Criminal Defense SEO is competitive and noisy with marketing firms pitching low-quality services. Search Engine Algorithms are constantly changing and ranking positions are subject to fluctuations.
These circumstances make it challenging to rank prominently and convert Organic traffic into the right clients for your firm.
My goal with this guide is to give you sound SEO practices that are proven and address evergreen principles like Quality and satisfying searcher intent.
If you implement these best practices each month, you will almost certainly be doing more than competing firms. Stick with these tactics and overtime SEO can become your best source of new clients on a weekly basis.
The Argument for SEO
Sometimes Digital Marketers have blinders on and they don’t understand that a Criminal Defense Firm has many tools to drive in new clients. Networking, Community Involvement, TV, Radio and Client Referrals are all effective mediums that have little to no connection to Digital Marketing.
I certainly understand there are many ways to drive in quality cases and I am an advocate for a well-rounded approach.
But, the data surrounding SEO is just too compelling to overlook. Let’s check out some relevant statistics:
- Over 40 percent of revenue is captured by organic traffic. (BrightEdge)
- Marketers see SEO as becoming more effective, with 82% reporting effectiveness is on the rise and 42% of this group stating effectiveness is increasing significantly. (Source: MarketDive, 2016)
- Google “near me” searches have increased by two times over the past year. (Source: Search Engine Watch, 2016)
- 51% of all search traffic comes from organic search, 10% from paid search, 5% from social and 34% from all other sources.
- 70-80% of search engine users are only focusing on the organic results. (MarTech, 2018)
- Organic SEO is about 5.66 times better than paid search ads. (New Media Campaigns, 2018)
The short and simple is, prospective clients are using a Search Engine to locate Criminal Defense firms. Most of the clicks on the SERP go to Organic instead of Google Ads and Organic Traffic simply convert better than other sources.
Let’s jump into the details!
Clients and prospective clients often share with me SEO proposals from other agencies. I’m surprised at how often I see proposals that don’t consider the state of the current website and lack consultations for improvement.
Your site structure will play an integral role in a successful SEO campaign.
You will also want to balance the amount invested in acquiring traffic vs converting traffic.
Your sitemap is how your website and URLs are organized and structured. You need the right pages to properly represent your services and rank in the Search Engines.
A few Don’ts and common mistakes:
- Don’t combine services into one-page. You will need individual pages for all your services. i.e Drug Crimes, Theft, Robbery, DUI, White Collar Crimes, etc.
- Don’t have services on menu navigation that you never really do or that don’t bring in much revenue. If you really need the pages on the site, that is ok but you can remove them from the menu navigation.
- Don’t have confusing menu navigation on mobile. Make it easy for prospects to find the service page they are looking for. Otherwise, they will bounce back to the SERP and visit a competitors website.
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
If you are going to invest in SEO make sure Conversion Rate Optimization is part of the plan. If it is not, make sure to include an additional consultant who can recommend site improvements that will improve conversion rates.
For every $92 spent acquiring customers, only $1 is spent converting them. (Econsultancy, 2016).
The above stat is alarming and I have seen companies spend a few thousand a months on SEO, tens of thousands a month on Google Ads and put very little resources into CRO.
To further illustrate the importance of CRO, check out this example:
Pre-SEO and CRO:
Let’s say your site receives 1,000 users from Organic a month and converts traffic at 2%, yielding 20 in-bound leads.
SEO and CRO Implemented:
Now, let’s say as a result of your SEO campaign you have doubled traffic to 2,000 users from Organic. Concurrently you worked on your CRO and you tripled your sites conversion rate to 6%. Yes, this is completely possible and reasonable. You now have 120 monthly inbound leads from SEO.
Your CRO improvements will cost a fraction of what you will invest in SEO. Here are a few common optimizations:
- Showcase testimonials front and center
- Add video to your homepage and main service pages
- Implement a sticky header
- Add the click to call HTML code to the mobile
- Swap out stock images with custom photos
- Implement pop up software like optinmonster
- Change paragraph style content to bullet points before a call to actions
- Ensure each page has a call to action, a form, and your phone number
SEO is a one-two punch. First you need more Organic traffic and second, you need to convert the traffic at the highest rate possible.
Google Map Optimization
Often the Organic results are cluttered with aggregators and directories. But those sites are almost never in the Local Map Results because they are not local businesses. Showing up in Maps can be a highly profitable position. Here is how you get there!
Ensure your Google My Business page is verified and fully built out. Make sure every field is filled out and don’t forget to add your services. This content is indexed by Google and it’s a great opportunity to help Google understand exactly what your firm does. Make it easy for them to show your site for highly relevant queries.
Yext or Synup
You will want to use a Citation Management Software to list your site on dozens of directories. The advantage of using the software is you only have to enter the data one-time. Citations or instances of your Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) is a ranking signal for Local Search.
This tool has more opportunities for directories that Yext or Synup do not have. They can also help clean up listings with inaccurate information or suppress duplicates listings.
Another great tool for citations that focuses on “niche” directories. WhiteSpark can help list your site on more legal directories.
Well-Known Legal Directories
There are certain Legal Directories you just can’t overlook. These are the directories that have high Domain Authorities and drive a ton of monthly traffic. Here are a few big ones:
Here is a more comprehensive list of the Top Legal Directories and the details associated with creating a profile.
A Perfectly Optimized Website
You’re going to need a team competent in Technical SEO. It’s easy for agencies who specialize in other disciplines of SEO to shy away from the technical aspects.
Your site should have the ideal URL structure. The keyword you are targeting should be included in the URL. This will often require redoing URLs and setting up redirects.
Make sure your site is fast. Test with GT Metrix and address the recommendations. Common recommendations are:
- Minify CSS
- Setup Browser Caching
- Reduce server response
- Image optimization
Many speed issues can be addressed by utilizing a premium host. A strong host will also provide great uptime, an SSL Certificate, access to backups, a staging environment, a user-friendly interface, and excellent customer support.
If you are using WordPress, I recommend WP Engine as a host.
*Pro Tip – Do not let an agency or Web Developer “Host your site.” Your site should be hosted directly with a hosting company with an account you own. From there, you would invite developers and marketers to access the account.
On-Page SEO should be a collaborative process between your firm and the team or individual completing the work. Do not accept, “We optimized the site or following pages.” You are entitled to the details!
These are the On-Page SEO elements that need to be addressed:
- HTML Tags also referred to as H1, H2, and H3 Tags
- Title Tags
- Meta Descriptions
- Alt Tags in Images
- Use of modifiers in titles where applicable like “best,” “review” or “guide”
- Where and what keywords were used
- Use of LSI keywords
- Outbound Linking
- Internal Linking
Here is exactly what you’re looking for:
- A representation of the sites current on-page SEO elements
- The proposed updates to the elements
- Subsequent to approval the implementation of the work
Trust me when I tell you, you don’t want to find out 6 months later that they were optimizing for the wrong keywords or misrepresenting your firm in the Title Tags and Meta Descriptions. This can and absolutely should be avoided.
In August 2018 Google released a broad core algorithm update referred to as the medic update. A key take away was the concept of “E-A-T.” The digital marketing community is well-known for their Acronyms and this one stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness as it relates to the production of content.
Here is how you create content that showcases your firm as an expert:
- Conduct “topic research” to understand what is important to your prospective clients.
- Review other articles ranking prominently and identify opportunities to create a superior piece.
- Address the topics in long-form blog postings and far exceed the reader’s expectations.
Here are criteria you can use to evaluate whether your content is “authoritative” in nature.
- Are well-reputed publishers linking to your content? If not, time to make it happen through a Link Building campaign.
- The Domain Authority of your site.
- The performance of your content on Social Media. If you’re boosting content, review engagement metrics (likes and shares).
- Your Majestic SEO Trust Ratio Score.
How the public perceives your business can have a huge impact on your success. SEO aside, if your Google and Yelp accounts are rife with 1-star reviews rest assured you will be deemed untrustworthy.
Defend your online reputation. Do great work to attract 5-star reviews and publicly address 1,2 and 3-star reviews.
There is more to trust than just reviews. Here are a few ways you can ensure you can check the trustworthiness box:
- Make sure your office location is easy to view on the website.
- Implement HTTPS to provide a safe and secure experience for visitors.
- Include the appropriate legal disclaimer language.
- Show Social Proof by showcasing recent testimonials from clients.
Modern SEO is less “keyword” oriented and more about satisfying user intent using quality to attract Organic Traffic.
Work on your E-A-T score and watch your rankings skyrocket!
Of course, your SEO plan will not exclusively rely on the work you do on your website. You will have to build out content libraries off your website and execute Off-Page SEO.
Quora is the internet’s largest Q & A Platform. You can identify what questions users are asking related to Criminal Defense Law and provide comprehensive answers.
If you launch an Ads account on Quora you will receive more detailed data like weekly views for each question.
Create a list of questions, answer them, post to Quora and tastefully link back to your site. You can also review how many times the questions have been answered and the quality of the response. Quora uses an Upvoting system to prioritize responses so your goal is to convince the community your response is the best and have it upvoted to the top.
*Pro Tip – Identify when Quora is ranking on the Search Engine results page for an answer. Then target this question. Users will do a Google Search, click the Quora link and find your response. This is a creative way to grab more traffic referred to as “Barnacle SEO.”
Medium refers to the site as “a place to read and write big ideas and important stories.” It’s a platform that embraces Social Journalism where amateurs, professionals and essentially anyone with an account can publish content. Here are a few ways you can utilize Medium:
- Post original content or repurpose a piece of content from your blog and post.
- Be Creative and post visual content like Infographics.
- Publish regularly and create a “branded” collection by using your firm name as the title.
- Link to your blog, homepage or service pages throughout the content.
- Stay objective by writing about interesting and non-promotional content.
Link Building and Custom Blogger Outreach
By now I’m sure you have heard that link building is a top 3 ranking signal for SEO. Link Building has consistently been a great way to improve rankings.
I could write a short book on the best practices and tricks surrounding link building but instead, I’ll concisely outline the most important steps:
- Build a database of link prospects. The prospects should be websites and blogs that relate to Criminal Law or at least the legal field.
- Craft email pitch templates as you or your designee will need to reach out to these sites and ask for a link back to your site.
- Use high-quality content that followed the E-A-T process as assets to build links to.
- Conduct organized outreach to acquire links.
- Acquire new links and track all of them.
Follow these steps and you will Improve rankings, increase Domain Authority, increase Page Authority, build relationships with publishers and increase your referral traffic.
Tracking your SEO campaigns progress is arguably the most important part of the initiative. Proper reporting will allow a skilled SEO to point out what is working and how to prioritize a project plan. An expert will know exactly what to do in order to obtain results as fast as possible.
I should caution you to be wary of SEO reporting in general. Many companies load reports with readily available metrics and fail to communicate exactly what they did.
Here is where the data should come from:
- Google Search Console
- Google Analytics
- Google My Business
- Moz, ahrefs or Majestic SEO
- Keyword Ranking software
- Their internal project plan. Your SEO partner needs to detail exactly what work they did!
- Traffic and Cost Per Lead (CPL) comparison to Google Ads
- 3rd party tools – CallRail (call tracking), optinmonster (pop up software), etc..
Here are a few important metrics you are looking for:
- Baseline metrics so you understand where you were before launching the campaign
- Organic traffic growth month over month, quarter over quarter and year over year
- User engagement metrics like Bounce Rate and Time on Page
- Movement in important keywords
- Organic conversion data like form submits, conversion rates and phone calls. I highly recommend including your staff to evaluate the quality of the conversions
- Metrics for new Links Acquired like Domain Authority and Page Authority
I am sure you have been pitched a dozen times and receive a countless amount of unsolicited phone calls around SEO. I understand it can become bothersome. If it only it was easy to find a trustworthy, affordable expert with strong communication.
What I can tell you is, it’s worth looking for that individual or company that you are in step with, to take care of your SEO. It’s just too important for your firm to overlook.
I hope this write up will help you drive in more organic traffic and more importantly more of the right cases.
If you have any questions do not hesitate to reach out. Of course, if you are interested in my professional help, you can contact me here. Thank you for reading!
Rocket Pilots is a San Diego based company serving law firms throughout the United States.