Let’s talk SEO — search engine optimization for your estate planning website.
More specifically, let’s talk about backlink strategies and LOCAL SEO.
What is LOCAL SEO and why is it so important for estate planning and elder law websites?
Here’s the deal: SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of optimizing a website for indexing by the search engines. There are lots of things that go into optimization – from how long it takes your website to load to how many people visit your site, and especially the actual content on your website.
In a nutshell, SEO is how we get your website found when people are searching online for an estate planning or elder law attorney.
However, it doesn’t do you much good to have nationwide or global SEO … because you don’t really care if people visit your site from a state where you’re not licensed to practice. In fact, it can be a little annoying to get inquiries from people you can’t serve.
What you do want is to rank very well in your local market. You want your website to show up for people who would actually become new clients. That usually means they are within driving range of your office – maybe within a 15- or up to a 50-mile radius around your office, depending on your market. It’s really important that these people can find you when they are searching for an estate planning attorney or an elder law attorney.
That’s LOCAL SEO.
Now there’s not a high volume of search on these terms, but when someone in your local market is actively searching, it doesn’t take a high volume, because research shows they are ready to hire an attorney. They’re at that point where they’re deciding, so it’s very important for you to have great LOCAL SEO.
When we look at LOCAL SEO, one of the strategies that can be very confusing is what’s called a BACKLINKING STRATEGY.
Now many years ago, in the olden days of the internet (five years ago) backlinks were super important and it didn’t seem to matter where they came from. The more websites that linked to yours (and that’s what a backlink is — a link from another website to your website) the better you would rank.
That gave rise to a lot of these SEO companies that would specialize in buying backlinks, or setting up backlink farms that exist solely for the purpose of artificially backlinking to their clients’ websites.
Well, you can guess what happened next.
Google got onto this and now they will penalize your site if they detect these unnatural backlinks.
So, yes, backlinks can tank your estate planning website.
Instead of chasing a bunch of backlinks … to the degree they are still important to your LOCAL SEO, Google wants you to EARN BACKLINKS from local, authoritative sites.
A Sad Story
Let me just share a story with you about a client who got taken in by one of these SEO companies that promised to boost her website fast with a big backlinking scheme.
Her website was new and Google wasn’t sending her a lot of traffic yet.
If you’re in this position, remember that the best cure is just a little time. There are no shortcuts on SEO.
SEO is like a game of King of the Hill. There are only so many listings on page one, and they don’t expand the page for you. You have to knock somebody off … and it’s going to take some time for you to establish the credibility to convince Google your site is more valuable to their users than any of those sites that are already on page one.
So, if you’re in a competitive market, which this lady was, it’s going to take a little more time to overtake the competition. You’re just not going to do that overnight.
But she was impatient.
So she hired one of these companies (against our advice, but hey, those guys are convincing!) and they started this big backlinking scheme.
What happened next is really sad.
Her site went from having a handful of visitors to almost 20,000 visitors in one month.
Sounds great, right? Looks like it worked!
But, remember I mentioned that pesky penalty Google imposes when they detect these artificial backlinking schemes.
As you can see from the chart – yes, she had a huge spike in traffic.
But Google detected it and penalized her site.
Her traffic dropped off just as quickly as it had picked up.
This lady not only wasted her money on that SEO company, she did some serious damage that’s going to be hard to repair. Now she has to climb out of Google’s penalty box, and that can be very difficult.
I don’t want you to get hooked into something like that.
Don’t employ an SEO company to implement a backlinking scheme for you.
Here’s what you want to do about backlinks.
Earn your backlinks!
- Get involved in your local community. Speak at local events. Join the Chamber of Commerce. Sponsor a local event or join a civic organization. Then, be a little bit savvy and ask for your new local “partners” to add a link to your website from theirs. Now you have an authoritative earned backlink. You can do this through sponsoring local events, through sponsoring local organizations.
- Join business directories that are local for you.
- Become a source for local media on financial, legal or even health care issues. When they quote you, ask them for a link to your website from their digital version of the story.
- Consider publishing local press releases. They may not get picked up by your local media, but they will show up online and Google will recognize them (they have a short shelf-life, but every little advantage matters in the SEO game).
I know a lot of you already are active in your local communities: you’re sponsoring walks for Alzheimer’s, you’re sponsoring walks for breast cancer, you sponsor a Little League team or a hole in a local charity golf tournament. That’s all good stuff, but just start being a little bit savvy about it and ask for the backlinks.
Now in your local community, depending on the size of your market, there may not be a lot of backlinking opportunities. That’s okay.
Just remember that when it comes to backlinks, it’s not about the quantity.
It’s the quality of the linking organization that will help boost your LOCAL SEO.