Link Building and Local Search for Law Firms: A Best Practices Guide

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As you may know, link relationships and keywords are the core of Google’s algorithm. The more times your pages are referenced on the web from other sites, and the more strategically your pages are structured, then generally the higher you will rank.

In order to stay competitive, it is important to engage in building a better web presence for your firm. This means improving your relevancy and authority for your website (and sometimes  usability). By following our guidelines, based on our internet marketing expertise, and investing in new content, links and upgrades, you can succeed long-term.

Search Ranking Overview


The most important way of establishing and improving your relevancy and authority is by understanding and leveraging the signals that Google uses to determine search rankings. There are other signals such as social, engagement, domain, and page-level metrics. But overall, our goals are to make your site relevant through quality, in-depth content and to help you become an authority through quality backlinks.


Relevancy is all about your content. You need to produce informative articles about your practice areas. Moreover, you need to write more than the standard 500 words per page. Instead of short articles, you need to be producing in-depth articles that are the resource for a topic area. You want to write articles that people want to share, because they are so interesting and informative.

In short, you need to be writing 1,000 to 2,000+ words per page and answering every possible question about a topic area. Become the default expert in an area by writing long-form content.


In this day and age, you need to create in-depth link profiles from a variety of sources in order to get your site on the first page of search results.

At PaperStreet, we tend to emphasize the importance of quality over quantity when it comes to link quality. After all, gaining a single prominent link can equate to more power than hundreds of low-quality links.

At minimum, we are doing all of the following for our clients and, if you are attempting this on your own, it is important that you do the same:

  1. Local citations (more on local business directories below);
  2. Developing testimonials from clients;
  3. Developing partnerships and link opportunities with your vendors;
  4. Developing reviews on review websites;
  5. Video and social media postings and client relations;
  6. Guest article and blogging opportunities;
  7. Real world opportunities (sponsoring events, seminars, scholarships);
  8. Removing toxic backlinks currently leading to your website (more on this below);
  9. Analyzing competitor websites and finding link opportunities;
  10. Direct link building based on quality websites (including some paid directories).

We no longer build simple links, we build an overall authority.

Getting Started with Link Building

If you are new to link building, the list below will be helpful as you begin your journey to the number one spot in the rankings.

At a minimum, we recommend a profile for each of these local directories, legal directories, and social media sites. However, we always recommend to make sure each site is relevant to your business:

Top Local Directories

  • Google My Business (
  • (must submit through text)

Social Media Networks

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest

Attorney Directories (NOTE: some may require a fee)

  • Avvo
  • Justia
  • Findlaw
  • Martindale/
  • Superlawyers (requires nomination)
  • bestlawyers (requires nomination)

Specified Profiles (NOTE: some may require a fee)

  • Your university alumni profile/website
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Better Business Bureau
  • State/City/County Bar Associations
  • Professional Associations
  • Local sponsorships/donations/community involvement

Keep in mind that often, the best type of links are simply free. As mentioned above, if you provide the best topical content in your area and be a reference point for your clients,you will find people will link naturally to your site.

Finally, if you need some help starting, check out where your top competitors are linked from. Make a chart and get the same links as them. It may take some time, but is worth the effort.

Using Directory Listings for Link Building

Some of the most powerful links you can obtain are through high-quality directories. They not only account for a large amount of site traffic but have great rankings within Google search results. In the legal industry, there are four major directories that have free profiles and give attorneys great online referral traffic and exposure.

The infographic below shows how important these websites are.

inbound referral info

You can see that traffic and search engine results are huge for these sites, but it is also important to note that these directories will often rank higher than any law firm website, simply because of the power and authority of the directories. Needless to say, with the large amount of referral traffic directed to your website from a quality relevant directory, there is no reason not to create a free profile with them. This is a great way to kickstart your link building campaign.

Law Firm Citations For Local Search

Another directory-related approach to building backlinks is using local directories. PaperStreet reviewed the local citations for 100 law firms in a variety of cities. We put the results into this infographic.

You can view the full version for our complete results. Basically, the data allowed us to define top websites for citations. The top ten websites had more than 90 citations in 100 city searches. The next 15 citation sources had more than 79 citations in 100 city searches.

local search info

nifty info


Listing in a Directory vs. Advertising Directly

As you consider which directory strategy to follow, you may also want to consider advertising directly. To make the best decision, it’s important to understand how online directories work.

Almost all online directories fall into one of two categories.

The first category of online directories advertise themselves on Google and then link to your site from their directory. The pros of this kind of directory is that they typically have a large ad budget and their adsare shown all the time for every imaginable keyword. The con of this is that the end user first has to go to the directory to find your site. On some directories, you are listed with several other firms.

The second kind of directory sets up an advertising campaign to link directly to your site, skipping their directory. The pro of this is that the end user is going directly to your site. The con of this is that, most likely, you are being charged a higher ad rate than if you set up the ads yourself, or at least the directory is charging a listing fee for the directory to manage your ad campaign.

Consequently, you may want to consider signing up with Google Adwords yourself and link to your site directly. By doing this, you will cut out the middle man. You can set up an account pretty quickly and it will give you complete control of your ad budget and campaign. If you go this route, we suggest advertising with Yahoo Search Marketing as well as Google Adwords because Yahoo puts their ads on MSN and Yahoo (and a few others). Google Adwords puts its ads on Google and websites of their search partners. Thus, by using Google Adwords, you are covering 95 percent of the search market..

The Importance of Fixing Broken Links

404 blocks

When considering your backlink strategy, in addition to knowing how to build your profile, one of the most important aspects is making sure that your content stays relevant and up-to-date. Links are what tie everything together and allow the user to navigate the information being displayed easily. If the links on your website are broken, this disrupts the flow of your content for both the user and search engines.

What are broken links?

Most likely, at one point or another, you’ve landed on a “404 Page Not Found” or something similar while going through a website. This can be caused by several reasons:

  1. The website is no longer available.
  2. The URL of the web page was changed.
  3. The web page was deleted.

Websites are bound to get some broken links the longer they are online, but there are two big reasons to check your site regularly for and to fix any broken links.

Improving the User Experience

For existing websites, one of the easiest and often overlooked ways to improve traffic and the user experience is by making sure that there are no broken links on your website. You want to provide relevant and helpful information,but having content that leads to 404 pages turns users off from your website. If someone on your website is looking for something and they find a potential answer that leads to an error page, it is a huge let down for the user, which ultimately leads them to another website.

Improving your Search Engine Optimization

SEO, or search engine optimization, is crucial if you want to rank higher and be seen more often. Search engines crawl through your website every so often looking for new and updated content and having too many broken links is a big sign of a low-quality website. Broken links can also stop your site from being indexed, which is how Google and other search engines know what is on your website.

Merely removing the links would technically resolve the issue but would not be as beneficial as if you were to replace the link with a more accessible and reputable one. Every link on your website is an up-vote for your website’s rank with Google, and the higher your status, the higher you will appear in their search results. So, fixing the issue is just as important as how you correct it because it is more valuable to use quality links over too many links. This will prevent future broken links and also help you provide more relevant content to your users.

Ultimately, fixing broken links is a simple but essential step in the maintenance of your website. Broken links negatively affect your users and how search engines rank your website, which overall lowers the number of people your website is reaching. Replacing broken links with quality and relevant content is a sure fire way to improve the quality of your website.

Using Keywords to Drive Traffic to Your Website

In addition to understanding how to build solid backlinks, you will also want to know how to leverage keywords strategically to achieve relevance and authority. Keywords are foundational tor every internet marketing campaign and it’s important to understand how often keywords are sought after to ensure you are targeting keywords that people frequently use and care about. If you are trying to rank high for keywords that people aren’t searching for, you’re wasting your efforts.

We perform an abundance of keyword research at PaperStreet. So, we thought it would be interesting to take the 50 most populated cities in the USA and see which legal practice areas drive the most search traffic, according to Google.

Our Key Takeaways

  • Only 13 cities (out of the 50 searched for) appeared in the top 50 results (full list below)
  • Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney was the most highly sought after keyword bringing in roughly 1,900 monthly searches
  • Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyer demanded the highest PPC suggested bid at $152.07
  • The cities of Los Angeles, Houston, and San Diego encompassed 60% of the 50 keywords

The table below displays the average monthly searches (exact match), competition, and suggested AdWords bid for the top 50 legal keywords in the 50 most populated cities in the United States.

Keywords Searches Competition Suggested Bid
Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney 1900  64%  $30.73
Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer 1300  80%  $101.57
Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer 1000  83%  $107.22
Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer 1000  75%  $92.08
Los Angeles DUI Attorney 1000  74%  $100.81
Phoenix DUI Lawyer 1000  74%  $107.34
Austin Divorce Attorney 880  91%  $26.67
Houston Criminal Defense Attorney 880  64%  $47.00
Houston Personal Injury Lawyer 880  66%  $89.84
Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer 880  81%  $32.39
Los Angeles DUI Lawyer 880  84%  $90.67
Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyers 880  87%  $78.36
San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney 880  88%  $71.77
San Diego DUI Lawyer 880  80%  $64.07
Atlanta DUI Lawyer 720  85%  $27.10
Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney 720  84%  $145.53
Chicago Criminal Lawyer 720  83%  $17.29
Dallas DWI Lawyer 720  65%  $54.79
Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer 720  54%  $25.19
Houston Criminal Lawyer 720  75%  $35.11
Houston DWI Attorney 720  79%  $49.04
Houston DWI Lawyer 720  77%  $70.85
Indianapolis Personal Injury Lawyer 720  63%  –
Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer 720  79%  $74.35
Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer 720  49%  $35.80
Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney 720  85%  $73.33
San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer 720  83%  $72.91
Denver Divorce Attorney 590  88%  $49.93
Denver DUI Attorney 590  80%  $94.64
Denver Personal Injury Attorney 590  91%  $104.07
Houston Divorce Lawyer 590  82%  $22.05
Houston Personal Injury Attorney 590  50%   –
Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer 590  78%  $50.06
Los Angeles Divorce Attorney 590  84%  $25.16
New York Personal Injury Lawyer 590  77%  $75.60
Phoenix Personal Injury Lawyer 590  92%  $134.02
Sacramento DUI Attorney 590  78%  $73.62
San Diego Criminal Lawyer 590  81%  $32.56
San Diego Divorce Lawyer 590  72%  $74.18
San Diego DUI Attorney 590  84%  $101.50
Seattle DUI Attorney 590  88%  $77.20
Chicago Criminal Attorney 480  86%  $30.09
Chicago DUI Attorney 480 72% $40.79
Houston Car Accident Lawyer 480  80%   $134.17
Houston Truck Accident Lawyer 480  63%  –
Los Angeles Criminal Attorney 480  68% $24.42
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyer 480  75%  $152.07
San Diego Divorce Attorney 480  90% $53.80
San Diego Personal Injury Attorney 480  87%  $67.29

Build Your Backlink Profile with Experts

Link building, local search success, and effective keyword usage are all essential but time-consuming aspects of an authoritative and relevant website presence.

Luckily, PaperStreet’s expert staff has the most up-to-date knowledge on effective internet marketing strategies that will allow your website to maximize incoming traffic. Whether it’s solidifying a solid backlink profile, ranking high in search, prioritizing strategic keywords, or all three, PaperStreet is here to help your website succeed.

To learn more, contact us and schedule a free consultation today.

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