Archive for August, 2011

The Debate Continues: Black Hat, White Hat or Just Plain Bad SEO?

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

The goal of Google’s panda update was to ferret out black hat SEO, however in the process it penalized some websites which were not perhaps intentionally duplicitous, but happened to be filled with plain bad SEO. Even if your legal website or blog was not one of the many who were slapped by the new update, it could be time to do another “once-over” to ensure your legal site does not employ any of the tactics which could garner you a penalty.

What is Black Hat SEO?

Sooner or later Google will catch most all black hat tricks, so it’s important that you know exactly what to look for. If you are not clear on what black hat SEO really consists of, it basically refers to search engine optimization “tricks” which are downright underhanded and unethical. Black hat SEO seeks to deceive the search engines, giving your legal site a ranking it may not deserve. The most common ploys used during black hat SEO consist of keyword stuffing, hidden or invisible text, cloaking, content farming or link farms. While these tactics will get your website noticed quickly by the search engines, they fail to provide your potential clients with anything of real value.

Keyword Stuffing, Content Farming and Link Farms

Keyword stuffing consists of filling your legal website with information which is almost unintelligible due to the overuse of keywords. Unethical SEO companies also write keywords in white text onto a white background—you or I are unable to see the keywords with our human eyes, yet search engine spiders can easily see them, bringing about an immediate bump up the search engine ladder, at least until the search engine discovers the ruse. Spinning software takes one article which might have started out as high quality copy, then spins it into hundreds of articles used by many companies as a means to link to their site. Again, most search engines will eventually figure it out if you are using content farming or article spinning techniques. A link farm consists of a website which is set up with no other purpose than increasing the link popularity of other sites by increasing incoming links to those sites. These links are generally totally unrelated, and will be picked up by the search engines.

What is White Hat SEO?

White hat SEO will enhance the quality of your legal website by giving value to your reader, and, although it will take longer than using black hat SEO, you will eventually earn a high website ranking. White hat SEO chooses a solid keyword phrase which accurately represents your legal page, then uses it in the Meta tags. White hat SEO contains content which accurately reflects your business and your website, and gives your reader value and worth. When your legal website garners other high-quality websites linking to a legal blog post or page within your legal website, you have a quality inbound link, further boosting your search engine rankings. This is in sharp contrast to black hat SEO which incorporates a less than stellar link list which is traded simply to boost search results. In short, any SEO tactic which conforms to the stated guidelines of search engines, making no attempt to deceive them, is considered white hat SEO.

What if Your Legal SEO is Just Plain Bad?

Even if you have avoided being penalized for obvious black hat SEO techniques on your site, you still need to be hyper-vigilant about checking your legal sites often to ensure the content is superior, the links are legitimate and of excellent quality, and, while your keywords are used judiciously they are also used in a way that makes sense and doesn’t alienate your reader. Using white hat, organic SEO will get your legal website noticed—in a good way!

Power surge after storm…apoc…

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Power surge after storm…apocalypse averted?

Opening Your Legal Blog with a Bang—the All-Important “Hook”

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

Once you’ve grabbed your intended reader’s full attention with the title of your legal blog, you are left staring at the second most important part of the page—your opening paragraph.  Think how disappointing it would be if you’d spent considerable time and effort crafting a killer headline for your blog posting then your potential client slipped quietly away with a click of their mouse due to an opening paragraph which simply faltered and died. If you want to ensure your legal blog posting really delivers on your headline’s promise, then consider the following:

Jump Right In With a Question

Open up your blog with a question, even if it happens to be a rhetorical one. The idea is to get your potential client thinking because thinking equals engagement with your writing, and engagement means they will continue to read. Remember, though, not to ask a question which could be answered with a “no” or “who cares?” answer.  After you’ve asked your burning question, thrown in a quick anecdote which will either bring a smile to your reader’s face, or establish the main point of your posting.

Especially in the legal world which can be known for its, um…dryness, a little personality can go a long way. Don’t be afraid to figuratively let down your hair from time to time, but keep it relatively tasteful. You could also use an amazing quote that fits into the theme of your legal blog post—anything that will continue to hold the reader’s attention and prevent them from a shrug and a click onto greener—and more interesting—pastures.

Give Them a Powerful Mental Image

Although the legal profession can seem narrow and technical to the layperson, your legal blog doesn’t have to have the same tone. You can relax the legalese in your blog, and use your most descriptive words to activate your reader’s imagination. In the same vein, using metaphors, similes and analogies (correctly, of course) can be a powerful tool for capturing your visitor’s attention and telling a story in a single sentence. Citing a statistic or fact that is particularly unique or startling is also a good tool to use in your first paragraph.

Share Something Personal with Your Readers

We all love to feel as though we have established a deeper connection than a standard business one with our business connections. While you should never make up something “personal” (it will come back to bite you) simply for the sake of grabbing your reader, it can be used very effectively in expressing your own unique personality. When you share something personal about yourself, you can literally guarantee that there will be readers shaking their heads in agreement, saying “me too!”

Withhold One Piece of Critical Information and Break it Up

Though it seems a bit sneaky, holding back a key piece to the puzzle of your legal blog’s overall theme until later in the posting is a great way to ensure your visitors keep reading to the very end. Yes, past the fold and all the way to the bottom. Remember that we read the web very differently than we read the printed page. It’s okay if you have lots to say, but make sure you break it up and have plenty of informative headlines which enable readers to quickly scan before they make the commitment to actually read. Use an assortment of lists, images, bold text, subtitles, and paragraphs in easily readable chunks. Get your reader totally intrigued with your headline and first paragraph, and before you know it you will have a dedicated reader, not to mention a potential client.

Can You Have Too Many Links on Your Law Firm’s Website?

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Nearly everybody realizes that the need to build links on your legal website is a constant, even though other factors may change, and trends may come and go. Having a large number of high-quality links has consistently stood the test of time, serving as a solid indicator of your legal site’s relevance and standing in the search engines. Quality links are responsible for infusing new life into your attorney website, creating a successful site which brings a steady stream of fresh new visitors on a daily basis. The question, then, is how much is too much? Is it possible to incorporate too much of a good thing into your law firm website? Well, Google seems to think so, but before you panic, realize that Google is not judging your inbound referrals, but rather on-page links from one section of your legal website to the other, or to external pages.

What’s Google’s “Magic” Number?

Google’s “official” recommendation used to be that the links on each page be kept to a reasonable number—they set this “reasonable” number as somewhere below 100. However the creepy-crawly spiders of today are able to perform much more effectively, and will now read a considerably longer portion of the page before indexing it. In this case, having more than 100 links will likely set off the spam filter’s “alarm,” and result in a lower-perceived quality for your page. While it is unlikely that any legal website will have more than 100 links on a single page, if you do, be ruthless and cut. If you are unable to cut, split your page into two or more new pages. Dropping the number of links in this way can get you out of the spam radar, allowing your legal website pages to rank higher.

Why 100?

If you are wondering about Google’s seemingly arbitrary number of links they “allow,” then you need to think about each link on your legal website’s pages as a choice your potential clients have to make. When they run across a link, they either decide to follow the link in order to get to the information they are searching for, or they ignore the link and continue on with the page they are currently reading. If you have 100 links on a single page, you are asking your reader to essentially make 100 choices—a simply overwhelming prospect in this fast-paced day and age.

How Many Links Should I Use in My Legal Blog?

Using keywords in your links is a great way to boost your legal SEO, bringing more traffic to your legal blog through search engine keyword searches. This is due to the fact that Google’s algorithm gives linked text heavier weight than non-linked text. But—too many links can be viewed as span, and Google will remove your law firm’s blog from search engine results entirely, which is exactly what you don’t want to happen. Experts in the field give the “accepted” link-to-text ratio as one link for every 125 words. Therefore, if your blog is 500 words, you are safe including four links in your post, and if those links are keyword-specific, all the better. Keep in mind that once a blog is flagged as spam and removed from search engine rankings, it can be sheer torture getting it readmitted. Where you legal blogs are concerned–stay within the acceptable limit.

As if you didn’t have enough things to worry about when considering your law firm’s SEO and website rankings, now you have to worry about having too many links. Well, it’s really not as bad as it sounds, and once you realize that a fewer number of higher quality links can garner you much more success than a larger number of so-so links, you are on your way to legal SEO success.