Originally posted in The National Law Journal on May 13, 2013
Search Engine Optimization — or SEO — is the art or science of search. Google, Bing, Yahoo and the others attempt to do the same thing: Match questions with answers. The point of SEO is to make what you post online line up with the questions your intended audience is asking.
Start by being helpful. For every 10 lawyers who object to giving away their expertise for free, another is building a reputation by answering pressing questions online, displaying his knowledge for the world to see. What is keeping your ideal client up at night? Write an alert, blog post or article that answers that question.
“Quantity isn’t really the key,” said Dan Goldstein, founder of Page 1 Solutions, which counsels professionals including attorneys about SEO. “Many times, lawyers equate more content with being better. But more important than that is how well can you answer the questions that people are asking. What research shows is that people start with a very broad query, but as you get more and more narrow and more and more specific, you are closer in the buying process for making a decision.” Ideally, your content will provide the answers potential clients are asking just before they decide whom to hire.
There are two types of searches: generic, such as “New York lawyer,” and “long-tail,” which involve strings of words. For example: “What do you do if you get pulled over without a driver’s license in New York?” There are far fewer of these searches, but the people entering these queries are closer to decisions about their legal position or whether to hire a lawyer. “If you provide great content — great answers — then that will support your ultimate goal,” Goldstein said. Create an article with a title or content that matches the questions people are asking, and these long-tail searches will lead potential clients to you.
There is no magic to this. Google is simply looking for the best answers to the questions people have, so by creating articles that are accessible, informative and that use the same words people are searching for, lawyers can use the search engines to get noticed and develop their reputations. Google used to make educated guesses in deciding which answers would rank as the best. Now, through social media, it has more direct data.
“When someone tweets a URL, this is a signal to Google and Bing that there is something about this content that people should take note of,” Goldstein said. If people are talking about your article via social media, Google sees that as evidence that your content is relevant. You can start the discussion by sharing the content on LinkedIn and Twitter.
“It is hugely important that you have a social -media presence,” Goldstein continued. “Don’t rely on a single platform — don’t just use LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. Use a combination. Personally, I think Google+ will emerge as the most important. Online reviews are also becoming increasingly important. Positive reviews are very important: Yelp, Google+ and Avvo.”