Have you Googled your law firm recently? When you search for your specialty and city – for instance, “divorce lawyer in Memphis” or “personal injury attorney in Syracuse” – how far down is your listing? If you’re not on the first page or two, you have an SEO problem.
SEO (search engine optimization) is vital for attracting new clients. When people search for something online, Google wants to return the most valuable and relevant results possible. No one knows precisely how Google ranks websites because the algorithm is top secret and always evolving. But we do know factors that can help or hurt a website.
There are technical factors: the age of your domain, page speed, mobile-friendliness, and having a secure URL that is SSL encrypted. There are content-related factors: the length of your content, how well-organized it is, how long people stay on your site before navigating away, how often your content is shared on social media. And there are some things that directories can help you with, specifically: business information and backlinks.
Keep your business information consistent
One of the cardinal rules of SEO is that it’s important for your name, address, and phone number to be consistent across the Internet. That means the details on your website should match the information everywhere you advertise or are listed.
Many legal directories give premium customers a dashboard with insights about how many calls, clicks, impressions, emails, profile views, and so forth they receive each month. They do that by assigning firms unique trackable “dummy” phone numbers that port over to the firm’s main line. There is definitely some appeal to knowing where your leads are coming from. But if the phone number in your directory listing is not the same as the one your website or promotional materials, that inconsistency can sabotage your local SEO.
Importance of do-follow links
Backlinks are a kind of breadcrumb trail for search engine crawlers to follow. Most websites with backlinks have a piece of code known as a “do-follow” for linking. All links are set for do-follow unless someone deliberately overrides it and sets to “no-follow” status. A link with a do-follow setting tells the web crawler to go to that link to verify that it’s working. When you have a listing on a legal directory, the web crawler checks the link to your site to make sure it’s valid and tags it as a quality link when it can verify the link works. In turn, your website gets rated more highly by the search engine because backlinks help establish its legitimacy.
You want to make sure that you’re using a legal directory that sets all links to do-follow. Most will do this automatically, but some sites may set the links as no-follow. A no-follow link means the web crawler has been told not to check the link and you lose out on the potential for a better website rank.
7 best legal directories for local SEO
A do-follow link in a highly respected directory can give your search rankings a big boost, but the benefit is diminished if you have to sign up for a premium plan and be assigned a dummy phone number to get it. Many directories reserve active links for paying customers, and most paid plans come with tracking phone numbers.
The following directories are some of the best for SEO because they have high domain ratings and you can get a do-follow link while keeping your firm’s phone number consistent across the Web.
|Name||Ahrefs Domain rating||Do-follow link?||Minimum price to get link||Tracking phone number?|
|#1||Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute (LII)||92||Yes||Free||Not with free plan, but included with premium|
|#2||Justia||88||Yes||Free||Not with free plan, but included with premium|
|#3||BestLawyers||81||Yes||Free with nomination||Not with free plan, but included with premium|
Methodology: We started with more than 100 legal directories. We eliminated small niche directories that only include particular specialties (ex. bankruptcy) and broad directories that include other types of professionals as well as lawyers (ex. real estate agents, accountants.) Then we focused on directories that have an Ahrefs domain rating of at least 30. That left us with 34 contenders.
The best directories for local SEO were chosen based on three main criteria: domain rating, do-follow links, and consistency of business information. One of the directories on the list, JustGreatLawyers, is unique among the others because its basic (free) listing does not include a do-follow link. Attorneys must have premium accounts to get do-follow links on their profiles. But we didn’t penalize for that because the annual fee of $199 is nominal and it is the only directory where you can get a highlighted listing without being assigned a tracking phone number.
It is hard to stand out on the top sites with a basic listing, but if you upgrade your account with Cornell, Justia, or BestLawyers, your firm is given a tracking phone number. It’s a moot point with LawGuru, LawyerLegion, and LawLink because they don’t offer premium plans.
Some of the best-known directories didn’t make our list, including FindLaw, LawInfo, Martindale, Nolo, Lawyers.com, Avvo, and HG.org. They all have high domain ratings, but you cannot get a “do-follow” link on any of them without paying, and all of their paid plans come with a tracking phone number. As previously mentioned, a tracking phone number has the potential to sink your listing on Google and make your local SEO worse instead of better.