How do search engines determine the relevancy of your firm’s website?
We all understand the basics of how Internet search engines work. We type in words, phrases or questions, and the search engine returns a list of results that it deems relevant to what we are searching for. However, most marketers and lawyers do not know what factors determine search engine ranking factors for law firm websites.
The basic idea behind search engine results is no secret. The results that are deemed to be the most relevant appear at the top of the list. The search engines are constantly updating and tuning their algorithms as they try to improve accuracy. In a perfect world, the first result of any search query would be the exact page you need to answer a question or solve a problem.
The constantly evolving techniques used by search engines to determine a page’s relevancy to a given query, however, are a secret. In order to prevent unethical manipulation of their indexes, the search engines keep a close guard on what exactly goes into the algorithms that determine their search result rankings.
The idea of trying to uncover those secrets is what forms the basis of search engine optimization, or SEO. There are some facts, some theories, some rumors and some outright lies. We’re going to sort through it all and answer that burning question: What are the most important ranking factors for law firm websites?
The specific pieces of data that are counted, compared and correlated when determining where a page will rank within search results are referred to as ranking factors. While the true ranking factors within an engine’s results algorithm could reach into the thousands, they can be grouped together into seven basic factors that you can focus on when analyzing the SEO results of your law firm’s site.
Following is a breakdown of those ranking factors, ordered by their current perceived level of importance.
This ranking factor looks at outside links pointing to any pages on your law firm’s domain.
The biggest factor used to determine the relevance of your web site is the trust of other web sites. This is measured by the number of links found on third-party sites across the web that point back to pages on your domain. The logic is that if there are more sites linking to your site, the information found there must be relevant and reliable.
This ranking factor looks at outside links pointing to specific pages within your law firm’s site. The page-level ranking factor uses the same basic logic as above, but relevance is concentrated on the specific page, rather than on the entire domain. Sub-factors such as the anchor text used in links, and where the links are coming from can influence this factor. For example, if one of your pages is about the intricacies of corporate law, it will gain a higher relevance score for that search term if a site links to it using the words “corporate law” as opposed to a more general term like “great law firm”.
Page-level Keywords and Content
To determine this ranking factor, the search engines will analyze the actual words and content they find on the page. Various markers will be used to try to determine what the page is mainly about and the overall quality of the content.
Page-level Technical Details
This ranking factor is based on the technical aspects of the page. It will take into account things like uniqueness, load time, HTML structure, use of HTTPS protocol, and content structure.
Engagement and SERP CTR
This factor affects ranking based on what happens when a web surfer sees your page on a search engine result page (SERP). If your law firm’s page gets a high click through ratio (CTR) when it’s displayed in search results, the search engine assumes that users are finding something they consider to be relevant and trustworthy. On the other side of the coin, if the CTR is very low, or if users click through to your page but then return and click on another result a few seconds later, the search engines assume that your content is not relevant to what the user was searching for.
Domain-level Technical Details
Technical details such as length of the domain name, domain extension (.com .net .biz etc.), server response time, trusted SSL certificate and other things go into the score for this ranking factor.
Page-level Social Metrics
This factor will take into account the social metrics for a specific page. Data such as Facebook shares, mentions found in tweets on Twitter and the number of +1 clicks on Google all add to the score here.
Putting It All Together
So now you know the seven most important ranking factors for law firm websites that determine where and when your site and pages will show up in search results. It’s important to remember that although some carry more weight than others, no one factor alone is enough to boost your site into the top results. Successful SEO requires the right mix of all of them.