Thursday, September 15, 2011

SEO Basics for Law Firms & The Role of Legal Blog Writing

Virtually all lawyers and legal staff members who have given thought to online marketing have come across the acronym SEO.  This post is for those who have never been given a simple answer to what SEO means, what they need to know about it, and how legal blog writing is the main part of all SEO strategies.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) includes all efforts to improve a website’s appearance and visibility when relevant terms are searched in major engines online.  Increasingly the search engine market is dominated by a single entity: Google.  Therefore, when SEO is mentioned it almost always refers to ways by which a business tries to show up higher in the Google rankings when potential clients are using the search engine to find the goods or services that they provide.  With more potential clients than ever in need of legal services using the internet to find a lawyer, SEO for law firms must be prioritized for all firms realistically trying to attract new clients.    

So how does SEO work? The short answer is that no one knows exactly how it works—at least no one who is not employed by the search engine company.  Google’s specific (and changing) algorithm is not publically available.  Therefore, anyone that says that they know exactly how to ensure that you move from the bottom of the rankings to the top is likely being disingenuous, or, worse yet, intentionally dishonest. 

However, while the exact magic formula is unknown, it is clear what Google is after when they rank web pages based on their relevance and value to specific searchers.  Those in charge of the process have explained that they prioritize quality content that is consistently updated and tailored as closely as possible to the exact search terms.  Google determines the page’s value by using “crawlers,” which are essentially virtually spider-like programs that constantly scour the internet indexing and cataloging new pages and updates.  The crawlers have been programmed to look to for certain words and, in particular, keywords that are linked to other pages. 

Linking is a hallmark of the internet.  It is what makes it a “web” with one page connected to another.  Therefore, links are majorly prioritized by the Google crawlers when determining the value of a certain web page.  For example, if there are 100 links of the word “Texas medical malpractice lawyer” coming from one site to the site of a specific law firm, Google imagines that the landing firm site must provide something pretty relevant to one who is searching “Texas medical malpractice lawyer” in Google. Therefore that firm site will rank higher than others.  The more quality links, the better.

Law firm blogs are centered on this linking practice. A blog is the most efficient way for firms to create these outside links back to their main website.  When done properly, the links will create a strong association in the search algorithm between their site and the terms that their potential clients may use when looking to find legal help online.  Therefore, legal blog writing is the most important thing that a law firm can do as part of its online marketing efforts.  Considering online marketing is speeding past all other forms, it is not a stretch to say that law blog writing will soon become the main component of all legal marketing plans.  Many firms have already shifted resources toward it with great results.  

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