The 2019 Analysis of SEO for Attorneys and Lawyers

An actionable guide on Law Firm SEO in 2019. What is it taking to rank in Google for Attorneys and Lawyers doing SEO? We dig in and discover a ton of SEO variables you must improve today to rank the first page if you are in the legal niche.
23rd Aug 2019
Written By
Jason Brown

Attorney SEO

An Actionable Guide For Ranking And SEO For Law Firms In 2019


Hey WooNation,

 

Today marks our 4th release of "What it takes to rank in X industry right now" by digging into the legal seo industry.

It's a little bit local, and a little bit hyper-competitive all rolled into one case study.

Before you dive in, I suggest you read our prior 3 case studies ( and in this specific order, too ) to get history into the "why" and "how" so you are not left confused. Each study builds on top of the next, so it's essential to know the back story.

 

  1. The 2019 Analysis of SEO for Higher Education
  2. The 2019 Analysis of SEO for Local Marketing
  3. The 2019 Analysis of E-commerce SEO for Stores

 

Again, each previous article builds on the next one.

 

  • We lay a deep foundation in our Higher Education article that goes into our methodology and reasoning for doing the research. Reading this will give you insight into what we are working with and our direction.
  • Our Local Marketing research shows how each SERP is different and confirms several findings from our Higher Education findings. Some things worked in Local that worked in Higher Ed, and some things were unique to Local Marketing niches.
  • In the eCommerce study, we see Google searching out specific tidbits like breadcrumbs and images. These insights are helping locate intent and helping sites in eCom stand out. Again, we find specific items that were confirmed in the last two studies while some things are unique to eCommerce.

 

Once caught up from taking notes in those articles, jump back to this article and blast forward with what we found for

 

Local Attorney SEO - What It Takes To Rank In 2019

 

I was interested in pulling the data on this niche.

Will it be like our prior Local Marketing case study?

Will the hyper-competitive nature of the legal industry skew results off the map?

Can the extreme volatility we noticed prior keep newcomers from jumping in legal niches?

 

These are questions I wanted to answers to.

 

And like prior studies, I am not releasing the full list of keywords I researched. Yes, I know that sucks and seems like an easy out, but I am tired of the hate email I have already received from those that have said I already had outed their niche, their "secret sauce," and their livelihood.

If you want an idea of what I researched, take a look at the below and add several thousand more variations of:

 

  • Albuquerque immigration attorney consultation
  • best criminal defense attorney near me
  • divorce lawyers in Chicago free consultation
  • IRS tax lawyer Houston Tx
  • Louisville DUI lawyer
  • Miami personal injury lawyer
  • New York family court law lawyers
  • real estate law firm attorney Bend Oregon
  • San Diego maritime attorney
  • top Scottsdale intellectual property attorney
  • Wyoming LLC formation attorney

 

I provided massive copy and paste keyword lists in both our Higher Education and Local Marketing articles. I wasn't able to offer it for the eCom article because of the nature of the niche itself.

I planned on offering a keyword list for this attorney SEO piece as well. But instead of listing it here for everyone to download, I'm going to reward our paid members of SERPWoo by building the list and sending it exclusively to them instead.

 

It's just another way we reward our loyal members.

 

We already offer:

 

  1. More keywords per plan
  2. Cheaper plans
  3. Faster and more knowledgeable support
  4. Exclusive monthly business and marketing training guides your first six months
  5. Daily monitoring ( most others only do every three days, weekly or bi-weekly )
  6. and so much more, than compared to our competitors

 

So why not throw in something like exclusive keyword lists too that you can use in your PPC campaigns, market research, client lead generation, spintax, and more?

 

This is only available to current paid plan members, and it will be available in a few weeks by logging into your account and visiting the chat "help" icon that's always in the lower right-hand corner of your screen inside SERPWoo.

 

 

So, what did we find in while research Attorney SEO in 2019?

 

New Domains Aren't Showing Up In The SERPs

 

I'm going to keep beating this like a dead horse for many reasons.

 

  • Maybe we find a niche in the future where new domains do rank.
  • Since our studies build on each other, I have to talk about this in each one.
  • We were one of the first to discover this and talk about it when everyone thought we were crazy.
  • Until people can admit their new projects will take more time to rank, I have to spread the word.
  • Even Google thinks AGE, yes AGE, should factor into results [ PDF ]

 

Just like in previous findings, we do see some outliers where 12 months old domains are ranking for a few terms. But primarily, the SERPs are dominated by older domains.

Until something changes, I don't see this every changing. I talk about the multiple reasons why in our prior articles, so check those out if you want to read up and learn more.

 

Comparison from our prior rank studies:

 

  1. Higher Education SEO In 2019 - We confirmed that new domains were not ranking. The youngest domain was a few days away from 12 months old and was an EDU domain. The others were all 3+ years old.
  2. Local SEO in 2019 - We confirmed that new domains were not ranking. The youngest domain was 12 months old and a long tail term. The others were all 2+ years old.
  3. eCommerce SEO in 2019 - Again, no new domains were ranking. Had one that was barely 12 months old and even it was ranking for a questionable long tail term.

 

Summary:

 

If you are buying a brand new domain, you have plenty of time to build up authority, links, content, and juice before you hit the front page. Therefore, do it right.

 

The Daily Grind, How Volatility Impacts The SERPs

 

So, I was pretty amazed by this.

Back in our Local SEO findings, the highest volatility came from legal niche.

It's one of the reasons I did this specific study.

But just because it was the highest in that study of all things Local, doesn't mean the niche itself is entirely bad.

Here is what Volatility looks like for most of the Legal industry.

 

 

 

No joke.

While the Legal niche can be expensive and competitive, it boils down to

 

What's your locality + What's your legal specialty

 

That mix of geolocation and niche will single-handedly determine how difficult your rankings will be.

Let's look at it from the SERP rankings point-of-view.

 

 

 

We see the same pattern of unmovable placements at the top of the SERPs even for large cities and tough specialties. But look at areas like Albuquerque for legal niches that are less crowded!

That's some stability and potentially easier rankings.

 

Want to know just how easy?

 

Take a few minutes and read this post by Christopher Hofman Laursen who uses SERPWoo's API and Ahrefs to scientifically drill down a new way to more accurately gauge ranking difficulty for keywords.

And once you found some easier terms to rank for, who should you research to find out what links and content you can model yourself after?

Well, if you had already set up some terms in SERPWoo, you could have found out that this website IS NOT one you want to copy.

 

 

It's only been ranking for three days. Do you really want to trust that this site has an excellent profile to copy?

Here's two more you don't want to copy potentially.

 

 

 

Huge gaps in rankings ( notice how they were ranking, then they were not, and now they are again? ) could spell trouble for these sites. It's just not safe to model them either.

Here is the one I would put some trust in and research their content and backlinks.

 

 

Its profile shows steady rankings in the top 10 over time with no loss of rankings. We even have a definite uptick over time.

Yeah, I'd put my money on this site for modeling myself after if I was in this specific location and legal specialty.

And this type of analysis was impossible before SERPWoo.

 

We pioneered SERP Tracking, so that's how we know.

 

This is why before you even rank on Google, before you even pay for an SEO, before you write content, before you buy a domain name.. you should be building projects within SERPWoo and monitoring keywords to find the gold nuggets that will be the foundation of your digital marketing plan.

 

Comparison from our prior rank studies:

 

  1. Higher Education SEO In 2019 - The SERPs were more volatile day to day, but pockets of easier rankings still abound in lower volume keywords. We saw the same pattern of unmovable top 3 rankings that barely bounced around too.
  2. Local SEO In 2019 - Calm SERPs that results from the locality of the keyword attached to them. Fewer competitors for most of the terms. We saw the same pattern of unmovable rankings, but many of them extended to the top 5.
  3. eCommerce SEO in 2019 - Most niches are calm except for high-end brand names or well-known household items.

 

Summary:

 

Lots of calm rankings across SERPs that are partly due to location and specialty mixes.

We see the same patterns of unmovable top 4-5 rankings and even some that extend to the entire first page.

 

 

5th Time For Nofollow LInks, Proving They Help Rankings

 

We have found that for the 5th time, Nofollow backlinks help rank websites.

And yes, this is another one of those where I beat a dead horse and almost all the reasons I listed before pertain here as well.

And while many "gurus" and talking heads who don't even rank websites anymore like to question and debate, the data doesn't lie.

Here is our summary of all the Local Attorney keywords and URLs we analyzed in regards to each page of Google for nofollow links.

 

 

And while I could be on the fence if this showed up in one case study, it's hard to ignore when we have found it in five studies since 2017.

The first three pages of the results from Google ooze with sites that have more nofollow links than those on pages 4-10.

 

Comparison from our prior rank studies:

 

  1. Higher Education SEO In 2019 - Yep, we saw them helping here.
  2. Local SEO In 2019 - Yep, we saw them helping here too.
  3. Quora Hacking ( from 2017 ) - We first discovered this trend in this article, so yes they were working then as well.
  4. eCommerce SEO in 2019 - What do you expect? Yes, of course, we found they helped here as well

 

Summary:

 

Prove to me nofollows do not help ( backed with data and research ) and I will give you a free SERPWoo account.

 

Longer Content Is Again Outranking Shorter Content

 

I'm going to just drop the facts here.

 

 

All our other studies have shown that more content does better than less content.

There really is something to this whole "content" thing, eh?

Honestly, it's not just the word count alone, but the fact that longer content = more opportunity to stuff your desired keywords into the material. I'll get to that in a later section of this study.

Many others have researched this same finding ( longer content ranking better ), but almost no one has broken down what the length of the content needed to be per industry or how that content played into a broader picture of rankings ( providing more chance to keyword stuff, images helping, etc.)

So don't think of this as "I need to write more content," find out what it takes in your industry and how the length impacts keyword frequency and other variables.

You might find 1800 words is enough for your niche, while others like the Higher Ed space might need 3950.

 

Comparison from our prior rank studies:

 

  1. Higher Education SEO In 2019 - Yes, we saw content length a factor for ranking on the first page.
  2. Local SEO In 2019 - More content = better rankings.
  3. eCommerce SEO in 2019 - Yes, around 2200 words were needed to hit the front page and those on pages 2-10 had fewer words.

 

Summary:

 

Write long form content that actually helps people and also serves as a way to get more of your chosen keywords into the page. This is the magic of "more content."

 

Titles With Sales And Sentiment

 

We saw this playing out in our first study for the Higher Education industry where affiliates where able to beat out the actual colleges and university for competitive terms.

And what are examples of sales and sentiment terms?

They would be terms like best, top or top rated, cheap, free, compare, etc.

I think we can all agree that Legal and Higher Education are pretty competitive. Could this be a trend that the more competitive the niche, the more frequent sales and sentiment keywords appear?

 

 

I know from reviewing the raw data that these keywords typically usher in big affiliate and aggregator websites. You know, the ones that compare and offer up the "best findings."

This is what we found almost every single time in the Higher Ed space.

We find a lot of that in the Legal space as well.

But we do find many attorneys are using the words "free" and "top rated" on their websites as well.

 

This should be a signal for you to do the same.

 

While not everyone can be the #1 attorney on the planet, you might be the best maritime attorney in Las Vegas ( because you are the only one ).

 

Comparison from our prior rank studies:

 

  1. Higher Education SEO In 2019 - Yes, we saw sales terms in the title helping with rankings.
  2. Local SEO In 2019 - Not found.
  3. eCommerce SEO in 2019 - Not found.

 

Summary:

 

Could be a trend that competitive niches need all the help they can get. Adding in sales or sentiment to the Title could be that extra push that gets you ranked and people clicking.

While we did not see this trend in Local SEO or eCommerce, it could be industry specific or helpful in more competitive industries.

 

First 100 and Last 100 Keywords - Providing A Lift In Rankings

 

Throughout these studies about "What It Takes To Rank In X Industry," I have mentioned several times that where you use your keywords helps with rankings.

While using your chosen terms in many areas of your content is good advice, some industries benefit from having keywords in specific areas.

In the Higher Education industry, it was in forms.

For Local niches, it was the first 100 and last 100 words of your content.

With eCommerce, it was in breadcrumb navigation.

Local Attorney SEO is no different and is showing a strong correlation with having keywords in the first 100 and last 100 words of content, like in our previous Local SEO article.

 

 

It makes sense to me.

 

When we found this in our Local SEO study, I had a thought that it was because of the low word count ( content length ). It would make sense there could be more focus here since there would be less opportunity to insert keywords in the content.

Word count for Local SEO was at less than 1,100 words.

Local Attorney SEO word count comes in not too much more, at less than 1,900 words.

 

While that still might be a good amount, it is less than the 3950 in Higher Ed, and 2,300 in eCommerce.

 

I'll have to find a sub 2,000-word count industry outside of "local" to help confirm if the word count is indeed impacting why the first 100 and last 100 words count so much for rankings help.

 

Comparison from our prior rank studies:

 

  1. Higher Education SEO In 2019 - Keywords in the first 100 words helped with rankings.
  2. Local SEO In 2019 - Having keywords in the first 100 and last 100 words did help.
  3. eCommerce SEO in 2019 - Not found.

 

Summary:

 

We have found the first 100 words impacting rankings, if the keywords were found, in at least two prior studies.

Last 100 words impacted if the keyword was found in only one prior study, which was also related to Local SEO industries.

Further review is needed to see if this is helping industries that typically have shorter content.

 

Keywords In Forms - We've Seen This Once Before

 

Man, I was kinda glad to spot this again.

Found in our prior Higher Education study, we see this come back up again while digging through the SERPs for this study.

 

 

Legal is very heavy on forms, phone calls, and pop up chats. Similar to the Higher Ed industry.

Could this be a ranking signal for competitive industries?

Maybe it's a factor that competitive sites have these on all their websites to get the lead, so Google is looking for it based on the trend of other sites?

No matter what, having the keyword within the FORM tag is showing signs of ranking correlation within the Legal industry.

 

Comparison from our prior rank studies:

 

  1. Higher Education SEO In 2019 - Keywords in forms did help with rankings.
  2. Local SEO In 2019 - Not found.
  3. eCommerce SEO in 2019 - Not found.

 

Summary:

 

Most keywords found in forms tend to be within Legend, SCRIPT, Label, Options, or LI tags.

Many legal websites have opted for phone calls and chat pop-ups to get the lead instead of using forms. If you fit into this category, consider adding a form for both lead collect and ranking benefit.

 

Keywords, Keywords Everywhere. Especially with SEO for Attorneys and Law Firm SEO

 

As I mentioned earlier, long-form content helps you insert those keywords in many different areas of your page.

I feel this is the number one reason why long-form content works when it comes to ranking websites.

Let's consider the frequency of using keywords in your content. More frequent use of keywords is helping in the Legal industry as a ranking factor.

 

 

Repetition of keywords in your content will flow more naturally in a longer article compared to a shorter one, right?

And more content lends itself to more tags and specific areas to insert those keywords too.

Check out specific areas of your page that help with first page rankings in Google based on our findings.

 

 

As we see word count grow in these studies, we also see Body size grow too. Larger Body size counts ( in kilobytes ) reflect the longer form content. So this makes sense in our findings.

More content and more Body size, the more we can insert keywords and our content doesn't sound robotic or manipulated.

That also gives us more room to use H1 and H2 tags and use our keywords in those tags.

It also allows us to potentially use FORMs that contain Javascript for form field scripting ( see our SCRIPT tag in the image above ). Inserting keywords here should help boost your rankings as you would be killing two birds with one stone.

 

Even Class attributes within the HTML DOM are not immune to keywords for SEO.

 

A new one for me ( within these studies ) is seeing the i tag and finding URLs ( within the content ) containing keywords that are impacting rankings.

 

Comparison from our prior rank studies:

 

  1. Higher Education SEO In 2019 - Keywords in many different areas like FORMs did help.
  2. Local SEO In 2019 -Keywords in many different regions like H1-H3 tags, and LI tags helped.
  3. eCommerce SEO in 2019 - Keywords in many different areas like NAV tags and SCRIPT tags helped.

 

Summary:

 

While general keyword insertion within your content is an excellent idea, make sure to plan out using your keywords in specific HTML tags of your site to increase the odds of ranking well for your SERP.

 

Backlinks. Can't Rank Without Them

 

Is this really a surprise?

As an SEO, we have always known that more backlinks ( in the general sense ) = better rankings. It's been the backbone of SEO since Google came out.

 

 

If you have read our prior case studies, you already know that while lots of backlinks are great for rankings, what moves the needle is lots of relevant backlinks.

Our pal Grindstone did a lot of the heavy lifting to show us that relevant backlinks outrank authority backlinks all day long. Just keep that in mind when looking at the findings we present.

So if I was an Intellectual Property Attorney in Lexington, Kentucky I wouldn't want just any backlinks to my site; I'd want backlinks from:

 

  • Sites about Lexington, Kentucky
  • Sites about Kentucky
  • Sites about Intellectual Property
  • Sites about Kentucky Intellectual Property laws
  • etc

 

Those are going to help you more than getting links from websites about random topics that happen to have high authority metrics like Trust Flow, Page Authority, or any other easily gamed metric.

And it also matters the anchors used in those links.

You can not just have links built that contain anchors for your chosen keywords. No, this is one area you don't want to try to "stuff" or manipulate keywords.

 

 

Just leave it to a brand anchor to be safe and let your content do the ranking for you when it comes to keywords.

What you have in the end is letting the topic of your backlinks ( relevance ) guide Google to you and count a vote of trust for you, while the content on your site lets Google know what you should rank for.

 

The anchor doesn't need to tell Google what you should rank for and can actually damage your ability to rank.

 

More backlinks are helping, but you have to understand why.

This is what separates the wheat from the chaff.

 

Comparison from our prior rank studies:

 

  1. Higher Education SEO In 2019 - More backlinks were helping with rankings.
  2. Local SEO In 2019 - More backlinks were helping with rankings.
  3. eCommerce SEO in 2019 - More backlinks were helping with rankings.

 

Summary:

 

It's still a race to get more links.

But, you need to focus on obtaining more links from relevant websites and topics about your niche.

 

Conclusion

 

I've done a lot of research with these 4 case studies over the last two months.

At the high level, it really does boil down to doing a lot of talking about your niche.

No matter if that means you have to:

 

  • Write lots of content on your blog
  • Write lots of content on other people's websites
  • Share your content on LinkedIn and Twitter and other media
  • Network with same niche influencers
  • etc

 

Why?

Because it's an effort to show Google you are an expert in that topic and you should be ranked top of the page for those keywords.

Getting more content out = getting more keywords seen by Google.

Getting more content out = getting more people in your niche to write about or link to you.

Getting more content out = gaining trust with people who aren't ready to buy or network with you yet.

Getting more content out = building authority all around.

 

Yes, you also have to know HOW to use that content too.

 

You can't blindly hire writers to throw up 500-word fluff articles on your site and expect people to trust you and want to build links to you.

Writing ten articles a day like this won't get you anywhere.

You gotta know the "how" and "why" behind the reason more content ( and more links ) are helping too.

In the end, you have to buckle down and see what's working in your niche ( like SEO for Lawyers ) and try to match and exceed it.

And that's why SERPWoo was invented years ago to help you solve that.