Content is the driving force behind brand identity. However, in this hyper-competitive digital age, the “if we build it, they will come” content marketing approach is long dead. Search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial to secure your firm’s visibility in the digital marketplace. SEO helps your content get found and the quality of your content moves prospects through the business development pipeline, informing the ultimate decision to purchase. SEO is a dynamic process that is constantly evolving as Google updates its algorithm to combat websites trying to game the system and appear first in organic search results.
As complex as SEO is, the rise of the marketing technologist in law firms has put marketing departments in a better position than ever to address the challenge of brand visibility in the digital marketplace. Understanding search engine algorithms, monitoring for algorithm changes, and tailoring your content marketing strategy to SEO developments enables firms to better manage their search engine rankings. Panda, the most recent Google algorithm update, is designed to reward sites that provide high-quality, high-value, and unique content to users. To meet Panda requirements, marketing technologists and content marketers should work together to maximize SEO and enhance the firm brand. Below are just a few ways that marketing technologists and content marketers can collaborate and prepare for the future of SEO.
1. Optimize for mobile
In 2016, mobile searches accounted for more than 50 percent of search queries around the world. To adapt to the mobile-first environment, Google announced they will launch mobile-first indexing, likely in 2018. This means that Google will rank sites based on the quality of the mobile experience first, rather than prioritizing the desktop experience as they have historically. To prepare, marketing technologists should ensure that firms’ sites incorporate responsive design and are optimized for mobile, including mobile-friendly images, scrollable pages (rather than pages users must click through), and fast load times. Content marketers should work to socialize mobile-friendly content among attorneys. Mobile-friendly content includes “snackable” or “chunked” content such as lists, previews and summaries, increased use of images, and shorter words and paragraphs. Optimized sites and easy-to-consume content also create a better user experience, which can reduce a site’s bounce race (the number of visits in which a person leaves your website from the landing page without browsing any further); a high bounce rate negatively impacts a site’s SEO.
2. Key into your audience with keywords
Knowing your audience is the first step in any marketing strategy. For SEO, knowing the keywords your audience uses to search for your product is the first step towards getting found on Google. The marketing technologist can track keyword data in Google Analytics (the common queries that bring traffic to your site), research keywords related to your practice areas, and learn what phrases your competition is using. Content marketers can use this data to create high-quality content that addresses these search terms. For example, while bios are the most read content on law firm website, people rarely get to those pages by searching a lawyer’s name. If you know that most people get to your site by searching for “IP lawyer DC” you can better tailor the bio content of your IP lawyers to show up in search results.
3. Fresh ranks better
Google’s Freshness algorithm, implemented in 2011, prioritizes “fresher, more recent search results” in search queries about the latest news, political developments, and events, among other things. While not a new development, the Freshness algorithm underscores the importance of having a content marketing strategy and editorial calendar in place to ensure that the firm’s site it populated with timely, high-quality content that is relevant to current searches. In addition to new material, content marketers should incorporate “evergreen content” to build authority within search results. It is also important to update old content to maintain its freshness by adding new terms and tags as relevant. Marketing technologists play a valuable role in keeping things fresh by ensuring that past content adheres to the latest SEO best practices.
4. Prepare for the next big thing: voice search
In 2016, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that 20 percent of queries on its mobile app and on Android devices are voice searches. Given that this figure does not include voice searches from Apple devices or Amazon’s Alexa, it is safe to assume this figure has only increased. This increase in voice assistants is likely a harbinger of future SEO algorithm updates that favor voice-friendly searches. In fact, voice search may already be in use by some clients or prospective clients as they search for information (although “Alexa, find me a criminal defense lawyer” seems like an unlikely query today). Marketing technologists should look around the corner for voice-friendly search solutions and arm content marketers with data to create content that can meet voice search queries.
By Ashley Hollingsworth, Marketing Communications Specialist, Miller & Chevalier Chartered for the First Quarter 2018 LMA Mid-Atlantic Region Newsletter