Legal SEO Myths Busted: Fact Over Fiction

Michael Mogill, Crisp Video Group CEO, interviews Tanner Jones, VP of Business Development at Consultwebs, to bust the most common myths surrounding SEO. Watch above or read below to find out:

  • Whether you have been sold an SEO bill of goods
  • The answers most SEO companies are hesitant to share
  • Tips on how to hold your SEO company accountable

MM (Michael Mogill): What if we had people submit any question relating to SEO? 

TJ (Tanner Jones): There is a lot being said about SEO by law firms as truths to themselves vs. what others are saying themselves. It doesn’t have to be as complicated as people make it out to be.  We submitted a unanimous survey where attendees can submit any questions related to SEO… over 200 responses! We condensed all the repeat questions down to a list of 20. Nothing is off limits!

Related: 5 Ways to rank higher on Google

MM: What is SEO? (Search Engine Optimization). 

TJ: SEO is the practice of getting traffic from the search engine to your website. It’s complimented by with number elements of web marketing. CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) is converting traffic into leads. Ideally, strong SEO campaigning focuses on traffic and building enough trust from that user to get a call.

MM: Myth or Fact: Can you guarantee search rankings within 3 months?

TJ: Many law firms have been promised this. There are hundreds of search terms where you could get ranking within a month. When it comes to guaranteed search results, this is skeptical. When optimizing an SEO campaign, you are depending on a third party. And when you are performing an SEO campaign, you are building a case to a third party to respond to that to see the value you are putting on the website and expecting them to respond to that work. This is a “lofty guarantee.”

In short, you need to wait at least 3-6 months to see results from your SEO marketing investments. An SEO campaign should be seen as a LONG TERM investment. It is highly unlikely to see results within first couple months. It could take up to a year to see results or even 18-24 months. It is a big investment but a long term investment. Your website is your “new virtual office.” If you want immediate results, SEO may not be for you.

Once you invest time into your SEO campaign, the value of traffic will increase long term. Continued traction and leads increasing will create value long term. Cost per case will go down month by month.

MM: What are some questions to ask when speaking with a third party? 

TJ: What are you guaranteeing? What search terms are you guaranteeing that I will rank for? Will those search terms be vetted by me as the law firm? How much is search volume behind each one of these search terms?

MM: What is SEMrush?

TJ: SEMrush is a tool where you can look at top ranking competitors. It will estimate the value of organic trafficking. There is LASTING VALUE.

MM: Myth or Fact: It’s costly to improve SEO? 

TJ: This all depends on a case by case basis. Some markets are saturated such as New York, Houston, Atlanta. You are well behind the curve if you haven’t invested in SEO.

If there is an opportunity in your market, what are you missing out on? If you aren’t found, you aren’t considered. You have no way of tracking what you don’t see.

MM: If all or many law firms are using SEO, and they cannot all come up on the first page of the search results, is investing in SEO a waste of time and money?

TJ: This question is based on a lack of perspective. It is assuming there is only one quality search query. Myth! very false! We track the data through law firm websites. What is actually turning into qualified leads versus? signed clients? There are hundreds of search terms that draw leads to each firm’s door.

There was a recent study that found on a routine basis Google sees 70% of fresh searches. This is largely based on each user. People speak differently than they type. The searches are a lot more specific. There are ways to get visibility. Thousands of terms could be used. There is always going to be open opportunities for you to capitalize early while you build up enough authority.

MM: True or False? Now that Google has added 4 paid results at the top of search results, SEO is dead and PPC is the only way to get cases?

TJ: SEO is far from dead. It is bigger than it has ever been today. More people are using search to find events/entertainment. They can search for the device that is in their pocket. 

Ask yourself: How often do you click on ads? Most likely going on local search results. No study that implies paid ads vs. organic ads. People will choose depending on how well the ad copy is written. More research= more organic. More research before making a hiring/buying decision.

MM: How important are reviews when it comes to SEO/ search rankings? 

TJ: Reviews are the key to having a successful online campaign. Social proof reviews. These decisions people make are based on seeking feedback. People are trusting reviews/endorsements from strangers.

This is the same for law firms. What are other people experiencing?

Practice of a successful SEO campaign

  1. Getting visibility
  2. Building enough trust to drive phone calls.

MM: Are backlinks still the most critical component to a successful organic search marketing campaign? 

TJ: Backlinks are getting another link from another website. The website is sending traffic your way. Today, it is much less about quantity. It is about quality and relevance.

MM: What is a quality relevance backlink?

TJ: Relevance comes down to:

  • Geographic relevance: link from local business or charity website? High School or University? Extremely valuable
  • Practice area relevance or topic: legal specific website or resources? when they link to you are they using anchor text. The text that is in that hyperlink related to your practice area. The implication of relevance to your practice area. Links to TRUSTED websites

MM: Myth or Fact: Video can make a significant impact on my website’s SEO?

TJ: Video makes a huge impact on SEO. Google places an emphasis on on-site matrix. They are tracking how visitors navigate through your website.

Ask Yourself: What is your site offering to the general public? Video compliments because people are engaged through video. They consume video more than static content on a website. You are able to retain visitors longer. Youtube is the second largest search engine in the world. Video content allows you to brand your firm in a positive spotlight.

Related: How to Target your Ideal Legal Clients with Keyword Research 

MM: How beneficial is social media when it comes to SEO?

TJ: It is a great place to engage with the community and get content shared. Social isn’t necessarily a boost to SEO but it is a compliment to the overall SEO campaign. There is not just one area of emphasis. Once everything comes together, you see the whole picture.

MM: Do multiple websites for my law firm increase or decrease my overall SEO? Is it better to have separate sites/domains for different practice areas? 

TJ: That is a loaded question. It has to be handled on a case by case basis. For example, if you have $10 that you want to spend in marketing this month, and you have 10 websites, are you going to split that money or consolidate that money into one platform? When in doubt, use a unified and consolidated approach — one strong domain/website that you are able to build. Here’s another major factor in consolidating into one domain: Google Local. The Google my business page only allows you to tie one physical office address to one website. There is a competitive disadvantage is you have multiple websites.

MM: If an attorney in a very competitive market opens up their law firm today, what would it take (and how long) for them to achieve a page 1 ranking for their practice area + city? 

TJ: It will take a lot. It’s a heavy investment and involves heavy resources.

There are three main components:

  • Local Optimization: Your business on google (which should be established ASAP) and its name, address, and phone number should be in as many places as possible.
  • Content Strategy: Your content should have good value and geared toward your marketing area. You should also have a good public relations effort to earn links back to your website.
  • Timing: If you have a brand new domain, it’s highly unlikely to see that domain rank highly for 12 months. SEO campaigns take significantly longer.

MM: What would you say to a law firm that does want to be competitive in the search rankings that does not have/want to spend years hacking away at this? 

TJ: If they want to focus more tightly, start to evaluate sub practice areas where you can really establish a brand for yourself. You would rather have the difficult conversations early on instead of 18 months into the process. During this conversation, determine what it is you want to accomplish. I would also pivot toward a paid advertising model where you have more instantaneous results from a lead standpoint. Once the cash flow is picking up, you can nurture it into a more long-term SEO campaign. The answer is to narrow that niche focus.

MM: But if I narrow my focus, will I miss out on other general cases that I was getting?

TJ: Consider the other side. If you try to dilute those efforts, you won’t get traction from any singular area. Approach this with a realistic mindset. Get a general consensus of something you feel comfortable with in terms of timing — focus all day long.

MM: What’s the difference between the various legal SEO companies? All seem to be touting the same benefits and each one says they’re the best. 

TJ: A lot of the qualifications or considerations are the same. Look at their experience — how long have they been around? Investigate if they have had a long-term successful business. I would also research to see if they have clients similar to yours. Are they working with the legal perspective specifically? Call law firms and find out how many cases they have been signing. Do your homework. Also look at internal resources. A lot of these groups are outsourcing 80% of the work. Many companies are investing in their own sales staff when production should be much heavier.

To view Tanner’s checklist and a more in-depth look at this webinar.