This post is the fourth in a series about the basics of search engine optimization (SEO) for your law firm website. For links to the other posts in this series, refer to the first installment, titled “Can Google Find Your Law Firm Website?”
When it comes to SEO best practices for attorneys, the internet is full of misinformation. But there is no secret to ranking highly on search engine results pages (SERPs), and no shortcut that can get you to “the top of Google” overnight.
“White hat” SEO practices (those which are within the boundaries of webmaster guidelines) take time to institute. They involve ensuring that your law firm website provides the best possible user experience for search engine users, and making sure that the content on your site answers specific questions for your potential clients in detail, using language that those potential clients can easily digest.
A good law firm website should attract qualified leads for your law firm — it shouldn’t attract web traffic indiscriminately. Your website should address the needs of potential clients directly through educational content, rather than serving up general information to other attorneys or individuals outside of your practice area(s) and the geographic area(s) where you practice.
If attorneys are not armed with the truth about how search engines work — and how potential clients find attorneys on the web — it can be easy for them to stumble into SEO traps. This post is about revealing some of those hidden traps. Steer clear of SEO pitfalls and keep your potential clients in mind as you compose content for your law firm website, and you can avoid wasting your time and money on SEO practices that will hurt your law firm more than they help.
Attorney SEO Trap #1: Too Many Bells and Whistles on Your Law Firm Website
Adding multimedia content like images, audio, video can help to keep the interest of your potential clients once they are on your site. However, it is unlikely that multimedia content is going to attract users to your site on its own. This is because, unlike written content, search engines are not able to process multimedia content directly. Instead, search engines have to rely on additional clues about that content that are included in HTML text format.
The more multimedia content that you add to each page of your site, the slower your page load speed is likely to be. While most users understand that the load speed of a web page is often attributable to the quality of that user’s internet connection, attorneys can control some elements that affect the load speed of their website, including minimizing the use of large files and unusual or uncommon fonts.
Load speed is a minor signal to Google when it comes to rankings on SERPs but, more importantly, load speed has a direct effect on user experience. Many users will not wait more than a few second for a page to load, and if a large video file on your site causes a page to load a fraction of a second longer, it might be enough to cause some users to bounce off of your page in search of another page that can answer their question without delay.
LawLytics sites are automatically optimized for ideal user experience and maximum page load speed.
Attorney SEO Trap #2: Writing Content That Isn’t Focused on Your Potential Clients
The content on your law firm website is meant to:
- Draw potential clients to your site from places such as SERPs
- Provide those potential clients with helpful content that educates them about their case or matter, and
- Build a bond that encourages the potential client to like, trust, and ultimately contact your law firm.
In order to build that relationship, you’ll want to keep potential clients on your site as long as possible. Here are a few ways to keep potential clients engaged for longer lengths of time:
- Make sure that your content thoroughly answers the kinds of questions that your potential clients are likely to have about their case or matter. Avoid creating pages that are “thin”—thin content generally provides little or no value to the person who finds it, and is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
- Make your content easily readable by using descriptive HTML headers to break up long blocks of text. HTML headers help readers quickly scan for the information they’re most interested in, and it can help search engines understand the meaning of a page (and if it’s relevant to a related search).
- Include internal links to related content on each page of your law firm website. This will encourage users to stay on your site as they search for information about their legal questions rather than navigating to a third-party site during that search.
When you write content for your law firm website, keep your potential clients top-of-mind. Consider how they will search for legal information before they find an attorney, and directly address the questions potential clients will ask using the language they will understand.
Write your content with a local focus and try to avoid using complex legal jargon that may go over the heads of your potential clients. There may be times when it makes sense to use jargon—but, if you do, make sure that it’s defined clearly (you may also want to provide examples). The content on your law firm website is generally meant to be consumed by your potential clients—it is usually not meant to appeal to attorneys or those seeking legal information outside of the geographic location(s) where you practice.
In order to help you stay focused on your potential clients while composing content for your website, it may help to create specific client personas and to write with those “clients” in mind.
Attorney SEO Trap #3: Getting Distracted by Elements Outside of Your Law Firm Website
There are a number of online marketing entities that can supplement a content-based SEO strategy for your law firm website. They can include online directories, social media platforms, and reputation and reviews management. Used correctly, these items can provide some benefit to your law firm’s online presence, but none should take priority over your website itself. In fact, the best way to utilize these external elements is to ensure that the content on your law firm website is thorough and solid, and then lean on those other pieces as additional means of directing potential clients to your site—not the other way around.
Online marketing elements outside of your law firm’s website can provide some additional benefits to a content-based SEO strategy, but they are by no means a substitute for the importance of creating quality content for your law firm’s website.
Attorney SEO Trap #4: Failing to Moderate Comments on Your Law Firm Blog
Spammers relish the opportunity to drop bad links wherever they can, and this can include your blog. Spam comments usually include links to spammy sales pages and often come in the form of generalized flattery that does not address the content of your blog itself, as in:
“Great work on this blog. I have similar feelings about this subject. Keep up the good work and your readers will thank you for it.”
Google has been known to implement manual penalties for “user generated spam” like that posted on blogs by users. Generally, such penalties are applied granularly, meaning that they only affect the pages that have been spammed. But that can mean losing ranking and even potential delisting for each of the blogs on your site that have been spammed. If the problem goes unchecked long enough, it can be prohibitively time consuming to remove all of the offending comments.
Your blog’s comment section can be a valuable way to engage potential clients and other attorneys as you add your knowledge to the online conversation. However, be sure that you are able to approve all comments before they go live on your site (a process made easy for LawLytics members). Doing so will prevent users from spamming your site and will keep you from having to face a search engine penalty for the offense.
Attorney SEO Trap #5: Believing that SEO is too difficult to do yourself
Once you understand how search engines work—and how potential clients find attorneys online—it usually becomes clear that:
- Law firm SEO isn’t complicated.
- Making mistakes that get you into trouble with Google are usually preventable.
- Law firm SEO is something you can do yourself.
However, when attorneys don’t take the time to understand how search engines work, they fall into the trap of believing that SEO is too complex and time consuming for them to do on their own.
That can lead attorneys to hire expensive SEO providers who fail to deliver meaningful results, or worse, damage the attorney’s web presence.
SEO, at its core, is about visibility and connection. The best way to develop that visibility and connection is through content creation.
Create content that resonates with—and educates—your potential clients. Quality website content is the most important part of SEO, and, without it, no other SEO strategy is likely to move the needle for your firm.
We believe that attorneys are in the best position to be in control of their web presence. Being in control of your web presence doesn’t mean that you have to do everything (or in some cases, anything) yourself. But it does mean that you know what’s being done to your web presence (and why).
Whether you handle your own SEO efforts or hire an outside SEO provider, it’s crucial to understand how search engines work and how your potential clients are using them to find you. (If you do choose to hire a SEO provider, there are some important questions you should ask, first.)
Related Blog Posts:
- What Google’s Consumer Insights Report Can Tell Attorneys About Online Legal Marketing
- The Right Way To Use Title Tags On Your Law Firm’s Website
- Does Your Law Firm SEO Provider Follow Google Webmaster Guidelines?
- Thinking Locally, Not Legally: How Potential Clients Find Law Firm Websites
- 5 Tips For Creating Google-Friendly Law Firm Website Content