local presence

National Firms Need a Strong Local Presence

Your design team just delivered your firm’s updated website. Looks great, seems functional with your firm’s lead capture form above the fold. Under normal circumstances, your next steps would be to get content put back (or have redone), canonicalize your URLS (to avoid content duplication issues if keeping your current content), then resubmit your sitemap to Google in hopes your local presence is still strong.

From there, your firm develops a strategy to rank on Page 1 in whatever way seems the most prudent for as many keywords as time allows.

That strategy may have worked in, say, 2009.

Law firms today cannot use antiquated SEO methods not because they won’t work, but because the dynamic of Google’s algorithm has changed significantly.

Keyword gurus from the world over could, at one time, get their useless blogs ranked within weeks, the tides have changed, making putting yourself in front of billions literally either an impossibility or an expensive endeavor.

The Search Paradigm Has Shifted

SEO as we know it has shifted for the betterment of the local venue.  Why? Certainly not because that small ‘Five and Dime’ wants exposure; the reason is more or less due to the fact that law firms (et al) are simply more relevant to potential clients in the communities they serve.  Sure, it’s not uncommon to have an individual from, say, Seattle hire an attorney to handle affairs relevant to that area, even though the client lives in Albuquerque. However, not many firms make their bread and butter assuming they’ll have out-of-state clients.

Google’s ever-evolving machine knows this now. They want your firm’s local presence to be on-point.

And with many sites still picking up the pieces after Hummingbird decimated their ranking years back, irrelevant law firm content has been moved to the back burner, moving local-based relevant content to the front of the line.  Yet it doesn’t stop there.

Video, Images Also a Ranking Factor

Anyone can now optimize a YouTube video to build their local presence, too; video marketing makes perhaps the deepest impression on perspective buyers, and simply optimizing the video with catchy tags and a search-friendly title is what’ll do the trick in the new Google world.  Pictures? No problem.

Virtually any picture you can fathom is now searchable with proper tagging and title optimization, throwing more relevancies their way and shooting themselves to the top of the ranks.  With all of these new innovations in place, it makes becoming ranked even harder now, even if you are paying $1.50 or more a click on Adwords.

On this particular front, it appears that most old link building practices and content creation would be obsolete with the movement of localization in full effect.  People may simply log into their Google account and, since you must state where you are from, get local-based searches based on their location.  However, for those that do not log into a Google account, you’ll be the ones to see relevant content on a global level.

The Google of Tomorrow Arrived Yesterday

Fair or not, this is the new ‘take no prisoners’ Google, an ever-evolving algorithm which relies on the relevancy of your content, age of your domain, strength of your inbound links, and overall keyword density to file you accordingly in their bot.  The days of the {meta description=”robots-revisit” content= [x] days} are over as the new Google will simply come when your site is up to bat.

(See Slow Law Firm Site? These 15 Fixes May Solve It.)

Hope is not lost for getting ranked into the search machine, my friends.  Just to make sure our team wasn’t going bonkers, we re-read every SEO tip from Matt Cutts, Barry Schwartz and their ilk.

Wee found that three of the secrets to remain on the first page and beat the local guys are still content, strong link profiles and on-page optimization.  Making sure that your content matches the domain, the general category of the website, and the keywords that were selected is the dark horse for law firms who have poor keyword density and irrelevant content.

Making certain your keywords are not ‘spammy’ – 2-4% is suggested depth – is another decisive factor in how Google grades your site.  This may be the opportunity that you needed to re-evaluate the direction and structure of your web presence, and to optimize accordingly.

Because in the glaring eyes of Google, you can either optimize for a local presence or stay on the porch.