Wednesday, 02 January 2013 20:22 Written by 

Law firm SEO - black hat, white hat??

Law firm SEO (search engine optimisation) is a popular topic. It's how a law firm can strategically optimise its site to improve its rankings within search engine results.

Competition for places on page one of search engine results is intense for many keywords and phrases. The majority of search engine traffic is shared amongst sites that rank on the first page, while a top three ranking for a high traffic keyword is where serious results can be achieved. 

The revenue potential of search engine traffic is enticing firms to grow their sites, with law firms - notably those in personal injury markets - going to great lengths to obtain higher rankings. Law firms will try to optimise for keywords relevant to their service offering by adding keyword rich content, tweaking areas such as URLs, meta data, and section headers, and attracting back links from other sites to establish its authority for a given area or keyword.

But with so many law firm sites under pressure to achieve high rankings and competing for so few places, many firms have stretched, bent, and even broken the guidelines set out by search engines. This is generally referred to as 'black hat' SEO.

Law firm SEO - the two strategic approaches

When considering how to get your law firm website to the top of the search engine results, there are often two approaches you may hear about: 'white hat' SEO and 'black hat' SEO.  It's important to understand what both terms mean, in particular the long term implications of using black hat methods on your firm's website.

White hat SEO

White hat SEO methods are tactics and techniques that follow the rules and guidelines of the various search engines (Google, Bing, etc). Some common white hat SEO techniques include using keywords and keyword analysis, writing content that is focused on the subject of the website such as blog articles, and working to get other websites to link to your website.

Techniques of white hat SEO:w

  • Good, original and high quality content for your blog or website
  • Relevant search title and meta description
  • Relevant links and reference
  • Effective use of keywords

Black hat SEO

Black hat SEO methods are tactics and techniques that exploit search engines’ algorithms. Examples of this can include invisible text on a page, keyword stuffing (overuse of keywords on your webpages), link farming (other websites that exist only to link to your website) and doorway pages (pages on a site which exist solely for the search engine and automatically redirect a human visitor to another page when visited).

Techniques of black hat SEO:

  • Meta keyword stuffing
  • Content keyword stuffing
  • Adding jump pages
  • Adding invisible text
  • Intensive link farming

 Which hat does your firm wear?

Now we understand the difference between the two SEO approaches, it's important to understand the risks and rewards of each. White hat SEO is ethical SEO. You're taking an approach that stays within the rules. However this approach can sometimes can take longer or not work at all if the tactics aren't well planned. 

On the other hand, black hat SEO techniques can quickly raise the ranking of a website, but come with the risk of your website being banned from the search engine and not showing up in the search results at all. Black hat SEO is a shortcut that may provide a quick return but will not result in long term rankings for your website.

The Rokman view

Black hat isn't an approach that I encourage. But the technique your firm pursues is a business decision like any other; weighing up risk versus reward. Just be wary that black hat leaves your site at the behest of the search engines, who at any time can make a decision of their own which may completely destroy your firm's ranking in search results.

But do I recommend SEO? Absolutely. If your firm has a website, optimising it effectively will make it pay.

Read 10778 times Last modified on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 16:37
Graham Laing

I am a professional services Chartered Marketer & client acquisition consultant. I have 15 years experience working with some of the UK's largest legal and accountancy firms across a broad spectrum of marketing activities including digital & online marketing, bids and tenders, brand, marketing communications and client research. I am also a certified PRINCE2 project manager.

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1 comment

  • Comment Link Steve Graham Monday, 18 February 2013 02:11 posted by Steve Graham

    I don't know of many lawyer websites in the U.S. that rank well using truly white hat methods. Google just isn't that good at policing their own rules. There just aren't that many reasons why a person would ever link to a law firm website.

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