Since more and more of my clients are (finally!) deciding to create or revise their law firm websites, search engine optimization (SEO) has become a hot topic. But I see far too many shady SEO tactics being employed around the web, and unfortunately, several that are being employed by or on behalf of law firms. (See below for a list of previous posts on this topic)
What should you do instead?
In the days before the internet and internet marketing, if you wanted to drive foot traffic and phone calls to your office, you didn't just open up your office, sit behind your desk and wait for the telephone to ring. What did you do? You got 'out there.' You met people. You did good work for clients. You provided advice. You played golf, or joined the local chamber of commerce or called your college buddies to let them know what you were up to. You picked up the telephone and/or knocked on doors. You developed relationships.
If you want to build your practice in the internet age, you'll need to do all of those same things on the internet. You need to 'talk' to people - join the discussions, get involved, ask and answer questions, make yourself available to others, let people know who you are and what you do. Offer to help.
What not to do
What doesn't bring you business in the 'real' world won't bring you business on the internet, either. If you're all about YOU, are more concerned about promoting yourself than helping others and providing valuable information, if you have no personality and aren't genuine, you'll be like the pariah that everyone tries to avoid at a cocktail party.
Unfortunately, there are too many "SEO experts" whose tactics are exactly like that cocktail party pariah - posting fake reviews or spam comments, joining social media sites solely for promotional purposes, filling your website with bad but "keyword rich" content that provides no value for those reading it, etc.
Why lawyers need to pay attention to social media
Social media (including blogs) was built for conversation and interaction. That's the point - to develop relationships. And while you're doing that, you're demonstrating your expertise and giving people a glimpse at your personality and at what it might be like to work with you.
But maybe the best reason is that because there is so much content on the internet now, the challenge has become finding responsible, ethical, valuable, trustworthy content. And search engines are recognizing that and starting to give more weight to content on the internet that is seen as 'authoritative' - whether that be in the form of links from other sites, or in the form of 'social authority.'
Entrepreneur and internet expert Neil Patel recently posted about how social media affects SEO, and he points out that search engines such as Bing and Google acknowledge that the number of times a link is passed on through social media such as Facebook and Twitter can definitely affect where that page falls in the search engine rankings.
According to Patel, "you can assume that social media plays a role in influencing the search engine results by giving preference based on the authority of the author and the number of times a piece of content is shared on social networking sites."
And (as Patel's article also points out) now that Google has its own social media outlet (Google +), there can be little doubt that what is shared there will affect Google search engine rankings.
If you are not sharing your content on social media and building relationsips there, you're missing out. Who will share your content if you don't?
(Hat tip to +Kevin O'Keefe for bringing Patel's article to my attention with his post on how social media affects SEO)
Want to know more about SEO for lawyers? Try reading these posts:
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