This page contains answers to frequent questions that we receive. Have a question? Please ask.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” The people and companies that do SEO work are also referred to as “search engine optimizers” or “SEOs.” If you’re trying to decide whether or not to hire an SEO consultant for your law firm, you should spend some time learning about how internet marketing and search engines work first. Choosing the right law firm SEO consultant can have a very positive impact on your ability to attract new clients through your website. However, choosing the wrong SEO but you can also risk damage to your site, your professional reputation, and even get you into trouble with your state bar. It is imperative that you research both how an SEO can help you, as well as, the risks associated with irresponsible, ineffective, and unethical SEO practices.
Keep in mind that SEO for lawyers is different from SEO for other businesses.
There are a variety of useful services that a law firm SEO consultant can provide, including:
Attorney website content and structure review
Law firm web design and development advice
Legal Web content strategy, development, and execution
Internet marketing for lawyers including client development campaigns
Keyword research, discovery, and on-page optimization.
Law firm SEO training
Expertise in specific legal practice areas and geographies.
Remember that most search engine results pages include a variety of organic search results, as well as, and paid advertisements. Advertising your law firm with search engines and getting visibility in organic results are two entirely different search marketing opportunities.
Search engines don’t accept payment for inclusion in organic search results, and law firms don’t pay search engines for visibility in organic search results. We encourage lawyers and law firm marketers to read free online resources such as Webmaster Tools, the official Webmaster Central blog, and Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide (.pdf), and SEOmoz’s Beginners Guide To SEO to learn about how search engines work and how to optimize your site for organic search.
Before shopping for a law firm SEO consultant, we recommend that you become an educated legal internet marketing consumer and get familiar with how search engines work. Here’s some of what we think you should know:
How does search engines work?
Best practices to help Google find, crawl, and index your law firm website.
Generally speaking, if you’re thinking about marketing your law firm online and you’re considering hiring a law firm SEO consultant, the earlier in the process the better. The best times to hire a consultant are when you’re considering a redesign of your law firm website, or planning to launch a new site altogether.
Many law firm web designers and developers aren’t familiar with the nuances of search engine optimization. Getting an experience legal SEO involved early can help to ensure that the foundation of your site is designed to be search engine-friendly from the bottom up.
However, experienced law SEO consultants can also help you improve your existing law firm website.
Here are some questions to ask your prospective law firm SEO consultant:
Can you show me examples of your previous work and share some success stories?
Do you follow search engine quality guidelines?
Do you offer any paid online marketing management services or advice to complement your organic search campaigns?
What kind of results do you expect to see, and in what timeframe? How do you measure your success?
What’s your experience marketing a law firm online?
What’s your experience marketing my practice area(s)?
What’s your experience marketing a law firm in my state/city?
What specific SEO techniques do you intend on executing on my behalf?
How long have you been performing internet marketing for law firms?
What will our communicate process look like? Will you advise me on all the changes you make to my law firm’s website, and provide detailed information about your recommendations and the reasoning behind them?
While law firm SEOs can certainly provide valuable services, some inexperienced, irresponsible, and unethical SEOs have tarnished the reputation of the industry with ill-advised internet marketing tactics and their efforts to manipulate search engine results in artificial ways.
Some practices that violate search engine quality guidelines may result in harm to your law firm site’s visibility within search engines, or even the exclusion of your firm’s site from the search engine altogether. Here are some red flags to watch out for:
Be suspicious of SEO firms that send you unsolicited emails.
Always remember that no one can guarantee a #1 ranking on any search engine.
Watch out for SEOs that guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with search engines, or claim to be able to provide “priority submit” to search engines.
Avoid law firm SEO companies that are secretive or won’t clearly communicate what they intend to do on your behalf. This is where most law firms run into professional reputation and legal ethics problems.
If you don’t understand a specific strategy or the reasoning for it, ask. Ultimately, you as a lawyer are responsible for the actions of any companies you hire, so it’s best to be sure you know exactly how they intend to “help” you. If an SEO has FTP access to your server, they should be willing to explain all the changes they are making to your site.
You should never have to link to an SEO.
Avoid SEOs that talk about the power of “free-for-all” links, link popularity schemes, or submitting your site to thousands of search engines. These are typically useless exercises that don’t affect your ranking in the results of the major search engines — at least, not in a way you would likely consider to be positive.
Be sure to understand where the money goes.
While Google never sells better ranking in our search results, several other search engines combine pay-per-click or pay-for-inclusion results with their regular web search results. Some SEOs will promise to rank you highly in search engines, but place you in the advertising section rather than in the search results. A few SEOs will even change their bid prices in real time to create the illusion that they “control” other search engines and can place themselves in the slot of their choice. This scam doesn’t work with Google because our advertising is clearly labeled and separated from our search results, but be sure to ask any SEO you’re considering which fees go toward permanent inclusion and which apply toward temporary advertising.
What are the most common abuses a website owner is likely to encounter?
What are some other things to look out for?
There are a few warning signs that you may be dealing with a rogue SEO. It’s far from a comprehensive list, so if you have any doubts, you should trust your instincts. By all means, feel free to walk away if the SEO:
doesn’t distinguish between actual search results and ads that appear on search results pages
guarantees ranking, but only on obscure, long keyword phrases you would get anyway
operates with multiple aliases or falsified WHOIS info
gets traffic from “fake” search engines, spyware, or scumware
has had domains removed from Google’s index or is not itself listed in Google