Attorneys have been concerned with marketing for as long as there has been a practice of law. The internet has changed attorney marketing by giving solo practitioners the ability to stand above their competitors. Instead of having to pay out huge marketing expenses that he or she does not have (for billboards, television advertising, etc.), the independent attorney can have a quality website built and through proper handling of their web presence they can rank higher than their competition. Rising above competing attorneys in search means being in control of your SEO efforts.
Lawyers often do not understand what SEO is or what it entails
“SEO” stands for search engine optimization. In short, a website optimized for the search engines is going to perform well in organic searches. It does not take some type of magic to make your law firm’s website show up higher in the search rankings. The truth of the matter is that SEO has two components. First, search engines will favor your site if it contains content that is unique and of high quality. Second, Google and Bing will approve of your site if it performs well from a technological standpoint. You can expect to do well against other lawyers in search if you satisfy both of these components.
The dependance of your SEO efforts on content and a website’s technical structure are understandable when one thinks about it logically. Understanding SEO requires one to put themselves in the shoes of a search engine. If you are Google then your job is to provide internet searchers with the most relevant results to their query. If you are a search engine but you provide results that are irrelevant than people are going to quickly quit using your product. Likewise, if a search engine is providing results that include websites which provide a poor user experience (such as loading slowly or being difficult to navigate) then users are again unlikely to continue using that search portal as they are only being provided with results which frustrate them. So in order for a search engine to do its job, which is to provide its users with the content they want to see the most, the search results must point to websites which contain relevant information and provide the user with a good experience (such as being easy to navigate and loading quickly).
It is also important to understand what SEO is not. As attorneys we have gotten calls from marketing firms promising “to get us to the first page of Google.” Anyone who would make a promise such as this does not deserve a moment of your time. First, there is no special formula for getting your site on top of search rankings as the criteria by which the search engines rank websites are constantly changing. Whatever strategy someone is using on Monday may not necessarily work on Tuesday. Second, the marketing firms promising to get you on the first page of search typically are not involved in a key area that search engines care about – they are not going to write your content for you. In other words, SEO requires effort in numerous areas.
Lawyers can take control over their SEO efforts
Attorneys can take control of their firm’s web presence once they understand what SEO is and what it is not. First, you can help your firm perform better in search rankings by providing content that is unique from competing attorneys in your jurisdiction. Many attorneys fill their website with language about how they will “fight for their client” and little else. If your page is promising to fight hard then you are simply making the same promise that every other attorney is making on their page and your site, as a result, is not unique. It is critical to, instead, explain to your clients what makes you different from other attorneys and this discussion provides you with unique content that will stand out in search rankings.
Moreover, it is important that your site provide a better user experience than that provided by your competitors. User experience often comes down to many technical factors that exist behind the scenes of a website. Some of these factors are readily apparent to the end user (such as how fast the site loads and whether all the links on a page work when clicked) and many are not. The technical side of SEO makes it imperative that you hire a quality web builder for your practice. Fortunately for me, I had a heavy background in computer science and web optimization before I started my firm. Many attorneys, however, are just as in the dark about computer technology and internet marketing as their clients are about the law. In coming posts I will be discussing specifics on how to make your site’s content stand out and how to keep it technically sound.
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