Articles Posted in Search Engine Optimization

Search engine logosPart of our jobs as web marketing consultants for law firms is to stay abreast of the changes that happen in our industry. In fact, what I believe separates the men from the boys is the ability for a company to understand not only how to leverage results with the way things currently are, but also being able to predict where things are going. Since search engine optimization is such an important part of any law firm’s web strategy, I wanted to discuss where I think search is headed and how this impacts your law firm.

Where Is Search Going?

Search engines such as Google and Bing are working to make search more like a digital representation of the offline world. In a recent article by Aaron Wall over at SEO Book, he discusses this idea:

Whether you are investing or growing crops, diversifying your assets can insulate you from risk and help you expand your enterprise. The same is true for your web strategy, especially your web content. Here are a couple aspects to your web strategy that you should focus on making more diverse:

Diversify Traffic Sources

Diversifying the sources from which you get traffic to your web properties is critical to long-term success online. While search engines can be an excellent source of traffic (and will likely dominate your search traffic source share), relying too heavily on search engines will make you extremely vulnerable to changes in the search algorithm. Such reliance will also cause you to miss out on a lot of other relevant web traffic.

It’s no surprise that getting to the top 3 spots of Google can help increase the traffic to your firm’s website. However, a new study shows just how dramatic the difference in click-throughs is among the different positions on the first page.

According to the study:

Websites ranked number one received an average click-through rate (CTR) of 36.4 percent; number two had a CTR of 12.5 percent; and number three had a CTR of 9.5 percent. Being number one in Google, according to Optify, is the equivalent of all the traffic going to the sites appearing in the second through fifth positions.

Here at AttorneySync, we are big fans of WordPress. We often recommend WordPress for lawyers looking to setup a new website and/or blog for a firm.

Recently, a firm located in Russia, but serving clients internationally, asked us for assistance with setting up a basic wordpress site. One of the stipulations was that the site needed to be built in English with the ability to be translated manually in Russian. Since the majority of the firm’s audience was either going to be English or Russian speaking, it was important that the text appealed to both groups. This meant that simply installing an automated translation tool wasn’t sufficient. What we needed was a solution that allowed our client to manually translate each page and post on the site.

Additionally, we wanted to make sure that we retained SEO (search engine optimization) benefits of both versions of the site.

Google announced yesterday the release of the +1 button in search results. According to the official announcement:

Our goal at Google is to get you the most relevant results as quickly as possible. But relevance is about relationships as well as words on webpages. That’s why we recently started to include more information from people you know–stuff they’ve shared on Twitter, Flickr and other sites–in Google search results.

Today we’re taking that a step further, enabling you to share recommendations with the world right in Google’s search results. It’s called +1–the digital shorthand for “this is pretty cool.” To recommend something, all you have to do is click +1 on a webpage or ad you find useful. These +1’s will then start appearing in Google’s search results.

I have had a number of lawyers recently ask me how to automatically post their blog articles onto the law firm’s Facebook page.  While there are a number of Facebook applications that will pull in RSS feeds, most of these appear in their own section of the Facebook page.  Not on the wall of your page.  You can see an example of a separate RSS newsfeed section from AttorneySync’s page below:

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By posting articles directly onto your wall, the articles will appear in the newsfeeds of the individuals that “like” your firm’s Facebook page.  This will increase the exposure of your content and deliver it to the individuals that signed up to receive updates from you.

Networked Blogs

The service I recommend for automatic wall posting is called Networked Blogs.  Networked Blogs is a Facebook application that allows you to register a blog, claim the blog as your own, and then syndicate the content from the blog onto your personal Facebook profile and any Facebook pages that you have admin access to.  You are not required to syndicate to all these spots, you can pick and choose where you want the posts to appear.

The Process

To get started you will head over to Networked Blogs and click the “Add your blog” button at the bottom of the page.  This will take you to Facebook where you will login and arrive at the Networked Blogs application.  You will click “register a blog” in the upper right.
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Fill in your blog information and click next.  In the next step, the application will ask if you are the author of the blog.  You will click yes and the app will request that you verify one of two ways.  Either having Facebook friends verify or embedding a widget onto your blog (which you can subsequently remove after verification).  While it is a good idea to eventually verify your blog, this is not a necessary step to do right away.  To move ahead, you can simply click “I’ll do it later” underneath the verification method selections.
This will take you to the registered blog page.  From here you can select “Set up Syndication”.
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This will route you back to the Networked Blogs site to select your syndication options.  From here you can choose the Facebook profiles and pages you want the blog articles posted to.  You will also be able to select your options for what images to display with the post and whether to use the Networked Blogs toolbar.  You will also have the option of adding a Twitter account where you can automatically feed in your blog posts.

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syndicate.pngA component of any well developed law firm internet strategy should include the production and syndication of practice specific, professionally written content. Posting content directly to your website or blog should serve as the foundation of your strategy. However, taking advantage of syndication networks such as JD Supra, Avvo, or ExpertHub can get your content in front of a bigger, more widely read audience. This can be beneficial in driving more traffic to your site, building a larger blog readership, exposure for the firm and attorneys, and increased phone calls.

That being said, it’s important to understand what steps to take when syndicating your content so that the search engines know you are the original creator of the articles. Ignoring these steps can result in sites you’ve syndicated your content to outranking your original articles. While these steps aren’t guaranteed to be foolproof, it will help to ensure you aren’t sending mixed signals to the search engines.

1. Your Syndicated Content Should Link Back To Your Original Article

If a search engine finds multiple instances of content that are the same it considers all but one of the articles to be duplicate content. When the article you post on another website links back to the original article on your site, it helps the search engines determine the source of the original. Make sure the link is pointing to the original article page and not just any page on your website.

2. Wait To Syndicate Content Until The Search Engines Have Found Your Original

Once a search engine finds and indexes your original article it should time stamp the article and establish it as the original. In order to find out if the article has been indexed by Google, you can perform a search for the full url of your article. While this doesn’t always guarantee your article will continue to outperform the syndicated one, it helps to ensure you are sending the right signals.

3. Avoid Syndicating The Entire Article If Possible

Provide a snippet, or couple of paragraphs of the article with a link back to the original. This way you can enjoy the increased exposure of the article on the syndication network and still drive visitors back to your site. This will also help avoid duplication of the entire piece of content.

4. Have The Syndication Partner “noindex” Your Syndicated Article

The noindex html tag tells Google not to index a specific web page. In this situation, your content will benefit from the exposure of the syndication site without hurting your own search engine visibility. The downside is that you have little to no control over whether a syndication partner will noindex a page. Most probably will not, however if this option is available or can be negotiated than it could be worthwhile.

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Once you have brainstormed a list of relevant keywords and prioritized them by search volume and competition, the next step is getting these keywords onto your web properties. This is referred to as “on-page optimization” and is part of the signaling that tells search engines like Google what your web pages are about.

There are certain parts of your web pages that play a very large role in communicating the subject matter of a web page to a search engine. The most important of these is the page’s title tag.

We see many law firm websites and blogs that use a lawyer’s name or law firm name in the title tag. While this may make sense in terms of branding the firm, only using an attorney’s name of law firm’s name greatly limits the information that is being communicated to the search engines. While sites that implement title tags like these are likely to rank well for those names, they are unlikely to rank as well for much else.

As Jeff discussed over at AttorneySync’s lawyer marketing blog, a recent embarrassment for Google has prompted an algorithm change that may have consequences to your law firm’s local positions and your local web strategy.

On Mihmorandum, David Mihm talks about how this incident may impact Google’s use of reviews in its algorithm:

Thing is, Local Search experts have long speculated that the valence of reviews has had an extremely low, if any, impact on rankings, whereas the volume of reviews has always been considered one of the strongest factors. Many of us have noted how puzzled we were that this was the case but this bias (or lack thereof, I suppose) has been pretty obvious for awhile.

Any law firm SEO campaign should be measured in a number of different ways. Rather than simply focusing on your ranking for a particular keyword, you should understand how those rankings are producing targeted traffic. How that traffic is converting into leads and finally how many of those leads are becoming new clients. This is the only way to truly measure the effectiveness of a campaign and understand the return you are getting from your investment.

One of the important factors mentioned above includes understanding the make-up of the traffic visiting your website. For search engine traffic, it’s important to understand the keywords people are using to find your site. This helps us to better understand how our rankings for certain keywords are effecting our actual site traffic.

Non-Branded Keyword Searches

What are non-branded keywords? They are the general category keywords used when a prospect is not aware of your name or the name of your firm. They may be terms like “injury lawyer Chicago” or “bankruptcy attorney in Baltimore”. The value of the non-branded keywords is that they represent opportunities for new business. These are clients looking for your legal services that are not already aware of your firm.

Finding Your Non-Branded Keywords In Google Analytics

Utilizing a free analytics program, such as Google Analytics, is a great way to get some insight about your search engine traffic. Once Google Analytics is setup on your website, you can view the keywords people are using to find your website under the keywords tab under traffic sources:

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Look through the keywords and see what the composition of your search traffic is. Are the majority of searches for your firm’s name? Is the traffic targeted? Are searchers reaching your site after looking for non-branded keywords? Would people searching for the keywords you see be likely to retain your services? These are important questions to ask in order to determine the effectiveness of your keyword strategy.

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