From what we hear from lawyers, they get asked some amazing questions. There’s a poll about lawyers sharing the strangest questions ever asked, with the best responses posted here. Read at your own risk. It might be hazardous to your IQ.
The general public is mystified about the workings of the legal system. To be fair, there isn’t a lot of education about it offered. A class in basic legal civics would be nice to have in high school, for starters. The law is also one of those topics everybody fervently hopes they don’t have to know because people look at going to court the way they view going to the dentist.
Consequently, whenever people have to know the law because they’re looking at their first citation, court date, or summons, they turn to Google. And that is where hopefully you, the legal expert, comes in. Because in your absence, that person is going to be tutored in the legal arts by Alex Jones.
Having a frequently asked question (FAQs) page up on your website sets the tone that you’re a helpful resource. By anticipating and answering your potential clients’ questions, you build up a relationship of trust. You set the potential client’s expectations by delivering transparent, factual answers. You become a voice of expertise as you relieve their anxiety (assuming they’re frantically searching the web with a lap full of legal papers).
What is an FAQ page?
An FAQ page is laid out very much like you’d expect, with frequently asked questions in bold headers followed by a paragraph or so of answer and explanation. The IRS has a good example with its taxpayer FAQ. Bank of America runs an FAQ page on Internet fraud. And here is the FDA putting up an FAQ about cannabis and its byproducts, as states keep legalizing. To our exact topic, here is a law firm FAQ on custody questions related to divorce.
Really, Googling any topic you want to know about plus “FAQ” is an efficient way of quickly finding information.
FAQ pages can be structured in several ways. Short lists are fine with simple text answers. Longer pages may either have the answers collapsed under each question so you click on the one you want to expand or a list of links that jump down to the section for that question. These are just convenient page navigation features.
FAQs and Google
Here’s the important part for your search traffic: Google’s search query matching algorithms have taken several leaps in sophistication in the past years. Google is getting better at zeroing in on exactly what the user is asking. Type in an equation, Google tries to answer it. Type in vaguely remembered song lyrics and Google will find the music video. And it works the same way for map results triggered off queries like “family lawyer near me” and featured snippet results for instructional queries like “how to file for a divorce.”
Another Google special search feature is the FAQ box, although it’s actually called a “People also ask” box. You see these on virtually any instructional query. The thing is, Google pays attention to the exact wording and intention within web results. You can publish a whole book on “auto accident fault scenarios” and not pop up as high in search results, but if your FAQ page contains the specific question “How do you determine who is at fault in a car accident?” you’ll appear in the box:
This is a neat feature. Try it yourself for any question that pops into your head. It’s also a great way to conduct research: click on a question and it will show the snippet answering that question, but it will also expand with more questions below it. As you go further down the list, the questions wander more off-topic. When you do this, sometimes you’ll find questions that you didn’t even know your clients had.
So you really want those FAQ spots, because these results tend to pop higher in the search results pages, which means you’ll get more web traffic. With a well-worded question and answer, you can ever outrank the top websites in your industry when you normally wouldn’t appear until the back pages.
Finding Questions For An FAQ
There is a simple process for this. Find a question within your industry, niche, or field of practice that people ask, but which isn’t clearly answered in FAQ form on the web. Then post a page stating that question with the answer. This is even easier than it sounds – if you know where to look, and if you can word things the way laymen word them.
Places to find questions:
- Your practice: Everybody has that question they answer 1000 times.
- Feedback on your website: Comments, contact form questions, emails, texts.
- Surveys and polls: Any you can find, or conduct your own on your social media accounts or your sites.
- Reddit: One of the top twenty highest traffic sites on the web. Good starting subreddits include /r/legal, /r/legaladvice, and /r/legaled.
- Quora: Most popular Q&A forum on the web. Good starting tags are “Legal Issues and Law in Everyday Life” and “legal advice.”
- Stack Exchange: Q&A forum geared more towards STEM/techie types, but it does have a law section. You can explore specialized tags from there.
- Justia’s Ask A Lawyer forum.
- Lawyers.com Ask A Lawyer forum.
- LawGuru’s legal questions forum.
For example, we see this discussion on Reddit regarding property easements in Colorado. We might simplify this to a one-sentence question such as “Can a neighbor in Colorado force you to sign a property easement?” We also see FAQs pop up for related questions – the top one “Can an easement be forced?” is for New South Wales, Australia. So we see opportunities to fill in missing gaps here. Think about the region your law firm serves and create FAQs that address your community’s unique needs.
Location is a good thing to focus on in legal FAQs. Both because the law changes based on what state, county, and city jurisdiction you’re in, and because location information is one more way Google associates you with a region for local searches. So there’s less competition for a local FAQ about your state’s laws, while at the same time Google recommends you to local searchers.
A good way to identify new FAQ opportunities is to listen for questions about recent changes and developments in the law. For instance, here are seven state laws going into effect for 2020, an article tailor-made for our purpose. Going off those, we see Vermont will have some questions about mandatory composting, and Nevadians will be wondering about healthcare coverage laws for preexisting conditions, amongst other areas.
One final tip on content: An FAQ should be a “judgment-free zone” where no question is too stupid. You have no doubt met clients who were otherwise functional adults but had no clue about the basic concepts of law.
Formatting an FAQ Page
It isn’t enough to just plop down a page (or a blog post in WordPress) with questions and answers and leave it at that. Google likes a lot of site structural context to go with its content. We have an in-depth guide to proper site structuring here for all your concerns. For basic search engine optimization (SEO) purposes, you want:
- A page title and meta-description matching the content
- Grouping related questions together with a header (<h2>, etc.) tag or two to further flag the content for Google
- Use internal navigation, such as anchor tags, to link to individual question sections
- Use schema markup for FAQs – this makes Google find and index it easier
- For larger FAQs or even whole categories of FAQ pages, include a search feature
- Use internal links between the rest of your site and the FAQ. This helps on-site SEO because Google likes sites that have good interlinking so its search crawlers don’t get lost
Lastly, don’t forget your call to action (CTA), where you encourage readers to schedule a consultation with you to get all their questions answered personally.
Monitoring Your FAQ Performance
When tracking the effectiveness of your FAQ page, you can use several tools to improve it or gather new ideas for FAQ pages.
Your website traffic metrics will tell you which FAQ pages are pulling in traffic. Along with that, you can find out what search queries are bringing people to your site in the first place. You’ll often find “near miss” searches where, say, an FAQ about health code requirements for liquor licenses draws a small subset of driver questions about DUIs. So why not create a separate DUI page to answer those queries and snag some referral juice for your DUI-defense colleague?
If you implemented an on-site search feature as we suggested, check out the log of search queries. That can be a small goldmine of information telling you what users are searching for, and whether they’re finding it on your site.
If you added that CTA we mentioned, and you have it on multiple FAQ pages, you can monitor which FAQs trigger the most sign-ups or conversions.
Using an analytics tool such as Ahrefs or SEMRush will let you see the top search queries coming into your website and your closest competitor’s website! If you see lots of searches coming in for your competitor on a topic you don’t address, you know what to do.
Beware: Don’t Get Eaten By Google E.A.T.!
Legal websites are beholden to the Google E.A.T. standard. This stands for “Expertise, Authority, and Trust,” meaning in a nutshell that it ranks your website higher based on their perception of your website’s quality on these metrics. This isn’t entirely automated, either; a human being is on the other end manually checking your site to see if it passes the sniff test.
Google does this with sites it deems as having “YMYL” topics, which stands for “your money or your life.” Professional advice about health, legal, financial, political, and current news falls under YMYL because there can be serious life consequences from bad advice. As you might guess (and we hinted at with that Alex Jones crack back there), E.A.T. is Google combating the spread of fake news, quack cures, pseudo-science, and other garbage misinformation on the web.
Don’t panic about E.A.T. As long as you adhere to the following guidelines, you’ll be fine:
- Have qualified experts create your content (don’t throw it to some fifty-cent hack off Fiverr)
- Update your old content, correct errors, keep it current
- Meet professional standards of quality reporting – AP standards work fine
- Have good spelling and grammar, since Google does check for this
- Have your content hosted on a site that’s devoted to that topic – as opposed to, say, hosting your legal advice on your sister’s muffin recipe blog
When in doubt, perhaps hire an editor to go over your work. But honestly, a practicing lawyer, paralegal, or even a good legal clerk should have no trouble meeting E.A.T. standards.
Good FAQs are almost like a “cheat code” for Google search results. When carefully created, they’ll capture searchers’ attention and drive traffic to your law firm’s website.
In your quest to reach the top of the SERP, don’t forget who the FAQ page is for: your clients. Google’s top concern is giving searchers the information and user experience they want. Your answers must strike a careful balance; they can’t be too long-winded, nor so short that they’re not useful. They should be easy to consume but also provide links to further reading. When you create an FAQ page with your clients in mind, you’ll become their go-to source for legal information.