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Google Wants You to Know that It Pays to Be Helpful

The world of SEO is abuzz about the helpful content update recently published by Google. While this latest offering doesn’t seem to be earth-shattering, it is important to familiarize yourself with it – and to generally keep up. As such, there are five basic tips that can help anyone out there who needs to pay attention to SEO, which means any law firm with an online presence. The message driving Google’s latest offering is that you should be taking a people-first approach – rather than writing for bots. When Google embraces its human side, it’s time for businesses to follow suit. 

One: Know that Consumer Intent Holds Sway

When you sit down at the drawing board with your team to hammer out topic ideas and keywords, your focus should be on what the people actually want – not on what you want them to want or what they should want. The intention behind a consumer’s search is key, and Google eloquently if somewhat ambiguously says you’re likely on the right track if you can answer yes to questions like the following:

  • Is there an intended or existing audience out there who would find your legal content useful if they came directly to it?
  • Does your website have a clear legal focus or purpose?
  • Does your content highlight the breadth of your knowledge and impressive first-hand experience in your specific legal field?
  • Does your content amount to a satisfying reading experience as well as provide searchers with enough information to confidently make the next move, such as obtain the legal counsel they need?

Now more than ever, it’s all about well-written content with purpose. If, however, you doubt your ability to read the minds of searchers, Google offers the following advice:

  • Keep your eye on the questions potential clients pose rather than on keywords
  • Consider the intent behind these questions
  • Extrapolate to generate additional questions prospective clients might ask

For example, if your firm focuses on divorce law, loosen your focus on keywords, such as child custody arrangements, and embrace the questions that prospective clients are likely to ask, such as:

  • Do I need a child custody modification? 
  • Is there a required separation period prior to divorce?
  • What should I look for in a divorce attorney?

While Google claims that it’s not looking for a certain word count, it stands to reason that longer pieces that effectively answer the questions clients pose are going to fare better than a brief response that fails to offer much substance.

Two: Recognize that a Little Unhelpful Content Goes a Long Way

If Google discerns what it considers unhelpful content on your site, even if it’s a generally helpful site, it devalues the entire site. The higher your ratio of unhelpful to helpful content, the less likely it is that your site will shine on the SERPs – especially if there is a site out there that’s better at rooting out its unhelpful content.

This means that it’s time to do some housekeeping. What may have worked in the past or may not have done any damage in the past could be wreaking havoc on your Search success today. Evaluating your existing content in terms of its alignment with Google’s guideline update is paramount, including in relation to the following:

  • Blog posts
  • Home pages
  • Contact pages

If a portion of your content amounts to a weak link, it can lessen the effectiveness of your entire site, which makes deleting, skillfully editing, or upgrading anything that isn’t Google-approved an important step toward brave forward movement.

Three: Flaunt Your Subject Matter Expertise

While the legal field generally eschews the terms expertise and expert – for legal reasons that are too arcane to get into – Google reveres subject matter experts (SMEs), and your firm’s website should do the same. Whatever your firm’s focus is, there are experts out there who not only have an impressive array of knowledge and experience to share but can also help you explore and generate topic ideas that you may not have even considered. Whether this expertise is in-house or comes from an outside source you’re associated with, it represents a valuable resource that you’re well advised to plumb. 

Four: Explore Your Own Voice

The pendulum has swung decidedly in the direction of client intent, which makes a lot of sense, but this does not mean that your firm’s blog addressing whether or not a potential client needs a divorce attorney should be a carbon copy of every other firm’s. In fact, this is a great way to dilute your power on Search. Take the time to not only find your voice but also hone it and allow it to guide your content. The bottom line is that, yes, that prospective client does need a divorce attorney – for a myriad of important reasons – but your response to this enquiry should have your own spin on it.

A great way to personalize your content is by expanding your reach beyond what you normally would – while remaining within the scope of your practice – and sharing your own personal and hard-won experiences. When you speak to your audience from a position of both authority and authenticity, they’re more inclined to listen.

Five: Link Wisely and Well

Finally, it’s important to carefully consider who and what you’re linking your content to. Your collabs matter, and when you link, you associate your firm with that source. In fact, being choosy has never been more important. If the source you’re considering linking to ticks all of Google’s helpful content boxes, it’s likely a solid option, but if not, it’s time to keep looking. 

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