“How can I make my legal blog or website the #1 Google search result for a specific term or phrase?”
This is undoubtedly the question to which everyone wants to know the answer. There is an answer, of course, but it is not as simple as many of our clients would like. For starters, Google (and other search engines) use a proprietary algorithm to sort search results, so no one can truly know the magic formula to get to number one. Any so-called SEO expert who claims otherwise is simply lying.
That said, there are some recommendations that we routinely make to our clients to help them boost their rankings. Some of them may seem intuitive, while others are less so. Even if you follow all of this advice, you won’t necessarily land the number one spot. But it will significantly improve the quality of our website and/or blog, converting more readers to clients, and propelling your online reputation.
1. Write good, substantive content.
We cannot emphasize this enough. Forget about search results for one moment. If a prospective or current client comes across your website or blog and (a) cannot find the information she needs, such as your address, contact information, or practice areas; (b) is bombarded with marketing language and calls to action; or (c) perceives that you are inexperienced, not knowledgeable, or intentionally misleading—you risk losing the client.
Write for an educated reader. Even if many of your clients do not read at a sophisticated level, they do not have to understand every word. What they will perceive is that you have a comprehensive understanding of your practice areas and that you know what you’re talking about. This doesn’t mean using a lot of “legalese”—hereins, heretofores, and obscure Latin phrases—but it does mean explaining legal concepts like comparative negligence, evidentiary standards, burden shifting, etc.
Writing in this manner not only is substantially more likely to impress your reader, but it is also more likely to earn you more incoming links and a higher search result ranking.
2. Mention the terms, including geographic terms, for which you want to rank.
Example: A client asked us why they were not ranking for the term “child custody,” or for the specific geographic location, “Coral Gables.” A quick review of their website or blog revealed that they rarely or never use those terms on any pages. After a quick fix, their pages began to rank for these terms.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you want to rank for specific terms or locations, you have to have content that specifically discusses or mentions them. But don’t overdo it.
Continuing with our example above, a website that says “Coral Gables child custody lawyer” over and over isn’t likely to do well for that phrase over the long term. Why not? Because it sounds unnatural, which means readers will discount it as pure marketing and not reliable, and search engines will treat it accordingly.
Instead, consider dedicating an entire page and/or blog post to what you do for child custody clients in Coral Gables. What unique issues are presented there? Is the family court near your office? Are there notable services for single parents there? Even if there aren’t any characteristics unique to that location and/or practice area, you can still take the opportunity to describe to the reader—who is likely someone seeking a child custody attorney in Coral Gables—why you are best qualified to handle their case.
3. Don’t try to trick the search engines.
Search engines have gotten really good at detecting linking schemes and other devices used to try to artificially improve one’s ranking in search results. While some sites might get away with these types of tricks temporarily, it is not a good idea to engage in them in the first place. The consequences—a harsh penalty in search ranking—can be devastating for your business if you depend heavily on organic search traffic, and ultimately you will have more effective marketing properties if you play “by the book.”
4. Think outside the box.
There are many, many tools beyond your website and blog that you can leverage to your advantage. Does your firm have a Facebook page? A Twitter account? A Google Plus profile? A LinkedIn page? Although not ideal, even a completely dormant social media profile can improve your firm’s reach. For example, someone might stumble across your LinkedIn page and follow it to your blog, so while your LinkedIn page might not be updated frequently, a recent blog post might convert the reader into a lead. Of course, it would still be best if you update your different social media properties on a regular basis, as a dormant profile page might deter a prospective client from contacting you.
Other ways to increase your exposure to prospective clients include completing profiles in various directories, such as Avvo, Lawyers.com, and the Justia and LII Lawyer Directories.