As you may have heard, Google released a new algorithm, known as BERT, that will affect the results when you perform a search using Google.

Is it time to panic? Pay a lot of money to an SEO “expert” to make big changes to your website?

The answer is…it depends. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist).

If your law firm website was built to provide useful information to potential clients and others searching for information about your firm and the law in the areas of practice, this new update is likely to have little to no effect on your website and how it appears in search.

Create Content for Human Beings, Not Search Engines

Hand-2692450_1920-human-robotAs I’ve said before (as far back as 2010 with my post What Should Lawyers Look for in an SEO Strategy?), your first priority when creating content for your website should always be to provide value to human beings, not to search engines.

The purpose of a search engine is to return the best possible result in response to the searcher’s query. Google is constantly updating its algorithm to keep improving the results it returns, to eliminate unresponsive results, and to ensure that it is providing quality information to its users (searchers).

Google’s latest update is an attempt to make the algorithm understand search queries more like humans understand them, to help return results that are more likely to be the kinds of results the searcher was actually looking for.

Long-Tail Searches and SEO

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According to Google, the BERT update was designed to help the search engine understand “longer, more conversational queries,” often known as “long-tail” queries. These are exactly the kinds of queries your potential clients are likely using to search for information about their legal problem, or when searching for an attorney to help them solve it. 

If your website’s content targets the information your potential clients are searching for on the internet and incorporates long-tail keywords that respond to their queries, you’ll start seeing results in traffic to your website.

But it takes time to develop long-tail keywords – you need to be very familiar with your potential clients and what information is important to them. This is one of the reasons I warn lawyers to beware of is SEO “experts” who say they can “guarantee” first page results, or who say they can optimize your site for search without your input and without knowing much about you or your area of practice. Many of them will engage in underhanded tactics to try to “game” the Google system. 

With each Google algorithm update, it is more and more difficult to have success with these kinds of underhanded practices. And for most lawyers, especially solos and small-firm lawyers, the paid options like pay-per-click are prohibitively expensive.

How to Optimize Your Website Now

Seo-758264_1920There is never any guarantee that you’ll appear at the top of the organic search results for every keyword you target. But there are ways to improve your chances of appearing in search. 

There are also technical issues that can hurt your website in search, and there are certainly legitimate SEO professionals who can help here, too, but they are usually different people than those who can help on the content side. Look for someone who knows the technical side of SEO and can fix problems such as broken code, slow load speed, poor site architecture, etc. Hopefully, those will be one-time fixes.

On an ongoing basis, one of the easiest and simplest is by writing your site for humans and providing valuable information. Create quality content that answers the questions people have around your area of the law and how it affects them.

Then optimize that content for search by including relevant “long-tail” keywords where it counts to signal Google that’s what your site (and each individual page) is about. This can be accomplished by adding appropriate tags and meta descriptions, ensuring each page is targeting a different long-tail keyword. You can find help here as well, but again, this help is likely to be from a different source that the technical SEO professional.

If you need help writing copy for your website and making sure it’s SEO optimized the right way – please feel free to contact me.