Former state gambling regulator Don Johnson (no relation to the actor) knows gambling.
He’s familiar with the odds of every game offered in casinos, the regular margin of winnings versus losses gained by the house in those games, and how the casinos manage to tip the scales to make sure that they come out ahead of the average player.
Most of the time, anyway.
We’ll spare you the gritty details here on how Johnson managed to change the rules of his favorite casino game in order to bring the house advantage down to a fraction of what it normally is (though you can read about it for yourself on page 24 of our latest eBook release, “Develop a Winning Strategy”).
Suffice it to say, though, that, as a result of his gaming knowledge, his skills as a negotiator, and a little bit of good timing, Johnson managed to take three different Atlantic City casinos for a total of roughly $15 million between December 2010 and April 2011.
This post is dedicated to outlining how attorneys can approach search engine optimization (SEO) for their websites similarly, by maximizing their odds of online success and leaving as little to chance as possible.
Law Firm Website Content Is King
Like the games of chance played in casinos, SEO for your law firm website is a matter of probability.
But, unlike the house advantage in gambling, there’s no secret to stacking the odds in your favor when it comes to SEO. Search engines may not share the full details of their algorithms with web users, but they do provide in-depth guidelines for finding success on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Google, in particular, has been open about the two most important factors of the SEO equation for placement on its SERPs—quality content and external links pointing to a site. And, since Google expects the quality of a site’s content to be the driving force behind link building, it logically follows that quality content is the most important piece of the SEO puzzle.
In order to give your site the best chance of being found on the first SERP for a particular search, the best thing to do is to make sure you are offering search engines plenty of quality content for as many relevant search phrases as you can. And that means zeroing in on long-tail search phrases, one at a time.
Long-tail Searches and Your Potential Clients
Long-tail search phrases are essentially search terms that contain more than a few words (that includes complete questions).
Where shorter phrases and keywords, like “Arizona DUI”, tend to be favored by lawyers purchasing pay-per-click ads or search engine users seeking basic general information, more specific long-tail search phrases like “What should I do if I am charged with a DUI in Arizona?” are more likely to signal a search engine user’s intent to make a purchase or, in the case of attorneys, to hire a lawyer.
Long-tail phrases are also less competitive SEO opportunities than their shorter keyword counterparts, and are more common in voice searches, which are on the rise. In order to maximize your chances of being discovered by a potential client who is looking online for specific information about their case or matter, try to answer as many specific questions pertinent to that potential client’s case or matter as possible, and do so using the type of language that those potential clients are most likely to use in searches.
Long-tail searches for potential DUI clients, for example, may or may not contain local cues, though most laptops and mobile devices track location information and will often automatically prioritize relevant local results. Long-tail phrases worth addressing might include questions such as “What are the penalties for a DUI in Tucson?” or “What are the penalties for a second DUI in Arizona?” or “Will I go to jail if I get a DUI in Pima County?” and so on.
Focusing on long-tail search phrases in the language that your potential clients will most likely use to search will require an intimate knowledge of your intended audience (your potential clients), so it might help to create one or more client personas to help you maintain your focus on that target audience as you compose content for your law firm website.
Know Your Potential Clients (Your Target Audience)
As an attorney with experience in your particular practice area(s) and geographic region of practice, you are likely the person who is most qualified to describe and address your potential clients’ concerns. When composing content intended to reach your potential clients, it is important to write with those clients in mind, and to do so in a way that will be easily for them to relate to.
For example, employing the proper point-of-view in your writing can help make your content sound more engaging, and writing about legal issues in layman’s terms will likely make the content seem more approachable to the average person. This means that avoiding a heavy use of jargon or legal terminology is likely to benefit your content, unless your target audience and/or potential clients tend to be other lawyers.
When sitting down to write content for your law firm website, think about your ideal client. What does he or she look like? What is their level of education? Are they married? Do they have children? How old are they? Do they refer to locations in your region or area of the law in colloquial ways which might affect how they search for information online?
The more specific you are able to get when creating your client personas, the more you will be able to write specifically to and for your potential clients. Thus, the content you create will be more likely to establish trust with visitors to your website, which will make it more likely that they will consider hiring you to represent them.
By focusing on writing your website content using the language naturally employed by your potential clients, not only will it endear your firm to those potential clients, but it will also increase the chances that a search engine will return your result for a relevant search over results that use more technical language not employed by search engine users in their queries.
Include Local Information in Your Law Firm Website’s Content
Many attorneys are unaware of the value that adding local information to the content on their law firm websites can offer. And marketing companies hired to provide content for law firms rarely have the insight or bandwidth necessary to add such information to the content they produce. Thus, there is ample opportunity in many markets for attorneys to capitalize on adding local content in order to drive more qualified potential clients to their sites.
As mentioned before, search engines often include local results whether or not local information is specifically included in a search query. According to Google, 30 percent of mobile searches are locally-focused and, as with the use of long-tail search phrases, local searches signal an intent to purchase or hire more so than general queries.
Manage Your Law Firm’s Business Directory Listings
Your law firm website is the most authoritative place to find information about your firm.
However, if a potential client is considering hiring you, the chances are good that they will consult external resources, such as review sites and directories, in order to find out more about your firm from additional parties. You cannot control where your potential clients go to find that information, but you can control what sort of information they find when they get there, to an extent.
For this reason, it is a good idea to ensure that the information your potential clients are finding about your firm across the web is accurate and up to date. Search engines such as Google compare the information they find about your firm from multiple sites in order to verify the accuracy of that information, to update the information the search engine displays for particular searches about your firm (such as those for directions and/or phone numbers), and to determine the general trustworthiness of the information available about your law firm online. If incorrect information about your firm regularly appears, it is not unheard of for search engines to update correct information in their own databases with the available incorrect data.
Thus, ensuring that your firm’s NAP + URL data (name, address, phone number, and website address) are correct and consistent everywhere that they appear online can boost your firm’s ability to appear for local searches in a major way (including boosting your odds of appearing in the coveted “local pack” of three business listed underneath map elements for certain searches).
It is possible (though time-consuming) to manage your firm’s data in directory listings manually. Services like LawLytics Listings Management, however, can streamline the process of finding and cleaning up that data, leaving your firm with more time to focus on other things, like practicing law or otherwise working to improve your website’s SEO.