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Adam is CEO of Gladiator Law Marketing. He’s an Afghanistan veteran, outdoor enthusiast, husband, and dog parent to two German shepherds.
Lawyers often ask me about the Google algorithm, which is actually a confluence of many smaller algorithms. This complex, mysterious web of artificial intelligence holds a lot of power, and the algorithm often determines whether users find a law firm’s website. For this reason, I think it’s worth spending five minutes to learn a bit more about the Google algorithm and how you can optimize your website to suit it.
Here’s the definition of “algorithm” from Lexico: “A process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.”
The challenge with Google is that its search algorithm is a secret. So, we are left to try to decipher the rules based on updates and feedback that Google issues along the way — much like following a trail of bread crumbs. However, there are some generally accepted principles among most search engine optimization professionals about how the algorithm interacts with websites. The more you know about these, the better you can craft online content that Google smiles upon.
Google itself is a bountiful source of information about the nature of queries and how the algorithm determines search rankings. Here’s just a sample:
“These ranking systems are made up of not one, but a whole series of algorithms. To give you the most useful information, Search algorithms look at many factors, including the words of your query, relevance and usability of pages, expertise of sources, and your location and settings. The weight applied to each factor varies depending on the nature of your query—for example, the freshness of the content plays a bigger role in answering queries about current news topics than it does about dictionary definitions.”
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Google even published “The basics of how Search works,” which breaks it all down into bite-sized explanations.
Google Issues Algorithm Updates
It’s important to keep in mind that Google frequently updates its algorithm. Google is constantly refining its search sophistication and capability, which means that your website ranking and favorability can increase or decrease over time based on how well your content interacts with the ever-evolving algorithm.
You can check out SEO industry resources such as Search Engine Journal and Search Engine Watch to learn about these updates. You don’t need to become an expert on them, but you may want to have a working knowledge of the big ones like:
• Passage indexing.
• December 2020 core update.
Best Practices For Optimizing Your Law Firm’s Website
Here are some SEO best practices to follow when building and maintaining your law firm’s website. By consistently implementing these best practices, you can increase the likelihood that Google’s algorithm will find and favorably rank your site.
1. Optimize For Keywords
Each page on your website should be optimized for keywords. This includes short groups of words (on every page) and long-tail phrases (typically on blogs and specialty pages). For example, your page about car accidents could be optimized for “Atlanta car accident lawyer” (assuming you’re located in Atlanta), meaning that this phrase should be in the title (H1) and in at least one subheading (H2 and H3), and also sprinkled throughout the text.
A long-tail optimization phrase might be something like, “What is the average car accident settlement?” or “How often do car accidents happen at intersections?” The long-tail phrase should be the title of the blog (H1) and should also appear in a subheading (H2 or H3) as well as in the text, if possible.
2. Create Client-Centered Content
In creating content about your law firm’s services, it may be tempting to write about why your firm is great and all the wonderful things you’ve achieved. This is often a mistake. It’s important to write user-focused or client-centered content instead. What does this mean? It means you (or your writers) should anticipate potential clients’ questions and then answer them succinctly and thoroughly. It’s an inside-out approach to content in which you put yourself in a potential client’s shoes and see the world from their perspective. People often look for an attorney when they’re in distress and have a legal problem that needs solving, so approach content from this point of view. Be helpful and informative, and project confidence and trustworthiness. When you write client-centered content, you will also interact with the Google algorithm favorably, because Google is looking for the same things the potential client/user is.
3. Provide A Good User Experience
Website design also impacts the Google algorithm. Your site should be easy to navigate and not be overly cluttered. The design, font, images and color should be crisp, and all should work together to highlight your brand. Make sure your contact information and location are clearly visible. Include the name of your city or, in some cases, state, in headings and text — this helps with “near me” searches. And create pages that are scannable, which means that a reader in a hurry (and the Google algorithm) can get the gist of the information quickly by simply scanning the headings and subheadings if they don’t have time to read the entire text.
Building backlinks to your pages also helps with optimization by making it easier for the Google algorithm to find and rank your website.
While the Google algorithm can seem complicated and mysterious to lawyers, there are some simple SEO best practices you can follow to optimize your website so that it interacts favorably with the Google algorithm and performs well in searches. Remember to optimize your site for keywords, write client-centered content and design a good user experience. The goal is to be listed high on the first search engine results page when a user keys in a query about legal topics. With consistent application of these best practices, you can improve the future performance of your website.
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Author: Adam Draper, Forbes Councils Member