When it comes to legal marketing, you probably hear a lot of advice about how to organically rank higher on Google search engine results pages (SERPs), since landing in the #1 spot can drive huge amounts of traffic to your law firm’s website. But did you know that appearing in Google’s Answer Box can be even better than grabbing the top spot on Google SERPs?
Google’s Answer Box: A Brief Overview
The Answer Box is the square that appears above organic search results, providing a blurb of information (and sometimes an image) without requiring searchers to click on a website.
Because the Answer Box is very visible on SERPs and pushes organic search results lower down the page, it offers law firms a great opportunity to reach internet users and to showcase their expertise on legal questions that these users would ask.
However, the box is a double-edged sword. If your competitor’s material is featured in the Answer Box, that means that more potential clients are funneling to their site even if you’ve worked hard to land in the #1 spot on Google SERPs.
In either case, understanding how to compete for Answer Box real estate is essential. Here are 5 quick tips to increase your odds of appearing above organic search results.
1. Understand how the Answer Box works
Google’s Answer Box is powered by the Knowledge Graph, which is basically a compilation of relevant information featured on the side of a SERP. If you search for Avvo, for instance, you will probably see a Knowledge Graph that features company data like the headquarters location, CEO, founders, and even social media profiles.
The information in the Knowledge Graph is pulled from reputable, popular sources such as Wikipedia or government websites. (Because of this, law firms can influence the Knowledge Graph by optimizing their Google My Business page—Google considers this information to be reliable.)
With regards to the Answer Box, the Knowledge Graph’s “rating” system means that the more helpful, relevant, and reputable your content (and the greater the authority of your law firm’s website), the greater your chances of displaying in the box.
2. Don’t waste time trying to rank for out-of-reach terms
Like strategically choosing keyword phrases for better organic SEO, getting into the Answer Box requires you to carefully examine where you have the best chances of ranking. For instance, a divorce lawyer probably won’t be able to rank for something like “common causes of divorce,” which results in an Answer Box like this:
As you can see, marriage-related advice sources such as Divorce Magazine will take the cake here. However, rephrase this to something more legal-specific like “what are the legal grounds for divorce,” and a divorce and family law firm will actually have a chance at landing in the Answer Box.
All in all, successfully squeezing your way into the box comes down to first choosing legal-specific, high-interest keyword phrases/questions that your audience will be searching for. Explore the queries that potential clients are typing into their search bars and what kinds of Answer Boxes already exist. Then, start brainstorming where you can compete for eyes.
3. Write helpful content that gathers backlinks
The more traffic and backlinks to your law firm’s blog post about the legal grounds for divorce in the U.S., for instance, the greater its value in Google’s eyes and the greater its chance of appearing in the Answer Box. The reasoning behind this is simple: if people are reading and sharing your article, they must have found it helpful—and others probably will, too.
When creating content, focus on being incredibly helpful. Answer the question in laymen’s terms (remember that your audience doesn’t consist of other attorneys) but provide as much detail as possible. Go above and beyond what anyone else is producing, blow away the competition, and earn traffic that will organically push your content to the top.
4. Optimize titles and meta descriptions
Be sure to include the phrase that prospective clients are searching for within the article title and meta description (the 160-character snippet that describes what a webpage is about).
5. Format with the Answer Box in mind
Wikipedia information is often pulled into the Answer Box because the content is well-organized, easily understandable, and concise. Take a page out of Wikipedia’s book: utilize numbered or bulleted lists when appropriate. For example, if you were to write a blog post about the top 10 reasons that people pursue personal injury cases, format the article as a numbered 1-10 list rather than a series of paragraphs.
Additionally, pay attention to the data structure of your content in order to increase your chances of placing in the Google Answer Box.
Lastly, when formatting, don’t forget about driving traffic to your site. If the entire answer is displayed in the answer box on a SERP, most visitors will get what they came for without routing to your attorney website for additional information. Therefore, if you are creating numbered or bulleted lists, try to come up with at least 8 list items while preserving conciseness; most of the time, Google will abbreviate the information with a “More items” link, which will prompt readers to click through to your page.