Success in SEO is More than Rankings and Traffic

Alex DiSebastian

March 29, 2018

SEO is evolving, truly organic, and your SEO team should be too. Below we outline how important it is for your team to stay on pace with the ever-changing world of SEO. We list the top 10 tips for SEO and cover how partnerships and continual interactions set expectations and build long-lasting marketing relations. Finally, return on investment is the ultimate goal – tracking conversions.

Embracing Change and Staying Current

Marketing your law firm online means embracing constant change.  Search algorithms update their procedures several hundred times per year. This article itself may become dated in a year, although we believe the overall principles for producing the best content and website will remain valid.

As marketing directors for your firm, your job is to stay on top of these changes or retain someone who can assist you in deciphering what is important. Below is a list of the top 10 list of action items you can take to maximize SEO and rankings.  

Top 10 SEO Tips

1. Research

The first step of any internet marketing campaign is to determine what areas and geographic locations you want to target. The key principle factor to marketing a website is to demonstrate to users and search engines that you are the industry leader for your practice area in your targeted location.   With SEO you can use a variety of tools to determine search volume. We use Google Adwords Keyword Suggestion tool to figure out search volume for keywords. This tool is approximate, but provides good ideas.

The foundation of every SEO campaign is to establish a hyper-focused keyword phrase list that you are targeting for the campaign. We run this research based off your brief, our kickoff call conversations, team brainstorming sessions, competitor analysis and searches for effective keywords. Our team presents the keyword research and finalizes what keywords to target. Based on these finalized keywords, we advise on domain names as well.

Next we perform a content analysis and onpage optimization to determine relevance. In order for your website to demonstrate that you are who you say that you are, you need to prove your relevance to users and search engines through content. A comprehensive content plan of core content and monthly content will strengthen your online relevance.

2. Track your Bounce Rate and Time on Site

Google now uses the RankBrain algorithm, which tracks user signals of your site.  User’s time on a page now matters. Your bounce rate matters (the percentage of people who leave your site without visiting another page).  Your “pogo stick” signal matters, which is the number of people who leave your site, then go back to search, only to find another site that completes their inquiry.

You should review your analytics on a monthly basis.  Take a look at the pages that have a very high bounce rate (75% or above) and a short time on site (less than 30 seconds).  Those pages probably need help. Update and lengthen the copy, change the layout, or reorganize the page. These updates should help the page better align with why users are viewing the page.  Pages with high bounce rates are not helping your site and are sending negative signals to Google.

3. Law Hub – Create Long-Form Content

Write. Write. Write. Some of the top pages in search now have more than 2,000 words.  Yes, you read that right, over 2,000 words on a single topic. These are long-form content power pages that match up to users’ intent.  During the past year, we have consistently proven that long-form content ranks higher, on average, than short- form content.

Below is a checklist for creating long-form content to power your new law hub (a hub of pages that comprehensively covers a certain topic or practice area).

  1. What area of practice do you want to increase business in?  Writing about that area in a way that will help users searching for information on that topic. You can assign the writing to an attorney in that practice group or hire a writer who practiced in that area.
  2. Create an outline.  Before you start writing in-depth, outline 10 to 20 subheadings on your topic.
  3. Add FAQs.  At the end of your outline, add FAQs.  These are easy to answer questions that routinely come up.
  4. Write the Intro and Ending.  Write in short blocks of content.
  5. Write a Title Tag. Include the keyword phrase, but include sales language to entice the reader. Examples:
    1. FATCA Lawyer – Best Practices Guide to Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act
    2. Florida Trademark Attorney – How to Trademark your Business and Protect your IP
  6. Meta Description: Keep the meta description concise. If you can include the keyword phrase, great. If not, skip the keyword phrase and include related terms.  The meta description should also include a strong call to action to encourage users to click through to the page. Write the description as compelling ad copy, perform a Google search and check out high-ranking competitors for ideas. This is your best opportunity to convince a user to click through to the page.
  7. Create a Strong Design. Include standard information about the firm in the header such as the firm’s logo, menu, contact information, and social media.  You might also include a strong photo. Add a pull quote/testimonial in the body content if possible (even better: include a pull quote from a video on the page).
  8. Table of Contents.  Feature a table of contents at the top of the page, typically by chapters.
  9. H1 Headline and Copy. Include a synopsis of about 100 words about the subject and what the user can get out of the article – one or two sentences at most.  This synopsis can act as a subheading and tell users why to read the article. Example: In five short minutes, learn everything there is to know about how to protect your trademark with a USPTO registration.  We cover the trademark registration process, history of trademarks, why you should trademark, our fees and why to choose our firm. We also provide easy access to sign up.
  10. About [insert your area of law]. Write 250 words about the topic.  This section serves as the intro paragraph to draw readers into the article and provides an overview of the topic.
  11. Anchor Menu.  Include an anchor menu using fontawesome.com icons and quickly link to the various sections of the website.  Keep the menu to less than 10 key points.
  12. Who/What/When/Where/How/Why Answer the basic journalist questions of who does this article pertain to, what is it about, when should the reader act, where does it occur, how the reader should react, and why this information is important.
  13. Content Blocks Use Google Predictive Searches to extend content and match up to user intent and relevancy along with Google Trends.
  14. FAQs – Create FAQs based on the keyword phrase you are targeting: ubersuggest.io or https://answerthepublic.com/ 
  15. PAA – Create SEO opportunities from “people also ask” boxes that may show up in search: https://moz.com/blog/infinite-people-also-ask-boxes
  16. LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing, use good ol’ Google) – Just search for your target keyword. Then check out the “Searches related to…” section at the bottom of the search results.
  17. Video – Add a relevant video in the content.
  18. Lists and Featured Snippets – These are helpful for readers.
  19. How to Contact – Include a compelling call to action, phone number and contact link.

So, go forth and write.  With the above template, you should be able to easily write 2,000 to 3,000 words on the topic.   Use our checklist to help you write long-form content and build a law hub for your firm.

4. Natural Onpage Optimization and Top Level Content

When it comes to on-page SEO, we are all looking for natural opportunities to match everything up to what users are searching for – content, keywords, links and more. This should not be a burden; if anything, it should be the opposite. The beauty is that we all have the power to create those natural opportunities in generating more content as necessary.

The goal is to write enough content and weave any targeted keyword into that content in a natural way. We need to change our previous mindset of how on-page SEO works, meaning we should not limit ourselves to focusing on a keyword and forcefully fitting THAT keyword into a webpage or a website when it does not naturally belong. The days of keyword stuffing are long gone. The opposite is also true: we don’t want to write a page so conservatively that it is not optimized at all; that defeats the purpose. Instead, the focus should be on writing a TON of content and within that content find opportunities to weave in keywords and all their variances in a contextually appropriate manner.

Finally, the closer a page is to the root domain the better. The deeper it is buried within the website navigation, the more it signals to Google that this is a less important page. When outlining a site architecture, put the most important pages high up in the navigation.

5 . A Strong Backlink and Online Profile Presence

Developing strong  backlinks to your website builds authority and power to your website. Backlinks – an incoming link from another website to your website – that is built off of quality and not quantity are the goal. Quality backlinks serve as industry-specific endorsements and count as “votes” in the eyes of search engines.

The higher the quality of the link, the better; more is not necessarily better.  Here are some quick fundamentals of link building, along with the steps we undertake to obtain links.

  • Strategy and Setup Phase
    • Backlink analysis
    • Research new links
    • Social Media/Google Listing/YouTube
    • Assistance with online business reviews
    • Inclusion of “star rating” with reviews once established
  • Fundamentals Phase
    • Specified Links (legal, industry, associations, etc.)
    • Local Listings (top listings first)
    • Competitor Analysis
    • General Links (generic business/personal profiles; continued location citations)
    • Paid Listings
    • Article Submissions (hg.org, Quora, Medium, etc.)
  • Intermediate Phase
    • Local Community Activism/Sponsorships Opportunities
    • Social Posts/Networking/Engagement/Bolstering Presence
    • Scholarship Opportunities
  • Advanced/Small Business PR
    • Brand Mentions
    • Guest Blogging/Referral Blogs
    • Article Pitches
    • HARO/Media Mentions

6 . Dead pages and Link Sculpting

The quality (and not quantity) of your content is just as important as your links. Sometimes your website can have too many pages. These pages can conflict and steal authority away from each other. We recommend combining similar pages into one longer form page.  The overall bounce rate of the website will probably decrease (positive signal), the time on page will increase (positive signal), and online sharing of your article could increase if it becomes the definitive resource on the topic.

We also recommend being mindful of how many links come from the particular pages of your website. Having too many links from your homepage or category pages to priority content is not ideal.  Your home page should link to the bare number of pages that you and users will think are important. If you have a specific article or area of the site that you want to prioritize, then showcase that. Just be tactful as you link to it from your home page, your menu, and other related side menus.This will help signal to Google that the page is actually important and not just buried.

7 . Myths of SEO

There are many myths of SEO.  Below we outline five top myths so you don’t fall into any traps:  

  • Myth 1 – Google AdWords Spending Helps SEO:  This is false, spending money on AdWords does not help SEO at all.
  • Myth 2 – Meta Keyword Tag Helps:  This is also false, Google and other search engines no longer rely on the meta keyword tag.
  • Myth 3 – Get Any Link: You don’t want to focus on quantity of links, you want quality.  It is a myth that any link will help your firm. Only high quality links from other websites will help. Quality link are typically good legal directories, social media sites, citations for NAP (name address phone), other law firms, vendors where you have given testimonials, news, education sites, bar sites, local community sponsorships, and other high quality sites. Avoid anything spammy.
  • Myth 4 – Stuff Keywords:  Be natural. Optimize a page for what it is for and do not  force in keywords. Google no longer requires you to stuff keywords into a page. In fact, this technique can actually backfire.  Yes, there is always some odd site that ranks high with keyword stuffing. But they are probably ranking high, despite their spam tactics.  If they went clean on the keyword stuffing, they would probably rank even higher. Write your articles in detail. Write them with LSI (latent semantic analysis), which are related keywords, and you will rank higher.
  • Myth 5 – SEO is Snakeoil:  Yes, there are certainly scam artists and the SEO industry has gotten a bad rap over the years with too many unfulfilled promises. You should expect and demand that your SEO team be 100% transparent. They should log all hours, all changes, all links, report on traffic/conversions, and give you clear guidance on expectations.

8 . 301 Redirects Matter & Disavow When Needed

301 Redirects
Are you creating a new site? Removing content?  Changing URLs? Then you need to create a proper and correct 301 redirect. A 301 redirect automatically redirects the user to the new page and tells Google that this is a permanent redirect.  This will send a signal that your new page controls. It should pass over all or at least most previous link authority to the new page.

When launching a new website, it is critical that you map all old pages to their new page.  If you can keep the same URL structure, great. If you need to make URL changes, then simply write a redirect for each new change.

Disavowing Links
You should also continually review the quality of your back links. All websites receive bad backlinks similar to how we all receive spam emails in our inboxes. You may have received prior bad back links in years past or your competitors could be nefariously linking to your site. If you login to Webmaster Tools of Google, you can download a report of all your existing backlinks.  You can then visually scan those sites or run them through tools to rate the links. If the tools come back with low quality signals or the websites just don’t look right, then you can try to get the links removed. Often it is difficult, if not impossible, to remove old links. So you can always sever ties, known as disavowing, directly with Google.

We recommend running this analysis two to four times per year or if you suddenly notice a drop in rankings.

9. Partnerships & Expectations

Internet marketing is a partnership. Clients who regularly meet with us and act on our ideas rank higher. While we will handle the majority of the work, we need your input on content, link building, and feedback.

For our clients, once rankings and traffic reports have been sent, during the second week of the month, we set up standing meetings to pitch actionable recommendations and gain approval to proceed.

As part of our consulting relationship, we work on any of the following items on a monthly basis. The work varies depending on objectives and results of the campaign. In some months we will consult more.  In others, we will conduct more on-page optimization or site architecture updates, or write content.

10. Return on Investment

The main objective of any marketing is to get a solid return on your investment – turning that higher traffic into clients. Internet marketing is no different. By conversion tracking of contact forms and phone calls, we assist to “close the loop” of what we are targeting and help demonstrate the return of this effort into a new customer. Being able to measure conversions means that, in our marketing partnership, we are able to work smarter and not harder. We can precisely identify and focus on the campaigns that are bringing in the best return and reduce work on the ones that are not. This takes the ambiguity out of marketing, bringing attention to what matters most.

Further Learning

Are you interested in learning more about legal marketing? Head on over to our SEO Guidelines & Best Practices page. Our guide will teach you the do’s and don’ts for law firm SEO along with what we include in our SEO plans.

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