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20 SEO Myths and Mistakes to Avoid in 2017

More than ever, acquiring clients via websites requires an in-depth understanding of SEO. Here are 20 common SEO myths and mistakes lawyers should avoid when marketing their practice online.

  1. SEO is a waste of money.

For law practices, SEO is not just desirable. It’s necessary. About 75% of people looking for attorneys use online resources to get help and advice. If you’re not optimizing your website, you’re losing out on clients.

  1. We did SEO once; we don’t need to do it again.

You can assume your competition is working constantly to beat you in search engine rankings. To avoid getting outranked, you should periodically update your SEO strategy to keep up with evolving algorithms and prevent link degradation. 

  1. SEO is just a bunch of tricks.

The real purpose of SEO, and why search engines like Google continue to tweak their algorithms, is to get the best possible information in the hands of users quickly. That’s why companies who use tricky ways of optimizing their sites are penalized. The best SEO organizes content and makes the browsing experience better for users. 

  1. PPC is better.

Pay-per-click ads do drive visitors to your site right away, and conversion rates can be quite high. But it’s costly, especially when you have to outbid other firms for placement. Though it takes a little more time to build, SEO brings continuous results that, once implemented, are free. As a law practice in a competitive client environment, you’ll likely need to do both PPC and SEO.

  1. PPC improves organic results.

There’s no indication that PPC improves users’ organic search results. The ranking of paid ads and organic search results happens on different platforms using different criteria. Organic search results come from the index database, while PPC rankings are based on bids and total investment. 

  1. Google hates SEO.

Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Google encourages companies to hire SEO experts and provides helpful guides and information to help companies get the right users to their sites. What Google algorithms penalize is any site it feels is trying to manipulate search results in an underhanded way.

  1. SEO changes so quickly it doesn’t matter what we do.

Google does change its search algorithm as much as a few hundred times a year. But most of these changes don’t affect your website rankings. The responsibility of SEO experts is to know what does affect you. They address these changes and follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines to make sure your site isn’t penalized in searches.

  1. Google will get it right without my help.

 Google’s crawlers are not perfect. When evaluating content, Google and other search engines strive to mimic human behavior and use links and engagement metrics to crawl and rank results. Every page of your website should offer unique value. It should contain technical clues to help search engines sort them from the millions of other pages a user search might return. 

  1. Google Hummingbird made keyword targeting irrelevant.

It’s true that Google completely revamped their search algorithm in 2013 to focus more on user intent and contextual relevance. What Hummingbird didn’t do, and what other algorithm changes since then haven’t done either, is remove keywords as a primary factor in search rankings.

  1. Link building is penalized.

While Google might now penalize sites engaged in unethical, manipulative link building, there’s nothing to indicate that search engine algorithms see white-hat link building as anything but a viable marketing practice. Attracting links to your website is still essential for SEO.

  1. Claiming your Google Places listings will increase your search traffic.

Claiming your Google Places listing is important. Google wants to know they’re listing your business in the area where you have the most customers or clients. But simply listing your business in Google local won’t better your search rankings.

  1. Google Answers makes SEO irrelevant.

Many searches for information return a Google Answers box at the top of search results. For example, a search for “how to file for child custody” might return a list of steps one would take to do so, along with a link to the information provider. Does this take traffic away from your website? Potentially, but if you provide informative, content-rich pages, it’s possible that your own site might actually appear as an authority in an answer box and allow you to show up above the regular first-place organic result. Furthermore, a majority of Google searches do not turn up a Google Answer.

  1. Long form content gets you top rankings.

Long-form content includes pages such as blog posts and deep news or information. These pages can improve rankings, but only if they focus on users’ search intent and generate links. In other words, they should have measurable value when compared to other pages in search results. Long-form content can improve your rankings as long as it’s well-written, useful to users, and linked to social media. Long form content is usually less successful at converting, but it might get your page in front of more quality prospects. 

  1. Linking to authority sites drives prospects away.

You might think this is a no brainer. But studies have shown that linking to other sites that represent authorities in your area of business can actually create trust in users. You might lose prospects momentarily, but they’re more likely to come back later. Obviously, it would probably be wise to avoid linking to your direct competitors. But linking to other legal authorities might help to convert more prospects into actual clients than you would think. 

  1. Having an XML sitemap will boost your search rankings.

If you want to build a site that search engines can easily crawl and index, an XML sitemap is necessary. Each time you create or edit a post, the Google XML sitemaps generator updates your sitemap and submits it to search engines. While a sitemap itself doesn’t affect the rankings of your web pages, it can eventually make your site more visible when the URLs are prioritized. You should consider installing the Google XML Sitemaps generator if you’re not already using it on your WordPress site. It should help Google discover any new content you post more quickly. 

  1. Meta tags don’t improve search rankings so they don’t matter.

Meta tags appear in the HTML code for your website. Together, they include the title tag, the meta description and keywords, the last two of which are optional. Meta tags are used to show preview snippets for your web page in search results. Meta tags don’t affect search rankings, but they do give users and search engines a clue about what your site represents. Meta tags also tend to make your search results more attractive, typically garnering more click-throughs from searchers. However, these days there is no purpose including meta keywords. 

  1. A new generic top-level domain can improve rankings.

Some businesses believe that adopting a new top-level domain – like .biz, .guru, .company or .email – will help them to rank higher. This doesn’t necessarily seem to be the case. In fact, some TLDs (specifically .biz and .us) have shown to produce higher incidences of spam than other TLDs, which may affect search rankings. Although new TLDs have proven to generate some cachet for established companies, when it comes to conversions, .com domains have served companies well, perhaps because they a imbue sense of trust in users. 

  1. An SEO agency can get my practice top rankings tomorrow.

There are good reasons to hire an SEO agency, such as keyword analysis and competitive auditing. Getting immediate top rankings is not one of them. Your SEO efforts should be designed to help people with legal issues find your practice. It’s a long-term goal that requires technical attention every now and then.

  1. SEO can be automated.

Some SEO companies might try to tell you they can automate your SEO so you never have to touch it again. Nothing could be further from the truth. True SEO requires up-to-date knowledge and hands-on management.

  1. SEO is expensive.

An SEO agency expertly does a whole range of complex tasks. They research your industry, market and sales trends. They also work on finding relevant keywords, optimizing your site, building links, and monitoring and analyzing results. You do need to pay to get this work done, but keep in mind that SEO provides a return on your investment by generating more and better client leads. That improves your practice’s bottom line exponentially.