Practice Descriptions and SEO: Distinguish Your Firm from the Competition
Differentiating your firm’s legal services from those of another firm is one of the basic tenants of legal marketing. Many firms offer the same general legal practices that directly compete with other firms for the top spots in legal rankings and search engine results. Fortunately, search engines are predictable creatures that use objective measurements to determine in what order websites are ranked. Below are a few suggestions on how to craft the most effective practice description in order to maximize search engine visibility.
Long-tail Keywords. Each practice has key phrases, usually names of specific laws or regulations, that are unique to that particular practice. It is important to identify these industry-specific keywords and include them in an appropriate place within the practice description. Using long-tailed keywords, such as “EU data protection directive,” will have the added benefit of generating traffic from visitors who have in-depth knowledge about the specific industry as opposed to more generic keywords, such as “climate change,” that will cast a wide and rather ambiguous net.
Keyword Variation. Some practices, like international arbitration, have standardized names that are used universally by almost all firms who offer that practice area. Other practices have different names that describe the same general practice area. For example, a practice may be called “Business Restructuring & Reorganization” at one firm and “Bankruptcy, Restructuring & Creditors' Rights” at another. Even if there might be slight distinctions in their niche expertise, they are generally targeting the same sector of the legal community. Although the name of the practice should remain consistent throughout the description, not including other commonly searched alternative forms of the practice within the text will limit your reach.
Inbound Links. One of most powerful ways to raise a practice area’s search engine rank is to increase the number of inbound links to the practice description. The more links that lead to your content, the more weight search engines will give to the ranking, and the more traffic will be directed to your practice area description. There are many opportunities to place a link to a practice description on your current material, including blogs, client alerts, and other related practices.
Intelligent Design. Search engines use header, sub header, bullet, and boldface tags to determine the content of a webpage. Using these elements to structure practice area descriptions will not only make your content more comprehensible to search engines, but also present your information more effectively to website visitors.
Consider the Medium. Practice descriptions used for the website should not be the same length as practice descriptions used in proposals and other print materials. By using a practice area description that spans several pages, you are inadvertently sabotaging its chances of appearing in search results. Search engines use complex algorithms that calculate the frequency of keywords divided by the overall length of the content and thus long practice descriptions will dilute the keywords you use to categorize your law practice.
While incorporating any one of these elements into your practice’s website description will be beneficial, it is critical to keep in mind that effective SEO is dependent upon multiple components that work in unison to produce the desired effect. Furthermore, many of these recommendations can be extrapolated to attorney biographies, as they are another opportunity to distinguish your firm from the competition.
DISCLAIMER. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Hunton & Williams LLP.
Originally published in the Summer 2010 issue of LMA Practice Marketing Newsletter Copyright 2010 Legal Marketing Association –The Virginias Chapter