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It’s no secret (or surprise) that organic results which appear on the first search engine results page (SERP) receive many times more clicks for a particular search phrase than results that are buried further down in the results.

It’s natural, then, for some attorneys to be curious about the “tricks” that they can use to get their law firm website to the “top” of Google’s SERPs.

And it’s not surprising, either, that many search engine optimization (SEO) providers market their services by claiming that they can get your site to “the top of Google,” or by flaunting their “partnership” with the search engine.

The truth of the matter, however, is less exciting than the promises made by misleading SEO salespeople:

There is no “top of Google” that your law firm can hope to obtain, and there are no special partnerships with the search engine that can help your site improve its ranking on SERPs.

Ranking in Google’s First Organic Position on SERPs

It is true that there is a top (or first) organic listing for every search that a user can perform in a search engine.

But that “top” position is going to be different for each and every unique search term or phrase.

It’s worth noting that Google handles literally billions of searches per day, about fifteen percent of which it has never seen before.

So, the question then becomes:

“Which ‘top of Google’ are you striving for?”

It is going to be relatively easy to rank in the top position for exact-match searches for your law firm name or domain address, for example. But securing the top organic spot for broad informational queries like “What are the penalties for DUI in Arizona?” will likely be more complex, and earning the top position for very general queries like “DUI Arizona” or just “DUI” will likely be quite difficult.

The results returned on SERPs for specific queries are not static. They change from day to day and from moment to moment as writers add new content to their sites, update older content on their sites, or as Google makes adjustments to its algorithm.

The results returned for a particular search can also differ markedly depending on where the search was performed, a user’s search and browser history, whether or not the search was performed on a mobile device, and many other signals.

The “top of Google” phrase may sound appealing when issued as a promise from a third-party SEO provider, but that promise is an empty one. The top position for any particular search is a moving target that depends on a number of circumstances which themselves are not static. If somebody is trying to sell you on services that will get your law firm to the “top of Google,” turn the other way and run. The sales pitch is likely all smoke and mirrors, because the “top of Google” doesn’t actually exist.

SEO tactics for attorneys: playing the SEO game to Win

A Company’s “Partnership” with Google Will Not Help Your Law Firm Website’s Organic Ranking

A badge indicating that a marketing firm, advertising agency, or SEO provider is a “Google Partner” (even those claiming ‘Premier’ partnership status) simply means that the provider has been authorized to resell Google Ads for placement on SERPs. It does not mean that the provider has a relationship with the search engine that they can leverage in order to provide your law firm website with a boost to its organic search engine rankings.

In fact, Google has explicitly stated that paying to place ads on its SERPs will have absolutely no bearing on your ability to appear in organic search results. So, if a third-party provider is trying to sell you on their relationship with Google, just know that means you might end up paying them to buy pay-per-click (PPC) ads, as opposed to working directly with Google to buy those ads yourself at a savings of between fifteen and thirty percent versus paying someone to manage your account for you.

To learn more about pay-per-click marketing for attorneys, see our webinar: “PPC Advertising for Lawyers: Learn the Truth and Save Money.”

How Can You Improve Your Law Firm Website’s Visibility in Search Engine Results?

Google has claimed that the two most important ranking factors for placement on its SERPs are:

  1. The presence of high-quality content that provides value to search engine users and
  2. The presence of external links pointing to your site.

But since the search engine considers any effort to trade for links a violation of its Webmaster Guidelines, it stands to reason that the only ethical way to earn those links is to create high-quality content that merits citation elsewhere on the web by its own right, which brings us back to high-quality content.

Google’s users want the most relevant content that they can find to answer their specific questions. Google’s business model of selling advertisements is built on the search engine’s ability to provide its users with exactly what they are looking for.

Creating content that your potential clients will want to read and that answers the specific questions they might have about their legal situations is the best way for your site to find its way to the top of Google SERPs for searches that are relevant to your law firm and its practice area(s) of focus.

You should make an effort to understand your potential clients thoroughly — who they are, what motivates them, their aspirations, their fears — and write content that appeals directly to those potential clients. By doing so, you can ensure that the traffic you attract to your website from SERPs is made up of the individuals that are most likely to consider hiring your law firm.

The more of your potential clients’ questions you can target with the content on your site, the more chances you will have to appear for each specific query on a SERP. And the more queries for which you can appear on SERPs, the more at-bats you’ll have to try and convert your potential clients and website visitors into actual clients.

Continuing to add content to your site long term will also help your site to build authority with readers, and — so long as you continue to provide quality answers to your potential clients’ questions with the content you publish — with search engines themselves. And that authority can further strengthen your website’s chances of appearing on the first SERP for relevant queries.