By Kalvin Macleod
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a complex and ever-changing process of arcane tips, tricks and onsite improvements. It helps to increase the visibility of your website and content in the judgmental eyes of search engines, while maintaining readability and timely relevance to your equally judgmental potential clients.
Although SEO can seem like a black box of unknowable secrets, it need not be so confusing. Building a great SEO plan is like building a great house: The process can be daunting and there are many potential pitfalls, but if done right, you can end up with the home(page) of your dreams.
Similar to a new build, all good SEO plans start with patience, planning and in most cases, unfortunately, dollars. Of course, if you do not have a large budget, you can still build a winning SEO strategy. However, to offset costs, you will need equal amounts of elbow grease and sweat equity.
In keeping with the house analogy, here are eight steps to building an effective SEO plan:
1. Select the right location.
Just as with building a home, your first step is to secure the best parcel of land. When building an online SEO plan for your law firm, that land is a domain name for your firm. Your domain should somehow tie into what you do — either it is reflective of your name, what you do or at least something very memorable. Avoid hyphens and deliberate misspellings, and stick with the main top-level domains (.com) where possible. Keywords in your domain are also a great way to increase search engine traffic, but not always possible.
2. Build a strong foundation.
Every house needs a foundation, and with SEO that foundation is crawlable and compelling content. For thousands of years — or at least it feels that long — generating purposeful, easily consumable, keyword-rich content has been the building block of modern websites. Finding the right wording requires diligent research, keyword planning and careful drafting to ensure you are answering the right questions for the right audience by providing the right content in a timely and accessible manner. If your website fails to meet those requirements, or does so in a convoluted method, any potential lead will not hesitate to visit other, more content-friendly destinations.
3. Choose the right floor plan.
Every house needs a floor plan, and every site needs a structure. Carefully laying out the overarching content and linking structure of your website architecture will ensure that you are providing keyword-rich content in a variety of accessible ways, with a minimal number of clicks. This will inevitably lead your visitors down a critical path toward goal fulfilment.
4. Build the frame.
Whether you already have a website or are building from scratch, it is time to get the walls up or reconfigure the rooms. If you are just in the planning stage of a new site, now is the time to look at the materials you are using to build. You want to ensure you are using reputable contractors, quality building materials (e.g., a great CMS) and secure, extensible building blocks in case you need renovations in the future.
5. Install the plumbing, electrical and fax lines.
This is the technical stuff that is never very exciting when building a house, but is essential to a functioning — and livable — home. For SEO, this refers to the underlying optimizations that help provide a great user experience: fast page speed, user-centric functionality, responsive design and an attractive, accessible user interface.
6. Add the finishes.
For a house, finishes include a coat of paint or a kitchen backsplash, but when it comes to SEO, the finishes are any other additions that can help you get you noticed by search engines. This can include items like proper titles, keyword descriptions, meta tags, schema markups and keyword-rich URLs.
7. Add the curb appeal.
For a house, curb appeal is the front porch and side garden. For SEO, it is ensuring that your content is shareable and worthy of backlinks. Make it easy for others to post your content to their websites and social media accounts, and use large, readable headlines; bold, noticeable buttons; and an aesthetically pleasing design.
8. Get appraised.
Now that you have built your site following all the best practices available, it is time to analyze the data to find any gaps or underperforming pages. Then, you can make enhancements such as a more focused content approach or capturing a larger audience with additional long-tail keywords.
Unfortunately, there is no panacea to ranking highly in Google (and other nameless search engines), but by following the steps above, there are a variety of ways to appease the almighty algorithm and ensure you get the traffic you deserve. It is an iterative process and a long-term play that requires a continual investment of time and budget to ensure you stay ahead of your competitors. If done right, with ample planning and the right partners in place, you can turn the investment made during these initial stages into a sustainable and profitable lead generation tool that makes your website the must-visit home in the neighborhood.
Kalvin Macleod is the co-founder and lead developer of digital brand and marketing agency Cubicle Fugitive and the Ontario-wide online directory Toronto Lawyers. For nearly 20 years, Macleod has been leveraging best practices in technology to strategically navigate law firms through the complexities of website development and online marketing. With a deep understanding of the unique challenges facing professional services providers, Macleod develops web-based solutions that are innovative, purposeful and cost-effective. For more information on SEO, website development and branding for law firms, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and visit their website www.cubiclefugitive.com.