Expand Your Online Presence by Writing Good Content
If you are not in the world of online marketing, you may not have noticed (then again you may have) that the web is on fire as a result of Google’s latest algorithm change. That’s because of changes Google made last week to combat what it calls ‘black-hat’ optimization tactics – tactics such as ‘key word stuffing‘, ‘content spinning‘, and ‘spammy web practices’ (‘linkspam‘). I won’t sidetrack you with what all of those terms mean, but the short story is that Google’s web is becoming more and more about what they view as quality content. As a lawyer or legal marketer, you shouldn’t have been affected by many of Google’s penalties (if you were, you need to correct those backlinks fast), but the change places a renewed emphasis and competition on what you should have been doing all along – creating and distributing good content. According to Google, as of last week, you need content to rank withing Google’s search results. But if you are a lawyer or legal marketer, you knew that all along, right?
Last week was the first time Google went into detail about the penalties it was assigning to websites who took part in what it thought of as deceptive online marketing. The truth is that Google’s emphasis on what it calls ‘quality content’ started last May with the first round of Panda updates. You can read more about the science below, but as of that update (which Google nicknamed “Panda”), its algorithms shifted to place an emphasis on providing “quality content” and a negative weight to less-trusted web content optimized by ‘web-spam’ means. The writing has been on the wall since then, and last week the sky seems to have fallen for online marketers who were working the system without content to back them up.
Why this is good for professional service providers
This shift should be good for professional service providers because we are the ones (who should be) writing quality content. In fact, if you’ve been marketing, you should be sitting on a pile of it. And our competition for those top Google results who don’t have cache of content just got left outside in the cold.
Now, getting Google to recognize your content as “quality” and reaching their front page is where the trick comes in, but this change may have allowed service professionals to make unprecedented strides in optimizing their web presence.
No SEO consultants, “web gurus”, or meetings where everyone sits on yoga balls necessary – all you need to make upward progress within Google’s search results is a strategy and well-written content that people are looking for.
Example: An attorney I work with recently picked up two cases that came in as a result of their website optimization efforts. In both instances, a business owner contacted the attorney after searching for representation on the internet. One had never heard of the attorney or his practice and the other was given a list of litigators with experience in that practice area, and after doing some online research, found that we came up often, was impressed with our content, and decided to retain us. She had planned on going with a larger firm but finding our topical articles online helped ease her concerns about using a mid-sized firm.
These types of calls seem like the type of thing that should happen often. But it’s no mistake – this is the fruit of a year long, targeted marketing effort. That particular attorney is listed on the first page of several lucrative and competitive Google search terms related to their practice (he actually rose in the rankings after last week).
For instance, that particular attorney shows up on Google’s front page for three exact match search terms related to areas of emerging litigation that he practices in. He is also now the second overall result for his exact practice area. That’s out of all the commercial litigators who practice the same type of litigation in the entire world.
How you ask? Here are some tips that our group employed which can help you expand your online presence under Google’s new algorithm.
Tip 1: Write targeted content
This technique, in conjunction with tip 3, is how you get your content to be recognized as “quality” within Google’s algorithm and is one of the easiest and most important steps in the process. Targeted content can be thought of as content that people are searching for. Google is helpful in the sense that it lets you know exactly what search terms are being looked for both globally and locally. This is because Google sells advertising for every search term imaginable. In order to charge a market rate for each individual term, it assigns each word an index based on the total number of monthly searches for the term and the frequency with which that term appears across the internet. The goal when writing is to select terms that you can work into articles which are unsaturated (meaning that the term doesn’t appear often on the internet), but have a high quantity (volume) of monthly searches (meaning people are Googling the term). This means that people will be searching for the terms that occur within your article and will be able to find your article because your search terms aren’t saturated with competition.
Get a list of terms within your writing that are attractive to Google and use them (naturally)
Don’t be shy about asking your marketing team for a list of Google search terms applicable to your practice. Someone should be able to assist with this. You then want to try and use these words as often as naturally possible within the article. I say naturally because Google has a method for picking up on overused words with similar meanings in the same document. It’s a very fine line, and if you overuse popular words, Google will dismiss the article completely. Put the thesaurus away and make sure the words occur in the flow of the article – don’t force them in. Think of the words in the back of your head while writing rather than going back after the fact and peppering them in.
If done correctly, this technique can go a long way to help Google identify your content as “quality content”. Once Google finds and decides content is up to its standards, it will increase the availability of the “quality content” by assigning it a weight to bump the content to top of its search results. The bottom line here is that if you’re not writing targeted, quality content, you’re better off not writing.
Tip 2: Write (quality content) as often as possible
If your marketing professional is good, they are consistently hounding you for content. You should be able to hear them saying “give me anything you have” in your sleep. You may not know the reasons why, but they do have your best interests in mind. Simply, Google likes consistency because it helps them quickly provide current and helpful information to their users. The more recent the quality content that is delivered to the Google user increases the quality of their experience. Google can identify suppliers of useful content and crawl those sites more often (if you are not publishing your siteindex yourself); helping them present current and useful content in the top of their search results in near-real time. They are able to do this because their spiders (content finders) focus their resources on grabbing content from sites with a history of providing quality content rather than wasting those resources on searching all sites equally. Frequently publishing content is how you attract Google’s spiders to crawl your site more often.
Think of two websites on each end of the spectrum – one is the New York Times and the other is someone’s personal blog. The NYT is publishing articles every few minutes that are being shared and read by people on websites all over the world. The personal blog contains editorial content that is published once a week. Because people are viewing and sharing many NYT articles in quick sequence, you could naturally think that articles which are hosted on the NYT website are inherently more useful to people than content that is hosted by the blog. Before last week, if the writer of the blog was SEO savvy, they could have had their content listed above NYT’s for certain search terms. Google’s algorithm is now set up so that it devotes its content finding resources to crawling sites that publish often (like the NYT) every couple seconds and sites like personal blogs once a week or every few days, depending on the popularity. Google calls these often-shared, often-read, often-crawled sites “authorities”.
Disclaimer: These are extreme examples provided for the purpose of illustrating my point. There are millions of websites that fall in a publishing frequency between the NYT and someone’s personal blog; many of which are very popular and well-traveled. There are also a couple ways around this, and it’s hotly debated whether it is more useful to drip content out or publish it all at once. If you are publishing content yourself and don’t know about ways around having Google crawl your site on its own, it’s best to publish content often rather than all at once.
“Authority” can be thought of as a multiplier that is attached to your content within Google’s algorithm. Publishing often helps add credibility to your domain within Google’s algorithm and strengthens your “authority status” in its eyes (in addition to other factors such as site age, and how many people are talking about it). Using the above example, the New York Times would have a high “authority” rank while the blog’s would be nonexistent. The resulting “authority” multiplier would lessen the time it takes for content published by NYT to be available on Google’s front page.
Be aware of the fact that the two multipliers, “quality” and “authority”, seem to be somewhat independent of each other and not equally valued. Although the exact balance is a secret, Google claims to place more of an emphasis on quality content than on the frequency of publication. This means that if Google’s algorithm decides an article is of especially low “quality” it will not be highly ranked in the results, if at all, regardless of whether it’s from an “authority” source. The reverse may also be slightly less true. The goal is to write content that adds to your “quality” score.
An easy way to add frequency is by breaking up long articles into two or three smaller articles or publishing them as a part of a series (which I clearly haven’t done in this article).
Tip 3: Push your content
Every article that my attorneys write is pushed through a wide variety of online sources. This year, several got picked up nationally. Each one of those links constitutes what Google considers a “back link”. In the past, backlinks were thought to play a very important role in getting to the front page. Although the weight attributed to backlinks has been lessened, they are still an important part of having your content be found in a search. It seems with the latest round of changes to Google, the strength of the backlink finally outvalues the number of links. Articles that are back linked often are given a weight within Google’s search criteria; further, the creditability of those back links are also weighted. So, if one of the back links to an article is in the New York Times, that back link is weighted ten times higher than a back link on a blog or local website. This means that one backlink to your site from an article you have on the New York Times is more valuable than 1,000 backlinks from no name or what Google thinks are ‘web spam’ websites. Second to national news outlets, it now seems that several social media websites (including Linkedin) are appearing to be strongly weighted back link sources now.
For instance, one of my attorneys wrote an article which was picked up by a well-traveled energy industry trade publication and organization with their own popular Linkedin and Facebook groups. The article received over 600 direct link page views (from those sources) in the three months after it was published. That instantly put it on the Google map. Now any combination of the words contained often within the article, will lead you straight to that article on the attorney’s website. Two years later, it still gets approximately 2-5 page views a day from Google.
Tip 4: Be vigilant
Search engine optimization doesn’t happen overnight. Starting from scratch and using best practices, it can often take Google months rank you highly. Once it does rank you, it is good to have a cache of information ready to help keep you there. Conversely, as hard as it is to get to the front page of Google, unless you keep publishing content that it likes, you will not be there long. As time goes on, each subsequent “quality” article that Google finds should add to the weight applied to every article on your website as a whole. This makes it exponentially easier for each article you publish which meets Google’s criteria to reach its front page. Write and publish articles before and after you are listed on Google.
Tip 5: Put your contact info on everything you write and link back to your bio
This one might seem like a no-brainer. Although much of web optimization is strategized, there are still variables outside your control, and some of it comes down to luck. You can write the most well-optimized article but you still need people to be interested in the topic and be able to find it. Further, the balance of Google’s algorithms are constantly being refined. For this reason, you don’t want to waste any opportunity. Attach your name, contact info, and a link back to your bio or practice description in everything you write.
There is no exact science
In Google’s proprietary conjunction, these factors are what help get your content on its front page. Although the balance of criteria the algorithms value is constantly changing, it’s clear that the best web optimization strategies place and emphasis on quality of content. Tweak your strategy to your practice and find what works. Refine your distribution networks; be proactive; and always be searching for the next hot topic to make the subject of an article. Remember – to stay on Google’s front page, your strategy needs to adapt as quickly as its algorithms do.
If you would like links to any of the tools that are mentioned in this article or would like to talk about how Majux Marketing can help your content get in front of the right targets, feel free to contact us at (215) 983-2642 or [email protected].