Law Firm Website SEO Process: How we take law firms to the top
The most common questions we get are “Can you tell me about your process?” and “How does it work?”
As I’ve usually answered these questions in mostly technical SEO terms (and heard silence on the other end of the line), I learned that many of you were actually interested in hearing about our company structure, how the work gets done, and what you can expect when working with ApricotLaw.
The team is what makes ApricotLaw special and different from any other law firm SEO / Web development company out there. There are 8 full-time members, and we function like a tight, well-rehearsed orchestra. Each person on the team plays a specific part in your online development and steps in at the right time, does what he or she is best at, and passes the torch to the next team member.
ApricotLaw’s Core Values
- Ambitious Pursuit
- World-Class Service
These are the core values woven throughout ApricotLaw’s day-to-day operations, and we’re very proud of the results.
Shortly after signing up with ApricotLaw, we’ll schedule your Welcome Aboard Call. This is where you’ll meet the team and learn what each person is responsible for. You’ll also learn more about our process and what you can expect during each phase of our relationship. This phone call runs about 20 to 30 minutes in length.
After the call, you’ll receive 1 or 2 emails depending on your needs:
1. Our Design Questionnaire will help us gather information about your firm so we can build a beautiful and effective website for you.
2. The SEO Strategy Letter will recap what we spoke about during the Welcome Aboard Call, gather and organize your social media information and propose a list of keywords to rank your website for.
If you’re getting a new website, you’ll be working closely with our Lead Developer for the first 4 to 5 weeks.
After your new website goes live, you’ll be working with ApricotLaw’s Ranking Team.
PHASE 1: Migration to Demo Environment
(for Website Redesigns Only)
From Day One to when you give us the green light to launch your new website, visitors will see your existing website. The entire redesign process is done behind the scenes until you’re ready to make the change.
The first order of business is to copy your existing website and all of your content over to a demo server where we can redesign your site in private.
If you don’t already have one, we recommend setting up your own hosting account.
Agencies holding law firm websites (and content) hostage is a huge problem we’ve heard too many attorneys complain about, and this nips that in the bud.
We’ll recommend the best hosting company for your type of website: fastest loading times, best up-time, great customer support and strong security. We can usually get you a discount, too.
Signing up for hosting takes about 3 minutes. Then, you send us the info and we get to work on your new site.
Our Technical SEO Specialist will set the specifics within the control panel of your hosting account, set up the demo server, install and configure your new Content Management System (CMS), and prepare for the migration.
Content migration ranges in complexity from one click to days of manual copy and paste, depending on the size and setup of your old website.
Once the migration and cleanup are complete, our Technical SEO will install and configure a variety of software programs and scripts: SEO tools, tracking pixels, conversion tools, exit and timed popups, contact forms, chat software and more.
We’re always finding new ways to track and optimize and your site will be equipped with the latest and greatest.
Now that your site has been migrated to a private demo server, on to Phase 2, The SEO Overhaul.
PHASE 2: The SEO Overhaul
Your website has been stripped down to the bare bones. All excess code has been removed and anything holding your site back has been deleted. We’ve shed weight but at this point, your site is still unhealthy (not optimized).
The work that gets done during this phase is much more than just changing titles and stuffing keywords into your pages.
Google has a very specific set of rules, or things they like to see in websites, that goes beyond what we see in your site’s dashboard.
With a checklist of over 50 items, Nick Kringas (Co-Founder and President) and our On-Page SEO Specialist go through every page of your site until every aspect is as Google wants it.
Here are the first 11 areas that we optimize for search engines.
- Page titles
- Meta descriptions (optimized for click-through rate, not a direct ranking factor)
- Keyword density
- Image alt tags
- Internal links
- Menus and custom sidebars
- 301 redirects
- Canonical URLs
- Schema markup
- Google’s Search Console clean-up
During the SEO Overhaul Phase, attention to detail is critical. . . and so is one special ingredient that we happen to possess lots of –
the desire to win online.
We care about the work and the results because we love to win.
PHASE 3: Design and Conversion Optimization
Now that the words on your website are perfectly optimized so that Google can index it for the right keywords (those related to the cases and clients you want), we need to make it beautiful and format it in a way that gets visitors to contact you.
After all, rankings and traffic will do you no good if people aren’t calling your firm. We need to convert website visitors into red hot leads. And here’s how we do it.
Your website needs to make two sales.
- It needs to sell the visitor on the idea that hiring an attorney is better than handling their matter on their own.
- Once the visitor understands that he or she needs an attorney, your website needs to convince the visitor that your law firm is the one to call for this particular matter.
It all starts when a visitor first lands on your website.
How does your website’s design make the person feel?
Does the visitor want to stay on your website or does the sight of it make his right hand twitch spastically up and to the left towards the back button?
What does the design say about your law firm?
We work with you to create a website that presents your law firm in the best possible light (and in the way you want the public to perceive you).
If you don’t have high resolution images, we’ll send a professional photographer out to shoot your people and office.
Once the site looks beautiful, we’ll optimize it for conversion.
Believe it or not, most visitors (to any website) never scroll down. This makes the Above the Fold area (what you see before you scroll) the most valuable space on your webpages, by far.
We go through each page to make sure your ATF areas are perfectly optimized to convert visitors into leads. Here are a few elements we look for and incorporate into your design.
- An offer or incentive
- A clear call to action
At this point we’re getting closer and closer to launch. It’s only a matter of days now before we count down from ten to one.
PHASE 4: Prepare for Take-Off
Your SEO overhaul is done, your website design looks amazing on all devices, you’ve given us the OK to launch, and your site is ready to take flight.
The A-Team goes into “All Hands On Deck” mode. Each person on the team goes through your site to uncover hidden issues and bring them to light.
Once your site is perfectly clean and working great, Glen sets the launch codes and flips the switch… Then we test it again.
PHASE 5: Creating Your Target Keyword Landing Pages
Congratulations! You now have a new website that you’re proud to show people. It’s time to have some fun. And by fun we mean fill it with content and attract visitors.
Each month, before our writers get to work on your website’s content, you will receive a Publishing Preview email from ApricotLaw’s Managing Editor.
This will give you the opportunity to review the list of keywords and replace any practice areas you don’t want with ones that you do. That way we’re only creating content for the keywords and types of cases that you want to attract.
Once the keywords for that month are approved, the Managing Editor will add the project to our writing queue (in a place we call the Holding Tank).
The Managing Editor will then assign your project to an ApricotLaw Staff Writer based on availability and familiarity with your practice area and law firm.
When the first drafts are complete, usually 7 to 14 days later, the writer places a link to each article in the Holding Tank, alerting the Managing Editor of their arrival.
While, on the surface, not the most exciting part of our process, we take the next part very seriously. This is when our Managing Editor puts his core competency to good use: proofing and editing.
We pride ourselves on accuracy and only publishing content on your website that you are proud of, too. During this phase, not only does the Managing Editor ensure that your content is grammatically correct, he’s also striving to get your tone and style just right.
Once proofed, the Managing Editor moves the articles into the ready area of the Holding Tank. This alerts the Onpage SEO Specialist that content is ready to be published.
The SEO then takes the content, optimizes it even further for the target keyword, and other related search terms, and publishes it on your website.
We don’t stop there. If we did, not may people would find your new webpages. These pages need to be interlinked and added to appropriate menus throughout the site, greatly increasing the chances that visitors (and Google) will find the exact page that they’re looking for.
PHASE 6: Getting Inside Google’s Circle of Trust
Google’s algorithm is a series of steps a computer takes to crawl and index the world’s information. [CLICK TO TWEET]
Think of it as a filter or strainer. Someone searches for car accident lawyer in your city. Google’s computer retrieves all the webpages in its index optimized for that phrase (knowingly or unknowingly).
It then puts those pages through a filter.
The pages not optimized properly (not the best pages for this searcher) and those that are over-optimized are caught in the filter. They don’t make it through.
The ones that do are the pages Google thinks have the best chance of “terminating the search.”
Those pages are then ranked according to how useful Google’s computer thinks they will be to the searcher.
And the smart people at Google are tweaking this formula (algorithm) every day in order to provide the best possible results.
No one knows all of Google’s ranking factors. So we poke and probe, test and observe, every day for years to figure out what helps a website climb to the top and what holds websites down.
Years of extensive, in-the-field testing has taught us that all ranking factors fall into one of three categories. They are On-Page, Links and User Experience.
In order for Google to rank your website for a specific search phrase, that phrase needs to be found naturally on the page you’d like to rank. Here are the top 7 on-page elements of a page that must to be optimized in order to rank:
- Body content
- Internal links
- Outbound links
By this point, your site is starting to fill up with Target Keyword Landing Pages perfectly optimized for specific phrases you want people to find your site with.
In markets where competition is very low (not many of those left, especially in law), this would be enough to get your pages into Google’s Top Ten.
In markets where you have thousands of websites and tens of thousands of pages fighting for only ten organic listings, we need to do more than just publish and optimize pages.
We need links pointing to your pages, telling Google that these are the best pages to show for these searches. Sort of like votes.
External, or inbound, links must start with a strong foundation.
Real law firms have profiles on certain sites or types of sites. And most of the links in those profiles, pointing back to the law firm’s website, have 2 things in common. They usually go to the homepage or top practice area pages. And they use the law firm’s name as anchor text (the clickable words in the link).
That’s where we start. If you don’t already have these listings, we create them for you. If you do, they may not be optimized properly, so we go through and clean them up.
In this phase we are simply creating profile links. Like they sound, profile links are the links that big sites allow you to drop into your description. These foundational links will get your site into Google’s circle of trust, which is where you want to be if you ever want to make it to the top.
Unfortunately, for most legal keywords, this won’t get you all the way to the Top Ten. But it will put your website onto the right path, with a solid footing. We’ll get into the links that will push your site to the summit in PHASE 7.
Here are the top 8 types of sites we use for profile links:
- Local directories
- Legal directories
- Review sites
- Web 2.0 blogs
- Social bookmarking sites
- Social media sites and apps
Again, Google is always shifting weight from one ranking factor to another. And right now, they are shifting away from links and toward User Experience.
Links are by no means dead. In fact, they are still the most important ranking factor. Just know that Google has been working very hard to get away from a link-based ranking system. They’ve had a really hard time distinguishing real SEO from unnatural or even negative SEO.
User Experience is measured by what people do on your site. Google tracks every click and scroll. They watch how people use your website. Even if the site is not connected to Google’s tracking tools, they can still gather this info. Some say they are able to do this via browser extensions. However they do it, assume that they do and you’ll be better off.
Here are a few User Experience metrics and items we optimize your site for:
- User intent
- Easily accessible contact forms
- Great navigation through menus and internal linking
- Bounce Rate
- Time on Site
- Pages Visited
- Social sharing
- 301 redirects (404 errors)
- Blocked resources
- SERP click-through rate
When Will I Rank?
After making it through most of this page, you can imagine that this is not an overnight process. As long as your old site was not penalized, you will start to rank in the top ten for less competitive, longer search phrases in 30 to 60 days.
After that, more and more of your search phrases will start to break onto the first page of Google on a regular basis.
For highly coveted phrases – such as location plus car accident lawyer, motorcycle accident lawyer, truck accident lawyer, personal injury lawyer – many of our clients make it into the top ten at around the 5 or 6 month mark.
Think of it like getting water from a well. First you need to prime the pump. At first, you’ll see no sign of water. Then a few drops begin to trickle out… then a few more. If you keep at it with consistent effort, you’ll eventually have a steady stream of water. In SEO terms, new keywords making it to the top every month.
PHASE 7: Propelling Your Pages up to the Summit
Your foundation is solid. Your website is perfectly optimized so Google’s spiders can crawl around freely. Your website is growing in strength as Google discovers your profile links.
What else can we do to keep the momentum going and to push your site to the summit… to the top organic listings in Google?
Remember the profile links we built back in PHASE 6? Many of those sites also allow us to publish content, for free.
And that’s just the opportunity we need.
Through testing, we know that Google puts more weight on in-content links than any other type of link (than sidebar or footer links, for example). Maybe because they’re harder to manufacture unnaturally. You can’t easily buy these types of links. So Google trusts them more and takes their recommendations (the pages they refer or link to) more seriously.
In PHASE 7, our writers and our Social Media Manager get to work producing and publishing content throughout this online universe we’ve created for you, all strategically linking back to pages on your website.
The types of content we leverage for you on a regular basis, starting in PHASE 7, are:
- Plain text (articles, posts and status updates
- Images (memes, infographics and custom graphics)
Here are some of the sites (and types of sites) we publish this content on, in no particular order.
- Help Lawyer
- ApricotLaw’s Private Network of Sites
- Large authority websites and blogs
- Google Plus
The two most important nutrients for your website, as far as inbound links are concerned, are Relevance and Authority. And with these links, dripped in over time (at the perfect link velocity), it’s like your site is getting a boost of pure and essential life-giving nutrients on a regular basis.
We do this until the pages we’re targeting are in the top 3 for their main keywords. Then we target other pages that can bring in great cases for your firm. And we link to those until they’re in the top 3.
Then we rinse and repeat.
When will leads start coming in?
That is the million dollar question.
Leads closely follow the ranking timeline explained earlier. First Google starts showing your pages to its users. As your site gets more and more search impressions, and you are ranking in the top ten for a growing number of relevant keywords, more people will visit your website each month. Then the leads will start to trickle in, slowly at first.
Once we have visitors and a few leads, we analyze the data and optimize your site even further in order to squeeze more leads out of the same traffic.
MORE VISITORS + HIGHER CONVERSION RATE = MORE LEADS
PHASE 8: Reporting, Communication and World-Class Service
We know that most SEO Agencies are terrible at communicating with their clients. At least, that’s what many attorneys tell us about their previous experiences.
We work on breaking this perception every day. And it starts at the top.
ApricotLaw Co-Founders Tom Desmond and Nick Kringas are on the front lines, not sitting in an ivory tower.
From the moment you contact ApricotLaw to request a Free Website Audit Video, you’ll speak with Tom Desmond. He’ll analyze your site and your competition and let you know what it will take to compete and win in your market.
Shortly after partnering with ApricotLaw, you’ll meet Nick Kringas. He’ll be your main point of contact moving forward and will make sure the work gets done on time and according to schedule.
You’re not working with some wet-behind-the-ears Account Executive with no experience in law firm marketing or search engine optimization. You’re working with the President and the CEO – those most vested in your success. Because the success of ApricotLaw is tied to the success of your law firm.
In the first 30 to 60 days, we’ll have a Welcome Aboard Call and an SEO Strategy Call, followed up with the SEO Strategy Letter recapping what was covered on the call and presenting the 60 plus keywords we propose to target.
Here are the emails and reports you’ll receive on a monthly basis:
- Publishing Preview
- Publishing Report
- Ranking Report
- Social Media Report
In addition to the calls and monthly reports, you can email or call Nick or Tom at any time. Website edit requests are usually handled within 24 hours and are included in your month-to-month contract (you can cancel at any time, no long term commitments).
Some clients also request ongoing conference calls.
The point is you can talk to us as much or as little as you’d like. But we’ll try our hardest to keep you in the loop and with your feedback, our communication and service will continue to improve.
Consider us your marketing department, right down the hall. How can we help you?