Search Engine Optimisation: Your Firm’s Guide

SEO – or search engine optimisation – is a term you may have encountered in your online travels.

As we explain in our Digital Marketing Jargon Buster, SEO is the work involved in changing or improving your website in order to achieve higher rankings in search engines. In other words, it’s optimising your site for search engines.

In contrast to paid listings, SEO focuses on improving organic listings. Depending on your firm’s priorities, SEO can augment pay per click (PPC) activity or act as your main traffic driver.

But whatever emphasis you put on it, SEO is vital to give you the best chance of being found by potential clients.

What’s the point of SEO?

SEO gives you the opportunity to move your site higher up the search engine results pages (SERPs). It’s an activity just about every business has to engage in – unless it has zero competition and is the only provider of its service or product online. And that’s wishful thinking.

In order to compete with other firms offering the services you do, prospective clients need to be able to find you. And when these prospective clients head online to find legal assistance, you need to be right there, visible for the terms they’re searching for.

SEO involves taking the steps necessary to give your firm the best chance of moving into the top organic positions on the SERPs. The point is to give your firm more visibility than your competitors, giving you more chance of getting the traffic.

How long does SEO take?

How long is a piece of string? How heavy is a cloud? How long does SEO take? Unfortunately, there’s no single answer to this question. When you start to see results will depend on a number of factors, such as:

  • How much you’re focusing on optimising your site
  • The level of competition you’re dealing with (in the legal industry, this is generally high)
  • The number of inbound links you can garner
  • What content you’re producing for your site

Generally, most experts agree that it will take at least six months to a year to see the results of your efforts.

In most cases, your first action will be carrying out an SEO audit on your site, in which you identify what needs to be optimised and in which order this should be done. Then the work begins to get the site optimised.

After the work has been done and the site optimised, it then takes time for search engines to get around to crawling the site and ranking its pages accordingly.

What to optimise

When you’re trying to improve your rankings, your main focus areas will be:

  • Technical

Without a solid website that performs well, you don’t stand much chance of reaching the top SERP spots. Search engines – and users – are looking for fast, mobile-friendly websites that don’t come with too many pop-ups.

There are plenty of elements to consider with technical SEO, so working closely with a developer is usually the best way of implementing the necessary changes. Other important aspects, like canonical tags, can usually be managed through your website’s content management system (CMS).

  • On-page

Largely relating to your website content, on-page SEO means optimising individual pages on your site to rank well. Search engines rank pages, rather than entire websites, so you need to spend time looking at the pages to make sure they serve the intent of the user.

Look at the keywords you’re basing your content around, look at your internal linking and look at your meta data – meta titles and meta descriptions are what you see on the SERPs. Make sure everything is working to fulfil your user’s intent.

  • Off-page

What happens outside of your website can also have a huge impact on its rankings. This is effectively about building authority around the web, which is done through obtaining links to your site from others.

Search engine crawlers follow these links and use them as one of the main factors to rank a page and site. The more links your site has from credible and authoritative sites, the better its chances of good rankings. Other activities, like social media marketing, can fall under off-page SEO. They’re unlikely to have any real impact on rankings but can drive traffic to your site.

Top 5 SEO tips for your firm

  • Do your keyword research

Knowing what people are looking for is one of the best ways of ensuring your content matches what people are looking for. And this means you’ll need to carry out some keyword research.

Look at what people are searching for. You can do this using various SEO tools or Google Keyword Planner, which will show you keyword ideas and monthly search volumes. This will let you identify the keywords you should be basing your content around.

  • Build the right links

Getting links to your site from other established and highly regarded websites will help search engines recognise it as a valuable resource. This can result in higher rankings for your site.

But you need to build links in a natural way. Google and other search engines are increasingly able to spot a paid-for link, so make sure you’re not treating this aspect of SEO as a commodity. Buying links risks your site suffering a penalty or taking a rankings hit.

  • Optimise your meta data

Optimising your page titles and the meta data for your pages can enhance your rankings and your click-through rate. If your title is well thought out and appealing, you’ll see the benefit in more traffic.

Ensure you’re including your page’s main keyword in your meta title and description and that they’re not too long. Search engines cut both off at a certain point – usually 50-60 characters for a title and 150-160 for a description.

  • Speed it up

Google is set to introduce its Core Web Vitals (CWV) algorithm update in May 2021. It’s going to put more of a focus on a positive page experience. They are made up of three metrics that denote how fast your site loads for visitors.

If your site’s pages perform poorly in comparison to others, you’ll likely find that your rankings will suffer. So make it a priority to get your CWV in order to stay competitive.

  • Make it mobile-friendly

Google crawls the mobile version of websites, favouring those that have optimised theirs. This is because, Google says, “the majority of users now access Google Search with a mobile device”.

Make sure that your mobile and desktop sites feature the same content, that your mobile site is responsive, and that your pages load fast on mobile. Don’t forget to pay attention to your navigation – it can be more difficult for users to find what they want on a mobile site so make it easy.


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