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Web Development vs SEO: Unraveling the Key Differences for Law Firms

Alex Valencia
Published   April 26, 2016

It’s important to recognize the difference between hiring a web developer or designer and hiring a law firm SEO expert for help with your website.

In the video below we discuss and review the differences between web development and an SEO.

Host: Alex Valencia, WDW

Guest: Jason Hennessey, Hennessey Digital


In this video webinar, Alex Valencia of We Do Web and Jason Hennessey of Hennessey Digital explore the difference between web development and SEO. Short answer: you need both a web designer and an SEO expert, and one doesn’t usually specialize in the other. Jason stresses the importance of conducting a technical audit to discover SEO issues that might be lurking after a new law firm website design and development project. 


Your designer and developer may not optimize your website for user experience or technical issues like slow speed, 301 redirects, 404 errors, metadata like h1 tags, and duplicate content. With any new design, it’s imperative to have a law firm SEO expert run an audit on the site to uncover and fix any issues that can hinder its performance. 




Alex Valencia:

All right, folks. Thanks so much for watching this video. I thought it was important for Jason and I to explain the difference between web development and SEO. We had a call not too long ago with an attorney, and we did a brief SEO audit, like we’ve done on our webinars before and came to realize there were tons of errors after he had just gotten a new web design. And this is good information because we’d just gotten into the web development business about a year ago. We were strictly a content marketing agency and doing content strategies. So the SEO side of web development was something that we never discussed or thought of. And it was eye-opening after speaking to this client that he went through some of the same things that I was questioning myself. So it’s very important to know the difference between going to someone and asking them about doing a new design on your site and web development and knowing the difference between what an SEO would do and how SEO would impact.

They’re two very different things, and Jason’s going to go into it in more depth and show us the difference. But what you’re really going to come out with is, they’re two different jobs. They’re two different skill sets. So if you are getting a web designer or web development agency to do something, I would only expect them to do just that. Develop and design a new website for you. SEO is something that’s totally different, and you want to be aware that. If that’s what you want, you want it to perform well in the search engines, and you’re going to want SEO, it’s going to be an additional charge, or you’re going to have to go to a company that concentrates on that as well outside of web design and web development. There’s tons of great designers out there. They build beautiful sites, but are they functional for search?

So I’m going to pass it on to Jason. Jason’s going to talk about it further. He was on the call with me when we reviewed the attorney’s site. He was not happy, but again, we had to tell him, “It’s not the web developer, it’s not the designer’s fault. They don’t know. They didn’t know. That’s not what you asked for.” And we don’t know. So it’s our job to educate you, keep you informed, and show you what it is to make you successful online.

So Jason, again, go ahead and introduce yourself. Jason’s an awesome search engine marketer. He’s been studying for over 15 years. He and I worked together on several projects. He is what he likes to call the HSIC, head SEO in charge. So Jason, jump on in there. I know you’re going to show some screens, so I’m going to pass presenter role to you.

Jason Hennessey:


Alex Valencia:

Tell us the difference, man, because that’s a huge impact on anyone that’s making an investment on their website because websites are not cheap. And it’s important to understand also the amount of work that goes into developing a website, not including the SEO side of it. So design work, development work; that’s all hard stuff. So go ahead, Jason.

Jason Hennessey:

Yeah, no, thanks Alex. So all too often when we speak with prospects, we ask them, “So do you have a web developer?” And it’s usually the same kind of thing. “Yeah, I got a guy. I paid him to develop my website. I love it. It looks really good, but I don’t know why it’s not ranking. He told me he did SEO, and it’s been about a year now, and it’s still not ranking. And I’m just starting to get concerned.” You know what I mean? You hear the same stories over and over again. And so, when a web developer, in most cases, granted, I’m generalizing here, but in most cases when a web developer says that they’re going to do SEO, or they know SEO, in most cases, that just means optimizing some of the title tags of a page, maybe making sure that there’s meta descriptions on some of the pages, and making sure that some of the images have all texts.

And so that’s all fine, and that’s all good. What’s different from an SEO is they don’t start with the web design and building the website. They start with keyword research. That’s the difference between an SEO and a web developer or a web designer is, the first thing that they look at is, where’s the opportunity here? What are people searching? They use multiple tools to figure out “where’s the demand?” Is there 750 people typing in Los Angeles, bicycle accident, lawyer per month? Okay, well then, we need to have a page that’s optimized for Los Angeles, bicycle accident lawyer and attorney. Is there 1,300 people that are searching for Los Angeles forklift accident lawyer? If that’s the case, we’ve got to make sure that we have a construction accident pages with sub-navigation that talks about all the different practice areas that would go under “construction,” “forklift,” or “fell off a ladder.” And there’s probably 20 different pages that you can have specifically just for construction.

And so having said that, that’s really the difference, is that they’re not just kind of building a website and just saying that, “Check that box, SEO is done.” There’s more strategy and research that goes into the overall plan before, you just start putting pretty colors and throwing the phone number in the top right-hand corner and saying, “I want this image smaller.” So that’s part of the difference. It is just kind of the overall, the way an SEO kind of looks at the overall strategy. But then just moving forward, there’s all kinds of other things that most webmasters wouldn’t realize. So if you’re looking at my screen here, there’s a tool called Page Speed Insights. And so this right here, I’ve talked to webmasters and web developers all the time, and they haven’t even heard of this tool. Because they don’t realize that Google’s variable, Google’s ranking algorithm, (and there’s different variables, and this is one of the variables) is the way in which a website loads is something that’s completely important to a SEO.

Whereas to a webmaster, that’s not something that they’re really paying attention to. So this right here tells you specifically what score you have, and here’s some of the things that you can do a little differently to increase the overall performance of the website. Don’t get me wrong, web developers know how to fix this stuff, but they didn’t know it was a problem. And so that’s just one of the things. Other things too include, sometimes, when you have a web developer, some web developers might not keep up with the changes in SEO. You know, you take ten years ago, you can basically, one of the ways that you were to rank on Google where you wanted to have every single page that’s optimized for a certain keyword.

So for example, if I wanted to rank on Google for Los Angeles car accident lawyer, I might take five of my pages, or I might put “Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer” as the title tag, and this is a title tag right here. I might put “Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer” as the title tag on 50 pages of my website because I want my website to be relevant to “Los Angeles Car accident lawyer.” Well, that was 10, 12, 15 years ago that that actually worked. And so nowadays, I still see web developers that are still practicing that same stuff that worked 15 years ago, whereas now it hurts you by having too many pages that are optimized for a certain keyword. And so, that’s another problem. And so, how I’m able to check that is I just use one of our sites that we use for testing. This is a website.

It ranks on Google for, here you go, “Studio City DUI attorney.” I just pulled one example here. The site ranks number three on Google. The reason why it ranks number three on Google is because if I do this advanced search query here, site command, and then LosAngelesDUIattorney.com, and then I put “in title.” So this is an advanced search query that I’m doing on Google. So it’s basically saying, “Find all the pages that are indexed on this website right here, but that have Studio City DUI attorney in the title tab.” And so, you can see here is that there’s only one page that shows up. If there were four or five pages that were optimized for this page, this keyword, they would start to cannibalize each other and they would cause problems, and Google would get confused and not know which page to rank.

So when you develop a website, you want to make sure that you’re not dealing with any of these type of problems. And so, it kind of just continues to go on and on. There’s so many other things that SEOs do differently than web developers. Yeah, I can talk about link building all day long. Once a website’s done and the web developer says, “Hey, yep, I did the SEO. Okay, great. Here’s $5,000. Thank you so much. I’ll call you if I ever need to make any changes.” That’s not a digital marketing strategy. I mean, that’s the beginning of a digital marketing strategy. What comes next is the stuff that Alex does very well: the content strategy. You know, you want to be putting fresh content on the website on a regular basis. You don’t want to just put fresh content. You want to put content that is going to rank for keywords that people are searching for.

That’s the whole keyword research that we talked about. About building the website on a spreadsheet first so that we develop a content strategy for 12 months, before we even build the website. We just know all the pages that we’ve got to have. And so that’s an ongoing project. And you need content. I mean without content, there is no Google. And so the more and more content that you have, the more chances that you’re going to have to rank for better keywords and stronger keywords that are going to drive phone calls and leads.

And then the other thing is link building. A website is only as popular as other websites that are linking to it. And so if you have a website and you paid the $5,000 for it, but nobody knows about it, it’s not going to rank. And so you also need somebody that’s doing the building, the popularity to the website by reverse engineering some of your competition, building links, increasing the overall page rank and the popularity of the site. And that ultimately is what’s going to push your rankings. So that’s, I mean, it’s probably a whole, I’d say an eight hour bootcamp that we can do on this subject, but just kind of talking about it quickly within maybe 15, 20 minutes, just so that people can get an understanding of what the difference is.

Alex Valencia:

Perfect. Yeah. Exactly, Jason. So I wanted to go back a little bit to page speed because some of the things that can hurt your page speed are images on the design of your website that are not optimized. So that can slow down the speed. Video, correct? Video can slow down the speed. Java, I guess JavaScript, is that correct? Some JavaScript will slow it down. So there are things that we wouldn’t know as clients of a web developer or SEO agency to look for. All we see is this beautiful new website that someone’s developed for us. And for us, we think it’s working. Even if it’s a great WordPress website, we’re taught how to go in there, change something, to fix the menu. Certain variables that you can go in and do yourself, but without a technical audit or an actual SEO to look through the strategy, or not even to the strategy yet but to the development of the site to make sure it was built correctly for the search engines, is very important.

So if you have a current site and you’re going to get a new design, all the issues from the old site will carry over unless someone fixed those.

Jason Hennessey:

So that’s right. And the other thing too, Alex, I wanted to jump into is, you had mentioned, we had a client that we were talking to that is on GoDaddy as a server. And they probably paid $5, $10 per month for that hosting. And they don’t realize that there’s a lot of problems with being on a $5 or $10 server. You know, you start to associate your website and your IP address with other websites that have indirect consequences of that, and maybe your uptime is not fast enough. And so an SEO is looking at all of those different things too. They’re looking at the uptime of your website, not just in real time, but on a 24-hour period. Just to kind of see, “Hey, how come at 10 o’clock at night we’re losing a lot of… Our uptime is not where it should be.”

And that might be because you’re on a shared server with a video hosting company that maybe, there’s a lot of people watching movies on our website at 10 o’clock at night, and it’s bringing your bandwidth down during that period. And so Google’s seeing that. And so that’s something else that an SEO would be looking for that maybe a web developer might not be paying attention to.

Alex Valencia:

Right. And some of your 301 redirects, 404s are also, that might carry over.

Jason Hennessey:


Alex Valencia:

Duplicate page content. Again, like you said, you went into titles, H1s, some of that could be duplicating on your site. And if SEO or an audit isn’t being done before you get a new developer or SEO on it, all that is going to carry over and you’re going to have the same issues, just a prettier looking website. So again, I…

Jason Hennessey:

That’s right.

Alex Valencia:

Urge you to contact the developer and SEO agency that you work with. Us, preferably, to review the site, do an audit for you before you move on to development. Or even right now when you’re working on your strategy. We’re big believers in content. We’re big believers in SEO. But it doesn’t make sense to add on top of what’s already broken. So make sure you get the things fixed on your site first, before moving on.

It’s very important. Again, we can help with an SEO audit, do a free consult. Anything further than that, we’d obviously have to charge for it because it goes anywhere from 10 to 15 page. It’s super in-depth. You can hand it over to your web developer, they can work on it, we can help. But it’s important to make sure you’re cleaning that up, not only for you, but also for the search engines. There’s so much spam out there; there’s so much content that can be cleaned up. Times have changed. So it’s important that you’re considering these things and I hope you found this helpful. We’re here to help out, answer any questions. Contact us at wedowebcontent.com, Jason@wedowebcontent, or Alex@wedowebcontent. Jason@jasonhennessey.com with his consulting agency. We’re here to help. Thank you again for watching. Any questions, just go ahead and email us or contact us through the website.


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