To cut a long story short, what used to work wonders back in the old days just doesn’t anymore.
But the good news is that, at its core, the goals and basic tenets of SEO haven’t changed. Sure, some tactics and best practices may be different, but SEO is still about connecting your brand with your target audience by increasing your search rankings.
Perhaps the best way to describe new school SEO is that it’s about optimising for real people instead of search engines. But then again, this school of thought has already existed even in the old days of SEO.
So, how do you know which practices to avoid, and which ones you should be spending more time and resources on? Here are a few key differences between old and new SEO, which should tell you everything about the kind approach to take when marketing.
Today’s SEO is About Engaging Customers, Not Just Rankings
In the past, the thrust behind SEO was to focus on a few keywords and trying to rank for them on the search engine results pages (SERPs). Some search marketers believed that it didn’t matter how you did it, as long as you managed to grab and keep top rankings on Google.
However, Google’s Penguin and Panda updates saw to it that marketers could no longer game the system with link farming and keyword spamming.
Today, SEO is about managing your brand’s reputation, and making people want to interact with your brand by spreading quality content about your products and services.
For law firms, this means creating content that attracts your target audience and nurturing them until they become your actual clients. If you have this down pat, your rankings should improve through organic sharing/mentions, and natural linking across the internet.
To put it simply, SEO is now rooted in traditional marketing and public relations, in that you’re trying to build your law firm’s authority through reputation management and savvy PR.
Keywords are Still Important, But They’re Not the Only Thing Going On
Anyone who’s been engaged in SEO before 2011 knows that for many years, the industry was always focused on one thing: keywords.
In the past, search marketers would focus on just one major keyword, hinging all their efforts on getting ranked for that specific search term, and only that term.
But as search engines continue to get smarter, the goal is now to think of what search engine users think and want when typing into the search engine. This has given rise to semantic SEO, which focuses on keyword intent and long tail keywords.
For law firms, this means the days of gaming Google with keywords are over, with the context behind searches now being taken into account when showing search results. In turn, this means your content has to be top notch and relevant in order to generate traffic and improve your site’s rankings.
Relevance will be the primary factor affecting how effective your website content is. This will be both a challenge and opportunity for providers of legal services, possibly requiring them to change their website content and marketing campaigns. But it can also place you in a prime position to beat your competitors in the SERPs.
Content for People, Not Search Engines
Although the concept behind using content to increase search engine rankings was to create content for readers, search marketers nevertheless deviated from its intended purpose.
In the old days, SEO was focused on creating content that would rank on the search engine results pages. This meant that keywords and keyword density took precedence before the actual quality of the content. And so, you had marketers flooding private blog networks with poor-quality and sometimes even plagiarised content stuffed with target keywords.
But Google’s Panda update pretty much put that practice to an end, forcing marketers to realise that content needs to be written for people, as it was always intended.
Focus on creating content assets that are not only relevant, but also educate and solve target audience problems.
Link Building Should Be Natural and Earned
To be fair, everyone knew what the best practices for link building were, even in the old days of SEO. Search marketers were already aware of black hat link building and that it was pretty much a way to trick search engines into increasing their rankings.
That didn’t stop many people from building links the shady way though. It was all about jamming as many links into content assets whenever possible, and posting them on as many websites as they could. It was pretty much open season for search marketers, which made postings on discussion forms and social bookmarking sites so popular.
But such questionable practices never had a chance of lasting, and so after Panda and Penguin, the only way to build links without suffering penalties is to do it the right way, as everyone should. In other words, links have to be natural and earned.
A link should be the result of forming a relationship between your law firm’s site and a relevant and authoritative party. Of course, there’s no rule prohibiting you from posting on forums and social bookmarking sites like Pinterest or Tumblr, but you should still be very selective on the sites you choose to avoid any penalties.
Make sure you are keeping up with search engines and observing best practices when creating and executing a strategy. Most of these changes aren’t actual changes in best practices per se, because they’ve actually been recommended since the early days of SEO—so it shouldn’t be too much of an adjustment if you’ve always put your audience first in your SEO efforts.
Still, it’s important to be fluid with your SEO methods and be ready to adapt to trends and changes when they benefit your marketing efforts.
Qamar Zaman is a renowned national SEO expert for lawyers. With his office based in Dallas, Qamar Zaman specialises in conversion rate optimisation for law firms. He works with all types of law firms and helps them get improve ROI without increasing more on marketing cost.