When there are technological breakthroughs, technology suddenly floods the market with the idea of “new.” We have seen it before with iPhones, wireless headphones, and laptops, but what about with something so important as Google? When you type something on Google, it brings up a plethora of blogs, all answering your query in some way. With over 600 million blogs spread across 1.9 billion websites, they are all vying for the top position.
These top-ranked spots bring leads to your site via SEO best practices. Currently, Google, Bing, and others are making it easier for artificial intelligence (AI) to be helpful when incorporated into content marketing. Still, AI does not replace the need for human writers just yet. Continue reading to hear about the direction of search engine optimization, why it still matters even as AI plays a larger role, and how it (along with human writers) will still be relevant for years to come.
For the past decade, Google has implemented several changes to how the search engine handles SEO. In the past year alone, however, they have made vital algorithm updates that will affect the future of SEO and its role in ranking your website or blog.
Finally, it must use the three metrics called Core Web Vitals. The first of these, Largest Contentful Paint, requires loading the largest piece of content in 2.5 seconds. The second, Accumulate Layout Shift, means that when a mobile device loads a site, the content must not shift as other content loads around it. Finally, First Input Delay requires a site to respond to user input in less than 100 milliseconds.
Multitask United Model, or MUM, is a core factor of AI that understands and generates languages. It works with 75 languages and can perform many simultaneous tasks. This enables it to learn more quickly than any AI technology could before. It allows the search engine to make leaps of logic based on a simple query to provide more nuanced results and helps to remove language barriers.
Before 2023, Google determined that AI-generated content was harmful to a site rather than beneficial. This means that until now, the service has heavily emphasized the human factor. With the latest rollouts, however, Google has recognized the advancements in AI and does permit AI-generated content so long as it is edited in such a way as to be genuinely helpful to readers.
SEO does still matter in the coming months and years. The American Bar Association (ABA) estimates that there are over 1.3 million lawyers. In 2019, a reported 54,111 law firms existed in the United States. That number is four years old now, so there are certainly quite a few more. Your firm competes with every one of these, and the number grows daily. To be seen, you must put in the hard work, which is why SEO still matters. Here is a deeper dive into the continuing importance of applying SEO to your website and blog.
When content exceeds demand (like it currently does), you have a surplus of information. This means that it is very easy for people to overlook your site. SEO is still the most relevant tool to ensure your content rises to the top of that massive haystack rather than being the needle in the middle.
Your law firm must have new and creative content (the human factor) that permits your content to stand out. Just about every personal injury law firm, for example, has a blog titled “What to Do After a Car Accident.” What factors can you place into your blog that make it better than the competition’s?
If the constant updates to Google algorithms frustrate you, you are not alone. It is essential, however, to remember that, in the end, Google is trying to build a helpful and enjoyable experience with its search engine. That means helping it determine which legal blogs are the most relevant.
Google looks at the links that users choose the most and assumes that other users will want to see that content. It then uses keywords and familiar elements to find other similar blogs. That is SEO. Ultimately, this is what the algorithms are all about — using SEO to get noticed and have your blogs moved to the top.
Making the best use of SEO means it is vital to understand your target audience. Your page must reach the correct audience, or you will likely get negative feedback from people not getting the answers they seek.
For example, personal injury attorneys looking for significant cases do themselves no good by writing blogs on minor injuries. Such blogs do not draw in your desired audience. SEO allows you to target the right keywords for the right audience, the same ones your audience will use to search for answers.
The need for high-quality content is greater than ever. You may practice many areas of law, but advertising yourself as a generalist is an easy way to get lost. Specializing within your practice areas is vital to drawing in your needed audience. Your content must be highly specific.
Someone searching for a niche topic (traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, for example) will not look for a generic law firm blog hoping to find some information. They will search for specific questions related to TBIs, and if you have it thrown in with a dozen other topics of no relation, you are likely to be passed over.
As ever, local search engine optimization (local SEO) is still essential to your legal business. Since comparatively few law firms are national, you do not want your results showing up to people who live across the country. Local SEO allows you to reach a target audience in your state, where your legal knowledge is most useful.
Machine learning is a concept that helps large companies apply AI to things like personalization, intent, and search. AI is slowly allowing machine learning to be applied to SEO, which means SEO will eventually need to conform to and work with this new model. Because AI developments incorporate deep learning and natural language processing, they allow search engines to become more friendly and intelligent than ever.
This does not mean that AI can replace human writers, however. An issue might arise for your law firm because AI uses existing content to generate its own. This means it will source information from blogs in the same niche as your firm. If those blogs are full of errors and misinformation, your AI content will be, too. You may even find yourself the target of costly plagiarism claims.
Answer Engine Optimization (AEO) takes search queries phrased as questions, then optimizes them to appear as a featured snippet or answer box displayed in Search Engine Results Pages, or SERPs. This is vital as voice search and virtual assistants become more prevalent in how users interact with search engines. In short, you ask a question, and AEO looks for a way to phrase that question as an answer.
Attorneys are constantly asked questions. These questions get typed into Google, and blogs appear. Injury victims want to read about their specific queries before hiring the right attorney. Your job is to help your clients find justice or seek compensation and to provide relevant legal advice and guidance. This is why you must provide specific answers to specific questions.
Did you know that out of all the search responses on Google, only 19% have a featured snippet? Regarding question-based searches, you should always aim for position zero, which is not an easy spot to achieve. Featured snippets are essential to getting yourself up to spot zero. Featured snippets are special boxes in Google search results that reverse the format of a typical search result. They show the descriptive text first and show up in the “People Also Ask” boxes. AI-generated content rarely (if ever) gives a solid featured snippet result.
The rise of the smartphone in the past few decades has pushed the need for sites to use intelligent design and mobile-first, mobile-friendly approaches to content delivery. Your accelerated mobile pages, or AMP, will absolutely matter. Most users access the web through portable devices these days and are unwilling to wait for sites that take too long to load up the answers to queries.
You cannot continue to practice the same way, or you will achieve poor or no results. You will always need to invest in marketing for your firm. In a law firm, ignoring changes to the law can be disastrous. The same concept applies to SEO. The original way SEO hit the scene decades ago no longer holds up to modern standards. While AI has not taken over SEO, its existence will influence SEO and can help with content creation, voice search, personalization, and efficiency.
As AI grows and evolves, so, too, will the quality of the content it generates. With legal fields, however, it will always be necessary to fact-check the generated content, as even slightly incorrect information can prove disastrous for readers. AI can only use existing, already-created content to provide its answers, which can often be filled with errors. Providing error-filled answers as a law firm is a recipe for disaster.
As voice search becomes more prevalent with the proliferation of voice assistants and smart speakers like Google Nest, Apple Siri, and Amazon Alexa, voice search optimization will be critical to SEO. You must adapt your content to natural language queries, change your approach to link building, and use long-tail keywords to help you rank higher on voice search results.
This more natural language approach to SEO will also help to personalize search results. User intent is paramount. Searchers want to avoid generic results that have been shown to millions of other users. They want results that specifically answer the question that they asked. In short, they want relevant content that matches their search intent.
Evolved SEO must help to provide such personalized results.
Many people, in addition, look to skim past paid search results and look for organic search results that are high in website rankings because they are just that valid. A personalized approach is one way to achieve organic search rankings.
As we discussed above, your law firm should prioritize one specific practice area at a time. This way, you are building authority in a particular niche and providing a library of knowledge to the right kind of clients. Writing a bunch of content in various niches is an inefficient strategy and will certainly slow your law firm’s growth.
Technology advances at light speed these days. Every new day, there seems to be some major new development that leaves everything we thought we knew about digital marketing behind. Some worry that we are advancing faster than we can handle. All of this together has led people to believe SEO will die as well. SEO, however, is resilient. It will evolve, grow, and change to match the direction of technology’s growth and evolution.
Think again about what happens to your law firm when laws change. Does your firm become irrelevant because a new law appears or an old one goes away? Indeed, it does not go away or become irrelevant in any respect. Rather, you pivot to learn how the new law works, adapt to service it, and have it serve you. SEO is the same.
The way we write content or perform on-page optimization will likely shift in the coming years. That’s why agencies must agile and well-informed; it’s imperative that despite rapid digital changes, we continue to serve our clients with utmost care.
When we asked the question of AI chatbot Bard, it responded: “It is unlikely that AI chats will take over digital marketing and writing content in the next couple of years. While AI is becoming increasingly sophisticated, it is still not capable of replicating the creativity and human touch that is essential for successful marketing and writing.”
ChatGPT-4, when asked the same question, responded: “AI can greatly assist in digital marketing by automating repetitive tasks, analyzing large volumes of data, and providing personalized experiences to customers. For example, AI can help in audience segmentation, predicting customer behavior, personalizing communication, and optimizing ad campaigns. However, AI is unlikely to completely “take over” this domain. Human marketers still play crucial roles in strategic decision-making, creating empathetic content, and understanding nuanced cultural contexts.”
Not only is SEO still alive and kicking, but it also continues to grow. It continues to grow and evolve, vital to 122 billion sites by 2028. The increase in online data, the rise and growth of e-commerce, the demand for increased personalization of the user experience, high-speed internet, and many other factors drive the SEO industry.
Many sites are moving towards AI-generated content, both out of a desire to save money and because of the mistaken notion that SEO is dead. This critical error will damage site rankings, visitor conversion, and business success.
Content written by humans for humans will continue to be the most appealing and provide the best insight into the problems that prospective clients are currently facing.
SEO is alive and thriving as part of online marketing, and the personalized user experience demands human creation of content. If you want to take your law firm to the next level, go with a company with proven results.
Array Digital will use our proven SEO tools and search marketing strategies to help your law firm be found first in search results, above your competitors. If you would like more information on how our collaborative marketing strategies can help in multiple areas including social media, SEO, and advertising, give us a call today at 757-333-3021 or fill out our contact form.