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Blog: Getting your online strategy right - Part 1

Reading time: 6 mins

Andy Cullwick, head of marketing, February 28, 2018

Maximising the performance of your website is a full time job but the rewards for getting it right are worth it.

Producing a website is just a small part of your online strategy but the most important thing is how you drive visitors to your site. The key drivers of traffic to a website are:

Direct – people type in the web address into a browser and go straight to your website. This is because they either know your brand or have seen it advertised in an offline (or other) form of marketing and input the address.

Paid Search – they have entered a search term such as ‘personal injury lawyer’ or ‘medical negligence compensation’ into a search engine such as Google and clicked on one of your ads to reach your website.

Organic Search – as per paid search someone has entered a search term but clicked on one of the natural links to your website.

In addition to this there are other drivers such as social media, display advertising, referrals from other websites and email marketing.

Paid search within the legal sector is very competitive and can be extremely expensive to compete in. Fundamentally paid search is an online auction the higher you bid for search terms the more likely your adverts will appear and be clicked on.

There is a misconception that organic equals free, however done right organic can lead to cheaper enquiries and complement your paid activity. So how easy is it to drive organic traffic to your website?

Search Engine Optimisation or SEO is the overarching technique that drives more organic traffic to your website. Google has a top secret algorithm that reviews and ranks a website then prioritises where it appears in the search results based on this algorithm. The philosophy behind it is that it delivers the best results possible for the person searching. The reality is it makes it more of a challenge for website owners to rank organically. Years ago there were many ways of trying to cheat Google to get your website ranked higher. Nowadays you have to demonstrate that you are delivering relevant and useful content for the visitor in a well-structured, secure and technically sound environment.

Google are continually refining and updating their search algorithm but every now and then they make major releases that really alter search rankings and the performance of different websites. Penguin 4.0 was released in September of 2016 and since then we have seen a continuous stream of releases small and large. We believe there was another significant update in January of this year but to date Google have been tight-lipped about what it actually is.

First4Lawyers ran a website audit on 100 law firms’ websites, including the top 10 legal websites in the UK, to see how well the websites ranked organically in Google. Unfortunately the findings showed that many were lagging behind and getting their search marketing strategy wrong.

There are a number of tools and metrics that you can use to see how well a website is performing, but a website visibility score is one of the best ways to indicate how visible your domain is for key searched terms.

A visibility score is calculated by looking at the rankings of all the keywords on your website, looking at where you appear in search engines for these keywords and the search volume available to those key terms.

The websites with the highest visibility scores in the UK are the likes of Facebook, Wikipedia and the BBC and they have scores into the millions.

Across the legal sector a good score would be around 1,000 and a great score would be 6,000 to 7,000. The highest visibility score in the legal sector at the time of this research was just short of 9,000.

The top 10 PI related brands had an average visibility score of 4,318 compared to 214 for the other 90 firms we audited.

The audit also identified that 32% of the websites we reviewed had a visibility score of zero. In essence this means almost a third of the businesses have websites that don’t rank organically and therefore the only traffic they are likely to get to their website is either through paid activity (and they will be paying a fortune for it) or because visitors know about the website and are going direct to it.

Next we looked at how visibility had changed since Google introduced Penguin 4.0. Between the initial update by Google and our audit the average visibility score for the websites we audited was 186 which at face value means visibility has improved 15%.

Which is good. Isn’t it?

Well actually no because of those websites we audited 66% have seen a decline in their visibility score and they have fallen by an average of 58% or 84 points each.

However there have been winners. 24% of firms have seen increases in visibility of between 20% and 400% improving their visibility by an average of 98 points each.

The top 10 legal websites are also facing the same challenges with 4 of them seeing falls in online visibility of between 15% and 40% and six seeing rises of up to 149%, with our own website improving by over 400% over the year, improving their visibility by an average of 1,635 each.

We ran our initial audit at the end of 2017, but in light of additional algorithm changes in January we reviewed the top 10 websites again in early February. It shows that 7 out of the 10 websites have seen falls in their visibility compared to when we audited them last. Out of the three that have seen further increases, two were of less than 10% and the visibility of our own website has more than doubled.

The average improvement for the five competitors that have seen their visibility improve since Penguin 4.0 is 39.5%, whereas the four firms that have seen visibility falls have done so by an average of 47.8%. Within that grouping two of the brands are owned by one law firm and their websites have seen a 62% and 72% decline in visibility, which will be costing them thousands of lost visitors per month. By comparison we have benefited from a 10 fold increase in visibility, driving record volumes of organic visitors which are enabling us to enhance the volumes of claims we are sending to our panel firms.

Read Part 2 of the blog: So why are you struggling to get a decent visibility score?