This is #4 of the in-Depth versions of the 7 Key SEO Ranking Factors
Content — whether it’s read, listened to or watched on video — is how you attract your clients, prove your authority, and start to build trust. Content should be the center of your marketing efforts. It is how you reach out and touch your audience, letting them know that you have the ability to solve the problem they’re facing.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “content is king.” Yet how do you know if your content is worthy of wearing the crown? And can it break through and be noticed in the very “noisy” online world?
Well, it’s not as hard as it seems. In general, good content is enjoyable to consume and its consumers feel it is worthy of sharing with their friends, family, and colleagues. Good content informs, educates, and solves problems.
However, in the end, if it doesn’t satisfy Google, it may not be seen much and unseen content might as well have never been created.
While Google continues to be the final arbiter of quality in terms of search engine rankings, when it comes to content, satisfying their requirements isn’t difficult if your content is actually good to begin with. Google wants the information that people find on the internet to be relevant and engaging. Therefore, its algorithm rewards what is deemed to be relevant and engaging content with higher rankings in the search results.
Content with higher ranking gets more traffic. More traffic means more visitors to your website and a better chance of converting those visitors into clients. It’s that simple.
In the end the cream will rise to the top. So, if you start by producing engaging, interesting, and relevant content to begin with, Google will notice. It’s almost a circular formula — good content ranks higher, higher-ranking content tends to be good.
Just remember that the content tactics of five or 10 years ago, such as keyword stuffing, “spun” articles that were essentially plagiarized, and short, badly-written blog posts, simply won’t cut it today.
So, how does this affect your law firm marketing strategy? Well, when you consider that 50 to 75% of any business’ website traffic comes from organic searches, and when you further consider that there are over 3.5 billion searches performed each and every day, you quickly see how important it is to not only get your website ranking highly, but keep it there at the top.
What are the best ways to use content to improve your website’s Google ranking while also increasing your law firm’s reach? Here are a few guidelines to follow.
The Importance of Relevance
Google is increasingly relying on relevance when it comes to ranking. So much so, that relevance — how important a particular topic is to an intended audience — is becoming much more important than the use of keywords in the body of the content.
This is not to say that keywords have no importance; they are still something of a prerequisite when it comes to ranking. And, while you can technically still rank without them, why wouldn’t you want to continue to intelligently use keywords to boost your posts? In the end, topical authority will continue to trump keywords. This is especially true as Google’s AI algorithm continues to improve.
So while keywords haven’t been totally thrown out of the equation, you’ll see more results from content that contains phrases that flow naturally within the context, rather than a set number of occurrences of a specific keyword or keywords.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you’re writing an article about the types of personal injuries that are likely to occur in an auto accident. Used to be, you’d perform keyword research on which terms are most searched each month and then add them as 2% of the article, whether they fit naturally into the context or not.
Today, you’d write a deeply informative article that offers the reader all the information they’re looking for in one place. Will highly searched keywords be a part of that article? Yes! That’s one of the biggest benefits of offering authentic, organic content — the correct keyword phrases partially occur naturally in the article context.
If you still want to make sure you’re hitting the proper keyword phrases within your content, it’s easy. By researching your latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords, you’ll find many phrases to use naturally within the context of your content. You can utilize a tool such as LSI Graph by entering in a main keyword — “common auto accident injuries” from our example above — and you’ll find myriad phrases that can be placed organically within your copy without negatively affecting the flow or readability of the article.
While you definitely want to use the right terms and phrases in your content, don’t overthink this. A well-written article designed to convey a deep level of information to your potential client will, by design, incorporate what Google is looking for.
If results are weak even with what you consider great content, you can look at advanced tools to use even better combinations of related keywords.
We’ve briefly mentioned “deep” content a few times already. Let’s define it: Deep content is content which is dense with information. It is an article that contains everything the reader wants or needs to know about a given topic. By its very nature, deep content will tend to be longer than the typical 500-word blog posts of the past.
The importance of deep content can be seen simply by looking at the type of content that shows up in the SERP results. The content in the top 10 of a Google search tends to be longer — 1600+ words on a desktop search, slightly fewer words on a mobile device. It also tends to be more informative, authoritative, and simply more useful.
Still not convinced? Take a look at this example.
I know of a 2000-word article on “best employee termination practices” written in 2010 that had its most successful month in terms of page views in 2017. The monthly views for that article went from 1000 in 2014, to 2500 in 2015, to 5000 in 2017. This article is eight years old, but because it was “deep” before its time, it’s now seeing a huge spike in organic traffic. Why? Because Google wants deep content.
Consider being in the shoes of one of your potential clients — what are they searching for and why do they need the information? The best way to get them to make a consultation appointment is to give them all the information they need in one place. If you can answer their questions and address their concerns, they’ll see you as the authority on the type of legal representation they need, and the choice to contact you will be a natural one.
Deep content should be a part of your overall website plan for practice, resource, and about pages, and for more informationally dense blog posts as well.
Engage or Suffer the Consequences
Even in a specific practice area, let’s say personal injury law, you’ll have several different sub-niches within that area. For example, personal injury law could include car accidents, truck accidents, boat accidents, slip-and-fall accidents, and medical malpractice. And within each of those sub-niches, there are several different types of injuries commonly sustained, and possibly common ways to approach the resultant cases.
You should consider what each of these specific potential clients is looking for when they arrive at your website. When you create content, keep the needs of each of these potential clients in mind and write for them. The victim of a slip-and-fall accident at a convenience store will have different needs and will require a different approach than the victim who was hit from behind in traffic by a semi. By tailoring your content to each individual prospect, you will engage with them on a much deeper level.
This is why it’s imperative that you know your audience before you set out to produce your content. When you know who you’re addressing and why, you can ensure that the information you are giving them is right on target with what that individual’s needs. And when you provide that kind of highly targeted information, you’ll see the results in your Google ranking.
The reason for this is that Google currently employs the use of RankBrain, an artificial intelligence program that helps Google process search queries. RankBrain allows Google to check metrics such as click-through rate (the number of people who click on your site link in their search results) and dwell rate (how long an individual stays on your site once they click through to it). When you are receiving lots of click-throughs, and people are spending significant time on your site, Google knows that you’ve engaged your target audience and your site will rank higher.
There are a couple of tactics you can use to increase engagement that are often overlooked even if people have heard about them — developing personas and the “buyer’s journey.”
Create a document that clearly outlines who you are targeting. It’s a great idea to even put a picture into each of the different persona groupings. Have a picture of business owner “Bob” with his likes and interests and where he consumes information. Do the same for marketing “Mary” and other key people that you want to target. Having this information will help you create more engaging content.
The buyer’s journey
Customers don’t just come to your website once and then buy from you. They are on a journey of doing research in the awareness stage, comparing your firm to another firm in the consideration phase, and finally being ready to contact you in the decision phase.
Your content marketing will benefit greatly if you use a spreadsheet to track your content topics and keywords broken out into stages of the buyer’s journey. Google is deepening the level at which they can judge the intent of what someone really wants when they search for a keyword, so you want to make sure you are really clear when developing content on what a customer might be using that page or information for.
To learn more about putting together documented plans for personas and buyers journey mapping, take a look at our worksheets and checklists at legalmarketingreview.com/
Resource sections: How to pull it all together
You might be thinking, “So do I really need to create so many kinds of content and with such depth?” Yes, if you want to rank for search terms that cost $100 or even in the future $1,000 per single click as a Google ad.
If you want to scale content marketing, you need lots of it. If you make lots of it, you will end up having lots of content formats, from blog posts and white papers to videos and infographics.
When you have lots of anything on a website, it needs to be presented in a way that users can find and navigate easily for a good user experience. Otherwise, users will bounce off your website and the content will have driven people to you but then lost them.
Our clients do really well when they make a link in the main navigation of their websites labeled “resources” or “learning zone.”
When you hover over that link, it should look something like this:
>Articles and FAQs
>E-books and white papers
You can add more to this as you grow and consider using a technique called mega drop-down menus. This lets you add bold category headings to the menu, and even pictures or calls to action.
In the above, by “articles” I mean text pages on the site, not blog posts. They may be more or less the same thing, but sometimes it is useful for content that is a long-term resource to be reachable through an easy-to-navigate section of the website. FAQs are great for voice search SEO and people may want an easy way to get back to them. Sure, you could add all that in your blog but even with blog categories, it’s harder to zip right back to.
Overview: Types of content for digital marketing
In this section, we discuss the main types of content covered in this guide:
- Main website
- Guest blogging
- E-books and white papers
- Press releases
- FAQ pages
- Topic clusters
- Link bait
- Case studies
These should get you started, and you can certainly experiment with many other types of content marketing as appropriate. Here’s a quick introduction to each of these types of content. A more detailed exploration of each follows later here in Part 3.
Main website pages
Your website must allow people to easily navigate to find more about what you do and why they should hire you. While the design of the website is important so that you look professional, it’s really the content on the site that will do the most in terms of generating leads.
Your home page has to have various trust factors, search engine-friendly text as well as clear links to the most important practice areas.
People often overlook how important it is to work on your “about us” page and to improve the pages for each individual practice area.
If you don’t make your website a great resource that is highly optimized, then the rest of your content marketing will be significantly less effective, if not an outright fail.
Of course, you have better things to do than attempt to become a professional blogger. But that doesn’t mean you can’t think like one when you produce the content that’ll be responsible for bringing clients in the door.
A successful blogger thinks like a publisher. Your aim is to publish something good — not something mediocre just to satisfy an arbitrary timeline. While you should be putting out content consistently, how often you do so is up to you. With the move toward deeper content, blog posts and articles are taking longer to create — around 3 hours and 16 minutes on average according to OrbitMedia. A lawyer’s busy schedule dictates that content taking this long to create simply won’t be published as frequently as less-deep content. But quality will win over quantity every time.
It’s important to mix it up on your site. Write long, in-depth articles, alternated with slightly shorter blog posts. Sometimes, what you have to say can succinctly be conveyed in a few hundred words. Other times, if you’re tackling a deeply complicated legal subject, you’ll need to put in more time, effort, and of course, more words. Remember, a well-written 1000-word post will always trump a 2000-word post larded with irrelevance and fluff.
words or more is what ranks best on average. So think hard about how you can add leads through depth, not fluff.
Your blog is likely to have a small number of visitors when you first begin. If you can share your content or blog on larger sites like the National Law Review or Forbes, you will get your valuable content in front of a much larger audience. Keep in mind, it’s not easy to get onto the highest-profile sites without some serious thought leader credibility.
Guest blogging was abused by search engine optimization firms because they did it just to get links on crappy websites.
Done right, however, guest blogging is a lot like other public relations techniques and requires careful outreach to journalists or the owners of blogs. You’ll need to pitch yourself and the content your propose to share by sending them an email that explains why you are a valuable resource for their readers and offer them a “teaser” blurb or two about ideas that would be relevant and useful to their audience. Just keep in mind that demonstrating the level of thought leadership that gets you onto Forbes doesn’t happen overnight and is not a one-off effort.
Many of the famous bloggers in the world in general were initially more focused on this tactic and then pulled the audience over into their own blogs.
Law firms are finally realizing that video is one way to bridge the trust gap and get SEO rankings at the same time. By viewing a video, a potential client can get a feel for the personality of an attorney before making that all-important first call to schedule an appointment.
Law firms can utilize video to “humanize” their firm and make them more approachable. Videos are also more likely to keep a potential client on your website, and that can help increase your Google ranking as well. Not only is YouTube the world’s second-largest search engine, but it is also shaping up to be the most popular social network.
Podcasts are audio interviews that let you share your thought leadership easily in your own unique voice. Podcasts are becoming more popular as people want to just click and listen while they drive or watch while they work out.
Podcasts get you up on iTunes and give you something of substance to share on social media, but they also boost your SEO, especially if you add the transcripts (or at the very least, a solid description subtly sprinkled with keywords).
Infographics are a superb way to convey information in an engaging manner. Statistics and graphics relevant to your law practice that your potential clients would find interesting can be turned into eye candy. For example, imagine that you are trying to explain to one of your prospects the many stages of securing a trademark. Visual representation of this can go a long way in helping people understand what is involved and how it would be wise to hire an attorney to help them through the complex process.
In fact, infographics are one of the top three to five ways that search engine optimization firms get links to their client’s websites, so don’t overlook this tactic.
E-books and white papers
Most people aren’t ready to buy from you when they pop onto your website after a quick Google search. They are researching and if you offer them something for free, like a downloadable e-book in exchange for their contact information (often just a name and an email address), you are much more likely to reach the 95% of people who are not yet ready to fill out the contact form on your website or call you directly.
If you are already blogging, then it’s a shame not to repurpose that material and turn that content into something that people can download.
Writing and submitting a press release online is a great way to announce important events and changes at your law firm. Don’t issue press releases for minor things, but when you have something substantive and specific dates or milestones to share, sending out a press release (and posting it on your own website, perhaps on a “news and events” page) can get you in front of new websites in a matter of hours.
Paid options include Business Wire, PR Newswire, and similar reputable services. They are not cheap but they can be helpful in getting your press release in front of the right audiences. In addition to putting a press release on your own site, send it to selected local media outlets and share it on social media platforms where you and your firm are active.
Occasionally your press releases will get mentioned on larger news sites. If this happens, you can feature a link to that site on your homepage to show credibility.
Press releases that you submit online to a site like BusinessWire also show up in the search engine results and can drive calls from customers or journalists directly.
A webinar is just a seminar that you offer over the internet instead of in person. GoToWebinar is a great tool and reasonably easy to set up. You’ll need to put together a PowerPoint presentation and then deliver it online while managing some technical elements of GoToWebinar software.
If you are accustomed to presenting seminars in front of in-person groups, it may seem strange to give a seminar online and not be able to see the looks on people’s faces as you share your exciting information.
The software for webinars usually has a feature that allows webinar attendees to ask questions or comment by typing text, allowing some degree of interaction, but it is not exactly the same as doing an in-person seminar because you can’t get a feel for body language, etc.
Webinars give you a great opportunity to capture prospects’ contact information by enticing them with a free event. Webinars are good, and co-branded webinars are even better. You can find an industry association or other organization in your niche and offer to provide a jointly presented webinar to their audience. The trust that you get from doing this and the fact that you get in front of an audience you wouldn’t otherwise have had access to makes this tactic very powerful.
FAQ pages and voice search optimization
Many clients ask us how they can do better at showing up in voice search results. Whether people are asking a question on a mobile phone or querying their Google Home or Amazon Alexa devices, if you want to be these robots’ favorite, there are some very specific things you need to do.
One of the best ways to have an organized strategy for voice search is to have frequently asked questions (FAQ) pages where you pose common questions and answer them succinctly.
Beyond that, you need some technical elements like schema markup (which we will get into later in this guide). Google will not rank your Q&A section if your website does not have topical and link authority, and it all starts with quality FAQ pages. This type of content can help not only attract visitors but also keep people on your website longer.
Topic clusters are one of the most effective current search engine optimization strategies I know of. Writing a bunch of blog posts is not nearly as effective as writing a comprehensive page about a topic and then writing clusters of blog, video, and podcast content that interlink, forming a guide that is much more powerful when all the individual pieces are collected together.
Wikipedia is a good example of this. They rank highly in search results because they have long, detailed pages on critical topics and then interlink to all the relevant subtopics.
For your law firm, you need a pillar page, which is a long general page about the topic with one paragraph each for a dozen items, which you then link to shorter content about the subtopics.
Sometimes you just need to step outside the box of the basic content you are creating on your blog. You need to create something that really stands out and makes people want to share and link to it. We call that “link bait.”
Infographics and industry survey data make great link bait. A piece of content like the “ultimate guide to protecting your intellectual property” can be link bait. You might do this once a quarter or maybe even just once a year to build links.
Once you create the content, you must persuade people to link to it. Sending emails to people who link to similar content and buying social media ads to promote the content are just a couple of ways to make your link bait more visible. We have had entire marketing campaigns be transformed by a single piece of link bait that lifted the rankings not only of that page, but of the entire website.
In the middle stage of the marketing funnel, people are comparing you to other firms. It’s important to allow them to see the smiling faces of your customers and the stories of their success. It can be as simple as writing a paragraph that summarizes the background and the client’s challenge, the strategy, and the results.
If you do it right, these case studies will pop up in Google searches and give you something to share on social media. You can use Facebook ads and/or LinkedIn ads to drive people to your case study content.
Focus on creating the highest-quality, most information-dense content at regular intervals, and you’ll reap the rewards in your Google rankings —- and in the number of appointments you schedule with clients.
Think in terms of campaigns. Every major topic or practice area you want to promote should make use of the following content types:
- A topic cluster – a series of blog posts interlinked from a pillar / general page on that topic
- An e-book
- Calls to action offering the e-book
- A landing page for the e-book
- A video
- A podcast
- An infographic
- A deep piece of content worth linking to
If you want to go a step further, you should also create a quality “thank you” page that people hit after they fill out your forms. These thank-you pages will have links to more quality information and they also get set up in Google Analytics as the touchpoint required to track a goal conversion. In addition, they can trigger email marketing automation “drip” campaigns using a tool like HubSpot.
These drip emails will send even more powerful content, such as a link to a relevant blog post, then a case study, then a request to talk. Such emails go out every three to five days automatically, so you are nurturing prospects as you sleep.
Content marketing is very sophisticated now and artificial intelligence is only making it deeper and more complex to organize.
Automated tools are great and information flows freely on how to do these things, but it all comes down to having an organized process and a team of people designated to handle specific tasks.
It may feel overwhelming, but once you get into the flow, it becomes more of a rinse-and-repeat process, where creativity and insight are more important than just the tactical factors.
If your firm has something to say, don’t let law firms with less experience do all these things that I have outlined; they’ll come up in search and social media ahead of your firm, and capture leads that just might be your ideal customers. Now let’s turn to an in-depth look at how to organize your website’s pages to create rich soil in which effective content will grow.