S – E – Ohh: Search Engine Optimization For Small Law Firms

By Deirdre M. Stephenson

What happens when people google “Divorce Lawyer” in the geographic area where your small firm is located? Does your firm come up on the results page? Do you even want to be a result of a search for family law attorney? Do you see other firms on the list of results that do not even practice family law? In a world where the answer to a posed question is more often than not: “I don’t know …just Google it,” it is important, if not imperative, for small firms to harness the power of Search Engine Optimization, aka SEO.

When I googled SEO the first four results were advertisements for SEO companies, the fourth of which claimed to provide quality SEO to small businesses. The fifth result, the definition I was searching for, was Wikipedia’s definition of SEO. Wikipedia, (don’t @ me about relying on a Wikipedia definition), stated the following: Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the online visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine’s unpaid results—often referred to as “natural”, “organic”, or “earned” results. Most of us realize that the first four results I received were paid advertisements which boosted those results to the top of the search result page. However, as the Wikipedia definition stated, one can take advantage of SEO without having to pay for it.

So, what does unpaid, “natural”, “organic”, or “earned” results mean for your small firm and how do you go about earning these results organically? How can small law firms harness the power of SEO to boost their clientele or gain name recognition in the community? The obvious path comes with the price tag of hiring a company to manage your online presence to organically boost your SEO. There are a number of companies who advertise SEO services and ironically enough, you can find them by typing SEO into a search engine, such as Google or Bing. But what if you don’t have the funds to pay someone else to get you the search engine results your firm is needing? The answer is simple, learn to do it yourself.

As many small firm owners, partners, and even associates know, when something goes wrong or something needs to be done, you have to roll up your sleeves and solve it yourself. If you skimmed the paragraphs above to find the answers to increasing your SEO, here is the first step:

  1. You need to understand how major search engines recognize your firm as a legitimate business and thus, an appropriate result for their user’s search. Search engines use algorithms to determine your firm’s legitimacy based on the information about your firm on the internet.
  2. Next, you need an internet presence before you can confirm all of the information in different locations is correct. Ask yourself if your firm has the following: a Facebook page, a Yelp page, a business Linked In account, a website, and a FourSquare page. If the answer to any of those was “No” you need to get one.
  3. Once you have created the above pages and/or accounts, the third step is to assure that the information on each page/account is the same. As stated above, Search Engines verify the validity of your business by searching the internet and comparing the information from different sources. Meaning, they want your information, such as your phone number and your address, from your Facebook page, your website, and your Yelp page to match. The more “matching” or verified information they can pull from multiple sources equates to the level of the legitimacy the search engine gives you. The more legitimate the search engine deems you, the higher your firm will appear on applicable search result pages.

Use SEO strategies to your small firm’s advantage. I highly suggest hiring a SEO or marketing company to help you get started if you are able. If not, with a little research and time, you can boost your SEO yourself to attract more clients.

Deirdre is an attorney at Stephenson & Stephenson, PA in Sanford, North Carolina. She is the Communications Chair for the Small Firm and Technology Section of the NCBA and is also the current President of the Lee County Bar Association.