Google and other search companies want to deliver the best information possible to their users. Unfortunately, even if you’re a good fit, your firm might not show up automatically when the right prospective clients search for legal services.
It takes work, specifically search engine optimization. That’s the process of getting your firm the rank it deserves in search engine results. But why is SEO for lawyers so competitive? In this article, we’ll look at the following reasons:
Using a professional marketing agency that specializes in lawyer marketing is a good way to get a leg up on your competition. Call FORWARD Lawyer Marketing at (888) 590-9687 to get started today.
Did you know there are 439,740 law firms in the United States? That’s a fair amount of competition.
Additionally, the growth rate for the law firm population was about 8/10 of a percent in 2022. That might not seem like a lot at first, but it’s about double the growth rate of the population of the United States as a whole.
There are hundreds of thousands of law firms, and the number isn’t shrinking. A sizeable portion of those businesses could be operating in your practice area. Why does that make SEO competitive, specifically? It all comes down to keywords.
It’s both a blessing and a curse that there are only so many ways to say something like “accident attorney”. This is the dual nature of the SEO keyword system, and it’s one of the main reasons things are so competitive for lawyers.
On one hand, you can predict how someone might try to search for your services. This makes it relatively easy to narrow down the set of keywords you use in SEO. (Of course, professional keyword research is always a good idea if you want predictable performance for your pages.)
On the other hand, you are limited to the same list of keywords as all those thousands of other firms. If you want highway injury cases, you will have to target phrases such as “truck accident lawsuit”, “car crash lawyer”, or “personal injury lawyer”.
When everyone is doing essentially the same thing, you have to compete by doing it better. Being thorough and publishing good articles will set you apart, as will advertising strategy, link placement, web design, and local optimization.
A simple interface and a free-to-use model (combined with some canny business decisions) launched Google into the world-enterprise position it holds today. People use it every day for a multitude of reasons, including when they search for lawyers.
Another thing Google does is automatically index internet content. That means that lawyers don’t have to do anything other than publish a website in order for it to be indexed in search results.
Of course, the whole point of SEO is improving where your site is indexed — improving your search rank. That takes work. Otherwise, your website will be buried beneath the law firms that put the requisite SEO work in.
Have you ever run an online advertisement? If you have, then you probably know that active promotions, both online and otherwise, require pretty big budgets. That is especially true if you want to sustain a specific advertising campaign over the long term.
SEO stands in direct contrast with these types of pay-per-click, pay-per-lead, or pay-per-term ads. Instead of continually paying for your message to be presented to potential clients, you instead invest in the creation and positioning of your message with the goal of long-term success.
SEO is also part and parcel of successful web design. That means that you probably already have some optimization measures in place if you have an updated website. There is no need to start from scratch for most law firms.
It takes work to improve a website’s ranking, but you can see results relatively quickly in some cases. Long-term success, however, almost always requires a regular publishing schedule and consistent updates in the competitive legal profession.
Lawyers compete for search engine rankings for the same reason they compete for any type of positive attention. Being in the right place at the right time could generate revenue.
When people look for an attorney online, it’s difficult to tell how much their cases might be worth. However, the reason that some keywords are so much more competitive than others is they could correspond to legal matters that generate significant income for a law firm.
For example, someone searching for representation in a mesothelioma case would probably represent a more valuable lead than someone searching for help reviewing documents for a home sale. Therefore, you would probably see higher competition for the first page of search results for “mesothelioma lawyer” than you would for “home sale document review”.
In a more general sense, the first page of search results has the potential to be more valuable for law firms than it is for many other businesses. That leads to more competition, relatively speaking.
Another factor that keeps competition tight for attorneys is a unique set of rules on legal advertising. For example, you usually can’t claim expertise (unless you’re certified), promise any specific results, or, perhaps most importantly, solicit directly.
In some professions, it’s up to the individual business to decide whether to use direct solicitation techniques or not. In legal practice, you don’t have a choice.
The guideline regarding direct solicitation limits the ways that lawyers can get the word out about their services. That limitation creates more activity in and demand for remaining advertising methods, such as broadcasting, email campaigns, social media, and, you guessed it, SEO.
Another reason SEO is competitive is that it’s accessible to law firms of all sizes. Assuming you already have a fully-functioning, modern, optimized, and customizable website, here are some of the ways you can get started with SEO immediately by investing only your time:
As you can see, all of these things are completely free. They do, of course, represent either a payroll cost or a source of non-billable hours for your firm or for yourself. Even so, the low capital requirement for most SEO techniques makes this a highly attractive strategy for law firms of all sizes.
The first search engine results page is a major goal for many law firms, and many are more than willing to hire professionals or use professional services to attain that goal. Although the quality of these services certainly varies, the presence of professionals makes things more competitive.
Professionals use firm-specific data as well as general analytics to identify any and all opportunities you might have to show up in the top results. One example of this is in the use of specific keywords.
How might someone search for a divorce lawyer on Google? The most obvious way is by typing “divorce lawyer”. Professional marketers delve into the less-obvious ways.
By analyzing traffic and understanding your specific business goals, professionals create and position pages to capture attention that generates business for your firm. Extending the previous example, they might write a page to attract people who want to learn about “same-sex divorce in Michigan” rather than just aim for general divorce law traffic.
The end result is competition. People are targeting a wide range of highly specific keywords — and always searching for new opportunities to laser-focus their online marketing efforts.
If you feel like things are more competitive than they should be — especially if you’ve just started with SEO — you are definitely not alone. The reason is that getting results for popular keywords takes time, and many firms have a head start.
Depending on the keywords you are targeting, it might take months to start seeing the results you want. During that time, try to focus on maintaining steady growth rather than on your absolute position in the ranking.
Focusing on growth is especially important when you are starting out with a new website or starting to target a new keyword. Not only does it keep you in a winning mindset, but it also helps you identify which strategies are working best for your unique business.
This case study shows how a single-attorney family law practice started attracting more high-asset, financially complex divorce cases.
Click here to read about a family law firm that increased caseload five-fold in a few months.
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At FORWARD Lawyer Marketing we believe in taking a “leave no stone unturned” approach when it comes to our legal clients. With that in mind, we employ extremely experienced people in the industry. Our SEO Director has been marketing online for well over two decades and oversees all SEO tasks including editing content and performing on-page optimization as well as internal and external linking. Our specialty is law firm marketing and SEO for lawyers at FORWARD Lawyer Marketing, call us at (888) 590-9687 or use our website to book your free consultation today. to discuss how we can increase the revenue of your law firm.