Toronto is the business mecca of Canada and therefore competition for any sort of business niche is going to be tough.
In particular, law firms and lawyers are a huge industry within the Toronto area. Does Bay Street ring a bell?
Being that I am a former law clerk/legal assistant turned SEO/digital marketer, I have a particular interest and specialty when it comes to search engine optimization and marketing for law firms.
But why should your firm consider SEO or digital marketing?
The internet is full of competition and the first step most consumers take when in search of something is go to Google and type some relevant keywords in.
These thousands of different keywords being input through search engines each day can be used to your firms advantage to bring potential clients directly to your website.
As opposed to physical marketing techniques such as a billboard on the side of a highway, digital marketing techniques like SEO bring you targeted customers that are already interested in your services.
What do I mean by targeted?
Well, these potential customers are already looking for the services you offer. They are searching keywords related to your business niche, and therefore are more likely to contact you as opposed to a large non-targeted audience driving by your billboard on the highway.
In this post I will discuss different SEO aspects and strategies that your legal practice can implement today to get and stay ahead of your competition.
Increase Page Relevancy
Google My Business and Reviews
Whitehat Link Building
1. Informational Architecture
Informational architecture is extremely important because it lays a foundation for how content on your website will be displayed to Google. This in turn affects your search engine rankings.
You should view Google as a library and informational architecture as a way of categorizing each of these terms we want to rank for in a logical order.
The homepage of your website should be a summary of the general legal field in which you are practicing. This general field would include areas such as family law, real estate law, criminal law etc.
If you are a Toronto-based firm practicing family law, then your homepage would concentrate on this specific niche while using keywords such as “Toronto Family Law” or “Toronto Family Lawyer”.
Along with being extremely detailed and having specific content relevant to the niche of your legal practice, you would also want mentions of relevant sub-categories.
Again referencing family law, your sub-categories might be “family law agreements”, “alternative dispute resolution”, “property division” and “spousal support”. With these references, there should not be a large amount of information directly relating to the sub-category, but more so mentions and direct information relating specifically to the main keyword of your homepage. In the aforementioned case, the main keyword would be “family law”.
Single practice area vs multi practice area
In the legal field you have firms practicing specifically within one area of law, and others having multi-practices.
In the previous section we went over website architecture for a firm practicing a specific niche. Below we will discuss how to use good informational architecture for a multi-practice firm.
Do not optimize for a broad range of keywords
A multi-practice firm should not optimize for a broad range of terms because this confuses Google. Instead, you will want to optimize for your firm name as the keyword, along with your city.
For example, if your firm name is “Larry Abogado LLP”, then you will want to optimize for “Larry Abogado LLP in Toronto”.
We are using the keyword “Larry Abogado LLP” and the city “Toronto”.
Your homepage heading might even look something like “Law Firm Toronto” and then “Larry Abogado LLP” and then maybe even “Legal services Toronto”.
As you can see, we are using general keywords. We want Google to know that you are a law firm in Toronto and using your firm name plus the city does just that.
Let’s say the inner pages for our fictional firm Larry Abogado LLP are “Family Law”, “Real Estate Law” and “Personal Injury Law”. Each of these inner pages will contain relevant information pertaining to these practice areas.
You shouldn’t optimize for multiple practice areas on one page. As already mentioned, this will confuse Google as to what exactly the page is about.
Let’s take a look at an example of the informational structure you would use for these inner pages below:
Real Estate Law (practice area sub-page)
- Title transfers (sub-page relating to Real Estate Law)
- Mortgage Refinancing
- Selling Property
- Buying Property
Personal Injury Law (practice area sub-page)
- Slip and fall (sub-page relating to Personal Injury Law)
- Product liability
- Motor Vehicle accidents
All of the subject matter on these sub-pages directly supports the main practice area keyword.
This informational structure gives Google a clear idea as to what each individual page is about and what keywords to rank you for.
2. Increase Relevancy of Important Pages
If you are attempting to rank for a specific legal practice area, there is a simple method that you can follow to increase your pages relevancy to that topic and in turn improve your Google rankings.
This method will generally work only if you already have a significant amount of content on your website..
First, simply go to Google and type the following and press enter:
site:(your website URL).
What this will do is pull up everything Google has indexed for your website.
You will see from the above screenshot that the firm Stikeman Elliott LLP currently has around 18,600 webpages indexed on Google.
This is useful because it allows you to see what specific pages Google thinks are the most important or relevant pages for a specific topic.
For example, if I wanted to see what webpages Google believes are most important for the keyword “litigation” from Stikeman Elliott LLP, I would simply write litigation at the end of the URL and press enter as I did in the screenshot below.
This will bring up the pages that hold the most power (from most to least powerful) when it comes to that specific keyword.
If you want to rank better for the keyword “litigation”, simply take the top 5 results displayed above and put a backlink from the first result onto the following 4 results.
If you are unfamiliar with backlinks, please click here to view the section on this post regarding “whitehat link building”.
It shouldn’t be too difficult to strategically place this backlink on the 4 pages, as we already know they are extremely relevant to each other through the keyword “litigation”.
Implementing the above will increase the ranking power of the first and most powerful page for the keyword “litigation”.
One of the best things you can do for your SEO performance is to create good content.
Not only is good content important when it comes to Google, but also for the audience visiting your website.
If you have content that is engaging, interesting and full of value, this ultimately satisfies the end users search query which in turn makes them more likely to contact you or return to your website. This also affects other SEO factors such as bounce rates and increases the chances of receiving backlinks.
One thing I see in common with many firms failing to rank is not having a blog, or not posting frequently enough.
An active blog is important because Google likes to see websites with both frequent and good content. This tells them that your website could ultimately satisfy the end-users search query, through relevant and up-to-date content.
If your website has no blog and hasn’t posted any content in months, while your competitor has a blog with articles being posted weekly or monthly, who do you think Google will put preference in ranking in the search engines? Most likely the website with relevant, frequent informative content.
The more content you have, the more keywords and subjects you will be ranking for and hence you will appear in more search queries which ultimately makes you more visible to potential clients seeking your services.
Now that you know how vital a blog is to your firms success you are probably wondering what should you write about.
First let’s think about a few questions:
- Who will be writing your content?
Since law is a specialized area, it is not always easy to outsource content writing, which may lead you to write your own material.
If you do decide to outsource content writing, you have different options. These include hiring an SEO company or content writer from places such as UpWork.
Being that this post is relevant to Toronto and Canada-based law firms, I would like to note the importance of hiring those familiar with Canadian law. After speaking with many law firms here in Toronto, I have noted that a major issue was finding content writers familiar with Canadian law as opposed to American law.
- Who is your target audience?
Who are you trying to bring to your website? This will depend on your firms practice area or areas. It will also depend on the content subject matter being written at the time.
- What keywords are you going to target?
There are many different free tools to use when researching keywords. Just take a look at this article from Ahrefs for some ideas.
4. Google My Business and Reviews
As a local business, it is absolutely detrimental to your firms success if you do not have an optimized Google My Business.
A business that has a completed Google My Business listing will outperform competitors without one.
What do I mean by a completed listing?
- Business name
- Correct business hours
- Responding to reviews
- Answering questions
- Continually posting content
- 3x service photos
- 3x inside location photos
- 3x outside location photos
- 3x team photos
Besides the above, there are some other factors to consider.
Google My Business Niche Category
Take a look at your competitors listings in the Google Maps and analyze what the top results and the majority of firms are using as their business niche.
For example, in the picture below I see that the firms ranking for “personal injury lawyer Toronto” are currently using both “Personal Injury Lawyer” and “Personal Injury Attorney” as their business niche.
Now as we take a look at some other businesses ranking further down on maps for the same keyword, we see there is the odd firm using “law firm” as their niche.
Seeing as how these two firms in the below screenshot are known for personal injury law and are clearly attempting to rank for the keyword, it would make sense that they correct this error and use “personal injury attorney” instead of “law firm” as their business niche, just as the majority of their competitors are doing.
How do I get reviews?
It is common for businesses to see a considerable influx in clients just from an increase in online reviews. This comes from both a boost in rankings, as well as the power of what we call “social proof”.
Social proof is a term used to describe the psychology behind people copying or finding comfort in the actions of others.
What is the first thing that many of us do on Amazon when deciding on which product to purchase? We filter by the products with the most and best reviews.
This psychology is the same when end users are searching for firms through a search engine.
But how do you get these reviews? It is human nature to want something in return, so it is not always easy to get someone to review your business when you ask.
The solution? I tell clients to include reviews as part of their marketing budget and offer their satisfied clients a gift-card of some sort (Starbucks, Amazon etc.) in return for a review on their Google My Business and other relevant directories such as Yelp.
Your marketing budget being used on this tactic will more than pay for itself over the long run.
Not only will it help your business through social proof, but online directory reviews also have a significant impact on SEO.
Infographics are exactly as the name states.
They are information plus a graphic image. They present a variety of different information in a visual manner and allow you to simplify this information for viewers.
Below is an excellent example of an infographic:
Because of this simplicity, they are often a great source of backlinks. Someone is much more likely to share your simple, straight-forward infographic, as opposed to a long, lengthy complicated article.
6. Schema Markup
Schema markup can benefit your firms SEO efforts mainly in two ways.
The first is giving your firm a more distinct meaning as to what it represents to search engines in the form of ideas and concepts.
Second, your firm will be more visible within search engine results. This will in turn improve your click through rate with the different features that can be displayed for your website through search results.
Some of these different features include:
As you can see from the above, schema markup can help your website stick out among your competitors in the search results (SERPS) and potentially take away their clicks and customers.
How to Add Schema Markup
In order to add schema markup to your website there are different options you can turn to.
The best options include:
- (For WordPress-based websites) there are a variety of different plugins you can use that implement schema markup onto your website. Some of these include Schema Pro and Schema Ninja.
- An online schema generator such as //www.schemaapp.com/tools/jsonld-schema-generator
I personally recommend using the schema generator and adding it to your website. Plugins aren’t the most reliable option at times.
Depending on what content management system you are using, the way you add schema will vary, so it is best to search for your content management system + adding schema markup for detailed instructions on how to do so.
Alternatively, you can also hire an SEO agency to implement vital SEO elements such as schema.
Whether your firm currently has a website or you are starting one, search engine optimization is a vital aspect of a law firm’s marketing strategy. By implementing the points discussed throughout this post, you can improve your website’s online visibility and bring targeted traffic and potential clients directly to your website – something your competitors are already doing.