Attorneys who are building or updating a website often spend a great deal of time focusing on the graphic layout – which is important — but fail to create content that’s designed to attract search engines. The result is often a website that looks great, but draws almost no visitors.
Even if your firm has limited resources for writing content, there are some basic rules you should pay attention to if you want any concrete results from your new website.
In just the past few years, the competition bar for online marketing has risen a great deal in the legal profession. No matter what practice areas you work in, you’re now likely to find that at least some of your competitors have clearly invested in making their websites search engine-friendly. Here are some basics, and then a few advanced tips, that can help your firm’s web content stand out more online.
Less is More
If you have a large practice with many attorneys and varied specialties, you’ll naturally want to have some information about each on your website. But being as broad and wide as possible is not a winning strategy when it comes to search engines. You have a much greater chance of drawing potential clients online if you hone in on a particular specialty, and make your site communicate that you have a unique level of skill or an unusual approach to it. Clients don’t usually have 10 different cases in hand when they go looking for a lawyer on Google. They have one case, and they’re looking for someone who looks uniquely qualified to handle it.
Local, Regional or National?
Ask yourself if it makes sense to try and attract only local business, or if you have a real shot at drawing clients from outside your area. It’s generally only the very largest firms that compete on a truly national basis. But a client I recently built a website for in construction law was a good example where regional marketing made sense. Because many localities don’t have a practitioner in construction law, his firm can draw from an area several hundred miles wide.
Your website content should integrate your geographic reach. If you practice mainly in the New York area, for example, make sure to use headlines like “New York Litigation Attorney” and integrate the phrase “New York area” into your pages and posts. If you don’t, your website will be competing for attention with all the large, national law practices who have invested far more in content than you.
You obviously need to make the pages on your site as readable and interesting as possible. But it’s also important to remember that Google is not a person. It’s a machine, and it decides who to put at the top of search engine results based largely on some simple content mechanics.
Titles, Keywords and Descriptions
“Meta” content is the code beneath your pages you don’t see that Google uses to rank you. It’s relatively easy to control, at least on most websites, even if you have zero technical skill.
The back end of most modern websites, where you put in the headline and body of your page, has spaces for you to put in a meta title, meta description and meta keywords. In simple terms, you want to make sure that if you’re page is about criminal law, that the term “criminal law” appears in the meta title, meta description and at least a few times in the body of your article (Don’t worry too much about meta keywords. People have over-stuffed their pages with keywords for so long that Google doesn’t even look at them any more).
Google actually needs a bit of help to understand what your page is about. If you make it easier by making your meta tags re-enforce the content on your pages, you have a better chance of getting closer to the top of search engine results. (In a future blog post, I’ll look more in depth at the do’s and don’t’s of search engine marketing, and how certain site plugins can make it easier for you.)
Ongoing Blog Development
If you do have someone in your practice who can write on an ongoing basis about cases you’re working on or new developments in your field, by all means have them create regular posts. Having a blog on your site can be a great way to show your expertise on a wider variety of topics (most modern sites have a blog function within the content management system). It can also help you win more with the search engines, which generally place a higher value on the most recent content. Blog posts don’t have to be long.
If you’re one of the lucky ones who likes to write, blog content can be relatively easy to produce. Because I work with attorneys on their websites all the time, I can essentially write an article like this one “off the top of my head.” You may find you can do the same about issues you work on every day.
If you are doing marketing for a very large, national firm, a very significant investment in website content may be justified. But for the medium or small-sized practice, following just a few basic rules can help give your site pages more punch in the search engine world, and help you get a better return on your online marketing investment.