This is the next post in my series on providing a guide to lawyers which deals with the subject of SEO. My last article discussed why search engine optimization is important to law firms. The bottom line is that building up a web presence, which you own outright, is crucial to your firm’s long-term success. Relying on third-party advertising, such as pay-per-click, puts your future in the hands of others. As things continue to get tougher for attorneys, those who don’t own and control their marketing assets will find themselves in quite the struggle. In order to make sure that you don’t wind up in that boat it’s important to make sure you hire a web developer who looks like this:

Web development

and not the typical snake oil salesman who looks like this:

Used car salesman

Let’s look at how you can make sure you hire the former and not the latter.

It’s understandable that attorneys don’t know what to look for in a web developer. Most legal professionals get many, many, many (many) calls from people promising to “get them to the top of Google.” Attorneys are then unsure of whether they can trust such claims. The key to weeding the good developers out from the riff raff is knowledge; by understanding what it is search engines are looking for you can then determine whether a potential developer is credible. While many sleazy, shifty, shady, lying, incompetent snake oil salesman potential web developers will throw around jargon to make it look as if they understand the web, the fact of the matter is that it is easy to describe what search engines want in plain simple English.

Law firm SEO requires an attorney to understand what it is search engines are looking for in a website

Law firms who are trying to choose a web developer simply need to put themselves in the shoes of a search engine. If you own Google, Bing, or any other search portal then your entire goal is to give your users relevant and usable information. The reason for this is that if someone comes to your search engine and queries “My City Divorce Attorney,” and you give them irrelevant results, then they will switch to a different portal. Once you have lost that person as a user then they will not come back to your search engine. This means they will not potentially click on ads. This is why, at the end of the day, search providers are simply trying to present websites which provide relevant content and a good user experience. Legitimate search engine optimization will focus on these areas. Developers who don’t focus on content and user experience are simply going to get you in trouble with the search engines (a topic I will be discussing in my next article).

A legitimate web developer/SEO person will do two things. First, they will develop your site in a way that complies with Google’s user experience guidelines. Second, they will focus on generating content which provides information which people are looking for in the way that they wish to digest it. This is easier than most developers make it sound. While many make it seem that Google’s criteria is one of the great unanswered mysteries of the universe (right up there with whether extra terrestrial life exists, whether there is a true meaning of life, and what really happened to Biggie & Tupac), the truth of the matter is that Google’s guidelines are not a secret. They’re published and available here. Google makes these standards publicly available for one simple reason – they want a web that is full of relevant and usable information so people will keep using their service. To further aid webmasters in meeting this goal Google maintains its webmaster’s blog which provides regular tips and updates. So, in short, real search engine optimization revolves around content and the user experience which your website provides. If a web developer’s strategy doesn’t revolve around content and user experience then they’re not following the strategy that Google and Bing want.

Law firm SEO requires a developer which will give meaningful feedback

It’s important to understand that your law firm needs to hire a developer/search engine optimizer who will give you meaningful feedback. I speak with many attorneys who have a website which has aspects that actually hurt the site in search. That’s often because they told their web developer that they wanted a feature which they thought would be neat to have. Rather than explaining why such a feature may be a bad idea, their so-called developer simply said “OK.” If you’re serious about your law firm’s SEO and search performance then it’s important that you hire someone who will provide meaningful feedback. As a lawyer it’s your job to give meaningful feedback to your clients; the same is true of a web developer.

Ask yourself when the last time was that your developer offered advice about content and whether features should be added or removed from your website. If you’re not receiving such advice then you may want to ask your developer what it is they are actually doing.  In my next article I will focus on some bad practices of web developers which you should avoid – stay tuned.