In the early days of competing for web traffic, owning your brand in search was treated as a given—and one that wasn’t especially important. Topical search got all the attention for two reasons. First, anyone searching for your law firm by name already knew about you, and the contest for search engine rankings was geared toward helping new prospects discover your firm. Second, nobody was fighting you for your branded search traffic.
In 2020, the analysis has changed – Branded search for law firms is critical
We know capturing those branded search terms is important. Google says they are about twice as likely to convert as general terms. If you’re doubtful about how often people will search for your firm, consider this: the oft-cited statistic that 62% of legal searches are unbranded means that 38% are branded.
You can no longer assume that your law firm’s website will be the top listing for your name, or your firm’s name. And, even prospects searching for your brand can be easily diverted by what they see in search results. That may mean they go with another option, or it may mean that they click on your listing on a paid directory site rather than the entry for your own site further down the page. Depending on the directory, that could mean you’re paying for a lead who searched for your firm or for one of your attorneys by name. It’s even possible that a negative review or other unflattering item could pop up in search, hurting your brand’s reputation with the searcher before he or she ever clicks through to your firm site.
You may also be facing direct competition for your branded searches. If your name is well-known or associated with a particular niche, your competitors will absolutely attempt to divert traffic intended for your site. Some may even purchase pay-per-click (PPC) advertising such as Google AdWords, using your brand as a keyword.
Owning your brand in SERPs is more important than ever, and less likely than ever to happen by default.
Four Steps toward Dominating Branded Search
While capturing the top spots in search for your law firm name is clearly less competitive than aiming for “Boston personal injury lawyer” or “Chicago DUI attorney,” it won’t happen automatically. These three steps will put you on the path to claiming multiple slots on the first page of listings for your brand.
- Advertise on Brand Keywords: Investing in PPC advertising with your firm name as a target keyword may seem like overkill, but it’s an important step toward ensuring that your firm dominates the page when a prospect, past client, or referral searches for you by name. First, having an ad appear on the page means you get two chances to attract a click-through. The dual entry also lends some weight to your listing, and cuts back on an opportunity for a competitor to claim one of those slots. And, gives you the flexibility to craft a compelling message in the ad text and direct traffic to whatever page you choose.
This strategy isn’t just effective; it’s also generally low-cost. When you bid on terms like your law firm name, your URL, and the names of specific attorneys in your firm, the low competition for those terms will typically mean that you’ll pay a very low rate per click. Don’t stop with exact matches for your name, though. Include branded terms that match your law firm name and top attorney names with practice-area keywords, for combinations such as “Smith and Jones bankruptcy” and “John Jones bankruptcy lawyer.”
- Build Out Your Google My Business (GMB) Page: I’ve written before about the importance of Capturing SERPs for your brand is yet another reason you should invest in building out this listing. Unsurprisingly, Google gives weight to GMB pages, meaning that a well-crafted GMB page will likely rank near the top of search results for your brand. But, your GMB listing differs from some other directory listings in two important ways.
First, you have near-complete control over content on the page. That’s important because Google rarely shows more than one page on the same site on the first page of listings. GMB is one example of an outside site where you can control your brand message and the information provided, essentially picking up a second listing on the page.
Second, your phone number and website link will be prominently featured. So, the logical next step for someone clicking through to your GMB page is to contact you. Many directories, on the other hand, will make it easy and inviting for visitors who landed directly on your listing to browse the site and explore other options.
Added bonus: GMB is free. That means you won’t be paying for clicks, messages, or calls from someone who was looking for you all along.
- Explore Other Possibilities for Branded Pages: The more pages in the first page of results you control, the better. Google My Business is the most obvious and generally the most powerful, but it’s not the only place you can create a branded law firm page and take charge of what appears on that page. Law firm pages on sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn offer similar opportunities.
- Invest in Search Engine Optimization: Don’t make the mistake of thinking that since your firm name and key terms such as your practice area are prominently featured on your home page and other pages on your law firm website, you’ll automatically claim the top organic slot. Ensuring that you top the SERPs for any term requires employing best practices, such as ensuring that the branded term you’re targeting is incorporated into your page title and meta description, and that the content supports that preview.
Of course, you’ll also want to attend to the same factors you would with any SEO effort, such as cultivating outside links to the page, optimizing loading time, and making sure your pages are properly constructed to ensure that Google can access and “read” them easily.
The more real estate you control in branded search results, the better. Capturing multiple spots—both paid and organic—not only increases the likelihood that a searcher will click through to a page you control, but also helps protect your brand message and your law firm’s image by putting you in charge of most of the content someone searching for your firm sees. Branded terms deserve as much attention as you’d give to general terms. Though they’re lower volume, they’re easier and less expensive to capture, have a more significant impact on your brand reputation, and are more likely to convert.