SEO for California lawyers – The Panda, The Penguin, and The California Lawyer

SEO for California lawyers – The Panda, The Penguin, and The California Lawyer

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SEO for California lawyers what an exciting topic.   They taught us a lot of different subjects in law school, but SEO for California lawyers was definitely not one of them.   And what the heck does SEO for California lawyers have to do with practicing law?   As a California lawyer, I spend most of my time driving around the greater Los Angeles freeway system going to California courts and helping people solve problems with their traffic, criminal, and DUI issues.    Over the last 12 years I have learned that one of my greatest skills is the ability to communicate with my clients in a language they can understand.   My job as an attorney involves translating all the legal mumbo jumbo into English so that my clients understand their legal rights and options.  And then of course I have to translate my client’s goals back into legal mumbo jumbo so that the legal system will understand what my client actually wants.

If you have ever been in a California courtroom for a criminal or traffic proceeding without a lawyer, you already know what I’m talking about.   The system crawls along in slow motion until they call your case and then suddenly it moves at lightning speed.  The judge talks fast, and the bailiff has one hand on the handcuffs at all times.   The District Attorney and Public Defender spend so much time in the courtroom, they are practically part of the furniture.   Most of them look at the public like they are from another planet because they simply don’t speak the same language.   The clerk in the cashier’s office can turn that $35 fine ordered by the judge into a $927 bill due and payable immediately with the threat of a suspended license.  If you try to ask for an explanation, you are usually told you can pay in full now, pay more later, or get back in line for a few more hours to think about it some more.    And if you have ever tried reading a court docket or a printout from the California DMV, you wonder if they accidentally gave you the document in html.

So that brings me to the next important role as a translator.   As a blogger and self admitted online marketing nerd, I am starting to pick up some useful skills in the arena of SEO for California lawyers.   SEO for California lawyers includes link building, content generation, website design and development, social media marketing, analytics, keyword tracking, and all other sorts of fun stuff.     I am well aware that while I have over 12 years of experience in the legal field, I’m a rookie in this game.   The funny thing is that I once again find myself in the role of translator.   By online marketing standards, I know nothing about SEO for California lawyers.   But compared to many lawyers I know, I’m a miracle worker because I have unlocked the mystery of  how to make the phone ring.   After years of falling for sales pitches from the snake oil salesmen who prey on lawyers looking to market online, I started kicking the tires and trying to do it myself.  So for all the other California lawyers out there, here is my effort at translating the state of the online union about SEO for California lawyers.

SEO for California lawyers and internet marketing in general comes down to one thing and that is getting on the first page of google.  If you practice personal injury law in California, try doing a google search for “Los Angeles personal injury lawyer”.   You will quickly notice there are 3,650,000 results for this search.   If you have somehow managed to make it to the promised land of the first page, you are looking at a LOT of calls and clicks from potential clients.  So how do you get there?   Well like most valuable properties, you can rent or you can own.  If you want instant action and you are willing to pay for it, you can purchase PPC or pay per click ads for your desired search terms and achieve first page ranking over night.  The only problem is that the rent is due every time someone clicks on your website.  Stop paying rent and your position disappears.   The same holds true for the battle over local search and most other methods of achieving first page visibility, pay to play.   The better option is long term ownership.  In the online world this is called “organic search”.  To achieve a top position in organic search you will need two things, a constant supply of fresh, relevant content, and incoming links.

The online marketing people are reading this and saying “Duh, this isn’t a good article about SEO for California lawyers, this is basic information from SEO 101”, and the lawyers who are new to this arena are saying “what the heck did he just say?”   So if you run a web design firm, go cold call some lawyers and quote crazy fees, but if you are a lawyer who is new to online marketing, read that last paragraph a few more times until it starts to sink in.

So now you are ready to build a great presence online and you need to start cranking out some content relevant to your practice area.  You can do it any number of different ways such as a blog, a website, a press release, an ezine, an email newsletter, or a social media release.  Choose the format that is most comfortable for you and start writing.   Don’t hire a copywriter, don’t let an intern do it, don’t outsource it to some marketing firm, write it yourself.     Just pick a topic that is relevant to your practice area and start writing about it in plain English.    Maybe talk about some recent case law that is changing the game in your practice area, or a recent victory for a client.   Vent about the problems in the legal system in your practice area.   Explain a new statute or some of the factual issues that you often confront in your cases.

The key is to write it yourself.   By doing this, you will be sharing your style and personality with your readers and potential clients.   In the modern era, consumers are smart.  They recognize a sales pitch a mile away and ignore it.   So paying someone to crank out advertisements for you is a waste of money.   You need to provide useful information that people actually want to read.   The crazy thing is that in 2012, google wants the same thing!   To put you on the first page, google doesn’t want you to write like a computer, they want you to write like a person.   Keyword stuffing and other blackhat SEO practices are out.   SEO for California lawyers is no longer a mystery.   SEO for California lawyers is now best performed by……..California lawyers.

Back in the day when Al Gore invented the internet (sorry couldn’t help myself), SEO tricks worked great because they fooled the search algorithms into thinking your content was the best.   So the SEO goons would compete to one up each other in a constant game of cat and mouse to get to the top of the listings.   If you wanted good SEO for California lawyers, you needed to hire the right people to game the system.   Thankfully that is now over.   Google became the king of search over the last decade because they actually  incorporated the human element.  Google puts thousands of people on the payroll to watch for these things and to filter them out, moving the good content to the top, and pushing the automated crap to the bottom.   Today, google is so good at this that the newest revisions to the algorithm (last year’s Panda update and this year’s Penguin) actually automate the process of filtering out automated content and rewarding content that is written by humans.   So if you are looking for SEO for California lawyers, this is a golden opportunity.  You no longer need to pay someone an arm and a leg to create web content that gets attention.  Just write it yourself and let the Penguin and the Panda do their thing.

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