If two great law firm websites are compared to each other, the difference between which one shows up first on Google, and which one shows up 50th, is going to be Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Most of the time when law firms start seeking SEO support they do so with an idea of where they want to be (page 1) but not exactly how they want to get there. This point is where a lot of great law firm websites get mired in questionable marketing practices sold to them as the SEO that will get their page on top.
SEO is vital to giving your law firm website that winning edge over your existing and potential competition. However, there are ways to go about SEO that you should know about and avoid on your law firm website at any cost.
Private Blog Networks What Are They?
A private blog network (PBN) is very simply something you should avoid. The problem here is that if you track down the backlinks of your competition and colleagues, you are likely to find at least one or two of them are using these and using them to seemingly great effect. So, if they are so bad, why avoid them?
Before answering that, we should briefly cover what a PBN is. You likely have a blog or are planning to build one. Now imagine for every 4th post, you create a unique URL, and use a basic theme that gives the impression that it is a full website. However, the sole purpose of that new website is to house one piece of content that links back to your main website. In essence, you are creating a bunch of low-quality clones of your website, or its content, with the intent of building your backlink profile – and gaming a search engine algorithm into seeing your site as more important than it likely would by the content of it alone.
The last sentence above is key to why you should avoid PBN building. Other than the fact that you are seeking to bolster your backlink profile by registering URL’s just to backlink to your site (seriously…this should at least register as shady), you are not providing useful or relevant content to the people who would need to use your services.
Why You Need To Avoid Private Blog Networks For Your Law Firm Website
This idea is more of a philosophy of search engine purpose – but bear with us. Search engines want to answer the questions of people who use them. If you search for “best disability attorney in my area,” the search engine wants to connect you with a website that answers that question explicitly, or barring that – to websites it believes have a high probability of answering the question.
A search engine is not conscious and cannot understand what it is reading and parsing; it evaluates many factors (keywords, meta descriptions, pictures, and especially backlinks) to determine which website will be most likely (probability) to answer the question asked by the user. If you have successfully used a PBN to trick a search engine into referring people to you, but they realize the information is spammy to begin with, or they bounce because in reality – your site is not answering that question – it will eventually affect your law firm website ranking.
This method of building backlinks is effective in the short term, but risky in the long term. Concentrate on unique content and host that on your law firm website. That will never be penalized since fundamentally it addresses the core function of a search engine. Connecting people (your potential clients) with answers to their questions (the knowledge hosted on your blog and through that contact form you have nestled beside it).
Avoid Key Word Stuffing to Boost the Prominence of Your Content
Using keywords is important to SEO, however, using those keywords too often and without purpose, or correct context, can hurt your efforts. You have probably seen poor examples of keyword stuffing. For example, if we were to write two sentences about Social Security Disability Claims using a traditional keyword strategy, it might read like this:
“The most common symptoms of pseudoclaudication include tingling or cramping in the lower back, the hips, legs, or the buttocks. You may also feel heaviness or weakness in your legs.”
However, if we used Key Word Stuffing, you would read something like this:
“The most common symptoms of pseudoclaudication include tingling or cramping in the lower back from pseudoclaudication, pseudoclaudication affecting the hips, pseudoclaudication afflicting the legs, or even pseudoclaudication causing pain in the buttocks. Because of pseudoclaudication, you may also feel heaviness or weakness in your legs.”
Reading that is painful, right!? However, look around at your colleague’s websites, you see this with keywords to varying degrees. You also see this method with locations, for the same underlying reason – someone has been advised poorly that this is how you signal to search engines to recognize your content as important for these words. It is not <- that cannot be understated.
Keyword stuffing will not put you on the radar of search engines. It can cause your readers to be irritated or become confused. You lose authenticity in your writing by sounding robotic and not credible. And worst of all, your content appears very low quality.
To avoid keyword stuffing, use your intended keywords naturally throughout your site. Integrate your keywords in spots that flow naturally and make your website more appealing to your readers. The basic advice here is to avoid repetition and only use keywords when they are relevant to the flow of your writing. And, if you feel you have to hit a keyword over and over again, the advice we give is for you to write more articles rather than trying to hammer the keyword in 50 times in one article.
Article Spinning, A Seriously Bad Idea
Updating and adding new information on your law firm website is good for the readers. However, some choose to use article spinning to make it appear that there is new or updated information. Article spinning can be a couple of different things.
One way of spinning articles is taking an already written article and rewriting it into several new articles, without adding new or relevant content.
Inherently there is nothing wrong with focusing on the same topic several times, from unique and insightful points of view. However, if your content cannot support a thesis, and you are using useless sentences to bulk out your article, you are just creating content your potential readers will find irritating and confusing. Do not confuse or irritate your readers; they will not become your clients if you do.
Another way of spinning articles is literally to use a computer program to write your content for you. Most of the time this happens when you outsource your blog needs to a bad vendor through Fiver or some other freelancer source. You end up with content that reflects the words you want but is not…right. Here is an example of a website we created for the sole purpose of demonstrating bad SEO. Look at those spun articles, ugh!
Major search engines can detect spun articles; whether they are high word county, low-content articles – or, the computer-generated articles. Use this method for your law firm website content development and your ranking on the search results will go down.
For effective and permanently positive results, write your articles with new and fresh information. In fact, if you require every article to have a unique thesis, and content to support that thesis, you will avoid this pitfall altogether. Practically speaking, if you are outsourcing your article development, and we suggest you do, require your vendor to provide an editorial calendar with a thesis for each proposed article they write for you.
This requirement will ensure they..
- Can create unique content; and,
- Can write.
Poor Content: Striking a Balance to Avoid Missing Your Audience
Like spun content, poor content can severely impact your search engine rankings as well as your credibility. Your law firm website needs to have excellent content that is readable, useful, and understandable. More to this point, you have to write to your audience. So unless your audience is a bunch of lawyers, doctors, or other professionals, you have to meet them where they are.
If your law firm website content is too dense, for example, filled with a lot of technical terms, it will not demonstrate expertise to your readers, it will provide them with little value, and they will go somewhere else to find the answers they need. Somewhere less confusing.
On the flip side, keeping your useful content to a minimum, or simplifying it too far can also have negative side effects. If your reader cannot find enough information on what they are looking for, they will again go somewhere else. You have to answer the questions your readers are searching for, without overwhelming them with details. Tricky, right?
Always remember that the quality of what you are writing is more important than quantity. It is important to answer the entire question or questions your reader is looking for without going too far astray. If you can answer their question(s), then they will continue to come back to your website when they have other questions and recommend your website to others with similar needs.
Avoid Plagiarism & Duplicate Content
Your site needs to have original and unique content. That is all we should have to say about that. However, we would not have placed this issue on our list if it was not something we come across (too) often.
If your website has the same content (intentional or not) as another site, there is no reason for major search engines to index your page…someone else has already said it! On top of morally questionable, it puts your business at risk too. Any content developer you retain should include plagiarism checks on all content they deliver to you.
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Here are some other great articles that go in depth on these bad SEO practices: