With 2016 just around the corner, some lawyers may be making a New Year’s resolution to take control of their law firm’s presence on the web.
Part of taking control of your law firm on the web means understanding a little about how search engines function. But lawyers who aren’t familiar with best practices for search engine optimization (SEO) may get stuck on one seemingly necessary component:
When lawyers create content for their websites, they sometimes use hit-or-miss methods to select focus keywords. There are a number of tools on the web to help lawyers gauge the volume of searches for keywords or phrases. However, I’ve seen attorneys that prosper by choosing a completely different method:
They ignore what most people are doing.
My advice to attorneys who actually want to draw meaningful business from their website – instead of just trying to gain traffic for traffic’s sake – is to ignore what most people are doing. Instead, lawyers should put some thought into what clients really want to know.
Attorneys may want to consider this method for three good reasons:
1. Your potential clients use search engines for research. They want answers to questions about their case. Search engines care about providing relevant answers to those questions, and quality content is generally where those answers show up.
When it comes to understanding the mindset of a potential client, consider the following:
What questions do potential clients have about their case?
What questions aren’t they asking – but should be?
What are the goals of a potential client?
What concerns do they have about those goals?
What do your potential clients fear?
What are some common misconceptions that you hear from your clients?
By asking yourself what clients want to know, you can answer these questions very specifically. You have the answers to your clients’ questions, and by writing about them in a highly specific way, you’ll help to maximize the possibility that you’ll provide the answer to their question. Create content that speaks to each client.
2. Potential clients who are using search engines don’t just type keywords into their search – they tend to ask Google complex questions in a number of different ways. Searchers do this so often that Google has introduced RankBrain – a machine-learning tool meant to help Google understand and sort complex and obscure queries. That said, potential clients might not always use the terms you expect when they’re searching for answers to their problems. If you spend your time narrowly focused on keywords, you’ll likely miss opportunities to engage potential clients by addressing questions in the way they naturally ask them.
3. Focusing heavily on keywords is an outdated practice. In the early days of search engines – before Google had refined its ability to hamper the efforts of blackhat SEO providers – people stuffed their content with just about every possible keyword combination on the web. When they weren’t doing that, they were sticking keywords in white text on white backgrounds, hiding them in footers, and repeating keywords in their content in a way that sounds entirely unnatural.
It worked – for a little while. However, Google has gotten smarter since that time and has created algorithms designed for the purpose of finding and relegating websites that violate its guidelines – and that includes keyword stuffing.
SEO trends are just that. Trends. They’ll come and go – and finding ways to outsmart Google is becoming increasingly difficult to do. However, one thing that Google has always valued – and will likely continue to value – is quality, informative content.
If you regularly write content that addresses client questions in a natural, easy-to-understand fashion, you’ll build an asset for your law firm that will put you in control of your web presence and will continue to work to bring you new business.