A Long-Term View of SEO (and Some DIY Tips)
One of the common misconceptions about SEO is how long it takes to start generating leads. While SEO is one of the most reliable and cost-effective sources of Web-based traffic, it takes a while to establish a new presence in competitive markets.
Here are some facts about SEO:
- Your domain age does not have a direct bearing on rankings. In other words, an old website still needs good SEO to rank!
- Google estimates 6-9 months before an SEO campaign starts to produce results.
- In our experience, this timetable is often longer for attorneys entering highly competitive markets for the first time. You may be looking at a year or even 18 months before you break onto page 1 for highly-competitive results. We have also seen websites rank on page one in as little as three months, depending on their history.
We have found that it helps to enter SEO with the right mindset--and with the right approach. Long-term sustainability requires an approach that aligns with best practices. If you are in a place where you can't afford to wait 6-12 months for a case, consider the following options for DIY SEO:
- You can take steps to start ranking in the maps by setting up a Google My Business listing and placing your website in key directories such as Yelp, Facebook, Avvo, and Justia.
- Consider using Pay-Per-Click (PPC) as a short-term solution. While it does not offer the long term benefits of SEO, you have more control over your targeting and can increase/decrease spend as needed.
- Get some content on your website. Whether you do a small content marketing package or add some content of your own to the website, this can help build rankings for the cases you want. Just remember to write good content that isn’t copied.
- Keep your brand active! Participate in community events, sponsor local organizations/businesses, and get your name out there! You are setting the stage for a shorter ranking timeline when you do decide to pull the trigger on SEO.
Whatever you choose, remember that Internet Marketing--especially SEO-- is a long-term play. Forward-thinking attorneys will get the most out of their Internet marketing.
Link Opportunities Are Everywhere!
You've probably heard the pitch: your website looks great but it could really use some links. You may have received emails from other law firms or websites claiming: We would love to showcase our content on your website for free. Or, from less scrupulous firms: Let's swap links!
Links are everywhere, and schemes for building them are seemingly endless. While we would always recommend talking with a trusted SEO company before link building (bad links can be bad news for your website), we think that some of the best opportunities for links might be right under your nose!
Here are strong local options for links that are likely already available to your firm:
- Chambers of Commerce: Join local Chambers of Commerce where you want to rank (especially if they have a member directory).
- Sponsorships: Sponsoring a local organization, team, or school? Ask for a link! These are often the best links, and they help the community.
- Speaking Engagements and Presentations: If you are doing a presentation, make sure your local speaking engagement links to your website.
- Legal Directories: Make sure you are set up on Avvo, Justia, and Lawyers.com. These often rank in Google results and are a good signal.
- Advertisements: Some types of ads come with a link. The more ways you can get people to your website, the better.
That said, there are many pitfalls to avoid. Not all links are good links. If you aren't sure about a link opportunity, always ask your SEO provider. Any SEO company worth their salt will help you avoid links that could harm your website.
Good SEO is Focused on Leads
SEO is a complicated industry, with as many tools to measure performance as there are experts on the subject. Every SEO company will differ on which tools are best. Some of the most prominent ways of measuring the success of your SEO are link strength (domain authority), rankings, and keyword density. While these and many other metrics can play a role in measuring SEO, we have found that the most important metric is leads.
If you (or your marketing team) are watching leads, you can tell how your website is actually performing. A good tracking system means the difference between guessing if the website is bringing you leads and knowing the website has generated leads. Furthermore, effective lead tracking means you have the ability to make informed decisions about your Internet Marketing and can collaborate with your marketing team to help the website perform better.
To effectively measure website performance, we recommend:
- Dynamic call tracking for the website
- Tracking number for Google My Business
- Google Analytics goals
- Form submission tracking
- PPC tracking number(s)
If you are running--or are planning to run--a strong SEO campaign, look into a good call tracking system. We highly recommend CallRail and use it in our campaigns to give a granular look at how leads are entering the website. You may be surprised to see which pages are bringing the most contacts.
The more varied your campaigns, the more important it is to manage lead attribution. Remember, metrics mean nothing if they are not tied to conversions.
The SEO Opportunity Hiding in Plain "Site"
Most legal websites have content and blogs. Any website that has a reasonable amount of good content (read: written for users, informative, and not copied from other websites) is off to a good start in terms of SEO. But many websites, even in competitive markets, are not using this content as well as they could. If you are looking for an easy fix to take your content to the next level, consider internal linking.
Internal linking, the method of providing a link from one page on your website to another, is a powerful yet under-appreciated component of SEO. Any half-decent article can have numerous opportunities for internal links, but many people don't think to add them. There are a few advantages to internal links that make them worthwhile for your website:
- They keep the user on your website
- They help users find relevant pages, including conversion pages
- They can provide semantic signals for Google
- They distribute page authority throughout your website
- They can be used to indicate priority pages
The best part of internal linking is that your website likely has dozens of pages that are waiting to be improved with user-friendly linking. With this in mind, here are some easy guidelines for incorporating internal links into your content:
While writing content, consider how the pages on your website relate to each other.
Maybe you're writing a blog about the statute of limitations for motor vehicle accident claims. This could easily link back to your main auto accident page, not to mention a host of related topics, such as pedestrian accidents, motorcycle accidents, insurance bad faith, or your FAQ. Keeping a holistic view of your website content like this is a good idea in general for keeping pages distinct and grouping topics effectively.
Already have content? Look for opportunities to provide curious users more information.
Perhaps you have already written a premises liability page and are looking to provide links to/from the page. It's likely that the page mentions related topics that are discussed in your blog, or in related pages. Feel free to link out to the blogs where relevant. Perhaps you have a blog discussing the unique legal aspects of pool injuries. Or maybe you want to link to a case result discussing a huge settlement your firm secured for a family involving a drowning incident. The possibilities are only limited by the content on your website.
Use natural-language linking.
A critical aspect of internal linking is making sure that the links are user-friendly. As a result, links should not all carry the same keywords when going to the same page. If you have 50 in-content links going to your auto accident page, some of them could say "car accidents," others "car wreck claims," and others "auto accident attorney in Los Angeles." The point is making the language for your link as natural as the people reading it--and not like something written by bots, for bots. Think of it this way: variety in anchor text means you get to give Google more hints about your intent for each page.
Don't overdo it.
On the subject of user-friendliness, bear in mind that links, like all other forms of SEO, require a tempered approach. Some pages require more; some require less; but no page requires a link on every single word. It's probably better to keep your pages closer to Wikipedia than to a news article that is 50% links. Remember how often you fell into the rabbit hole on Wikipedia without realizing it? That's a testament to their effective internal linking, and a good standard to follow.
Does the link make sense?
Finally, each internal link should make sense in the context of the page. Does your auto accident page mention vehicle-related deaths? This may be a great opportunity to link to the wrongful death page. This is not, however, a great place to link to your blog about an increase in deaths due to nursing home abuse. The user should have a reasonable expectation of what they will find when clicking the link--and so should Google! Remember, your goal is to provide a service. The better your service, the better your SEO.
With these fundamentals in mind, you are ready to renovate your website. Go and improve your content with healthy links--and if you are ever unsure about how to proceed, contact your friendly neighborhood SEO team.
Do Meta Tags Matter for SEO Anymore?
If you have ever talked with an SEO expert at length, you very likely heard about the meta descriptions on your website. While these may seem complicated, mysterious, or even magical, they are actually pretty simple. Meta data boils down to a set of tags in the header of page HTML that is used to tell Google a little more about your website. We are going to talk about three types of meta tags in this article, in order of their relevance to SEO: keywords, descriptions, and titles.
Meta Keywords: No SEO Value. Meta keywords were once a standard part of optimizing your web page. Nowadays, they are no longer used for SEO; in fact, they may even function as a liability for your website. While this has been common knowledge for several years, we still see them discussed from time to time and do our part to discourage their use.
Meta Descriptions: Indirect SEO Value. Page descriptions are invisible to users 95% of the time. The other 5% of the time, they are sitting in plain sight in search results. Because Google no longer uses descriptions for SEO, it is good to focus meta descriptions on conversions. Depending on the page, your description can have a brief page summary or serve as a miniature marketing pitch complete with a hook, information, and CTA (Call To Action). The choice is yours, but remember--the goal is to get users to click on your website from SERPs. If a word in your description matches a search query, it can show up bolded, which may encourage clicks. Oh, and Google will often ignore your description altogether, so don't get too hung up on it. Just don't load up the description with keywords.
Page Titles: Ongoing SEO Value. Page titles, represented in code by the <title> tag, are the most relevant tag for SEO purposes. When writing a title tag, it is important that your title aligns with the overarching topic of the page. Is this an auto accident page? Perhaps your title could read, Los Angeles Auto Accident Attorneys | Law Office Name, P.C. Likewise, a blog might simply use the article title in the tag. You may also consider the firm name, phone number, or a selling point. Just keep things short (<60 characters) and bear in mind that you can use the following symbols to separate parts of your header: - |.
If you are ever unsure about what to put in your meta descriptions, the best way to research is by performing a search and seeing what your competitors have. Then try to do something better.
If you have WordPress or another CMS, you can typically edit meta tags using a plugin such as Yoast All-in-One SEO. You can also update tags using good old-fashioned HTML, but we always encourage you to check base with your coder or marketing company before editing the HTML on a website.