Search Engine Optimization: What You Really Need to Know

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1 Search Engine Optimization: What You Really Need to Know

2 The always changing areas of Internet marketing and automation can leave a small legal practice in the dust. How can you keep up and what do you really need to know about search engine optimization? Introduction Let s start by defining the terms. SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION, OR SEO, is the use of methods and strategies to increase the likelihood that a website is visible to those looking for goods and services. The more visible your website, the more visitors and potential clients you could reach. Google continually refines the metrics and factors it uses to create search engine rankings. Internet marketers analyze the signals used by Google to develop techniques that boost the likelihood that their target website will rank highly on a search engine results page (SERP). While Bing, Yahoo, and Ask are popular search engines, Google drives the most Internet traffic. With more than one billion monthly visitors, Google algorithms shape the best practices of those who build websites and those who use websites to sell their services.

3 Why is SEO important? Running a small law practice is difficult and requires you to manage areas of a business you may not be familiar with, like marketing. With so much on your plate, you may be wondering, I have enough clients and I am already so busy as it is why should I spend what little time I have left working on SEO? Quite simply, SEO helps your law practice become visible on the internet. Without a strong internet presence today, users will question how in touch your firm is with technology today and how reputable you are as a business. That being said, it is important to put some work into your website and optimizing it so that your business can be easily found! Not convinced yet? Here is a list 8 benefits you can receive from investing some time in your firm s SEO strategy: 1. National online exposure 2. Position your company as an authority 3. Obtain new clients 4. Receive new, motivated leads every week 5. Grabbing the low hanging fruit before your competitors get to it. 6. Higher ranked websites are generally trusted more 7. With more visitors to your website, this will turn into more inquiries 8. Turn your neglected SEO strategy into one that is effective and growing.

4 Chapter List Algorithms are constantly changing, making SEO seem scary, intangible and difficult to manage. In reality though, for your small business to be successful online, all you need to know are the basics! This whitepaper you will walk you through the following topics: Choose a Direction Before You Go Building Blocks of SEO: Understanding What Your Legal Practice Needs Keyword Basics The Anatomy of a Well-Optimized Page 5 Things You Need to Know Before You Hire an SEO Consultant SEO To-Do List

5 Choose Your Direction and Go Performing your own basic website check saves you time and money, and it puts you in a position to knowledgeably discuss what you want. Before you employ an SEO specialist, obtain website feedback from friends and colleagues and use their comments to inform your opinion. Ask yourself these questions:» What do you want this website (and your SEO efforts) to do?» What are your thoughts on the current size of your legal practice?» What are your main practice areas, and how are you a local leader in these areas? What geographic areas do you wish to serve?» Are you interested in pursuing new practice areas? When you have an idea about the direction for your practice and your website, you are in a position to make smart choices. Take advantage of free resources to expand your knowledge of Google SEO. If you speak with a consultant, understand some basic but often confusing terms, such as: On-page SEO On-page SEO refers to original, engaging writing and other content that provides value beyond its use to advertise your firm. Created using SEO best practices, optimized content is easily shared, uses keywords, semantic keywords, strategic headers, visually appealing design, images, and effective internal links. Off-page SEO Careful attention to clean code, linking strategies, optimized title tags and meta descriptions, and submission of your website to popular search engines and local directories are good ways to start doing off-page SEO. Use a good freelance content provider to deliver fresh, optimized, calendared content for your blog. Consider community networking opportunities in your practice area or on social media sites such as LinkedIn.

6 Building Blocks of SEO: Understanding What Your Legal Practice Needs Wading through offers from Internet marketing services is daunting. Many companies promise to improve your rankings and increase traffic to your website. Before you hire an SEO specialist to boost your numbers, though, save yourself some money by considering these points: Website presence Any size law firm benefits from a well-designed, easily navigated, fast-loading website that offers high-quality content. Your website serves as your digital calling card, firm brochure, and as the first point of contact for potential clients. Quality factors: Design, navigation, speed, and content are all SEO factors. Here is why: Design Good design, coupled with context-appropriate pictures and graphics, welcomes your reader. Readers who do not find an appealing, informative home page may immediately click, or bounce, off your website. Not only do you lose a potential business opportunity, but the speed at which a reader leaves your page is viewed by Google as a ranking signal. Navigation and Speed Slow-loading pages, broken links, and poorly used internal link strategies make your reader work to view your website. Ease of website use helps clients find information they need, saves users time, and lets visitors get a good look at your credentials and legal experience.

7 Content Engaging, high-quality content is arguably the most important SEO factor you can address on your website. There is nothing mysterious about well-written, informative website pages, blog posts, articles, press releases, white papers, and guides offered free to readers. Place high-quality content on your website to substantiate your authority in your practice area, build your reputation as a useful resource, and offer a knowledge base to readers and potential clients. Social Media As we just mentioned, creating high quality content will help with your SEO rankings. Take the next step by publishing the content you create QUICK TIP: to social media! Social Set up a Google+ page for media can help drive your business. Doing so traffic back to your builds trust with Google and improves rankings for website and increase localized keywords. links, which will help with your SEO ranking. Work to build out your social media following and presence, while sharing quality content from your website. QUICK TIP: Google and other search engines care about providing only quality results to users. With this in mind, it is important only to fill your website with high-quality, meaningful content as it can help your search results. Not sure what "shareable content" is? Look for news articles or opinion pieces, or create a blog to generate high quality, shareable content for social media. Mobility Responsive design refers to a website that is structured to respond to the sizing and viewing demands of mobile devices. Because readers are migrating to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, Google added mobile usability to its collection of ranking factors. Checking the mobile friendliness of a website's design is easy and free, using a tool offered by Google.

8 Keyword Basics Your SEO keywords are the key words and phrases in your web content that make it possible for people to find your site through search engines. When a user searches for a particular phrase or keyword in a search engine, the search engine crawls the web in search for the best results for that keyword or phrase. Therefore, is important to pick the right keywords for your business so your website can be easily found! Here are some quick tips on how to pick the right keywords and how to use keywords in your website: 1. Keyword Research Before building out your on-page SEO, do a competitive analysis. Find out what sites are on the first page of the search engine results for keywords you would like to use for ranking. Look at what they have done on and off the site that has helped them achieve those results! 2. Long-Tail Keywords Before you pick your final keywords, decide on some long-tail keywords you would like to focus on. What is a long-tail keyword? Long-tail keywords are longer, more specific keyword phrases that users search for when they are closer to a point-of-purchase. For example, have you ever typed a question into Google? If so, you have utilized long tail keyword searching! These longer keywords are great for driving highly qualified, motivated users to your website. Decide on some areas or services of your practice that would make you stand out and include those more specific keywords in your website copy!

9 3. Keyword Density Google and other search engines frown upon keyword stuffing (overloading a page with keywords to boost results). That being said, there is no magic number for how many keywords you should include on a page. A GOOD RULE OF THUMB: Keep your content focused to one keyword or topic per page and that will help you create a good balance! Doing so also makes it simpler for search engines to categorize and rank your pages. 4. Keyword Placement Great! Now that you know what keywords to target, you need to think strategically about where to put them on each page. Each page you create should have one main title, and the title you create should include the keyword(s) you are focusing on for that page. How come? Page titles are given more emphasis than your page content. Also, search engines crawl each page for keywords, and the quicker Google can identify a keyword, the better you will rank. The pages you create need more structure than just main headings though. Each page should always be built out with subheadings to show the different sections of the page. Much like main headings, each subheading should include your primary keyword.

10 The Anatomy of a Well-Optimized Page URL Titles Meta Description URL: Users will see a URL in the search results, so it is important that the URL contains the subject matter or keywords found in the content on the page. The best URLs will have fewer than 90 characters. Titles: This is probably the single most important factor for search results. A good title should contain the most important keywords first. Page titles show up in the SERP and will be underlined with a hyperlink for users to click. A quality title will include keywords and have fewer than 75 characters. Meta Description: The meta description is the third component shown to a user in a search. It should briefly describe the page to the user in 150 characters or less. Search engines do not pick up on the keywords listed in the meta description, but it will hurt your results if you do not have one listed.

11 The Anatomy of a Well-Optimized Page Headings Alt Image Text Headings: Headings help provide structure to a web page. Since Google and other search engines crawl the web to provide the best results to you every time you search, a well-structured web page will help you get picked up more easily. When working with a web designer, make sure each webpage is structured to be optimized by including a main title and subtitles. Alt Image Text: No one wants to look at a long page with no images. When you create your page content, make sure you include relevant images that are named appropriately with a keyword. Be sure to include an alt tag with the same keyword as it tells the engine what the image is about. Additionally, alt tags help visually impaired visitors understand the images on your site, and search engines reward websites that have tags listed.

12 5 things you need to know before you hire an SEO consultant If you are considering an SEO consultant, pay attention to these thoughts before you pay for any services: With the fast-changing environment of the internet, questionable SEO practices abound. Google has clear quality guidelines that define unacceptable SEO methods. Using a consultant who engages in shady (or black hat) SEO to boost backlinks or visitor numbers could cause your website to be penalized by Google and other search engines. Work only with rule-abiding (or white hat) firms or consultants who carefully explain their processes and potential results. Ask potential consultants to review your site before discussing services. Request suggestions from three consultants before choosing one. The comparative analysis this provides offers invaluable, free insight and allows you to cherry-pick what you really need and want. As with any other service provider, ask for references. For content providers, ask to review writing samples to ensure quality up front. Speak frankly about how to measure results. Understand your costs. Just as no attorney can guarantee an outcome, neither can an SEO firm or consultant guarantee you a particular search engine ranking. Never hire a firm that offers such guarantees. Choose individual services that are appropriate to your goals, rather than buying packages. One knowledgeable consultant with good references can be just as helpful as a 100-member SEO firm or vice versa.

13 SEO Checklist Have you completed your keyword research? Do you have keywords in your page title (the text that is displayed in your browser s title)? Is your page title under 50 characters? Does your URL contain keywords? Do you have a title tag for your page? Is your title tag under 50 words? Does your Meta Description contain keywords? Is your Meta Description under 150 words? Do all your images contain ALT text? Does your website have a good design coupled with contextappropriate pictures and graphics that welcomes your readers? Is the website copy clear, helpful, and meaningful to readers? Do your titles and subtitles contain keywords? Have you included an adequate number of keywords in your page copy? Go above and beyond: Have you set up social media accounts and included a short link to your accounts on your website? Have you set up a blog on your website?

14 Remember the bottom line As with any major project, make sure to evaluate what your goals and priorities are before you begin. If you are tackling SEO on your own start small! It is important to remember that SEO can help you broaden your reach further that traditional relationship building just can t match. With a well-designed, well-structured website along with white-hat SEO practices you will bring more traffic to your website. By investing your time in creating authoritative, clear, and original content will help convert traffic into prospective clients! That doesn t mean you have to throw out old ways of relationship building. References and referrals from former and existing clients remain the most effective, least expensive method of developing new clients. By combining SEO and traditional methods of client retention and acquisition, your practice will be on its way to consistent long-term success!

15 What is Smokeball? The Engine Behind Successful Small Law Firms Smokeball empowers your small law firm to manage s and documents easily, create documents faster through clever automation, and gives you a digital filing system in the cloud so your staff can work together from anywhere

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