Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is central to content marketing, but it can be so easy for those promoting law firms to fall into the trap of thinking it’s all about keywords.
Nobody with even a passing knowledge of content marketing can be unaware of SEO. The importance of optimising content in order to ensure it gets found easily on the search engines is central to the whole enterprise.
Indeed, with research demonstrating that few people searching on Google or other search engines look beyond the first page, getting a high ranking is essential. As the joke goes: If you want to hide a body where nobody will find it, put it on the second page of the Google search rankings.
Why Keywords alone are not enough
This is why keywords alone are not the be-all and end-all of SEO. Take some common searches people might make for legal services. The short-tail keywords could be phrases like “divorce lawyer” or “compensation claims”, while longer-tail keywords will focus on more specific issues.
The problem here is that with so many similar service providers producing legal content marketing containing the same kind of keywords, there will be a huge number of matching results. Without other criteria to decide who gets top ranking, it would be a case of pot luck what content made page one.
It was not always the case, of course. In the early days of SEO keywords really were everything. Stuffing articles with more keywords could boost a ranking, while unscrupulous content producers could include popular search terms – such as the name of a celebrity – that had little or nothing to do with the topic, purely to gain traffic and ranking.
What changed with search engine algorithms
The search engines responded to that around a decade ago by changing their algorithms and have made more updates since, adding further elements that are factored in when determining a ranking:
Quality and reliability
Technical SEO and user experience
Age, domain and authority of URL
These are just some of the elements that are taken into account. Google apparently has around 200 factors although it’s a company secret what all of them are. Nonetheless, the above elements can all be added to keywords in deciding a ranking.
For writers, the focus clearly has to be on matching the use of relevant keywords with that of producing content with authority and the best links, which themselves will contribute more to a ranking if they are from high authority sources.
A backlink to a site with a handful of views will contribute little, a site with hundreds of thousands or even millions will have a significant impact. However, it is important to avoid bad backlinks – such as toxic domains or broken links – and it is a very productive exercise to check and update backlinks on existing content. This can make sure existing links are still in good shape and add better links to replace those already there when the chance arises.
Why the rule of seven should always be remembered
Good quality writing should always be central to the enterprise anyway, as the rule of seven – that a consumer has to encounter a marketing message an average of seven times before they will commit to a purchase – applies as much with content marketing as anything else. Being found online is one thing; producing the kind of editorial content people will want to go on reading is crucial to the enterprise.
Length is also an important factor, as search engines regard this as being an important element in quality content. Longer articles gain a better ranking, based on the calculation that to write more about a topic means the blog or news article is being much more thorough and providing a larger quantity of information.
How pictures can make a big difference
Images are also a significant element in content ranking. The following factors should be borne in mind:
They need to be of good quality
They need to be relevant
Still pictures are good, but the video is better
It’s not just that good images break up the text and can make the content more attractive, although that is certainly the case. But they add meaning and authority if they match up well.
Video goes one step further because it provides an extra source of information, making it more likely the content will be useful. However, the real strength of video is that research has consistently shown that people would rather watch than read something from a screen.
As much as 82 percent of IP traffic will be video by 2021. Embedding a video in an article will certainly help boost your ranking, especially if it is a video with a strong authority gained from having a lot of views.
Building up domain authority is, of course, a lengthy process. Organic SEO will take time to reach the top of the rankings, as the age and authority of a URL increase as time goes on and more content is produced.
The fact is, the older a URL is, the more chance it has of being ranked highly. If your website is new, the only thing you can do is work on being consistent, producing quality content and gradually building your ranking up.
Why SEO still applies to paid search
The short cut some marketing campaigns seek to achieve in establishing their presence early on is to use paid search or pay-per-click advertising, bidding for space on search engines and on other sites with lots of traffic like social media platforms.
Even here, however, the fact that there is competition for space and similar bids may be received for them means search engine algorithms will still reward good SEO and penalise that which falls short.
How technical SEO can make or break your best efforts
However, even the very best legal content writer, no matter if they produce a scintillating copy of great relevance to potential readers, include all the right SEO keywords and maintain consistent themes, will find their efforts are squandered if they are not backed up on the technical side.
A classic example of poor technical SEO is having a site with slow load-ups. This can have various causes but if they are not addressed, it risks a large proportion of site visitors quickly getting fed up and a high bounce rate.
This will, in turn, be punished by the search engine algorithm. Indeed, last year Google announced an algorithm update that would see slow load-ups being penalized.
This is one of a number of user experience issues that must be considered. Having mobile-friendly websites is one of the most important because around half of searches are carried out on phones, with the number growing swiftly over recent years.
Secure connections are also crucial. An HTTPS connection on a website is more secure than HTTP and is thus positive for SEO. In an age of increasing concern about cyber-security, the need to have a secure connection is all-important.
Quite apart from all that, a site needs to be accessible to allow the search engine ‘crawlers’ to get to it and assess its pages to be able to provide a ranking.
In essence, failure to deal with the technical side of SEO would let content writers down in the manner of a motor racing driver being given a car with a malfunctioning engine and wheels that may fall off at any moment.
However, there are some elements of technical SEO a writer should take care of. These include keyword phrases in page titles and meta descriptions, both of which help show this is the right page that the user of a search engine is looking for.