Proper Placement in the Search Engines
Following our last email about a well-designed, informative website, part of our series covering the five parts of a complete law firm marketing presence, we now turn to the importance of proper placement in search engines such as Google and Bing.
It may be self-evident, but it is essential for your firm’s website to have the proper presence in the search engines. Gone are the days of keeping meticulous lists of web browser bookmarks listing favorite sites. And people rarely enter website addresses in the browser’s address bar, especially for hard-to-remember domain names.
How do they, then, get to websites? Answer: Search engines.
OPTIMIZE YOUR SITE
The power of finding internet resources by typing a few words into Google or Bing cannot be overstated. Google and Bing make enormous effort to refine the searching systems (called the ‘search algorithm’) to meet the demands of their users. In fact, Google and Bing zealously protect their algorithms as trade secrets, similar to the way Coca-Cola or KFC protect their recipes.
But simply having a website does not mean you are going to be found by those you want to find your firm. You have to properly format your site (called ‘search engine optimization’ or ‘SEO’) and communicate with the search engines about the information on your website (called search engine submission).
Starting with SEO, your website should be optimized to ‘play nice’ with the search engines. This means lots of text on your site written with relevant terms that someone may search (e.g., ‘trial lawyer’ in addition to ‘litigator’). There should also be great care paid to your title and meta description tags (behind-the-scenes ‘codes’ built into a website page), as those are important elements the search algorithms use in ranking sites. Finally, there should be effective cross-linking within your website to allow the search engines to navigate the site and recognize the most-important information.
ALERT GOOGLE (AND BING)
Once you’ve built a great, search-engine-optimized website, you need to interact with the search engines to have them recognize the work you’ve done. It’s a myth that a search in Google is a search of all websites on the internet. In fact, many estimates say that Google’s index — the database of website pages it has reviewed and is available to search within its system — includes only 4-5 percent of the information on the web. This means that you have to alert Google and Bing that your site exists so that those services can review your site and include it into the searchable index.
How is this done? A competent website development company will create systems to communicate with the search engines. One such website element is a sitemap.xml file, which is a list of the pages on the site and their relative importance in your website overall. Another is to set up a webmaster-tools account at Google and Bing, which is a direct line to those services to help diagnose the health of the site and what could prevent it from being listed well in the search engines.
Without proper placement in the search engines, the work you’ve done to design, build, and write a great website may be out of view — a potential waste of time and money.