By Matthew Dolman and Michael Ehline – Attorneys are seeing this more and more, as every tin horn SEO company seems to be setting your competitors up with a new site, often with content scraped from your own site, it gets harder and harder to determine who wrote what, and who is credible, or not. As the internet becomes more packed with active legal domains, law blogs, car accident photographs, etc., and overall content, we rely more and more on the power of search engines to organize and compartmentalize information. Yet, search engines are an imperfect substitute for finding the content that we need when we want if.
Google Sees Legal Words and Phrases as Characters
Words for a search engine, for the most part, are merely a string of characters. They have no context. A search engine can’t tell the difference between two different appellate cases titled “Smith versus Smith” any easier than a law judge could, or “lead” (the noun and its variants) versus “lead” (the verb), for that matter. Actually, it can, if a signal or identifier, such as a citation, is used. Of course, this has been made even easier for search engines, with LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing.) (discussed here.)
Till Now Search Engines Were Not Able to Identify Experts Over Spokespeople Selling Attorney Referrals
We have heard the stories about unethical lawyer referral services stealing business from lawyers and trying to sell the lawyers the leads they stole. (read more.) Obviously, an engine can’t tell if someone is actually a trusted expert in a topic, like a tort lawyer, divorce attorney, or just a disbarred lawyer writing articles for some hustler. Google might be able to index who posts the most content on a subject by seeing how often a specific term is cited within published articles, but until recently search engines like Google had no context, formula or internal algorithm in determining whether an author or source is credible.
Enter Author Rank
To help add context and let consumers and Google know who is who and who wrote what, Google introduced its AuthorRank program. The program adds a human element to internet search. The program seeks to answer the question, “How do you make a qualitative measurement of a content creator’s knowledge, trustworthiness and accuracy?”
For lawyers who wish to build their SEO rankings, trust with consumers and even he authorities, like the State Bar, AuthorRank is clutch. Now right away, if your an expert, and you get a lot of votes and shares from other authors, you become a highly trusted author. To perform well in organic search rankings, authors need to know how to claim their authorship and what goes into building their rank.
Claim Your Authorship
Claiming authorship may also make it easier for you to get that scraped duplicate content taken down when doing a DMCA takedown request. So make sure to embed your authorship in each new post or share you do with another lawyer or supporter. To claim your authorship, you need to link your content to a verified Google+ account. To do this, you need a link in your Google+ profile that points to the pages and website wherein your content is posted. You must also link back to your profile within each individual piece of content (i.e., article, blog, internal pages on your site and guest posting on various sites you do not own, etc…).
This can be accomplished by inserting the tag:
Some SEO plugins such as All-In-One SEO and Yoast SEO already feature a function allowing you to copy/post tags into all pages.
The Many Factors of Author Rank
AuthorRank takes in a series of factors about the author and applies them to the search results of the author’s site based on an internal algorithm created by Google engineers.
Factors that AuthorRank includes are:
- Engagement on social networks
- The number of comments
- The number of inbound links
- The amount of external engagement
- Tthe number of connections the author has on Google plus
- Authority signals such as citations and mentions in other news resources, and one’s connections to other authors.
One of the most important factors are, Google’s “+1” system and sharing. The system is similar to the concept of “likes” for Facebook. However, unlike Facebook who does nearly nothing useful (for consumers) with that information. Google’s +1 system is a signal that the content is valuable. The more +1s to Google, then the more trusted the content appears.
Sharing works similar to +1s but has a greater effect. You can like any number of content, but people generally only share the things that they believe other consumers or those surfing Google+ ought to read. A “share” connotes validity to the content.
Is It Attorney Or Is It Make Believe
Google also utilizes the amount that an author interacts with other posters to determine AuthorRank. So having other attorneys sharing is a positive signal. But we feel consumer interactions should be more important. The idea behind this is that an account which interacts regularly with other accounts are likely to actually be human beings who are actually lawyers. This tells Google that there is a strong likelihood there is a legitimate person creating connections and content. These interactions range from comments via Google’s ‘+’ network and on one’s website to merely using Google+ hangouts to interact with colleagues and friends.
Encouraging New Online Content for Multiple Sources
Google takes the interaction and connection concept a step further by encouraging users to create content for multiple sources. Having your content on top sites sends a clear message that great content creators trust and respect your material.
This is The Real Deal!
Overall the effects of AuthorRank cannot be understated. The increased visibility provides more opportunities for you to gain clients. The social integration makes it easier to receive endorsements by satisfied clients. Finally, the use of images helps develop the value of your personal brand.
SEO was a a fantastic way for small firms to compete against larger firms who can afford to advertise through mainstream media. Now it has been taken a step further. A strong backlink will no longer be that important, but a vote from a strong author will be the new backlink and PageRank. Even though SEO will help you get more clients, it is not a replacement or substitute for being a competent lawyer in your field of expertise. And online voters and strong social signals, will soon decide where you stand.
Matthew A. Dolman, Esq., is a personal injury attorney in Tampa, Florida, with the Dolman Law Group.