SUMMARY OF THIS ARTICLE:
- An overview: what is SEO?
- What can search engine optimization do for your practice?
- How you can apply SEO principals to increase traffic to your website.
What is S.E.O.?
Welcome to the teleseminar on search engine optimization by Divorce Marketing Group. My name is Martha Chan. I am the vice president of marketing for Divorce Marketing Group. I know that some of you might have attended our series of teleseminars on marketing for divorced professionals before, so welcome back and some of you may be attending this for the first time. Thank you for attending.
Just to give you a 30-second background, Divorce Marketing Group is a marketing agency that is dedicated to promoting professionals and family lawyers. We’ve been doing this for the last 14 years. We also own Divorce Magazine, which is produced in six regions in North America. All this is to say that we have been servicing divorced professionals for a while, helping them to grow their practice.
Today’s seminar is on the basics of SEO. SEO stands for search engine optimization. The seminar will go on for 30 minutes and just so you know, so you won’t need to write notes madly, a transcript of today’s seminar is available. All you have to do to get a copy of the transcript is to email me. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
All right let’s get started. In today’s seminar we’re going to be covering different areas of search engine optimization:
1. How do search engines decide which websites to serve up when someone is surfing on the Internet?
2. What is SEO just so we can all get a basic understanding as to what it is and the different aspects of search engine optimization that you can get into.?
3. Should you do SEO yourself for your own law firm website?
4. What if you already have a website and – or what if you are about to revamp and build a new site, what should your be looking out for?
5. If you were to look for a service provider for SEO – to do an SEO program for you, what can you expect?
These are the most common questions that people ask me when I talk to them about search engine optimization, obviously there are lots and lots more questions and tactical ideas. Search engine optimization is a very complex topic, as you probably know, people have written books about it so in today’s session we will be touching on the fundamentals, so that at the least it would allow you to raise the appropriate questions when you are about to embark on doing SEO for your own website.
1. How do search engines decide which websites to serve up when someone is surfing Internet?
The very first question I’d like to address is how to search engines decide which websites to serve up when someone is surfing? Hopefully all of you have used search engines to find things. I’ll stick to Google as a search engine because it’s the most popular search engine and as a result, most of us who do SEO work to optimize to Google.
When you go onto Google.com, what you do is put in a few words that you would be searching for. I’ll use the example of divorce and family lawyers. You might put in the word divorce and there will be lots of websites showing up. Millions of pages would appear when you use the word divorce to search. So how do you get to be on Page 1 or Page 2? First of all, remember this: Search engines are not here to promote your website organically, meaning unless you pay for an advertising space, they will not give you preference, unless they deem that your website is relevant to this particular search term – say divorce. Divorce can either be called a search term or a key word. So if, if Google were to look at your website, the things that Google would decide how relevant your content is as related to the word divorce? Google looks at how many times the word divorce show up on your page. This is called key word density. So for example, if you have 100 words on your page and divorce shows up once then your density is 1 percent. Google looks for somewhere between 3 and 5 percent of density for that particular key word.
The other thing that Google would highly value on your website is if you have a lot of other websites linking to your site because what that suggests to Google is that if 10,000 websites are saying go visit abclawyers.com, it must suggest that abclawyers.com has something to offer and so Google, by inference, would say that abclawyers.com is a well worthwhile site for me to tell my visitors to go visit. So as I said, Google is not here to promote your site in particular. They are looking for the best sites to serve up related to the key word that is being used. That again, is a very simplified version as to how Google rank websites.
2. What is Search Engine Optimization?
SEO is search engine optimization. Let’s begin with is your website. You may have a beautiful looking website. It may not however, be search engine friendly. What does it mean to be search engine friendly? I already covered keywordsand as far as content goes, the text on your website that is, content is still king. If your content is irrelevant to the word divorce then you won’t show up. I’m assuming that all of us who are on this call are divorce professionals, family lawyers, so this should not be an issue for your website.
When you look at content, some people would use the word divorce as a search term. Some people would be using the word divorce lawyer when they’re searching and some people might enter the words Morristown divorce lawyer. The three keywords I just mentioned, divorce, divorce lawyer, Morristown divorce lawyer, they each will serve up different results. Are they all important to your business? I would say yes. But let’s say you are a lawyer in Morristown. What is probably of the most significance to you is Morristown divorce lawyers because when someone is searching with that phrase, they are likely ready to be hiring a lawyer and they usually will hire within their geographical area. So some people may put in Morristown divorce lawyer or they may put in New Jersey divorce lawyer
When someone uses the term divorce they may not be as close to the decision process when it comes to hiring a lawyer. They may be at the beginning of their searching process. They may be just considering divorce, and want to look up what some of the things they should know are, what to do, and what to avoid. Or if someone is looking up divorce lawyer, they may still only be looking to see when hiring a divorce lawyer what are some of the criteria that they should be using to assess them? What are some of the fees that a lawyer may charge? So generally speaking, the longer the key word, the closer they are, the more targeted.
As a divorce lawyer in Morristown, you want to be targeting this collection of keywords but even though Morristown divorce lawyer is not a keyword that’s used by most people I am going to suggest that that is probably of huge significance to you.
I’m also going to talk about your website aside from the text. There are pictures on your website. You can optimize your website by inserting what is called alt text. That would be when someone mouse over the image there could be some text underneath it. This text, while not highly visible to visitors is text that is used by search engines as well.
The other aspect of search engine optimization is working not on your website but on other sites and directories. For example, if you have articles that you have written, what you can do is submit articles to other websites. There are lots of article directories that would take articles and post them. At the end of each posting, I would highly recommend that you say something about yourself as the author, a little bit about your company and provide a link to your company website. This is work that has to be done on an ongoing basis because you cannot spam a site by loading up 50 articles all in one day. Search engines also do not like to see so many links being created all in one day because there is such a thing called link farms where people create all these so-called links using sites that purely exist for this purpose and when Google detects that, they simply would discard all the links that you have created.
The other thing many search engine optimization programs include is social bookmarking. I’m just going to say a little bit about social bookmarking because it’s also a big topic. Someone could, visit different social networking sites and post something on your behalf. Obviously you don’t want them to be saying anything about legal opinions or financial calculations but they could simply post and agree with a previous posting by someone saying this is a very good discussion – that they agree with what’s being said. At the end of every posting, your name, and website address would be shown so people can also click and see your site, but most importantly you’ve now created another link back to your site.
Generally speaking, search engine optimization is something that will take time before you see results. When I say that, I mean two things. One is that the display of your website on Google when someone keys in your keywords can be moved up from Page 5 to Page 4, to Page 2, but that’s going to take time. The other is the amount of links that you could build up for yourself takes time.
There are also other factors that affect whether your website would be displayed high on search engines. Google values websites that have been around. It means that you are there consistently and you will be there in the future. A website with a brand new URL is going to have to wait its turn. I say this because I know a large company who devoted a lot of money setting up a new website on divorce and we talk to them. They just cannot get Google to list them. It takes them about ten months before they actually make it on Page 2 of Google results. That’s one factor.
The other factor is content. The larger your site, the more pages you have on the topic of divorce or New Jersey family law or New Jersey family lawyer, the better your chances of showing up high on Google search results because again Google is here to bring the best resources available to visitors who are seeing resources.
Then there is also the criteria of how frequently you update your website. I know that for a lot of small firms, you just don’t have the capacity to update your website or add new content, right? So earlier on when I talked about writing articles, it is very wise to write articles or frequently ask questions, get them posted onto your site. You could use them in many ways. You could use them for article submissions; you can even send the articles in a newsletter if you have a newsletter to your clients or referral sources. Or you can even use them to email to other professions.
So there are multiple reasons for writing and creating content. And of course you must always consider the number of links that go back to your site. There is an easy way of determining the number of links to your site, so grab a pen. You may wish write this down. If you go to Google.com, you type in your own website address, for example www.abclawyers.com. Then you add colon, then a space and then link. That’s your full website address, colon, space, link (www.yourdomainname.com: link) and when you hit search, you’ll be able to find out exactly how many other websites are linking back to your site. If you are doing an SEO program this would be something to watch and monitor. Over time, if your provider is doing it right and they’re submitting to build links back to your site, you should see that number grow.
3.Should you do SEO yourself?
Sure, you could. I’m hoping that after hearing me talking about SEO for the last 15 or so minutes that you will begin to understand how time consuming as well as complex this topic is. It does require dedicated effort. I’ll give you an example. When we take on a client, we have our Search Engine Optimization expert who would dedicate 20 hours a month to working on the various items that I’ve just described to you. So when people ask me, should I do my own SEO, I would recommend that you don’t. That your time is better spent being a lawyer servicing your clients and instead, look for service providers who have the expertise in this area.
4. What if you already have a site? How do you go about doing SEO or if you are about to build a website, what is it that you have to look out for?
I answer both questions in the same way. If you already have a site or if you’re about to build a site, make sure that your content is loaded with keywords. Having said that, if you already have a site, your SEO expert should comb through your website and insert key words where it’s appropriate. Note what I’m saying – where it’s appropriate. I have seen people insert keywords that are so arbitrary and odd when a real person is reading their web pages, they stand out like a sore thumb. That’s not what I’m recommending. We have to keep the balance between making our sites visitor friendly as well as search engine friendly.
If you have your website, you also want to make sure that page and pictures are optimized. And of course, as I said before, content is king. You want to create a page if you don’t already have it that would house your articles. Make those articles simple and easy to understand because your audience is not legal professionals. It’s therefore best to avoid using jargons as much as possible.
Another new page that you may want to create is an FAQ page. On that page, you can begin to answer some questions – you can make them up yourself and answer them, right? Questions such as in New Jersey, how long does it take before I can file for divorce? Something that is particular to the area that you’re in because if you have the word New Jersey in there, then you’re working towards the New Jersey family lawyer key words that we discussed before.
Also if you already have a site and you’re about to embark on hiring someone to do SEO work, make sure that they do a report that shows you where you are to date. I call that a base report. So you start by having a base report that tells you, against these key words that you want to work on, where do you stand right now? The report may say that for the words “New Jersey family law”, you may now be showing up on Page 5, Position 9, for the words “Morristown divorce lawyer”, you may be on Page 9, Position 2. Then you want to get a report every month so that you can see whether you have moved up. Over time that report would alter the emphasis that the SEO experts would work on to move you up over time.
One thing you should know is, if you don’t have a site and you’re about to build a new site, you would need to choose a domain name or a url. The best url would be one that contains the keywords that you want to emphasize. Imagine this url (I’m pretty sure is gone) if you are a Morristown divorce lawyer: Imagine owning the name morristowndivorcelawyer.com. Even though that one may be gone, we could be very creative.
I’ve been able to help my clients get urls that are very attractive to search engines and also to human eyes. You don’t want a url that’s difficult to remember. I often advise against my clients to use their firm name, especially if they have a long firm name. An example I use is can you imagine trying to type in johnsonsmithscafiddi.com? The chances of getting all three partner names right is almost zero. Now, I also recommend that you register that domain name and redirect it to something easy to remember, so again I’m simplifying it. By all means, register two websites: One is johnsonsmithscaffidi.com. The other one could be morristowndivorcelawyer.com and make sure that you ask your IT people to redirect the first one to the second.
Why would I recommend that you own the first one? It’s that you need to own that url because it’s your firm name. It can happen that someone also owns it and they’re not in that business or they put up a site that contains content that you really don’t want to be associated with. So for about $15.00 a year, you really should register something that has your own firm name.
5. What providers offer in an SEO program.
A lot of them would tell you it would take a minimum of four to six months as a contract, because if you don’t give them a chance to work on it and demonstrate the results, they won’t be able to do the best job for you. What they will do at the beginning is assess your website, optimize your pages and work with you to see which are the keywords that you should choose to focus on. Then they do the base report and begin to do article submissions, link building and social bookmarking. Your SEO provider is likely going to show you a report every day to determine how many link requests they have made and how many were actually accepted. It’s meant for us to keep track of where we stand, what we’ve done, what else we need to do. I don’t recommend that you micromanage it at that level.
Read the report every month and monitor the progress over time. You want to also make sure that your provider gives you a quote as to what it is that they will do and for how much. Generally speaking, I’m sure you have all seen emails from providers soliciting your business. I would stay away from people that promise you will be on Page 1 and rank No. 1 because search engine optimization is an organic process. It’s not just a matter of what you do to your website, it’s also a matter of what other people are doing to their websites. So those people who promise you this come along with a catch. I don’t have time to go into the catch, but I would just warn you against that.
We’re about one minute away from closing. I just want to summarize what I’ve talked about. First of all, we have a transcript of today’s seminar available if you send me an email at email@example.com.
Today we’ve covered the basics of Search Engine Optimization. We have indicated how complex SEO is and that the work that is required for your website and also on other directories and websites. We have discussed that SEO is a slow build; however, the impact is long-lasting and that because of its complex involvement of different aspects and multiple websites. Our recommendation is for you to seek out some expertise in doing SEO and make sure when you are interviewing the provider that they made out the cost and what they will do for you clear before you sign-on with them. That’s it for today’s seminar. Thank you so much for joining us.