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Add SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to Law Practices to Go Beyond Word-of-Mouth Referrals

Published on : 08/04/2021 08 April Apr 04 2021

Lawyers and Law Firms have long relied on word-of-mouth referrals to build their practices. Those firms who add a strategic SEO strategy to their marketing efforts find that they can attract even more leads. Potential clients are now comfortable searching for attorneys online, just like they do for doctors, accountants, and other professionals. Many law firms are establishing an organic search presence to reach new clients and to drive significant growth.

Understanding how SEO works "under the covers" will help you gain the most from an SEO strategy. 

What is SEO?

According to Wikipedia, "Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the quality and quantity of website traffic to a website or a web page from search engines." 

"SEO targets unpaid traffic (known as "natural" or "organic" results) rather than direct traffic or paid traffic. Unpaid traffic may originate from different kinds of searches, including image search, video search, academic search, news search, and industry-specific vertical search engines."

SEO has changed

Before 2015, if you were searching for something on the internet, you had to type in a straightforward request to get results. 

So, if you were looking for a law firm, you used a search term like "Law Firms." But today when you type "Law Firms," you are served instant relevant-to-your-location results.

Why? Because Google is sophisticated enough to recognize your intent and the implications of your question. On October 26, 2015, Google updated their algorithm with RankBrain, a machine-learning AI system.

The RankBrain algorithm helps Google understand a searcher's intent and serves the most relevant content to them. 
To accurately determine a searcher's intent, Google feeds RankBrain a massive amount of data. 

RankBrain analyzes the data and teaches itself how to serve the most relevant results based on specific search signals, like search history, device, and location.

SERP stands for Search Engine Results Pages. 
When searching, every result is unique, which is why you can use the exact search engine keywords as your neighbor, and each of you views different results. Search engines customize the searcher's experience, considering several factors such as browsing history and user's physical location. 

Understanding the intent and implications, Google has evolved to recognize relevant connections across users' queries, look back at similar questions that users have searched for in the past, and surfaces the content that best answers them. As a result, Google will deliver content that they deem the most authoritative on the topic.

Indexing and Ranking

Did you know that when you do a Google search, you aren't actually searching the web? You're searching Google's index of the web.

A web crawler, sometimes called a spider or spiderbot and often shortened to crawler, is an Internet bot that systematically browses the World Wide Web, typically for Web indexing.
Indexing is how Google decides if they should show your content or not. You can influence the Google indexing process by ensuring you manage what is being indexed so Google can crawl, index, and present your information in a search.  

It's essential to examine your entire digital profile. Everywhere you are found on the web has an overall impact on your rank authority. Provide Google a submitted sitemap through your Google tools to give Google a head-start to find your pages more directly.  

Page ranking is the system adopted by Google that ranks any web page on a scale of 0-10. It ranks the page based on its quality.
Google looks at five factors when ranking your website:

1.     Unique Valuable Content - Search engines love fresh content. Provide relevant, informative content that is worth sharing. Offer real value, something of substance to visitors that is unique, different, and useful that they won't find elsewhere? Do keyword research and create content using those keywords - the actual search terms people are using, so you can produce content that effectively "answers" that query. Think about the words you want a page to be searched for and the words you feel are relevant from your keyword research. Then use them naturally on the page.

Keep content fresh and relevant without duplicating content. Google has something it calls Query Deserved Freshness (QDF)." If there's suddenly a trendy search versus its normal activity, Google will apply QDF to that term and see if there's any fresh content on that topic. If there is, that new or fresh content receives a boost in search results. Just be aware that after that, Google might shuffle your page back to prior search results. It's not that you've done anything wrong. It's just that the freshness boost has worn off. 

Sites can take advantage of this freshness boost by producing relevant content that matches their industry's real-time pulse. So if you are offering a new legal service, blog about it, but use your own words. 

2.    Title Tags - Watch your title length - If your title is too long, search engines may cut it off by adding an ellipsis ("...") and could end up omitting essential words. Keep titles under 60 characters long. Give every page a unique title - Unique titles help search engines understand that your content is valuable and drives higher click-through rates.

3.    Meta Descriptions - The meta description provides a brief summary of a web page. Search engines such as Google often display the meta description in search results to highly influence user click-through rates. 

4.    Image Alt-Text - Alt text (alternative text), also known as "alt attributes, " is used within HTML code to describe an image's appearance and function on a page. Alt tags provide better image context/descriptions to search engine crawlers, helping them index an image properly. The main image used in a blog should have an alt-text that is the same as the blog's name for better SEO. 

5.    URL Structure - Keeping URLs as simple, relevant, compelling, and accurate as possible is key to getting both your users and search engines to understand them
URLs should be definitive but concise. 
Best practices: By seeing only the URL, a user (and search engine!) should have a good idea of what to expect on the page. When necessary for readability, use hyphens to separate words. URLs should not use underscores, spaces, or any other characters to separate words. Always review automatically created URL addresses generated by your web platform. 

For Law Firms to attract the perfect-fit clients, a comprehensive SEO plan considers your audience preferences and key phrases they might use to search. 
There is a science behind optimization. No one factor will guarantee higher rankings. Google uses over 200 ranking factors in their algorithm that all work together. 

So how does a law firm begin? 

Engaging with a marketing resource who understands the principles of SEO will give a boost to your efforts. You may know the keywords or phrases that your audience uses to search, but you may not know the best practices and consider the many factors that drive success to help you get found. 

Research sources for this blog: Moz.com, HubSpot, Google SEO Guru: Matt Cutts

Other blogs for lawyers, in-house counsel, and law firms from Legal Suite:

Watch Productivity Soar as Your Next Hire Takes on the Boring Stuff
Embrace a Manageable Workday With Automated Contract Management
Rethink Your Tired Processes to Improve Everything for Your Legal Operations
The COVID-19 Pandemic Teaches the Legal Sector a New Way of Doing Business

About the author
Legal Suite is the worldwide leader in digital transformation for lawyers. We have delivered our state-of-the-art software for lawyers, law firms, and in-house general counsel to 65,000 users for over two decades. www.legal-suite.com


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