At a high level, search engine optimization simply means doing things that will help a website rank higher in the organic (free) search results for the topics the firm wants to be associated with.
SEO is not a stand-alone thing that magically generates all of a firm's clients while the attorneys sit on the couch. SEO augments the broader business-building activities (branding, marketing, networking, presenting, client acquisition, and client retention plans) a firm does to make a bulletproof practice.
Old School SEO techniques used to be about doing tricky things to a website without actually making the site truly better. Common tricks included hiding text on a webpage, stuffing long lists of keywords and cities at the bottom of pages, buying links from brokers in foreign countries, and creating many awkward phrases in the content to try and appease search engines.
In competitive markets, the days of tinkering a website to the top are over. Today, SEO for law firms is about making a website as helpful and extensive as possible. It takes content. A website is never going to rank for something it does not mention. It also means firms need to incorporate their website into all networking, speaking, promoting, socializing, and educating activities, both online and offline. Anytime there is an opportunity to mention a firm's website on another website, directory, or publication, the firm should do so.
Yes, there are technical things like page titles, link strategy, and architecture, metadata, image and link titles, phrasing, content strategy, and writing that still need to be planned out. We'll help with this. But attorneys can do a lot in their everyday business practices to increase the popularity of their website.