Boosting search engine rankings for lawyers

Good online presence is all the more important while personal networking is restricted

Kevin Cheung

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely restricted in-person networking, and this will likely continue for the foreseeable future. As a result, your online presence, including your firm’s website, is all the more important to staying top-of-mind in your network.

A website that does not show up on the first page of a Google search may never be discovered by the user. Pushing a website as high as possible in search result rankings without advertising requires leveraging factors considered by search engines, or Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It is not enough to create a website and hope that people find it. You must help a search engine know about and assess your website so that it can determine if your website is an appropriate result in response to a search query.

Search engines are designed to help its users find the best and most relevant answers to searches. In order to do this, they must have a way to assess webpages. Search engines such as Google constantly search (or “crawl”) the internet for webpages. New pages are discovered when the search engine visits them, follows a link to the new page, or the site owner submits a sitemap for the search engine to crawl. The search engine analyzes the pages to determine its relevance to search inquiries. This is known as indexing.

While search engines will usually add websites to its index automatically, it’s best to confirm that your website is indeed indexed. If it appears in search results, it is indexed. If not, you will need to ascertain why. Perhaps your website is new, or the search engine is having difficulty analyzing it.

You can help a search engine analyze your website by making it easier to understand and navigate. This can be done by creating short, relevant page titles and headings, and using text rather than video and images.

Once a search engine knows your page exists, you need to satisfy it that you have content users would be interested in.

Your Money or Your Life pages 

Content is key. Compelling, useful and up-to-date content is a critical factor in search engine optimization.

Google is particularly meticulous when it comes to assessing the quality of websites and pages that could affect a person's happiness, health, financial stability or safety. These are called Your Money or Your Life pages (YMYL). Legal issues and services fall under YMYL pages, so law firm websites are scrutinized carefully.

Google looks to expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness to determine the quality of a YMYL website/page. Expertise can be demonstrated by highlighting education and certifications. Authority can be demonstrated by having testimonials and links from other reputable names to the site. And trustworthiness can be boosted by eliminating grammatical errors, supporting content with evidence, citations and links to trustworthy sources, and up-to-date information including good bios and social media links.

User experience

One must also consider user experience in visiting a website. In particular, your website should be mobile-friendly and secure.

You can use Google's Mobile-friendly test to see if your site is mobile-friendly. If your site is not mobile-friendly, use the Search Console Mobile Usability report to address these issues.

Some signs of a secure website include whether it has an SSL Certificate (indicated by the “s” in “https” in the URL), the existence of a privacy policy, current contact information (email address, phone number, physical address), and whether there is malware on the website.

Tools 

Since Google is the most common search engine, using some of its tools can help you better understand your website traffic. The following are some to consider:

Google Search Console provides some tools and data with respect to your site’s traffic, and highlights issues that might affect your Google search results. Performance Report gives you information such as the frequency your site comes up in search results, your position in search results, and how often people click the link to your site. If will also show you which search queries pull up your site, which ones come from mobile devices, and click-through rates for specific pages.

Google has also created a helpful starter guide to Search Engine Optimization.

Conclusion 

If your website does not appear on the first page of search engine results your opportunity to attract a potential client's attention is significantly diminished. Focusing on user experience, keeping your website up-to-date, and delivering quality content will all help boost your website’s organic rankings in search engine results.

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