Last Friday, I discussed how to make your site more accessible to users of mobile gadgets like smartphones. Today, I would like to go back the topic of using links. It is vital that the links that you use and that are used by other sites to promote your firm can lead to the success or demise of your website. By using links that work well, lead to genuine content and seem like they were gained through legitimate means, you can land yourself in the top rankings of Google and other search engines when clients search for your type of legal service.
Google’s link removal requests were phenomenal last year, climbing the scales from previous years to a whopping 345 million requests. From 2013 to 2014, the numbers rose by 75%, and if I have to be honest, I feel like 2015 won’t be much different. Fortunately the legal market wasn’t greatly affected by these requests, and in fact, lyrics websites were at the top of the chain of sites being hit the most, but that doesn’t mean that you’re completely safe. The links that you use and that build traffic from other sites to your own reflect upon you as a business and Google won’t let it slide if you’re breaking the rules.
Keeping It Clean
Several things that can improve your rankings through links is how you describe them, what materials they are leading your clients to and what content your clients are gaining through the link involved. Most consumers aren’t going to understand every Latin term or legal phrase written on your site. So keep your terminology to a minimum and make sure that your links are clean and easy to find. Search Engine Land says:
One of the more difficult parts of an SEO program is getting away from using internal jargon and describing products or services the way your customers do.
This ties in with my article about customer service and building rapport over rankings with your clients. Of course your rank is important, but you won’t get very far with Google or with potential consumers if nobody knows what you’re talking about. Unfortunately, this is a sad truth for law in particular because of all the terms and phrases used that aren’t usually applied in any other form of business.
Link Farming And Law Firms
There was a big law firm all over the internet and national news not long ago by the name of Seikaly & Stewart, whom I have mentioned before, which shocked much of the online community when they got caught using a link farming tool to bring more business into the firm’s website. Link farming is a big no-no, and while you might not know that right away, it is something that you would recognize after minimal research in the field of SEO. Here is what I previously said about the importance of SEO:
It is absolutely crucial that you not only know the basics of SEO before you get started with them, but that you know who you are working with as well. You wouldn’t take direction from a stranger on how to win a case would you? So why then would you think that it might be a good idea to take direction from a stranger on how to better build your online business and bring in traffic to your website?
As lawyers, one of your strongest suits and most regarded tools against making mistakes is your ability to research, find the facts, and stay within the legal guidelines set out by regulators. Unlike many federal and local laws that you follow as a business, the way that you manage your website offers a different type of legality, and requires an entirely new form of research and information management. If you’re not willing to understand the basics, not even an expert can help you reach success in SEO.
What Your Links Are Doing For You
You have heard me talk about links, tell you which links to avoid, how to get the right kind of links, and various other information on link building, but do you know why you are doing all of this? Link building is very important for law firms and any online business or website operator. Links not only bring in new business by directing customers to your site who may not have realized you existed previous to finding the link, but they also show Google and other search engines what the population wants more of. Moz.com states:
Since the late 1990s search engines have treated links as votes for popularity and importance in the ongoing democratic opinion poll of the web. The engines themselves have refined the use of link data to a fine art, and use complex algorithms to perform nuanced evaluations of sites and pages based on this information.
When a real business posts a link to your firm on their website it shows Google that this particular site values the content that you have posted and supports you as a business as well. This, of course, means that if you have a link on a site that is completely irrelevant to your own, or one which has been flagged by Google in the past then you won’t be taken seriously and that link will actually count against your ranking rather than help you bring in more business and rise above competitors.
Know what you want to share with your clients, be prepared to do research to better understand SEO and recognize that the links you share and are shared through relate directly to how seriously your site will be taken. This is the information that I want all of my clients to understand before they even begin asking for help in building better links and gaining a more complex understanding of SEO and how it can work for you.
SEO, when done properly, can create an entirely new way of doing business, especially for law firms, on the other hand, it can also prevent success and diminish your chances for new clients if used improperly.
I have talked about the importance of good SEO knowledge on numerous occasions and last Friday, I discussed what to avoid when link building. Today, I really want to touch on why utilizing the best SEO strategies can work to your advantage. Sometimes it comes down to what good SEO know-how can do for you, but at other times it is just important to know what not to do, especially when Google begins cracking down on different methods for “spam” and cheating their crawlers.
In SEO, the best bet that any law firm has towards keeping on top of the competition and leaving a good image in the eyes of Google and other search engines is to follow the rules and continue doing what you can to keep one step ahead of your competitors by understanding algorithms and steering clear of SEO traps.
Keeping Your Firm Out Of Trouble
SEO can be serious business, and I’m not just talking about the kind of money it can bring to your firm. What I am referring to here is specific to law firms everywhere as it was recorded just last year that a law firm by the name of Seikaly & Stewart sued their SEO provider for getting them into hot water with link farming. SearchEngineLand.com reports that:
The defendant Rainmaker Institute, which specializes in online marketing services for the legal profession, is accused knowingly violating Google SEO guidelines by building “link farms” on behalf of the plaintiff’s several legal domains.
It is absolutely crucial that you not only know the basics of SEO before you get started with them, but that you know who you are working with as well. You wouldn’t take direction from a stranger on how to win a case would you? So why then would you think that it might be a good idea to take direction from a stranger on how to better build your online business and bring in traffic to your website? Sometimes in business the best form of SEO is knowing who to trust and what really makes a difference in your traffic flow.
Make Them Like You
Having additional traffic when you’re trying to attract new clients can be amazing, especially in the field of law where word of mouth is still the main method of bringing in new business. Unfortunately, with all of the marketing scams related to SEO and online businesses working their way through the system it can be easy to lose track of the real reason that you have a website in the first place and that is to convey a message to your clients. SEO can help new clients find you, and this can help them like you, but you have to do a little bit of work to make this happen. Bruce Clay suggests:
A good online marketing campaign can do wonders for your practice, but the focus of your website should be on conveying trust and expertise. You want to make sure that your site speaks to visitors and compels them to contact you.
Making sure that your site has a mobile friendly application or capabilities is one way that you can make a difference to your clients, but you can also show your best side simply by being up front about who you are, where you’re located, and what you specialize in. Law clientele are generally looking for something specific in their lawyers, and if you aren’t able to help them it should be right there up front so that they can move on, or call you for further assistance. Don’t make consumers dig for too much information or they may lose focus and find a less complicated site to browse.
Making You More Visible
Believe it or not SEO can help make you more visible for your client base by assisting you in representing yourself better in your city or town. When potential clients run a search on Google for family law in Connecticut they might just be seeking out the best of the best in the state, but if you can make a name for yourself in your city or town you might find your firm drawing in these searchers simply because your firm is what appears at the top of their searches. Criminal Lawyer expresses:
By adding keywords that relate to your specific city or area in as well as your particular type of law, you can target your traffic better and get better leads. It is much more useful, from a marketing standpoint, to have visitors from the city or area you live in than to have visitors from around the world.
One of the best ways to make this type of situation work in your favor is to use some strategically placed, but not overused keywords, to bring in more business and get your firm noticed. Use your city name a lot so that locals will be more influenced to come in and speak with you directly. Make sure that your phone number and firm name are displayed in more than one place, and definitely emphasize your level and range of practice so that clients aren’t confused about who they’re calling or why.
Search Engines Rule The Online Universe
Before you turn up your nose at the possibility that SEO could really work for you, you have to give some serious thought as to how important search engines have become in online business. I often have to remind my clients that while most law firms do not operate strictly on the internet, they will find themselves bringing in new business this way, especially as more and more people begin utilizing the online search methods rather than word of mouth for this type of service. The key factor here is to set yourself apart from your competition not only in search rankings, but also in how you do business. Letting a potential client know how respected you are in your field is the best way to attract new business, and when Google places you at the top of their chain of search results for lawyers in your area this is exactly what you are portraying.
Previously, I have discussed various SEO tactics that one should not follow but today, let me focus on what to avoid with regards to link building. Link building is a pretty important part of SEO, but you have to do it smartly, or you’ll wind up wondering what went wrong. I often tell my clients that if they’re going to begin building links they should treat it the way that they would treat any other form of networking from company to company. You wouldn’t just walk up to somebody at a party and pay them to be a contact for your firm, so why would you pay a website to link your firm in a similar way. If you work for your links and build genuine relationships with the other sites that host your links, you’ll get much more traffic generated at a more realistic pace. Unfortunately, there are a lot of spam faux pas to avoid, such as the following.
Forum Spam Links
One of the most annoying and often easy to spot forms of link spam are those left on forums, blogs, and other comment posts, especially the ones that are generated automatically. Yes, believe it or not some businesses use a generic comment that links people on a blog or forum back to their site. SemRush.com states:
Once upon a time the nofollow tag didn’t exist. Every link on every website was a pure, unadulterated do follow link passing glorious Page Rank. Blog and forum spam literally made Google step in and introduce this new form of link-in order to discourage spammers.
Unfortunately, this form of link spam gives a bad name to many who would use these comment areas to help network their websites. You have to be very careful in how you promote yourself through another site or any kind, or you could end up on Google’s naughty list, and that’s no way to start off the new year.
Poor Quality Guest Posts
Guest posts can be a great way to get some much needed publicity, but if you’re using a “guest post” that has no real relevance to your site, or somebody who has no credibility whatsoever, you might as well have no guest post at all. The best way to utilize a guest post to your advantage is to approach somebody from your industry, usually a professional or expert on a particular subject about which you’d like information posted on your site, and see if he or she wouldn’t mind typing something up for you. In this way you can help them gain publicity, and in return he or she might be able to link others to your site in an effort to get him or herself more readers.
Don’t Get Links From Online Providers
I have said it before, but I will say it again, don’t try and get links the easy way. Nothing that comes easily online is going to be beneficial, at least not as far as link building and SEO goes. If you are cutting corners by using companies that exchange links for a fee you are in trouble. Website Magazine says:
While you may have heard about Ann Smarty’s site getting hammered by Google, there are many like it. You should not get links from a public exchange as they are in the crosshairs of Google.
You will see more and more of these companies popping up now that you are working on your firm’s SEO and links, but don’t be swayed by the possibilities of their partnership.
Article submission can be useful if you are submitting an article to a relevant and trustworthy website looking for a guest poster or something similar, but there are various websites out there that will take just about any content you throw at them and you do not want to be associated with them. The upside of these sites is that they will gain you a bit of recognition in the form of a link, but the downside is that you will forever be associated with the phony website that you used to get that link.
I have posted many different updates on SEO like words you have to be familiar with and how to better outfit your law firm’s site for success in the coming year, but what I want to talk about today is what you should avoid in 2015 to keep your firm on top of the competition. Google has many picky preferences when it comes to following their algorithm rules and regulations and while it might be impossible to prevent every single flaw that you could encounter, there are a few faux pas that we know of for certain.
If you find yourself letting any of the following mistakes slip by you on your firm site, you may want to go back to basics and figure out how to correct them, or you may find yourself on the bottom of the Google rankings this year. It’s a new year and a fresh start, so don’t get caught with your hand in the cookie jar.
Okay, so we have spoken a little bit in the past about how quality content is basically the most important thing that your website should give to visitors. Whether this is for your clients, or for Google rankings alone, you must keep your content genuine, and relevant to the source. With that said, it can be easy to fall into the trap of meaningless junk articles, especially if you’re in a rush and have too much work building up to really focus on what’s going on online. Search Engine People claims:
Writing junk articles and syndicating them throughout the web with links back to your site do not count as anything genuine and cannot add value to you, as a source of information; or value in Google’s opinion of your site or the value of your services.
A junk article can be anything from a poorly written blog update, to a spun article that you purchased from a marketing website. It’s important to know your content before you post it; so if you’re going to buy data from outside sources be sure that you read it all before posting so you know exactly what you’re putting your name and your company’s name on. Remember that your reputation is linked to your website and your firm isn’t going to look good if it is affiliated with poorly written junk.
Any online activity on your site that makes content look one way to your viewers and another to a Google crawler is a definite no-no. As tempting as it might be to post what you want and cover up your tracks, as a law firm, you should definitely know that no good can come of this. I often tell my clients to think about this the way that you would about fraud of any kind; there’s a reason why it’s illegal in the real world, and it isn’t tolerated by Google either. If you get caught cloaking you’re going to land yourself in a world of trouble as far as your online ranking goes. Click-Fingers says:
Cloaking is the practice of designing a web site so that the search engines see one thing and the visitors to the site see something else. This is one of the most common spammer tricks and is HIGH on the list for Google to handle in an extreme way and by that, I mean banning the domain and removing it from the search engine index completely.
Fortunately, this is not something that you can do by mistake; it takes some serious website know how, which means that your web designer or moderator would be at the base of it all. As long as you are upfront about what you will and won’t tolerate on your site you should be fine and shouldn’t have to worry about cloaking at all.
Another Google no-no is duplicating content. Now, again, as a law firm, the act of plagiarism shouldn’t be unknown to you, and you should recognize how serious this can be, not only for your ranking, but for your business as well. This is why it’s important that all of the content that you post are original. Sometimes purchasing from outside resources can lead you to duplicated content by accident. You can avoid this by putting all of your articles, blog updates, and other content through a search to be sure that nothing is being copied from another site, or from somebody else’s work.
Believe it or not there are a lot of programs out there that you can download or subscribe to that will create content for you and spin articles. This is similar to my earlier warning about junk articles, but is a little bit more specific on what to avoid. You should never get involved with a program that automatically outputs data for your website. It might save you time and even some money, but in the end it will have a negative affect not only on the relationship that you have with your current and potential future clientele, but also with Google and other search engines who may have supported your business.
In the past, I have spoken about keywords and how important they can be for SEO ranking. Unfortunately, while they can be very helpful, they can also be a burden, as it becomes increasingly difficult to understand what Google will and will not accept as far as the number of keywords on your page goes. Previously, there was a higher number of keywords accepted, but recently this has changed. Website Magazine declares:
Remember when you would read a page stuffed with variations of keywords at five percent density? That is thankfully no more. You should keep your keyword density around three percent or less for best results, but never sacrifice quality to get more keywords.
Before you begin putting keywords into an article, blog, or site content, write the information out and be sure that it is relevant and sounds correct. After this you can go back through and insert a few keywords where they will look natural in the normal flow of your article.
I have been telling all of my clients that 2015 is the year to set your goals high and your sights higher, and this means taking advantage of all of the amazing information that is just a mouse click away. Optimizing your website for better Google rankings may not always be a walk in the park just like I pointed on Wednesday, but there are some sure fire ways to better your odds, and following the rules and guidelines that search engines set out is the best place to get started. In order to better understand these rules you first have to know the language and be able to associate the different SEO terminologies with their meanings.
Okay, so if you know about SEO then you are probably familiar with the fact that search engines send out bots to scour the web for the best and brightest, and also to pinpoint the sites that aren’t following the rules. In their travels these bots not only read the text that you’ve placed on your website to determine whether or not it is relevant to your law firm, but they also read the code that you are using. This means utilizing things like HTML sitemaps better; Kiss Metrics says:
There are two types of sitemaps you can create: HTML sitemaps and XML sitemaps. The main difference is XML sitemaps are coded specifically for search engines to read, while HTML sitemaps are easy for people to read too. You can link to them, giving the visitor an overview of everywhere they go.
Another factor to understand are “title tags,” which are used to verify the title and reason for your website. For example, if you are running a law firm, you should be placing the title in code such asMcMahon And Son Family Lawyers. This shows potential clients exactly what you are offering, as well as the name of your law firm and a common representation of your domain name. The main aim here is to add your keywords to your title so that it’s easier to spot in a search.
I have said it before in the past, but I can’t reiterate enough just how important it is, especially for a law firm website to have content that is completely relevant to the business and the site. This means putting up only information that you would generally share with a client in person. Don’t post things that you wouldn’t show somebody that came into your office, and certainly don’t try to “spice” up your site by adding untrue or misleading data, images, or any other content that don’t ring true. This will lead to a definite violation of the rules set up by Google and other search engines. Amy Hissom explains:
A word you’ll likely see around a lot is “web content” and by definition, content is the ‘stuff’ that makes up a web site. This could be words, pictures, images or sounds. In essence however, when we talk about web content, we are essentially referring to content in a textual nature. Content therefore is the ‘information’ in text form a web site provides.
This is an easy concept to grasp, but an important one all the same, and it also encompasses other key terms such as your CMS or content management system which is used to manage content, key phrase, which is two or more words that form what may eventually become a “keyword” during online searches, and many others.
This is something that you want to seriously steer clear of, especially if you don’t want to end up in Google’s black books. It is described in 4fx.com as:
An attempt to deceive a search engine spider in order to improve a web page’s rank at the expense of the search engine’s index quality.
This can involve repeating phrases that are unrelated to your content, keyword stuffing, article spinning, meta-tag stuffing, scraper sites, and a number of other incriminating spam related mistakes.
I always try to make it clear for my clients that for any law firm or lawyer, understanding SEO and how it can work to your advantage is an important part of the industry. While it’s true that this never used to be a factor before, the internet age has made it impossible to direct any business without taking into consideration the online world. That is why, previously, I had tackled the use of Facebook to enhance your brand. Today, I would like to point out that Google’s algorithms will play a big role in your firm and your website or blog. In order to get your information to become more visible throughout the billions of online users trying to do the same, you have to understand how Google works, and that their results are different for each individual keyword that is entered.
Crawling And Indexing
In order to find the best and brightest content on the internet, search engines have the formidable task of getting to know each site individually and running through all of the information that is there. The best way to do this is through links. In order to get everywhere, search engines use bots to “crawl” their way around the online world and try to make sense of the information that is available online. Crawling helps search engines to index billions of pages including videos, news, images, and other files. This helps them give answers to queries as they are sent through an engine. They find relevant pages to each query type with their “crawlers” and decipher codes so that they can store pieces of this information. Moz.com says:
After all, when a person performs a search at any of the major engines, they demand results instantaneously – even a 1 or 2 second delay can cause dissatisfaction, so the engines work hard to provide answers as fast as possible.
I like to put it into easy to understand situations; if you think about it like this you can better understand why keywords are so important and why the links that you use must lead back to your site properly. When you search for something on the internet a search engine must go through the billions of documents that they have encountered and return only the most relevant results and rank them in order of how useful you might find them. This is another important fact to remember, because if your site and data isn’t useful, you’re far less likely to be listed near the top of any search query list.
Finding The Right Data
Now, to a search engine crawler the data that is listed as most “relevant” will always have to do with the words on the page, because let’s keep in mind that these robots aren’t live people, which means that while they are able to find some pretty valuable results in the large scheme of things, the importance of these sites is based on different determining factors than you or I might use. For example, mathematical equations and algorithms are designed to pinpoint the most logical and honest data. This is where following the Google guidelines can come in handy, and I always suggest that my clients go over these suggestions to make the most of their websites. To start with, you should always make your site for your users not for the search engines that are ranking them. Trying to deceive a search engine is kind of like cheating on your taxes; if you get caught, there are heavy penalties to pay, and while these penalties may not come in dollars and cents, you could lose money in the long run by not playing fairly. Make sure that your website has a very clear hierarchy and is easy to navigate from page to page with a static text link to get through. Make sure that the data you supply is rich and accurate and that it is related to your field of work or what the site is meant to represent. Finally, be certain that the keywords you use are for humans not bots, and that they help link to original content, not duplicated content.
There are many things that affect the algorithms used by search engines, and unfortunately I can’t name them all, but to be fair, this would be an impossible feat for anyone, but the designer of those algorithms. One thing that I do divulge to my clients is that things like spelling, synonyms, autocomplete, query understanding, and search methods play a large role. The way that a question or query is formed can make all the difference as to the information that is displayed, which is why I recommend covering all of your bases in terms of keywords that could link back to your firm. Buffer App explains:
You might have noticed the way Google guesses the end of your search as you start typing and fixes your spelling if you mistype. It also works hard in other ways to give you what you need quickly. For example, if you type “timer 30 minutes” into Google, it will create a timer for you right from the search results instead of having you click away to an online timer.
In this way, it is obvious that Google is looking out for users, not businesses that are supplying information to users, although it does seem to respect those businesses that use the website correctly and follow the guidelines associated with its use.
Building Link Strategies That Work
I had mentioned above that links are an important part of building relevant content and making a clean site that Google will want to rank highly. What this means is that you can’t just buy your way to the top. Buying links is a Google no-no, however, trading them is perfectly okay, but be sure that the suppliers, partners, and other industry leaders that you trade with are following the same code of conduct that you are, because your site is only as good as your weakest link. Marketing Pilgrim reports:
Obtain links from business partners, suppliers, clients, industry blogs, and news media. The link should preferably use “anchor text” that includes the keywords you are hoping your web page will rank for in Google. For example; instead of a link back to your site that says “Click Here” more beneficial would be a link that includes the text “Desktop Computers” (or your targeted keyword).
Following these tips won’t guarantee you a spot in Google’s most recommended links, but it will certainly help your site stay above the competition and in the running.
Last week, I discussed how a law firm can use Twitter to enhance a firm’s online marketing efforts. Now, it’s been a while since I have had the opportunity to touch on an algorithm change but it looks as though Google finally has some news. Recently, Google spokespeople have elucidated on their latest Penguin algorithm update. As far as anyone knows so far, the algorithm is going to be receiving continuous updates, making it impossible to follow or to find any real guidelines to grasp onto as far as SEO and other forms of online marketing and ranking go. The last big update is still being rolled out and there is no end point yet in site, which means that law firms small and big are left to optimize as they go rather than finding a set of rules to stick to directly. IMglance.com explains the latest announcement made by Google:
That last big update is still rolling out — though really there won’t be a particularly distinct end-point to the activity, since Penguin is shifting to more continuous updates. The idea is to keep optimizing as we go now.
This means different things for different people, but one thing that it means to every online user, legal firms included, is that there may still be some big changes yet to come, and you should keep your eyes peeled for these.
Updates and Affected Businesses
So far all of the Penguin changes have been made offline and then pushed at a very specific time, which would change the search results, but now it might be time to advance into the updating future as Google has finally begun to release changes live and online. One perk that this offers to users is that these live changes cut back on the large surges of data that were previously being pushed. It helps to stand as a reminder that while the changes might be annoying, Google is clearly trying to do what’s best for all businesses and online users globally. Propecta.com advises:
We’re keeping a close eye on Penguin, with everyone else, but in the long run it’s important to remember that Google’s end game still hasn’t changed. They’re working out how to do it better, and while it’s annoying that the Penguin updates are changing so quickly, there really isn’t much anyone can do about it.
The world has been asking for faster and better upgrades to the Penguin algorithm for quite some time now, and these new changes and method of transformation might be the answer to those prayers. You do need to keep an eye out for these changes as they occur, however, because Google hasn’t been announcing all of them, and some of the latest moves have been reported by the SEO community rather than the company itself.
What This Means For Users
Fortunately, while the SEO changes aren’t all optimistic, these continuous updates do mean that there are shorter penalties for bad links, and other spam-related issues affiliated with websites. Search Engine Land explains:
But what this means for sites who were impacted by any of these live changes is unclear. Do their link removal or disavow efforts get processed between each live algorithm change or would that not happen until Penguin 4.0? Again, we are working on getting clearer information from Google around these changes.
The continuous changes shouldn’t be a problem for those sites that do use natural links and play by the rules that have already been set out for online business owners, law firms, medical clinics, and various other internet users who require the web to communicate with their potential customers. This means that although you might want to keep your eye on Google news, you shouldn’t be too put off by the changes so long as you are keeping links fresh and naturally occurring.
Previously, I discussed how to ramp up a law firm’s SEO initiative in preparation for 2015. Now, I would like to focus on a specific component of SEO, and that is link building.
When it comes to SEO in law, link building can be one strategy that can get you ahead of the competition, but if you’re not careful it can also be your downfall. Link building is a helpful tool, but it works on a slippery slope that requires dedication to honest and meaningful content. This is one area of search engine optimization that can’t be faked or bought, or you will get found out and the results won’t make for a successful business.
Not Building Strong Content
One way that new algorithms are making a difference in how you can build links is by looking into the relevance of the content is that is being linked to. I would like to emphasize here that you can’t just throw in a bunch of links to the company that is helping with your marketing or buy a link on a site that only sells links and has no real pride in their content. If not, you will get caught and it won’t be pretty for your website’s credibility. As a lawyer, this is particularly important, as you want to do everything by the book and stay within the laws governed by Google and other search engines. Attorney At Law Magazine writes:
The Penguin update particularly analyzed backlink portfolios (the list of external websites that link back to your website). Sites with low quality links pointing to their domain were penalized. Manual backlink based penalties are determined by human reviewers, but Penguin looks at links algorithmically.
So if the new algorithm locates a bunch of low-quality links pointing to a particular website it would lose credit and be penalized for linking in a manipulative manner that basically promoted spam.
Link farming is one tactic in the SEO game that will give you a fast ticket to trouble. This entails linking to websites that only want more links. Sometimes you pay for this but you’ll find that they don’t add any real value to your site, and these can be problematic in the long run. Truly, it is an easy route to building up your links, and bringing business to the site. And for people who aren’t secure in their SEO knowledge this can seem like a quick alternative to asking around and being dismissed by others. I suggest you follow the advice of Lawyerist.com:
Depending on your approach, as well as, the relevance and quality of your own site, some will respond positively and quickly to a simple link request. On the other hand, poorly executed link building requests may be ignored or even responded to with hostility.
You may find your rankings suffering if the developer of your site used link farming services in the creation of your webpage. A web audit can find this information out for you so that you can remove any unwanted backlinks involved in the farming process.
Any SEO expert can tell you that while blog spamming might seem like it’s getting your brand out on the market, what you’re actually doing is exactly what it sounds like, you’re spamming people’s blogs with comments including your link in them. While you might get lucky and get a few new potential clients clicking your links out of curiosity, what you’re more likely to experience is a lot of backlash from the owners of the blogs that you have essentially hijacked. If you have a blog for your site you will understand how annoying this can be to people and businesses alike. You wouldn’t want your own blog updates crawling with comments from competitors or other local companies not adding anything relevant to the article you worked so hard on producing, but rather advertising their own business. It’s certainly not fair SEO play.
Last week, I provided some tips on web marketing for law firms. Today, let me focus on how to boost your SEO efforts for the upcoming year. If you have already jumped on the SEO bandwagon then great! If not, you may want to consider becoming involved with a few SEO tactics of your own to bring your company up to speed with your competitors and to boost traffic to your website.
Search engine optimization involves working with Google’s algorithms and rules to bring your website higher in the rankings of the search engine. This means that when potential clients are searching for a “Law Firm In Los Angeles” or “Legal Help In New York” they will be more likely to see your listing among the many others that pop up, and your firm may even be more visible than others in your local area.
On Google you’ll find that even a change in one keyword during a search can completely alter the results that you’ll get. For example, searching for “New York law Firms” will give different results compared to a search for “Law Firms In New York City”, which can make SEO a little bit confusing but it doesn’t have to be.
To really ramp up your 2015 initiative you need to get on board and leave the competition behind by making your website SEO friendly and mobile friendly. Not all webpages have accomplished this, especially in the field of law, which has relied heavily on word of mouth advertising since the dawn of legal aid. Not all web platforms are created equal, however, and with about 40% of your potential clients coming in from mobile devices it’s important to cater to this crowd as well as the ones who heard through a friend of a friend.
Do Your Research
As a lawyer you’re used to doing research, and you’re probably really good at it, which will come in handy during the initial stages of your SEO improvements. Before you can begin making changes to your site I suggest that you have to know your site the way that potential clients know it. Search for your firm by its name, by names that are very similar, by area of focus and your city or town and by the names of attorneys that work in your firm. What you see is exactly what others are getting when they try to find you or try to find help in your area. If you want to change these rankings and bring your site up the list you’re going to have to start making some changes, and you can gauge how big or small these changes need to be based on the current makeup of your webpage. Juris Page says:
SEO is generally measured by how well your website shows up for specific keywords and search terms. If someone searches for your law firm name, there’s no question that your firm website should be the first result in Google. It shouldn’t be a LinkedIn page, Facebook, Avvo, Findlaw, SuperLawyers, or Lawyers.com. It should be your website.
It can also be beneficial to ask current clients and new clients how they found you and exactly which search keywords they used to locate your particular office.
Set Realistic Goals And Make A Plan
So everybody should have goals, and similarly every law firm should have goals as to where they are going, how many clients they would like to see in the New Year, among a variety of other factors. Once you know exactly what it is that you plan to achieve this year you can set your mind toward achieving this with a well thought out plan. I firmly believe that proper research is your friend as you continue on your SEO journey because you’re going to need to know more about your potential client base, and about the guidelines and benefits of search engine optimization. From here you can do things like create a local online presence, put yourself into the social networking scheme of things with a blog or other contact platforms.
Make Yourself Seen
So you’ve got a blog and you’re beginning to learn more about how and where to place keywords? You may also be thinking about the advantages of link building; but while all of this is going on you can get some buzz going around your firm by making a mark in your local community and organizing an event or becoming more involved with a particular charity or other recognizable organization. Mannix Marketing states:
Not only are you helping your community and getting your brand out in the public, there is also an opportunity to get link backs form the organizations you are helping. If you or anyone on your Board is supporting a local charity or event, ask for a link on their site. This could be a very valuable backlink.
One of the things that Google really looks for when they begin ranking for SEO is how valid and honest the links are that you share and are shared through. A law firm that is linking a marketing website isn’t going to be a credible source unless you specialize in business and marketing law. Be creative, but also be logical in the selections that you make.
Blog Options And The Creative Approach
So above you saw the mention of blogging as a possible means of becoming involved in social media. This is an important tool for law firms because social media isn’t something that many practices have begun tapping yet. It can be difficult to be present in social media and still uphold the level of professionalism that law involves, but some sites like LinkedIn offer business style profiles, and the ability to publish interesting and relevant articles online.
Web Presence Esq says:
Not only did Google release a number of algorithm updates last year (including the Exact Match Domain (EMD) update, one dozen plus Panda updates, changes to actual search results pages, and unnatural link warnings through Google Webmaster Tools), but it has shifted its focus to content and SMO, or social media optimization.
Through your LinkedIn account you can also link your blog, which can take clients to your website. To make a blog worth reading the information has to be up-to-date, relevant, and interesting, so you can’t just put in something in a hurry and post it at the last minute. Try getting all of your attorneys on board; if everybody takes a blog update each week, it means posting timely articles that clients will enjoy reading.
In previous posts last week I wrote about social media and other methods of SEO to build up your law firm’s website in the long chain of search engine results on local law firms in your area are bound to provide. Today, I’ll focus on a component of SEO, which is building links.
The key to success in online marketing always comes down to setting yourself apart from your competitors and being seen first. Epic Web Results advises:
If your website has incoming links from relevant websites as well as links from your site on other places around the web, it can help increase the visibility of your company and, in turn, create more buzz for your internet marketing campaigns. Link building helps your company create a powerful web presence in many ways.
What is difficult here is getting to the top, of course, but one tip I often give my clients is to take some time out and focus on link building. Now, Google is highly particular in what they will and won’t accept in terms of building links. For this reason, the more genuine your links are, the more likely it is that they will help boost your ranking on a search engine.
Post as a Guest on Other Sites
So how do you begin building links and gaining a reputation through sites other than your own? I suggest beginning with guest posting; as a lawyer you have a large knowledge base that others can’t always come by on their own, and this is leverage for you and your firm in building your brand. Use your expertise on your field of practice to branch out on other websites, blogs, and online publications that could gain an advantage from your input. Similarly, you benefit from the experience through readers being linked back to the firm’s website. Attorneyrankings.org says:
Personal injury lawyers in particular have a wealth of knowledge that people are searching online for. Lawyers can get local geographic links (which are great for most attorneys targeting local markets) by offering to write pieces for local libraries, chambers of commerce or local government websites as a public service.
This is a wonderful opportunity to utilize websites that may have more national pull than a small local law practice. This exchange of links provides unique and naturally occurring links, which is exactly what search engines want to see. Remember that each search engine is staking their reputation on credible sourcing of information, so in order to reach the top you must be relevant, original, and genuine.
Creating A Better Tomorrow In Your Links
Nothing screams integrity like a law firm looking to help the youth who could possibly be lawyers of tomorrow. It isn’t for everyone, but if you have the means to spend on this type of affiliation I recommend taking anything from $500 to $1500 and establishing a scholarship with real rules and a specific application process, you can list it on your website, and approach different educational institutions to make the scholarship available to their students. Niftylaw.com says:
It’s becoming less & less worthwhile to actively build links for the sake of links. Google is continually busting out the pitchforks & torches on their witch-hunt for spam link builders. If you’ve been accused of link sorcery by the algorithm, you will be thrown out in the frigid water with the penguins to see if you can swim.
The.edu and.org domains are often recognized as having a higher level of authority than a.net or.com because they are affiliated with education and professional organizations. Sure, you’re spending some money here, but those funds are being used to help financially needy students, while also fulfilling your need to link genuine and unique links for your firm’s website.
Get Everyone in on the Game
Creating genuine readable content isn’t always easy, especially if you’re trying to post on a regular basis, and getting links that connect to more relevant information can be even more difficult. I understand that this is sometimes a highly frustrating situation to be in, but one way that you can get out of the writer’s block barrel and begin creating your own links is to get everybody on your team involved. Obviously this doesn’t include members of the firm who aren’t crucial to the legal aspect of the practice.
For example, the administrative staff probably doesn’t need to be involved, but if you can get all of your lawyers, and even the law interns to write one or two articles a month, you can post these on your firm’s website, offer them as guest posts to other legally relevant sites and even supply them to local businesses in your niche that aren’t competition in exchange for similar content. Now make sure that everybody on board tweets, posts on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and anywhere else that social media reigns. Offer incentives to those actively participating and for whoever creates the biggest stir on the web in regards to content. The more readers, the more links back to your firm website, and the more action you’re going to get in online rankings, online business, and new potential clients.
If you post this material once or twice a week, and continue the trend you will find links falling into your lap in no time at all. Don’t just think of it as link building, think of it as client building, and give the same high quality information through these articles that you would to a paying client. This is an important part of your business strategy and if you don’t take it seriously you will find the opposite of your goals occurring, and Google may even consider the posts and links spam, which will land you in a heap of trouble rather than a heap of new consumers.
Whatever you choose to do to boost your rankings, and build links, keep it professional and relevant, those are the biggest tips I have to give here in regards to making the search engines happy. A happy search engine makes for far more happy clients as they come across your listing before they notice your competitors.
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