As a digital marketer that analyzes hundreds of law firm websites every year, there are certain problems that come up more often than others. I decided to take some time to put together a list of the 20 most common SEO mistakes I see in the legal industry. My hope is that by knowing and understanding these common mistakes, your online marketing strategy will be strengthened and your business will grow to new heights!
One quick word of warning: If you’re just getting started promoting your own website, I don’t recommend you implement all of these ideas at one time. Real change can only be made one step at a time. So, go through these tips with a pen and paper. Make notes about the things you want to fix on your website, then tackle a few points each week until you’ve finished everything on your list.
1. Your strategy is “run of the mill.” It’s not catered to your website, your market and your goals.
Your SEO strategy should be customized to your specific market. Is your website new or old? Are your competitors strong or weak? How are they currently beating you? What strategies are they using? What links are they acquiring? How often are they updating their website? How quickly do you want to rank? What’s your budget? These are all things that should be taken into consideration when creating an Internet marketing strategy for your firm.
2. You aren’t varying your anchor text enough, or you’re using too many keyword-focused anchors.
Anchor text is the clickable text in a link. So if I were to write “Go check out Michael Ehline’s website,” the words “Michael Ehline’s website” were used as the anchor text. When you click those words, you would be directed to his website.
Oftentimes SEO companies do not vary the anchor text enough. Most of the links are using either the same keywords or they are 75% keyword-rich anchors. Is there anything natural about that? In my opinion, 50-75% of your anchor text should be your site name or brand name. Here are some examples of natural-branded anchor text:
- John Doe Injury Lawyer
- Injury Lawyer John Doe
- Attorney John Doe
- Law Offices of John Doe LLP
- Law Offices of John Doe
Here’s an example of an SEO using too many keyword-focused anchors:
The reason, more often than not, that SEOs do this is because they are looking to get you fast results. Every SEO wants to rank you quickly, and being aggressive with the anchor text is one way to give you a fast boost – the problem is this quick boost may not set you up for long-term success. That’s why it’s important for you to discuss your goals with your SEO so that he or she understands what is expected.
I have prospective clients that come to me regularly as a last-ditch effort. They’ve been screwed by other SEOs in the past, and now their businesses are on the edge of collapse. They need business now! In those cases, I am more aggressive with the anchor text the first few months – if I’m not, my clients will be out of business. But as time goes on I focus the anchor text on branded phrases so that we’re not sacrificing short-term gain for long-term, sustainable results.
3. You aren’t utilizing social media properly.
It’s tough for most lawyers to generate business directly through social media. The best examples of lawyers generating business through social media would be internet lawyers, tax lawyers and business lawyers who specialize in helping start-ups. The reason why those lawyers do well is because their target market (Entrepreneurs) uses social media on a regular basis. If you’re a personal injury lawyer, you would have to build a massive following to generate regular business from the social web — unless you’re a niche injury lawyer that specializes in truck accidents, motorcycle accidents or birth injuries (just a few examples), because your target market could actually be other lawyers who want to refer cases to your law firm.
Even if you don’t see opportunities for your firm to generate business directly from social media, you still need to be active if you want to compete in Google. The web is significantly more social now than ever before. Google’s algorithm has been heavily influenced by links, because it sees links as votes. In other words, if I like your site, I’ll link to it. The problem is that most people don’t have websites, and those that do may not have a page or opportunity for people to link to them. With social media, shares and likes are the new “votes,” and everyone – not just those with a website – has a voice and can influence rankings. Therefore, you must be active on social media if you want people to share your stuff. You must build relationships with other lawyers (sharing/liking their stuff, too) if you want to be a forerunner in the years to come.
4. You’re not building links.
There is a lot of negativity surrounding link building. Google hates it because it influences their algorithm. Google wants everything to be “natural.” The problem is that links are at the core of Google’s algorithm, and as long as that’s the case, people are going to create and buy links to buy their way to the top of the search results.
The good news is that there are lots of “safe” ways to build links that will improve your rankings without taking on much risk. Here are a few link-building tactics that we use on a regular basis:
- Citations: Citations are most often directory links on local sites like Yelp, Yellow Pages and Superpages. But there are literally hundreds of great sources for citations. Here’s a service that will get citations for you: http://www.localsitesubmit.com/
- Directory links: Here are a few of my favorite, high-end directory links http://dir.yahoo.com/, http://botw.org/ and http://www.hotvsnot.com/
- Guest blogging: DO NOT use guest blogging networks or guest blogging forums like My Blog Guest. Those are spam. Instead, exchange articles with lawyers that you meet on social media websites.
- Press releases: My favorite distribution service is PRweb followed by EmailWire.
- Social media profiles: There’s a service called KnowEm that will secure your brand name on social media websites. When your name has been secured, a listing is oftentimes created. You can request to have a link back to your website included in your listing.
Side note: Now I want you to notice how I linked to all of those websites