In the last year alone, Google has updated their search algorithm over 3,200 times. For law firms competing for that prized position on the first page of Google, each published update presents a threat to their top-ranking position. They may be taken down a few notches, lose traffic or disappear from “People Also Asked” section of Google results.
As SEO professionals, we’ve come to accept the ever changing nature of the Google algorithm. Rather than focus on each individual update, our team keeps an eye on the bigger picture. If you try to game the system, you’ll end up getting played.
So how can law firms successfully navigate this ever changing landscape and come out on top of search results time and time again?
Funny you ask, because Google recently released their advice on how to dominate the SEO game. Without divulging the secret sauce behind its search algorithms, Google recommends focusing on content.
In this blog post, I want to walk through each of Google’s suggestions and provide my thoughts on what law firms need to do to survive Google’s algorithm changes.
In the legal marketing world, content is king. Unsurprisingly, Google agrees. The search company recommends focusing on offering the absolute best content possible.
Google’s algorithm is designed to reward web pages with the absolute best content related to the search terms.
Does your law firm website have the quality content that Google is looking for? Here are questions Google suggests that you ask yourself:
Does the content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis?
Google isn’t going to ding you for duplicate content on your law firm website, but it will reward high quality, original content. So if you want your service pages, blog posts or your home page to rank well, the content on those pages needs to be fresh and not just a copy from another high performer in your market.
Does the content provide a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
Google wants its users to find the most complete answer to their search query with as little effort as possible. By creating pages and blog posts that provide complete answers to your clients’ questions, you will be able to edge out other law firms that prioritize sales copy over information.
Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
Is the content your law firm produces different than the content found on your competitors' websites? Google rewards web pages that provide additional insight or draws conclusions that may be useful to its users.
If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
We’ve all seen it before: one law firm writes a comprehensive, original blog posts on a hot topic. Then, a week or two later, other law firms have published blog posts on the same topic. Of course, they are citing sources and written as to avoid copyright infringement, but there is no additional value to the content.
Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
Law firms only have seconds to grab their readers' attention. In most cases, readers will skim through an article, or read the title of each page section to find the information they are looking for. Give your readers what they are looking for with a well structured web page!
Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?
This question deals with the issue of clickbait. If people are visiting your web page, but your bounce rate is high (meaning visitors leave as soon as they enter), that indicates to Google that your content is not what those searchers were looking for.
Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
Contrary to what you may believe, focusing on your brand is more important than SEO. Google ranks brands that people love and engage with. The takeaway for law firms: focus on your readers and provide an experience that will bring them back to your website and encourage them to share your content. For example, business law firms can create resources, videos and content that help entrepreneurs navigate the legal system up until the point they need legal assistance.
Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
Is the content you are publishing on your website something you would be proud to share with colleagues? While you’re not writing a white paper, your content should still be high quality. Your latest blog post may not be published in the New Yorker, but that doesn’t mean your readers won’t appreciate an easy to read, thoughtful piece of content.
Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?
Citing sources should be second nature for lawyers. We know that if we want a judge to consider our argument, we need to back it up with case law. Same goes for making our case to website visitors. Other than practice areas, where you are arguably THE expert in your community, citing your sources and linking to data boosts your credibility in the eyes of your readers.
If you researched the site producing the content, would you come away with an impression that it is well-trusted or widely-recognized as an authority on its topic?
Compared to your competitors, are you seen as an authority in your practice areas? Getting visibility in your community and driving more traffic to your site as the result of local sponsorships, strong social media campaigns or other forms of outreach can help tip the scales in your favor. Additionally, your law firm website should be professional, easy to use and reflect the strength of your personal brand.
Is this content written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?
Your content should be written by an expert or someone with a deep understanding of your practice areas. Sure, anyone can research the law. But it's obvious when a law firm’s content is written by a freelancer with no legal background. When producing content for your law firm, either do it yourself or hire a strong writer with a legal background that you trust to research and discuss the law with authority.
Is the content free from easily-verified factual errors?
As lawyers, we’re trained to check and cross-check citations and references. The same skill set applies when writing content for your website. Even a short blog post on recent community events may be relied on by someone considering legal action. Careless factual errors hurt the reader and can hurt your law firm SEO rankings.
Would you feel comfortable trusting this content for issues relating to your money or your life?
This question gets to the heart of content marketing for law firms. In many cases, people searching for legal services are going through a difficult time in life. Or, they may be facing major decisions that will impact their life for the foreseeable future. While content marketing does not equate to giving legal advice, the publication of it should be given the same thought and consideration. Having someone knowledgeable about your law firm, practice areas and applicable laws writing your content is critical to success in Google search rankings.
Is the content free from spelling or stylistic issues?
Simply put - use spell check and read through your content before publishing it to your law firm’s website. But more than that, make sure that your writing is easy to read. Use simple prose and get to the point. We’re all taught in law school to use the active voice when writing a brief. The same principles apply here!
Was the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
Have you ever appeared in court with your shirt tail hanging out, or enter into a negotiation without combing your hair? Of course not! As a legal professional, your clients expect you to show up polished and presentable. Likewise, your content - including photos, video and other visuals - should reflect the same level of professionalism.
Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
Google rewards lawyers who create an unbeatable user experience. If you’re content is being used across multiple sites, written by someone who is publishing similar content for other law firms or purchased from a platform like Constant Content, it's likely not high quality, authoritative or unique. Lawyers should produce content that can’t be easily replicated or copied.
Does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
Prioritizing content is not something law firms typically do. While most law firms do not have ads on their website, many do have pop-up chat windows and forms that always seem to spring up at the worst time! Creating conversion opportunities for visitors is important, but making sure that they have a great experience is paramount if you want to reach and stay on page one of Google.
Does content display well for mobile devices when viewed on them?
More than half of all Google searches are made on a phone. Google rewards law firms that build fast, responsive sites that are compatible with a variety of screen sizes. Great design and stellar content will always be a winning combination.
Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
Look at the top 10 pages that are currently ranking for the search term you want to rank for. Is the content you are creating better than the content that is already ranking? If you want Google to place your website higher than your competitors, then your content should be superior in terms of quality, authority and presentation.
Does the content seem to be serving the genuine interests of visitors to the site or does it seem to exist solely by someone attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
You should always write for humans, not search engines! So many law firms focus on the keywords they want to rank for and build a content with the goal of boosting their position in Google search results. The end result is always a sub-par product that fails to rank. Focus on writing high quality content designed to engage and inform actual human beings and rankings will follow.
SEO is a long term game and there are no quick fixes. Producing original, high quality content may not yield immediate results, but the effort will pay dividends down the road. As Google’s search algorithm continues to update and get smarter, it will be able to identify the best content and rank it accordingly.
The good news is that lawyers can begin to tackle competitive SEO markets by producing high quality content written by lawyers for actual human beings. And there are other benefits of publishing great legal content. Of course, better rankings are the goal, but don’t forget that content can be used to position your law firm as an authority in your chosen practice areas, build trust with prospective clients and deliver real value to your community.
Do this, and you can safeguard your law firm from Google's frequent algorithm updates!
At NOMOS Marketing, our mission is to make the law more human. Content that informs, engages and converts is the cornerstone of that mission. Every piece of content published for our clients is written and edited by a lawyer, ensuring that blogs, social media posts and website copy is written with authority and demonstrates our clients’ expertise.
If you want to learn more about how ongoing legal SEO and content marketing can help your law firm, contact us today. Together, we will look at your website and create a strategy that cuts through the noise to the top of search results.