We recently reported on the 274% increase in the price of medical negligence PPC advertising on search engines such as Google, but what does it take to grab one of the top organic (aka natural) search result positions?
Law firms looking to generate any personal injury (PI) related enquiries online will consistently see Slater & Gordon (S&G), Irwin Mitchell (IM) and National Accident Helpline (NAH) topping organic search engine results.
In fact, if you look at the top 20 personal injury related keywords right now (incl. “medical negligence”; “no win no fee” & “injury lawyer”), S&G, IM and NAH feature in the top 3 positions for 18 of those keywords.
There is no shortage of SEO guides on the world-wide-web, with ‘magic formulas’ on how to get to No.1 on Google – even personal videos by Matt Cutts, a former SEO specialist at Google. What this article is here to shed light on are the key search marketing tactics these high-ranking entities employ.
Once you have an engaging and well-structured site with technical SEO basics in place, including metadata, the most significant investment that the likes of S&G, IM and NAH have made is in optimised content creation and backlinking – as you can see from these figures – to achieve such impressive rankings.
Although organic results are in theory ‘free’, there will be a combination of employed time and/or third-party costs associated with achieving these results.
For IM & S&G to create such a significant number of optimised pages, they will have had to employ a number of in-house personnel, e.g. content writers with their associated employment costs and/or outsourced content creation services, most likely from a combination of sources that specialise in writing legal web content.
With regard to backlinks, aside from gambling and porn, legal sites are the most difficult to attain genuine links, which can be a text, image or URL link from a real and credible site that links to your domain. Subsequently, an already labour and cost intensive job becomes increasingly difficult!
TV vs online
NAH, who over the years have been mostly recognised as a prolific TV advertiser with their Underdog campaign, rather than a savvy online marketer, appear to be moving more and more of their spend to online channels. Given the significant size of their marketing budgets, their performance like a wealthy premiership football team is benefitting from the expensive signings of talent – in this case, retained digital marketing agencies.
Black hat SEO
It’s worth mentioning that SEO activities, incl. backlinking, carried out recklessly can result in search engine penalties. IM was de-listed from search results by Google in 2014, apparently from investing in black hat SEO tactics such as paying untrustworthy websites to link to their site or spamming message boards with links. IM successfully resolved their penalty, potentially by removing or disavowing (asking Google to ignore) those links, and three years of subsequent investment in good quality SEO has paid off.
S&G adopted a multi-brand marketing strategy through their acquisitions in 2013 & 2014, when they took 5% of the UK PI market – achieving number one or two market share position in most consumer law practice areas. One of the biggest implications – when grouping all the domains they acquired – was to propel them ahead of Thompsons, the most dominant firm online at the time for PI-based on domain ownership click-share.
Acquiring lots of domains isn’t in itself the Holy Grail of obtaining the Google No.1 spot, particularly due to the significant cost; however, it can certainly propel you in the short term if the domains you have bought have had significant search marketing investment – such as the Pannone brand they acquired. For example, if you take one of the most highly lucrative terms, “Medical Negligence Solicitors”, S&G appeared in the first position, with Pannone in third – so together they took 66% of the top 3 positions following the acquisition.
S&G’s current performance wouldn’t be so impressive if they hadn’t done anything since those acquisitions, so they have obviously continued to invest in the search performance of their website.
As you can see from the above, attaining thousands of links and sustaining this growth to battle link-churn and competitor growth is increasingly a mammoth task. A task that will require greater and greater budgets for individual firms to compete. A cost-efficient alternative is joining a marketing collective panel, like those powered by our lead generation platform. By pooling budgets and dealing with one trusted digital marketing partner instead of several agencies gives smaller to medium-sized firms a chance to compete.