A VERY interesting study was completed recently by Business Bolts about how web pages rank and why in Google. Although not a scientific study, it does provide a pretty solid analysis on what factors play a significant role in the rankings of top web pages on a website. Here are a few findings and our thoughts on each as they apply to attorney marketing online:
ONSITE SEO IS A COMBINATION OF BALANCE AND PRECISION
Onsite SEO has evolved over the years and although much can be gained through good onsite SEO, you can also be penalized for bad SEO and overdoing it. Here are a couple of key factors in reviewing their top performing web pages online:
- Top performing pages typically have a significant amount of text - on average of around 900 words per page. Since the average paragraph on a web page is around 100 words, this equates to roughly 9 paragraphs of content per page.
- Top pages also incorporate targeted keywords in both the title tags and page headings (H1 tags). These pages also typically have up to 6 sub-headings as well (H1-H6 tags). With the best pages averaging 900 words, this would mean a page should be broken up into sections for better reading and indexing.
- Targeted keywords are also sparingly used in the content draft with an average of once per every 200 words (include sub-headings). In short, don’t keyword stuff your content.
- Images are present but not necessary on top performing pages. The same applies further to video. Since video is largely a conversion tool, this should not come as a surprise.
OFFSITE SEO IS STRONGEST ON WEB PAGES WITH HIGH AUTHORITY
Offsite SEO has historically been a process of strategic link building and still is today. However, with recent changes involving Google Penguin (2012), Google Localization (2007 on) along with the strong emergence of social media, off-site SEO has become both complex and diversified.
- Top performing pages typically have 5X the amount of domain links. The reason why they count domain links instead of hyperlinks is to discount multiple links coming from the same domain. Subsequent same-domain links are often discounted due to bleeding link syndrome. These domain links were also links going DIRECTLY to the page of that site – not the home page. The only exceptions were pages that sometimes stemmed from a home page with high authority and links to it.
- Social media citations (or signals) are highest on top performing pages. These citations include Facebook shares and likes along with Twitter Tweets. Although there is no reporting from Google that these citations impact ranking, clearly the evidence of this study shows otherwise. We have also found from our own analysis that website that incorporate a strong active-content strategy involving social media typically see a 30% bump in overall website traffic.
- 88% of the top performing web pages were NOT home pages of a website. If you do not have targeted practice area pages and a campaign to build authority to them, you are missing out on 88% of the game. Since many attorneys have pursued multi-site strategies over the years working on the notion that the home page of each site typically has the highest authority and number of links, this should give pause. Moreover, the increased emphasis on local optimization further complicates a multi-site strategy since Google Local will only designate one website per listing/company.
KEY TAKEAWAYS FOR ATTORNEYS
Top performing attorney websites must be structured both onsite and offsite for optimal performance. Every year an increasing number of attorneys are competing online and many are getting better at the game. In short, everything online is a function of competition and you need to always strive to stay ahead of the game
Online content creation, structure and management is critical to top performing pages. Much like a book, content is indexed and presented in the search engines based on what sells best in the search engines. Keyword placement and density, content length and page structure are critical to attorneys who want to generate targeted cases and clients.
Webpage authority is not longer limited to simple link building alone. Diversity of link sources, social media citations and deep linking to practice area pages are now the best and most effective way to get top performance out of your onsite SEO work. Multi-site strategies can still work, especially from a conversion perspective but with localization and targeted page performance, a monolithic site strategy, when properly executed on, can still provide excellent results and a strong ROI.