Speakers:

Guy Alvarez, Chief Engagement Officer, Good2bSocial Mary M. Trice, Digital & Marketing Communications Manager, Winston & Strawn LLP
 
Jennifer Buechele Schaller, Managing Director, National Law Review
 

 

You hear about it all the time and know it’s important for your firm, yet you might feel as if you need a master’s degree to understand search engine optimization (SEO). The SEO workshop at LMA Tech West 2018 offered actionable tips and insights to help bridge the gap between theory and application.

Below, we begin with an overview of the four components of SEO. In section two, we discuss how search engines rank content based on relevance and domain authority with insights on technical, on-page and off-page SEO to make your site perform better. In the third section we discuss how to create SEO-friendly content with insights on ideation and copywriting, as well as tips for creating multimedia and writing article titles that attract attention and clicks.

I. Overview

There are four components of an effective SEO strategy.

  1. Technical SEO

Technical SEO allows Google and other search engines to properly crawl and index your site, making you generally easier to find.

  1. On-Page SEO

On-page SEO includes keywords, page titles, meta tags and meta descriptions, some of which are also aspects of technical SEO. It influences the relevance search engine bots accessing and crawling your site’s content, but more importantly, it should make it easy for human clients to find you based on their own semantics.

For example, clients aren’t going to search for “premises liability,” they’re going to search for “slip and fall,” or something to that effect.

  1. Off-Page SEO

This has a lot to do with domain authority, which is strongly influenced by the number and quality of links you have linking to your site. Domain authority is a rating determining how well a site will rank on a search engine results page. Not all links are created equal, though. Having a link from a high domain authority website is going to get you a lot more juice than getting a link from a mom and pop blog.

  1. Local SEO

Even if you don’t have a geographic focus, you need strong local SEO, including a physical address. Google looks to over 100 online directories to make sure your physical location appears in them. “Local SEO is emerging as a very important factor in how your site ranks,” noted one speaker.

II. Semantic Search: The Future of SEO Relevance

“Google evaluates content according to its relevance—and not by inclusion of individual keywords.” – Searchmetrics

Google does its best to keep people from gaming the system, and it has become far more difficult for people with poor quality or irrelevant content to rank using search engine “hacks.” SEO has more to do with being genuinely helpful and user-friendly than being technically clever.

The cornerstones of semantic search include keyword placement within content, mobile-friendly, well-designed sites and high-quality, relevant backlinks.

  1. General tips
    • Having meta descriptions on all the pages that matter is both important and well within your scope of control.
    • With mobile devices quickly becoming the preferred medium for browsing, having a mobile-friendly site is indispensable. Although it’s become standard with some site builders, it’s not to be taken for granted.
    • Having an HTTPS certification is an important “trust” factor, especially if you have payment processing on-site.
    • There are various ways to get quality backlinks, including reciprocity and guest blogging on other sites.
    • Social signals such as shares, followers, likes and mentions also influence organic search engine rankings.
  1. Internal and external links

Be aware of the ratio of text to the number of links that you have on your page, and be sure your outbound links are appropriate and relevant. Internal links are important as well. Pages on your site that have high domain authority should be linked back to other pages on your site. Internal linking also helps keep people on site for longer periods, which signals to search engine bots that it’s a quality site.

Google has a freshness factor, so newer content outweighs older content, all things being equal. Understanding this can help you manage negative content.

  1. An important note on deleting pages

Make sure to implement a redirect if you ever delete a page (such as an attorney bio for someone who’s no longer with your firm) that has any domain authority. Google doesn’t like 404s. Do analysis before you do your redesign and you’ll save yourself frustration. Know the domain authority of each page and don’t kill a page with an authority of 40-plus without implementing a redirect. This is also a time you may wish to disavow or get rid of links that are performing poorly and dragging down your site’s ranking.

Do site audits with tools like SEMrush to identify broken links and 404 errors.

  1. Keyword selection and research tips

Keyword research is a discipline in itself, but here are some basics:

  1. Use long-tail keywords, which are easier to rank for and target the kinds of clients best-suited to you. For instance, instead of “intellectual property law,” a firm might use “cleantech patent attorney San Francisco” to get in front of the right audience.
  2. The auto populate function in your URL bar and the “Searches related to ___” section at the bottom of search engine results pages (SERPs) are good, quick and dirty keyword research tools.

Google Webmaster Tools is now called Google Search Console. It will show you what keywords your site is actually showing up for. Ask yourself (a) what keywords you want to show up for, and (b) which keywords you’re showing up for that aren’t relevant to your services.

III. Creating SEO-friendly Content

No digital strategy will work without a strong investment in content. Even if you use Google AdWords or paid social marketing, you need SEO-friendly content.

Ideation:

What kind of questions are your attorneys getting from clients? Ask them. Every one of those questions is a potential blog post. Write and crosslink helpful blog entries on these topics.

“Figuring out how to write SEO friendly content is more of an art than a science.”

7 tips for crafting attractive article titles:

  1. Search engines truncate titles longer than 65 characters, so lead with keywords if a title exceeds that length.
  2. Have the “Who” up front, e.g., “California Department of Corrections….”
  3. Use bracketed clarifications, e.g., [INFOGRAPHIC] or [VIDEO].
  4. Titles are not a place for vagueness. Be ultra-specific.
  5. Accompanying photos also increase click through rate (CTR).
  6. Meta should be entered manually or search engines will default to opening lines of articles.
  7. Ask questions in article titles or leads.

7 tips for multimedia:

  1. Using images to accompany text results in 65% better recall.
  2. Most consumers are more likely to contact a business when local search results are accompanied by images.
  3. Search engines can’t interpret photos, so it’s essential to use alternate text (alt text) for visual content.
  4. Articles with images get 94% more views than those without.
  5. In 2017, video content comprised 74% of internet traffic.
  6. Nearly two-thirds {64%} of consumers are more likely to purchase a product or service after watching a video.
  7. If you’re spending time on video, go the extra step and embed a transcript for the same reason you would include alt text with a photo.

Copywriting:

Go long. Short form articles are more likely to be tagged as “thin” content. Top-ranking posts exceed 1,000 words because they have greater depth of knowledge, and therefore, greater helpfulness. Long-form content typically means greater time on site, which similarly improves rankings.

Finally, attorney bios are huge drivers of traffic, accounting for around 80% of legal website traffic. They should be clear, relatable and in excess of 300 words.