words, a thesaurus is better than a broken record. But that doesn’t mean you should start “synonym stuffing” either. When writing content for your site, simply think like a reader. What would you want to read if you were in need of an attorney?
Would you rather read a keyword-stuffed headline that doesn’t make much sense or a headline that reads like an actual person wrote it?
We promise that people will click on and appreciate what feels human more often. And at the end of the day, that’s the end goal: to attract relevant search users who are looking for the service you provide.
Most people have probably heard that you can boost your search rankings by having other websites link back to your own.This is a true statement, but it should be noted that sites with the highest QUANTITY of referral links won’t always beat those that have the highest QUALITY.
Quality has to do with a number of factors, but generally refers to how legitimate a website is in the eyes of Google. If a very legitimate site links to your site, then some of that “link juice” trickles down to your rankings as well. On the other hand, if you’ve got a lot of low quality sites linking back to your site, that negative standing in search engines could impact your site in the other direction.
Google also places a heavy emphasis on the relevance of the websites that link to yours.
That means that your friend who owns a hair salon two towns away who’s linked to your personal injury practice webpage 15 times might actually be hurting your chances of ranking well instead of helping it, especially if your friend’s website comes off as spammy to Google.
Most people would probably ask themselves, “What does a hair salon have to do with personal injury law?” Similarly, Google might ask the same question. There may be completely reasonable times in which a hair salon links to a law firm’s site. Maybe that law firm just helped them deal with a break in?
While relevance is a very important part of quality backlinks, there is no specific number of irrelevant links that will get your site penalized. The quality of a link profile is difficult to diagnose. Unless a link is from a spam website, you might not be able to tell what is a good link vs. a bad link. As always, having an experienced SEO team on your side will help you sift through the high quality and low quality backlinks. You can read more about our law firm SEO link building strategies in our FAQ section here.
Paying for links from link farms to send traffic to your site isn’t worth your time or your money (nor was it worth your money 5 years ago), but buying links can work well for you, depending on the kind of links that you buy.The fact of the matter is that you can buy links on Forbes, Inc., Huffington Post, or any other website. You can also buy old law firm websites, restore them, and then link to your own site from them. Some SEO agencies will try to scare clients by saying, “Never buy backlinks,” but if you work with somebody who understands which links make sense to purchase and which links are best to avoid, it’s not a risky practice.
The best way to think about paying for backlinks is by thinking about your ROI. Having backlinks from a big site like ESPN with a lot of established credibility on the web might sound appealing, but putting the same amount of money into an outreach campaign run by people who know what they’re doing will ultimately do more good for your rankings.
Bottom line, if you’re going to buy backlinks, know what backlinks you are buying and why.
Note: None of this includes pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, which is its own thing entirely. A well put together PPC campaign can be incredibly effective for attorneys and is an important part of internet marketing strategy.
In addition to PPC, press releases are another part of marketing strategy that need some clarification. While you can still utilize press releases effectively for SEO strategy, using a “press release farm” isn’t very distinguishable to Google from buying a link outright, which is why they’ve flagged certain PR-heavy websites. When the content and hyperlinks of your press releases are organic and hosted on relevant, high-quality domains, however, they can be a great tool for helping your search rankings.
Anchor text is composed of the clickable underlined words in links on a webpage. Many websites use some pretty shady tactics with their anchor text, including:
- Putting non-relevant words to the page you’re linking to.
- Putting anchor text at the bottom of a page or using tiny font to bury it.
- Inserting an excessive amount of internal links on one webpage.
- Keyword stuffing, or putting too many words in anchor text.
- Writing content that reads poorly or lacks good flow.
Remember, trying to manipulate users or search engines is generally bad SEO practice. For the most part, you can completely ignore anchor text. The easiest way to tell that somebody has hired an SEO agency is to look at their anchor text profile.
The likelihood of 3 independent websites, without being told to, all link back to your firm’s site with “NYC wrongful death attorney” is very low. Usually, a person would spell out New York City, use the word “lawyer,” or search “NYC attorney” without a practice area.
By having these phrases in your anchor text, you’re giving away the fact that you’re trying to game the system.
If you’re blogging just for SEO, stop blogging.We’ve all heard the phrase “Content is King” so much that maybe, sometimes, we miss the point of content completely.
Don’t get us wrong, content IS king and having a well-put together blog is great, but there are certain ways of utilizing content that can actually have a negative impact on your SEO.
For a long time, we saw law firms and attorneys post all sorts of content on their blogs, from celebrity gossip to how to change a tire. The thinking was that, by engaging an audience with content they might regularly read, the blog would bring extra traffic to the site.
Unfortunately for those blogs, most people don’t care about a lawyer’s opinion on any subject that is not related to the law. And perhaps more importantly, people searching for non-legal content on the web have no interest in your law firm or finding an attorney. So why would you waste your time trying to get their attention?
Effective law firm blogging can be very healthy for your site and actually help improve your search rankings. By blogging about topics relevant to your firm’s practice, you’ll attract people that are legitimately searching for legal help to your website.
For the most part, legal ethics issues don’t arise from SEO, especially when you work with an agency that works specifically with law firms and attorneys. Each word that is on your website is your firm’s responsibility, regardless of who you are working with. At Black Fin, we make getting the details right our highest priority so that those legal ethical issues don’t enter the picture.There are times, however, when legal ethics issues do arise due to lack of experience or knowledge on the part of the SEO agency. For lawyers, two words that seem to mean the same thing in everyday conversation often have vastly different legal implications. In the world of SEO, agencies that don’t specifically work with law firms and attorneys might not understand that the intricacies of legal jargon, and those instances might get your firm into trouble.
In other instances, the agency might not understand different state bar regulations for advertising and marketing a law firm, leading the agency to use phrases such as “the best,” “expert,” and “specialist.”
Like many other factors, page load speed does have an effect on how your site ranks in search engines, and it should be addressed so that your site loads as quickly as possible. This does not mean, however, that the site that loads the fastest will always rank the highest in Google (That being said, websites that take longer than 3 seconds to load lose 40-percent of traffic, according to Kissmetrics).Since there are hundreds of factors at play for how a web page ranks in Google, your site should be optimized for all of those factors, some of which may negatively affect your page load speed.
For example, some plugins may promise great features but ultimately just lag your site down more than they’re worth. However, with the proper web design and build, you should be able to find the perfect balance of usability and speed so that your web pages rank well in search engines while not sacrificing user experience.
Looking to the future that emphasizes mobile search, there may be changes to the page speed algorithm to better suit the speed at which pages load on mobile devices.
Keyword density has remained a topic of discussion in the SEO world simply because it used to be a factor in ranking well for different keywords. These days, however, keyword density doesn’t have the same impact that it used to. In fact, it may have an adverse effect.In the last 10 years, search engines have become incredibly sophisticated, with algorithms that go far beyond simply recognizing certain keywords on a page. Search engines can now ascertain exactly what it is your website is for without any obvious direction. If they see that you have an office in Atlanta and you’re offering legal services for people with personal injuries, that’ll be enough for them to recognize you as an “Atlanta personal injury attorney” even if that phrase never makes an appearance on your page.
Of course, keywords make sense to have on your page in a number of instances, but the name of the game is making sure that they appear naturally as opposed to forcing them in at every instance possible.
When done right, a solid blog can prove to be one of the best and most effective elements of your site for improving your search rankings. But blogging correctly means knowing how often to post new content to that blog, and that answer is dependant on a couple of factors, such as your area of practice, your location, what sort of clients you target, how often your competitors update their blogs, and how often things change in your legal field.While blogging more is generally better, making sure there is always purpose behind your blog posts is always the most important factor. Nothing helps your blog more than providing your audience with content that is relevant to them, but only if you prioritize quality above quantity. For most markets, we recommend posting once a week.
There are no standard “hat” practices in SEO.There are tactics that “white hat” SEOs use that other “white hat” SEOs say are “black hat” tactics. There are tactics known as “gray hat” SEO. When somebody identifies him or herself as a “white hat” SEO or “black hat” SEO, there’s no way of telling what sort of tactics he or she uses.
What a lot of SEO comes down to, and the spectrum of “white hat” to “black hat,” is people that like to follow the rules that Google lays out against people who like to try to get around those rules. Generally, “black hat” SEO refers to the people who try to get around those rules and use practices that cause penalties. “White hat” SEO, in contrast, is generally made up of the people who follow Google’s rules and are less likely to be penalized for their tactics.
Google doesn’t want you to focus on SEO. Google wants you to rely on creating high-quality content for your law firm’s website.
If an SEO company is promising you immediate page 1 rankings, chances are they’re employing tactics Google doesn’t like or they’re lying to you. Following Google’s rules (for the most part…) takes longer, but it’s generally the safer bet for a business taking a reasonable, long-term approach to finding success online.
While backlinks can be a huge help for SEO, sometimes there are instances in which you want to disavow the websites that have linked back to your pages. Maybe an agency you were working with was getting links from shady sources, or maybe a rival firm was trying to sabotage your rankings.Whatever the reason, link disavowal can prove to be a useful tool in ensuring the sites linking back to yours are of high quality. Google provides a detailed description of how to disavow links, but its very complex and we highly recommend that you have an experienced SEO agency help you with the process. In addition, to disavow backlinks, you must be the owner of your law firm’s website.
Learn the Art & Science of Law Firm Search Marketing. Partner with Black Fin.
Here is the Black Fin guarantee:
- We will get to know your law firm, your unique SEO needs, and what makes you different from the competition.
- From Day One, we will take solid, proven actions to make your website optimized and your law firm more successful.
- We will track our success and regularly share our concrete, objective results with you.
- We will continue to be passionate about SEO innovation and the SEO system that we have developed for attorneys over the last 10 years.
- We will be upfront, honest, and straightforward about our services, our prices, and our promises.
Updated: November 14, 2017
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