While I don't have a marketing crystal ball to predict the future (or, unfortunately, your fortune), I’m going to share a few things that have remained constant over the past 10 years. Trying to keep up with Google's algorithm changes is like trying to keep up with Usain Bolt, so let's really look at the foundation for current trends and how they'll develop in the future. I'm predicting that some of the big trends I'm seeing in law firm marketing now will continue to be important for website optimization and online marketing in the future.
Mobile-friendly sites will rule as Google recently announced major changes to ranking search results (by including mobile-friendliness to its algorithms). This means that websites that aren’t optimized for smartphones and tablets won’t rank as high in search results as websites that are. No matter how much time, cost, and effort you may have already put into your site, you must have a mobile version to stay competitive. This change is another signal that Google and other search engines continued to refine their methodology for bringing users the most relevant results to their searches. My prediction is that algorithm changes will continue to occur for as long as search engines continue to adapt and respond to user needs.
Users and the user experience will remain the primary focus of all search engines, just as they should for you. Being able to access and use your site and blog quickly, easily, and efficiently will remain a constant ranking signal for both searchers and the search engines they use.
Content always has and always will be one of the most important factors in search engine placement. Creating content that is readable, usable, and relevant to the searchers needs is an absolute must. This doesn’t mean that you need to flood the web with content or that you must rehash news reports every day in an attempt to stay competitive. Create quality content that is relevant to the clients you’re working to attract or hire a legal writer, and work with them to develop content that best represents your firm and the interests of your clients and potential clients. It’s my hope that more firms realize that blogs may be used independent of a website for maximum exposure and authority.
Listening will become a skill that competitive attorneys master and all firms marketing on the web will probably use. Listening tools like comment notifications, RSS feeds, alerts, and social networking tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck have long been standard listings tools while new tools like Mention allow users to monitor a greater swath of the web at once.
Review sites will continue to grow in number and popularity as users continue to make buying decisions based on the opinions of those who feel strongly enough to post them. Your online reputation will become even more important as review sites continue to grow as authorities. Whether you manage it in-house or you hire a company, managing your online reputation will become a necessity to combat the growth of review sites. The growth of review sites and the potential increase in use of gTLDs like .sucks may force firms to take more control over their web presence and digital assets.
Teresa Shaw is an SEO consultant with 10 years of experience helping attorneys and law firms across the country increase public awareness of their services.