Somewhere in the three to ten days after we launch a new website for a client, I am invariably asked, “So when we will start ranking on page one of search results?” There seems to be a common misconception that a brand new website will immediately get noticed by Google and start appearing on the very first page of search results.
That’s just not going to happen. Ever.
Search engine optimization takes time and effort, and I can guarantee you no website begins ranking overnight. Any website takes a minimum of six to twelve months before Google even considers noticing it exists, so make sure you have realistic expectations when launching a new website.
But if your website is well-established and you’re STILL not ranking for anything at all, you could be committing one of these digital cardinal sins:
NAPs Aren’t Just For Kids
One of the most important elements of search engine optimization is NAP, or Name Address Phone. These three elements communicate to Google the legitimacy of your business, and provide Google with a real and physical location for the entity. The name, address, and phone number for your firm should be 100% consistent across all citations – digital or otherwise.
This is where it’s easy to make a seemingly innocuous mistake. If one phone bill or one online software subscription lists a different phone number or address, that information eventually makes its way to a data collection company. These companies collect, verify, and distribute business data for companies like Google and Yelp. (These companies are why your business can be found on sites like Yellow Pages, Google, and Yelp – even if you never created the listing.) When Google attempts to reconcile the NAP you provide through your website with the NAP provided by data collection companies, any inconsistencies will hurt your website’s SEO value. Your local search rankings are heavily influenced by whether or not Google finds the information consistent across all data sources, including major data providers, post office records, state business filings, telephone records, and more.
Selecting Entirely Wrong Keyword Phrases
Let’s face it: a website will not rank for “personal injury lawyer” in a large market after a few days/weeks/months, if ever. Don’t focus on highly competitive keyword phrases right off the bat. Instead, start optimizing your website for long tail keywords to help the website gain authority with Google first.
For example, if your personal injury firm specializes in maritime accidents, optimize the content pages for keyword phrases like “maritime vessel transfer accident lawyer” or “types of offshore accidents.” These are called long tail keywords, and are much less competitive than something like “maritime lawyer.” As the website gains traction with Google for these longer keyword phrases, and natural bump occurs over time for the more competitive phrases.
‘Copy and Paste’ Is Your Greatest Enemy
Google absolutely HATES duplicate content. From Google’s perspective, it’s constantly looking for unique content and stories from websites demonstrating authority on a subject matter by providing new information. Duplicating that content signals to Google your firm and/or website is not an expert. So why would Google serve that information to searchers?
Among lawyers, duplicative content is most notable in online directory listings. It’s easy to copy and paste your biography from the website to your AVVO profile, SuperLawyers profile, and more. But this is hurting your website’s SEO value in the long run. Google generally rewards uniqueness, assuming the content is providing added value to the searcher. So a great rule of thumb is to avoid ‘copy and paste’ at all times.
When it comes to SEO, these three are just the tip of the iceberg. So many other factors can influence your ranking, including site age, backlinks, reviews, internal domain name structure, and more. And just when everything is running smoothly, Google invariably releases an update to its algorithm. While many great tools exist for those wishing to do it themselves, in the end we recommend hiring a search engine optimization professional for the best results.