How does Google find your firm?
Google wants to find the closest match on its search engine results page to what is searched by a prospective client. To do this it sorts billions of web pages and ranks them according to their value. There are many aspects to this ranking technology, however, the need for good content is now paramount because Google has altered its search algorithms to elevate the value of quality content as a prime driver of its ranking determination.
Ranking is based on a combination of two things – relevance and authority. Relevance is how close are you to the term being searched. But at the heart of Google’s algorithm is its proprietary means to measure the authority of the page (the “PageRank™” named after Larry Page, a founder of Google). This originated with the innovative work of Google’s founders on the authority of academic writing, which sought to rank the weight of an academic paper according to the number of different papers that cited it as an authority. Here’s the tricky part – not all of those citation sources are of equal value. For instance, if your academic paper is cited as a research source in a Nobel prize winner’s paper, which is also widely cited by others, it would (and should) give greater authority to your paper.
The Google algorithm originally achieved s a similar result, except Google looked for links from other web pages (called “inbound links”), not citations, and the authority was weighed by the number of links to the page that links to your firm. At least that was the intention in the early days of Google, and why the artificial use of those links became so prevalent, spawning so-called “link farms”.
“Panda” is a code name for a series of Google algorithm updates that commenced in February 2011, whose aim was to create a heavier focus on reader value and reward the trustworthiness of the website content. The many versions of the Google algorithm changes – both Panda and post-Panda updates – have specifically focused on quality unique content.
First understand your law firm’s content needs
The various Goggle updates have placed more and more emphasis on the quality of writing that must be relevant, authoritative, less jargon heavy and written in plain English. That’s hard to achieve by consultants unfamiliar with the professional-client culture and relationship, or at the least a similar service profession, which is why professional firms should always carefully brief and vet consultants hired to write content for their firm websites.
But don’t expect a copywriter to understand the nuances of estate litigation or mortgages or superannuation trust deeds. If you are a service professional without the time to write your own content, then at least get a thorough grounding in what you will need and look for someone very familiar a similar professional service industry. This is all explained in my eBook The Ultimate Guide To Website Content For Professional Firms (downloadable from the subscriber form at the end of this post and in the right hand margin).
Write benefits not features
The best way to structure content that targets both your clients AND Google is to understand and emphasize the benefits that clients derive from your services. An outside copywriter may assume that a family lawyer is in the business of selling family law advice and expertise. But this is going to cause real problems if you make it the foundation of your communication with clients. What if you instead shift the emphasis to “benefits”? After some time in this branch of law, you will be familiar with the emotional needs of clients in the throes of a life-changing relationship breakdown. From this perspective, what are you “selling”? Reassurance? Relief from anxiety? Guidance through a legal minefield? Hope for the future? The chance for financial security for children? Those are “benefits”, and they are the foundation of good website content. That does not mean you ignore the legal issues – every client wants to know that you will see them through the legal mire to a successful result – but you need to couch that advice within the context of an appropriate client psychology. This is sometimes known as a “client persona”.
When you focus on the features of your firm’s services, and not the benefits of those services, you misunderstand your client’s needs and how best to communicate with them. Ask yourself, “what do our clients really value”. That will always lead you to write content that rewards clients and boosts your search engine ranking.
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