When searching for something on Google, most people don’t click on anything past the third “organic” or nonsponsored result on the first page.
That’s according to Greg Sanders of Sortis Digital Marketing in Madison, who helps businesses bump their website page-rankings using search engine optimization, or SEO.
Though referrals probably are the largest source of clients at DeWitt Ross & Stevens, said its marketing director, Michelle Friedman, SEO is not to be discounted. Her firm recently landed a substantial client who Googled “Milwaukee attorney ESOP.” The business needed help with its employee stock ownership plan.
Smart website designers should know about SEO, because it’s driven largely by what’s in the code. Yet, many don’t, Sanders said.
For starters, key phrase research is important. If the words you think prospects will use as search terms aren’t the words they use, Sanders said, your website will be relegated to page two or worse.
And, it’s critical to constantly expand the content on your site, and throughout the web, said Brian Schwartz, of Visibility Partners in Milwaukee. It’s a cliché, but content always has been and always will be king. Incorporating still photos, video and audio helps, too.
Even minor changes are better than no changes, Friedman said. And, blogging can be a boost, assuming you’re committed to weekly updates at a minimum. The most effective blogs are about highly specialized areas.
Incoming links are critical for SEO; Google considers them a vote of confidence in the site. But you can’t buy them, and if you add too many at once, Google will be suspicious of that, too. These are “black hat” techniques, Sanders explained, and Google will punish you with a low page-rank. It’s “white hat,” however, to secure links on reliable third-party sites, including blogs, article submission sites or review sites.
Reviews are important to search rankings, Schwartz said. Ask clients to post them on Google (you have created a Google Places profile, right?), Avvo, Yelp, etc.
About those online directories: You should use the same language describing the firm on your website and on other websites, Friedman said, so it’s consistent across the Internet.
You’ll likely find among the various online directories that on some, the firm is listed without the “LLC” or “SC” while others list the full name, or addresses will use varying abbreviations. It’s important to make that all consistent, too.
Schwartz explained that “aggregator” websites update this information on the Web, so it’s important to check them to review your firm’s description. They include Express Update, Neustar Localeze and Acxiom.
Another means of bumping up your website’s ranking is to increase traffic to the site by posting links on social media such as LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook and others, Schwartz said.
Friedman uses Google Analytics to track the website traffic. She additionally recommended Siteimprove SEO, which combs the website every week and emails a report identifying any broken links and spelling/grammatical errors.
Should you do SEO yourself? Well, what’s your opinion on someone who uses LegalZoom?
Google changes its site-ranking algorithms about six times a year, Sanders said, and will you keep up with that?
Friedman advised finding an SEO consultant via referrals, for someone who’s worked on websites in your industry.
“Hiring a generalist will cost you more and decrease your chances of success,” Schwartz agreed. Ask for references and testimonials, and be wary of lengthy service contracts.
Finally, remember that SEO is a process, not a destination.
“If you don’t consistently maintain a website,” Friedman said, “it’s like getting a car and never changing the oil.”