A Review Of What Matters In SEO

You can read part two of this review here.

Its the beginning of 2017, and many law firms are thinking about their priorities, strategies and tactics—which often includes marketing and the obvious extension into SEO. Now there is a lot of dated, incorrect, technical confusion around SEO and what really matters, so I thought now might be a good a time as any to review what really makes the SEO world go round.

What’s Changing

Overall, we’ve continued to see an evolution in the search results page (SERPs for the nerds) away from natural and towards both paid and local. At present, paid dominates the top four results, followed by the mapped results, and then organic below the fold. Organic still has a heavy presence of legal and non-legal directories (think Avvo and Yelp). The prominence of local in the SERPs has pushed some aggressive, enterprise-level spam into the local pack. There’s also been a heavy focus on mobile, specifically from Google.

What Matters

Instead of listening to the dated/conflicting/erroneous pontifications of self proclaimed SEO ninjas and mavens and mavericks, I thought we should look at some actual data to see what really matters in the world of SEO. I’m turning a scientific end-of-year study by Matthew Barby—the world’s most perfectly coiffed search nerd—to see what really matters: “How to Rank Number One in Google: A Study of 1 Million Pages.” I happen to anecdotally agree with (most) of his findings, so I thought I’d share them here, along with my own commentary and legal specific perspective. So before you plunk down a retainer for that expert SEO agency promising results (if you’d only write more content) consider the following:

  • Backlinks matter. There is a positive correlation between the number of linking domains and position on the first page. Note: I didn’t focus on total number of links, but instead focused on the diversity of domains linking to your site. This linkbuilding focus has been regularly overlooked by much of the legal SEO industry (because frankly, linkbuilding is super super hard and expensive).
  • HTTPS matters. Get thy site secured (and do it right; we’ve seen far too many poor implementations of HTTPS that have torpedoed results instead of improved them. Perhaps the best $55 you can spend).
  • Anchor text matters. Anchor text is the text in a link. The anchor text of this link is “fuzzy kittens.” Fuzzy Kittens, which presumably will help the site (in this example, Mashable) rank for fuzzy kittens queries. Google publicly stated that anchor text is no longer a factor years ago. My take on Matt’s conclusion is that the anchor text correlation is due to leftover remnants of links from great legacy SEO work prior to the algorithm update. I could be wrong though.
  • Page titles and URLs with the keyword matter. This is kind of SEO 101—make sure those special signals like titles and URLs are relevant to the content on your page.
  • Short titles and URLs matter. Builds on the point above; the more concentrated your key signal is to the content on the page, the better it may rank.

I’d encourage you to dig deeper into Matt’s report—read it critically (it’s delightful and not overly stuffed with technical jargon)—and keep these elements in mind when being pitched by SEO specialists during 2017.

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