Google alerts is one of the most popular services the search engine giant offers to webmasters and ordinary users alike.
Never heard of Google Alerts, or have you just never signed up? Believe it or not, the popular tool offered to any Google user (at no cost, I might add) can work wonders for your law firm’s SEO.
Of course, it doesn’t affect your SEO directly, but it can be a huge indirect help by letting you keep track of how well your business is doing SEO-wise.
You can set up Google Alerts for any search terms you could type into the regular Google search bar!
Sounds great… but what does a Google Alert actually do?
When you’ve set up a Google Alert for a given search term or phrase, Google will let you know (“alert” you, hence the name) whenever the SERP for that term or phrase changes. You can use this as a great big-picture way of looking at how well your law firm is performing for a variety of keywords.
For example, you want to make sure you stay at the very top of a SERP for your business name. You’ll also want to make sure you get close to the top of the SERP for “lawyer in [your town]” or a similar search phrase.
They’re useful whether you’re just starting out with SEO or you’re already at the top of the SERPs. If you’re just starting out, you can check every week or so to see if the SEO work you or your marketers are doing is having any effect on your SERP ranking. If you’re already on top, you can use Google Alerts to make sure you stay there.
How do I set up a Google Alert?
If you go to the official Google Alert page (we linked to it at the beginning of the article for your convenience), there are instructions to set up there. I also found a very helpful article earlier that gives you all the steps in great detail.
What search terms and phrases should I set up Google Alerts for?
You should set up Google Alerts for any SEO keywords or search phrases you want to appear in the SERPs for. However, it can be a bit overwhelming to get a lot of Google Alerts at once, so you might want to only set up Alerts for the most important phrases and keywords first, so that you can get used to managing all the extra information you’ll have pouring in.
You can also choose how often you get Alerts. It might be safe to get Alerts for stable or unimportant search terms or phrases once a week, but for very competitive keywords you’ll want to be updated once per day at least.
You can set the Alert to notify you as soon as something changes in the SERP as well. This is highly recommended for search terms that are both important to your firm and highly or moderately competitive.
With Google Maps being utilized by every single smartphone and Yelp reviews mattering to customers more than ever, it’s important to make sure that external properties related to your site are fully set up and utilized if you want to win at SEO – especially local SEO, which is how your law firm will most often get customers.
Now that you understand the basics, here’s detailed information on how to use two of the most important external properties related to your law firm to help you succeed:
Yelp is one of the most trusted and widely accessed customer review sites on the web today. Having a complete Yelp profile and a few five star reviews can help any business rocket to success, and it may be even more important for lawyers than it is for other business owners – because potential clients know they are going to work very closely with you over a long period of time and because your services are more expensive than something like a haircut or meal out, they’re going to look extra hard at your reviews.
If your firm has been around a while, chances are you already have a few reviews on Yelp. If you’ve just started your firm or you don’t have any Yelp reviews yet, getting a profile on the site set up can help customers review you more easily.
If you go to the Yelp for business page, you can search for a business (your law firm) in order to claim it and set up a profile. If the business doesn’t exist yet, you can set up a profile from scratch.
Be sure to include and/or update all relevant information on your profile, including your firm’s location, business hours, phone number, and email address. Even if you don’t have a lot of reviews yet, your Yelp profile can steer clients your way!
Once you’re all set up on Yelp, encourage clients to write reviews for your firm. Be sure to provide five star service every time you interact with a client, and if you get negative reviews anyway, Yelp gives you the option to respond to them.
Unless a client or former client tells an outright lie about your firm (in which case you may take it up with Yelp or take legal action), be sure to reply to all negative reviews courteously and respectfully, and never defensively. Instead of attacking the client, show that you and/or your partners or staff are taking steps to fix the problem.
The next thing you’ll want to do is go to Google’s business setup page. Registering here puts your business on Google Maps, allows clients to write reviews on Google, and may help you rank higher on Google SERPs, especially for customers in your geographic area.
As with Yelp, be sure to fill out or update all the information about your business completely and correctly. Also, follow the same guidelines when viewing and responding to Google reviews as Yelp reviews.
With both of these major external properties set up, you’ve set up your law firm for more success (and more clients) than ever!
We promised in our last post to give you a more detailed rundown of what semantic search is and how to use it – so here’s a basic primer for using this new and highly important Google feature to the advantage of your law firm.
But here are the basics: semantic search is the “ability to put typed searches into context,” according to that SEJ article. What that means is that Google – since 2013 – has been making changes to its algorithm to make it better understand exactly what its users mean when typing things into the famous Google search bar, instead of just matching words and phrases while prioritizing more popular and respected sites.
This was a major game changer in the search engine industry – it’s essentially like giving Google’s algorithm a sort of artificial intelligence. It also completely changed SERPs when it was introduced – and since its big successes at Google, other search engine companies (Yahoo!, Bing) have been looking into semantic search as well.
How can I use it to benefit my law firm SEO?
The main thing that you need to know is that Google will now look at the phrasing of items typed into its search bar and that it will have deeper knowledge of keywords used in searches.
Here’s how the phrasing bit is a game changer – Google will try to answer questions or reply to statements its users type into search bars (or say with Google Voice Search). Searching on Google is now a bit like asking a friend a question, as opposed to punching buttons on a machine.
Your law firm can benefit from this in several ways: first, try to answer a lot of common legal questions on your site’s blog (“how can I get a divorce?” or “what do I do if I’m injured at work?”). Posts and pages answering these frequently asked questions could be more likely to appear on higher SERPs for Google and other engines.
You’ll also want to heavily emphasize your geographic location and the type of law you practice on your site – this is good advice to follow regardless of semantic search, but can be doubly important if someone tells Siri or Cortana to “find me an insurance lawyer in Chicago.”
Google’s deeper knowledge of keywords means that traditional SEO keyword stuffing will not work, though keywords have certainly still been a big part of the game since 2013 (and will continue to be in 2017). It also means that using synonyms of major keywords could help your site get even more recognition.
As we near the end of November and the weather starts to get colder, it’s time to start thinking about how your firm will survive and thrive in 2017 and beyond. There’s a lot of advice on keeping your SEO up to date out there on the internet, but we’ve got the best of it for you here.
Be Aware of Google’s Semantic Search
What is semantic search? It’s changes to search engines’ algorithms that allow the engines to understand more of the context and intent behind searches, as explained by Search Engine Journal’s Sergio Redondo in his article on semantic search. This type of search gets away from using just keywords, and instead considers synonyms, the phrasing of the search query, common searches, and the ways potential answers to searches are phrased and presented on websites.
Although semantic search was first debuted in 2013 with the launch of Hummingbird, an update to Google’s algorithm, semantic search has spread to other search engines and been refined on Google slowly over the past couple of years – and semantic search is set to become more important than ever in 2017 and beyond.
Although all the changes, challenges, and opportunities presented by semantic search aren’t fully understood by any SEO experts yet, there’s a lot of information out there already, and we’ll be sure to do a post regarding semantic search for lawyers in the near future.
For now, it’s enough for you to be aware, and to check up on your SEO more often than ever before to make sure your site hasn’t lost its ranking on Google due to algorithm changes.
Keep Blogging – and Start Soon If You’re Not Already!
Keeping a blog can be time consuming and involve a lot of hard work, but it’s usually worth it – the top site in almost any field or geographical area almost certainly has a blog.
Why is it so important? A blog is one of the biggest opportunities you have to engage with customers and potential customers, and to bring web browsers your way. It’s much easier to blog with lots of relevant search terms than it is to construct the main pages of your site that way, and blogging regularly and consistently also engages your customers and shows browsers on your site that you care and are involved in your work.
Be Aware of External Properties Related to Your Site
External properties related to your site include your business’ social media accounts, reviews on sites like Yelp, and your business’ presence on Google Maps.
When it comes to social media, make sure you have social media set up and are running it properly, keeping things professional, relevant, and consistent.
As far as other companies’ properties go (Google Maps and Yelp, among others), it’s important to claim your business on those sites so you can have control over the information they’re putting out about you. Each site has a feature allowing you to do this.
With Google Maps, you’ll only need to check that basic information such as your hours and location are correct. Yelp can be more complicated, but also a great deal more rewarding, as it gives you a chance to directly engage with your current and former clients.
Yelp reviews can have a huge impact, positive or negative, on the way your firm appears to the world. First, you’ll need to provide excellent service to all existing clients. Second, encourage them to write positive reviews for you.
When negative reviews do come up, you should respond, but not aggressively or defensively – responding with contrition and professionalism, and showing that you are working on fixing any real problems a customer has brought up, will make your firm look good even to people reading its bad reviews – and may change the initial reviewer’s mind about things.