Search engine optimization “(SEO)” is an effort to modify a website or web page to so that it will appear on the first page of the results from search engines such as Google and Bing. Because search engine users rarely go past the first page of search results, law firms strive for their websites to appear on the first page for as many keyword searches as possible. In order to be first on the page, law firms should know the rules of the game, which means knowing as best as they can how the search engine works.
A Whole New Animal: Hummingbird
Google is the dominant search engine and when it changes its algorithms the whole game came changes with it. While it once used to operate Penguin and Panda, now comes Hummingbird. This logarithmic model is more social media oriented linking to Google+ in their quest to index everyone on planet earth for the next evolution of Google’s SEO code.
Importance of SEO for Small firms and Solo Practices:
An strong argument can be made that SEO can be more helpful for to small firms or solo practices than to large firms because SEO is the great equalizer. Big firms could be more established than small firms and solo practices but SEO can generate name recognition, and “internet credibility” with their firm showing up ahead of bigger firms in the targeted demographic.
In order for small firms and solo practices to get the edge in SEO, the following tips should be implemented:
1. Keyword Relevancy Throughout Content:
While marketing experts emphasize key words to get noticed by Google it is important that these words are naturally occurring within the context of the website. Using key words is important but they must be surrounded with actual informative content.
2. Potent Backlinks:
In increasing your ranking, Google looks to how often your site is referenced by other websites. Therefore, it becomes critical to build links back to your website in as many directory sites as possible. This can be achieved through strategic use of social media such as LinkedIn, AVVO profile, and your BLOG. With Google owning YouTube and incorporating it within their algorithm, using videos to introduce yourself to prospective clients where you can briefly speak about interesting areas of your practice further increases SEO results.
Solo practices can use metadata to increase website relevance. Metadata should not be abused though and be straightforward in accurately communicating correct names, areas of knowledge, and experience of practice.
4. Keep it Fresh:
Search Engines crave fresh, relevant, and compelling content and will reward you for it with higher rankings. A BLOG is a perfect platform for this content.
Problems with Avoiding the Rules of the Game:
If you are overwhelmed by these tips and want to resort to outsourcing your SEO, be aware of the drawbacks. Outsourcing your SEO could waste money in having someone build links, create buzz, and build a brand that tarnishes your reputation. Additionally, they may be ethical implications involved. You or your SEO guru should avoid cutting corners. Subscribing to “link farms” or “key word spamming” fosters a shady practice that will be sniffed out by Google algorithms and further tarnish the reputation of your firm. While other industries may throw away their “white hat,” in a race for the best SEO results, lawyers are professionals with licenses to uphold the law and should conduct ethical Search Engine Optimization practices.
Although the American Bar Association “Model Rules” of Professional Conduct does not explicating discuss SEO, the advertising ethics are applicable. Making the process more complicated is each jurisdiction has their own rules and regulations. Lawyers taking part in SEO must be careful to no conduct false, deceiving, or misleading communications to prospective clients. To play it safe, lawyers should notate each page with a disclaimer of “attorney advertising”. Several bar associations have issued opinions criticizing solo practitioners who tack on “& Associates” onto their own names. Pictures are important for SEO but some ethical rules actually prohibit the use of character actor portrayals on attorney media.Some states require “success stories” language on the website when referring to testimonials, referrals, and case studies.
While the rules may be messy, and the web is too, a lawyer’s moral compass should remain true in race for the best SEO results.