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    Technology: Search Engine Marketing: Getting Noticed on the Web

    Having a great Web site isn’t enough by itself to get your firm noticed. Even if you’ve done everything else right – your cutting-edge content showcases your firm’s expertise on exquisitely designed Web pages that visitors can easily navigate – your visitors have to be able to find you in the first place. That’s where search engine marketing comes in.

    Nicholas J. Klenske

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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 81, No. 7, July 2008


    Search Engine Marketing: Getting Noticed on the Web

    Having a great Web site isn't enough by itself to get your firm noticed. Even if you've done everything else right - your cutting-edge content showcases your firm's expertise on exquisitely designed Web pages that visitors can easily navigate - your visitors have to be able to find you in the first place. That's where search engine marketing comes in.

    by Nicholas J. Klenske


    Your law firm has a Web site. Even better, your Web site has a catchy logo, professional photos, intriguing information and, most importantly, a way for prospective clients to contact you. You promote your Web site on your business cards and in the telephone book. In terms of using the Web to market your legal services, you've got all your bases covered, right?

    Not quite.

    Using the Web to Market Legal Services

    It is estimated that roughly 50 percent of all Web site traffic is generated through search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and MSN. The remaining 50 percent is generated predominantly by repeat customers, most of whom originally get to a Web site via a search engine. In other words, simply listing your Web site in the phonebook does not bring visitors to your site. And without visitors, your Web site essentially is useless.

    A Web site can play an essential role in marketing your legal services, because the information you provide on the site either helps to sell or fails to sell your services. If a visitor leaves your Web site thinking the information you provide is helpful, timely, informative, and of professional quality, the visitor is more likely to contact you. Of course, you cannot even get to this point unless that person finds your Web site.

    The key to making sure people find your Web site is search engine marketing, which is the process of marketing your Web site through the various search engines. Most visitors start the process of finding an attorney Web site by entering such phrases as "Wisconsin attorney" or "Madison personal injury lawyer" into the search engine. After the user clicks "search," the search engine races through cyberspace and pulls out all Web sites related to the entered search term. The results are displayed with the most relevant sites listed first. And that's where you want to be because that's where you are more likely to get noticed.

    Knowing the importance of having a high search engine ranking shows just how essential it is to use search engine marketing to get your Web site listed at the top of the first results page. This is accomplished through search engine optimization (SEO).

    Search Engine Optimization: Understanding the Basics

    Relevancy is the foundation to search engine optimization. The more relevant your Web site, the higher your ranking in the delivered search results. In the world of SEO, relevancy is determined by how related your Web site is to the entered search terms.

    "Search engine optimization is the marketing strategy used to make a Web site relevant in the eyes of a search engine," says Chris Ward, the owner of 247Shingle, a firm that builds search-engine-optimized Web sites for attorneys. "In my experience, the vast majority of attorneys simply do not understand the essential partnership between Web site relevancy and search engine marketing."

    Each search engine company determines its own definition of relevancy independent of the other search engines. Using what are called "search bots," search engines regularly comb the Internet to evaluate Web sites. From this gathered information the search bot determines how relevant your Web site is per the specific search terms entered. Search bots are programmed to look for certain factors. These factors include keywords, content, design, and links.

    How to Optimize Your Web Site

    Keywords are key. The words and phrases entered into a search engine, such as "Wisconsin attorney" or "Madison personal injury lawyer," are keywords. Some keywords are used more often than others. For example, "Wisconsin attorney" is more popular than "Platteville medical malpractice lawyer."

    Regardless of the individual keyword's popularity, keywords are what convinces a search engine that your Web site is relevant. Essentially, the more times the keywords appear on your Web site, the more relevant your site is. Thus, if your site regularly uses the keyword "Wisconsin attorney," your site will rank higher than a Web site in which the keyword does not appear or does not appear as frequently.

    Because such keywords as "Wisconsin attorney" are popular, there is a significant amount of competition for them. As more and more attorneys market their Web sites to a particular keyword, it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve a high ranking with that keyword. This is why focusing on second-tier keywords, such as a specific city or practice area, is important. Because there is less competition for these keywords, using them lets your Web site quickly advance in the search engine rankings.

    Although finding the right keywords for your firm's Web site can be done in-house, to make sure your Web site is optimized to meet its best marketing potential, consider using a search-engine-optimization consulting firm. Many search engine marketing consultants not only will develop an individualized SEO marketing plan for your firm, but also will develop the content for the site.

    Nicholas J. Klenske

    Nicholas J. Klenske is an attorney and professional writer. He is the owner of Klenske Ink., a writing firm focusing on legal research and attorney marketing solutions. He also is editor of BART International, a publication for business aviation.

    Content is king. Once you have determined your keywords, the next step is to work them into your Web site. You do this with content.

    "Due to the endless topics that can be written about the law, attorney Web sites are an ideal setting for adding SEO content," says Devin Hansen, owner of the Quad City-based SEOCopywriters.com. "A typical attorney Web site can have content on just about every page and about numerous topics."

    The more content your Web site has that relates to and contains the keyword, the more relevant your site becomes. Adding SEO content to your Web site means writing and placing keyword-specific articles throughout the Web site.

    Effective keyword-specific content serves two purposes: It tells the search engine your Web site is relevant to the search terms and thus is delivered to the researcher, and it entices the potential client to visit your Web site and contact you.

    A good keyword content article will use three or four keywords repeatedly. After all, the more times the keywords appear in a given article, the more relevant your Web site becomes to the search engine. There is a fine line between a good SEO content article, however, and poor marketing practice. Do not overuse a keyword to the point that the article's only purpose is to feature the keyword: the reader gains nothing, the article loses its marketing appeal, and your Web site - and firm - lose credibility and goodwill. Further, such blatant overuse of keywords in content with no concern for comprehension or readability may get your Web site penalized by the search engine or even permanently removed.

    A good keyword content article is one that is tightly focused, informative, easy to read and understand, and search engine optimized. Incorporating keywords into content is the easiest method for optimizing your Web site, because there are so many possible topics that can be included on an attorney Web site. Web site add-ons such as a law firm blog (or blawg) and a newsletter also can increase keyword content.

    Design and Linking Can Affect Search Engine Ranking

    Secondary areas of importance in determining relevancy are design and linking. The design of your Web site can affect your search engine ranking. Certain design features, such as Flash, a Web development program that uses enhanced graphics, and other nontext-based mechanisms, like fancy introduction pages and animations, may prevent the search engine from reading the site's content. Although these graphics and special effects look nice, if the search engine cannot read your content nobody will get to see your fancy Web site.

    Linking involves having your Web site both link to and be linked from other relevant Web sites. To do this, you can embed strategic links to any online resource directly relating to the content of your Web site. You also should work to get related Web sites to link to yours. Linking can be done by making personal contact with other Web sites or as part of your contract with a search-engine-optimization consultant.

    Search Engine Optimization: A Marketing Essential

    The world of search engine optimization is a complex and rapidly changing one. Although optimizing your law firm Web site can be time consuming and often frustrating, as more and more clients turn toward the Internet in pursuit of legal services, you cannot afford to ignore this area of marketing. With a bit of strategy, and a lot of writing, you can watch your law firm Web site rise to the top of search engine marketing.