23 years ago, three university students, Larry, Sergei & Scott, created a search program to plagiarise content for their assignments.

It functioned like a librarian, providing insight into the topic and subject of academic papers - rather than the simple word searches that previously existed.

Google was born. Over the next two decades, it would improve its ability to understand content, providing the most useful results to searchers. 

The metaphor of the librarian is a really useful one for understanding how to rank your website in Google search. Too often the search engine is seen as a mystery or some kind of magic. In reality, it is a librarian, trying to answer the questions of visitors. 

This librarian looks at what's happening on your website, but also what other people are saying about it.

On-page vs off-page

Traditionally, on-page and off-page SEO have been the focus of webmasters trying to rank. On page covering the content of the page in question including metadata, page titles, keyword density and a plethora of other small optimisations. Off-page covers links and trust signals that build a website's reputation.

Here's a handy diagram from SDF systems

These traditional  SEO priorities are critical, they form the base of any SEO work you'll do. In recent times, as searches become more conversational and Google becomes more adept at recognising information and providing useful answers, topic and information structure is becoming more important.

Structuring your information for visitors & Google

In the early days of search engines, a typical search might be for a single word or term such as "lawyer" or "commercial law firms".

Over time, as consumers became more aware of search engines and search engines became better at providing results, searches would be more specific. Searches happen for different ideas around a central topic. Rather than just looking for a telephone number, users are looking for inspiration, advice, pricing, FAQ's, tips and a host of other information.

Enter Pillar Pages.

A pillar page is a central page that sits prominently in your website's navigation menu. The page is optimised for the general search term your users are interested in pursuing but offers both links to and receives links from sub-pages that address individual topics within the general theme.

Here's a good diagram on pillar content by Neil Patel.

It seems fairly straightforward, but the key within this strategy is carefully selecting the search terms to optimise for the top-level pillar page as well as the individual feeder pages. The second critical element here is to link effectively between those pages.

Incorporating dynamic content

Central to Google's advice to webmasters has always been the idea that dynamic content is a must. This doesn't stop with keeping your current content up to date, Google specifically mentions new content.

This is the advice for webmasters on Google's best practices page

As you write this content, have it feed into the relevant pages on the site. By keeping these content pages filled with dynamic new content you aren't just signalling to Google that your firm is an authority in the domain, you are signalling to clients and prospects that your firm are the go-to experts