Lawyers face unique challenges for search engine optimization (SEO). Well, every industry does have its particularities and boy oh boy, does SEO have its particularities.

There are four ways in which SEO work for lawyers tends to be different than much other SEO.

First, it is fundamentally geographic. You need to hire a lawyer in your same jurisdiction, and you usually want to hire a lawyer very physically close to you. As a result, the vast majority of keywords you want to rank for are the “target keyword” with the “jurisdiction.” Usually, people don’t search for “intellectual property lawyer” but rather “intellectual property lawyer manhattan.” The geographic bounds limit the scope tremendously — which means we have to play harder within the predefined range.

The second difference is that many lawyers spend a lot of money on marketing and as a result, it’s particularly challenging. Paid keyword ads like SEM (search engine marketing) are subjects of different articles but you can use a the price of a keyword in paid keyword search as a good proxy for how competitive that keyword is — and thus how hard it will be to rank on in SEO.

And what’s the most expensive keyword in the world? You guessed it: a legal-related keyword. (In case you were wondering, it is the local jurisdiction variations of “mesothelomia lawyer”, like “mesothelomia lawyer chicago.” If you’re wondering why, it’s apparently one of the easist and absurdly profitable cases to win due to various asbestos regulations, and thus lawyers compete ferociously on that keyword. This is just an example, but a very good and representative-enough one.)

The third difference is that due to ABA regulation 7.1 and 7.2 as well as some other per-state regulations, attorneys are more constrained on what the can say on the landing pages that we direct users to. While this doesn’t effect the keywords so much, it does mean double-caution on the pages that the keywords point to.

The fourth and final difference is that paid SEO is trickier as well, also due to the ABA regulations. The ABA mandates, effectively, that payment for specific marketing initiatives can’t be correlated to how much the lawyer makes from it — and that removes an entire universe of “paid for placement” links that SEOs tend to love.

Taken together: SEO for lawyers is fun for our team to implement, and important for lawyers; but idiosyncratic as well. Here at FTW, we spend our time focusing on applying the best practices of online marketing to the idiosyncratic needs of lawyers.