Have you ever “Googled” yourself? What did you see? If you searched specifically for your name, your website is probably listed right at the top of the results page. But if you typed in a more general term related to your practice, you may find your website on the second page or even lower.
That’s because Google – the search engine giant – rank results according to a complex algorithm. This mathematical formula takes into account hundreds of different criteria when deciding which websites are the best match for a searcher’s query. There are many factors, but in general, Google is looking for credible websites with high quality, relevant and recent content. But ranking well is challenging so it’s important to have reasonable expectations and understand how to get the best overall visibility.
Understanding how Google ranks websites isn’t easy. The company does not readily disclose the parameters of its algorithm. Even professional search engine experts don’t know exactly how it works. And Google changes its formula 300 to 500 times a year, sometimes with a major release that can have a significant impact on your rankings.
Another challenge to earning a top position on the search page is the simple fact that ranking well is extremely competitive. There are only so many spots on that first page of results. If a competitor has a website that has earned more authority and offers better, more relevant, and more current content than yours, it will earn higher rankings. It takes a solid strategy and on-going management to keep your website competitive. Knowing how to improve your visibility — and what to avoid so your site isn’t penalized – is critical.
Here are six things attorneys should know to rank well on Google.
Ranking well is essential.
Understanding how Google works and how changes to your website can affect your ranking is extremely important for anyone doing business online. That’s because people rely on the Internet more each year for shopping, news, entertainment, weather, banking, and hiring professional services such as physicians and attorneys. Most of us head to Google for research and we tend to mostly review results on the first page. Having a strong online presence is critical to the business development for any attorney or law firm.
It’s impossible to rank first every time.
Even if you’ve built a high quality website and keep it up-to-date with useful, informative content, it is not possible to claim first page rankings for every appropriate search phrase. That’s because there are so many variables that come in to play, including search phrase variations, who the searcher is, where they’re located, their previous searches, and whether they’re searching on a phone, laptop or PC. To always rank well for every possible term you think is appropriate just isn’t going to happen. So keep your expectations in check, don’t get bogged down with every search phrase, and be sure to look at the bigger picture – your overall visibility.
There’s a lot of competition online.
Every website owner wants to be listed near the top of the page because that’s where most people click. But there are simply too many decent websites vying for those few spots. For example, the search term “Worcester attorney” brings up 869,000 results, while “Worcester attorney divorce” brings up 386,000. This includes solo practitioners, firms, and directories such as FindLaw and Avvo. If you want your site to rank well, you have to think carefully about what your prospects are likely to be looking for when they head to Google and you need to provide them that information. If you’re not investing the necessary resources to earn top rankings by establishing your website’s authority then you can not expect Google to reward you with first page rankings.
The way to Google’s heart is good content.
So how do you earn top rankings and differentiate yourself from all the other listings? Google wants searchers to have a good experience. That means pointing them to the most useful and relevant information when they search. Google rewards websites that are mobile-friendly and have high quality, well written pages of content and penalizes those that don’t. Be sure your site offers genuine value to visitors and prospective clients and isn’t just a brochure. Stagnant sites that are rarely updated will never be able to compete with sites that are dynamic and regularly publish relevant, high quality content.
The more specific, the better.
Online, general practitioners offering many areas of the law are up against attorneys with very specific practice areas. To enable the most qualified prospects to find you, you have to be very targeted. Think about what type of law pays the bills and that you enjoy doing. Then focus your website on two to three practice areas. Being broad only gets you so far. The more targeted you are with your content, the better success you will have ranking well for your search terms as well as attracting a better qualified prospect. You can not expect to rank if you do not provide the information people are looking for. In today’s online market-place, a paragraph or even a page describing your family law practice is simply not enough to compete with a website that is regularly publishing information discussing the detailed issues and nuances within family law.
Educated searchers are qualified prospects.
Searchers start very generally, using broad terms. For example, someone who may be considering divorce may initially search for “Massachusetts divorce process”. But within divorce there are many issues such as alimony, child support, custody and even restraining orders. As someone becomes more educated on the issues, their searches become more specific, including technical terms or legal jargon. When they are ready to find a solution, the search may evolve to more targeted phrases like “Divorce mediators in Boston” or “Boston complex asset division divorce attorneys”.
These people are highly qualified prospects. They know what they need and they are ready to hire an attorney. To reach these searchers, you need to be part of the discussion offering various articles and relevant content discussing the finer details of that particular practice area.
There may be hundreds or even thousands of attorneys in your geographic area. Massachusetts has nearly 50,000 practicing attorneys. Use these tips on how Google works to help prospects find you online, differentiate your practice, grow your business. For more information about establishing your firms online presence and maintaining a Google-friendly website, contact Bardorf Legal Marketing.