You’ve likely heard a great deal about search engine optimization (SEO) and the importance of leveraging the power of search to drive traffic to your firm’s website. If not, in a nutshell, SEO is the process of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic (natural) search engine results, rather than paid advertising.
The goal of SEO—we’re told—is positioning your website to come up on the first page of search results so that people will find you quickly and select your firm over the competition.
The promise is that if you get this SEO thing right—and invest significantly in a winning strategy created by an SEO expert—you will see a substantial increase in website traffic. That’s the goal, right? Increased traffic?
Increased traffic is helpful and definitely worth pursuing to a point. A high ranking on Google will certainly help more people find your firm, but that alone doesn’t mean much to your bottom line. Lots of traffic means virtually nothing to your firm unless those website visitors are converted into paying clients.
The little secret SEO vendors won’t always tell you? The key to a meaningful and successful SEO strategy isn’t traffic; it’s conversion.
Reasons Why SEO Campaigns Fail
A successful SEO strategy is like any other investment you make in your business. It must generate a return that’s greater than the time, money, and resources you allocate to it. While some reasons are obvious and others a bit more subtle, the foundational error common to many SEO campaigns is a focus on the wrong metrics—focusing on traffic, ranking, and keyword usage rather than the conversion of website visitors into clients.
Want to increase the impact of your SEO strategy and leverage the power of search to increase lead generation and grow your firm? Evaluate your digital strategy for the following issues and focus on correcting them. The time and money you spend in this effort will create a significant return.
Conversion Issue: Poor Quality Content
Conventional SEO strategy uses keywords to increase ranking, creating a temptation to fall into a “more is more” mentality when it comes to content. The more keywords the better, right? Not necessarily.
In the quest to incorporate relevant words and phrases, many firms create copy that lacks depth and readability. I often see content that has no flow or doesn’t provide any value to the reader, but rather appears to simply give search engines text to crawl and rank in order to improve search results.
This is a significant missed opportunity to increase conversion. By incorporating all the right keywords into an article that fails to engage the reader and provide value, you are simply manipulating the system. Poor quality content can increase ranking and traffic but fails to convert website visitors into actual clients.
Creating high-quality content that leads to conversions doesn’t have to be complicated, and can significantly increase your conversion rates.
Evaluate each page or article on your site by asking the following questions:
- Does this text provide value to the person we see as our “ideal client?”
- Will the reader find a point of emotional connection with our firm?
- Will this text create a desire to work with us or find out more about our firm?
Great content offers value and connection—and creates motivation to work with you. Adding content like this will amplify the results of your SEO strategy by compelling website visitors (traffic) to contact your firm.
Conversion Issue: Poor User Experience
Consider this scenario for a moment. Your SEO efforts mean website traffic is up. Your articles and web pages rank well, your firm appears prominently in results, and people click on your links to get information… then they wait.
According to a recent audit, 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load. Sounds like just another statistic, until we put it into context. Those traffic numbers you monitor faithfully? What if 40% of those people leave your site disappointed due to poor website performance?
To be clear, positive user experience goes beyond speed. It includes providing clear messaging, simple navigation, and an easy way to take action. Visitors need to find answers to their questions, uncover information about your firm, and see at a glance how to best contact you to move forward.
Want to convert traffic to leads? A positive, pleasant, and intuitive user experience is absolutely essential to that effort.
Conversion Issue: Lack of Audience Alignment
Most SEO experts select keywords based on an understanding of which words or phrases people search for most frequently. This is a good starting point, but it’s not the most effective way to generate leads for your firm. The better question to ask is, “What does our ideal client search for before selecting a firm like ours?”
This refinement in your keyword strategy improves both the volume and quality of the leads generated by your website, simply because you position your website to engage your ideal client. By aligning your keywords around the felt needs of your ideal clients, you draw the right people to your firm.
Of course, this means you must step into the mind of your potential client and understand his or her fears, motivations, and concerns. You’ll need to dig deeply into the types of searches relevant to someone requiring the type of representation you provide. Rather than focusing solely on your practice area and location, you’ll need to expand your thinking a bit to answer common questions such as “When to consider hiring an elder law attorney,” or “What to do when facing a landlord/tenant issue”—whatever is most relevant to your practice and your clients.
When you create engaging, high-quality content that is properly aligned with the needs of potential clients you will naturally begin to see improved lead generation and conversion.
Conversion Issue: Poorly Designed Calls to Action
So, what is conversion anyway? In the context of your website, conversion is the point when a visitor becomes a lead—the pivotal moment when someone decides to take action of some kind to start a dialogue with your firm.
Website visitors become leads when they complete your online form, send you an email, or call to schedule an initial consultation. Until a visitor takes action, they are unknown to you, but from that point forward you are able to build a connection that will lead to a client relationship.
Many law firms use a call to action such as “Schedule a free consultation,” or “Call now to discuss your case.” Nothing is inherently wrong with these calls to action. They are clear, concise, and direct—just what is needed to prompt behavior. But, these phrases alone are not enough. You must wrap phrases like these in context to be most effective.
The call to action itself is only as powerful as the text preceding it. You must understand the motivation of your potential client and provide an answer to the question, “What’s in this for me?” before your call to action will be effective.
Let’s unpack this a little, okay?
Many firms rely on a predictable formula to demonstrate their expertise. They lean heavily on the professional bios of partner attorneys, statements about the history and tenure of the firm, and lists of winning results. This is powerful stuff, but I recommend going a bit further.
For most people, selecting an attorney is a logical decision wrapped in an emotional context. Potential clients have a desired outcome—a winning judgment, a successful resolution to an issue, a properly protected asset, a mitigated risk—which carries an emotional load. Clients may be concerned, confused, or afraid. They may be excited but hesitant, motivated but overwhelmed, or frustrated by details.
Your expertise and background provide the logical motivation to work with you. Maximize website conversions by insightfully addressing the emotional context of your work. Doing so will increase the impact of your calls to action and position them for success.
Conversion Issue: Terrible Technology
Search engines look at more than just keywords and keyword density. They evaluate more than the relevance of the content on your website. Search engines put a high level of importance on the overall authority and trustworthiness of your website and the business it represents. You likely equate “authority” with your reputation, but that’s only part of the puzzle.
Search engines use technology as a key evaluation point when establishing a website’s authority. If your technology is dated or clunky—or if your site isn’t well-maintained with updated software and licensing—your SEO is negatively affected. Search engines simply won’t recommend a site that doesn’t appear safe, secure, trustworthy, and efficient.
Gaps in security protocols, for instance, can significantly harm your search engine ranking. Simple errors—such as an out-of-date SSL certificate—affect more than a visitor’s peace of mind. They negatively impact your ranking.
Maintaining your website and ensuring your “behind the scenes” technology and security are up to date is a priority you can’t afford to ignore. This work is definitely not the most exciting aspect of SEO, but it is vital to converting traffic into leads. This website maintenance doesn’t have to be challenging. I recommend working with a professional you trust to regularly maintain your website. The rewards in terms of search authority, as well as overall security, are well worth the investment.
Increase the Impact of SEO With a Comprehensive Strategy
Carefully curated keywords are not enough to generate consistent leads for your firm. Traffic alone won’t make you money… and neither will a dated website design or aging technology. Making SEO work for your firm requires a holistic approach combining targeted keyword research and SEO strategy with strategic web design and compelling messaging. This may feel like a tall order, but it is simply the most effective way to realize the enormous marketing potential of your website.
About the Author
Karin Conroy is the founder and creative director of Conroy Creative Counsel, a web design and digital marketing strategy consulting firm for lawyers and law firms. Contact her on Twitter @karinconroy.