The Search Engine Guys & SEO
For more than a decade, The Search Engine Guys have established a notable track record of success in optimizing sites for businesses across the United States and Canada. While we’ve helped companies across a wide variety of industries, we specialize in helping clients in the legal field be found on the web.
We understand that lawyer SEO prospects are often in a vulnerable position when they Google “seo for lawyers” to find a solution. We understand the stress and frustration lawyers feel when they search for themselves and see the competition dominating the coveted first page placements. Most importantly, we understand that attorneys need to develop a relationship of increasing trust with clients using their online resources.
TSEG’s experience finds its strength in developing search marketing strategies and cutting-edge websites designed to convert prospects into clients with straightforward information.
One of the most important things we do for your law firm is keep on top of fast-moving developments in the search world. Google, which has 85 percent of the search market, is constantly updating its search algorithm. These updates can significantly impact your search rankings, but Google never reveals the specifics of what was updated. SEO professionals, like TSEG, have to go through a process of deducing exactly what got updated and which sites are affected. Then we develop a strategy to work with the update to reestablish and improve search rankings on your most important keywords.
Another important thing we’ve learned on our journey is that SEO is a process, not an event. At the heart of SEO is an iterative process that is constantly measuring traffic, engagement, conversions and continuously analyzing the data to make sure you are getting the most out of your website. SEO never sleeps, and SEO is definitely not dead. Law firm marketing will always be highly competitive, and your competitors will keep trying to steal your search position and traffic by making their own SEO moves.
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This means you need a long term SEO partner; one who is familiar with your website’s purpose, performance, and history, and who can continually come up with actionable search strategy ideas. It is our business to provide optimized-for-search content solutions to keep your website fresh and engaging to your prospects. Most of our clients have been with us for years. They stay because they know we never rest on our laurels and we keep providing them with solutions to maintain and improve their search rankings.
SEO’s Role in Digital Marketing
Before detailing the unique characteristics of Lawyer SEO, we need to establish a broader understanding of general, basic SEO.
Starting with the early days of the world wide web, people began to delve into the digital world for the first time. By connecting your computer to a phone or ethernet cable, you could have access to millions of websites with content covering information like news, entertainment, and eventually business. Early adopters of the internet likely remember that feeling of “connectedness” when they could spend long periods of time finding new websites, or “surfing” the internet. Over decades of technological advancements, we now find ourselves in a world where being connected online is, arguably, a necessity for day to day life. Gone are the days where we let our minds ponder questions; and we have no one better to thank than Google.
Google (and search engines in general) played a pivotal role in the evolution of the buying process. Both marketers and buyers have almost traded positions in the buying process due to the concept of attention economics. First conceived by social scientist, Herbert Simon, attention economics is best explained in his words:
“In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients.” – Herbert A. Simon
This idea is relevant today more than ever because of how deeply connected to the internet people are. When buyers are shopping for a product or service that they need, they are no longer confined to the messaging that businesses craft in their advertising. Today, buyers have the internet to research products, companies, people, and reviews themselves to find the one that is best for them.
It’s no question that we’re living in a time where the buying process has shifted balance from the traditionally dominant “sellers finding buyers” to a modern “buyers finding sellers” structure. This is where Search Engine Optimization finds its origin.
With “buyers finding sellers” in mind, let’s visualize internet traffic as real-life, tires-on-roads traffic. If a business’ physical store is on a busy road, like a highway, it’s likely to be seen more times than a business on a less busy road, which would attract more people to shop and potentially make a purchase. Now imagine moving the store to a road whose drivers all happen to be interested in the store’s goods. This idea of being easily found by users most interested in your product/service is the foundation of TSEG’s SEO. We help businesses that want to be found on search engines by creating and optimizing websites for users with high intent to purchase.
People use Google to hunt down information they need at the moment. They need to know the product, service, or information your company provides, and your company could be just a click away.
A website that has been optimized to show up when someone searches for your services will attract more visitors, generate more leads, and ultimately convert those leads into paying clients.
Effective SEO and a quality website are some of the best tools for inbound marketing out there. Your customer comes to you when they are most open to your marketing messaging. Because they found you themselves, the question of credibility is already partially answered.
They want what you offer, and they want you to explain why your solution is best for them. There is no skepticism as this relationship between prospect and provider is initiated by the searcher. With outbound marketing like advertising, commercials, direct mail, and phone solicitation, law firms have to work hard to cut through the clutter and get their messages to the right person. None of that exists when a potential client searches for you and clicks on the search engine result that leads them to your website. For these reasons, leads from organic search have a 14.6 percent close rate, compared to 1.7 percent for outbound marketing.
Ranking for keywords shouldn’t be your only focus when it comes to SEO. Ranking for the right keywords that will drive actual business to your website should be. To do so requires patience, a deep knowledge of how search engines operate, and a proven search optimization strategy.
How Do The Search Engines Work?
When looking for a product, service, or any information that has been indexed by the major search engines, the searcher opens Google Search or Bing, types in a query based on a keywords or a phrase, and hits “enter.” Immediately, a search engine results page (SERP) pops up. The first page contains several ad listings at the top and the bottom, a pack of map listings (for local search results, specificially) and will display several organic listings. For most searches, there is a near-infinite number of subsequent pages you can sift through to find what you want and click on it.
SEO for Lawyers
Here’s the hard truth about lawyer SEO: if you’re not on the first page, it’s not likely that anyone is going to find you. This is the reason that search engine optimization (or the quest to signal to Google that your site should be featured above others) exists. There have been many studies that indicate that 90 percent of searchers will select from just the first three listings, 75 percent will select from the first five listings, 50 percent will see and select from the first SERP page (in other words, from the first 10 organic listings), and only 25 percent will look at the first five listings on the second page. And then it tails off to nothing.
(Graphic with SERP CTRs)
If you are not on that critical first SERP for your keywords, you are invisible to your target market. This is the harsh reality that drives the legal SEO industry. This is why you need an experienced and talented SEO partner to optimize your website.
Why SEO Has Become So Important for Law Firms
When it comes to search performance, lawyers at any size firm, from sole practitioners to managing partners have realized the power of an optimized website. They believe in it because they have seen it work for their peers. They have seen their competitors bring in a stream of new clients using Google and Bing search and they want their website to also bring in some of those incredibly valuable leads.
But why does SEO work so well for law firms? One important reason is that finding the right law firm for a lawsuit or other legal problem is a high-information sale. The prospect has to find out if the firm has a practice in a specific area, like personal injury, criminal defense, medical malpractice, family law, etc. The visitor also needs to get a sense of the firm’s experience handling specific cases, including case results and client testimonials, as well as a sense of how they are going to be treated. And they need to be able to comparison shop to find the best option for them.
The second reason SEO works well for attorneys is that legal practices are highly localized. The attorneys must be licensed to practice in a given state, of course. But more than that, people will typically choose a law firm that is geographically close. Combine that with the fact that people will also search on their specific legal need, and you will get search queries like “Fairfield dog bite lawyer,” or “Denver truck accident attorney,” or “Chula Vista divorce lawyer.” That level of specificity works well with SEO because it is easier to rank well on highly specific keywords. And, as we have seen, if a law firm ranks well for queries related to their practice areas, they will get calls from potential clients.
In other words, a television commercial or print ad brochure is simply not going to do the job, especially for people who are used to buying online. A website can provide page after page of relevant information, all in a single visit. The law is text-driven, and so are websites.
Why It’s So Important To Choose an Agency You Can Trust
While many law firms have found that SEO is an excellent way to attract new clients, some are unsure how to go about it. Do they hire an agency or hire in-house SEO?
We believe the best way to harness the power of SEO is to find an SEO partner who is as knowledgeable about search marketing as your team is about the practice of law. SEO is its own science and requires many different skills, including proficiency with internet marketing and advertising tools, data analysis, educated research, writing and communications skills, campaign reporting, web programming, and several other highly sought-after skills.
What you get from a long-term working relationship with an SEO partner goes way beyond a few search rankings and some good leads. For example, a good SEO will continually monitor everything that is happening with your website’s analytics and search console to uncover insights about your traffic’s demographics and behavior. You will know what your traffic volume is, what keywords visitors searched on to get to your website, what they did when they got to your website and how many pages they visited and how long they stayed on those pages. This is just the beginning of the knowledge you will acquire about your customers. On the other hand, law firms that do not invest in SEO not only have less measurable and less valuable traffic, they also have no sense of what their potential customer’s needs are and therefore have no information about how to meet those needs. They will be marketing in the dark while your firm will be gaining more, and more valuable insights about what your customers need.
PPC vs. SEO
Some law firms feel they can bypass a lengthy and complex organic search optimization program by only buying ads on Google AdWords. What they do not realize is that website visits from paid search (called “click-through rates” or CTR) are much lower than organic CTR: paid search CTRs are roughly 3.5 percent of clicks, while organic CTRs are nearly 40 percent of clicks. Additionally, there is evidence that having both a paid search ad and an organic listing on the same page can leverage both and lead to more clicks to your website. There are many ways to structure a paid and organic campaign for maximum leverage, and an experienced SEO like TSEG will work with you to find the program that meets your goals.
What Does Google Consider “Good” SEO?
Expertise – Authority – Trustworthiness is the standard.
Google has not made a practice of telling the public how their search algorithm works or what they consider to be a well-optimized page that should go to the top of a SERP. As with so much of organic search, we were operating in the dark and drawing inference after inference gleaned from years of studying search results pages.
That is, until now. In 2019, after a year that saw literally thousands of search algorithm updates coming out of Google, the company decided to show the SEO world a little mercy and released a long memo concerning how Google evaluates the quality of content. While it’s good information to have, everyone in the search and content development worlds were struck by the rigor of the standards. The Google content standard consists of 20 questions grouped into four topics: Content and Quality, Expertise, Presentation and Production, and Comparative questions. The questions included things like:
- “Does the content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis?”
- “Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?”
- “Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?”
- “Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?”
- “Was the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?”
- “Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
Let’s break down what Google is looking for when it assembles a SERP. The operative assumption about Google’s vetting is “E-A-T”, for expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. Websites that get to the top of a SERP are well-researched, clearly written and covers the topic thoroughly at sufficient length to be useful to the searcher.
They Say “Content is King”…Is That True? How Do You Create and Optimize Content?
Because Google wants you to demonstrate E-A-T to your site’s visitors, one of the most effective ways is through quality content. By writing well-researched, informative pages that explain your company’s products or services to the reader, you can satisfy Google’s quality requirements and also (hopefully) convert site visitors to clients.
To do this yourself, you’ll want to commit to writing content that is readable, and informative. While Google has not released a “recommended word count,” you’ll want to write enough to give the reader a good understanding of what you’re offering, yet not so much that they are overwhelmed by what’s on the page.
You’ll want to structure your content so that it is readable for people viewing the site on their laptops, at desktops, or on their mobile phones. You’ll also want to interlink the pages you create so that readers can easily navigate to other pages to learn even more. This interlinking essentially creates a “wiki” out of your website, allowing visitors to flow through the site as they learn more about you and your business.
If all of this sounds like a lot of work on top of your normal daily to-do list, it can be. That’s why so many people turn to professionals like us to handle the creation of high-quality content that will help establish E-A-T.
We write content to meet and exceed Google’s quality standards, properly optimize with the recommended number of keywords per page and correctly write the meta tags, like the title tag and meta description, as recommended. It is really a process of building the content the right way, and the details are important.
Writing quality content means meeting our own rigorous standards of quality. We adhere to the grammatical and punctuation standards many content agencies are barely cognizant of. We know how to aim the content at the right level audience, never talking down to them, or writing content that pleases us and not the reader. There is no point to writing a new page for a website if there is no insightful analysis on the page. Anything else is merely more of the same, and that is not good enough. Plus, we know how the optimal length a page needs to be to garner searches and search position. Many websites have pages that are simply too short to do well in a Google SERP, or so long they dilute their own keywords.
Once we produce quality content containing insightful analysis that adds depth to your website, we carefully develop a linking strategy that connects the elements of your content together in a way that will help with page rankings. It is important to insert a page into a content strategy in the right place, with keyword taxonomies that complement each other and provide Google with insight on what the content of the website is about, and what questions it seeks to answer for searchers.
Now, you could do this for yourself, but, as you can see, the devil is in the detail. We are professional content creators and we have a well-developed quality control hierarchy that ensures we do every step correctly. When our content is posted to your site, it will immediately start working for your business.
What we will do to optimize your website for search.
The Search Engine Guys will optimize your website according to our proprietary roadmap, including a focus on getting sending signals to the search engines through quality inbound links, internal linking, schemas, local signals, and page-load speed.
We will identify quality keywords, looking for those keywords that offer an opportunity for you to compete in your practice area and in your desired market. We want keywords that drive quality visitors to your site. It’s our goal to bring potential clients to you, and once they’re on your site, we want to see them convert by calling you, filling out a contact form, or by chatting with you online. We assemble a keyword list that has three kinds of keywords:
basically several versions of your practice’s name. You do not want to miss a visitor because they didn’t know your law firm was “Blackstone Thurwell Group,” not “Blackstone Thurwell Law Firm.”
These are the keywords for specific practice areas that you want to be found on. Things like “personal injury lawyer,” “car accident attorney,” “divorce attorney,” “medical malpractice lawyer,” etcetera. We will localize them by preceding each keyword with a geographic identifier (“Hartford motorcycle accident lawyer”) to make it easier to get good rankings and pull people to your website.
Keywords that encourage a conversion by suggesting a specific action, like “contact us so we can call you for a free consultation,” or “chat live with our representative.”
Once we have a good list, we select specific keywords to go on the most appropriate page.
Meta data are tags that Google reads to help determine what your website is about, or a searcher reads to find out more about you. There are three primary meta data tags for optimization:
This is the single most important search-related data signal for your web pages. The title tag contains the primary keywords for that page, and Google archives pages based upon the title tags. The title tag is 62 characters (with spaces) long, so it is important to choose keywords carefully so that fit into that limit. At the same time, it is best to not “stuff” keywords into a title tag, because it is an important part of any search listing. This is why it is best to use keywords judiciously and grammatically when writing a title tag
The meta description tag is around 155 characters long with spaces. It’s function is not related to search per se, but rather is the first opportunity to convert someone who searched on your keyword. The SERP will be a list of websites presented by title tag, URL and meta description. The meta description is a small piece of “sell” copy that should engage the prospect so he or she will click on your listing. It does not have to contain keywords, but it makes sense to include some in the tag because that is what the searcher is looking for.
Meta Keywords tag
Not archived by Google, but it is archived by Bing. It is a list of keywords used on that page.
Interlinks, or internal linking
There is no such thing as a website, according to Google. There is a group of web pages under a specific domain. But to human beings who read websites, there has to be a rational way to navigate through those pages to find the information they need. A good, clear internal linking structure is very important to the visitor’s user experience (UX). We will work with you to strategically link pages in a way that shepherds your visitors to the information they need to make a decision. The linking structure should be created with a content map in mind,and may websites nonchalant this important step in creating a great informational site.
Backlinks are links to your website from other websites. There was a time when backlinks were SEO, and Google was founded on the insight that backlinks are indicative of a quality website. But too many people gamed the system and Google cracked down on spammy, irrelevant backlinks. Good backlinks take patience and perseverance to accumulate, but a good link from a reputable domain, like a well-known company, online publication or government agency, will do wonders for your search rankings on the keywords used in the link itself, or on the page being linked from. TSEG does have strategies and programs to develop backlinks for your website.
Google has a wonderful program called Google My Business (GMB) that gives every website owner the opportunity to be found in local searches, which is very important for law firms. TSEG will make sure your GMB listing is complete and it presents your business in an attractive and thorough manner.
It is important that your website load quickly, especially if many of your prospects are coming to your site from mobile devices. We will review your website to ensure that all images, charts, graphs and other elements are not too “heavy” and your web pages load quickly. We do not want to lose anybody along the way. We will also review your site pages to verify they are encrypted to proper security protocols like https or transfer layer security (TLS). These protocols ensure your pages are secure when they are transmitted on the web.
More SEO Terms to Know:
Crawling: The process by which search engines discover your web pages.
Featured snippets: Organic answer boxes that appear at the top of SERPs for certain queries.
Google Quality Guidelines: Published guidelines from Google detailing tactics that are forbidden because they are malicious and/or intended to manipulate search results.
Indexing: The storing and organizing of content found during crawling.
Intent: In the context of SEO, intent refers to what users really want from the words they typed into the search bar.
Internal links: Links on your own site that point to your other pages on the same site.
Organic: Earned placement in search results, as opposed to paid advertisements.
Query: Words typed into the search bar.
Ranking: Ordering search results by relevance to the query.
Search engine: An information retrieval program that searches for items in a database that match the request input by the user. Examples: Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
SERP: Stands for “search engine results page” — the page you see after conducting a search.
Sitemap: A list of URLs on your site that crawlers can use to discover and index your content.
Traffic: Visits to your website.
Title tag: An HTML element that specifies the title of a web page.