Know Your Q & A: What Do People Ask Google?
When people search for information online, it’s important to remember that they often ask questions that are full sentences. This is especially true in the age of Siri and other voice-activated searches because people speak their questions rather than write them.
So, what does this have to do with law firm websites and your ability to market your firm? Turns out, EVERYTHING!
Hummingbird, one of Google’s most significant algorithm updates in years, places great emphasis on “natural language” queries. Context and meaning are now more important than individual keywords. Hummingbird also looks deeper at content on individual web pages rather than simply identifying a short keyword phrase. This allows Google to intentionally direct users to targeted inner pages on a website, rather than simply depositing readers on a firm’s homepage. This quickens the search and reduces the time needed to find precise answers, thereby boosting user experience.
Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, articulates the overriding importance of creating conversational web content by saying:
For law firm queries these days, users are less likely to type “car accident” or “divorce” when searching for information online. Instead, they are more apt to speak full phrases and sentences, such as the following:
- What should I do after a car crash?
- How much can I get for an accident settlement?
- How do I contest a child custody ruling?
- Give me DWI attorneys in Atlanta
In the past, consumers searched as if mimicking key words in a database. Today, they talk conversationally to Google using fully formed questions, long phrases and complete sentences. If you want to rank high with Google, your web content must identify and answer these longer statements and questions.
So, What Does This Mean for You?
It means Google’s search algorithms are getting increasingly sophisticated and, therefore, so must your online content. Webpages need to be written in conversational tones, and the questions that show up in headings and sub-headings need to be worded in the ways that people naturally speak.
It also means a website must be SEO optimized in a way that recognizes natural speech. This sounds like it would be easy, but in fact it takes a focused effort and intentionality when creating website content. If you want a page to rank for a narrowly focused phrase, you need to develop the entire page around that phrase and avoid wandering into broader topics. This is how you surpass your competition in Google rankings.
Why Do Questions Matter?
Questions matter first and foremost because online readers often have a question on their minds when they query the Internet for information and data. By mimicking that question in your website headings, it makes it easier for Google algorithms to lead readers to your site for answers. This is particularly true of practice area pages. Identify questions your clients ask, develop content that answers them clearly, and keep those pages narrowly focused. Your detailed answer may just cause a potential client who needs an attorney to pick up the phone and call your firm!
These days, Google’s ability to provide answers to questions better matches nuances in the English language. BERT Update, the algorithm change Google says is their most important update in five years, affects 10% of search queries, according to Search Engine Journal. The update will particularly affect complicated search queries that depend on context. Google determines meaning by the words in the search phrase as well as by what the words mean when they are strung together in a particular order. Pretty cool, huh?
This is what Google says about their BERT update:
“These improvements are oriented around improving language understanding, particularly for more natural language/conversational queries, as BERT is able to help Search better understand the nuance and context of words in Searches and better match those queries with helpful results.
Particularly for longer, more conversational queries, or searches where prepositions like “for” and “to” matter a lot to the meaning, Search will be able to understand the context of the words in your query. You can search in a way that feels natural for you.”
Using headings with naturally worded questions will enhance your opportunity for Google rankings and cut the time a reader needs to zero-in on the content that is key to their query. And as we all know, reader-friendly navigation and enhanced user experience is essential to content success.
Google Has Data on All Search Terms that People Ask
If anyone knows what people are searching, it’s Google.
Google’s algorithms are programmed to find information that quickly nails down the answers to questions that people are asking most often. Google stores millions of bits of data that identify the search terms and questions that readers ask over and over again. This enables Google to not only direct you to a list of web pages but also provide “People also asked …” indicators to readers so they can quickly access additional, similar information that will further answer their questions. It is in Google’s interest to fully meet multiple user needs.
Users like the idea that they don’t have to type in a range of phrases to get the result they want, nor do they have to wade through tons of results to get the answer they seek. What could be better!
This is strategic information for law firms to have at their fingertips. After all, you can’t wow a potential client with your expertise and effectiveness unless you get them to your site first.
“Long-Tail” Search Terms
Detailed, narrow and long questions are called “long-tail” in SEO lingo, which means that people ask questions with specificity in hopes of narrowing their searches and finding critical answers with greater speed. Generally, long-tail SEO generates high-value organic website traffic. These long-tail search terms often consist of three or more words, and they tend to turn up lower search volume, which means your firm’s chances of ranking high increase. Because the queries are so much more targeted, long-tail conversion rates are higher than short-tail keywords, increasing the likelihood that site visitors will become leads
Making Long Tail Searches Work for You
By now, you get the general idea about why long-tail search terms are important. So how do you figure out what long-tail terms are useful to you? What questions or long phrases might bring Google users to your site?
Here’s where you need a powerful SEO professional in your wheelhouse. There’s no substitute for the precision and expertise that a trained legal SEO specialist can bring to the table. Guessing isn’t going to get you there. Nor is a college intern with a great attitude. Only training and experience will produce the questions and search terms that give you the results you’re looking for. If this sounds daunting, it can be. You might start by asking yourself “what are the most frequent and common questions clients ask my attorneys?”
There are SEO professionals out there specializing in the legal field who can help get you beyond that starting point.
SEO: What’s in It for Me?
There’s lots in it for you! By following this process for creating content, you’ll achieve the following positive results:
- Ensure higher visibility for your website
- Outperform your competitors when it comes to Google rankings
- Build your brand image and awareness among potential clients
- Drive more traffic to your site
- Strengthen your domain overall.
Your content should always have your reader in mind. The information should be about the reader, not about you – their needs, their emotions, their outcomes. Google knows that; and so should you. However, if your law firm also enjoys a side benefit that achieves your agenda, so much the better!
How to Format Your Content So Answers Are Easily Found
Here’s what not to do:
Imagine reading a wall of text on a page. As you scroll and scroll, you never seem to reach the bottom, and once you get past the title, there is not a heading in site. When you read web-based content, you don’t expect a work of literature, you expect something you can scan and quickly digest. You want to jump around on the page to get an idea of what’s there before you dive in for a deeper read. Google knows this. So, when you provide an answer to a long-tail question, keep the reader’s experience in mind. Why? Because Google does.
Here’s what to do:
Web content that ranks well for long-tail searches has formatting that makes it easy for a reader to scan. It appears that Google algorithms are particularly attracted to information that is displayed in lists set off with bullets, numbering, or other methods of simple organization. Rather than posing and answering questions in thick, long paragraphs of black and white text, consider offering up bite-sized content that is easily digested.
Who doesn’t like information that is highlighted with bullets or numbers? This format identifies the most important, key information in a down-and-dirty list. Also, the bullets or numbers provide a visual cue that says, “look here.”
Similarly, bullets and numbers offer good news for website writers and programmers, too, because it takes fewer hours to write lists than it does long paragraphs of prose. However, it also requires an experienced and talented writer to crisply identify the most salient information in the first place so it can be placed concisely in a list. There’s nothing worse for a reader’s experience than meandering through wordy and vague content, or worse yet, finding a list that promises answers but instead misses the point. This type of reader disappointment can cause them to click the back button and escape your page in search of better content.
A few SEO specifics that can increase your ability to rank with Google also include:
- Identify key words and use them in title, title tag and description.
- Clearly and thoroughly answer the question.
- Include links from the page about the question to your practice area pages.
Here’s the Takeaway
When people search for information online, they frequently ask questions in full sentences. This is especially true now with Siri and other voice-activated devices because people speak their queries rather than type them. After all, there’s a reason the search engine developed Google Home and Amazon launched Alexa. Because of this, Google places greater emphasis on “natural language” queries, considering context and meaning over individual keywords when it determines its rankings. That means your website content needs to be written in a natural, conversational tone and include key questions with thorough and concise answers. These questions and answers will strengthen your SEO and attract readers.
Long-tail SEO is a technique that includes three or more words designed to generate high-value organic website traffic. The more traffic your sight gets, the higher your chances of converting readers into leads and leads into clients. This SEO strategy has a direct impact on your client conversion rate and your law firm’s bottom line.
Use techniques that help your site visitors easily consume online content. Be sure to include well-crafted questions that serve as headings and sub-headings, bulleted and enumerated lists, and a Q & A format on website practice area pages. This will boost your firm’s visibility, enhance your brand awareness among potential clients, and drive more traffic to your site. If you know – and leverage — what people ask Google, you can outperform your competitors when it comes to rankings. What’s not to like about that?
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