Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Guide To SEO For Entrepreneurs In Locally Serving Industries

For personal injury lawyers, chiropractors, dentists, and other practitioners in locally serving businesses, SEO plays a major part in attracting clients and achieving success. Unfortunately, you can mess up in a heartbeat if you aren’t careful. Let’s look at how to appropriately deal with SEO in ways that are pleasing to both search engines and your audience.
The Value of SEO for Locally Serving Industries

According to Lawyernomics, the second most popular way to find an attorney is via Google , Bing, or Yahoo . A healthy 21.9% start their search in the little text box on their internet’s home page. Another 10.5% look elsewhere on the internet. That means nearly one in three clients is starting their search for an attorney online.

While those numbers are specifically geared towards lawyers, the statistics for other local industries is similar. Whether you’re a chiropractor, dentist, or some other practitioner, you can expect a large percentage of your new client traffic to come from online sources – specifically search engines.

The Difficulty of Understanding SEO

Sounds pretty easy, right? Invest heavily in SEO, and you’ll begin to see your business grow and expand. If only it were that simple. Like anything else in the business world, it takes hard work to be successful.

The trouble with tapping into SEO is that Google and other search engines are continually changing their algorithms and rules. What’s true today may not be true tomorrow. They are free to update as they please – and they do quite frequently. As a result, it’s almost impossible for practitioners with fulltime jobs to learn the best SEO practices in their free time. As soon as you learn how to do something, the rules will change. This is where SEO professionals come into play.

Investing in Professional SEO Help

Conduct a search for SEO help and you’ll find millions of results. SEO is a booming industry, and people with knowledge of how it works are eager to find a place in the market. Unfortunately for entrepreneurs, lawyers, and others with little experience in the industry, it’s challenging to determine which SEOs are experts and which are salesmen.

As a credible law firm or business, you can’t afford to associate yourself with an SEO “professional” that doesn’t know the rules. You could (A) end up wasting lots of money, or (B) damage your online credibility. Often, it’s both.

One industry expert relates the SEO frontier to the “Wild West Era” of American history – and there are a lot of good analogies to be gleaned from this example. Much like the western frontier was largely unknown in the 18th and 19th centuries, there is still a lot to learn about SEO. That means so-called “experts” will take advantage of this fact and advertise their “skills” without any real understanding of how it works. Just keep in mind that anyone can advertise and look for reviews and testimonials when selecting a professional SEO.

The Latest Algorithm: Google Hummingbird

When searching for SEO help, it’s valuable to understand some of the basics about how search engine optimization works. While you may not have the time to study the intricate details of the practice, a fundamental understanding of what’s legal, what’s not, and how Google’s latest algorithm works will allow you to have productive conversations with SEO candidates.

Three years ago it was Google Panda. Google Penguin released later in 2012, and Google Hummingbird followed. Released in October 2013, Hummingbird is the most sophisticated algorithm to date. One of the most interesting and important elements to note is the focus it puts on semantic search and local results. For lawyers and locally serving practitioners, it’s important to understand what this means. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • High-quality content. Regardless of what you’re told, high-quality content is still the most important aspect of SEO. Your practice needs to focus on its core practice areas and hone in on semantically pleasing content.
  • Contact info matters. Because Hummingbird seeks to give searchers local results, your contact information needs to be accurate and appropriately displayed. This means setting up and maintaining social media profiles, including Google Plus.
  • Keywords have their place. When discussing what strategy an SEO professional will implement for your practice, pay attention to how they discuss keywords. While they are diminishing slightly in value, they still matter. There needs to be a healthy balance.
  • Banding Together for Knowledge and Power

For professionals in locally serving industries, it’s important to band together to preserve and build your online presence in an ever-changing world of SEO. Instead of attempting to handle it on your own, consider joining forces with industry peers to learn how to best attack the issue and gain internet visibility.

Take, for example, Michael Ehline of Ehline Law Firm PC. In an effort to teach and share information about SEO guidelines, search practices, and information, he started the Circle of Legal Trust. This group consists of attorneys, consumers, and search experts all focused on improving ethical internet practices and helping professionals improve their understanding of how to operate in an increasingly internet-based marketing world.

For those in other locally serving industries, there are similar groups and organizations. While it’s difficult to fully understand SEO without an extensive background in the industry, it’s easy to grasp the significance of maintaining a healthy presence online. By partnering with other professionals and groups, you can ensure your practice is in good hands.

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