SEO isn’t what it used to be. Marketers used to have SEO down to a science – they could represent it almost entirely as numbers on a spreadsheet. In 2016, SEO depends on more intangible factors and requires a holistic approach.
Just a few years ago it seems many attorneys were still scoffing at the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) for their law firm website. I even heard platform speakers declare, "SEO does not matter!" and one listserv almost went viral as attorneys piled on that "SEO is dead."
SEO has always had its naysayers. Nonetheless, SEO continues to thrive. In fact, according to a recent study by Borrell Associates, companies will spend $65 billion on SEO this year. What’s more, they predict the SEO industry will grow to an estimated $72 billion by 2018 and $79 billion by 2020.
One reason you might think SEO is dead (or doesn't matter) is because it's constantly changing. As Silverman wrote, "The techniques and technology SEOs use become obsolete as fast as bloggers can publish their 10 tips to improve SEO.”
At Integrity Marketing we have the advantage of insight into Google Analytics tracking across hundreds of law firm websites. As we see SEO trends develop, we incorporate them into our Best Practices for our clients.
Here are three of the most compelling trends we see right now:
- What Worked in 2010 Won't Cut It in 2016
Gaming the system simply doesn't work anymore. It's estimated that Google implements approximately 500 search algorithm changes a year. Today SEO success does not rely on identifying high-traffic, low-competition keywords and stuffing them into your site wherever possible. We've also seen that outbound linking (and black hat, invisible link techniques) has little impact (or can get you banished from Google's index!) and that "more content" is not the way to get a better presence on search. As Silverman wrote, SEO today requires a more holistic approach with many variables at play.
- Create Content to Answer Questions
As search engines improve their machine learning, people are posing more natural, conversational queries. These conversational, question-based searches have overtaken keyword-based searches, especially since Google’s Hummingbird update in 2013.
Content that specifically answers questions will not only appeal to searchers, but will boost your credibility and make for a better user experience on your site than content that simply matches keywords. I recently saw an SEO scam where the company offered to take over managing SEO for one of our clients. When we asked them what, specifically, they planned to do, they offered pages and pages of content stuffed with keywords -- some of it almost nonsensical, some completely inaccurate and some that would actually violate the ethics rules on lawyer advertising! If someone solicits you to manage your SEO, remember that good optimization requires a sophisticated, holistic approach that is much more than just throwing keywords on a page!
- Design for a Good User Experience
Emphasis on the word "user." We sometimes find clients design websites to please themselves, with little regard for real-world usability. Your website should welcome, engage and even entertain your guests. It's imperative to understand the Customer Journey and how users flow through your site, then design for the best possible experience. Google will reward you with a greater presence on search ... and your visitors will reward you as they become new clients.
Finally, remember that exciting, engaging content like well-done video gets people talking ... and sharing. The better your content, the more your audience will share and engage with you, and the more visibility you’ll have on social and ultimately search engines.