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Attorney Marketing 101: Homepage SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is not rocket science. In the past, we’ve described it as being similar to Mexican food: While there are lots of different particular foods and flavors, it’s all basically made of the same couple of very delicious things.

However, there are circumstances in online legal content marketing where the best practices of SEO don’t quite apply.

One of them is how to handle your law firm website’s homepage.

The home icon

Why the Homepage is Different

When you create a blog post, a landing page, or a targeted page, you have a clear idea of the sorts of search queries where you want to rank well, and therefore the kinds of keywords to use in the piece. That should dictate the content you include on the page.

But the goals of a homepage for a law firm are controversial. SEO professionals fall into two major camps:

  1. The homepage should aim to rank well for vanity searches
  2. The homepage should focus on ranking well for branded searches and then converting those hot leads

Which path you take will have drastic repercussions for your homepage’s ideal design and content.

Option 1: The Homepage Should Rank for Vanity Searches

Vanity searches are queries that follow extremely competitive keyword formulas, like “[location] [practice area] attorney.” Every criminal defense firm in Tallahassee wants to rank well for “Tallahassee criminal defense lawyer,” though, so sticking out above the crowd is incredibly difficult.

But that is what the homepage is supposed to do, according to some online marketing professionals.

When this is the goal, the homepage has to become far more substantive. It has to include content on all of the topics that are related to the targeted practice area, often with lots of internal links to other pages on the site that cover more precise topics.

These homepages are quite long, with lots of text and other information about the firm and the types of cases that it handles. It is not uncommon for these homepages to have over 2,000 words of text on them.

In some cases, it can work. But the size of the page can reduce its ability to convert traffic into leads precisely because it focuses on SEO: For the sake of increasing the volume of traffic that it attracts, it does not provide a fine-tuned sales pitch for the firm.

Option 2: The Homepage Should Focus on Ranking Well for Branded Searches and Converting Those Leads

Other SEO and online marketing professionals say that the role of a law firm’s homepage should be to convert the web traffic that comes to the site through a branded search.

A branded search is a navigational query that uses a search engine to find your law firm’s website. So, if your firm’s name is Marcus & Wade Law Firm, branded searches would include:

  • Marcus & Wade Law Firm
  • Marcus & Wade lawyers
  • Marcus & Wade Law Office
  • Etc.

Websites that walk this path have far less content on them – often less than 500 words. The content that they do have is geared towards two things:

  1. Pitching the firm as the right one for targeted clients
  2. Making it as easy as possible to contact the firm

The goal of this tactic is to grab all the hot leads that it can by designating the homepage as the one to pull in branded searches. While the homepage will attract fewer visitors, the ones that do come should be reaching out to the firm at a higher rate.

Another reason for taking this route with your homepage is straightforward: Other landing pages on your site will also be geared towards ranking well for the highly competitive vanity searches that the other technique aims to win. If you have a personal injury law firm, you will have a landing page for your personal injury practice area, in addition to your homepage. While Google’s indented search function removes the competition problems that this would create, using both of these pages to target vanity searches would still be an inefficient use of web assets.