If You Build It, Will They Come?
Just because you have a website doesn’t mean anyone will visit it. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that if you don’t do the things I recommend in this eBook, NOBODY other than existing clients (who found you through some other non-online way) will even know you have a website! Without good quality content on your website, there will be no reason for prospective clients to visit your website in the first place. Without that content being organized and disseminated properly, search engines will not rank your website highly. Without website traffic from search engine users, you will receive little or no inquiries from prospective clients. Without inquiries…well, you get the picture.
So Let’s Do It Already!
So hopefully now you’re convinced of the IMMEDIATE need to build an effective online presence for your law practice. Now it’s time to share my knowledge. I have come up with a simple 4-step approach to effectively marketing yourself online:
- Strategize: come up with keywords that your target market will use to find you online;
- Optimize: design your website and your content in a search-engine friendly way;
- Promote: use link campaigns, directories, e-mail, to disseminate your content; and
- Evaluate: analyze and improve on your strategy, optimization, and promotion.
Each of these will be examined in turn. But before we get there, I should say a few things about search engine optimization or “SEO” for short.
Search Engine Optimization
There are basically three ways in which your website can be found online. First, someone may knowingly type in your domain name (e.g. www.dynamiclegalforms.com). This method of getting people on your website is impractical for so many obvious reasons. Second, someone may come to your website through a link on another website. This method makes your website dependent on the goodwill of third parties, which also has its disadvantages. Third, and most importantly, someone may find your website by using a search engine like Google or Yahoo; by far, this is the most popular and advantageous way for internet users to find your website.
And this is where search engine optimization or SEO comes in: you need your website to rank higher than other websites for specific keywords in the search engine results. The higher your website ranks, the more likely people will be able to find you (and hence, the more likely they’ll follow up with you to retain your services). Most people don’t look past the first or second page of search engine results so it is imperative that you rank high. Rankings depend on many different criteria and algorithms used by search engines to determine how relevant or authoritative your website is for a given topic or set of the keywords being input. While many of these criteria are public knowledge (and which I will get into below), the algorithms used by the search engine spiders to index and rank websites are kept secret and change so often it is hard to keep up!
Now back to the 4-step approach I mentioned earlier…
Step 1: Strategize [Find the Right Keywords!]
The goal is simple: rank high on search engine results for specific keywords. To get there, you need a strategy. The strategy should end up telling you what are the best keyword(s) for your website to focus on. It’s a waste of time to optimize your website for keywords that are not being searched for. So here are 5 techniques I use to help me figure out what people will be entering into search engines with respect to my particular product or service:
- Know your products/services: You should be able to describe your idea, the benefits to your target market(s) (i.e. your clients and customers), how you differentiate yourself from competitors (i.e. what’s your sustainable competitive advantage), the history or story behind the idea (this is always a great selling feature), the progress you’ve made, and your future plans.
- Know your industry: You should look around for competitors and figure out what services they offer and how they try to distinguish themselves from others. You should also know where the industry has been (e.g. new, old, dominated by a few players or fragmented along various lines) and what trends are coming down the pipeline.
- Know your customers: You should not only be able to describe your ideal customer as much as humanly possible (with respect to the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, and HOW), but you should map out the different avenues they would take to find your product or service – both offline and online. I use SITUATIONAL ANALYSIS to do this. Ask yourself: who is my ideal client or customer? Create a whole bunch of situations in which someone or something would need to use your product, service, or idea. When you’ve done enough of these situations, you’ll start to see overlap. In fact, you can even group a whole bunch of the situations together. At this point, you will likely have identified your primary and perhaps even secondary target market. You should be able to say something like: “my primary target market is boys between the ages of 15 and 20 who live in Toronto and who play online video games after school”. Finally, you should realize that your customers are entering one of three types of keywords: (1) keywords for browsing, (2) keywords for comparing or reviewing, and (3) keywords for buying. Keep these things in mind!
- Use Software: You can use software like Google AdWords Keyword Tool (FREE), WordTracker (PAID), or Micro Niche Finder (PAID) to help you find the right keywords. These applications will tell you the volume of selected keywords being searched for on a monthly basis (for example, on www.Google.ca) and the fierceness of competitor websites with respect to those keywords. It is always best to find a high volume, low competition keyword or set of keywords to focus on.
- Evaluate Your Competitors. You can find the right keywords by looking at your competitors and seeing which keywords they are targeting. This is fairly easy to do. Simply visit a competitor website and look at the top of the page or the Title. For example, the Title of http://www.romanolawfirm.ca is “Toronto Personal Injury Lawyer – Injury Lawyers”. This means that this particular page is targeting these keywords. Another simple way to find competitor keywords – assuming you’re using Firefox – is to select “View” from the main menu, and then “Page Source”. This shows you the code that was used to build the webpage. Often times, you will see keywords in a META Tag (i.e. a non-visible background element that describes the page). Just look for something that looks like <meta name=”Description” content=[“actual keywords followed by a statement about your product, services, and/or organization”]/>” and “<meta name=“[keywords]”> or <meta name=”Keywords” content=[“actual keywords”]/>” near the top of the Page Source. A final way to find out what keywords competitors are using is to purchase software like Internet Business Promoter or SEO Elite, which examine competitors based on many different variables – including ALT Attributes, META Tags, Headers, inbound links, etc.
By using these techniques, you should have come up with an idea of some keywords to focus on. Also keep in mind that nothing stays the same over time. In fact, that’s the only thing that does stay the same. So you should repeat steps 1 through 5 every so often to make sure you are ahead of the game.