Search engines remain a primary driver of new business to solicitors and legal practices.
Unlike much of the other advertising you may be doing, SEO (search engine optimisation) and paid search advertising will always bring motivated clients, that are either close to searching for you or actively are. This ability to specifically target people that would be interested, instead of just hoping audiences are, means less time and resources wasted.
96% of people begin their journey for legal advice with a search engine – you need to be there at the beginning and the end of the journey.
72% only contact one attorney – once they’re in contact, chances are they’ll stay with you for the process.
This piece is going to take you through some of the steps that businesses should take to ensure they grow organic visibility and win new clients from search, focusing specifically on the legal sector.
What is SEO, in a Paragraph (or Two)? Just like you couldn’t teach us the intricacies of soliciting in one article, we can’t do the same with SEO. A quick elevator pitch, though – that we can provide. Nowadays, if you want something, you’ll search for it. Whether it’s directions to a restaurant, prices for a car, recommendations for a new book to read – sites like Google and Bing are there to help you. Search Engine Optimisation, then, is all about getting a website to the top of that results page and turning that interest into traffic and profit. After all, how often do you go to the fifth page when looking at Google results? That is exactly why ranking high is so important to businesses in 2019. You’ve got them at the perfect stage of the buying process – interested enough to search, but not committed enough to no longer need a search engine. You need to capitalise on these people, and you just can’t do that from page five. That’s why, through a process that involves much more than an elevator pitch, SEO is about doing everything you can to get a site ranking on that first page for searches that matter.
What the search landscape looks like for solicitors in 2019
First up, we’ll be walking through the opportunity for solicitors within my local town of Altrincham. To provide some context for the below, Altrincham has a population of 52,419 according to the latest census, with around 40,000 being over 18. This means there are plenty of potential customers for a local solicitor.
The screenshot above is data from a tool called Ahrefs, which all SEO professionals like myself will consider an invaluable tool in their day-to-day work. It collects everything from search volume in a specific country and the backlinks a specific page has, to the keywords a competitor ranks for and trending topics in a certain industry. I’ll reference this throughout the guide, but if you’re interested in finding out more then check them out – it’s pretty impressive stuff!
SEO Jargon Explained – What is a Backlink? A backlink is a link that a site gets from another. So, when we linked to Ahrefs in the paragraph above, that is a backlink to Ahrefs. This is important because Google ranks websites based on two things: relevance and credibility. A backlink is seen as a ‘seal of approval’ in the eyes of Google – as you’d only tend to link to sites that you approve – so the more quality backlinks you get, the more Google considers you credible and the higher up the rankings you go. Relevance is also decided by backlinks from relevant websites, but importantly by the content on the website. If a website often writes about washing machine repairs, Google will consider them for washing machine repair related searches.
So, Ahrefs estimates we have 300 new searches every month for just the term ‘Solicitors Altrincham’. However, it’s worth pointing out this is only data for that exact search. Even making ‘solicitors’ singular would produce different results. This means that there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of ways your clients will look for you locally. The small sample below will help give you an idea:
In 2019, we don’t need to worry about optimising for close variants like ‘Altrincham Solicitors’ and ‘Solicitors Altrincham’, as Google is smart enough to pretty much deliver the same results for both (this wasn’t always the case!). However, these numbers should give you an idea of the potential for even a small town like Altrincham. Across those six search terms, we’ve got over 500 potential customers – imagine a bigger location!
Why is it Important to Rank Locally? Searching for something like “best car of 2018” isn’t limited by location, as a good car in America is likely a good car in England. However, for searches like those interested in solicitors, they will only be interested in local results because they will likely only work with companies that are local. It’s also important to know your own limits. Trying to rank for a broader term like ‘solicitor’ will be difficult because you’ll be swimming in a bigger pond with much bigger fish. Outranking Wikipedia and soliciting companies with essentially a ∞ in their budget column is a fight you don’t need to bother with, so instead, focus on those that you can win by keeping it smaller and local. There are thousands of solicitor companies in the United Kingdom – I’m willing to guess there’s a lot less in your local area. The flexibility of keywords also means that if you are ranking well for solicitor searches related to your local area, then when people search for solicitors and Google detects they are in your area, they will deliver them localised results without them even typing it in. For example, type in ‘printing services’ on Google, and if the site knows where you’re based then they will deliver results based on that. What this means is that, by focusing on ranking well for local terms like ‘Altrincham solicitors’, you can appear in searches for ‘solicitors’ without even having to try and outrank the big names.
The planning stage
Now that we understand the opportunity, we need to plan for it. There are three main types of content we should be building to win new customers:
Awareness is the content that is usually considered ‘top of funnel’, and are often focused around answering a question – the job of all great content.
If you take our local solicitor in Altrincham as an example, this would mean informational queries like ‘How do I resolve a boundary dispute’ if you deal with litigation or ‘How much are solicitors moving house fees’ if you offer conveyancing.
While they are not ready to make a decision yet, they will likely need help soon. Think about it; if you wanted to know how much a flight to Japan was, would you be likely to order a ticket in the next five minutes? This is the stage they’re at.
Ranking well here would be great, but if we only catch them on their first day of being interested in our services and it takes them three weeks to take action, then they may have forgotten about us. It is, therefore, more important to rank for pages focused on the next two stages – consideration and intent – if you’re more focused on customers than something like backlinks or brand awareness.
On the subject of backlinks, this type of informative content has a great chance of earning you some links as they will likely be more article-like in nature. No one will likely share service pages as they aren’t informative and provide little utility to the average reader, but by providing helpful and/or unique content in an article, you could develop some great coverage and see your rankings improve fast. This isn’t ideal for a quick profit but is an important part of playing the long game when it comes to SEO.
Examples of awareness-focused pages may be:
An article titled “How much does it cost to make a will with a solicitor?”
An article titled “What is the approximate fee for a solicitor to do a probate?”
An article titled “What is the difference between a barrister and a solicitor?”
Consideration content is where you’ll commit a large amount of your time initially and aim to earn traffic from visitors that are actively searching for your service. At this point, we expect them to have done some initial research and be confident that they want what they’re searching for. This is where we need to ensure we have content that is aligned to how people search, so it appears high in their results.
One thing we often see solicitors do is create a very general services page which details how they help people with family law, divorce, IP, conveyancing, debt recovery, drink driving, etc – all in one place. This is great as we need to tell people what we do, but most users (and therefore search engines) want a bit more from detail than that. One page dedicated to the type of soliciting they want and discussing it in depth will likely satisfy their needs more than a page which mentions it in just a bullet point along with fifteen other services you provide.
What is the Importance of Satisfying Customer Needs? We mention satisfying search engines above, and what we mean by that is ensuring them that they’re right in ranking us high for whatever term we rank for. It’s not important enough to get it’s own box like this, but the term ‘bounce rate’ refers to the percentage of people that navigate away from a page quickly. This, importantly, suggests dissatisfaction; if Google realises that people are clicking on the first result but instantly leaving the page, this tells them that it is not delivering what the searcher wants and they will drop the website down the rankings. This is why delivering what searchers want to see is so vital, and part of why tricking Google into ranking you high with cheap content is the game of SEO un-professionals.
One of the easiest ways to capture new traffic is to map out all services yourself, research the variants of the service that people care about the most (using the aforementioned Ahrefs or and how they might look for it, then deliver them a tailored page that speaks to your offering.
This may not always be your homepage, as that is often broad since it covers everything you do and you cannot focus on one intent in particular. By one page dedicated to a certain location and task, you can draw traffic looking for exactly what you provide and therefore minimise bounce rate.
Examples of consideration-focused pages may be:
A service page titled “Immigration solicitors in Manchester”
A service page titled “Corporate tax solicitors based in Cambridge”
A service page titled “Personal injury specialist solicitors in Milton Keynes”
Intent pages, in the case of solicitors, will be… well, bigger. You know better than anyone that the service you offer isn’t as simple as just buying a pair of shoes online. It doesn’t begin with them hitting ‘confirm purchase’ and it doesn’t end with you packaging something into a box and sending it away.
That’s why it’s the job of the entire brand and website to satisfy the intent side of things. Because your services have such a higher level of commitment attached to them, the whole picture needs to be able to assure them that they’re making the right decision – just being cheaper than the rest won’t cut it.
For the sake of consistency, intent-focused searches may be:
A branded search such as “Irwin Mitchell email address”
A branded search such as “Slaughter and May phone number”
Them having a brand in mind and a call to action shows they’re ready to bite. As stated before, the final step in this process isn’t an online basket with a check out page, it’s them contacting you to take things further. No one is typing in “buy solicitor services”, which is what these traditionally would look like and why this sector is anything but traditional.
Because of that, it’s on you to make sure the entire journey to this point has been customer-friendly and reassuring of the fact that you’re the right company to work with. It’s with the awareness and consideration stages that you can get in front of them, so you have the chance to prove you’re worthy.
The end, or beginning – it all depends on you
There you have it – a detailed look at the kind of content plan that will bring in new customers to your solicitor firm.
However, the truth is, this is only a small look at a much wider picture.
If you’re reading this as a member of a solicitor firm that wants to do things right,I’m going to assume that it’s the much wider picture that you’re interested in.
We’ve offered a detailed map that can lead you to new customers, but if you’re still a little unclear on how much SEO could help you, maybe a tour guide is more what you’re looking for. As a company with extensive experience working in the legal industry, boasting a current client base of 17 thriving solicitors, we’re happy to fill that role.
We’ve been helping companies of all sorts reach their potential for years now, but it’s with the legal industry that our expertise really shines. We know more than anyone how important the little details are, which is why we’ve built a team where no detail is little – that’s the kind of care we know you need to treat the legal sector with. Companies keep coming to Add People because we deliver for the ones that do, and in the solicitor field that means getting more clients to your website; using the process above, but so many other tactics as well.
For varying company sizes and varying company fields, our unique experience puts us in the perfect position to help businesses like yourself – whether you’re two friends trying to make a difference, or a team of two hundred that have already made one.
That’s why we set up our Challenge Toby series which you can access here.
Whether you contact us or not, I hope this guide has taught you a few things and demonstrated the value of investing in SEO. Please don’t hesitate to contact us, whether you just want a little help understanding what a backlink is, or you want to have a conversation around growing the visibility of your practice.
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