The holy grail of Search Engine Optimisation, topping the charts of Google, is a prize which eludes all but a handful of law firms.
As Britain’s most powerful brands further encroach on the legal services market, firms yet to embrace modern website marketing techniques and content philosophies are almost certain to find themselves banished to the dark corners of Google’s page 7.
But what does SEO actually mean and does it have to be outsourced to expensive techies? Certainly some practice managers are feeling left in the dark about what their SEO money has bought them each month.
Search Engine Optimisation simply means organising your website in a way which encourages the likes of Google, Bing and Yahoo to index its content and deem it relevant to your target audience. In doing so you will receive a favourable page rank when potential clients enter the words ‘law firm’, ‘personal injury’ or ‘litigation’.
Where SEO was previously about buying links and article placements on specialist websites, recent developments have moved the focus back onto making improvements on the website itself (on-site SEO). As Google’s controversial Panda update caused website rankings to tumble the importance of quality content could no longer be ignored. War was instantly declared on shallow and low-quality content with Google announcing that a further 500 improvements were on the cards. Informative content, news and opinion now plays a vital role in the ranking position of law firm websites.
So back to the question of whether only experts are capable of harnessing the power of SEO. In short, no. There are plenty of things that can easily be managed and improved in-house by, for example, the IT or marketing manager.
Here are our top ten 10 SEO tips:
- Always use a clearly defined headline on every page, and only use it once. This key phrase should be relevant to the rest of the content.
- Use internal links. It helps search engines navigate your website and index its content.
- Keep the page structure simple. Pages that take 3, 4 or 5 clicks to get to are deemed less important by search engines and, let’s face it, probably also by clients.
- Avoid linking away from your site. Each link you give away detracts an SEO point from your site and gives it to someone else which is essentially how Google PageRank values websites.
- Write clear, informative and unique page titles. These are what shows up in the bar at the top of your browser and what displays to users of search engines.
- Use Meta Tags. Although Google claims to no longer factor them into their algorithms, other search engines still do. Not everyone uses Google.
- Include a blog or news section. Aside from being a simple and easy way to add fresh content, case updates and opinion articles to your site, the additional pages allow you to reinforce key messages. And remember to include links back to relevant product and service pages.
- Add a sitemap. It’s easy to do and aside from helping users navigate your site it is essentially what most large search engines use in mapping out your website to quickly identify and index pages.
- Don’t ignore social media. Although relatively new in an SEO context there is no question that a presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and other platforms will add (or detract) weight to your website. And of course it helps customers find and recommend your business.
- Focus on quality. Don’t try to outsmart search engines by flooding your website with key words and irrelevant content. It doesn’t work and, more importantly, what’s the point getting found if visitors leave your website immediately because it is unwelcoming, poorly presented or too salesy.
Cyberspace is becoming infused with social media content and the ever evolving algorithms of Google, Bing and Yahoo are certain to keep website managers on their toes. But whatever their developers conjure up next, quality news and well structured, informative content will remain at the core of internet search principles.
A business journalist by trade, Ralph Savage represents a series of B2B clients on media and marketing matters. He provides strategic PR advice, media training and consultancy. He also ghost writes regularly on behalf of FTSE 250 CEOs, leading counsel and senior professionals including solicitors, accountants and brokers.