While personal injury attorneys are making huge investments in SEO, most are approaching it the wrong way.
According to the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform’s 2012 study entitled, The Plaintiffs’ Bar Goes Digital:
“Plaintiffs’ firms are devoting millions of dollars to the creation and maintenance of websites, Facebook pages, Twitter handles, blogs and YouTube channels. By measuring Google advertising spends on 125 keywords during a 45-day period and then extrapolating to a 12-month period, we estimate firms will spend more than $50 million on Google keyword advertising alone.”
If you’re a plaintiff trial lawyer, you probably already know how competitive it is to market a practice online. It’s also likely that you’re approaching SEO completely wrong.
If you’re like most personal injury attorneys who market online, your view of search engine optimization goes something like this:
I need to rank #1 for as many relevant keywords that I can think of. And off you go adding keywords to your pages, creating new pages that are targeted at iterations of these keywords and trying to figure out how to build links back to your pages that contain relevant anchor text.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Well, maybe wrong is too strong a word.
Misguided. Misguided. Misguided.
Yes, you need to create pages that communicate to search engines what your pages are about.
Yes, you need to understand how your potential clients are using search engines to do research, get answers and find lawyers like you.
The problem is that you’re trying to solve a marketing problem with a manufacturing solution.
What I mean is that you’re focused on quantity. Quantity of web pages. Quantity of links. Quantity of keyword rankings.
Instead, you should be focusing on answering marketing questions:
Who are the people you want to attract to your core web presence?
What types of tasks are they performing online? What are they looking for?
Where are they looking online? Search engines? Social networks? Specific websites?
How can you supply their demand for information? What can you create that is likely to motivate them to take some kind of action?
When they find your pages, why should they take action? Why should they subscribe? Why should they share your stuff? Why should they link to it?
Why should they contact and hire you over your online competition?
With regard to organic search results, in case there’s any confusion, let me clear something up for you:
THEY DON’T WANT TO BE ADVERTISED TO!
This isn’t television. This isn’t billboard advertising. This isn’t direct mail.
This is about creating “stuff” that people are actually interested in. And it’s about getting your awesome “stuff” in front of the right people.
Okay, time for some tips.
Get technical SEO right first.
If search engines can’t crawl and index your pages, no amount of off-page SEO is going to get your pages to appear prominently in search results.
Resolve any technical SEO issues your site has first.
Build links like you’re writing a brief.
You should think of link building like citing precedent in a legal brief. When you cite precedent, hopefully you’re including cases that haven’t been overturned. Hopefully, you have some binding precedent that’s directly on point. Maybe you include some persuasive authority that’s not necessarily binding, but extremely compelling.
What you’re not doing is citing every tangentially relevant case in every jurisdiction that you can find.
Likewise, when you’re building links, you should take a top-down approach. Focus on earning links from the most authoritative and relevant sites you can find first. If there are some indirectly relevant sites that still carry authority, attract links there too. Don’t try to build links to every website for which you can find a link submission form.
Be skeptical about link schemes.
I’m not going to get on my high-horse about link schemes. Bottom-line: Some can work. But for how long? And at what risk?
If we’re talking about your firm’s main site and we’re talking about a long-term strategy for developing meaningful organic visitor traffic and getting that traffic to convert into new business, then you should avoid any link scheme that violates search engine webmaster guidelines.
Don’t buy links.
This is another link building strategy that folks debate about.
Of course, the devil is in the details. Technically, paying for a Yahoo local listing is “buying a link.” But that’s not really the type of purchased link building that search engines have in mind.
And we could go ’round and ’round about which paid links are okay and which are clear violators. Put it this way, if a webmaster is advertising paid links, chances are that search engines will eventually catch on.
My advice is the same: It can work, but it’s really risky.
Build useful pages.
You’ve probably heard it a hundred times, “create great content.” But what is great content? Sure, great content might mean a really good blog post. But what other kinds of content can personal injury attorneys build?
If you spend some time thinking, I bet you can come up with a variety of content ideas for your firm.
Of course, just creating content often isn’t enough. You have to take action to market that content (i.e. get it front of the right people).
And it has to be created in a way that motivates them to take action.