Whether you’re looking to do your own search engine optimization or are looking to hire a professional law firm SEO company, here’s everything you need to know to get started.
This blog is provided for general information only. Always talk to a laywer or other appropriate professional before making decisions.
These guides are good overviews for beginners. Most of these sites also have many other articles covering more advanced topics.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is the process of getting your law firm’s website ranked higer in searches.
- Google Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide: Learn right from the source. Google is of course the most used search engine, so most people focus on optimizing for Google.
- Google Getting Started for Beginners: The above guide gave you an overview of how SEO works. This guide gives you action steps to start working on your SEO.
- Search Engine Optimization: A Beginner’s Guide from Ahrefs: This guide goes into much more detail and is more user friendly. Ahrefs is an SEO tool that’s about as popular as LexisNexis is for legal research.
- Moz: The Beginner’s Guide to SEO: Moz is another huge name in SEO. They post a lot of educational content, have WordPress plugins, and also paid SEO services.
- Search Engine Journal: SEO for Beginners: An Introduction to SEO Basics: Search Engine Journal is one of the biggest online resources that isn’t tied to a paid SEO service.
Content marketing is a component of SEO. Content marketing focuses on creating content like practice area pages, blog posts, and videos that clients will discover in searches.
- Moz: The SEO’s Guide to Content Marketing: This is another good piece from Moz that goes through the steps of the content marketing process. It’s more tailored for SEO firms, but you’ll follow much of the same process.
- Optin Monster: REVEALED: Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Conent Marketing: This is a high-level overview of content marketing. Optin Monster is geared more towards ecommerce sites, but they still put out a lot of great information.
- Search Engine Journal: Content Marketing: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide: This is an overview of a series of posts that go into more detail on content marketing. Use this guide once you understand the basics.
- Neil Patel: The Beginner’s Guide to Content Marketing: Neil Patel is one of the biggest individual names in content marketing. In this post, he looks at how several websites approach content marketing and explains why they work.
Use these tools if you want to do your own SEO work or check the performance of your SEO company.
Free SEO Tools
These are 100% free SEO tools. Also check out the paid tools below as they have free tiers with very useful tools you may not be able to get with these free tools.
- Google Search Console: Gives you data about how your website is performing in the Google search engine
- Bing Webmaster Tools: Like Google Search Console but for the Bing search engine
- Google Analytics: Tracks how many people come to your site, how they got there, how much time they spend on it, what pages they click on, and more
- Google Keyword Planner: This tool is mainly for Google AdWords pay-per-click ads, but you don’t actually have to buy ads (or spend anything). It tells you how much volume different keywords get and how competitive they are.
- Yoast SEO: Yoast SEO is a WordPress plugin that helps you do basic SEO tasks on your WordPress site. There is a paid upgrade, but I don’t find what it adds useful when using other SEO tools (both free and paid).
- AnswerThePublic: Type in a keyword and get a list of questions that can be topics for a new blog post or to add content to your existing pages. It generates general questions (what, when, how) using a formulaic approach rather than understanding the actual terms, so what it gives you can be hit or miss.
- PageSpeed Insights: If your site loads too slow, people won’t wait. Use this tool to make sure it performs well on all platforms. If you’re not in the green on each of the core web vitals, your search rankings may be at risk.
Paid SEO Tools
These tools require subscriptions and also have free options with limited services.
Semrush is to SEO what Westlaw is to legal research. Its three main features are 1) finding new keywords and how hard it is to rank for them, 2) tracking your performance, and 3) analyzing your competitors so you can beat them.
Most law firms do not need an ongoing subscription. I recommend subscribing for a month once or twice per year to review your SEO performance and create a plan for the next few months.
There is a free tier that gives you access to nearly all of the paid features but with very limited uses per day. This is good for when you’re in between subscriptions but need to check one of your pages or take a quick look at a competitor.
If Semrush is Westlaw, Ahrefs is LexisNexis. They have most of the same features and except for a few strengths and weaknesses on the fringers, it comes down to which user experience you like more.
Where Ahrefs is different is in how its free tier works. It gives you much better tools to track your own website than Semrush does but doesn’t give access to its research tools. I recommend maintaining both free plans since they do different things. When you need more power and want to upgrade to a paid plan, you can alternate services or pick which one you like best.
Ubersuggest is that legal research company that wants to compete on price but just isn’t as good as the main names. Ubersuggest’s SEO data is lacking and not as accurate as Semrush or Ahrefs.
Ubersuggest can be good enough if you 1) just need something to start with or 2) don’t have much competition in your area. Like Semrush, it offers most of its paid features for free, but you can only use them a few times per day.
SEO Service Providers
These service providers offer various SEO services ranging from full-service to specific tasks.
Law Firm SEO Companies
Here is an alphabetical list of law firm SEO companies. If you have a blog post reviewing any of these, please drop it in the comments as adding links to reviews is next on my to-do list.
- Advantage Attorney
- BlueShark Digital
- Catania Media Consultants
- Custom Legal Marketing
- Funnel Boost Media
- Gladiator Law Marketing
- iLawyer Marketing
- Juris Digital
- Neon Ambition
- On the Marc Media
- Precision Legal Marketing
- Premier Legal Marketing
- SLS Consulting
- Smart Sites
- Stellar SEO
- The Search Engine Guys
Law Firm Content Marketing Companies
These companies focus on content marketing services.
- Blue 7 Content
- Law Blog Writers
- Law Firm Ghost Writer
- Legal Verb
- Lexicon Legal Content
- Modern Solo
- Nab Legal Marketing
- Social Channel Agency
- Victoria Blue
If you’re a solo lawyer, you may want to work with a solo SEO specialist or legal content writer. Here’s where you can find freelancers.
Legal Ethics Rules for Online Marketing
While some resources are state-specific, they can give insight into how your state may interpret its ethics rules when it hasn’t specifically covered an online marketing issue.
What are the ethics rules for choosing a law firm domain name?
In 2003, the New York Bar Association issued an opinion stating that domain names are not subject to the same rules as firm names (scroll down for opinions from other states). The opinion cited previous opinions by the Arizona and Ohio bars, and a cursory search of the practices in most states shows that this holds true for most, if not all, of the country.
New York requires law firm domain names that are not substantially the same as the firm name to follow four rules, and these rules mirror best practices for complying with general ethical obligations in other states.
- The website must clearly show the actual name of the firm. The firm’s actual name and its contact information must be prominently displayed. That is, even if The Law Firm of Smith and Jones, LLP is offering will drafting services at WillMaker.com (actually a Quicken site), each page should have a header or logo that says The Law Firm of Smith and Jones, LLP. The firm may not completely brand the site and provide will drafting services in a way that clients solely recognize it as WillMaker.com.
- The domain name may not be false, deceptive, or misleading. A domain name may not have to follow the strict rules of law firm names, but it’s still subject to general ethics rules.
- The domain name does not imply any special expertise or competence. Be careful here. Targeting niche markets with domain names like www.MiamiDUILawyer.com is good practice. www.MiamiDUIExpert.com probably crosses the line. Also be wary of top-level domains such as .expert or .guru.
- The domain name does not suggest a particular result. Stay away from domain names like www.BigVerdict.com or www.GetOutOfJail.com. Even if you use the domain name to reference past big verdicts and include the standard disclaimers about future results not being guaranteed, the fact that the domain name will always be much more prominent than the disclaimer probably makes it incompatible with the ethical rules.
Can a law firm domain name be referenced in attorney advertising?
The domain name can generally only identify a website, not replace the law firm name. The domain name should only be used as an online address, and you should not attribute your legal services, experience, or areas of practice to the domain name. Clients and prospective clients should not be led to substitute the domain name for your firm’s own name.
If your sole purpose is to drive visitors to your website, perhaps as part of a content marketing campaign, it may be permissible to only reference the domain name. To be safe, you must not reference your legal services or information about your attorneys; you should only reference the legal information provided on your website. Caution: This practice is not contrary to any of the below ethics opinions, but it has not been explicitly permitted.
What are the key ethical questions to answer regarding law firm domain names?
- Does your state require a domain name to be registered as a trade name?
- Does your state require you to file your domain name because copies of all advertisements must be filed?
- Does your state require specific information to be listed on the website (firm name, individual attorney names, contact information, disclaimers)?
- How can a domain name be used in offline advertisements?
Law Firm Domain Name Ethics Rules by State
If you’re aware of an opinion for another state or an update of a posted state, please drop a link in the comments.
Domain name does not need to be identical to the firm’s name.
- Domain names are considered “professional designations” within the meaning of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
- Domain names are considered a form of communication regarding the lawyer’s services and, among other requirements under the rules, must not be misleading.
- A private law firm using the domain name “countybar.com” would be misleading.
- For-profit firms were formerly barred (in the 2001 opinion) from using a .org domain name because .org was intended to indicate a non-profit organization, and they should not imply an affiliation with a non-profit organization or government entity. The opinion also cautioned lawyers to use similar considerations if new top-level domains became available in the future.
- The use of .org domain names by for-profit firms is now permissible under Ethics Opinion 11-04: Firm Domain Names; Trade Names; Advertising. The Committee recognized that .org names have not been restricted to non-profit entities, and they have been widely used by for-profit entities. Therefore, a for-profit firm’s mere use of a .org domain name is no longer considered misleading.
Kentucky (Ethics Opinion KBA E-427)
- A domain name that does not use the name of the firm or an attorney is not a per se violation of ethics rules.
- Domain names indicating practice areas may be used but may not include words such as certified, specialists, experts, or authority.
- The website must clearly identify the firm or lawyer responsible for the website.
- Domain name does not need to include the firm’s name or the name of any individual attorney.
- The website must clearly and prominently identify the actual law firm name, its street address, and its telephone number.
- The domain name may not imply that the lawyer has been recognized or certified as a specialist other than as provided by the rules of professional conduct.
- The domain name may not be used as a substitute identifier for the firm in advertising.
- The firm may not use the domain name in lieu of the formal name of the firm.
- Domain name does not need to include or embody the firm name or the name of any individual lawyer.
- The website bearing the domain name must clearly and conspicuously identify the actual law firm name.
- A law firm or attorney cannot attempt to practice law under a domain name.
- A domain name may be referenced in advertising but cannot be used as a substitute identifier for the firm.
- Client testimonials cannot be used if they substitute the domain name for the firm name.
- Domain name does not to indicate that the URL is a website for a law firm (2005 Formal Ethics Opinion 14).
- Homepage of website must clearly and unambiguously identify the site as belonging to a law firm or lawyer (2005 Formal Ethics Opinion 14).
- Domain name is a trade name and must be registered with the North Carolina State Bar for a determination of whether the name is misleading (2005 Formal Ethics Opinion 8).
Ohio (Opinion 99-4)
- Not improper for an attorney to use numbers, letters, or words other than their law firm name as their domain name.
- Domain names should be treated as an address (analogous to a street address) rather than as a firm name.
- It is preferable to use the firm name as the domain name, but other domain names are allowed subject to their compliance with other ethical restrictions.
Oklahoma (Internet Advertising Ethics Advisory)
- Domain name does not need to contain the name of the lawyer/firm.
South Carolina (Ethics Advisory Opinion 04-06)
- A law firm may use a descriptive web address (e.g., www.personalinjurylawyer.com or www.bankruptcylawyer.com).
- The website must identify the lawyer or lawyers who are responsible for the operation and content of the site. At least one lawyer must be individually named; the firm name is not enough.
- Domain name that is a reasonable variation of the firm name or that is a description of the lawyer or law firm may be used as a locator or electronic address only.
- A firm or lawyer may not practice law or do business under a domain name.
Virginia (Legal Ethics Opinion 1873)
- Domain name redirects (e.g., redirecting smithjones.com to joneslawoffice.com) are permissible as long as they are not false or misleading. An explanation for the change may need to be posted to avoid the redirect being false or misleading.
Frequently Asked Questions About Law Firm SEO
Here are some frequently asked questions about law firm SEO.
Does SEO work for law firms?
SEO is best in areas where your clients will be searching for their problems online. Law firms that target individuals and small to midsized businesses will almost always see results from SEO.
Practices that rely more on reputation and referrals, like corporate law firms, may see fewer direct benefits from SEO. However, building an online presence can help build your brand and show that you are a thought leader.
How much do law firms spend on SEO?
Law firm SEO budgets range from a few dollars per month on web hosting to tens of thousands of dollars per month. It depends on the size of your firm, how much you want to do yourself, and how competitive your market is.
How much does a law firm website cost?
Law firm website costs also vary. Many firms will do just fine with a free WordPress website (just pay for the cost of hosting). If you want to customize your design and get advanced features like secure chat, you can expect to spend anywhere from $1,000 to $50,000.
Many practice management software companies offer websites. These will usually be customized WordPress sites or similar. The biggest thing to look for is whether you can take your website with you if you change software companies.