10 Signs Your Legal SEO Specialist Sucks

SEO can be a tricky concept to master. There often isn’t much transparency between the work being done and the client, which can result in confusion, and an assumption that their techniques will be successful. To make clear waters muddier, analytics can be difficult to decipher for the uninitiated.

The bottom line is content is king. You need to ensure you have a base of quality content so that Google and Bing’s robots see that you’re keeping an updated site. Not only does content quality directly affect the results of a visitor perusing your page, but search engine indexing can be increased by keeping data fresh and unique.

If you have an SEO manager on the payroll, they should have no trouble working with you to identify new opportunities for refreshing your professional biography, education history, and blog posts. Does this sound like your SEO specialist? If not, you may be in trouble.

Below are 10 red flags that you may want to consider hiring a new SEO manager:

10. They Don’t Update Your Site Regularly

Your website as a whole is your professional foundation on the web. If your content has not been updated in months, consider your foundation to be at risk. Despite what some contractors may tell you, link building and optimizing back end code is not a replacement for fresh content. Potential clients may take weeks (or months) to decide that you are the lawyer for them, and if they see a stagnant site, they may abandon your practice for a competitor.

Ask your SEO specialist to provide you with a monthly duty checklist. Make sure your site’s content is being updated, and ask questions as to how or why certain things are done, and clear the air for open discussions when you check in with them in the future. This helps manage expectations for both you, and your contractor.

9. They Use “Black Hat” Techniques

In the early days of SEO, there were certain ways to trick Google into ranking your site higher. Since these “Black Hat” techniques don’t enhance the experience of the site visitor, they are now considered cheating at SEO, and will ultimately cause your site to be ranked lower.

Black Hat optimization may result in your site being hit with a violation of Google’s quality guidelines. This means that your site may drop to a very low ranking, which will place you on a results page where nobody will find you. These are some common Black Hat SEO techniques, so you know to avoid them:

  • Keyword stuffing: There was a time when Google’s robots weren’t sophisticated enough to discern “Pennsylvania Motorcycle Accident Lawyer” from “Pennsylvania Motorcycle Attorney”. Those days are long gone, so don’t worry about including multiple ways to say one thing in a single article.
  • Unrelated Keywords: Celebrity names and other buzzwords are not advisable. If you genuinely had a case concerning a celebrity or well known brand name, include it. If not, keep your content clean, crisp and true.
  • Hidden Or Tiny Text: Don’t try and sneak in text that blends in with your background, or is an incredibly tiny font size. Your content should be intended to be read, while the alternative actively promotes a negative search experience. An example of this would be if you try to include hidden gambling, celebrity, or other popular keywords at the base of your site.

8. They Have No Link Building Strategy

When link building, it’s about quality versus quantity. Your SEO specialist should be getting links to your site from an authoritative site, instead of links from a multitude of low quality pages. By getting a nod from an authoritative site, you are seen as a trusted site with higher quality content. By virtue of your link on this site, you will get a higher rank through Google’s system.

It’s not easy to get links from authoritative sites. The best way to earn your way towards these links is to create high quality, original content on a regular basis. Another way is to build relationships with these sites, and their webmasters, through social media. By conversing with them via Twitter, for example, you take an active interest and prove that you are working towards being a Thought Leader, yourself.

7. They Don’t Focus On Long-Tail Keywords

In SEO, there are many types of keywords to consider. In a well rounded strategy, both short and long tail keywords are important in site content. This gives search engine robots a variety of options to pull results from, giving you more of a chance to appear in search results for potential clients.

If your SEO specialist only focuses on one side of the keyword world, they will be preventing you from attaining all of your potential leads. This is especially crucial, since long tail searches make up a significant amount of search traffic. Think of it this way: Searchers generally know what they’re looking for, and where they want to find it.

That means your legal specialty, location and possibly other case details could be included in their search terms. You should be preparing for visitors looking for “DUI lawyer” as much as “ Los Angeles alcohol DUI lawyer.”

6. They Can’t Explain Their Process

If your SEO specialist has trouble explaining their process to you, this is a red flag. There may be some jargon to explain, but this shouldn’t stop your specialist from being transparent with you.

To prevent hiring someone who doesn’t know their stuff, ask a lot of questions during your initial meeting. If you get a glib response, probe some more. At the end of the meeting, if you don’t feel strongly that the specialist has a clear idea of how to proceed with your site, you’re looking at a bad professional match.

5. They Rely On Paid Search Traffic

Pay per click (PPC) traffic can be a powerful site referral tool, but paid content is an entirely different animal from SEO. The updates your specialist should be doing on your site should be geared towards attaining unpaid referrals, in order to justify their ongoing fee.

It is possible that completely new sites can benefit from some PPC support to get your site some initial traffic, but that should be a minor aspect of a greater overall content strategy. Keep in mind, for this add-on to work, your specialist must have a keen understanding of how successful PPC campaigns run, which is markedly different from SEO.

4. They Use Duplicate Content

There are times when your SEO specialist may be tempted to use content from other legal sites and blogs, with attribution. This is one of the worst things that can be done, because if Google has already indexed content, they won’t index it again. In essence, you’re signing your own death warrant.

Indexing is not the only negative result from using duplicate content. There is a human penalty as well: As soon as your visitor sees you posting content from another site, they may see you as less of an authority. This does not communicate professionalism, and should be avoided at all costs.

3. They Ignore Local Listings

Local search engine listings are a key aspect of a fully rounded SEO strategy. Whether your practice is central to a single location or multiple cities, local listings offer highlighted results and a better user experience.

Why are local listings important? For starters, they offer a multitude of core business details that typical SEO links don’t provide without multiple searches. Since most users make a decision on your practice after the first query, this is very valuable. You may also verify your business through snail mail, which entails entering a code sent on a postcard to your address, to solidify your location.

Lastly, you can get citations, which builds trust in your business. There are a handful of ways to acquire citations, and they’re worth the time, since authoritative citations are the #1 ranking factor in a very competitive search market.

The best part? Local listings are free.

2. They Don’t Focus On Quality Content

Content can make or break your site. In order for your site to come out of this process on top, your SEO specialist should have a strong content strategy.

Keep your audience in mind; your potential clients are human beings. Google’s algorithm has become very complex, and has been created to reward content that human beings enjoy. Due to this, methods like keyword stuffing, which we mentioned under “black hat” SEO in point nine, are penalized.

It is crucial that your topics and writing attract people, while providing them with the information that they’re looking for. All of these aspects combined take you one step closer to acquiring a new lead.

1. They Don’t Show Results

At the end of the day, you’re paying your SEO manager to increase traffic to your site. No matter what is said, if you do not see a traffic increase, there is something wrong. The reason you’re paying an SEO specialist is to increase traffic, and by proxy, client leads. If you find your traffic numbers aren’t increasing, or your conversion numbers aren’t going up, it’s time to call a meeting.

There may be few reasons why your traffic isn’t increasing. Your site could have any of the previously mentioned optimization issues, especially concerning content, or your SEO specialist may be relying on branded keywords to attract users. The trouble with that, is if a client already knows your name (or your firm’s name), chances are they’re not the leads you have to worry about attracting with SEO to begin with.

Optimization work should have the goal of attracting potential clients that have no idea that you or your practice exists, or at least know little enough about you that they don’t use terms that identify you in a Google query.

Even if your traffic has gone up, you still may notice a lack of calls or emails to your practice. This usually indicates that your SEO specialist has been using keywords that attract the wrong type of potential client. That is why it’s crucial to have a well thought out content strategy, especially if your contractor doesn’t have a lot of familiarity with the practice of law.

SEO does take a few months to start to show an uptick in traffic, so give your optimizer time to show they know their stuff. If you’ve waited over two months for results that haven’t appeared, chances are your strategy, and possibly your specialist, isn’t working out.

Get more law firm marketing tips from industry experts

Get tips from Gyi Tsakalakis, Josh King, and Kevin O'Keefe in this free guide, The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing Your Firm Online.

Get the Guide

Categorized in: Marketing