Adapting to Changing Trends in Online Attorney Search

The Old Way Attorneys Ranked:

Jonathan Rosenfeld Injury LawyerEver since the advent of search engines, publishers (attorneys) have been conniving ways to get to the top-literally. Appearing at the top of queries equaled more viewers, and that translated into more business. A whole industry of search engine optimization (SEO) appeared overnight. Simultaneously, a triangle of interests emerged: the user with its interest in searching for specific content, the search engine company with its interest in presenting information in a certain way, and the search engine optimizer with its interest in getting its content in front of all other content.

Needless to say, tension developed and continues between the last two parties. The general way that engines began to order queries was through the number of links and source of content. Basically, the more sites that linked back to your legal website for particular content, the higher you would be on the list (you can think of them like votes). Of course, SEO companies quickly became adept at manipulating this system by working with other sites to link back to each other, buying or otherwise obtaining links and then manually putting them into your site, or by letting site visitors embed links themselves.

However, search engines also weighted the quantity of links against the quality of the source. They analyzed how worthy the site was overall (versus spam), how much it actually related to the content searched for, and how fresh the web page was in relation to the search. These tools and others began to weed out and order the search universe as seen by the user, but obviously SEO companies continued to abuse the link system (in a process known as “link-building). Thus, search engine companies began to modify the algorithms by which they presented content to establish a semantic-web experience.

Search Engines Adapt:

The lawyer’s semantic web approach is designed to make the user/potential new client experience more authentic and personal. Many search engines, in eliminating the importance of link-building within websites, are trying to target the intent of the user when searching. In attempting to reach this new goal, they utilize different metrics to measure the real value of content in relation to the search, such as user engagement with content, mention of content, interaction with content, and impression of content. This is a marked shift from quantity to quality as major search companies switch from a link-based regime to a content-quality regime.

Now, publishers must use a more complicated approach to differentiate themselves from the pack and rise to the top of the search engine universe. Gone are the days when websites can spam their way into the limelight by buying or trading links (for more discussion look here). In fact, even websites themselves are carefully scrutinized; therefore, proxy sites established to prop up the legitimacy of others would no longer be effective.

The New Way Lawyers Can Rank:

Publishers adapting to new search engine rules must construct their websites not link-by-link, but on a solid foundation of authentic content. It is a substantively different process (transitioning from hyperlinking to writing), and requires a larger commitment of time and energy. However, following a few guidelines, you can ensure that your website is optimized as efficiently as possible.

First, craft content that targets a motivated audience and inspires them to embed it within their own pages; try and develop relationships with authors offline so that your online communications are more developed and in sync. Second, search for publishers and audiences that will not only help share your writing but genuinely want to read and follow your brand. Third, develop a consistent message that conveys quality to your followers. Also, note that link-building has not completely vanished from search engine calculations, just decreased in significance.

Therefore, link to websites that are topically related to yours, that are indexed and organized well, that minimize the amount of spam and advertising, and have an engaged community. Additionally, within the actual pages of your website, inject more keywords that users might potentially be searching for, encourage users to mention these same phrases on your website, and try and latch onto websites with more esteem to increase your own worthiness. Using these strategies, your website will remain optimal for the most demanding of search engines.

Moving On:

As outlined above, search engines are changing. This is inevitable because the Internet itself is changing. Companies like Google, Yahoo, and others emerged well before the dawn of social networks like Facebook and MySpace. The trick is to adapt so that your website can remain at the top of every search. If possible, dedicate an employee, or at least a significant amount of one’s time, to work on assembling genuine content to match what users are browsing for on the web. Research companies like HARO that specialize in connecting publishers with experts to comment on news events in real time. This will make your writing relevant and sophisticated. Move on from trying to link your site to every other site, and focus on authentically building up your own to make it stand out from the pack.

Jonathan Rosenfeld is an attorney in Chicago and concentrates his practice on representing individuals who have been injured in accidents. Learn more about his work at Jonathan would like to thank law student William O’Brien, who assisted in the preparation of this material.

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