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Search engine optimization ( SEO ) for law firm Web sites and blogs the right way

December 9, 2004

Jill Whalen, head of HighRankings, published an excellent post to her High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter today outlining her process for search engine optimization (SEO). Jill does SEO work the right way – not the smoke and mirrors stuff sold to law firms for extravagant prices.

I like Jill’s information so much I asked her if I could republish the post for my law firm audience. She graciously agreed so without further ado, take it away Jill.

Determine goals for SEO

The first thing I do when starting a new SEO campaign is find out the goals for the site and the optimization in general. For instance, is the goal simply to drive more targeted traffic to the site or is it to get people to sign up for a newsletter? Is the goal to get someone to make a purchase online, or is it to entice people to call or fill out a form requesting more information?

Usually, the goals will be a combination of things. Very often different pages within the site will have different goals, and these need to be kept in mind throughout the SEO process.

Brainstorm a keyword list

With the end goals in mind, the next step is to compile a brainstormed keyword phrase list. At this point, we ask the company to send a list of the phrases that they feel are important to their site. It’s important to also go through the existing site pages and add to the list any phrases that appear naturally within the copy.

With list in hand, it’s time for some heavy-duty keyword research over at Wordtracker. Plug your keyword phrases in, and see what comes up. Very often you’ll find that phrases the company thought were important are not actually searched for by real people. Luckily, Wordtracker will give you alternate suggestions to test.

Eventually, you will be armed with a Wordtracker list of actually searched for, highly targeted, relevant keyword phrases. Send this off to your client, whose job it will be to weed out irrelevant phrases from the list and rank the relevant ones in order of importance to their business.

Pick 2 or 3 key phrases

Once this new “short list” is compiled, it’s time to brainstorm with the client on which 2 or 3 phrases to focus on within the copy of each page of the site. The home page of the site should usually focus on the main 2 or 3 phrases that encompass the general theme of the site. Inner pages should each focus on 2 or 3 more specific phrases.

If the pages already have some copy to work with (say 150-250 words or more), take a look at the existing words on each page and see which 2 or 3 keyword phrases in your short list will fit best with the current copy. If pages of the site don’t have much copy to begin with, or if there is no specific focus on any given page, a rewrite from scratch will be necessary.

Work key phrases into text copy

Once the keyword phrases are chosen for each page of the site, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty and start utilizing them within the copy. If you’re rewriting from scratch, be sure your copywriter understands which phrases need to be used, what the goals of the site are, and who the target market is. Obviously this information will affect how they write the copy, so the more they know, the more accurate your copy will turn out.

If you’re lucky enough to be able to work in the necessary keywords, that’s your next step. Once your copy is finished and approved, you should now have a number of pages focusing on 2 or 3 keyword phrases each.

Optimize the html code

You’re now ready to optimize the actual HTML code. Optimizing the HTML code includes creating Title tags, Meta description tags, Meta keyword tags, hyperlinks, and possibly headings & image alt attributes. All of these are factors in helping the search engine spiders to properly classify your site, with some being more important than others. (Note Jill has articles going into detail on this).

Upload new content

When your code is optimized, it’s finally time to upload your new pages to your server. In the past, at this point we would then resubmit them to the search engines. However, these days, this is an unnecessary step. As long as you’re dealing with an existing site with some links already pointing to it, the search spiders should visit and index at least your home page fairly quickly. It may take a bit longer for them to reindex the inner pages, but you can rest

assured that they will.

Directory submissions or directory change requests

Now it’s time to perform your directory submissions or directory change requests. Some SEOs recommend that you do these before all the other work so that you can start getting rankings right away. However, I prefer to wait until the copy changes have been made and uploaded.

The newly focused copy helps the directory reviewers to more easily understand what your site is all about, and they’ll be less apt to edit your submitted description. If you submit before your site’s copy is using your specific keyword phrases within the copy, the reviewer may feel these keywords don’t belong within your directory description.

Link-building campaign

The next step is to begin your link-building campaign in earnest. As with directory submissions, I prefer to wait until the site is in perfect condition before starting to request links. You can certainly get started researching link partners before the SEO is complete; however, the better your site is, the more likely others will be willing to link to it.

Link building can be done in a quick burst, but should also be an ongoing process. You should always be on the lookout for sites that are a good fit with yours and contact them about exchanging links. For more info on link popularity and its effect on search engine rankings, please read this article on Jill’s site.

Wait for results

At this point, the only thing left to do is wait for your rankings to roll in! If you’ve paid for inclusion with the search engines and directories that offer this, you’ll start to see results within a week or 2. If the rankings aren’t as high as you’d like them to be, I recommend not changing anything for at least 3 to 6 months.

You’ll need to give your link-building campaign time to kick in, as well as simply give your new site time to age in the engines’ databases.

May be other SEO methods

That’s all there is to it! Pretty simple, eh? Did I miss anything? Do you have another process? With thousands of SEO firms out there, I’m sure everyone has their own tried-and-true methods. The one I’ve outlined here has served me well for many years, and I’m sure you’ll find it will do the same for you if performed correctly. However, there’s always more than one way to skin the SEO cat, so if your method differs a bit and it’s working for you, don’t worry about it!

Thanks Jill. Keep up the great work over at HighRankings.

Jill Whalen of High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization consultant and host of the free weekly High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter. She specializes in search engine optimization, SEO consultations and seminars. Jill’s handbook, “The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines” teaches business owners how and where to place relevant keyword phrases on their Web sites so that they make sense to users and gain high rankings in the major search engines.

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