The Complete Guide To Generating Fee-Paying Clients For Law Firms Using SEO
Welcome to the SEO Alignment Matrix™ guide. This detailed guide is designed to outline our unique SEO process for delivering fee-paying clients to law firms.
We will explore some processes in here that are exclusive to our agency (Tondo Digital) and uncover our diversified approach to dominating search rankings for our clients, known as the 3 Layers of SEO.
The intention of this guide is to demonstrate the power of SEO and to share our roadmap for SEO success so that you can take action in your firm.
As you finish each chapter, consider what your law firm is currently doing to generate fee-paying clients organically and make changes to your strategies as you do.
Who am I?
My name is Joshua Giuliani and I am the founder and Head of Partnerships at Tondo Digital in Melbourne – an SEO agency for law firms.
My team and I are innovating the SEO space, specialising in the delivery of fee-paying clients to law firms using strategies unique to our agency.
Most SEO agencies talk about improving rankings and increasing organic traffic. In our opinion, rankings and traffic are irrelevant without results.
Our focus within the team is to deliver fee-paying clients to law firms, with rankings and traffic being the mechanism for success, rather than the focus.
Tondo Digital has developed multiple industry-first SEO frameworks including Behavioural Keyword Mapping™ and the SEO Alignment Matrix™, both of which we go through in this handbook.
I also consult with other digital marketing agency owners who aim to scale their agency, charge what they’re worth and get more high-value clients.
You can contact me anytime on firstname.lastname@example.org.
SEO Alignment Matrix™
- Overview: How It Works
- Functional and Dysfunctional Alignment
- The 3 Layers of SEO
Overview: How It Works
The SEO Alignment Matrix™ is best described as having two distinct phases:
- Keyword Research and Identification
- SEO Strategy
Most professional SEO agencies can execute an SEO strategy (Phase 2). There’s nothing outrageous or special about doing that, but where a lot of those agencies fall down is with the identification of high-value high-intent keyword opportunities (Phase 1).
Generally speaking, most firms are targeting the wrong keywords.
All you need to rank your website is a well executed SEO Strategy, but to generate more fee-paying clients and to see progressively better results month-after-month, you need both a well executed SEO Strategy and to target high-value high-intent keywords.
This is what makes the team at Tondo Digital a little bit different from other SEO professionals.
We are not fundamental IT people. We are marketing people. We understand human-behaviour. We understand intent.
It is this marketing background that makes the SEO Alignment Matrix™ such a powerful system for law firms seeking to generate more fee-paying clients from their SEO output.
The system begins with the research and identification of keyword opportunities specific to a law firm’s area of practice and location – and thanks to almost 3 decades of looking for these opportunities, we’ve become very good at it.
We call the keyword research and identification process Behavioural Keyword Mapping™ and it can sometimes take up to 150 hours to complete (more on that later).
It is only after we have identified a handful of high-value high-intent keywords specific to a law firm, that we begin implementing SEO strategies from our 3 Layers of SEO model.
This ensures that at every step of the process, the SEO work being done is in alignment with a list of keywords that have the best opportunity of producing fee-paying clients.
This alignment with high-value high-intent keyword opportunities is what creates results.
The 3 Layers of SEO are:
- On-Page Optimisation
- Content Strategy
With keyword identification emphasised and SEO strategies compartmentalised, the system becomes a powerful tool for producing fee-paying clients.
Phase 1 is represented by the “Keyword Research and Identification” section and phase 2 by the “3 Layers of SEO” section, with the alignment happening in between.
Functional and Dysfunctional Alignment
SEO reports can be misleading. We have had firms come to us because for months they had seen growth in their rankings and increased organic traffic, however, that wasn’t translating into fee-paying clients.
In those circumstances, the SEO strategies those firms were undertaking were clearly working, but the target keywords were clearly not ideal for producing traffic with high-intent.
We call this Dysfunctional Alignment and it is very common.
Functional Alignment is achieved when rankings and organic traffic are increasing month-after-month – as well as the number of leads produced from that traffic.
Functional Alignment implies that the SEO strategies being implemented are working for target keywords – and that those target keywords are ideal for producing traffic with high-intent.
Simply put, not all keywords are created equal and it is useful to identify keyword opportunities prior to executing an SEO strategy.
|Dysfunctional Alignment||Functional Alignment|
|✓ Increased Keyword Rankings|
✓ Increased Organic Traffic
? Increased Leads Converted
|✓ Increased Keyword Rankings|
✓ Increased Organic Traffic
✓ Increased Leads Converted
Our focus is on producing Functional Alignment from the outset.
We are able to achieve this because prior to executing our 3 Layers of SEO strategy, we utilise a process that we have pioneered called Behavioural Keyword Mapping™ – designed to identify keywords that will produce high-intent traffic and, ultimately, Functional Alignment.
The 3 Layers of SEO
When we look at the strategies undertaken to achieve increased rankings and traffic for any given keyword, they fall into one of 3 categories:
- On-Page Optimisation
- Content Strategy
This is the process of analysing a law firm’s website to ensure it is communicating with search engines in the right way, and for the specific keywords we want to target.
This is a heavily technical based process, focusing on website structure, page titles, internal links, page copy, as well as indexing, server and webmaster optimisation.
Generating high-value backlinks is the quickest way to increase domain authority. In fact, 70% of ranking a website can be attributed to backlinks and that’s why we dedicate a significant amount of effort to getting this right for our clients.
Even with an optimised website, it is very difficult to rank for any keyword without legitimate and recognised backlinks.
In our experience, generating even 2 or 3 backlinks can have a significant impact on the ranking of a website. So, when a law firm’s website is optimised for target keywords and quality backlinks are produced, good things happen.
This process can be highly tedious as it is a very manual task involving outreach, negotiation, content guidance, copywriting and constant strategising.
Internal backlinks are also of importance once we build domain authority and we go more into what’s involved with that later in this handbook.
The third layer of SEO is the implementation of a tailored content strategy, which further solidifies the authority of a law firm’s website.
With the website optimised for target keywords and valuable backlinks pointing back to it, adding regular and relevant content increases overall reach and authority.
Publishing high-value content on the website works in 2 ways: further proves to search engines that the site should rank for target keywords and creates another reason for external websites to create a backlink to the site.
There are a few strategies that we’ve seen work really well here and that even begin producing organic backlinks without any outreach and we’ll talk more about that later.
Behavioural Keyword Mapping™
- The Volume Problem
- Human Behaviour and Keyword Data
- How It Works
The Volume Problem
Most law firms executing an SEO strategy will automatically target the highest volume keywords relevant to their business.
Fundamentally, there’s nothing wrong with doing that, but it’s not actually necessary for producing fee-paying clients.
Tunnel vision on the high-volume keywords is dangerous. Focusing mainly on those high-volume keywords means missing out on opportunities with long-tail keywords that could be producing the same amount of (if not more) fee-paying clients every month.
Even if those long-tail keywords have a fraction of the volume.
And especially in the short term.
The team at Tondo Digital uses it’s combined marketing experience, skills and understanding of human behaviour to focus all SEO efforts on the keywords that are going to generate the maximum amount of fee-paying clients for law firms in the shortest period of time.
Regardless of the volume of those keywords.
It is not the size of the volume that matters, it is the intent behind those keywords that counts.
Human Behaviour and Keyword Data
This brings us to human behaviour and how it impacts SEO.
As we discussed in the last section, increased rankings and organic traffic is meaningless without increased leads and conversions. The implication of Dysfunctional Alignment is that the keywords being targeted are producing traffic that isn’t relevant to your service.
Just like any good direct response advertising campaign, a significant amount of effort should be placed into the targeting of that campaign.
With direct response advertising, to expect a return of $3 from every $1 spent on ads, the targeting needs to be absolutely perfect – we approach SEO in exactly the same way.
Every single keyword, whether it be a seed keyword (eg Family Lawyer) or long-tail keyword (eg I’m getting divorced family lawyer), has intent behind it.
There was a reason the user entered that specific combination of words.
Understanding the intent behind those keywords, as well as having a keen eye for SEO opportunities (more on that later), is the key to unlocking extraordinary organic results.
Let’s take a look at a couple of keywords and make some assumptions about the intent.
Keyword: Criminal Lawyer New York
Clearly, this keyword is going to have a high amount of volume because it is the most instinctive way to search for this kind of law firm. If you’re a criminal law firm, users searching this are definitely relevant but the intent is only low/medium as they are probably browsing.
Keyword: Going to court tomorrow I need a criminal lawyer in New York
This long-tail keyword would have a far lower volume as it is a unique combination, however, we can assume the intent of this user is extremely high. If your firm dominated the results of this search, a high percentage of the traffic would result in fee-paying clients.
The example above is exaggerated to demonstrate the use of intent in SEO, but it’s not always that clear cut and easy to identify the high-intent long-tail keywords.
The best possible long-tail keyword for your firm could be something really obscure, and something that seems really relevant to your firm could be anything but that.
This is where Behavioural Keyword Mapping™ comes in.
We have been developing this process for the better part of 3 decades. The process itself is reliant on an understanding of human-intent and an ability to interpret raw keyword data.
How It Works
Behavioural Keyword Mapping™ is a process of extracting raw keyword data from searches relevant to your area of practice/location and identifying SEO opportunities based on keyword volume, competitiveness, intent, current website rankings and an understanding of the strategies required to increase a search ranking.
It is a balancing act.
One keyword may have high intent, low volume and medium competitiveness, but it might not be a better opportunity for your firm than a keyword that has lower intent and even lower volume, as long as your website already ranks relatively higher for the keyword.
Following? Let’s simplify things.
We might come to this conclusion because the strategies required to take your website from a ranking of say 56 to the first page for that first keyword might take far longer, compared to a ranking of say 17 to the first page for that second keyword.
After weighing everything up, we may identify the keyword with the lower intent as being the better opportunity for attracting fee-paying clients in the short term.
|Keyword #1||Keyword #2||Keyword #3||Keyword #4|
|Speed to Page 1||Medium||Fast||Slow||Medium|
Depending on the area of practice and location, we may audit over 1,000 keyword combinations and this can take sometimes between 100 hours and 150 hours to complete.
At the end of the Behavioural Keyword Mapping™ process, we will have identified anywhere from 10-20 high-value high-intent long-tail keywords for our clients.
As is the nature (and benefit) of SEO, the more domain authority you build for those long-tail keywords relevant to your area of practice, the higher your website will rank for other keywords that we are not targeting as well.
That really is the magic of this process. By ranking for long-tail keywords like Going to court tomorrow I need a criminal lawyer in New York, we generate more fee-paying clients in the short-term and rank higher for seed keywords like Criminal Lawyer New York in the long-term.
- Site Structure
- Page Individuality
The overall goal of site structure is to ensure that the website is aligned with keyword opportunities identified during the Behavioural Keyword Mapping™ process, and that the site is communicating clearly with search engines in general.
SEO will provide progressively better results over time, but we believe SEO can be a short-term lead generation device also. Our first point of call when looking at site structure is to uncover the quick wins that will have the biggest impact in the shortest period of time.
Some of those quick wins come from:
- Page Titles and Meta-Descriptions
- Headings and Image Tags
- Readability and Navigation
Technical issues must be addressed upfront as well and the most common technical issues that we see are:
- Orphaned Web Pages (Lack of Internal Links)
- Server Speeds and Mobile Optimisation
- Visually Impaired Assist
When a website begins ranking for targeted keywords and it is set up in a way that Google approves of, domain authority increases. As discussed earlier, when domain authority increases, we begin ranking for keywords that we’re not targeting as well. It’s a win-win.
What most firms don’t realise is that every page of their website is ranked individually by search engines and not so much as a single entity. This presents us with an opportunity.
While some firms will spend all their time optimising one single page for multiple keywords (often the homepage), we share the load across multiple pages. This allows us to amplify the results of our efforts by only targeting 2 or 3 keywords for each page, which is the maximum any page can realistically rank for anyway.
This strategy also means we have much more flexibility around what keywords to target with the site, even if they are drastically different.
If you want to rank for Family Lawyer, create a page for it.
If you want to rank for Divorce Lawyer, create a page for it.
When you ensure the content, page titles and headings are in line with the keywords being targeted for that page, opportunities present themselves for more fee-paying clients.
More pages equals more opportunity for your firm.
Executing individual page strategies also allows us to increase conversion by optimising what users see when our pages show up in search engines.
If we know what the user is thinking when they search those 2 or 3 targeted keywords, we can create a really compelling search listing for that page. This results in more clicks and more organic traffic from the kind of users that we really want on our site.
Essentially, what we are doing is treating each page like their own mini-site – each targeting their own high-value high-intent keywords. This allows us to create much more bespoke and targeted SEO plans for our clients.
When you execute this approach using keyword opportunities identified during the Behavioural Keyword Mapping™ process, the potential for growth increases exponentially.
Even with an optimised website, ranking is extremely difficult without backlinks. This is why we allocate a significant amount of time to generating high-quality backlinks for our clients.
Even 2 or 3 backlinks from dominant websites that are relevant to the keywords we want to rank for, can make a huge difference to search rankings.
External backlinks work like a referral network, signalling to search engines that the information on your website is worth taking a look at because other websites are sending traffic to it.
The more authority those websites have, the more confidence search engines will have in your site. So, the better the backlink, the better your domain authority and search ranking.
Our system for generating high-quality backlinks is executed in 3 steps:
- Identify top 10 websites for target keywords
- Backlink identification report
Identify top 10 websites for target keywords
The first step is to identify the websites that are already ranking for the keywords we are targeting. These websites are already ranking for the keywords we want to rank for, so we just need to find out how. When we know how, we can then create a plan to match them and, eventually, outdo them for a higher ranking.
This process is also useful for determining other factors that might explain how they are dominating rankings. Perhaps their site has lots of video content. Maybe their social following is sizable. That’s all relevant and becomes part of our plan, but backlinks are the main focus as they are such an influential factor.
Backlink identification report
Using tools like SEM Rush, Raven Tools or Screaming Frog we create something called a backlink identification report, which lists all of the backlinks that each of those 10 websites have.
This becomes your hit-list.
Your mission then is to create a plan for generating backlinks from those same sources and to research additional sites that will take your domain authority to the next level.
Quite often what you’ll find is that a majority of those sites have similar backlink sources. It could be a highly regarded directory listing or industry association website or something to that extent (Obviously, you would want to join both of those right away – quick wins).
This is where the process becomes manual. A priority list of backlink opportunities will be created and then it’s a matter of contacting each of those backlink sources and giving them a reason to link back to your site.
Could be a blog. Could be an industry review website. Could be a business. Each would be approached in a different way for a successful outreach campaign.
If you are executing a good content strategy by publishing high-value long-form content on the regular, then you have a really good reason for those sources to link back to your site. This is why a tailored content strategy is our 3rd Layer of SEO (more on that later).
Internal linking is typically done poorly. What a lot of firms don’t realise is that search engines value backlinks from your own site just as much as external links, provided that the source page is high-value.
High-value long-form content is a great tool for internal backlinks. If you have an article that ranks well for Divorce Law, you could link it back to your Divorce Law services page to boost the authority of that page.
Same rules apply as with external links, the source page must be relevant to the topic of the page it is linking to and rank well in its own right.
That same Divorce Law article would have no impact if it linked back to a Criminal Law services page for example, or if it ranked poorly itself.
Internal backlinks can be the defining factor in an SEO campaign and when you have the same external backlinks as your competitors, it could give you what you need to outrank them.
- Quality Over Quantity
- The Benefits of High-Value Long-Form Articles
Quality Over Quantity
The secret to an effective content strategy for law firms is high-value long-form articles posted at least once a month. It’s a matter of quality over quantity when it comes to content. Shorter articles with less valuable information will have far less impact than longer ones.
Keep the length to at least 2,000-2,500 words and make the article extremely valuable (for purposes that we’ll discuss in a moment).
In our experience, publishing one 2,000 word article is more effective for your rankings than publishing six 500 word articles in the same period.
Luckily for law firms, it usually takes at least 2,500 words to truly explore the topic of the article anyway. So, don’t be afraid to take your time writing the piece and include all the information that you need to.
The Benefits of High-Value Long-Form Articles
Committing to publishing one high-value long-form article a month will be a game changing decision for your law firm. There are a few key reasons as to why you should do this:
- Encourages more backlinks
- Dominate rankings with custom listings
- Internal links
Encourages more backlinks
Being an authority is good for business, and what better way to demonstrate that authority than by posting a comprehensive article with valuable information.
As we know, backlinks are extremely influential in ranking our site on search engines and these high-authority articles are extremely useful in generating more of them.
Not only will people be encouraged to share your article on forums or with friends on social media, but it also makes your outreach campaign that much easier by having a genuine reason for that source to link back to your site.
Dominate rankings with custom listings
Google will automatically assume your article has a lot of authority simply due to it being over 2,000 words. However, when you add outreach/organic backlinks into the mix as well as everything else we’re doing, you will have yourself an article that Google absolutely adores.
Your article will be shown preferential treatment at this point.
Google has some highly engaging ways of displaying content that it loves. When your article is relevant to a user’s search, and when you set up the article properly to qualify for Featured Snippets for example, Google will display it in a dominant way.
See below what a Featured Snippet looks like (talk to us about how to do this).
Obviously, this article will generate a lot of traffic from anybody searching these keywords, so this is where call to actions become important and internal backlinks become an opportunity.
When your article begins ranking well in its own right for a specific keyword, you can give another page within your site a boost for the same keyword by linking back to it.
Additionally, if you have a couple of high-value articles on the same topic, linking them together will further increase the ranking for both of them.
The rich get richer and the ranked get ranked-ier.
Remember to include a call to action to a conversion page at the bottom of high-authority articles to take advantage of the increased traffic.
- Who is Tondo Digital?
- Free Audit
Who is Tondo Digital?
The team at Tondo Digital has been in marketing for the better part of 3 decades, with most of the current decade committed to SEO for law firms. Our experience in generating organic leads for law firms is unmatched, as far as we know.
As you can probably tell from our strategies outlined in this guide, we work a little bit different from everybody else. By looking at high-intent long-tail keywords and by calling on our extensive knowledge of human behaviour and the industry in general, we are able to get maximum results for our clients in the shortest period of time. Just take a look at our case studies!
Due to the success of our strategies, we have worked with some of the largest law firms in Australia and around the world – helping them increase their domain authority, generate organic traffic, maximise lead conversion and dominate their area of practice.
Tondo Digital is based in Melbourne, Australia.
Free SEO Audit
We hope the strategies you explored in this guide got you thinking about your SEO activity. Our intention was to include as much detail as possible so that you and your internal marketing team could take inspired action right away.
If you don’t have an internal marketing team or you want some more detail specific to your firm and area of practice, claim a free SEO audit from us.
Here’s to your success!