“Search engine optimization” can be an intimidating phrase. It sounds scientific and complicated, and yet there is no central system, no industry-wide exam to identify whether a self-proclaimed SEO expert can make a difference for your law firm’s website. SEO is very much a long game, and it can be difficult to know whether or not the process is working until you have already put a significant amount of time or money into it. It takes 6-8 months for a new website to rank on Google, and 3-4 months for an established site.

Common law firm SEO mistakes

Like the rest of the digital world, the world of SEO is one that changes quickly. In many cases, ineffective SEO is caused by outdated methods. The practice of filling the text on your website with keywords, regardless of how much sense it makes, is known as “keyword stuffing.” Keyword stuffing may have gotten results in the early days of the web, but search engines are significantly more sophisticated now and take into effect a variety of things, including how long visitors spend on the page, to determine where the page ranks.

There are also “black hat” techniques that violate search marketing guidelines; these are often tempting when you want to see results fast, but SEO is a slow and steady process. It is important for SEO experts to stay on top of new technology, algorithm changes, and accurately analyzing results. Successful SEO requires a dedicated strategy executed throughout your digital presence.

Where to start with law firm SEO

Your website is the virtual “home” of your firm, and it will be the foundation of any successful SEO campaign. Start by ensuring that there are no technical challenges that could hold your website back. Your site should be optimized for quick load times and be built in a way that’s easy for search engines to “read.” An SEO expert in Atlanta will be able to determine whether your site is indexing properly if images and header text are appropriately tagged if there are sufficient internal links, and more. It is, of course, also crucial to have content that is useful and up-to-date. There is no reason to drive traffic to your site if users do not find what they need there, and a high bounce rate (the rate of visitors who leave your site without visiting another page) will indicate to search engines that your site is not useful, causing your page rank to drop accordingly.

Next steps: building authority

While your own website is at the center of your SEO strategy, a significant amount of good SEO happens off your site. Google knows that no site exists in a vacuum, and its search algorithm considers whether or not your site is linked to on websites it “knows” are useful. Therefore, a successful law firm SEO strategy will extend beyond the bounds of your website to include quality directory listings, guest posts, social media, sponsorships, and more. All of these places will link back to your website, giving you “authority” in the eyes of Google’s algorithm. It is also critical to claim and verify your business’s local listing on Google. You have probably noticed that many times when you search for a business, information appears next to the results and may answer your question without ever clicking on a search result. You want to have control of what it says when someone searches for your law firm.

Continued SEO maintenance

As mentioned above, SEO is a long process. It is also a process that requires continued maintenance to achieve continued results. As you move forward, it is important to keep adding new content to your website and continue to develop authority through quality outside links. Increasing your presence and building a following on social media will also help to give your overall search a boost. Continual improvements to the structure of your website to keep up with changing best practices will ensure that search engines will be able to properly scan your site.

Custom SEO Strategy

Every website is different, and every law firm will follow its own strategy for SEO. It is important to avoid the outdated SEO methods of the past (like keyword stuffing) which may end up penalizing your site. Start by setting up a strong foundation by optimizing your site and its content so it can be easily navigated by both human visitors and search engines. Improve your search ranking by building authority with links from high-quality websites. And remember that Search Engine Optimization is a process, not a project. This is an ongoing investment that will, if properly managed, continue to bring results and business to your firm.