In the rush to optimize your law firm’s website so that it ranks well on search engines like Google, you must not overlook the ethical side of this process.

All organizations have their own professional standards and industry regulations to adhere to, and this is certainly the case for attorneys.

So how does this apply in an SEO context, and what pitfalls are there to avoid as you endeavor to make your website more visible?

Each state has its own set of requirements

As you’d expect, there are professional codes of conduct and opinions on the ethics which apply to legal practitioners which are unique to every state in the US.

Most of these can be found courtesy of the American Bar Association, so it’s sensible to check the list and look up the expectations that are applicable in the place your law firm is based.

That way, you won’t fall foul of some unique requirement which isn’t found elsewhere in the country, but does hold sway over SEO as it relates to your practice.

Language must be used carefully

There are some broadly relevant guidelines to follow no matter which state you call home, so when seeking out SEO services any law firm needs, be sure to keep the following in mind:

Unverifiable claims should not be made

Put simply, you can’t make any statement about your law firm on your website which cannot be verified, measured or quantified.

This includes claiming that you are the best practice in your city or state, because even if you believe it to be true, it’s a breach of most ethical guidelines to do so.

If you’re outsourcing the SEO, remind the agency that they can’t go as hard on hyperbole and exaggeration as they might for other clients, even if this could help them to target valuable keywords.

Definitive outcomes cannot be promised

Another SEO no-no for law firms is making promises on your website which suggest that a particular outcome for clients is guaranteed.

For example, if you offer defense against criminal charges, you cannot say that you will definitely be able to keep clients out of the clink. The same goes for promising to net major payouts for clients involved in personal injury claims, and so on.

Testimonials must include disclaimers

It’s common for law firms to include testimonials from existing clients on their website in order to win over visitors, and also to rank higher on search engines.

The problem with this is that testimonials or case studies which include specific information about the outcome of a case could be construed as implying that you’ll be able to do exactly the same for newcomers. This falls foul of the ethical dilemma of promising definitive outcomes that we just discussed.

There is a way around this, of course; you just need to add a disclaimer on any pages that feature testimonials which point out that you cannot assure identical outcomes for other clients.

Avoiding ethical quandaries

Law firms cannot afford to take the ethical considerations of SEO lightly, and so this isn’t something you should leave to chance if you value the reputation of your organization.

There are two options at this point. Either you can make sure ethical qualms are eased by handling search optimization in-house, or you can work with a third party agency that’s cognizant of the particular challenges you face in this area.

However you approach this, making sure that your SEO is well managed and also in line with industry rules and regulations must be a priority.