SEO FAQ
Making Sense of SEO

Common Questions about SEO
Answered by PaperStreet.

Search Engine Optimization

SEO FAQ's

SEO for lawyers isn’t easy. To have a truly successful campaign, you need to understand the ins and outs of the technical aspects as well as the “must-haves” that help boost your rankings.

Below are some of the most common law firm SEO questions we receive from our prospective clients and some that will help you understand our internet marketing services a bit better.

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Questions about PaperStreet’s SEO Practices

Do I need an SEO company?

In short, maybe. While we can provide resources to help you understand the “basics,” SEO for lawyers is far from simple. The guidelines and standards for what works and what doesn’t are constantly changing and evolving. We view them like a puzzle or a code that we need to crack, and it can sometimes be challenging. It takes expert knowledge and experience to get the results you need, and more than anything, it takes time. As a lawyer, we know you’re busy handling cases and clients. They need your utmost attention. Leave the technical stuff to us. Finally, check out How We Generated 145 Leads for a Law Firm.

Do you have a SEO Process Chart?

Of course.

SEO Process

View our SEO Process Chart here.
We believe the initial setup process should be as collaborative as possible. The more insight you provide about your goals, practice areas and let us learn about your business, the better we'll be able to customize our research and strategy. Our detailed process of setting up a law firm SEO campaign consists of hundreds of steps but they can fundamentally be shortened down to:

  • Keyword Analysis and Strategy
  • Content Development
  • Authoritative Link Building
  • Reporting and Consultation

Below are a list of some of our blog posts on segments of our process:

How are your fees set up?

We offer a wide variety of package plans to fit the needs of most firms. To read more about each, please view our SEO plans page.

Do you offer any guarantees?

While we do not promise any guarantees, we work aggressively to maintain a retention rate of 90% and higher of all SEO clients. We view all campaigns as a symbiotic relationship and our success is your success.

Does PaperStreet handle everything for your SEO campaign?

As with any marketing, success is derived from partnerships of the same common goal. While PaperStreet will handle the overwhelming majority of the work, partnerships are critical to the success of your campaign. The more your firm is involved, the higher you will rank. Below are a list of some of our blog posts on partnerships:

What makes PaperStreet different from other SEO agencies?

We pride ourselves on our results, our exclusivity, and our transparency. We like to showcase our proven results; we offer exclusive agreements by working for only one firm for each particular practice areas per region for most of our advanced packages; and we uphold full transparency in the work within your campaign – we involve our clients in all aspects of our process and provide full disclosure in all work completed within the campaign.

How is SEO success measured?

Getting a return on your investment. Once we obtain top rankings, translating these rankings first to traffic on your website; then, most importantly, to conversions from the website.

How does PaperStreet decide which keywords to use?

At PaperStreet, we rely on in-depth keyword research to determine which keywords will be the most relevant, most competitive and most lucrative for your law firm. Some of our steps for this process include:

  • Establish your geographical area. Determining the region you want to focus on -- whether it’s a specific city, county or sometimes even nationwide -- is the first step to creating an effective list of keywords.
  • Identify keywords based on content. Content based around keyword phrases is viewed as more relevant by search engines and will help improve your rankings.
  • Add keyword suffix terms. Don’t just focus on one term! In the legal industry, there are so many options available to you. Use the terms “lawyer,” “lawyers,” “attorney,” “attorneys,” “law firm,” and “law firms” for the best results.
  • Use suggestion tools. Tools like Google Adwords’ Keyword Planner and other sites like Ubersuggest are a great resource for generating ideas you might have missed. Adwords’ Keyword Planner Tool and other sites like Ubersuggest are a great resource for generating ideas you might have missed.

Does PaperStreet outsource?

No, we do not outsource our work. We do all our own research, strategy, writing, editing, development, design, link building, reporting, analytics and consulting.

Can you work with my design / development team?

Yes, our team can work with any design and development team. We have worked on SEO only campaigns with marketing teams. Of course, we are also a web design and development team, so can assist as needed too.

Does PaperStreet adhere to White Hat SEO principles?

Yes. We have never (and never will) resort to the unscrupulous SEO tactics that have caught up to some companies, getting them blacklisted by Google. In fact, we have helped many firms that have come to us for assist in cleaning up their websites and getting rankings restored. While it might take more time and effort, these techniques can and will achieve long-term success. We focus on high-quality backlinks; original, reader-friendly content; heavily-researched keywords and more to ensure results for our clients.

Does PaperStreet offer a Google Penalty Recovery Services?

Yes. If your website has low-quality backlinks, Google may have noticed this also. As such, these backlinks can be pulling down your website in rankings. We offer services to disavow and remove manual action penalties caused by these low-quality backlinks.

Does PaperStreet offer General SEO Consulting?

Yes. Please contact us for specific plans on how we may be able to assist.

Do you pay attention to Google Algorithm updates and do they matter?

Yes and yes. We continually monitor any changes, however minor they may seem. Any changes within any algorithm can potentially affect change and we want to make sure that we are stay on top of any updates that can affect our campaigns. Below are a list of some of our blog posts on algorithm updates:

Which SEO tools do you use?

It's important to make sure the technical aspects of the website are in good shape. This ensures Google can easily access the website and understand it completely. We use applications such as Google Analytics and Search Console, Screaming Frog, XENU, MOZ, Sitebeam, and Advanced Web Rankings to name a few. Below are a list of some of our blog posts on Google Webmaster Tools and Analytics:

How does PaperStreet aid in our local SEO?

By focusing on your local SEO marketing goals. We optimize your website to ensure it has all of your local information according to best practices. We work with our clients to create local content such as city pages and local blog posts. We claim and update all major local listings and provide recommendations on backlink opportunities including sponsorships and publications to dominate within a local market.

Will you share all of the SEO changes you make to our site?

Yes. We never arbitrarily make updates to a website without approval. This is a stop-gap within our process and we never the right to do so. All changes and updates will be approved first before being made online.

How often will you deliver reports?

All reports are sent out within the first two weeks of each month. The reports sent outline the work completed over the previous month. Additionally, monthly consultation is included as part of all SEO campaigns at PaperStreet.

Questions to ask a SEO firm:

  • Do they understand the legal market?
  • Do they have experience in the legal market?
  • How many campaigns do they manage?
  • What are some client success stories?
  • What are some client failures (you only truly learn through failure)?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Do you have any pending litigation or criminal issues?
  • What is a timeline for success?
  • What is a key metric for success?
  • How much time will be required from our firm?

Will SEO help my law firm?

Yes, so long as you follow the best practices guidelines, an SEO strategy can help your site. You can also seriously mess up your website and hurt your rankings if you try to scheme / scam Google.

How long will SEO take?

The SEO for lawyers process can take anywhere from 60 days to over a year. The time it takes depends on your existing website, its content, its authority and the same for your competitors. Niche keyword phrases can be ranked high typically quicker than the most highly sought after competitive phrases.

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Questions Regarding the Basics of SEO

SEO vs. SEM

SEO stands for search engine optimization. SEM stands for search engine marketing. In short, they are roughly the same phrase, although some vendors will qualify any marketing activities related to search as SEM. So SEM can encompass both SEO and PPC (pay-per-click – Google Adwords).

What is on-site SEO?

On-site or on-page SEO is the technical optimization of your website. This can include title tags, meta descriptions, H1, H2, H3 tags, rich snippets, XML sitemaps, URL structure, internal linking, external linking, alt text, bold/strong, LSI, word count, and even usability to some degree.

What is off-site SEO?

Off-site SEO is pretty much any technique you take to optimize your website through another site. In short, it is building links. It is making sure your NAP (Name Address Phone) are consistent on all other websites and directories. It is making sure you have great backlinks to your site from high quality sources. It is making sure you have a plan of action to write worthwhile content and become a trusted source on other sites.

What is the difference between paid and organic results?

Paid or inorganic results are simply search results that advertisers have paid for. They typically appear at the top or the side of the page, above the organic listings. Organic listings are free, and their ranking and position depends completely on Google’s algorithms.

What is a conversion when it comes to SEO for lawyers?

Every web page is created with a goal in mind. One goal achieved = one conversion. Clothing retailers want you to purchase their products. News websites want you to subscribe to their publications. For law firms like yours, the goal of your website is to get potential clients to contact you for a consultation. From eye-popping images to attention-grabbing headlines, there are many strategies we use to make sure our lawyer websites convert.

What is negative SEO?

This is the black hat tactic of trying to penalize a competitors website through offsite rankings factors (i.e. building links to your competitors site that are spam and low-quality). Don’t do this. It is a waste of everyone’s time and money.

What is “White Hat” and “Black Hat” SEO?

White Hat versus Black Hat is essentially the SEO world’s version of good versus evil. Black Hat SEO strategies rely on unethical tactics like keyword stuffing and paid links to manipulate their search engine rankings, fast. Their techniques violate Google’s guidelines and can result in your website being penalized or even banned.

What are meta descriptions and title tags, and do I need them?

Title tags and meta descriptions are the on-page elements that appear on search engines. This typically includes a short title that links to your page and a brief description as to what potential clients will find. Writing good title tags and meta descriptions is one of the easiest ways to give your on-page SEO a little boost. While it obviously doesn’t guarantee a #1 ranking, having properly optimized meta tags will ensure that Google knows what terms or keyword phrases you’re trying to rank for. Organic titles and thorough, attention-grabbing descriptions will also lead to more clicks from readers, and more traffic is always a good thing.

Does page speed matter?

You bet! We’ve all been through the struggle of waiting for a slow website to load. Studies have shown that more than one third of visitors will abandon a site that takes just three seconds or more to load. Even a one second delay in page response can lead to a 7% drop in conversions! And that means you’re losing clients. Not only is a slow website annoying, but it can also affect how Google views your website. Google has stated in the past that site speed is used by its algorithm as a ranking factor

If you’re struggling with the load time of your website, there are a few things we typically look for. Are your plugins bogging you down? How about your code? Are your graphics taking too long to load? You can find more information on how to speed things up here.

What are Short Tail vs. Medium Tail vs. Long-Tail keyword phrases?

Here are some examples:

  • A short tail keyword phrase would be: criminal defense
  • A medium tail keyword phrase would be: New Orleans criminal defense lawyer
  • A long-tail keyword phrase would be: New Orleans criminal defense lawyer for DUI

You should optimize your website for medium tail keyword phrases, as often you will rank high naturally for long-tail and perhaps even short-tail.

Are internal links good for SEO?

Yes. Internal links, or interlinking, allows Google to establish a hierarchy of pages for your website. This leads to a better experience for users, and it also allows search engines to access all pages of your website when scanning for content. It doesn’t matter how great your copy is, or how well it’s optimized. If your pages can’t be reached, they essentially don’t exist to Google, and they can’t help your rankings.

What are the top Google ranking factors?

PageRank, Content and RankBrain. You can see articles on this here.

How do I recover from bad rankings?

If you’ve engaged in unethical SEO practices in the past, it might take some time for your site to recover from search engine penalties. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do that can help repair your relationship with Google. This includes:

  • Cleaning up your backlinks. Remove and disavow those spammy, paid directories and replace them with high-quality links.
  • Writing better content. Google favors original content (which you can find more information on below), so start writing and revising. Clean up your spammy copy and create information that people will want and like to read.
  • Checking out algorithm changes. I know, I know, we’ve said it a lot, but Google’s guidelines for good SEO are always changing, and you need to stay up-to-date on the latest policies to ensure the most success for your website.

What are some top SEO violations, according to Google?

  • Keyword stuffing. Including your keywords is important in any law firm SEO strategy. However, including them too many times can result in a penalty for keyword stuffing. If your key phrases are appearing in every header and every other sentence, you should prepare yourself to see a serious drop in rankings.
  • Hidden text. To avoid keyword stuffing, some black hat SEO companies will hide their keywords. Whether they are sneaked in your website’s HTML code or hiding in plain site by matching the text color to the page background, hidden text violates Google’s guidelines and should be avoided.
  • Paid links. It might be tempting to resort to paying for links when building a backlink profile for your website. It’s easy, right? Just pay a fee to have your practice added to a variety of online directories. Wrong. Spend the time building organic links, or you’re going to be penalized.
  • Cloaking. When a site is modified to display different content based on who (or what) is viewing it, this is known as cloaking. The version of your site that an average, day-to-day user sees is the same one that should be shown to search engine bots. Anything else is considered a serious SEO violation.
  • Doorway pages. Doorway pages are created to increase the chances of a website appearing multiple times in Google’s search results. These spammy pages redirect users to an internal page without them knowing.

What is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console is a great tool for any website owner. You can see messages directly from Google concerning your website, view indexing errors, search insights, index new pages manually, upload XML sitemaps, see security issues or penalties, view structured data and rich snippets, review AMP issues, view backlinks to your site, review mobile usability issues, and a lot of other cool features. This is a must have for every website.

Will PPC ads help my organic SEO campaign?

No. Although AdWords and organic search results appear on the same page, Google keeps its AdWords algorithm separate from its organic algorithm. Buying ads will not help your law firm appear in the organic search results.

How does law firm social media impact my SEO?

Just because your practice’s Facebook page has thousands of likes doesn’t mean you’ll skyrocket to the front page of Google. However, social media marketing campaigns, like Facebook or Instagram ads, are a great compliment to a solid SEO campaign and can lead to increased traffic and even conversions for your website. More visitors, more backlinks and more engagement means higher rankings, and that’s exactly what we want to see.

Social media also allows you to build up a loyal community, which allows potential clients to see that you must be trustworthy and good at what you do if all of these people like you -- literally!

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO is the earned rankings within your geographically defined location. These results are presented within localized maps.

What is Remarketing?

Remarketing, often referred to as Retargeting, lets you show ads to users who have previously visited your website. As users browse the web, your banner ad is shown on other websites they are looking at. The technique keeps your firm on their mind and only a click away. It's cheap. It's effective. It works.

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Content-Related Questions

What is qualified as good content?

There are many questions to ask when you’re writing and reviewing content:

  • Is it easy to read?
  • Is it written for your audience?
  • Does it answer the searcher’s query?
  • Does it naturally include our keywords?
  • Is it linkable to other pages on our site?
  • Does it drive readers to take action?
  • Is it better than our competitors?

In general, we recommend that all optimized content be at least 500 words. We actually recommend it to be above 2,000 words (just like this page). It should all be original and feature information that is of value to your readers. This includes general legal website content and marketing materials, blog posts, attorney biographies, legal articles and more! Beware of duplicate content or (even worse) template content, as these will hurt your rankings.

How much content should I produce?

This answer is highly dependant on your market and your competitors. Our new recommendation is over 2,000 word pages. Yes, that is a lot of content, but those tend to rank high (just like this page). We want you to be the expert in your area of law, so we obviously want you to have the most complete and valuable resources. Essentially, anything your competitors do, you can do better. This doesn’t mean cranking out low-quality content just to be the best. This means creating content hubs and building out your practice areas so that you are the go-to source for potential clients.

How many times should I use a keyword on a page?

Unfortunately there’s no magic formula for how many times a keyword should be included in your copy. At PaperStreet, we don’t believe in complying to strict keyword density percentages. Keyword stuffing can lead to big penalties from Google, and it’s jarring for readers, which could turn them off from your website completely. We like our copy to be organic and readable, and we rely on natural opportunities for our keywords that will only enhance our content.

What is duplicate content?

Duplicate content is just what its name suggests -- content that is found in more than one place online. We see this most often with SEO companies who reuse content for various clients, or -- even worse -- plagiarize content from other websites. Duplicate content isn’t always intentionally malicious though! It’s important to check your site for unintentional violations that could occur from fault URL variations and code.

How can I avoid duplicate content?

Duplicate content is having content that is too similar, if not identical to another page. You should only have one version of each page on your site. Sometimes issues with URL structure can create duplicate content issues. Sometimes just writing too similar pages can also have the same affect.

To help this first, have a site plan. Do not create thin content or doorway pages. Make sure that every page targets a variety of related keyword phrases. If pages are too similar, combine them into one longer page. Overall, you can also check out Copyscape and Google itself to determine duplicate content. There are also some other reporting tools like Ahrefs that scan and analyze for duplicate content.

How long should a page of content be?

We are recommending that your page content be above 500 words now. In fact, there is great research showing that 2,000+ word articles are now the default go-to size. Why? Typically this is enough words to answer the users question and provide a good amount of time on the website. This increases your dwell time and lowers the bounce rate of your site (if you answer the users question).

Do law firm blogs still matter?

Yes, they do. Companies that blog on a regular basis are shown to attract 75% more traffic to their websites! Google loves seeing fresh, valuable, well-optimized content being added to your site, and what better way to do this than with a blog? In addition to boosting your rankings, these informational posts also help establish your law firm’s credibility, authority and online usability. Potential clients will spend more time on your site, which increases the chance of them contacting you about your services. It’s a win-win situation!

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Questions Regarding Link Building

Are backlinks still important?

Yes. Getting quality backlinks is still important. Ask us for our top 50 links and we can provide you a free report of links to obtain.

What are the best backlinks?

Quality backlinks are the key. We find getting media mentions in newspapers to be one of the best, although hardest to obtain. Up next would be high quality legal directories. You also need a broad social media profile, sharing of your website content, and links from city/community websites too.

What directories should I have my law firm listed in?

Only high quality directories matter. Please DON’T sign up for 1,000+ link buys. You will actually damage your rankings and require more work for a massive disavow file to sever ties with poor quality backlinks. You can check out our detailed article about this topic here. Link building is an important part of dominating Google 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.

What is a Disavow Request?

When you believe you have low quality backlinks pointing to your website, you should review them and perhaps submit a disavow to Google. Inside Google Search Console, you can upload a disavow file which is a list of low quality websites that you no longer wish to be associated with.

Should I disavow bad links?

Yes, but only as a last resort. Disavowing bad links is a great way to clean up your act when it comes to low-quality links. But sometimes a website, like one of those spammy directories mentioned above, might ask for you to pay them to remove a link. This isn’t necessary. Disavowing a link sends a clear message to Google that you no longer associate with the website in question and don’t want it to count toward your ranking. However, they will want to see that you made an effort to have the link removed the old-fashioned way.

What should I do with link requests?

Delete. You should delete most link requests that you receive. They are not worth your time or effort.

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Technical SEO Questions

What is a slug and does it matter?

A slug is the part of your website’s URL that explains what each page is about. For example:

www.paperstreet.com/internet-marketing/

The slug for our Internet Marketing page is, simply, internet-marketing. This clearly communicates to users and search engines alike what the focus of the page should be. The best slugs are short and to-the-point, and they should closely match the keyword phrase you are targeting for that page.

Does my domain name matter?

When it comes to achieving high search engine ranking, your domain name does matter. However, you should avoid keyword stuffing, just as you would with your content, and opt for a professional, memorable, keyword rich domain instead. PaperStreet can provide detailed hints and tips on how to choose a great domain name for your law firm.

What is the best domain to have?

We have written many articles on best domains. In our opinion domains should be:

  • Short
  • .com
  • Include your brand or keyword phrase if possible
  • Not be hard to spell
  • Not include hyphens

What is an XML and HTML Sitemap?

An HTML sitemap is a list of pages on your website. This allows a visitor to see all of the pages that exist on your website. Another form of this is an XML sitemap which you can submit directly to Google via Google Search Console. An XML sitemap serves the same purpose but is intended strictly for search engines to discover new and old content on your website.

Does an SSL certificate help or does my IP address matter?

Yes, a SSL can have a small impact on search results. However, the benefits of SSL/TLS go beyond just SEO. It helps secure your website, give trust signal to users, and helps secure your web forms (and not give that unsecured notice by certain web browsers). Transferring to SSL can be a bit tricky, as you need to get the write redirects in place or you end up with duplicate content. You also need to renew the SSL yearly (depending on the web host). Check out this really long article about SSLs and SEO for more ideas.

What is a ping / website index request?

Anytime you update your website, it can take Google several days to several weeks to notice the change. If the change is minor, then it may just be cost effective for Google to just update its index on its own. However, if you have access to Google Search Console, you can actually login and instruct Google to index your page. This will force it to reindex your new copy.

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Local SEO for Lawyers FAQs

How important is Local SEO?

It is extremely important for businesses that wish to rank within their local city or market area.

What is the Google Map Pack?

This is the map section above organic rankings that displays 3 local businesses. Based on many factors (like overall Google rank; proximity to city centers; valued local backlinking; etc.), Google determines who ranks within this coveted local business map.

What does NAP mean?

(Business) Name, Address, Phone Number.

What factors contribute to my website's local ranking?

  • Claiming all local listings and keeping the NAP information consistent across them all.
  • Listing your NAP on your website's contact page and footer.
  • Having an office address in the city you wish to rank for (the closer to the city center the better)
  • Utilizing a unique local phone number for each office
  • Having quality, local content on your website (driving directions, information about the area, specific city pages, etc.)

What if I have a virtual office? Will that hurt my rankings?

Potentially, yes. Google frowns upon setting up virtual offices for the sake of ranking in a specific city. We have seen businesses rank well using a virtual office, but we have also seen Google suspend local listings for this reason. If you do plan on taking this risk, at the very least make sure each office has a unique local phone number and ideally has a unique suite not shared by another business. The best option is to have your own physical office, not a rented virtual office space.

Are paid subscriptions like Yext and Moz Local worth it?

Sometimes. These can be good tools to aid in your local efforts, but they should never replace manual local listing management. These tools do not submit to all listings and once you cancel the subscription your listings may revert back to their previous state. Yext can be helpful to manage a handful of listings you are unable to edit without using their subscription. However, keep in mind you can still rank well without it. If you are signed up for one of our SEO packages, we typically don't recommend using a paid service like Yext since our services include local listing management. If you already have a subscription, be sure to notify us to prevent duplicative work.

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Questions We Have Guides For

Do you have a Google Analytics Quick Guide?

Want to know how to quickly use and understand Google Analytics? Learn more about Google Analytics.

What is your Best Practices Guide for obtaining Online Business Reviews?

Not sure how to obtain online reviews for your business? Learn more about online reviews.

Which SEO tools do you use?

It's important to make sure the technical aspects of the website are in good shape. This ensures Google can easily access the website and understand it completely. We use applications such as Google Analytics and Search Console, Screaming Frog, XENU, MOZ, Sitebeam, and Advanced Web Rankings to name a few. Below are a list of some of our blog posts on Google Webmaster Tools and Analytics:

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