Last week, we discussed the importance of link building even before an event-based link building campaign is started. Meanwhile, we all want to be successful, but everything worth having is worth working for, which is why I always tell my clients that the first step to building a more successful firm, is to build a successful strategy for SEO. The online world is quickly overtaking the offline world in terms of how businesses grow, are monitored, and even how they make sales or gain clients. If you want your law firm to see this type of growth then you need to be seen online and create a presence; trebuchetlegal.com explains:
Modern search engines are incredibly complex, but they work on fairly simple principles. Basically, they follow links and index the HTML content they find at these URLs into giant databases. When someone submits a search query, they search these databases to try to return the most relevant results, which they then present to the user.
I always talk about content and the importance of keywords and registering yourself locally through directories and other online avenues where community members will see you, but before you do all these, there are other things to be done.
Stake Out The Competition
This should be taken seriously, even if it does sound like something out of a movie. It doesn’t mean you need to drive by other local law firms and find cracks in their armor, but rather take the time to scan their website, and determine how successful they are, and which search engine optimization tactics they are using.
The reason for this research is not to copy the competition, but to beat them at their own game by better understanding which approaches they have yet to try, and implementing those strategies, along with a variety of others. This will also let you see what keywords are being used that might also fit into your niche, and then you can determine whether it is worth it to be listed for the same words, or if you don’t want your firm associated with another brand.
Google Analytics is an amazing tool for those who are new to SEO, especially in the field of law, because it opens up doors for lawyers to better understand how well their site is working, and even where users are coming from. Google Webmaster Tools also helps in this area, and fortunately, setting up these tools is not too difficult, even if you’re not a computer guru. Many websites offer instructions on how to use the tools, but I will give a basic breakdown of Analytics here. If you want to check the influx of traffic on your site, which arrives organically, select Audience from your Google Analytics tool, followed by Mobile, and Overview. This will show you how many of the visits you have had are organic, and how these visits are occurring; for example, are these potential clients using a laptop, cell phone, tablet, etc.
Lose The Sales Attitude
Okay, so I am going to slip a little something in here about content, but I feel like it is relevant to increasing your SEO success rate, primarily because the way that you treat a client is a direct reflection on your firm. When you write something on your firm’s website, you are speaking to many clients at once, so remember that while it may seem a little informal because you are typing to a device not a human being, it will eventually be read by a potential client, or a current client, so don’t push too hard in the sales department. Total Attorneys says:
Go light on the sales pitch: Focus on providing good advice and information to optimize the search value, and let the surrounding contact information and marketing content on your web pages do the work of connecting you with prospective clients.
If somebody has found and is interested in reading the information on your firm’s website, then it has already done the job of bringing in a new potential user of your services. Don’t lose them with generic talk. Show them why your firm is the authority in your field by talking about something relevant.
Keep Your Brand Clean
Do this not with a scrub brush and water, but by using the same idea I just talked about above in keeping your content pure and not all about sales. This isn’t just directed toward content though; you need to think about your brand the way that client would. Would you use the services of a company that comments with spam across a variety of forums and websites in an effort to get more site traffic? Probably not. And this goes double for your clients who are looking for the services of a reputable lawyer to help with a serious problem. Lawyerist.com says:
You know (or you’ll learn) that your reputation is your most valuable asset. Yep, even more valuable than ranking #1 in Google. What you might not know is how inexperienced, unscrupulous, or irresponsible SEO can hurt your reputation as a lawyer.
This is why anything that seems forced, overly marketed, or is seen as spam will result in clients losing interest, and it may even peg your brand as a phony, or a low grade alternative to competitors in your market. You only get one reputation, even if you can change it later, that initial impression will always hang around, especially on the internet where nothing is ever truly deleted.
Finding success in the legal industry in terms of search engine optimization takes a lot of different strategies. The algorithms set forth by Google and other engines can be complex, and difficult to crack in their entirety, but a few things remain true, and throughout these articles, I have shed light on many of them. It isn’t enough to do the very basic in SEO if you want to proceed past other firms in your area. No lawyer got where he or she is by doing the bare minimum, so don’t stop working for what you want now that you are finally climbing that ladder to success.
Previously, I discussed various key aspects of search engine optimization or SEO. However, in order to be effective at SEO, as an attorney you also need to know what your prospective clients are looking for. Your goal is to capture the traffic and direct it to your site where you can build up your business. In order to do this, you need to know how to work with certain issues that may be unique to the legal field. As they explain at BruceClay.com,
When prospective clients are looking for a lawyer, 21.9 percent start with a search engine, according to Lawyernomics, if you want to capture that traffic, optimizing your online presence is essential. SEO is critical to converting online searchers into prospective legal clients.
There are several strategies that lawyers can apply that can help to push their name and image up the search engine rankings.
Effective Use of Keywords
Online marketing can be a very competitive business for anyone but especially for the newcomer to the industry. Without effective Internet marketing, it will be difficult to establish an online reputation without using a number of aggressive marketing techniques. Experts recommend that you set your goals accordingly and avoid trying to grab the brass ring all at the same time.
They point out that you need to approach your marketing strategy in terms of years rather than getting immediate results. Start by focusing your attention on local traffic first and then build on that. This can be done by utilizing local keywords to draw in potential clients; rather than a blanket ‘accident lawyer’ as your keyword use ‘your city name + accident lawyer’ as your keyword. There is good reason for this. As they explain at QuickSprout.com,
Before you can optimize your website, social media profiles or anchor text for link building, you have to know what keywords you want to use. When it comes to local search marketing, you are not only targeting industry-specific terms but geo-specific terms as well.
By starting out small and building up from there you’re laying a solid foundation for which you can launch a full scale marketing campaign that will get you the recognition you need in your industry.
Take Advantage of Directories
It’s important that you carve out a place for your business in Google Places and in other directories. By having a well-established listing, your law firm will have a prominent place in the SERPs and within Google Maps.
You want to make sure that you earn a spot in those maps for your targeted area. Once you’ve been recognized in Google maps, you’ve tapped into a major source of traffic. It will be well worth the time and money you invest to secure an inclusion into these major attorney directories. These will help you boost your rankings to a more prominent place.
Make Sure Users Have a Positive Experience
Keep in mind that directing traffic to your site is only winning half the battle. Your ultimate goal is to convert as many visitors as you can into clients. That means your website must be your star performer.
When you first open your doors you may be eager to get off to a good start and want to put your name in as many places as possible. However, some marketing experts tell us that it pays to start small. As they point out at Moz.com,
It’s not uncommon for a client to say, “I don’t want to limit my business to a specific area.” SEO people understand this and try to accommodate where possible, but it’s not always practical.
By starting small and expanding you secure a more solid foundation from which to build your business on. With this, your new law firm will hit its paces much more quickly than you might imagine possible.
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.
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.
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.
In my most recent post, we discussed alternative ways of better online marketing that goes beyond the basics. Without an effective plan it can be extremely difficult to achieve the rankings that could put our business on the map. That reasoning is very apropos for today’s online business world but what plans do you have in place for the day when the website becomes outdated and needs to be replaced by something new? That day is not so far off in the future as you might expect.
As lawyers, one of your key goals is to get your business recognized on the Internet. In the past, that meant having a knock-out website that came fully equipped with all the bells and whistles. Smart lawyers made sure they had a steady blog keeping up-to-date with all the latest legal jargon, cases, and issues that were prominent in society. Without the website, getting the recognition you deserved was all but impossible.
Today, however, the online world is making another shift for which all of us will have to keep a close eye on. Some search engine experts are beginning to believe that the transition from the website to the next greatest thing has already begun. They predict that the website will eventually go the way of the record player, VHS tapes, and cassette players. What is replacing it? They say that everyone needs to start focusing their attention on business apps instead. According to Search Engine Watch,
If you’re like most people, you’re probably a co-user of apps and websites. You’ve downloaded a few games, utilities, and shopping apps, but much of your time is spent online using the browser on your desktop or phone. Why is that? Why don’t you exclusively use either apps or a browser?”
There are several reasons why the app hasn’t already overtaken the use of websites, but some experts feel that it is just a matter of time before these transitions begin to take place.
The Universal Use
Many people do not fully realize that a browser is really just another app that is designed to be entirely universal. As of last year, there were more than 816 billion websites holding trillions of pages of content for public use. The problem so far is that most of the websites do not have an app counterpart to allow visitors to find them without the use of a browser. As more developers and businesses begin to create their own apps that trend will gradually begin to change and the app will slowly begin to overtake websites in popularity. This new feature is the result of the new mobile friendly algorithm recently release by Google. As they explain at SearchEngineLand.com,
Google’s mobile ranking factors will not only label your site as mobile-friendly, but will also use that to determine if your site should rank higher in the search results. Google said this algorithmic change will have a “significant impact” in the mobile search results, impacting all languages worldwide.
Many believe that this new algorithm is just the beginning when it comes to ranking businesses. It will make it much easier for people to get relevant, high quality results from their search when it is optimized for their devices.
Another reason why apps have not as of yet taken command is that they do not offer search capabilities. They work well when the user doesn’t know what he’s looking for until he searches for it in the search engines. So far these search engines are not set up to crawl for content in a standalone app. However, just recently both Google and Bing announced that they are beginning to index app content so that they can include that search in their rankings.
One issue that continues to hold apps back is their download speed. As we said before, browsers are simply apps that have universal capabilities. When you visit a web page through a browser, in order for you to view that page on your computer, you must first download it. In most cases, this takes only seconds but with apps the process is much slower. Until apps are able to overcome the speed of app downloads, it will be very difficult for them to overtake the popularity of the website.
But Google is already working on addressing that problem. With the recent acquisition of a new software program, Google can now control a feature called “app streaming” where people can access those apps on their devices without the need to download them first. As they discuss in The Information,
The search giant last fall secretly acquired an “app streaming” startup called Agawi whose technology allows people to access apps on their smartphone without downloading them first. The acquisition, which hasn’t been previously reported, provides strong clues about the direction that Google is trying to move mobile software development.
Once apps are able to be indexed into Google’s search algorithms, it won’t be long before the convenience of having access to businesses through mobile devices becomes a mainstream activity of the Internet.
Ways Attorneys Can Utilize Apps
Because of this growing trend in app usage, it pays for attorneys to have their own app design to promote their offices. Some firms have already begun the process of creating an app to market their services. At the very least, readers can use an app to follow your regular blog but the potential can go much further than that. Clients can use these apps in much the same way as a bank allows its customers to check their balances, monitor their credit card purchases, and even open up new accounts. When a client can log into their app to find out the progress of their cases, or get their questions answered, your software application suddenly increases in value for them.
As mobility continues to be the buzz word for the modern day technological industry, it will pay for attorneys to think more creatively about their online presence. Yes, we do live in a world run by technology, but nothing in life is stagnant. Everything comes and goes in rapid succession. Those who are inclined to stick with the status quo will soon realize that their ability to stay ahead of the game will gradually dwindle. It is important that everyone stay abreast of the constant changes in the Internet, Google, and marketing in general so that they don’t find themselves falling behind the 8-ball so to speak. The future is always full of surprises but one thing we should never be surprised about is change, an inevitable part of life.
Previously, we’ve discussed the importance of knowing what we can realistically expect from our search engine optimizer and how important it is to follow his or her guidance. However, when it comes to anything to do with the Internet, you’ll find that many of his tasks will actually overlap with your marketing needs. It is clear that while both the SEO and the marketer may be on separate teams, there will be times when they will have to work together to solve problems. If SEO professionals want to really prove their worth, they will have to have some killer problem solving skills. As they explained at Search Engine Watch,
A problem-solving SEO is someone who can pull and interpret data like nobody’s business, while understanding what makes their users tick at the same time. An SEO who can balance qualitative and quantitative aspects of our day-to-day jobs will be the SEO who is respected among her “marketing” peers.
Successful SEOs will need to fill both the technical and experiential needs of their users and that will take more than knowledge, it will require a bit of insight as well.
Learn to Sift Through the Data
An SEO needs to be able to determine how much data the client needs. SEOs often have access to loads and loads of information but the majority of it will be information the client will not care about. By carefully selecting data that the site owner actually needs and cares about can save an enormous amount of time.
This may not always be easy. As clients, attorneys may not always know what information they need and what will be useful to them; at least not until it’s been pointed out by their SEO. One of the key problem-solving skills for the SEO is to help attorneys see what information they need and show them how it can be used to drive their business forward. Consider the comments made by Krisa LaRiviere, at Search Engine Watch,
With the challenging landscape of SEO comes the challenging landscape of SEO reporting, and I’m not just talking about merging SEO data sources into one Excel file and adding a logo to try to make it look professional… I’m talking about how to make all the data points and metrics indicate real progress.
This means that the SEO will have to set up reporting metrics that will show the progressive results of the work that’s been done.
Finding the Middle Ground
SEOs must pull from more than one source to decide on the right direction to take a company in. They shouldn’t just rely on the data they’ve received but they must also fall back on their past experience and the insight they’ve picked up over the years. This requires maintaining a balance between what the papers and analytical tools may show, and what personal experience has taught them to find a middle ground that will help them to make decisions that will move the business forward. And with all of that, there is always the human element that needs to be factored in to any decision making process. Understanding user behavior, along with everything else will help to foresee unique problems that the data won’t show. Consider the comments made at New Blood,
“With proper problem solving skills and processes, you can turn any problem into an opportunity and not into disappointment. Solving your business issues can help increase and maintain productivity. Entrepreneurs who are great problem solvers within any type of business are best prepared to answer all their customer’s needs effectively, as well.”
Learning how to be effective problem solvers is key to any business success but it is excruciatingly important for those online. Whether your role is the SEO or the attorney who’s hired one, problem solving is essential to your success.
In the past, we discussed the confusion about using links on your website. If in fact, Google is going to change their algorithm with respect to how links are used (for example, we discussed last time the possibility of Google using a new fact algorithm) it is a matter that bears close watching in the future. However, all of that would be for naught if the website has been unable to get the rankings we’ve been striving for. Whether we’ve done all we can to improve our rankings or we’ve relied entirely on our SEO professional could make a major difference in how well our site performs. It is important that you and your search engine optimizer are working together to get the results you need.
At times, search engine optimizers often have to deal with a certain level of suspicion within their own industry. Occasionally, a site owner will come across a few SEO providers that may attempt to use your business to turn a fast buck. These so-called ‘marketing experts’ are not on the up and up, and the tactics they use can often be questionable at best. As a result, your business loses and the whole image of marketing has to bear the brunt of shame for the industry.
This kind of characters has caused many to treat the whole of SEO with suspicion. At times, even when a site is doing well, site owners will demand even more from their SEO, automatically thinking they are not doing what they should. So, the question for you is simple: how can a lawyer, who is not well versed in marketing know the true role of an SEO to ensure you’re getting a real marketing expert and not someone only interested in his own personal gain? You might conclude that the results will determine whether or not he is a real marketing expert. Of course, this would certainly be a true test of their skills and ability, but it might be better to learn what your role is in the SEO marketing game. Consider the comments made at Search Engine Watch,
Sometimes however, the SEO is questioned when despite these metrics all have improved. Despite the site doing better than it ever has before in terms of traffic and relevant unique visitors, the site owner does not see enough money coming through their bank account and thinks it “MUST be the SEO!
The reality is that your site’s performance should be measured based on a number of different factors besides search engine marketing strategies and there are several reasons why. At times it may be the result of something the marketing agent has overlooked; it could also be the result of something Google has done that has had a direct impact on your site. While these things do occur, these incidents are for the most part quite uncommon. More than likely, your site’s performance is something that may very well be out of their control. Your SEO marketing expert can only do what he is qualified to do. It is up to the site owner to cover all the other bases.
Make Sure You Have a Workable Site
When you first sign on with a marketing agent, they will probably do a usability review of your site to identify certain issues. Their goal is to direct people to your site and get them to transition into paying customers or to take some other form of action. Once they make those recommendations, it is up to you to make sure that your site is user-friendly so that their work will pay off.
The fact is that your SEO professional is up-to-date on what is successfully building up web traffic. You may have been effective in building up traffic 5 years or even 10 years ago but with each new algorithm released by Google, SEO tactics are constantly changing. You need to learn to trust their suggestions in order to keep up with the constantly changing landscape. According to Forbes Magazine,
SEO is a rapidly changing practice – thanks in part to the hundreds of adjustments Google makes every year to its search engine algorithm. Because of this, you need to stay on top of the latest industry news and take the advice of some of proven SEO professionals.
While it may be true that some site owners will disagree with the recommendations of SEO professionals, keep in mind that they have their finger on the pulse of the market. They know exactly what’s going on and can point out issues that you may not think is affecting your business.
One of the things many website owners fail to grasp is the true role of SEO professionals. The common misconception is that they are purchasing a service. The expert comes in, does a little razzle-dazzle and suddenly your business is booming. Well, the truth is that there is much more to it than that. You’re really paying for access to their knowledge of the Internet and search engine optimization. These professionals are paid to stay on top of the hundreds of algorithm changes that Google releases each year. They also have to spend a great deal of time testing and researching certain markets and industries.
For most clients, the rankings are the key to their success. However, for the SEO professional it is only one piece of a much larger puzzle. There are many other factors that must also be considered to determine the success of your search engine optimization. Some owners want to be placed in the number one position after contracting with an SEO professional; this is neither possible nor realistic. Instead, your goal should be to see improvement in your site’ performance and consistently moving up in the rankings as a sign of success.
This does not mean that SEO professionals are not without fault. If you question your professional’s commitment to your success or you feel he’s not doing his job, then by all means you should challenge him. Just make sure that the challenges you make are based on factors that are within his control and not because of some misguided belief that paying for an SEO pro will catapult you to impossible heights. As SEOMark explains,
The only long-term, risk-free way to achieve good rankings is to earn them and deserve them, and that means to ensure that the page on your site that you want to rank for a particular keyword phrase contains better content than all of the pages ranked in the top 10.
The more you recognize your SEO provider’s abilities as well as his limitations and your role in the whole process, the better your chances of moving your website up the ladder will be.
Recently, I wrote a post about how important it is to pay attention to Google. Since they are the single most important ingredient in building up your SEO rankings, their advice can be invaluable for those who are serious about getting noticed online. However, even with that knowledge, there have been some marketers who have managed to make the rankings in spite of the sometimes confusing algorithms set out by Google.
You’ve probably already noticed how in your online search efforts, you’ve stumbled across one single website that seems to appear in the middle of your search that has nothing to do with what you’re looking for. This leaves many people confused about how Google ranks these pages and how you can make sure that your page appears where you need them to be. The fact is: there are many factors that can affect where you land in the search engines. According to Jennifer Van Iderstyne of Search Engine Watch:
There are plenty of reasons that one page may show up in the SERPs over another, and not all of those considerations may be within our control. But there are several opportunities to enhance the likelihood of the “right” page showing up for the “right” search.
By learning what those opportunities are and how to take advantage of them, we can improve our chances of connecting and getting the rankings we need.
Words on the Page
One of the easiest ways to get a ranking, and probably the strategy that most people are familiar with, is using relevant content. The words and phrases you painstakingly choose to attract visitors may be well intentioned but they can at times, miss their mark. Somewhere, the meaning you intended could get mixed up with what Google understands and before you know it, your site has drifted off into the “Twilight Zone.”
Clearly, you cannot rely entirely on keywords and phrases to get your page to a place where it can be found. It is also important to take into consideration other factors, such as navigation, backlinks, and relevancy to the subject. When you consider all of these factors, it is easy to understand why occasionally missed messages can be seen in SEO.
Evidence of this can be seen often in search engines. One page with an on-page relevance to the topic can easily be outranked by another page that has factored in all of the other related factors in addition to making sure their content is on point. For effective SEO, you cannot limit yourself to only one approach to achieving your ranking, you’ll have to be a master of a number of techniques in order to achieve that ranking and maintain it.
Account for Unpredictability
As the Internet ages, people are getting more comfortable with how they use it. Their search approach is not always going to be with a specific keyword. Some people will even speak to the search engine like they would to a real live person. For example, consider the comments made by Nate Shivar of Shivar Web,
I saw someone had searched for “I have a 1959 Dodge Ram and last week a rock kicked up and hit the front glass windshield how do I get it fixed.”… yes, big keywords are important to rank for – and keywords should guide your strategy… it’s becoming harder to predict what searches will actually rank your site.
Because of the many variables, you’ll have to approach your keyword ranking efforts in a more creative way. It is almost impossible to determine how people will set out to look for your site so you’ll have to make sure that you have a variety of ways to connect with your audience.
Previously, I provided some essential Internet marketing techniques for firms. And in some of my last few blogs, I discussed the importance of taking advantage of social media platforms to build up your online image and a new Google algorithm that concentrates on incorporating mobile devices to improve site rankings, but in this post I want to focus on how to get the most out of your interactions with Google.
Whether you have been developing your skills in SEO for a while or you’re just getting started in search engine optimization, you’ve probably already realized the importance of Google to your plan. No matter what your goals are, Google will in some way be at the heart of it. So, learning how to decode or decipher what they’re trying to tell you can be crucial to your success. Donna Duncan of Social Media Today explains,
The key to organic SEO success is conceptually simple – you have to please Google AND your intended audience…. Google dominates the search world. 65-85% of the world searches uses Google depending on who you ask and what they measure.
This means that if you work only to target your intended audience, you’re missing half of the equation needed for SEO success. The reality is that Google doesn’t just come out with a new algorithm without warning. Sometimes, the indicators are there years ahead of time if you only knew how to pick up on the cues.
The Mobile Update
A perfect example of this was when Google began talking about sites needing to be more mobile friendly. I know that I have discussed the need to be mobile friendly in the past, but still many companies are not picking up on it. But clearly, Google was laying the groundwork for mobile devices long before their recent update. For example:
As far back as December 2011, Google announced they were launching Googlebot-Mobile. The role of the bot was to crawl websites to determine those that provided the viewer with a better mobile experience. And in August of 2013, Google added more support to their PageSpeed tool for mobile devices. They provided webmasters valuable advice on how to speed up their interactions with the consumer on the go. This step should have been a clear sign of what was to come.
By November of last year, Google began identifying sites as “Mobile-friendly” at the beginning of site descriptions.
So, if SEO marketers had been in-tune to these various changes Google had been making over the years, chances are that they would not have been surprised or caught off guard by Google’s announcement on April 21st of this year. The new algorithm was designed to give websites who have been considered mobile-friendly an added boost in Google’s search results. The changes were so vast that the new algorithm picked up a few ominous names; mobilegeddon, mobilepocalyse, mopocalypse, or mobocalypse were just some examples of the identifying marks of what was to come. Today, we’re seeing a new trend coming to life. According to Bryson Meunler of Search Engine Land,
Keep improving your sites for mobile searchers…. If you are not yet mobile-friendly, make it happen. And if you are mobile friendly, prepare for the next update – because in this new era of SEO, it’s no longer possible to ignore mobile searchers and mobile sites and compete with those who don’t.
It was obvious that Google had been steering businesses in the right direction long before they launched their latest algorithm. But if you were not paying attention to the announcements and looking carefully at the subtle changes that were being made progressively over the years, chances are that you missed the 8-ball and are now playing a game of catch-up.
Those who heeded the cautions, notices, and discussions of Google have gained a lot of wisdom over the years. When you consider how SEO has changed over the last decade, it is easy to see how following their lead can help to propel your business to the top of the rankings.
What You Need to Know
Knowing what to expect in the future of SEO has helped more companies to become proactive rather than reactive. Heeding their warnings will not only keep you ahead of the pack, it will also help to avoid penalties or other complications that may result from poor ranking strategies.
We are all well aware that there will be many more updates and new algorithms heading in our direction. We can choose whether or not to pay very close attention to the direction that Google is heading in and make the changes before they are released, or we can find ourselves playing another round of catch up and wait until everything is said and done.
Every business that has an online presence needs to recognize that we are all playing in Google’s playground and that we need to be able to comply with their rules of the game. While focusing our efforts on targeting potential new customers is always a good strategy in our SEO plans, it should not come at the expense of recognizing who is pulling it all together for us. Learning how to read Google’s signs and cues will help us to keep a competitive edge in our industry.
The truth is that Google has never been secretive about its expectations when it comes to SEO. Heeding its advice can make a huge difference in the success of your site. As Owain Powell of Decibel Digital tells us:
Over time we have also seen may updates and YouTube videos… This has been of great value to those clean cut, law abiding citizens within the SEO industry, but another nail in the coffin of those stuck in the dark ages who continue to defy or ignore best practice SEO or Google algorithm updates.
For those industries that are serious about improving their search rankings, it has become increasingly necessary for them to pay more than the “usual” attention to the leadings of Google. The more you’re able to tune in to the direction Google is going, the stronger your brand image and search rankings will be.
Last time, I discussed how firms can use Pinterest to their advantage. Meanwhile, I have talked a lot about SEO and how it can ultimately impact your firm as a whole, but SEO doesn’t have to be some scary marketing tactic that you find intimidating as a lawyer rather than an advertising exec. Taking the time to research what you need to know and implement it into your website layout, blog, press releases, and various other forms of marketing can easily bring your firm into the information and technology age and have individuals converting from site visitors to clients in no time.
There are many ways that you can do to improve the overall SEO of your law practice, and I have talked about many of these in great detail, but today I want to go over a few methods in particular that seem to be making waves in the marketing world of 2015. This includes getting to know what your client wants, improving on content quality, and making a more interesting website overall.
Know Your Client Search Methods
Before you can begin building a more search engine optimized website, you need to know what it is that your clients are looking for in particular. Knowing which keywords are being used to seek out local legal help is certainly one way to do this, but you can also be more direct with clients and ask them outright how they found you, and what they search for when seeking for professionals in your niche of law. Jurispage.com says:
Ask them point-blank – “after you were referred to us, did you look us up on Google?” Chances are they did. And, based on your search presence, it is quite possible that you may have missed out on a prospective referral client because of your lack of a web presence.
Following this you should take the time to see what it is exactly that searchers see when they look for your firm. Try typing in various keywords and phrases, starting with the name of your firm, different variations of this name, names of attorneys that work with you, and your location. This gives you a better idea of how easy it is to seek out your firm, what your current rank is on Google and other search engines, and whether or not you need to make a few changes to your site and the search process.
Make Content Length Count
Another area that you probably are already aware of that I’m going to touch on is content, but not for the reason that you think. Rather than talking about content quality, today I really want to focus on how the length of your content can affect readability. Clients, potential or current, don’t want to skim your blog of website and see nothing of interest but a few short uninformative sentences, but similarly if your content is too long, you’re going to find people leaving before they even get started. Total Attorneys suggests:
Length is not set in stone, but 400-700 words is a common target that attracts the attention of search engines without scaring away modern audiences who have shorter attention spans. Avoid repetitive content in which virtually the same article is used with only superficial SEO changes. Search engines recognize and reward original content.
You should also bolster your content with interesting headings and subheadings to break up the monotony of text that many online users just can’t stand. If you think about your own preferences for website reading material you will probably find that long winded articles don’t appeal to you unless they are broken up by photos, titles, quotes, or videos to take away from the message being shared.
Keep Up The Research
I have already mentioned research above, but this research is in regards to SEO more so than customer wants and needs. Many law firms and other businesses believe that once they have paid for a web redesign and outfitted their site for mobile viewing, their SEO process is complete. However, search engine optimization is a constantly growing organism that changes every day based on the different algorithms and search engine initiatives which must be caught up on from time to time. Mainstreet ROI states:
Typically we recommend that attorneys prepare to invest a minimum of 3 months and preferably 6 months into an SEO campaign in order to catch up and start moving up in the search engine results.
Once your campaign is complete, you should follow algorithm changes or hire an SEO expert to assist you twice a year in reformatting your search engine optimization efforts so that they better match the current guidelines being used. There’s no point in using this form of marketing if you don’t keep up with the expectations or it may work against you.
Engage Your Audience
Finally, there is always a need for engagement with your audience, and this is something I have definitely talked about before, but I feel that it is worth mentioning again, simply because it can make such a difference to your firm reputation overall. Client engagement comes in many forms, but ultimately it means creating a cause for interest so great that readers will return to your website for more, or better yet, contact you for a consultation on your services. Blue Big Foot suggests:
This doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it can be as simple as having a YouTube video of a representative of your firm speaking about your services. Any time someone hits “play”, it’s engagement. Adding podcast episodes, interactive surveys, and anything else that requires people to click a button equals engagement for your site and higher SEO.
Whether you choose to go with videos, pictures of company events, humorous legal anecdotes that paint you as a human being rather than just a legal representative working out of a firm in the hopes of making big money, or interesting guest bloggers or content creators who can cause more interest, engaging your audience will make a big difference. An engaged reader can become a potential client, and an engaged client can become return business.
Last week, I discussed the value of having a fast loading website for a firm. Meanwhile, I haven’t touched on the subject of keywords in a while, but they do play a rather important role in search engine optimization (SEO), and this is true for law firms and local searches. Unfortunately, there are a lot of keywords out there in use online, and this means a high level of competition for websites that know how to best utilize them to their advantage. If you aren’t keyword savvy, and feel like your firm is out of the loop when it comes to SEO techniques like this, don’t panic. Not only can you seek help from an expert in the field of online marketing, but you can learn a lot by doing some basic research on the subject for yourself. SEO Nick suggests:
Keyword research is a critical component for search engine optimization because when used correctly it provides a road map for both the design and execution of building websites and developing content.
Now, if you have a web developer on your payroll, or your website is just now being created, you might find yourself lucky. By discussing with your developer about keywords, SEO, and obtaining higher rankings, you may be able to rise to the top in your market without putting in too much time or money. On the other hand, if you have to go back in and revitalize your site with keywords or call your developer back in, it could get pricey, which is another reason why research is vital; you should always know exactly what you’re paying for.
Research Your Competition
When it comes to research in internet marketing, checking up on keywords and what they can do for your firm is on step toward success, but it’s certainly not the only research that needs to be done. Being a law firm, finding facts should be no problem, so put your special skills to work and find what you can on your competition. See who is using which keywords, but also focus on which keywords are being used most in your niche. Moz.com reports:
By researching your market’s keyword demand, you can not only learn which terms and phrases to target with SEO, but also learn more about your customers as a whole.
Knowing what your clients are looking for can make it far easier to create a successful keyword campaign than if you wing it on a hope and a prayer. Going with a whim is not the way to win the keyword war, and trust me, this is one battle that could give you some real edge in your market.
Turning Your Sights On Long Tail Keywords
If you don’t know much about keywords in general then it is likely that you aren’t too well versed with terms like long tails. A long tail keyword is almost more of a unique phrase than a simple keyword. This is when you elongate the word you’re looking to use by specifying why your clients would use it. A great example of this in law is the keyword “divorce lawyer”, if you have an online user searching for divorce lawyer, there is a possibility that they are going to contact you, but chances are higher that he or she is just checking out the local situation. Using long tail keywords instead will help you find searchers who really want some legal help. An example of this long tail format would be “best rate divorce lawyer Jacksonville Florida”, this potential client is not only seeing what is on the market, he or she is ready to commit.
What you’ll find is that while smaller keywords may have a higher rate of hitting their target, they don’t always give you the results that you’ve been seeking, and that makes for wasted time. You can better understand which words to focus on by following up on your above-mentioned research to find a demand curve. The words that are most in demand should definitely make an appearance, but if you want to find committed clients, be specific.
Knowing Your Odds
Whether you’re a small fish in a big sea, or a big fish in a small pond, the world is full of law firms and competitors who would love to take over the spotlight on the keywords you’re interested in. If the leading law firms in your state take up the top 5 to 10 positions in a search engine, there is certainly space for you to fit in somewhere underneath, but if you want to work your way to the top it could take some dedication and hard work. You can use a keyword analysis tool to collect the data on certain search terms and phrases, both simple and complex to help you compare the rankings.
It All Comes Back To Content
Finally, as I always do, this update comes back around to content, which is always especially important for law firms, because people turn to you for fact and knowledge. This means that when placing your keywords it must seem organic, natural, and correctly placed in sentences. Many companies make the mistake of getting repetitive to the point where it doesn’t seem appropriate for terms to even appear in a certain area. Inc.com states:
One concern we hear frequently is whether it is beneficial or harmful to repeat keywords. In other words, should we vary keywords (dog food, puppy food, and Purina) or repeat keywords (dog food reviews, dog food comparison, and dog food rankings.) The short answer is that the repetition is just fine, as long as the meaning of the phrase as a whole is sufficiently varied.
Inc.com has a point here, it isn’t just important to make sure that your keywords make sense in a sentence, they should also be spread out and changed up a little bit so that you aren’t saying the exact same thing over and over to stick that keyword in there. In other words if you’re running with, “San Diego law firm”, for example, you don’t want to say. “You can find the best San Diego law firm through a quick online search” twice in the same blog update or article, instead, use it in a separate sentence and in a different context later to keep things from sounding repetitive.
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