What is SEO? Why is it so important?

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SEO - What it is and what it isn't

SEO – the term that all agencies throw around like some mysterious, specialized craft that only they know how to do. In this article, I’ll discuss what exactly SEO is, what it isn’t, and what to do about it.

As a law firm owner, you’re also a business owner. When you leased or bought your office space, you obviously didn’t expect people to know what kind of law your practice, when you practice, and how to enter the office for their consultations. You needed signage to show people where your law practice is, when it’s open, and a phone number to reach the office. Essentially, by doing these things, you optimized your practice to be noticed by those searching for a lawyer in your area. Let’s call this Search Optimization. This might include joining the local YellowPages, Purchasing a large sign with your number on it outside of your office, and letting friends and family know that you’re open for business.

When you decide to create a website and want to make sure your website will be found by those searching for a lawyer in your area, your objective is to optimize your virtual office (your website) for search (Google, Bing, etc.) – Search Engine Optimization. It’s as simple as that.

Three Forms of SEO

In essence, there are three components to SEO that are important for lawyers to engage in On-page, off-page, and content. To succeed, you’ll need all three. Doing just one or two can get you results, but it will fail compared to a website engaging in all three.

On-Page SEO

Just as when it comes to your physical office, keeping things orderly for people to notice your office is necessary, it’s also vital to ensure that your website can be found by people searching online. To do this, the website can’t just be readable by your average visitor; it also needs to be read and analyzed by Google.

Google indexes the internet by crawling websites and their contents. The more the website tells Google about itself, the easier it will be for Google to tell others about it – i.e., rank the website in its search results. This includes but is not limited to meta information such as title tags, image tags, page and post structure, schema, a clear sitemap.

On-page SEO requires constant development and tweaking, especially assuming that you’ll be adding content regularly. Every new page and post need to have title tags, image tags, and a good paragraph structure. This takes time and expertise. Do some research on how to set up title tags and paragraph structure before fiddling around with this.

Time Commitment:
~10 hours/month

Off-Page SEO

If on-page SEO is comparable to signage and phone numbers, off-page SEO is similar to Yellowpage listings and other directories. The more places your law firm shows up in, the more authoritative your business looks. However, it’s not always about quantity.

Your law firm can be featured in the local high school yearbook every year for ten years, but it wouldn’t compare to being listed as U.S. News’ top law firm in the country. Quality plays a big role in external authority as well. Similarly, online, the more high-quality links to your website, the more it shows Google that your law firm deserves attention.

There are a few ways to finding these links. The most obvious and simple links are those from directories such as Justia, Avvo, Yelp, Foursquare, and others. Another way to be getting these links is by guest posting on other websites’ blogs. This can be a very effective way of showing authority as you’ll receive a link, and it shows that you have enough expertise to write an article about the relevant topic.

Websites that rank well typically have between 200 and 1,200 links. These links can either go to their homepage or to specific pages within their website. Going all in and finding 10s of links at once can be helpful, but it’s generally best practice to spread things out over time. You should set a schedule to try to find x number of links per month.

Time Commitment
10-15 hours/month


Even if your website has the perfect structure (on-page) and is linked to by some of the most impressive legal websites around, if the website doesn’t say what type of law you practice, it will be challenging for Google to rank you in the search results. Are you a personal injury lawyer specializing in truck accidents or a bankruptcy lawyer who does 1000+ Chapter 7s a year?

This is where content comes in. By writing about what you do and your specialties, you are essentially informing search engines (and the world) what you do and how you can help. Many people make the mistake of thinking that the sole purpose of content creation is for people visiting your website. Not true! If you want your website to be found on search engines, you need content for them to crawl and decipher.

For this reason, it’s not good enough to write ten articles and think that you’re done. Search engines expect that authoritative businesses should be producing high-quality content regularly to show that they are experts in their domain. High-quality in this context means exhaustive, accurate, and original. I recommend law firms write about two new blog posts a month to show that they’re still relevant and looking for more clients.

Time Commitment:
10-12 hours/month


SEO doesn’t have to be super complicated to succeed in it. All you need to do is systematically approach each component to ensure that your website ranks #1 on Google and other search engines.

All in all, I estimate an overall time commitment on website SEO of about 35 hours/month. Obviously, this isn’t a practical job for you or even for your secretary. This is why many lawyers hire an SEO agency to do all of this for them. However, now, if you decide to go with an SEO agency, you’ll know exactly what they should and will be doing, and not just hiring someone to do voodoo to your website to rank on top. SEO can be a straightforward process. It’s just time-consuming. Next time you speak with an agency, ask them which parts of SEO they will be managing and how much time they will be devoting to each. Good luck!

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