Search engine optimization (SEO) can seem intimidating to lawyers who are making their first venture into online legal content marketing. There’s so much to think about:
- How many internal links should I include in a legal blog post?
- How should I link to a state statute?
- What anchor text should I use?
- Should I link to my home page whenever I say the name of my firm?
- Can I put keywords in bold faced font?
- What should I write about?
By focusing on these particular issues, though, it can be easy for lawyers and SEO novices to lose sight of the big picture. SEO is a “forest versus the trees” kind of thing. If you analyze and meditate on a particular tree, you’ll quickly forget about the grand scheme of things, which is actually very simple: Make relevant and important content.
In that way, online legal marketing is very similar to the field of criminal procedure which, in the words our late crim pro professor, is a lot like Mexican food.
“Criminal Procedure is a Lot Like Mexican Food”
For the founder of Myers Freelance LLC, criminal procedure was taught by the type of law professor made infamous by TV shows and movies about law school. He was… how does one say it…
A devout fan of the Socratic Method of Insults, some of his greatest hits included:
- “Stop talking. You’re making everyone else in the room as stupid as you are.”
- “You’re so wrong, I can’t make you right.”
- “You’re blathering in the hope that you’ll find yourself backing into the right answer. Let me put you out of your misery.”
When it came to describing the realm of criminal procedure, his witticisms became useful. One of his greatest contributions was his favorite analogy of the field to Mexican food. The theme was simple and straightforward:
There are lots of Mexican dishes. Tacos, burritos, enchiladas, nachos, quesadillas, tostadas, chilaquiles. Don’t think of it like that – you’ll just get confused. They’re all made out of the same things: You’ve got your rice, your beans, corn, tomatoes, some kind of meat, and a flat bread, and that’s why it’s delicious. Criminal procedure is like Mexican food. You’ve got your Third Party Doctrine, open fields doctrine, plain view searches, intrusions that aren’t a search, probable cause, reasonable suspicion, vehicle searches… you’ll get confused. They’re all made out of the same stuff: Subjective privacy expectation, objective privacy expectation, safety of the public, and safety of police officers.
SEO Fits the Analogy, Too
The gist of the comparison between criminal procedure and Mexican food is that, sometimes, you need to zoom out a bit. There are a lot of trees, here, but they all have some things in common. Reminding yourself of those commonalities can help you understand how each element fits into the big picture.
SEO is the same way. You’re optimizing your law firm’s website for search engines. That’s what SEO stands for.
Search engines like Google and Bing want to provide their users with websites that are both relevant and important for that user’s query.
All of these SEO “factors” go towards that goal. For example:
- Anchor text is the word or phrase “underneath” a link. Search engines use that text to get an idea of what the site being linked to is all about. This helps search engines decide whether it is relevant for a search query that uses similar or identical words
- External links go from a law firm’s website to other sites on the internet. If you link to reputable sources, it’s a sign to search engines that you’re serious about the content
- Using bold or italicized font for keywords is not an SEO factor, anymore, because you can easily highlight specific words, even though they are not the subject of the article, like this: Pineapples. Does the fact that I put that word in bold font make this article more relevant or important for pineapple-related searches? No
There are hundreds of SEO factors, but they all move towards one, singular goal. Keep that goal in mind, and you don’t need to know the particulars – you can work most of them out on your own.