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Improving your results in search engines

My job of designing legal websites means that I often meet with practice managers, marketing managers and partners of small to medium sized law firms. These are the common gripes I hear about websites:

  • we've had a website designed but for some reason it doesn't appear in search engine results for the most basic of search words related to our business ie what we do and the town we are in - such as "Solicitor Guildford" 
  • we have had a new website designed and were told by our developer that it was optimised - however we don't think it appears in search engine results the way it should
  • we are thinking about upgrading or rebuilding a brand new site and want the best possible results from search engines but don't know where to start
  •  we have used a search engine marketing company in the past but don't feel we got value for money

Just having a website is not enough to appear in search engine results. I hope that you have all got past the major hurdle and realise that you need to use part of your marketing budget to promote your website. If you don't embrace this concept your site will languish in the Vauxhall Conference when it could be in the Premiership.

Many law firms I speak to have absolutely no idea of how to promote their site through internet marketing - also known as search engine optimisation (SEO). This isn't help by the fact that the majority of web design companies know little about website optimisation. That may sound a little harsh but it really is the case. Many clients tell me at our first meeting that their web designers have told them that their site has been optimised. There is an outdated notion from the early 90's regarding meta keywords. Your web designer might have asked you for a list of keywords. In your excitement you may have gleefully reeled off as many as you could think of. Unfortunately meta keywords are now largely ignored by search engines.

Law firms need to understand that there are steps they can take to drastically improve their results in search engines. The pages on your site should be optimised to reflect what people are looking for and typing into search engines.

A classic case that I see time and time again is the misuse of page titles. The page title appears at the very, very top of the computer screen in a blue banner and it should be used to tell the search engines what that page is all about. Search engines will generally favour sites whose page titles include the words that are typed into the search box on a search engine. It's not the be all and end all but it's a good start.

If you are a solicitor in Guildford then a pretty good page title would be:
Solicitor - Guildford

What I see time and time again is a page with a page title like the one in the illustration that reads:
Welcome to Morley Mitchell

The web designer has designed a page with a page title that is perfectly optimised for someone who types in a search engine "Welcome to Morley Mitchell". I don't think many people would type that particular phrase in a search engine.

Other considerations I strongly recommend would include:

  • writing unique page titles and page descriptions for each page
  • using headlines and tags appropriately
  • using the optimum keyword density

For many people their first whiff of the notion of internet marketing comes via an unsolicited email or a telesales call.

A few words of warning are needed here. I would be very wary indeed of SEO companies that "guarantee" number one spots on Google or demand money up front over the phone via credit card. Your SEO company needs to be able to give you at least three names and telephone numbers of clients that you can personally contact and ask questions. Ideally you should meet face to face and the first meeting should be free.

This article was written by David Clarke - a director of DBS Internet Marketing. DBS's client base includes numerous small to medium sized law firms.

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