Search engine optimization (SEO) first became a “thing” back in 1997—way back when law firm websites were a pretty new idea. As the internet grew, and the power of search engines like Google grew along with it, people got wise to the idea that websites and web pages could be optimized to perform better in search rankings.
In those old days, the winners of the game got the coveted Page One results they wanted for their effort, and the losers got lost “below the fold.”
The good news is that SEO has changed dramatically since 1997. Especially over the last decade, Google has made some shocking changes that impact how people market themselves online.
Everything, from methods to goals, is different!
If you feel like your digital marketing is stuck in the ‘90s, you’re not the only one out there. Map out a path to modern success by requesting an FWM Marketing Growth Plan poster and consultation for your law office.
In the meantime, though, let me break down just a little of what makes SEO tick in 2019.
1. People Don’t Link Like They Used To—and That’s Good
SEO was a big game back in the ‘90s, and links were the cards it was played with. The best recommendations from back in the day included jamming in unnatural keyword links wherever you could and “gaming” your backlink profile. Let’s not even talk about what the worst recommendations had people doing!
An “optimized” page could be a minefield of misleading links and spammy keywords. And, while law firm websites were getting rankings doing it, the users of those websites were getting the short end of the stick.
In response, Google made it more and more difficult for marketers to “win” by gaming the system. And, when Google released its Penguin update in 2012, it was all over. Penguin dealt largely with backlink profiles—and it put the final nail in the coffin of the “game of links” everyone was playing.
Now, in 2019, your linking strategy should be all about the user. Spammy links and gamed backlink profiles are a surefire way to get in trouble with Google.
Links are still important, but you want those links to improve the user experience and support the “customer journey” through your website. Links should fit naturally in the content and take users somewhere relevant. The link text should accurately describe what the user will see on the other side. The whole idea is to drive users to other helpful and interesting pages on your site, build intentional links from other authoritative sites, and provide a seamless user experience.
2. You Should Forget About Page One
While Google’s Page One may have been the only place people were searching online a decade ago, the Web has a lot more to offer in 2019. Page One for all your keywords is NOT the goal!
I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out. Anyone who has played the keyword-ranking game in the past knows that the market is competitive. For example, you’re competing with hundreds of other law firms to get on Page One for “NYC estate planning attorney.” Even in smaller markets with more specific keywords, those Page One results can be misleading.
You have to ask, “Is all this effort really bringing in more clients and cases for my firm?”
If you’re so focused on Page One that your brand and user engagement slip, you’re probably getting a lot of traffic that isn’t converting into clients. And, here’s the thing: it’s not hard to generate clicks. What is hard is turning those clicks into conversions.
There are now so many avenues to reach your “perfect clients” online that it’s not just about those top results anymore. In 2019, you need to think about all the avenues people use to connect with your law firm. That might mean better management of your attorney directory listings. That might mean kicking your review strategy up a notch. It might mean improving your website and content in ways that provide a better experience for the potential clients that visit.
Modern SEO is so much more than keywords and Page One results. Instead, your focus should be on getting in front of the people who want to hear you and need your guidance—the people that become cases and clients!
3. Stellar Content Is the Best Bait for Your Perfect Clients
Website content has always been a big piece of the SEO puzzle. It’s the “bait” that brings traffic to your website, and a lot of SEO is optimizing that bait to perform even better.
In 1997, the goal was to put up content that more or less “tricked” people into clicking onto the page.
In 2019, the goal is to provide rich, compelling content that coaxes people to not only click on the page, but stick around, read it, share it, and reach out to you.
Remember that the whole reason people pull up Google is because they have questions or are looking for something specific. If they click onto your page from the search results and are disappointed or confused by the content they see, they’ll move on—and Google will notice.
In 2019, Google’s crawlers look for all kinds of sophisticated signals that a website provides quality content. It even looks at how people react to that content and what they do afterward.
It’s complicated, but you don’t have to chase every factor that goes into it. Instead, keep it simple and just provide great content that your perfect clients will want to read, watch, and share.
You can’t go wrong with that.
4. Authority, User Experience, and Everything Else That Google Pays Attention To
How you handle your keywords, content, and links is a huge part of what Google looks at in 2019, but it definitely isn’t everything. No one knows exactly what all goes into Google’s mysterious ranking algorithm, but we do know that all the following (and more) also have an impact on your traffic and visibility in search:
- How long your website has been around
- Your website’s relative authority over time
- How fast your pages load compared to other pages
- If your website can be “read” by Google’s search crawlers
- If people convert or take another action when they get to your page
- If your website adheres to security standards
This is why going after keywords or trying to game Google is the wrong attitude. If Google sees the signals that your website’s users are happy, and your website is following best practices, then you’ll naturally rise to the top.
Want to learn more? Check out our podcast, What Is Going on With SEO, featuring Jamie “The Professor” Kelly.
Overall, the main thing to remember is that SEO isn’t just for Google; it’s also for your clients. And SEO isn’t all that goes into successful digital marketing—it’s a whole machine. In 2019, you can’t rely on just “gaming the system” to gain results.
Need a guide to keep your marketing fresh and effective? Request an FWM Marketing Growth Plan poster and consultation.