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SEO for Law Firms in 2020 with John McDougall, Part 1: How to Hit a Moving Target with Bounce Rate, LSI Keywords and Deep Content
Wednesday, January 8, 2020

SEO is a moving topic–especially for law firms who also deal with frequently changing legal developments.  To help legal marketers stay on top of the moving targets of SEO, litigation, and regulatory changes, we spoke with John McDougall of McDougall Interactive. Mr. McDougall has recently authored Content Marketing and SEO for Law Firms and will be holding a free webinar on January 15th to discuss the most vital SEO changes legal marketers should keep in mind for 2020.

The following is the first installment of a two-part series on law firm SEO trends and best practices for 2020:

NLR:  What SEO changes do you think provide the most opportunities for savvy legal marketers?

JM:  Google is looking for experts and experts naturally use language that Google’s latest algorithms can pick up on. With the recent BERT update, Google improved its understanding of natural language, and they describe BERT as their “biggest leap forward in the past five years.”  

NLR:  Yes, and law firms are always trying to position their attorneys as experts, as the go-to leaders and experts in their particular area of legal expertise.  Can you discuss some strategies for legal marketing professionals who work with attorneys, and how they can help attorneys write with SEO in mind, or translate their content so it is more SEO friendly?

JM:  It helps if attorneys and ghostwriters who write for law firms use keyword tools like Ubersuggest and SEMrush, but they are just a starting point. They also need to write conversationally and with the user in mind, rather than overly fixating on the search engines.

Writing longer in-depth content that is not too stiff and has been corrected for grammar and spelling issues will outrank a very long page that has been robotically stuffed with keywords. Using a tool like Grammarly can help with the basics.

NLR:  In your book, you discuss the need to add related keywords, or LSI and topic clusters.  Can you explain and provide examples of how related keywords, topical clusters or LSI apply to legal marketing?

JM: LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) Keywords are conceptually related terms that search engines use to deeply understand the content on a webpage. 

Example: If you want to rank for “how to file a trademark”, you can use Google auto suggest to find related terms. As you type into your browser bar, you see something like this:

Google and other search engines used to figure out a page’s topic based 100% on the keywords they found on the page.   In 2020, Google is more focused on figuring out a page’s overall topic. SEMrush has a great tool (see below) that builds a mind map when you give it what topic you want to write about. 

NLR:  You highlighted bounce rate as a critical metric; however, how do law firm websites balance design and lowering the bounce rate while simultaneously  providing readers with the specific information they’re looking for (like a change in the minimum wage rate or a relatively straightforward answer to a legal question, like when a law goes into effect, etc.) How do you make law firm website pages stickier?

JM It is ok if some pages, like a minimum wage rate change page, have a high bounce rate. Google is smart enough to know the goal of the page. With that said, law firm marketers would be wise to monitor the bounce rate of at least their most visited pages.

Using related keywords and related sub topics is essential for covering a topic deeply.  Image from the SEMRush mindmap tool.
Using related keywords and related sub topics is essential for covering a topic deeply.
Image from the SEMRush mindmap tool.

Any webpage can be improved by making it load faster, have a clearer value proposition, a better headline, better writing in general, higher quality images and links to other related pages. Usersthink.com, Usertesting.com, and Hotjar.com are a few of the tools I will discuss on the webinar for increasing stickiness and conversions.

NLR:  You discuss creating deep content—what does that mean?  How long should an article or blog post be - should pages be 500 words, for example?  

JM:  If you search for how to file a trademark, many of the top ten results are well over 1,000 words. Gerben Law has a nice page on trademarks that is about 1,500 words. Not all your content has to be that long but if the top 5 results for your topic are 1,000 plus words, you may need to test increasing your webpages’ depth. 

NLR:  Many lawyers view law firm websites as a sales tool, but you discuss how to “use the opportunity to focus on your user’s needs, as opposed to your own sales pitch.” What does that look like in execution? Can you give us an example?  Aren’t all effective webpages supposed to have some sort of ‘call to action’? 

JM: The Gerben trademark page gives information away fairly freely and deeply (using related keywords and subtopics) but it also has a subtle call to action at the end: If you are unsure about how to file a trademark, our trademark attorneys are happy to talk with you about the services we offer.

 Create marketing that people will love and engage with and you are on the right track. 


Thanks, John and we look forward to part two of the series on law firm SEO trends and best practices for 2020 tomorrow: Legal Marketing and SEO Trends for 2020 Part 2: Dwell Time, EAT and Law Firm Branding.  Additionally, how law firm branding plays a key role in connecting Google’s algorithm changes with an effective strategy of positioning a law firm’s attorneys as the go-to experts in their field.

Register for the January 15th complimentary webinar:  How to Develop an Effective Law Firm Content Marketing and SEO Action Plan for 2020.

Receive a sample chapter of John’s new book Content Marketing and SEO for Law Firms.

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