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Drop the search engine optimization (SEO) tricks and start writing to your target audience.

This article started out as a quick response to a LinkedIn Group member looking for “a good SEO company.”  After reading Group moderator Jeremy Reigher’s excellent article about SEO Myths, I started thinking about good search engine exposure and rankings as the by-product of creating relevant content, not as a stand-alone SEO tactic. Why waste your time (and money) trying to outsmart Google’s multi-billion dollar empire when you can get better results by just writing what your prospects and clients want to read?

SEO is a by-product, not a tactic

Here are some ideas for reaching and attracting prospective clients well before they window shop generic terms like “Marietta Personal Injury Attorney” or “Atlanta Tax Attorney.“ Instead of search engine optimization, think about search engine exposure. You want your prospects to see that you have answers to their questions and issues, not that you know how to trick search engines.

First, you need to have a thorough understanding of your prospective clients. Answering these questions may provide some unique insight:

  • What do they want? Most people or businesses (still people) contact an attorney because they have a problem. They want answers and education, not keywords or definitions. They also want to know you are credible, and that you’ve handled this type of situation successfully.
  • What is their state of mind? This will depend on the type of services you offer, but most likely prospects are perplexed, frustrated, and maybe even emotional.  They want answers fast. They are not lawyers, or if they are they are not experienced in your area of expertise.
  • Where are they in buying cycle? What happens before prospects contact your firm? They might search for a laundry list of attorneys, but more likely they will first research their specific situation. They will type in questions, look for articles, and ask friends and peers.

Write what your audience wants to read

Does your website communicate what prospective clients want and need to know? Lengthy, technical content with general definitions, long key word lists and generic phrases are not appealing. If for some reason prospects happen to stumble upon your site, they will simply continue their search for answers. Here are some ways to communicate to your prospects rather than Google:

  • Be brief. Grab someone’s attention in 5 seconds, and hold it for 5 paragraphs.
  • Keep it simple. Write in a conversational tone free of technical terminology and unexplained acronyms.
  • Tell the story 3 ways. Some people just scan the headlines. Others look at bullets (5 maximum). And others actually read the paragraphs. Write to all three readers.
  • Add new content. This could be articles, blog posts, Q&A entries, success stories, etc. You’re your visitors (including Google robots) that you keep your site current and updated.

Google will thank you for it

When you write what your clients want to read, Google will show your articles and content (not just your home page) when prospects are in their early research process – asking questions and seeking knowledge. Answer and educate, and prospects will have no need to search further. They will contact you before they ever get to that generic attorney search that creates a laundry list of competitors. You will see new search phrases showing up in your website analytics reporting, proving that this approach is working.

SEO experts can still be useful…

There is still a role for an SEO expert, but again it is a by-product of relevant content. Google likes to see website pages and articles in a certain format. After you please your readers with compelling and differentiating information, an SEO expert can help tweak the content and headlines to please the search engine robots that visit your website.

If you can’t measure it, don’t do it.SM

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