Search Engine Optimization Article on Law.com


I found a pretty good article on law.com about the value of search engine optimization for lawyers. I basically agree with all of the key points and the overall theme that SEO done well can have tremendous value for law firms, or any small business. And the specific SEO techniques and advice are all on the money.

The author doesn’t appear to be a subject matter expert herself, but did some decent research, and interviewed a talented SEO guy, Brad Fallon. She also cited top notch SEO resources like webmasterworld, seomoz, and Aaron Wall’s seobook.

The issue I do have is with the “hook” of the article, the story of the legal secretary who fixed the company website and launched it to the top of google in 7 days, and saved the busness and her job. I’m not saying that it didn’t happen – it’s certainly possible – but if it is true, then there was a lot more going on then just some research and hard work by an amateur.

It is not realistic to think that just anyone could relaunch a site and shoot to the top of the rankings and pick up business-saving traffic levels in a week’s time. I’m sure most SEO experts would agree with this, and would also tell you that anyone who promised such extraordinary results would most likely be scamming you.

And no, I’m not trying to suggest that most SEO is so tricky that only experts can pull it off. You can get pretty far in a lot of markets with quality content, and good site navigation and title tags.

But in a relatively competitive business like DUI attorneys in a major market, you can expect that a lot of your competition has the basics right. So what else can make the difference in top rankings?

Analysis of a New Site and a “Bad” Site

The woman in the story, Araceli Parra, states clearly that the site as it existed before her work was a “really bad site” before she fixed it, 2 years ago. The (new) site number1duioffice.com actually looks pretty good to me at a quick glance. It has lots of good content, and the basic SEO seems fine. However, according to a domain check at domaintools the domain has only been in existence for 2 years, , so it is not immediately clear what the bad site was before her work. So we’ll have to dig into that to figure it out.

Site Age

The age of a web site matters alot. Some SEO experts say it’s actually the age of the links in to a site that are the most important, but either way, it’s very difficult to get a new site to rank well for competitive terms. I think it is possible that a two year old site could rank #1 (and #2) for a presumably valuable term like oakland dui lawyer (well done!) as it does now, but I don’t believe that is would happen instantly upon launch, and be sustained for 2 years.

There must have been a previous site, or something else going on here. Let’s dig into the links.

The Value of Links

Buried pretty far down in this article is an important quote about one of the most important areas of SEO, aquiring good links. Says Brad Fallon:

“Probably 80 to 90 percent of what matters for your search-engine rankings is the quantity and quality of incoming links”

This is an absolutely key point. So let’s take a cook at these links. I use a paid tool called seoelite, for this purpose but I’m guessing aaron wall’s free backlink tool would be fine too.

According to my tool, this site only has a couple of actual backlinks into the site. That doesn’t make much sense on the surface. (One of these links is from an SEO firm taking credit for the site, so between them and Ms. Parra, they should get their stories straight!)

How can a new site with only a couple of links rank well for these terms? As it turns out, a couple of these links are from sites that are permanently redirected to this new site. A permanent, or 301 redirect, is the search engine friendly way to redirect all the link juice, and authority from an old site to a new site. Aha! We may have found the source of this site’s strength.

The Source of the Power

One of the redirected sites is duioffice.com, which has a decent number of good links, and has been around since 2000. That’s relatively old in the lawyer world, so the redirect from this site is almost certainly a critical source of the new sites power and authority.

There is another dui lawyer domain redirected to number1duioffice.com, and also a redirect from a redirect coming in via duioffice.com, so there are a number of things going on here.

Just as an aside, I wonder why the bothered to change the primary site from duioffice.com to number1duioffice.com? I probably would have just fixed up duioffice which is a better domain, then having to worry about all the redirecting. But it certainly seems to be working out fine for them.

Bad Site? Not So Bad.

I could go on into a discussion about the previous site by viewing in on the internet archives, and the short answer is, sure, the old site probably needed a lot of basic optimization. And no doubt the new site and the work that Ms. Parra did was important in getting the value out of that site, and that her new content may well have been critical in getting the most important thing from the web site – phone calls and customers.

But the bottom line is that there is no way that any of that would have happened without the well aged, quality “link juice” that came from the original site. She was sitting on a nice oil field, and figured out where to drill, maybe because she was smart enough to realize that, or maybe she just got lucky and had no idea what was even there.

Conclusion

This article is somewhat deceptive about the results she achieved, and whether that is really possible in the vast majority of cases. Most people are simply not sitting on an old site with some nice links that is badly optimized.

Again, it is perfectly plausible to build a great site with great content, well optimized, get good links, and do extremely well in the medium and long term. It happens all the time. But it is rare and difficult to be an overnight success starting from scratch.

Posted by dave on Monday, July 28th, 2008 at 7:59 am and is filed under seo. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

User Comments:


Posted by Donald Drewry, July 29th, 2008 at 1:31 pm

I have read your comments about my secretary’s work and our new site. There was another site prior to this one. It was always on page 10 or 12 where everyone looks for a lawyer; sure they do. Our web designer left out some many things that SEOs need to make the site reach its goal. Then we hired an SEO who promised us the number 1 spot, and sure enough we got there, and then we couldn’t be found because that SEO just spammed us and Google dropped the site completely. That is when Araceli sarted reading about the process and taking classes on her own. Once Google gave us another chance, Araceli with her self help training and reading, moved our old site from about page 30 up to the first page. At the same time, knowing what the site was lacking designed a whole new site, and moved it into the number 1 spot in about 7 days, and she linked the old site to the new. She has taken other sites for others and reconfigured them to be more SEO friendly and moved them into the number 1 spots in their areas in about 7 days as well. Now, she will tell, it doesn’t always work for everyone or every site, but her system has worked for her, my friend’s site and business, and mine as well. I am proud to see someone learn on their own, ask for help, attend the Pubcon seminars, and save my business. Maybe you should give her a little credit instead; she deserves it. Donald Drewry

Posted by dave, July 29th, 2008 at 2:54 pm

Mr. Drewry,
Thanks very much for taking the time to comment, I appreciate it.
I in no way meant to disparage the work that Araceli did on your site, and the obvious success that has been the result. In re-reading what I wrote, I understand how one could interpret it that way, so I apologize for that impression.

And for the record, I learned everything I know from going to Pubcon and other conferences, studying the work of the top SEO people through online seminars, blogs, and personal networking. I think that’s how most of the top people in the field learned SEO, too.

The main point of my criticism of the article was that it was setting an unrealistic expectation that any site could be #1 in 7 days with the right optimization. Without the existing site having been in place, I stand by my analysis that those results would not have been possible.

Clearly she did a fine job and knows a lot about SEO. She applied more skill, care and effort than many so-called professional SEO firms would. But that isn’t always enough, or a guarantee of success. There even are top SEO firms that won’t work on a new site. As you said, “it doesn’t work for everyone on every site”, and I suspect that’s one of the big reasons.

Thanks again for helping me clarify my point and set the record straight.
Best regards,
Dave Matson

Posted by Araceli Parra, July 29th, 2008 at 11:02 pm

Mr. Matson,

I apologize in advanced if this turns out to be very long, I am very impressed with the analysis you did on Number1duioffice.com. You got it right, but there are still a few things I would like to clarify here and I will go into much more detail in a separate blog that I will be writing regarding this. My client Mr. Drewry did clarify a few things, which I am also very thankful for.

Yes, I agree that the article on Law.com did give my SEO story a whole rags to riches kind of feel. I want to clarify the “7 day launch.” The comment I made to Law.com “When I finally launched the fully optimized site, it only took seven days to hit the top of Google” applies to duioffice.com not number1duioffice.com and I believe I said “submitted” not “launched” but to be honest, I really don’t remember. As you said and are correct about, duioffice.com is the source of our strength. What you didn’t know is that I am the one that gave that domain it’s strength 3 years ago in 2005, and yes it took me 7 days to do it, but 7 days after weeks of research that I had to do to educate myself on the subject. When I felt confident enough that I knew what I was doing, I laid out a strategy and asked Mr. Drewry to let me handle the site.

One Saturday I sat down and worked all day, when I felt I did all I could, I submitted to Google and counted the days to keep track of when I would see changes. 7 days later we reached the number 1 spot for terms such as “bay area dui attorney” “Oakland dui attorney” “Pleasanton….” and other cities. Business was good, I however knew that this wouldn’t last. The former site was a .aspx page on a content management system that had horrible code structure. It took forever to load and I felt that Google with it’s ever changing algorithm would bury it sooner or later.

To answer your question about why we didn’t just fix the design on the old site here is why. I thought if I did that and did a bad job we would loose our positions so instead I chose an additional domain Mr. Drewry had, built a new site and redirected duioffice.com because just like you said, 301 redirect “is the search engine friendly way to redirect all the link juice, and authority from an old site to a new site” which is exactly what I did as a precaution. I was very aware I “was sitting on a nice oil field” one that I worked hard to create. So, no I did not build a site from scratch and get it to the top in 7 days (I am not the God of SEO) but I did take an existing site that had no link juice or authority and got it to rank #1 in seven days, that is very true.

Thank you for the kind words about the work that I have done. I am confident about my work and take it very seriously. I would also like to point out that I agree with you about people promising “extraordinary results” such as these. Most likely it’s these SEO’s that give good SEO’s like us a bad name. People need to be very cautious about who they hire to optimize their sites. I believe that if people are thinking of hiring an in-house SEO or a firm, that they should read up on the subject or at least Google’s guidelines so that they are aware of unethical practices and can spot a shady SEO when they are approached by one.

Oh and to clarify one more thing, the other SEO firm that is taking credit for the site is my firm. I am co-founder of Forstrank.com, it’s currently incomplete and not optimized, which is why it is not mentioned in the article. It’s more of a portfolio for my partner and me. We put it up rather quickly just so that we had a place to send potential clients who wanted to see the work we had previously done. We are currently redesigning and planning to launch the new design soon which will be full of content and fully optimized.

Thank you again, and if you have any other questions you can provide me an email to contact you directly.

You mentioned in your response to my client, that you learned everything at Pubcon and other conferences, I will be attending Pubcon 2008 this year and would be happy to meet you if you are attending this year. If not, great article and analysis.

Araceli Parra

Posted by dave, July 30th, 2008 at 7:29 am

Araceli,
Thanks for the update and additional detail, and let me know when your detailed blog post on the project is up.

And congrats on the fantastic press hit on law.com! No doubt you’ll get some new clients from that. My final advice (even though you clearly don’t need any advice from me) is to get your name and bio up on forstrank.com asap, and take credit for this and let new clients easily find you. I searched for you name, and didn’t find anything, and only found forstrank from the backlinks.
best,
dave

Posted by pingo calling cards, August 1st, 2008 at 11:37 am

I forwarded the Law.com post without even seeing this thread. Nice to see the discussion worked out. congrats to earning the number 1 oakland dui lawyer.

Posted by Craig Mullins, August 2nd, 2008 at 12:45 pm

Hey Dave,

Pretty cool site you have on attorney stuff. Looks like you jumped the gun a little bit in your analysis.

Looking at duioffice.com on godaddy you could have seen the attorney owned that one also:

http://who.godaddy.com/WhoIs.aspx?domain=duioffice.com&prog_id=godaddy

as well as what it looked like beforehand:

http://web.archive.org/web/*/duioffice.com

Then you have domain info on forstrank.com and Araceli Parra name is right their:

http://who.godaddy.com/WhoIs.aspx?domain=forstrank.com&prog_id=godaddy

Anyway’s I thought the law.com story was great & highly motivational about what can happen when someone wants something really bad in their life & goes for it.

Props to Araceli for making change in her life & saving her employers business.

Posted by dave, August 3rd, 2008 at 11:22 pm

Craig,
Yes, I thought I was clear that duioffice.com was the old site, though undisclosed in the article.
True that I neglected to whois the forstrank.com site, but it was just an aside to my analysis.

I agree that someone highly motivated can get pretty far. What I didn’t like about the article was the impression that anybody could get their site to #1 with hard work and pluck.

I would be concerned if the article results in 100 lawyers sending their secretaries to Pubcon. If these lawyers expect to be delivered #1 rankings 7 days later, and then for their secretaries to get back to typing motions to support all the new business, I think they will all be quite disappointed.

Posted by Craig Mullins, August 7th, 2008 at 3:52 pm

I’ll be on the lookout for Paralegals & Office assistants at the next Pubcon. 🙂

Posted by randy, October 22nd, 2008 at 7:48 pm

Interesting blog and original article on the law.com site. I am a bit confused, though, on why the site ranks number 1 for [oakland dui lawyer]. The phrase seems to be only usewd once in a meta tag, is not in the title, or anywhere in the body. If anything the site seems to be concentrated more on bay area of san francisco terms.

Posted by dave, October 23rd, 2008 at 4:05 pm

Hi Randy,
Good question. You also need to consider “off page” factors, as well as on page factors like title tags and body copy. There are likely some good links that point to the site with the word “Oakland” in the anchor text.

The classic SEO example that explains the value of off page links is “click here”. The #1 ranked site for the search term “click here” is the Adobe Acrobat download page, because millions of web pages have a link that says “to download acrobat, click here“. Click here appears no where on the page or in the title, and it just doesn’t need to with that kind of off-page, incoming link power.

Posted by randy, October 23rd, 2008 at 6:52 pm

dave, I think you might be right about the power of off page factors. However, that doesn’t help me understand what Araceli Parra did to make the site jump in ranking.

From the law.com article and the comment sin this blog it sounds like she added content, changed site structure, and adjusted on-page factors. It makes it sound like external links were constant before and after the seo project, yet the ranking jumped.

I am starting to think that the major thing the was done was not the inclusion of new optimization but the removal of some really bad attempts at optimization. For example, I have seen rankings jumps like this for the removal of keywords stuffed in invisible text.

I do not want to disparage the work of Araceli Parra – obviously the proof is in the pudding. I just don’t get it. Based on the little I know of SEO, the site doesn’t seem optimized for [oakland dui lawyer] at all.

Posted by dave, October 24th, 2008 at 8:54 am

Again, I believe there is a lot of link authority for that phrase pointing to the site, much of it 301 redirected and passing through the old site.

I would guess that the old site was probably not so much badly optimized, as it was built with no search engine considerations whatsoever. So, fixing a terrible internal navigation structure, and adding some decent title tags, and a bunch more targeted content can work wonders.

But again, I’m not sure what your point is. You don’t see how the site is well optimized for [oakland dui lawyer], yet google disagrees. And then you admit that you don’t know much about SEO.

All that means is that Araceli knows much more about it than you!

Posted by randy, October 24th, 2008 at 11:29 am

dave, I am not trying to argue. I am trying to be informed. Your confrontational and “put-down” tone doesn’t seem warranted.

I agree Google thinks the site is well optimized for [oakland dui lawyer]. I agree it likely has to do with in-bound links. However, those in-bound links existed before and after the optimization work.

It seems that the site should have ranked for [oakland dui lawyer] prior to the optimization project but that there was something blocking it. If this is true, than Araceli removed the blockage rather than adding something in.

If the optimization is more a matter of taking something away than adding something in, that means we can’t see the important changes in the current site.

Posted by dave, October 24th, 2008 at 1:50 pm

Sorry Randy, didn’t mean to use a put down.

Yes, I think we agree that the old site had some good links, but there were real problems with it getting the maximum value out of those good links.

So Google did not like the old site, and she fixed it, probably with standard SEO improvements as well as fixing the internal site linking structure, and more and better content.

And yes, you would need to compare it with the old site to see the changes.

And for that matter, if you really want to spend the time and investigate this phenomenon, you could compare it to the other sites further down the rankings for [Oakland DUI lawyer]. Everything is relative!