What's working for lawyers seeking better search engine results

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Stacey burke by the window

Photo of Stacey Burke by Julie Soefer

Staying current about what Google Search is favoring—and adjusting the design and content of your website—can be critical for getting your name at the top of search engine returns. (Not an easy task, since the search goliath often changes its algorithm to combat those who try to game its system.)

These days, that means ensuring your website offers text and longer articles that reflect quality writing about a specific topic, according to experts in search engine optimization. And it means the person generating articles and text for your site ideally needs to be a recognizable, respected and prolific Web author.

Here's how to get from here to there:

• Go with a frequently updated blog offering truly useful content. Google has gotten much better at sniffing out sites that post reams of robotic text, punishing those sites accordingly.

"I think that all websites should integrate a blogging platform," says Stacey Burke, an attorney and law firm consultant based in Houston. Adds Robert Algeri, a partner at Great Jakes Marketing Co., a Web design firm that does work for lawyers: "Write content that gets shared, and Google success will follow."

One note for extremely busy lawyers is that, generally, search engines only re-index your website every two weeks. So if you only have time to update your blog every two weeks, you'll still enjoy higher search engine returns as a result, according to Bob Hendrix, CEO of the Web design firm Elegant Image Studios.

• Help Google track you as an author. Google is giving preferential treatment to posts from authors it knows, tracks and monitors. Get on the good side of the goliath by creating a Google Plus page for yourself. Then make a stop at Google's authorship page to establish your author credentials.

• Use keywords judiciously, but use them. While Google is punishing websites that engage in obvious keyword stuffing (repeating the same word or phrase over and over again throughout a post), it does still rely on keywords to identify content.

Essentially, that means you should plug a keyword or phrase into your headline, subhead and opening sentence of your text, and in the captions for your multimedia, says Sarah Skerik, vice president of social media for PR Newswire.

• Go with deep content. Aim for pieces that are 1,000 words minimum. And ensure your text is not blatantly generic or easily found on any number of other law firm sites.

• Practice good website address/tag hygiene. In the end, much about working with Google's algorithm means getting your machine to make nice with its machines. That means getting the technical side right in the following ways:

• Choose page title tags carefully. The title tag—the word or phrase that describes your page to the search engine—is one of the most important choices you can make to attract Web traffic. Your title tag is going to be the text people click on when Google returns the search engine results for your page. Keep title tags to about 60 characters, and include an appropriate keyword or two if possible.

• Be equally choosy with page header tags. Header tags, the H1 tags that are included behind all the pretty colors and images on your webpage, are also major guides Google and other search engines use. Usually your H1 tag and title tag should be the same keyword or phrase.

Don't forget image tags. Too many websites are littered with cryptic tags that frustrate the search engines and offer no clue as to what the visual is. When naming your image, use your tags to finely describe what your image is about—and reap the reward of an overall higher ranking in the search engines.

This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue of the ABA Journal with this headline: “Search for SEO: What's working for lawyers seeking higher results.”
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