Using 'Search Engine Optimization' to Elevate Your Firm's Web Profile

We recently went looking for an attorney's Web site so we could contact her. We knew the attorney's first and last names and the name of her firm. When we "Googled" these we got a lot of search results, but all were for listing sites like SuperLawyers and none seemed to have a link to the firm's actual site (unlike ElderLawAnswers, which always supplies a link). Finally, after we located the attorney's middle initial, the firm's site came up near the top of our search results, but it took a few minutes to get it. Why didn't the firm's site come up when we first entered its name? One likely contributor was poor search engine optimization.

When marketing your law firm on the Web, search engines are king. In today's world, "Google" is a common part of our vernacular, and having a Web site that can be easily "Googled" is an important way for potential clients to find you. Optimizing your Web site to display high up in the results of search engines such as Google or Yahoo is called search engine optimization or SEO, and getting SEO to work takes skill.

The search engine uses an algorithm (also called a spider or web crawler) to match keywords consumers use for searches with Web sites that contain relevant content. The search engine spider indexes the content on your Web pages and ranks the relevance of the content to the search word or phrase that the consumer entered into the search engine. This is how the search engine determines what order to display Web sites on the results page. The higher up on the results page your firm appears, the more likely it is to get clicked on.

The best time to do SEO is during the initial development of your Web site, but it can be done as an update or when adding new pages. When developing your Web site, a Web developer will insert onto each Web page HTML coding containing key words that consumers would be likely to use when looking for an elder law attorney. The position of the keywords in the HTML code is critical to the way search engines index and "rank" your Web site. When doing SEO, Web developers must look at several factors, including your site's URL, site description, keywords, titles, headlines, images, and links.

Another way to increase your firm's presence in search engines is to add content to your site that contains keywords clients might search on. Unique and fresh content can improve where your site is ranked. One reason blogs are so popular is that they are an easy way to add content to a Web site to keep it updated.

When developing a new Web site or adding new pages to your existing Web site, you should make sure to submit the Web pages or URLs to the search engines for indexing. This will improve your SEO over time. Don't expect overnight results, however. It can take as long as six months for your Web site to begin showing up on the major search engines as a result.

To submit your Web site to Google, you can go here: http://www.google.com/addurl/. To submit your Web site to Yahoo, you can go here: http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/submit. In addition, there are free submission services on the internet like Submit Express, which can be found here: http://www.submitexpress.com/submit.html. However, you must use caution. These sites will try to get you to opt-in to an e-mail advertising list, so read the fine print carefully.

You can also use software to submit your site and analyze its SEO. One such program is Web CEO. You can download a free version of it here: http://www.webceo.com/. Be prepared to take some time learning how to use this software; there will be a learning curve and you might not see results right away.