Over on Google Webmaster Central’s YouTube channel, Googler Maile Ohye shares 5 common SEO mistakes and 6 good ideas:
Contrary to what many of the comments say, I found the video very helpful. You see, most people that become frustrated with Google’s vague SEO information, just don’t like the answers that they are getting. This doesn’t mean that the information isn’t helpful.
Here’s the tl;dw (too long; didn’t watch) version:
Mistake #1: No Value Prop
Now look, obviously marketing your law firm is different from marketing running shoes. However, having a value prop makes sense, even for law firms. Why should someone select your site? Why should someone contact you? Why should someone hire you?
If you can’t answer these questions for yourself, why would you expect someone else to conclude that they should?
Mistake #2: Segmented approach
If you’re at a small law firm or a solo, you’d think that you’d be able to easily avoid problems segmentation problems. After all, you wear all the hats.
But if you employ others, you may have segmentation problems without even knowing it. Who answers your phone? How do they answer it? Who handles your advertising and marketing? Do different people handle creating business cards from those that developed your website? Are you value props consistently communicated in all these places?
Inconsistent marketing is self-sabotage. It confuses and dilutes your messaging.
If you’re not paying attention to who, what, and how communications about your firm are being made, chances are that they’re inconsistent at best, and potentially unethical at worst.
Mistake #3: Time-consuming workarounds
Maile is too kind in her video. We see sites that need major “fixes” because they either lacked flexibility or have been “worked on” by folks that just don’t know what they’re doing. This is especially problematic when it comes to sites that are hard-coded and have had a lot of link scheme work done.
If you take risks with your site and your reputation, nine times out of ten you’ll spend more time and money trying to undo the damage than you would have spent building your presence the right way the first time.
Mistake #4: Caught in SEO Trends
This is probably my favorite mistake. It is the nature of SEO to try to predict and correlate the impact of certain strategies on website visibility. Unfortunately, for those that want to be #1 in 48 hours, this means obsessing on the latest search engine optimization trends. And this is where snake oil is brewed.
Optimal keyword densities, number of likes and followers, thousands of PR 4 back links, and all the other underbelly SEO products and services that are out there really stem from the pursuit of SEOs to chase search engines instead of users.
Search engines are dynamically evolving pieces of software developed by some of the smartest people in world. Even if you’re having “success” today, if you’re chasing them, you’re playing a losing game. Some day, what’s worked for you so far won’t. Then what? Oh right, launch a new site and start chasing the newest trends. Good luck with that.
Mistake #5: Slow iteration
Most law firms skip nos. 1-3 right out of the gate. No goals. No key-performance indicators. No measuring whatsoever. They judge their marketing and advertising with their guts. It feels like this is working. It feels like I’m getting more inquiries. It feels like I’m getting repeat clients. How? I’m not really sure.
You don’t have to have a PhD in data analysis to make informed decisions about your marketing and SEO. However, you did need to have some metrics by which you will measure your efforts, and the efforts of those that you pay to perform work on your behalf. If it’s working and you know it, clap your hands. But if it’s not, you need to be able to quickly and effectively change course. That means not having to make requests through a web developer that will be executed sometime in the next 6 months.
Which brings us to Maile’s SEO instructions:
Do Something Cool
For lawyers, doing something cool might prove difficult. So, why not do something helpful? Or controversial? Or informative? Or educational?
While we might disagree a lot about various web marketing strategies for lawyers, I think it’s safe to agree that doing stuff that is boring, not worth reading, and generally as waste of time and money, won’t do much to attract new clients. For even if you spam Google, get listings for long-tail searches, and generate a business, if the article upon which they land is illegible, stuffed with keywords, or just generally wrong.
Include Relevant Keywords In Your Copy
“But you just said not to stuff keywords in your copy!” I did, and I’ll say it again (just not here). The point here is that search engines need to be able to read what your pages are about in order to deliver them up for relevant search queries. If you don’t include keywords in things like page/post titles and headlines, you are just making Google work harder to decipher what the page is about.
Write for people, be conscious of how search engines crawl, index, and order search results.
Be Smart About Your Tags & Site Architecture
For most lawyers, this is more easily said than done. Since I’m not going into all the details about site plan, html, etc, here, I will say this:
Just use WordPress.org. Check your privacy settings to include your site in search, fix your permalink structure, install Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin, verify your site in Google Webmaster Tools, and track visitor traffic with Google Analytics. Also, learn a little HTML, and law firm SEO.
Sign Up For Email Forwarding in Webmaster Tools
Google wants to help you with your site. My advice is to let them. Which means using their free services like Webmaster Tools and Analytics. You can avoid many of the most common issues by monitoring your site in Webmaster Tools and correcting errors that they find.
Attract Buzz and Natural Links, Votes, +1s, and Follows
Earn online attention for your site. Again, this goes back to doing something cool, or interesting, or maddening, or insightful, or entertaining. Just not boring, salesy, or markety.
Stay Fresh and Relevant (social media sites, accessible on new devices)
Hopefully, your practice is evolving. You’re learning new things every single day. Laws are changing. You’re facing new issues and challenges. There is constantly new news and media relevant to your practice for you to consume, share, follow, link to, write about, etc.
Get involved. Find the people and sites that are discussing topics relevant to your practice. Engage in discussions. Share your point of view.
This is what SEO is really all about. Should you monitor traffic? Of course. Do rankings matter? Yes, insomuch as they drive relevant traffic which leads to inquiries and new clients. Should you pay attention to technical aspects of your website and work to attract and build new links and other signals that search engines will use to order your pages? Absolutely.
But these factors are just links in the chain between when someone researches something online, to becoming a new client for your firm. Don’t lose site of the chain for these individual links.