Striking Distance Keywords and How to Improve Them

What is a “striking distance keyword”? A striking distance keyword is phrase we use here at Sundown Marketing to describe a keyword that is not quite at the top of a Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) yet, but with a little time and attention could rise to the top of Page 1.  In other words, it is a keyword that is within “striking distance” of the top of Page 1 of Google. Most of the time we focus on keywords that are in Position 8-12 (bottom of Page 1 or the top of Page 2), but sometimes we look even further down the list of a Google search. We work to find keywords that are competitive keywords, that we feel could rank better and could significantly increase exposure for our clients.

This is the natural train of thought that an SEO technician would take after watching keyword performance go up and down for a few months. The question is: “Can I impact a client’s website performance for a keyword by focusing on that keyword on the website?”

So, for example, we want our client’s website to rank highly for “personal injury attorney” and their site is currently ranking in the 18th position (bottom of Page 2) for personal injury attorney. Armed with that information, we would work on the site to “beef it up” for SEO factors for the keyword we are trying to rank for.

Methods

Until recently, we would begin this task by using Google Search Console. Search Console tells you what pages are ranking for what keywords and in what position they rank.

To use Google Search Console, you would simply log into your dashboard and select Performance. From there you can see all the Queries that your site ranks for and by clicking on the Pages tab you can see the page that it ranks for.

search-engine-console-dashboard

We recently discovered another way to more effectively accomplish this task. After reading an article written by search guru Neil Patel, we found a way to get even better data which includes the search volume for all of the keywords your website ranks for. This data is better because you can then use the search volume to target the keywords with the highest search volume and ranking highly for these keywords will have an even higher impact to your website performance.

semrush-dashboard

At Sundown Marketing we use SEMRush for our SEO management. With SEMRush you can enter the domain you want to analyze to create a report containing website performance. From this report you can select Top Organic Keywords. Your results will be a list of your ranking keywords, along with each keyword’s search volume. From here you can sort by Volume, so that the high-volume keywords are listed at the top of your list. Search volume tells you whether or not it is worth the effort to try and improve the ranking of a certain keyword. As an example, if the volume is only 10 searches per month, then it might be wiser to move on to the next keyword.

Here is an example of a Keyword search for one of our clients:

organic-search-positions

Once you have chosen a keyword to focus on, you must decide how to improve your website for that particular keyword. The first step is to determine what page is ranking for the keyword so you know where to focus your efforts. Once you have that information, you can analyze the page by reviewing this data:

  • Is the keyword in the title tag?
  • Is the keyword in the H1 tag?
  • Is the keyword in the meta description?
  • Is the keyword in the schema tags and the image alt tags?
  • Can you add more content about the keyword?
  • Can you add more images that are optimized for the keyword?

Most of the time you will find an area where you can improve the condition of a page on your website for a particular keyword. Perhaps a blog only has 200 words, which would suggest you bolster the content with keyword focused content. Perhaps a page has great content, keyword specific titles and meta data and quality backlinks, but no schema. In that case you may want to consider adding schema or additional optimized images. When adding additional optimized images, make sure you add them below the fold, so they don’t add significant load time to the page. In essence, go through and make the changes that make the most sense for your website.

Results

Usually the results can be seen within a month, but some changes make take longer. In the case of one of our clients, we focused on two keyword phrases:

  • “Statute of Limitations for filing a personal injury claim in Alabama” (very long tail keyword)
  • “what conditions automatically qualify you for disability”

Four days after doing some basic optimization on two pages we found that the first keyword phrase didn’t see any improvement, but in the case of the second keyword phrase, and after only optimizing the image on the page, we saw a slight increase in the position of the website for “what conditions automatically qualify you for disability” (from 18 to 17)

keyword-improvement

This is a good way to not only optimize for keywords, but also know which keywords are likely going to bring in enough traffic to make it worth your time.

If you would like a website analysis by our SEO team, please call Sundown Marketing at (800) 649-1749 or via our website contact form for a free initial consultation!

On this edition of Whiteboard Wednesday we discuss the importance of consistently adding content to your law firm website. Adding well written content to your law firm website can greatly enhance your SEO efforts by providing a better experience for your website visitors.

Video Transcription

Hello and welcome to Sundown Legal Marketing’s Whiteboard Wednesday. Today on Whiteboard Wednesday, we’re going to talk about your website and the importance of consistently adding well-written content to your website. Now, any law firm Web site essentially serves two purposes.

A Website Can Serve Two Purposes

Number one, increased brand awareness and number two, to drive prospective clients to your law firm. Now, the $64,000 question is, how do we do that? How do we drive prospective clients to your website? Well, we do that by addressing two very simple points. Number one, generate or increase traffic to your website. We want to send more prospective clients to your website. And then number two, and most importantly, we want to create or increase conversions. We want to increase the number of prospective clients we convert into actual clients.

Now, the first step toward towards improving conversions is to consistently add well-written, robust content to your website. That content needs to be both useful and authoritative. What I mean by useful is it needs to address the questions that your prospective clients have when they visit or search on the Internet, when they’re searching for a lawyer. And it needs to be authoritative in that you need to convey to not only prospective clients, but also to Google, that you are a subject matter expert within your particular area of practice.

And speaking of Google, your content also needs to address the Google algorithm. We want to make sure that your content ranks well so that it’s found so that it can convert prospective clients into actual clients. Now, here are some of the most important steps that you need to keep in mind when you’re creating a content marketing strategy.

Important Steps To Keep In Mind When Creating A Content Marketing Strategy

  • Number one, need to understand your target audience. I just mentioned it a few seconds ago. When you’re creating or drafting content, you need to keep in mind the questions that your prospective clients have when they’re searching the Internet, looking for a lawyer and then draft content to meet those needs or to address those questions.
  • Number two, need to develop a workable content production and distribution process. You need to create a calendar and a list of topics. You need to insert those list of topics into that calendar. So you know exactly what you’re going to write about, when you’re going to write it and then finally, when you’re going to post it to your website.
  • Number three, your content needs to inform and engage, but not hard sell or overly sell your law firm. Need to make sure that your content is written for those prospective clients addressing those questions they have providing them with answers to those questions.
  • And finally, number four, the length of your content does matter. Google is looking for a well-written, robust content. If you’re writing a blog our target is about a thousand words, say between a thousand and twelve hundred and fifty words. If you’re writing an area of practice page or a white paper, you need to be closer to two thousand words for that particular type of document.

Now, creating and managing an effective, well-written, well thought out content management strategy is a great first step towards increasing traffic and improving or increasing conversions, converting those prospective clients into actual clients. If you have any questions about creating or managing a content management strategy, contact Sundown Legal Marketing. We’d love to chat with you about it. Thanks for your time and I look forward to seeing you on our next Whiteboard Wednesday.

Website Content – The Difference Maker

The purpose of every law firm website and every law firm internet marketing plan is to increase brand awareness and drive potential clients to the firm. Securing clients through your website requires you to accomplish two major objectives:

  • Generate Traffic: You need to be able to drive potential clients to your website
  • Create Conversions: You need to be able to convert your website visitors from potential clients to actual clients

A great website that is never seen has no opportunity to convert, and a poorly designed website that has strong exposure and receives a lot of traffic from targeted prospects has very little opportunity to convert. Either way, if you don’t have a quality website with robust, relevant content that is well-optimized, your chances to secure business from your website are slim.

There are several distinct elements that go into an effective website and internet marketing plan.

The first order of business is to drive potential clients to the firm’s website. This requires a structured and comprehensive search engine optimization (SEO) plan. Once a potential client arrives at your website, they have to find something that piques their interest, keeps them on your site and drives them to move further into your website.

Once you have an engaging, professional website, you need to consider the first element of improving conversions – quality content:

  1.  Consistently Add Content to Your Website: Google has made it clear that in order to rank well, a website must have authoritative and relevant content that is regularly updated. When you think about it, this makes a great deal of sense. Google’s mission is to provide the best results possible to their customers (web searchers) when they perform a search. In Google’s world, “best results” are measured by the quality and relevance of the content on your website in relation to the keyword that was searched for. Not only is continually adding fresh content helpful for achieving better search results, it also gives your targeted prospects more opportunities to find you. Think of each web page or blog post as a “doorway” into your most valuable digital real estate; your website.
  2. Create Useful and Authoritative Content: Visitors to your website expect to find quality content that provides useful answers to questions they have about their legal issue. Avoid being too technical with your content. Your primary readers will be lay people who have a legal question or need legal help. Write professionally, but in a way that makes complex legal information understandable for the average reader while at the same time distinguishing your firm as an authority and thought leader in your area(s) of practice.
  3. Draft Content that Addresses the Google Algorithm: In order to rank well for keywords related to your practice areas, you must draft content that integrates the keywords your target audience is searching for in a way that makes sense and flows naturally within the text. Google’s Algorithm is powered by artificial intelligence (AI), and it has gotten much smarter over the years. Your web pages and blog posts not only have to contain naturally integrated keywords, they must also contain related keywords (commonly known as “theme” words) that show Google (and other search engines) that your page is truly relevant to the end user and not just a bunch of “stuffed” keywords designed to fool the search engines.

Content Marketing for Law Firms

In the early days of the internet, the goal for most law firms was to put up a website that would act essentially as a digital calling card and be done with it. These days, the creation of a high-quality website is just the beginning of a comprehensive content marketing strategy.  As mentioned earlier, consistency is one of the major keys to the success of your strategy. Not only does Google expect regularly updated content in order to establish authority, your audience expects it too. Just like a TV or radio show or podcast, your audience expects you to put up regular content that informs and engages them.

Here are some of the most important steps to take in creating your content marketing strategy:

  • Understand your Target Audience

Find out what legal questions your targeted prospects are typing into their search queries. What are they asking about repeatedly in various legal and community forums? What emerging issues and trends are affecting your target market? The answers to these questions should allow you to create a long list of keywords for which you can develop articles around. If you are writing on topics your target market truly cares about, your content is more likely to become widely read and shared.

  • Develop a Workable Content Production and Distribution Process

As we’ve already touched on repeatedly, consistency is critical to the success of a content marketing strategy. This means having a system in place that allows you to write and distribute your content on a regular basis. Once you have your list of keywords, create a content calendar that allows you (or whomever is writing your content) the time necessary each month to ensure that you are able to get your content out there consistently.

  • Inform and Engage, but Don’t Hard Sell

As we talked about earlier, the primary purpose of your content is to be useful and informative, giving your readers answers to important legal issues. In doing so, readers will start to see you as the expert in your various practice areas. You may include a call to action inviting readers to contact your firm once or twice throughout the piece; but avoid overselling your legal services. Your authority on the topic speaks for itself, and if the reader cannot solve their legal problem on their own, you are the one they are most likely to call.

  • The Length of Your Article Matters

In the past, a 300 to 500-word blog post was enough to achieve good rankings in the search engines. Today, research shows that Google prefers longer, more robust content. 750-900 words is now the minimum that you would want to have for a post to rank, but ideally, you want your word count to be in the 1000 – 1,500 range or more. There are some SEO experts that suggest even going as high as 2,000 words, but there is no need to do that unless your article needs to be that length to fully cover the topic. In other words, don’t include “filler text” just to bring your word count up as this will hurt the quality of your content and make your efforts counterproductive.

Contact Sundown Legal Marketing Today

Sundown Legal Marketing specializes in helping law firms review their current internet footprint, developing a comprehensive internet marketing plan and implementing every part of that plan, including developing and implementing a content strategy. Contact us today for a free evaluation of your website content and a no obligation assessment of your internet marketing plan. Call us at (800) 864-1764 or online through our website contact form.

A website is just a piece of an overall law firm internet marketing program. In fact, it is probably the most important piece, as it serves as the hub or foundation of your internet marketing program. A website could serve a number of different purposes:

  1. Online business card – Displaying a professional image for the firm across the internet
  2. Brand sharing – A tool to “get the word out” and develop familiarity with the firm in the community
  3. Online lead generation resource – A tool to drive potential clients to the firm

The first step any law firm should take when reviewing their online presence is to complete a review of their website, and this should start with three questions:

  1. Is your website getting any traffic or visitors?
  2. Is your website creating leads?
  3. Is your website converting those leads into clients?

If your website is getting traffic or visitors, but the phone isn’t ringing or the calls you get aren’t good quality calls, then improvements need to be made to your website to improve conversions.

If your website isn’t getting any traffic, then you have a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) problem, which is a topic for a later article.

Improving Website Conversions

Improving your website’s ability to convert visitors into potential clients is a complicated undertaking. Building conversion elements into a new website presents a best-case scenario, but most of the elements we will discuss today can be integrated into an existing website.

The overall appearance of your website is a good place to begin when reviewing your website’s effectiveness. A carefully planned, well-structured, professional website is a must if you expect your website to convert. A website visitor (aka potential client) must be convinced that your law firm is capable of handling their legal issue. 

Once you have an attractive, professional website, you need to consider these 11 elements to help improve conversions:

  1. Consistently Add Content to Your Website – Google has made it clear that in order to rank well, a website must have authoritative and relevant content that is regularly updated. When you think about it, this makes a great deal of sense. Google’s mission is to provide the best results possible to their clients, web searchers, when they perform a search. In Google’s world, “best results” are measured by the quality and relevance of the content on your website.
  2. Build Links – Create a detailed, well thought-out link building strategy. Along with content creation, building links from your website to high domain authority, relevant websites, is one of the most impactful SEO tactics you can employ.  
  3. Add Video – Google’s acquisition of YouTube several years ago signaled their commitment to video and the trend since that acquisition has been a consistent increase in video consumption on the web. HubSpot recently released a report showing that the average person watches 1.5 hours of video per day and 6 out of 10 people prefer online video platforms to live TV.
  4. Make Sure Your Website is Mobile Ready – Over 65% of web searches performed on Google are done on a mobile device. Google recently announced that they are transitioning to a “mobile first” index, meaning that Google is more concerned about the appearance and effectiveness of the mobile version of your website than the desktop version.
  5.  Utilize Keywords Throughout Your Website – In order to convince Google, and inevitably a website visitor, that you are worthy of hiring, you must first share with them what you do. This is done by creating good quality content written with keywords that describe what you do and how well you do it. But you must be careful not to overuse keywords or else you risk a Google penalty.
  6.  Tell a Story on Your Homepage – Everyone loves a good story. Face it, there are a lot of good lawyers and quality law firms that do what you do. What separates you from your competitors? Why should a website visitor consider hiring you? Offer answers to these questions in the form of a story on your homepage. You probably tell this story several times a day to potential clients and other attorneys, put it into words and strategically utilize it on your homepage.
  7. Utilize Paid Advertising – Combining paid advertising with your organic SEO program will improve your conversion rate.
  8. Review and Track Your Google Analytics Data – Reviewing and tracking your Google analytics data will help you gain an understanding of how your website is performing. It will tell you who is visiting your website, where those visitors are from, how they arrived at your website, how long they were on your site, etc. This data is the foundation for your conversion upgrade, as it provides you with a snapshot of the current health of your website, but more importantly, it helps you track the performance of the changes you make to your website.
  9. Check Page Speed – The time it takes to load a page from your website could mean the difference between a website visitor contacting you or moving on to a competitor’s website. Also, page load time is an important element in Google’s page rank algorithm.
  10. Work with a Professional Web Designer – Just about anyone can build a website today. There are number of quality website building platforms on the market, but in order to have a professional website with all the necessary conversion elements, you really have to work with a professional web designer.
  11. Increase Client Reviews – It wasn’t that long ago that “word of mouth” was the only way to uncover details about a law firm’s reputation. Today, there are countless websites devoted exclusively to client reviews. And, everyone reads reviews. It is imperative that you have an assortment of positive reviews about your firm. Good reviews can mean the difference between a client and a disinterested website visitor.

In summary, it is important to develop a comprehensive internet marketing plan and focus on conversions. Any one of these items may have a minor positive impact on your ranking and conversions, but integrating most or all of these elements will most certainly improve conversions and increase the number of phone calls your firm receives.

Sundown Legal Marketing specializes in helping law firms review their current internet footprint, developing a comprehensive internet marketing plan and implementing every aspect of that plan. Contact us today for a free website evaluation and a no obligation assessment of your internet marketing plan. Call us today at (800) 864-1764 or online at Sundown Marketing.

All SEO’s have, at one time or another, asked themselves “Which is better – Content or Backlinks”? The SEO team at Sundown Legal Marketing recently conducted a study comparing the effectiveness of adding quality backlinks versus adding relevant, robust content. The team selected three client websites for this study and tailored a unique SEO plan for each.

The team applied the following SEO plan to the three selected websites:

  1. For website A our strategy was to add backlinks only.
  2. For website B our strategy was to add content only.
  3. For website C our strategy was to add a combination of content and backlinks.

The SEO work for the three websites selected for the study was done during the same time period: February – April. Let’s take a look at the results for each website.

Work Completed for Each Website:

There are many other factors that go into Google’s algorithm (beyond links & content) that impact website traffic and organic placement, so our SEO team tried to keep everything else as close to uniform as possible. For example, the SEO team continued their SEO efforts with all three websites, which included siloing the pages on the main menu and correcting any 404 errors found in Google Search Console.

Website A (Backlinks Only):

In addition to the normal SEO tasks performed on all three websites listed above, the team created 5 separate and unique backlinks from industry related websites back to Website A. Each of these links had domain authorities of between 30 and 40.

Timeline:

  • These backlinks were obtained during the month of April.
  • There was no content added in the months of February, March, and April.

Looking at the weekly organic traffic for this website there was a spike toward the middle of April, but it was not sustained. However, overall traffic increased, and plateaued at around 80 sessions per week. Before the project began the traffic had plateaued at around 65 sessions per week.

Interesting to note here is that there was content added to the site in January, and that could possibly account for the slight increase of traffic in February. Also, this website plateaued at around 75 sessions/week during February and March (with one slight dip in early March), before spiking up after the backlinks were realized. This tells us that there’s a strong correlation between the backlinks being realized (picked up by Googlebot) and the increase in organic traffic.

Website B (Content Only):

Again, the SEO Team continued their normal tasks that we provide all of our SEO clients, which includes fixing any onsite health issues that are found, but in terms of backlinks, they added absolutely none. Instead, they only added content to this website – lots of content. In fact, during the months of February, March, and April they added close to 20 pages of additional content, each with an average of about 850 words. Here are the results:

Timeline:

  • These articles were added throughout the study February -April.
  • No backlinks were created during the study time frame.

There was a slight rise in organic traffic during February, but then a slight decline in March, then a gradual increase in April, and a huge boost in May. What did the Team do in April and May? They simply went back to adding content, but this time, it was their regularly scheduled 2-3 articles per month. It seems that Google slowly rewarded our content efforts by showing this website higher in the SERP over time. Indeed, here is our average position for relevant keywords we track for this website:

There is a great deal of volatility in the chart above, but at beginning of April, right after we finished adding the large volume of content pages, Google moved the average position of the website from about 21 to about 18.

During this time the Team did not add any backlinks to the website and only did the same amount of maintenance (fixing crawl errors, broken links) that we do for all our other clients, including the other two websites in this study.

Website C (Combination of Content and Backlinks):

You would think that a combination of the above two strategies would be the best strategy – and you would be right! For website C we added substantial content, and obtained substantial backlinks.

In March we obtained 5 backlinks, and throughout the course of March and April we added seven articles to the website, each with an average of about 850 words.

Timeline:

  • These backlinks were obtained during the month of March.
  • The content was added to Website C in March and April.

It seems that Google rewarded this website a little bit in March, and a lot in April and May. The weekly organic traffic plateau went from about 60 to about 100.

After reviewing the results of our study, it became apparent that in order to successfully rank a website, you must institute a broad-based SEO program, applying many different techniques.

We hope this has been an insightful look into the work of a digital marketing firm. If you need any assistance with generating more organic traffic, and being found by your target audience, contact Sundown Legal Marketing for a free consultation. We can be reached at (800) 649-1764 or by using our website contact form.

It wasn’t that long ago that internet marketing success was solely based on a few things:

  1. A website with a lot keyword content crammed into every page
  2. Tons of links to other websites that may or may not be relevant, but received a lot of traffic

Today, success in internet marketing is impacted by a great number of factors and involves a lot of moving parts.  With all of the changes that Google has made to their algorithm (Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird) over the last few years, the path to internet marketing success starts with two simple factors:

  1. Creating relevant and authoritative content
  2. Delivering relevant and authoritative content to potential customers/clients

Creating relevant and authoritative content allows a website owner to convey subject matter expertise.  Consumers utilize the internet to find information and, dependent upon their needs, will work diligently to find a website/business that can provide them with the expert answers that they need.  Subject matter expertise provides a consumer with a sense of security, allowing them to comfortably make a decision to buy, not to buy, act or do nothing at all.  With those thoughts in mind, it is easy to understand why Google now demands that websites provide their customers with good, quality content.

The second point above, delivering relevant and authoritative content is just as important as creating the content in the first place.  Without a mechanism to deliver the content, no one will ever see it.  Here is a list of some of the most important tools for delivering content:

  1. A website
  2. A blog
  3. Social Media

The first tool for delivering content is always a website.  A website is typically the first stop a consumer makes when searching for information online.  A good website will have a number of good qualities (good color palette, uncluttered, call to action, etc.), but the single most important quality will be great content.

Another tool for delivering content is a blog.  A blog allows an author to convey timely subject matter expertise.  A business should blog as often as they can and dependent upon their area of expertise, 2-4 times monthly should fit the bill.

Lastly, utilizing social media as a content delivery mechanism is becoming more and more important and businesses who effectively utilize social media are recognizing the benefits.  Social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest to name a few) allows a business to connect with the community.  A community which is made up of potential customers/clients.

Each of the elements above are important on their own, but become incredibly valuable when they are part of a holistic approach to internet marketing.  Bringing consumers to a website from a link on a well written blog, driving potential clients to a blog through postings on social media or pushing potential customers to social media profiles from well displayed icons on a website.  Tying all of these elements together, as a part of a well thought out, well planned internet marketing program is the only way to succeed online today.

In thirteen years of working with law firms and real estate companies, I have gotten a lot of internet marketing questions. Sometimes these answers seem so obvious that I wonder why they ever asked it to begin with. Well, the question about blogging isn’t one of them.

Let me first say, I am a fan. I believe it can really help you connect with a potential client in a way that traditional website content can’t. As search engines have evolved and website content has become better written, getting an answer to even the strangest of questions seems easier than ever….”My washing machine is making a chirping sound in the spin cycle!” Or, “I hear a thumping sound when I put my car in drive!” are only a few of my wife’s internet searches that have led to the perfect answer to her dilemma.

If we can get answers to even the strangest of questions; including videos on how to do just about anything, then why wouldn’t we search for, “How to beat a DUI?” or “The best neighborhoods in Mobile, AL”. Having a blog that is written in a way that answers questions, even if you aren’t giving advice, but simply saying, “the answer may be much more complicated than just posing the question to the internet world”, can be great for your business. A well-written blog, that shows that you are an expert in some subject matter, can often help you become a “trusted adviser”.

If I would have gotten a DUI, I may be trying to see what my options are or seeing the worst case scenario. It could be your blog, explaining that trying to beat a DUI on your own or with an inexperienced attorney can be costly, beyond your wildest dreams. In essence, your opinion may convince me that I really do need an attorney. And, you have positioned yourself as someone who knows a little bit about the subject. Why wouldn’t I contact you or try and chat with you about it (assuming you have a live chat, which is also just as important).

In today’s world of options and instant answers, you have to position yourself as an expert in your field and you have to do so before everyone else. The traditional way of optimizing websites is through keywords that alert the search engines about your areas of interest. An example of this might be DUI Attorney or Real Estate in Mobile. The problem with this approach is that everyone else is doing the same thing. Why not try to cut in line. Get in front of that potential client, before they are searching for an attorney, a real estate agent or even a plumber! Try and address their concerns in a way that shows you “Understand their situation”, you can “Empathize with their Situation” and finally, you can “Help with their situation”.

Now, I said at the beginning of this post that I believed in blogs. I do. But, only if done correctly.

Write content that is easy for people to understand. Keep in mind, it’s not for your colleagues, it’s for your potential new clients.

Write often. Nothing kills a blogs effectiveness like never being updated. An updated blog is new content and search engines love new content.

Finally, keep it short, not like what I have written here. Assume that people don’t have long attentions spans and you will do great.