During last month’s webinar,“SEO Today: Now What Does Google Want?!” Jennifer Ellis, attorney, educator, online marketing consultant, and ABA author of“WordPress in One Hour for Lawyers” discussed the basics of SEO and provided information about the tools you’ll need to start driving traffic to your website.
If you missed it you can watch a video of the webinar here. During the webinar, there were a number of great questions asked from viewers that Jennifer didn’t have sufficient time to answer. Fortunately, she was kind enough to provide us with her answers below:
1) If I want to add content regarding a particular practice area, would this be best accomplished through many blog posts or additional pages on our website? (Chris)
I would add pages for each practice area you handle. I would then create blog posts focused on specific information about those practice areas. Link to the appropriate keywords from the blog post to the practice page. For example, create a page on Car Accidents and draft blog posts on what to do after a car accidents.
2) How important are categories for blog posts? Is it bad idea to have a blog post with 2 or more categories?
There are various opinions on the importance of categories. I think they are not crucial, but can be useful. Others may disagree. I would say 2 categories are fine, but you don’t want to get into too many.
3) You mentioned linking to external sites. I have heard from others to avoid linking to external websites in blog posts. I’m assuming the logic is you don’t want to encourage your reader to leave your website. Do you have any comments on that?
You can make it so that the link opens in a new window. This keeps people from leaving your site when they click on the link.
4) Is it advisable to avoid personal social, political, etc. views in blogs or FB posts? (Christopher)
It is entirely up to you. I think you need to consider the ramifications of your posts for any potential clients. I occasionally discuss politics, but it is not something I speak about frequently. However, that is also my nature. I try to keep blog posts neutral. You simply need to think about what brand you are creating for yourself and the impact that such posts will have on your practice. I do, however, encourage people to be themselves.
5) Maybe off-topic, but: How valuable/useful are sites like AVVO, MANTA, etc.?
Avvo can be useful for some practice areas, less so for others. I have gotten clients for my firm through answering questions on Avvo. It is useful to claim your profile and fill it out, as long as you have been practicing for a while and have enough to put in your profile to achieve a decent score. Avvo provides a “follow” link, which is nice for SEO.
It does not hurt to fill out your address information on sites such as Manta. Doing so provides another way for people to find you.
6) Is it practical or realistic to “build” your own website?
I think it depends on your technical savvy and how much time you want to spend on your site. If you are savvy, or at least a bit comfortable, you can certainly do it.
7) What is a “reasonable” price you’d expect to pay for (a) a decent site, and (b) SEO?
It depends on the complexity of the site and how much SEO is necessary.
These days, I would expect to spend a minimum of $2500 on a very basic site, without having the person write content for you. (You write the content, the designer uploads it.) $3500 is more common.
For most $5000 sites, which should include some if not all content, you would also be signing a contract for SEO that is at least one year long. However, some designers will start you off with a solid site with decent content for about 5k and not require a long term contract. Some folks charge upwards of 10k. Shop around.
SEO costs range from around $1000-$5000 per month, depending on what you want. Normally this will require an annual contract, but not always. Someone in a smaller market or a niche area can get away with paying less, because s/he will not need as much done per month. To determine what is fair for you, you need to be realistic about what you want to accomplish and what you expect in return for your money. An average cost for a large geographical area in a common practice area is 3-4k per month. But in exchange for that, you should be getting a good amount of content written for you.
8) Any books that you would suggest that would be helpful to read. You did suggest a couple any others?
You will forgive me, I hope, for suggesting my own book WordPress in One Hour for Lawyers. It is a step-by-step guide on how to create a WordPress website. I discuss SEO in the book, but only in a limited way.
I actually am more inclined to recommend websites than books for a lot of things, since websites can stay up-to-date better. The websites I suggest are:
9) What are the laws/rules about posting pictures? Do they need to be taken by us? Can we use others photos?
You need to obey copyright laws. Do not just search Google and take images to use on your site. This could cost you a lot of money when the owner comes calling. There are a number of sites that sell stock photos. You can also find sites that offer free photos for use, be sure to confirm they are ok for commercial use. You do want to be sure to use pictures of yourself, any other attorneys and your staff, so your site is not only stock photos. Be sure to personalize it.
10) What are crawl errors?
Crawl errors are errors that result when Google has issues crawling your site. For example, a 404 error means Google could not find a page it expected to find
11) Have there been studies done to determine whether potential clients more readily click on PPC ads vs. organic results? If you had $1.00, what percentage of that dollar would you spend on PPC vs. building organic? (Richard)
I am sure there have been studies, but I have not reviewed any closely to such an extent that I can feel comfortable with their reliability. That said, it is often easier to get faster results by using PPC. Organic results take time and a lot of effort. I recommend people use PPC to build their initial traffic as they are completing their organic efforts. If I had $1.00 to spend and a client who wanted to build traffic quickly, I would spend at least half, and maybe more, on PPC, at least at first. I would then balance out the spending over time, as organic improves.
12) What do I have to pay most attention on the SEO company? (Lulu)
You want to make sure it is clear what you will be getting for your money. Also, be sure to get references and to look at active sites the company is currently working managing. In addition, find out how many other firms in the same geographical area with the same practice areas the SEO firm is helping. If they are helping too many law firms seeking the same key words and phrases, someone is going to lose out.
13) What is most important thing to watch out when I write website content?
Focus on quality of content with appropriate key phrases and make sure to answer questions potential clients tend to ask.
14) If content is crucial why are WestLaw and LexisNexis directories for attorneys who are paying a lot to those companies always at the top of searching for my keywords? (Bruce)
LexisNexis websites are starting to drop because of the most recent change in Google’s algorithm. Lexis actually joined with a company called Nolo quite recently. It will be interesting to see what happens there. Both WestLaw and Lexis have an extremely valuable link profile based on their connections at huge companies. The links are sustaining the sites’ ranking at this point in time. As Google continues to focus more on content and less on links, any site with poorly written content will drop like a stone.
15) I operate my law firm from an address, and a non-law business out of the same address. We’re trying to optimize both places in Google Places, etc. Will this confuse Google, or negatively affect our SEO?
It could cause problems. If you can create suite numbers that would help.
16) Can you clarify how many profiles should be set up on each social media outlet? No private/public distinction, but personal /company distinction – is this correct? (Waldon)
Yes, personal versus company. A personal account for you and a professional page for your firm. Most sites have different options for individuals versus companies. Be sure to use the appropriate type.
17) How do we get paper reviews on a Google+ page? (Stephen)
You can try a company that puts reviews up. I cannot recommend any one in particular, but you can look around. You need to make sure they are real reviews. Scan the paper copies and keep them as proof so you don’t have problems later on. If you try to do it yourself, Google will know from your IP address that you are doing so and will reject the reviews.
18) Does your search history affect your search results as well? (Allison)
It can. Especially when it comes to paid search, or if you are signed in to Google+. In these cases, Google is trying to provide a more personalized result.
19) When talking about “fresh content” focus seems to be on blogging. Does editing your website content (static pages) count? (Rebecca)
Yes, you should edit your static pages and add more as appropriate. You should review your Google analytics to see how your various static pages are doing, and respond accordingly.
20) Regarding local search–what if you want to reach international clients?
Take advantage of international resources and relevant directories. You can still use Google+. Use the names of the countries as part of your key phrases. You might want to do a page on each country for each concept. For example, Italy Divorce Lawyer is one page, France Divorce Lawyer is a different page. However, be sure you do not simply repeat the same content.
21) What is the tool used that showed various stats with the SERPs? (Brian)
That tool is a plugin from Moz.com
22) Can you define follow and no-follow links more clearly?
A no-follow link does not directly impact your search engine rank. A follow link does. You can tell which is which by looking at the links in your webmaster tools, or by using one of the tools I suggested for reviewing links.
23) How narrow should social media be? Can I tweet about elder law and attorney health? Or should I have different accounts for each topic? (Sara)
I suggest that you initially create one account and build from there. You can tweet about both elder law and attorney health from one account. This way you are not dividing your efforts. If you find something takes off and you want to focus, you can always add another account at that point.