To attract new business, your website needs more than great graphics and beautiful bios. Your site has to be found … by the right people (people who need you) … at the right time. That means you want to be at the top of the results list when potential clients search the Internet for a lawyer who offers your particular services or expertise.
There are several steps you need to take when planning a new site, or a redesign, that can “optimize” your rankings in Google and other search engine results. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) shouldn’t be an afterthought—it’s not something you can just hook on like a trailer to a car and expect to tow along behind you.
For effective SEO, begin at the beginning. First, learn how search engines work and how people use them (here’s a primer). Basically, a search engine analyzes accessible content on the Internet so it can display the most relevant results to the user. Your goal, of course, is to be high up on that results list. SEO is a combination of optimizing both on-page elements (such as page titles and metadata) and off-page elements (such as incoming links—outside recommendations—to your website).
Guidelines for SEO Success: How is Your Site Doing?
1. Check your organization. You need a clear, well-organized and consistent hierarchical structure to do well in the rankings. Every page should be interlinked—for example, your Bio page should link to your About page, and vice versa. Cross-linking pages aids your SEO rankings as well as the user experience. Providing relevant, related information delivers a richer experience for visitors, and prevents dead-end pages.
2. Assess your on-page elements. Here are a few elements to look at.
- Make sure all pages have unique, keyword-rich URLs.
- Pack your copy with terms you know people search for. While keyword tags seem to matter less these days, keyword dense copy is still crucial. Put the right words in there so the search engine will find them.
- Insist on a domain URL strategy. Focus your web presence around a single URL—blogs, microsites and social media should all be structured off of your firm’s main URL.
- Examine your title tags to make sure they are descriptive and keyword rich. Title tags matter not only for SEO but also because readers will see the title tag on Google as the first line of their search result.
3. Evaluate Off-Page Elements. Having plenty of internal links will help your SEO, but it’s the external links that search engines value the most. Think of inbound links as other respected sites validating your content to the search engine. They are virtually vouching for you. Evaluate how well you are doing with inbound links and create a strategy for increasing them.
4. Keep on your toes! SEO best practices change constantly.
The bottom line? On average, the first result on Google receives 34 percent of the clicks, while the second listing receives less than half that number of clicks. And, unlike online display ads and paid search ads, SEO is free. Your sweat equity can deliver results without having to pay a nickel to anyone else. So, if you want to get found, and you’ve got the time, Google has the results.
Gayatri Bhalla is is Principal of Interactive Marketing at Greenfield/Belser LTD, with more than a dozen years of experience in the interactive marketing and strategy disciplines. For a more in-depth look at SEO guidelines, read her piece on “Designing an Effective and SEO Friendly Website” in the Brand Thinking blog.