The ultimate guide to search engine optimisation for law firms

In our comprehensive guide to SEO for law firms, we explain all the essential considerations involved in optimising your site to get it ranking for relevant Google searches.

Ultimate guide to SEO

What is SEO?

Search engines can drive a great number of relevant visitors and audiences to your law firm’s website. However, there are certain key steps that must be undertaken to optimise your online channels and present them effectively to search engines.

Each of these steps helps you to secure the top rankings for relevant keywords and thus attract the best possible business.

This process is known as ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ (SEO), of which there are three subsets: on-page SEO, off-page SEO and technical SEO.

SEO for lawyers - Increasing enquiries from clients searching for your services

Great SEO is crucial for your law firm and you may have even considered instructing an SEO agency to help generate the best possible enquiries online. It’s no longer just about keywords; it’s about writing, publishing, and sharing relevant content based on highly accurate keyword research. 

To do well online, it is critical that potential and existing clients can find you easily when searching for services relevant to your offering. It is important not to focus on one or two main key phrases, such as ‘Solicitors London’, or ‘Personal Injury Lawyers Birmingham’, but instead focusing on driving as much traffic as possible from as many relevant key phrases/keywords as possible.

If done properly (particularly with great content marketing) you can achieve excellent results. For example, we doubled a firm’s enquiry levels through expanding their local presence and constantly refining the conversion process to maximise their return on investment. The graph below tracks the number of phone call enquiries over the year:

Phone enquiries law firm seo guide


Be wary of the promise "we'll get you to number 1 on Google"

Google’s techniques and processes surrounding search engine optimisation change all the time. In fact, there’s not a lot of point being at number one in Google, Bing, or Yahoo for only one key phrase as it will, on its own, never drive enough traffic to generate the conversions you need.

Having said that, as trusted advisors to many law firms in various competitive areas, we have been able to help firms excel well beyond their expectations and develop a great spread of top search engine rankings.

It’s all about maintaining an awareness of current best practice and ensuring that the firm’s online presence is properly aligned to fully leverage the internet for the generation of new business.

It’s imperative that SEO activities are carried out in a strictly ‘white-hat’ or ethical manner to promote your online presence. Continual updates to Google’s search algorithms mean we have seen various law firm sites suffer at the hands of agencies who have used black-hat techniques in the past.

Even many ‘grey-hat’ activities that were once considered good practice are no longer valid. Google is becoming increasingly advanced and now looks to reward legal sector online platforms that are highly authoritative, deliver a good user experience (UX) and are full of in-depth valuable content.

Google is increasingly looking for other external signals to your website which are both relevant and authoritative. Today, online prominence is achieved through a mixture of on-site SEO work and off-page factors such as relevant backlinks and social media links.

What are the most important on-page SEO factors for law firms?

On-page SEO is the process of optimising your law firm’s web pages to improve your search engine rankings. The main factors that are relevant for such optimisation include content of the page, meta title, URL and other ranking factors. 

The quality and quantity of content on the ‘landing pages’ (i.e., the entry points) of your firm’s online channels is crucial for you to have great on-page SEO and, in turn, to acquire relevant, profitable online enquiries.

Only through significant volumes of great content can you find yourself worthy of great search rankings, particularly in the most competitive legal sectors.

SEMRush released an insightful SEO checklist in December, noting 10 key tasks to carry out in relation to your content and on-page SEO:

    1. Fix duplicate, missing, and truncated title tags

    2. Find and fix duplicate duplicate or missing meta descriptions

    3. Find and fix multiple H1 tags

    4. Improve title tags, meta descriptions, and page content

    5. Run a content audit and prune content

    6. Optimise images for SEO

    7. Optimise topic clusters

    8. Find and fix keyword cannibalisation 

    9. Update outdated content

    10. Improve content readability 

How to satisfy demand and add value

To provide great content, you must satisfy demand – i.e. you must provide valuable information to people searching around the area on which you are writing. Some call this ‘giving away information snacks to sell knowledge meals’ (such as New York content marketer Jay Baer; or our very own Chris Davidson!).

Say, for instance; you were looking to get your site ranking well for terms relating to Probate Lawyers in Newcastle. After conducting initial keyword research, you would aim to write a thorough, informative guide on probate in England & Wales. 

This guide should outline what the main processes are and how your lawyers can assist clients. It should have your unique brand proposition scattered throughout the piece, detail some top tips or common pitfalls, and explain what the main legal terminologies are

We use a range of SEO tools as part of our content auditing process and can determine what might be missing from any given web page or indeed any online platform.

Over time, you will gain expertise and you will be able to spend less time on keyword research and more time writing and optimising the content and making sure all the features above are in place.

Making your content linkable

Your content must be capable of being linked to i.e. you must have it published on an online platform (such as your law firm’s main website) and it must be capable of people creating a link to it from other sources. This can be from either social media channels or other pages on the web - but it must be linkable. 

Hiding content behind images, slideshows, flash plugins, or private login screens will render that content non-linkable in which case it is highly unlikely to rank well in search. And even once it is linkable, you need to ensure your off-page strategy (for which link building, citation building, social bookmarking, etc. are some of the main growth-drivers) is as strong as it can be.

Meta title - keywords plus user intent is key

Once you’ve got your content well-written and optimised (see also other ranking factors below), you must ensure your meta title is as relevant as possible. 

The meta title defines the title of your page, and it’s important not only for SEO purposes but also for social sharing and browsing. If you look, for instance, at the tab in your browser when on this page and hover over it, you’ll see what the meta title of this page is.

How to write a great meta title

The optimal length of your meta titles should be between 50-60 characters (ideally under 55 characters), and they should contain relevant keywords in readable and clickable language. 

Think what your ideal user’s query or intent may be – remember user experience (or UX) is always a high priority. Think what your main keywords are and ensure they are well positioned within that 55-character limit. 

For example, say you were looking to optimise one of your personal injury claims pages of your firm’s website. Your meta title should look something like this:

Personal Injury Lawyers for [Type of Case] [Cities] [Your Law Firm’s Name]

Benefits of a great meta title

Not only will you get an automatic SEO boost by placing the keywords you are targeting into the meta title of the page, but it will also make your page much more clickable in search, which itself is an SEO bonus.

When you’re dealing with over 100 pages of content, it can be tricky optimising all of your relevant meta titles. Working with a legal marketing agency like MLT ensures that you get it right the first time, without it having to be redone again.

Law firm URLs

The URL of your law firm page is also important for on-page SEO purposes.

good URL structure will include relevant keywords and be concise. For instance, for a family lawyer’s main family law landing page:

poor URL structure will have no or few keywords and possibly contain unnecessary, irrelevant further levels. For example: 1234/xyz/5678

Google will also be able to see that an over-optimised URL structure is trying to game the system and therefore is equally of little value (whereas in the past it may have been somewhat useful). An example of a poor keyword-stuffed example would be:

Lawfirmbrand familylawyers anddivorcesolicitors family-law- lawyers-solicitors- england-and-wales- child-finance-support- alimony-family-law

If you can have a thought-out URL structure in place before you start implementing your content, you’ll see significant ranking improvements for your law firm and won’t have to unpick a great deal of poor (or non-existent) optimisation. 

Often, it’s easier starting again from scratch on a new online platform than trying to fix a broken one that’s not fit for purpose.

Ranking factors to enhance your online visibility

There are many other factors that determine how your firm will rank in Google and other search engines. Ensure to implement 8 factors mentioned below to improve your law firm’s SEO. 

Headline and title tags

H1, H2, H3, H4 - Ensure you provide a great relevant user experience with some relevant keywords without overdoing it.

Internal links

Note that a page should be accessible through no more than four clicks from any other page on the site.

External links

Some SEOs question the value of external links. In our experience, some pointing to highly authoritative sources and resources can be beneficial and improve the user experience and not leak too much value from a site. On the other hand, linking out to too many low value, poor experience websites could seriously harm your SEO.

Body text

The main lesson is that keywords, that are properly identified through keyword research analysis, should be infused throughout your body text but not overdone (refer back to our content marketing notes above).

Meta description

While not itself directly used in Google’s search algorithm, having an clickable meta description can propel your website in search results.


Ensure alt text is optimised.

Meta keywords

It's worth mentioning that we and other SEOs recommend against using meta keywords. Perhaps ten years ago, this would have been useful; not now, so avoid this.

Social shares

If you have written and published your content effectively, it should can attract shares from your contacts on social media channels (for law firms think mainly LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook).

There are many other considerations for getting your law firm website to rank well in Google and generate profitable enquiries. See for instance: Backlinko’s 2022 ranking factors checklistUberSuggest’s on-page SEO factors and Blue Oceans Groups’s off-page SEO checklist.

Why does on-page SEO matter for law firms?

Despite serious competition from other firms, if you can get your on-page SEO perfected, your law firm can achieve the following:

  • Increased prominence in search

  • Increased traffic and enquiries

  • Maximised business generation potential of your website

Local SEO ranking factors

Local SEO is all about optimising your website to improve your rankings in local search engine results pages (SERPs). For law firms specifically, local SEO can be critical to attract potential clients who are looking for legal services in your location.

By optimising your website for local search, your law firm can improve your visibility in your area, gain more traffic from your targeted audience and, ultimately, generate more business.

Top 3 ranking tips for local SEO in 2023

There are a number of factors that can increase your rankings in SERPs when it comes to local SEO. At MLT, we recommend focusing on these three key areas for starters:

NAP consistency

Ensuring your firm’s NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) is exactly the same across all of your online local listings is vital for your local SEO ranking factors. Start with your Google Business Profile listing and then acquire and perfect all other local listings.

Build relevant and powerful citations

Google and other search engines look for cues that your firm is real. By having your firm’s details across various local citations, this lets Google recognise your business exists in your location, is reputable, and will ultimately help to push your firm up the rankings. 

Personalised search results

Google will try to give the user search results that are relevant to them, and this typically comes down to location and those places that are considered ‘near me’. As such, it’s crucial that your online strategy takes this into account.

Local SEO for Law Firms

If you want to learn more about local SEO and its impact on your law firm’s visibility online, read our guide to local SEO for law firms.

Off-page SEO / ‘link building'

You could have the best possible on-page optimisation in place, but without a solid off-page SEO strategy (otherwise known as ‘link building’), your online presence will never get off the ground.

What are some of the key components for off-page SEO?

External links as votes for your firm

External links or ‘backlinks’ (i.e. links back to your site from other sites) – are among the most important factors when it comes to search engine rankings. If you think your online platform is optimised but you're still not getting results, then it is likely that the search engines don't know enough about you.

Think of each link as representing a vote for your site. The more votes you get, the better your online platform will perform.

A link from a highly authoritative relevant site will carry much more weight than several links from a group of irrelevant, link-heavy sites (such as low-quality directories). 

It does not matter how well designed and optimised your law firm’s online platform is – if there are no links coming back to your site to let search engines know that it is there (and what it’s about), then you will not rank well.

This process of obtaining links is known as ‘off-site optimisation’ or ‘off-page optimisation’.

How to acquire the right links

Modern link building strategies, like the ones employed by our team, should constantly be refined to ensure that they stay up-to-date with the most recent Google search engine algorithm changes.

There are many ways of achieving links back to a law firm’s online platform, but the main ones include:

  • Writing content of great value and promoting it as far and wide as possible through other online channels (such as your social media) can help you earn useful links.
  • Regular directory submissions (to the right ones!)
  • Use appropriate anchor text which should vary between exact match anchor text for certain keywords, no anchor text (just the URL itself), and other variations of anchor text. 
  • Employing ‘white hat’ SEO methods (not black hat or negative SEO techniques)
  • Local link acquisition. If you obtain thousands of links from websites located in other countries, there is a high chance that not only will you not rank well in local search and your rankings could be penalised. Instead, aiming for fewer but higher quality, relevant local links can pay dividends.

If your website has been optimised but is not ranking well after a decent amount of time has elapsed (six months), then the problem is likely to be a lack of relevant links. ‘Black hat’ SEO may achieve quick results, but over time these will diminish and may even result in your site being penalised.

Modern link building strategies, like the ones employed by our team, should constantly be refined to ensure that they stay up-to-date with the most recent Google search engine algorithm changes.

How to win new business online

As we’ve outlined above, SEO is the process of ensuring that your website ranks well in search engines for as wide a variety of search queries as possible. 

If you wish to attract new business onlinethen potential clients should be able to find you when searching Google and other search engines for keywords relating to your main practice areas and services. 

Good SEO isn’t about ‘tricking’ search engines or trying to boost your rankings artificially. It’s about putting in place a layered, multi-faceted, organic approach to raise your rankings in a way that will deliver consistent results and continue to improve over time. 

There are SEO companies that will, no doubt, promise ‘quick fix’ solutions to boost your rankings in a short space of time. In our experience, these strategies may work for a while, but stop bearing fruit and even become harmful over time.

As search engines update their complex search algorithms to improve the quality of their service, SEO best practice constantly changes. 

When choosing a trusted partner to advise on or manage your online growth strategy, it’s important to choose one that knows your sector inside-out, that stays up to date on the latest search engine and online developments, and that can change strategy accordingly. 

We optimise law firm websites, improve your firm’s organic search results and have achieved fantastic results for our clients and we can help you too.


Improve your online visibility with SEO

Our team of experts make SEO for lawyers easier. If you’re struggling with your search engine optimisation efforts or if you aren’t acquiring enough leads from your existing law firm SEO strategy, give us a call on 0333 344 2722 or fill out our online enquiry form and we’ll carry out an analysis for your firm.

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