SEO Basics – Law firm search engine optimization
If you’ve found your way to this website, chances are that you are interested in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and how it can affect your law firm website. SEO is indeed a powerful tool when it comes to websites of any kind, and is by far the most cost effective way to market in today’s world. But what exactly is SEO anyway?
Law Firm Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization essentially refers to the process of getting a website ranked higher on search engine results. If your website is not on the first page of results, it is effectively invisible to potential clients, which makes this process absolutely crucial when it comes to expanding your business through internet marketing. There are numerous ways in which to optimize your site, which we will get into later. First, it is helpful to consider exactly how search engines work.
How Search Engines Work
There are a couple different types of search engine, and they function in different ways.
The most popular type of search engine is called a crawler based engine. This type of search engine uses software agents called spiders to search the web and constantly update the engine with new information about all the websites out there; this information is then stored in a large database. The search engine then determines how relevant a website is to your search terms by applying an algorithm; these algorithms are constantly changing and are kept secret by search engine companies. Google is a crawler based search engine.
A second type, the directory search engine, uses human agents instead of software ones. In this type of organization, people working for the engine go out and view pages, decide how to categorize them and provide descriptions which will be used to determine how relevant the page is to your search terms. LookSmart is an example of a directory search engine.
Finally, there are hybrid search engines such as MSN and Yahoo, which use both human and software results to organize their listings.
Legal Search Engine Results
Search engines display two types of listings when you make a search: those sites which paid for prominent listings, known as paid inclusion or pay per click advertisements, and those sites which did not pay, displayed simply because they are determined to be most relevant to your search.
The second type is known as organic search results, and it is this type of results that SEO is mainly concerned with. Pay per click advertisements can be useful, but they can also be costly, especially when it comes to highly competitive search terms. It is important to use organic SEO to get the most out of your advertising dollar; in some situations it can generate the same amount of traffic at a fraction of the price.
Legal Keywords – Law firm search engine optimization
Keywords are essentially the words people will search to find your site in a search engine. Keywords are the real “key” to search engine optimization, and in the word of lawyer websites, many keywords have a very high level of competition, as effective keywords insure your website is ranked near the top for the most commonly used search strings.
Choosing the right keywords for your website is absolutely crucial, and should be one of the first things you do – but it’s not easy. If you want a lot of traffic to your site, you will have to think carefully about what lawyer related keywords you want to focus on with your website. These keywords must be effectively inserted into the coding of your site, and even more importantly, into the content of your site. Keyword density and positioning are two highly important factors in determining a website’s position on the results list.
Law Firm Keyword Selection
Using your keywords effectively is a much easier task than actually choosing them in the first place. First off, you must research what people are searching for when they are looking for your service. For example, are people typing “DUI Lawyer Los Angeles?” Or is “DWI Los Angeles Law Firm” more popular? Researching requires that you consider hundreds of keywords for your legal website, in terms of popularity and competition.
If you don’t choose the right words, people will never be able to find you through as search engine, and your law firm website will be effectively invisible. It is important to focus on both those keywords which reflect your law firm’s services and those which contain your firm’s name and related subjects.
Law Firm Keywords and Website Coding
Keywords are also an essential part of law firm website coding. If you are constructing your own law firm website by yourself, you must have your keywords prepared before you begin to create web pages or write content. Keywords must be inserted into META tags, heading text, bold text, lists, and page titles, and it is much less time consuming to do this in the first place than to go back and do it later.
Law Firm Content
Content is the most important part of just about any website – after all, take away the content, and there’s no real reason to even have a website in the first place. The first priority of your content is to provide information to the website’s visitors. In the case of law firms, these visitors are potential clients, and your online content is a direct representation of your firm.
You must be able to tastefully present solidly written content in order to convince visitors that they should trust you to be their lawyer, and the importance of this cannot be stressed enough. However, the content on your law firm website must contain enough keywords to be search engine optimized. You must consider the merits of search engine optimized content for your law firm website if you want to compete for the best keywords.
This means there is a careful balancing act when writing content about your law firm as you are essentially catering to two audiences – humans and robots.
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Law Firm Website Coding – Law firm search engine optimization
Your law firm website’s coding is also an important part of search engine optimization. There are several things that must be done correctly to make your website more accessible to search engine spiders from the “backend,” including improving your navigation, meta tagging, directories, and site maps.
It’s important not to sacrifice too much in catering to those robots, however. For example, hypertext links are easier for a spider to index than navigation buttons, but that doesn’t mean you should just have text links as the only way to get around your law firm website – it would be cumbersome and ugly to the human visitors.
In the end, it is those human visitor who will be spending money on your services, not the robots, and it is important to keep that in mind when it comes to search engine optimization.
Law Firm Website Navigation
Website navigation is important to both the human and robot visitors to your website. Without a clear navigation scheme people may be unable to find the areas of your law firm’s site that they wish to visit and will end up leaving in frustration. And without SEO optimized scheme, search engine crawlers will be unable to index as much of your site, meaning less information for the search engine to go on when it is determining your website’s relevance to search terms.
A website successful navigation system should enable both humans and robots the traverse the site with ease.
Law Firm Website Directories
Directories are important when it comes to the organization of your site and how it is interpreted by search engine spiders. As a rule, the files which are located closest to your “root” directory are the most important parts of your site.
There are two essential documents which must be located in the root directory, the first of which is the home page of your website, usually called index.html. The second is the “Robots Exclusion Protocol,” usually named robots.txt, which tells spiders which things you do not want them to index – useful in certain circumstances to optimize your site.
It is a good idea to put up to two hundred of the most important or central pages of your website at the root level, as these pages will then be given more importance by search engines.
HTML Tags for Law Firm Web Pages
Tags are parts of the HTML code of your law firm website which give a description of the current web page being viewed. There are several different types tags on each web page, and while the importance of tags has depreciated in recent years, they are still a useful part of any SEO strategy.
For keyword META tags, you should use those keywords you feel best represent the individual web page while avoiding excessive repetition as it gets your sit lowered in rankings.
The description META tags are where you put a short description of the page, and the first few words are given the most importance.
Other self-explanatory HTML tags include the title tag, the headline tag, and body text, in order of importance as viewed by search engine crawlers.
Law Firm SEO Results Tracking – Law firm search engine optimization
An important part of any search engine optimization campaign is tracking your results. No one wants to put in a lot of work and not see any benefits, after all.
Performance tracking on your site can help you continue to fine tune your optimization efforts, and works hand in hand with pay per click campaigns as well. Obtaining quality results data is a must for your law firm website’s SEO to be effective.
Law Firm Website Traffic Statistics
There are all sorts of statistics which are valuable to a webmaster in tracking the effects of his search engine optimization campaign.
First is simply the number of visitors to your website, organized by the hour, day, week and month. This number tells you how successfully you have marketed your website, what times are busiest for your site, and what sort of visitor trends your site is going through. Hourly traffic reports are especially important so that you and your web staff know when to update your content and do site maintenance.
Website Entrances and Exits
It is important to find out on which pages visitors usually enter and exit your law firm website. This lets you know what sort of introduction-type material on your firm you should put on your site and where, as well as what parts of your site are driving people away and need to be improved, in terms of content, graphics or layout.
Law Firm Search Engine Data
Another statistic useful to track search engine data – which search engines you are getting the most traffic from, and what keywords people are searching when they find you. This information can help you to further optimize your site and dominate certain keywords or place further PPC advertisements.
Other useful information includes data on visitor country of origin, operating systems, web browsers, languages, IP addresses and repeat visitors. All of these factors are important when it comes to building a site which is targeted to a specific audience.
Link Building for Legal Websites – Law firm search engine optimization
One of the more important aspects of search engine optimization these days is the process of link building – getting your site linked up with other sites on the Internet. Search engines are an important source of traffic, but inbound links will often provide a large share of the visitors to a given website.
In addition, search engines place enormous value on links, viewing them as authorities which are vouching for your law firm website, and consequently will reward you with higher rankings. As you can see, getting your website linked to other, reputable sites can work wonders. Of course, it isn’t easy.
You must choose your partners carefully if you want to establish quality inbound traffic through reciprocal link building. You must do your research, much like deciding on keywords for your site; potential partners must be based on your keywords, intended audience, and website content. The link partners you want are websites that are complimentary to your own; sites that contain content relevant to your law firm but do not compete directly with it.
Establishing a link with a legal press release website would be a benefit to your website, while linking to a competing law firm in your area would probably not help you, and might take away from your business.
Search engines also evaluate the quality of link referrals to you website, similar to how you might value a wine recommendation from a sommelier more than one from your hairdresser.
Requesting Links from Complimentary Legal Websites
So you’ve identified a potential linking partner for your law firm website, now what? To establish links, you must reach out and contact the webmaster of the site, promoting a reciprocal links exchange and listing the benefits to both of your businesses.
Carefully targeted link requests must be made in a professional manner, and the mutual benefits of the relationship should be stressed. Not all of the sites you write will accept you as a linking partner; after all, your website is relatively new and unproven. Building up links in this manner is difficult and time consuming and there are no computer automated shortcuts, but it is the best way to establish your site in a well linked network of relevant sites that will send visitors flocking.
Remember, without links to sites that will help target your audience, potential customers simply will not be able to find you. Of course, there are always sites you can pay to host your links, but if you go this route, you’ll have to weigh it against spending the money on a PPC campaign.
Law Firm Pay Per Click Campaigns – Law firm search engine optimization
Pay Per Click or PPC advertising campaigns are a form of internet advertising in which search engines will put a sponsored link to your website at the top of search results. In exchange, you must pay them for each visitor that comes to your site through that link, and the cost per click or CPC can be very high for competitive keywords – DUI lawyer, for example.
Pay Per Click advertising offers some key benefits that regular SEO cannot; it is a much more measurable and controllable form of advertising.
Law Firm Pay Per Click Basics
Pay Per Click campaigns can be a good strategy for law firms with larger marketing budgets interested in generating a large amount of continuous traffic to their website. The most popular PPC search engines are Google, with their AdWords program, and Overture.
Other than Google and Overture, there are some secondary PPC options, such as second tier search engines like FindWhat, international search engines, and industry portals and publications. As with any other keywords, the keywords you invest money into for a PPC campaign must be thoroughly analyzed.
For law firm PPC keywords, however, there can be a different strategy involved; sometimes it is better to go after the second best keywords instead of the best ones, as the drop off in price more than offsets the drop off in popularity.
Law Firm Pay Per Click Management
A PPC campaign must also be carefully managed to insure that it is providing an optimal return on your investment. For example, your organic SEO may have already positioned your law firm’s website high on the results list for a keyword; in this case, it would be wise to spend money on a PPC advertising campaign for a different lawyer related key word where your firm is not as visible.
Good law firm website performance analysis provides crucial information to this end. Remember that PPC links will only improve your business if it targets the correct search terms. A well run PPC campaign requires you to apply plenty of time and effort into research, analysis and management.