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In my last blog, I discussed how to use social media effectively. Today, I would like to elucidate more on what is search engine optimization or SEO. For many lawyers, especially those just taking the plunge into online marketing, the term SEO might seem foreign. SEO is something that many online marketers are using as an alternative to the pay per click advertising option, among others. It focuses on the way that search engines view your website and rank it online.

The Basics

While I have discussed SEO in depth several times throughout my blog, I want to take a closer look at what SEO really is, and break it down for those who are new to this. JurisPage says the following regarding SEO and how it can work for you:

For the uninitiated, SEO or search engine optimization is the process of working with Google’s algorithm and published guidelines get your website or blog to appear more visibly in Google search results (top spot of page 1 is the most coveted). SEO doesn’t cover the shaded advertising boxes you see on the top or right-hand side of your Google search results.

The Google algorithms are constantly changing, and you can see most of these updates throughout my articles. While it is virtually impossible to keep on top of every single guideline Google creates, there are many that are easy to keep track of, and these can greatly influence your chances of being recognized above competitor firms in your area.

Keywords Are Still Relevant

Keywords are likely to be a subject that you are becoming sick and tired of seeing, especially if you visit my blog often. But they are still so relevant that I feel there is a need to include them here. When it comes to SEO and you’re working from the bottom up, keywords are one way that you can begin building your case for higher ranking on search engines. Let me tell you why.

Search engines base their ranking systems on many different things, but among those criteria is how many visitors your site has regularly, and the quality of the content on your site. When people are searching for a law firm in your city, they are far more likely to find you if your site has “law firm Toronto” or “Brooklyn Law Firm” visible throughout the page, for example, because these are the keywords they type when seeking a lawyer in their specific area. Main Street ROI says:

Once you know what keywords you’re targeting, you need to make your website relevant to those keywords. You do this by integrating your keywords into meta tags (most importantly, your Title Tag which looks likein your HTML code) and your body copy. This is the step most people think of when they hear the phrase search engine optimization. During this step, you are optimizing your website for search engine queries.

I always tell my clients that it is not only important to find the correct keywords through research and proper planning, but it is also advisable to use them naturally. You may think that Google is too busy to follow up with every law firm website on the net and check their keywords for fluidity, but you would be wrong. Google does not take kindly to spam of any kind and this includes keyword stuffing.

Be Easy To Navigate

Being easy to find won’t make you a success overnight in terms of SEO; your website must also be easy to navigate. The majority of internet users are now searching using mobile phones and tablets. This means that your site needs to be equipped to work on those devices and support the technology they utilize. A change that made Google’s lengthy list of guidelines this Spring was that mobile-friendly websites would be ranked higher when mobile searches are being performed.

Navigation means more than just being mobile-friendly, however. It also means that your pages are set up in such a way that customers can find what they are looking for, and that crawlers can also get to each and every page on your site. A crawler is a bot, which is employed by Google and other search engines, to see what your page is offering the public and to monitor whether or not you are following the rules specified by each search engine. While it may be tempting to block them out somehow so that you can’t be faulted for mistakes online, crawlers can be your friends. I should also point out that blocking Google’s bots from visiting your site can have some pretty hefty negative effects associated with it.

Get Localized

Finally, when it comes to understanding the very basics of search engine optimization, there is no better place to start than your local community. Even if you want to be a nationally recognized law firm with clients flocking from the next state over to seek your services, you have to start somewhere, and the most obvious location for you to build a loyal client base and reputation is your own city or town. Bruce Clay advises:

Legal Internet marketing is exceedingly competitive, so if you’re just starting out it’s important to establish your firm as a brand and market to your immediate location.

You can do this in many ways, one of which is through keywords that are designed to encourage local traffic, as noted above. I would also suggest that you follow up through Google+ and local law directories to make sure that when potential clients do use Google and other search engines to find a firm, yours is listed in more than one location. It would be pretty spectacular if your firm appears at the top of a search list for local firms right away, but you will find that individuals and businesses are more likely to locate you through other listings first, until you build a recognizable brand and begin ranking highly on your own.

The above discussion only begins to cover what SEO involves, and if your firm is serious about incorporating it into your online marketing philosophy, you should definitely do more research. From link building to genuine content, there are many tools to use and guidelines to follow if you want to find success in this area.

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