Google recently published the inaugural issue of Google’s Newsletter for Librarians. While the newsletter was conceived at the 2005 ALA (American Library Association) conference and is targeted at librarians, the information contained within the newsletter is equally applicable to lawyers or law firms with web sites.
In the newsletter, Google engineer Matt Cutts offers a primer on how Google crawls and indexes the web and then ranks the search results.
|Google’s Newsletter for Librarians||Action Items|
|The [Googlebot] doesn’t really roam the web; it instead asks a web server to return a specified web page, then scans that web page for hyperlinks, which provide new documents that are fetched the same way.||Because unlinked files are invisible to Google, make sure all the pages on your web site that you want to be visible on the Google search engine results pages are linked. A site map is one way to help the Googlebot discover all the pages on your web site.|
|[T]o build an index … we “invert” the crawl data; instead of having to scan for each word in every document, we juggle our data in order to list every document that contains a certain word.||Keywords matter. If you want Google to index your web page for a particular word, then that word better appear on your web page.|
|How do we find pages that contain the user’s query?||Remember, Google returns results based on the user’s query. So, focus on the user. Ask your friends and family members who are not lawyers to tell you what search terms they would use to locate a lawyer in your practice area.|
|PageRank evaluates two things: how many links there are to a web page from other pages, and the quality of the linking sites.||Why would someone link to your site? Do you offer some form of unique and interesting content that readers would like to share with others? If no, consider a lawyer blog. Blogs are great way to share your insights, demonstrate your expertise and develop links from other sites.|
|[I]f a document contains the words “civil” and “war” right next to each other, it might be more relevant than a document discussing the Revolutionary War that happens to use the word “civil” somewhere else on the page.||This example was discussed within the context of a search for civil war. The lesson here is that the proximity between keywords matter. So, if someone searches for an estate planning lawyer, you would be better off having estate planning lawyer appear on your web site instead of a lawyer who prepares wills and engages in the planning of estates even though both phrases contains estate, planning and lawyer within them.|
|Also, if a page includes the words “civil war” in its title, that’s a hint that it might be more relevant than a document with the title “19th Century American Clothing.”||Title tags matter. Review the title tags for all the pages on your web site to see if they contain the keywords that a potential client will use to locate your web site. See below if you don’t know what a title tag is or where to find it on a web page.|
|As a rule, Google tries to find pages that are both reputable and relevant. If two pages appear to have roughly the same amount of information matching a given query, we’ll usually try to pick the page that more trusted websites have chosen to link to. Still, we’ll often elevate a page with fewer links or lower PageRank if other signals suggest that the page is more relevant. For example, a web page dedicated entirely to the civil war is often more useful than an article that mentions the civil war in passing, even if the article is part of a reputable site such as Time.com.||How does Google know whether “civil war” is discussed in depth or just mentioned in passing without having to actually understand the content of the page? Proxies for determining this include title tags (again), keyword frequency and keyword density. Review your web site to see whether the keywords on your web pages are diluted or concentrated.|
The title tag appears at the top of your browser window and should be a keyword-rich description of the contents of that web page. You can also find additional SEO (search engine optimization) tips and resources at Justia’s SEO Center.