How Not to Advertise Your Law Firm

An attorney in Los Angeles, Svitlana Sangary, faces a six-month suspension by the California Bar for posting doctored photos on her website that suggest that she mingles with well known politicians and celebrities.

Sangary failed to show for numerous hearings, and missed some of the deadlines in the case. In an 18-page decision last week, Judge Donald F Miles said that Sangary had…

…committed four counts of misconduct. Miles said they included one count related to posting the photographs, two counts of failing to cooperate with state bar investigators and another count of refusing to forward a former client’s legal file to the client’s new attorney.

Source: The Los Angeles Times

As of Monday, September 22, the photos remained on her website, and could be found under the tab, Publicity. The pictures show Sangary hobnobbing with many of the upper crust, including:

  • Barack Obama
  • Joe Biden
  • Hillary Clinton
  • Bill Clinton
  • Donald Trump
  • Anne Hathaway
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Ellen DeGeneres
  • Jennifer Garner

And many, many more. Amazingly, Sangary seems to have the exact same facial expression in every single picture..

In one of Sangary’s filed responses to the charges, she said:

Also with regard to false statements and misleading advertisement, none other than Natalie Portman comes to mind. The online media extensively covers the controversy surrounding Natalie Portman’s performance in the film Black Swan. The ballet dancer who performed in the Black Swan, Sarah Lane, has come forward to revel [sic] a “cover up” and says that Natalie Portman’s head was superimposed onto Sarah Lane’s body, and that Natalie Portman lied…Despite the foregoing, Natalie Portman has won an Oscar for her performance in Black Swan.

Ummmm… Ok?

Pretty much every state bar has differing and complex rules and regulations for advertising by attorneys. I suspect that Sangary has run afoul of more than one of these, but that will ultimately be up to the California Supreme Court to decide.

In the meantime, her website is a wonderful example of many improper approaches to local SEO.

First of all, her domain: She clearly picked this domain for some supposed SEO benefit.

I’ll admit to a bias against keyword domains, as I much prefer branded domains that can build real value.

But even if you stipulate that there is a benefit, this goes about it wrong. Few people search for services at the state level, especially in a state the size of California. If I’m in San Francisco, an attorney in Los Angeles does me no good, so why wouldn’t I search on the word “San Francisco, rather than the word, “California.”

In fact, most searches will use a city or region name, not a state name, in composing their search.

Next, the most important page on most sites is the homepage. It has the most links coming into it, and is therefore the most powerful for SEO purposes. So, you typically want to target your most important, most competitive keywords there.

The single most important element on a page for SEO is the title tag, and the words to the front of the title tag are more important than those at the end.. On Sangary’s homepage, it is:

Los Angeles, California Civil litigation lawyer — Svitlana E. Sangary

If we used variables for the elements of the title, instead of the actual words, we’d have a form like this:

Geography Keyword — Company Name

In other words:

Los Angeles, California = Geography
Civil litigation lawyer = Keyword
Svitlana E. Sangary = Company Name

Let’s look at each piece…

I already discussed the lack of importance of the word “California” for this sort of search. I would dump it entirely, as it’s not needed for clarity, and it’s wasting valuable real estate.

Also, Los Angeles is such a large area, that nearly every local keyword is incredibly expensive. I often recommend to clients that if they’re in one of the areas around Los Angeles, use that city name as your target geography instead of Los Angeles itself. It’s better to get some traffic from a bit less competitive name than no traffic from the big one.

But Sangary appears to be located in Los Angeles proper, so that doesn’t really apply here.

This dips into branding territory, but I’m not a fan of “civil litigation lawyer” as a keyword. People will tend to search for a specific practice area, not the general category. For example, here are some search volumes I pulled from the Google Keyword Planner (using her practice areas as an input):

KeywordSearches per month
civil litigation lawyer los angeles10
business lawyer los angeles170
real estate lawyer los angeles140
discrimination lawyers los angeles40
wrongful termination lawyer los angeles110
los angeles personal injury lawyer1,600

Other than personal injury (an extremely competitive term in a geography like this), none of these has a whole lot of search volume. But the “civil litigation” keywords have almost no traffic to speak of.

As of this afternoon, Sangary’s site has the first organic result for [civil litigation lawyer los angeles]. Congrats. I doubt that’s helping her business any.

Company Name
What she has is fine, but you want to include either the attorney’s or the firm’s name, so that if people are searching directly for it, they find it.

Plus, it helps strengthen that page as a citation for local SEO calculations.

Be sure to put the name at the end of the title tag, like is being done here. But don’t use two characters (dashes, in this case) to separate it. Again, real estate in a title tag is premium space.

The rest of the site isn’t any better. In fact, it’s worse.

Most pages have a useless title tag such as “Svitlana index4” or “Practice Areas”, or do not have a title tag at all. Sub-pages should be used to target your secondary keywords.

Every page on a local site should have the company’s Name, Address and Phone number (NAP) on it. Sangary only has it on the homepage and Contact Us page.

Put your company’s NAP in the footer of the site, so it’s there on every single page by default. Not only is it good for SEO, it’s there for users to find it if they want to contact you.

The lack of a privacy policy on the site, and some questionable grammatical choices probably reduce the site’s trust in Google’s eyes. But I’m not sure trust is high on Sangary’s priority list.

So, keep these things in mind as you work to optimize your site. And, if you need further help, drop me a line.