This post originally appeared on attorneyatwork.com
Law firms spend significant resources trying to improve their online search rankings. After all, a searcher is merely a click away from becoming a potential buyer. But if you’re not showing up in search results, those clicks can be elusive.
Many of the search terms that law firms vie for are extremely competitive, which is why pay-per-click advertising for such terms is so expensive. No matter how hard law firms work — or how much they pay SEO agencies — it’s really tough to move the needle on search, and the Google page one real estate they desire is rarely captured.
The competitiveness of search in my own field is similarly fierce. I spent a long time — too long — banging away on my keyboard trying to get my own blog content to the top of certain Google SERPs (search engine results pages) to little avail. One day I stopped, took stock, and got smarter about how I was approaching search.
Instead of just trying to get content on my site to rank more highly, I started publishing more often on other websites, and that content started performing significantly better in search rankings.
Same quality of content. Different website. Dramatically better results.
Moreover, an unexpected (and delightful) consequence of my guest-posting strategy is that my own site’s search rankings have improved considerably.
In this post, I’ll explain why I believe guest posting is a powerful SEO hack and how to execute a guest-posting strategy effectively. Lawyers can use this strategy to get their names, personal brands, and thought leadership (if not their own sites) to the top of Google search rankings, and increase business development opportunities in the process.
Why Your Content Isn’t Ranking in Google Search Results
It’s no wonder that many lawyers dabble in content marketing and quickly give up. Even if they’re following all of the on-page SEO best practices, such as using and repeating targeted keyphrases within their content, their posts are nowhere to be seen on the search engines. Consequently, they’re not generating any quality traffic to their websites.
The problem may not be the content itself but rather where that content is being published. Google is a bit of a “black box” when it comes to its search algorithm. But since its inception, it has considered the “authority” of a website an important factor in determining how to rank a site’s published content. From Google’s point of view, your website’s authority equates to its reputation as a thought leader. If Google determines the site contains high-quality content about specific subject matters, then its content is likely to rank highly.
In Google’s early days, this factor was called PageRank. Google takes a more holistic, less clearly defined approach today, but the relative authority of a website remains extremely important. One of the primary reasons sites like Wikipedia consistently rank high in search results is that they are considered high-authority sites.
There’s no way to determine with specificity what Google thinks about the authority of your law firm website. But if your content is not ranking, and you’re following on-site SEO best practices, the odds are that one of the problems is that your site is not perceived as authoritative.
The best way to get an approximation of your site’s authority is to check its “domain authority” using the tools on the SEO software company Moz’s website. Domain authority ranges from a score of 1 to 100. The higher the score, the better your site will rank in search results.
Unfortunately, it’s really hard to improve a website’s domain authority. It can take years of concerted effort. Who has the time or money for that?
There’s a workaround, however. You don’t necessarily need to improve your site’s domain authority to improve your own search results. You can leverage someone else’s higher domain authority.
That’s where guest posting comes in.
How Guest Posting Can Help Get You to the Top
Gain credibility and reach new readers by writing guest posts for a website that your audience already knows, likes and trusts. If the site also happens to have a high domain authority, the content you write for it will be more likely to rank higher in search results.
Consider my own experience guest posting for Attorney at Work. Not only is Attorney at Work read by members of my target audience — those interested in legal marketing — but it also has a much higher domain authority, earned through years of consistent publishing, than my own blog. And the positive SEO results I’ve achieved with respect to content I’ve written for Attorney at Work are unmistakable.
As the owner of an agency focused on helping law firms improve their content marketing, two of the most important keyphrases I focus on are “law firm content marketing” and “thought leadership marketing for lawyers.” As you can see in the following screenshots, content I’ve written for Attorney at Work on these topics, respectively, has earned the first organic search result on page one of Google.
Sure, all else being equal, I’d love for those links to be pointing to my own website. But for whatever reason — and controlling for other variables, I believe the reason is domain authority — my Attorney at Work guest post content consistently ranks higher in search results.
I gladly accept the trade-off. After all, my bio at the end of my Attorney at Work posts contains links to my website and my books. These links serve as important sources of referral traffic to my website and they also improve my site’s SEO. Having “backlinks” from high-quality websites is a critical component of proving to Google that your own site’s content is authoritative and worth ranking.
Putting a Guest-Posting Strategy Into Practice
Lawyers looking to make their content more visible should get much more aggressive about guest posting. Here’s how:
Define your target audience. The first step in crafting an effective content marketing strategy is defining your audience — the narrower the better. Having a niche focus for your content allows you to communicate your thought leadership to a distinct, highly targeted market. Your message can be contextualized and more relevant to that audience and penetrate the conversation in the industry you’re focused on.
Pick the keyphrase you want to rank for. Once you’ve defined your audience, determine what challenges they’re facing, what questions they’re asking, and what pain they’re experiencing. That will help you understand what type of information they’re searching for online and you can create content that addresses their concerns. If you want your content to rank in search results, you need to focus on specific keyphrases that you have a realistic shot at ranking for. Regardless of where you publish your content, it’s going to be difficult to rank for generic, competitive phrases such as “commercial litigation” or “mergers and acquisitions.” However, by using tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner or Moz’s Keyword Explorer, you can explore alternatives that are more narrow in scope (for example, focused on a particular geography or industry) and thus easier to rank for. Whatever keyphrase you choose, at a minimum, make sure to include it in your headline and use it three to four times in the body or your content.
Find the right platform. Start by asking yourself, “What is the go-to platform where my target audience consumes content?” This doesn’t mean you should necessarily be looking for the platform with the biggest audience. It would be great to publish something in The Wall Street Journal, but a smaller platform that is geared directly to your niche may be just as, if not more, effective to showcase your expertise. Once you’ve identified a few relevant websites that accept contributor content, check their domain authority — the higher the better.
Pitch an original idea. If you want an editor of a site with high standards to pay attention to your guest post pitch, then you need to come up with an original idea. Do your research. Take note of the types of content and topics that are popular on the site you’re pitching. Monitor the news and stay on top of issues trending in the industry you’re focusing on.
Create high-quality content. When you’re writing for an authoritative site, you must bring your “A-game” and create great content. Write with the blog’s audience in mind. Don’t hold anything back for fear of giving away the “special sauce.” Cite authoritative sources and use research data to buttress your points. And, of course, use plain English and not legal jargon.
Promote your content. Google takes into account many factors beyond domain authority and keyphrase relevance when ranking content. One of the most important additional factors is whether other high-quality sites are linking to the content. Accordingly, if you want your content to rank, you need to spread the word. Share your content with influencers in the industry you’re focused on. Email it to your list. Share it on social media.
Content marketing requires a big time investment. There’s no point in doing it if you’re not approaching the task strategically. One of the best strategic moves you can make, if you want your content to be visible on search engines, is to publish more content on authoritative websites that can serve as gateways to yours.
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We work with professional services firms to develop content marketing strategies, create visual storytelling assets, and build brands and websites that lead to new business.
If you’re interested in increasing the returns on your marketing investments, contact me to set up a free consultation to discuss how we can work together to define clear goals, create a specific plan of action, and implement marketing tactics that will help your firm grow.