Step 2: Optimize
So now that you’ve selected some keywords to focus on, you’ll need to ensure that your website is designed to be search-engine friendly when the spiders (i.e. the applications used by search engines to index your website) come around. Here are 20 FREE TIPS you should know that will help you improve your organic search engine rankings for your particular keywords. By organic, I am referring to the search results that occur after paid Google ads are displayed. The paid Google ads will be displayed along the top and right hand side of the search results. Now if this stuff starts to get too technical, no worries: as a lawyer, you’re unlikely going to be delving into the coding yourself. That being said, you should, at a basic level, understand and appreciate what your web developer or search engine marketer is going to be doing for you:
- Content is King: Use the keywords you uncovered to create high quality content. Without content, the search engines won’t find your website and other websites will have no reason to link to you. In fact, you will never be found unless you end up paying for Google Adwords. The bottom line is that you need to have high quality and regularly updated content on your website for the rest of the world wide web to trust and reward you with higher rankings. As a general rule, try to have at least 500 words of content per webpage. There are some websites – like www.needanarticle.com – that will actually write your content for you (e.g. $5 for 500 words); my experience has been that the quality of their work is about grade 12 and it doesn’t work for lawyer websites because those services providers cannot write about complicated legal topics.
- Domain Name: Have your keywords in your URL / domain name if possible. Lawyers don’t seem to get this point. Prospective clients are not putting lawyers’ names in search engines. They are using terms to describe what they are looking for, such as “Toronto personal injury lawyer”. If you can avoid it, don’t use your name or your law firm’s name as the URL / domain name.
- Website Title: Make sure that your website title includes your keywords. For example, the Title of www.ezinearticles.com is “EzineArticles Submission – Submit Your Best Quality Original Articles For Massive Exposure, Ezine Publishers Get 25 Free Article Reprints”. Try keeping your title less than 60 characters and put your keywords upfront. Do not repeat your keywords in the title as search engines may interpret this as spam (and punish your website accordingly).
- META Tags: Have your keywords in your META Tags. Meta tags are non-visible background elements contained in a webpage to help describe what the webpage is all about. Search engine spiders look at the META Tags to index the page. There are two types of META Tags which you should be familiar with: description and keywords. As I previously discussed, META Tags for competitors can be viewed – if you’re browsing their webpage using Firefox – by selecting “View” from the main menu, and then “Page Source”. 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”]/>”. As a general rule, it is best to have your description META tag less than 150 characters and repeat your keywords up to 3 times – otherwise search engines begin to think you are trying to spam their search results. Furthermore, you can have up to 800 characters in the keywords META tag but only include your keyword once – again, because search engines may punish you for trying to spam their search results. Finally, make sure that you include your keywords in both your META tags and the actual content of your webpage – otherwise search engines will consider your webpage to be spam.
- Keyword Density: Keyword density is the number of times your particular keyword appears in content as a percentage of the content overall. Your goal is to have a low keyword density. As a general rule, your keywords should appear anywhere from 5-7% of your overall text. Also: try to have your keywords appear at the top of your page where possible.
- Use Headers: Put the keywords in your headers. Headers are a class of text (e.g. bold, underlined, large font) that characterizes words in one area (e.g. a title) from words in another (e.g. a paragraph).
- Inbound Links: Have links that come from another website, article, or blog to your website. Try to have your keywords in the actual link text.
- Blog: Blogs – or weblogs – allow for periodic entries to be displayed in a search-engine friendly manner through the use of widgets or applications that employ various SEO techniques (discussed in these 20 FREE TIPS).
- Blog Tags: These are keywords and terms that will help describe your page or blog for search engine spiders to find. Make sure to fill your website and blog with relevant and popular tags.
- Have a Sitemap: A Sitemap is a page that displays every page on your website according to their depth and links. It allows users and search engine spiders to quickly and easily find your content. So be sure to have a Sitemap file to help search engines index your website. Also worth having is a sitemap.xml file (which you can create for free using Google Sitemaps) which helps ensure that your webpage get picked up by search engine spiders as quickly as possible.
- Have a Robots.txt file: A Robots.txt file is an exclusion file contained within webpages that provides instructions for search engine spiders to either index or not index the particular page. If the Robots.txt file is set to ‘no-follow’, then the page will not be indexed by the search engine.
- Directory Submission: You can submit your website (sometimes you have to pay) to search engines, special interests websites and internet directories. A listing that is relevant to your business and your country can bring you significant targeted website traffic. Beware of resubmitting too often, as search engines and directories may characterize this as spam and punish your website accordingly. Submission can be done manually by visiting each website; I prefer purchasing software (like Internet Business Promoter) which allows you to do this automatically or semi-automatically for hundreds and thousands of these directories.
- Permalinks: These are permanent links or URLs which point to a specific blog or forum entry after it has passed from the front page to the archives. You should make sure that you change default links to your specific blog or forum (which may simply contain alpha numeric characters) to permalinks that incorporate your title.
- Related Links: Put up links adjacent to your content to encourage users to visit other pages, blogs, etc. This is great for SEO because search engines love lots of deep linking within websites.
- Links to Other Websites: Linking to good quality websites will not only make your website a ‘go to’ portal on a particular topic, but it will also create trust among industry players and search engines. Note: I will discuss linkation, linkation, linkation in “Step 3: Promote”.
- No Broken Links: Search engines hate broken pages / URLs and will punish your website if there are page errors or broken links, etc.
- Share Backlinks: Allow other websites to link to your page by filling out a form. When they do so, you will be automatically notified and then you can do the same. Backlinks are the relationships that search engines use to determine if your website is a good one. The more good quality backlinks you have, the better.
- Use ALT attributes: Although search engines cannot see or index the images or words that appear in images, if you describe your images using an ALT attributes (which sometimes displays when you hover your mouse over an image), then search engines can read those images. Also, be sure not to use too much FLASH or other multimedia as search engines cannot see or index these elements.
- Nomenclatures: You should be saving your files using keywords that describe them. This way, when someone clicks on a picture file, the filename will include your keywords.
- Use Videos: Because of their popularity, search engines are ranking videos higher than normal text for relevancy and authority on certain topics and keywords. With a simple camera, you can now record, edit, and upload your video to the internet (e.g. www.YouTube.com), describe them using your targeted keywords, and then embed the videos into your website or blog.
So there you have it: 20 FREE TIPS on how to search engine optimize your content. Just remember: there’s always some new way to improve your Google rankings and you should never stop learning about them to take advantage (and leave your competitors wondering how you got on p. 1 of Google for your specific keywords).