Searching For Leads Online – Search Optimization

Online search lets scrappy startups be found by new customers as easily as established providers. Which sounds great – unless you’re the established provider.

That was the challenge facing Ian Oxman, vice president of marketing for Aderant. It’s his job to ensure Aderant – the world’s largest independent provider of legal software – remains the market leader and is included on every potential buyer’s shortlist.

When every brand is shouting, “shout louder” isn’t the answer. Instead, this savvy marketing VP decided to shout smarter.

It’s a cliché – and probably unfair – that whenever you talk with a lawyer, “the meter is running.” But the truth is, in the majority of legal firms, tracking how much time is spent on each client’s case is still essential to billing and profitability.

These days, most attorneys have moved from paper timesheets to automated time tracking. Like everyone else, the legal profession increasingly relies on technology for documentation, scheduling, and of course, billing. Legal software is big business, and there are plenty of providers vying for a slice of the attorney’s IT budget.

Banking on ranking

Like all of us, law firms considering new software usually start their search online. So, Oxman was concerned to find that Aderant’s website was not “ranking” – displaying near the top of the page – in Google’s results pages. Legal software is a hot space these days, and competitors were drowning out even well-established providers. Not being seen could mean not being shortlisted – and that could mean lost sales.

Aderant was already working with Arketi Group on a number of marketing initiatives, but the BtoB agency also has a thriving search practice, so Oxman teamed with Arketi digital marketing consultant Amy Jones to tackle his Google visibility challenge. She quickly identified multiple areas for improvement, starting with basic search engine optimization techniques, such as optimized title tags, description tags, and strategic internal linking.

Additionally, many of the sites that ranked better than Aderant in search results pages had been around longer, and as a result, had more incoming links from other sites – the most important factor in Google’s ranking algorithm. Aderant needed some innovative strategies to cultivate more incoming links from other respected websites.

Diagnose, then prescribe

Arketi started by developing a keyword strategy for Aderant. Using a mix of analysis and brainstorming, the team developed a list of all the words and phrases prospective buyers might type into Google when searching for legal software, and analyzed how frequently each term was being searched for.

Then they reviewed Aderant’s website to find pages with content containing or related to those potential search terms. A search term for which there was no obvious page of content indicated a missed opportunity to appear in search results. New page content would need to be written specifically to target users searching for these terms.

Arketi also helped Aderant optimize existing pages that had the potential to rank better for frequently-searched terms (aka search optimization). One tactic was to embed product collateral into the pages. This enriches the site for visitors who might find it convenient to download a fact sheet; more importantly, when “structured data” mark-up is applied, it helps the search engines better understand what each page is about.

Staying on top of things

Google’s algorithm assigns particular weight to pages that have many incoming links from other sites, so developing more links was key to increasing and maintaining Aderant’s rankings. Arketi approached link-building in classic PR fashion – strategically “pitching” great content to relevant, industry sites.

Fortunately, Aderant already had strong collateral with which to start this process, and the team worked to supplement this content by creating additional compelling “linkable assets.” An existing whitepaper was distilled into a catchy infographic, and a second infographic was created to outline the findings of an industry survey.

Content pages were developed with well-crafted copy about each infographic. Arketi then pitched the content to influential legal industry bloggers and sites, many of which embedded the infographics – along with the all-important link back to Aderant as the source.

Moving on up

Organic search optimization is not an overnight process; patience and persistence are called for. But sure enough, within a few months, the Aderant site began to show ranking improvements.

This time last year, Aderant ranked on the first page of Google for four of its target terms; today, it ranks for 21 terms. On Bing, it’s a similar picture: at the start, Aderant was not on the first page for any target term; today, it ranks for 18. This bump in search visibility has paid off in site traffic. Initially, the site received around 5,200 visits a month, from 3,700 visitors (some visit than once). In recent months, those numbers have averaged almost double that.

Much of this improvement has been the result of Arketi’s link-building strategy. Referral traffic – that is, visitors arriving on the site by clicking a link on another site – has increased 34 percent year-on-year. Indeed, just one of these link-building blog posts alone – “The Emergence of Tigers and Bears and Other Law Firm Trends,” which includes an infographic and survey findings – has drawn several hundreds of visitors to the site.

When Oxman looks back to where the site was a year ago compared to its performance today, it’s clear the search effort has paid off. Not that he spends much time looking back. Search marketing is an ongoing battle, so the Aderant and Arketi teams are already working on new strategies for maintaining their hard-won position and advancing the brand’s visibility online.

By Hailee Sosnowski – May 27, 2015

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