Search engine optimization (SEO) is the science of refining your website so that it attracts more visitors, thus producing new business leads and calls from potential clients. Research shows that firms that the top fact that the No. 1 online marketing tactic used by high-growth firms is search engine optimization.

I have always believed that the purpose of a law firm website is to generate new business and inquiries from potential clients — not to be a pretty online marketing brochure — and SEO is the way to get those leads.

When it comes to SEO there is one game in town: Google, which accounts for 65% of all searches. Only 16% of searches are conducted on Yahoo and only 14% are conducted on Bing, according to comScore research. Google ranks websites based on its algorithm — a set of rules a computer will execute.

To rank high in “organic” search results — the free kind that Google supplies — two key factors are keywords and inbound links (or “inlinks). Of course you can buy your way to the top of the search results with a Google Adwords campaign, and this is covered in Adwords For Lawyers.

Keywords are the terms that clients and prospects type into the search box to find you. You should sprinkle keywords liberally in the headlines, heading and text of your website. Keywords work especially well in boosting your search engine ranking if they appear in your site’s web address, or URL, and it the site’s title (which is set in the site’s HTML code).

But don’t go overboard. If you jam too many keywords into a web page, Google may disfavor you for engaging in “keyword stuffing.” SEO experts spend their entire days on ascertaining how much is too much.

The very best keywords are the words that your clients use to describe their legal matters. Listen to what they say and you’ll hear the keywords you should use.

Inbound links — meaning links appearing on someone else’s website that lead to your website — are critical, because Google will count the “inlinks” to determine how high to rank your website.

Accordingly you should write for government, educational and news websites and include your web address in the article. By including your website address in the article, you’ve created an inbound link.

Online profiles also play an important role. Be sure to complete your profile on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and and to include your website address.

It does matter where the link comes from. A link from the Facebook page of a 12-year old will not be regarded as authoritative by Google. On the other hand, a link from the New York Times website is considered to be very authoritative.

Whatever you do, avoid buying links from a “link farm.” This occurs when you pay someone who has 1,000 websites and to put a link on each site that leads to your website. Google can tell when this manipulation is happening and will severely lower your search engine ranking.

If you follow these best practices of seeding your website content with keywords that your clients use and building links from authoritative sites, your website will finally produce the leads and new business that you’ve been waiting for.

(photo: Shutterstock)