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In his recent SearchEngineLand article, guest author Jayson DeMers writes that search engine optimization has been a constant nearly as long as search engines themselves. Yet, opinions about SEO have always been varied.

So then, despite how long SEO has been around, why are there still so many misconceptions about it? Let’s look at some of what DeMers had to say and how those misconceptions may apply to attorneys who are learning to control their law firm’s presence on the web.

Debunked SEO Myths For Law Firms

Misconception #1: “SEO is a strategy for spammers and scammers, using black hat tactics to manipulate rankings.”

Reality: When Google made its first appearance in 1996, its mission was in the right place — organizing the world’s information — but it hadn’t developed the necessary methods required to deal with people who wanted to cheat the system. That was the start of what’s referred to as “blackhat SEO” — people who deliberately attempted to trick Google into ranking low-quality sites more highly than deserved.

This myth may fall into the “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” category. At the outset, SEO wasn’t what it is today. It couldn’t be: Google hadn’t completely determined the guidelines that websites were meant to abide by. As a result, SEO was often associated with spam and unscrupulous individuals looking to get ahead.

And those people got ahead — temporarily. While Google has since refined its guidelines and has written algorithms to enforce them, the original image of SEO has stuck, leaving many to believe that it’s a dishonest strategy.

Misconception #2: SEO is “expensive,” “unpredictable,” and a “fad that’s not worth pursuing in the long term.”

Reality: SEO can be expensive, unpredictable, or can seem trendy for those who don’t understand the fundamentals of how SEO works.

As DeMers puts it in his article, “To some, the internet is magic.” Without understanding how search engines work and what criteria they look for in a website, it would be hard to understand the value of SEO done well or see why some websites are ranked well while others aren’t. Furthermore, without understanding how SEO works for your law firm, it could be tempting to invest in strategies that are outdated and could put your website at risk.

As DeMers points out, not all SEO providers have good intentions. He writes:

While most modern SEO agencies with a decent reputation have earned their place as trusted authorities, there are still dozens, if not hundreds, of ill-intentioned scammers taking advantage of people who know nothing about SEO. They make unreasonable promises, offer obsolete services and generally use bad practices to manipulate rankings for short-term gain.

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Misconception #3: “SEO is about including as many keywords as possible on your site,” and “…to build links everywhere you can.”

Reality: These are both outdated strategies that date back to early search engines, when blackhat SEO providers would stuff keywords into websites — even placing those keywords in the same color font as a website’s background or setting the font size to zero. These tactics aren’t visible to viewers, but they are visible to Google. At a time when keywords were a major source of how well a website ranked, engaging in tactics like this often paid off. However, Google is entirely too smart for tactics like this now, alongside strategies such as indiscriminate link building.

Misconception #4: “Creating more pages on your site will have a meaningful and direct influence on your rankings.”

Reality: If you create pages that are filled with unique, high-quality content that’s useful to search engine users, it’s possible that those pages could positively influence your ranking. However, creating more pages for the sake of creating more pages won’t do much to benefit your law firm. Google rankings are based on hundreds of different factors, and the company doesn’t reveal just how those factors are weighted. Google strictly warns against the creation of pages with thin, scraped or duplicate content. Creating more pages that don’t have much to offer search engine users could end up hurting your law firm’s website if Google determines that the content there is poor quality. Attorneys should aim to ensure their websites are filled with fresh, unique, quality material — not only does that make search engine users happy, but it makes search engines happy, too.

Misconception #5: “If you work hard enough, you can earn a top ranking for any keyword in a few weeks.”

Reality: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This is an example of that philosophy. It’s important for attorneys to understand that there’s no “top” of Google. Again, this could be an issue related to “the internet is magic,” but attorneys who look for the “top” of Google will send themselves on a wild goose chase that presents an an endless number of “tops”.

Attorneys who take a little time to understand SEO fundamentals and educate themselves about the myths surrounding it may place themselves in a better position to take control of their law firm’s online marketing.

By recognizing that SEO is valuable — but isn’t made up of quick fixes — attorneys can make use of what they learn to benefit their law firm and improve potential client engagement on the web.

One of the very best — and very easiest — ways that attorneys can take control of their web presence is to write high-quality content on a regular basis. By doing so, attorneys provide search engine users with relevant material to help them answer questions and make decisions and give search engines the quality web pages they want to return to searchers in search engine result pages.

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