Law Firm SEO: On-Site Optimization Part 1

Law Firm SEO

Law Firm SEOSEO is often considered as the bread and butter of digital marketing tactics, especially for lawyers.

A good law firm SEO strategy will set you apart from your competition and enable you to receive more inbound leads than your competitors simply because you show up on the first pages of the various search engines.

In order to do that, however, you need to come up with a list of keywords you’d like to rank for.

Once you have your keywords, it’s important to start optimizing for those keywords. There are a number of different areas you need to focus on for on-site SEO optimization.

In this post, we’re going to break those down, so you can improve your law firm’s SEO.

On-site optimization refers to making tweaks to your webpage in order to rank for the keywords of your choice.

It’s no secret that Optimizing your site for SEO can be a difficult task. First of all, there are a number of different elements you need to consider and it’s easy to forget what you have or haven’t already done.

Follow this guide in order to conduct the most thorough onsite SEO optimization.

Robots.txt file

Some technical SEO stuff needs to be done first to make sure your pages are being crawled and indexed properly. After all, what is the point of optimizing a page that no one, including the search engines can find?

You should check to see whether your site has a robots file. To check this, enter www.yoursitename.com/robots.txt.

A robots.txt file allows you to instruct search engine how to crawl the different pages on your website.

The file tells the search engines whether there are pages of the website they don’t want to crawl, for example, pages with passwords.

Setting this up allows you to block certain pages from being crawled.

The pages you might want to block are:

  1. Pages within your administration. These are private pages that you may not wish the general public to access via the search engine.
  2. Password protected elements of your website
  3. Landing pages you are using for a specific campaign using paid ads.

For more information on robot.txt files, the great team at Moz have put together this handy post that explains it in detail.

Organizing your content

Every law firm website is likely to have a number of different pages of content. Beyond the ‘about page’ and ‘contact us’ page, you should have specific pages of content for each of your practice areas, pages for various industries, resource and FAQ pages, video and podcast pages, pages for downloadable content such as whitepapers and ebooks, as well as blog posts etc.

Just putting keywords on your basic main pages or throwing 500 word basic blog posts out there without a proper site architecture that builds topical authority is not going to work.

Your content needs to be organized and authoritative, if you want to rank for your keywords.

Organizing your content involves creating a flow or theme. This is often known as content architecture.

Your content should be organized into categories and within those categories, there should be sub categories. Websites that are optimized in this way perform better within the search engines.

It helps the search engines easily find and locate the information on your website for the users who are searching on specific topics.

Below is a simple example of how a search engine traditionally would like to see a main category page and subpages.

Main Category Page and Subpages Flowchart

We will be writing a post about an advanced SEO method called topic clusters shortly, which will elaborate further on deeper content architecture. For now, here’s a cool post HubSpot did on this.

Once you’ve organized your pages and content architecture, it’s time to start working on the individual pages.

For each page, you want to focus on the title tags, meta description, URLs and body content. In the next section, we’re going to break all of these down so that you can easily optimize your law firm website according to your SEO strategy.

Title tags

Title tags are an element of HTML that allows you to give each web page a title. If you didn’t know about title tags before, you would’ve seen them on the search engine results pages.

They act as a headline that users can click on to find out more information.

You might’ve seen examples such as the one above In this example their title tag is ‘Illinois Family Law Questions & Answers :: Justia Ask a Lawyer.

This gives us an accurate interpretation of what the content on the page will be. For users, this is useful in knowing which links on the search engine they want to click on, based on their relevance to their original search.

Key title tag tips:

  1. Use a Title Capitalization tool to make your title tags stand out.
  2. Google generally prefers to display only the first 50-60 characters of a title tag, so make sure you keep your title under this limit. I shoot for 55 characters.
  3. Use the title tag as an opportunity to include your keywords but making them persuasive can increase your click through rate (CTR), which is now a ranking factor. Google Search Console can show you what your click through rate is for various keywords people used to find your site. Use it to experiment with the impact of changing text to improve clicks.

Take your time putting together your title tag as it’s a way for Google to understand what the exact page of content is about.

Give every page on your website a unique title. This way Google knows which of your pages they should show on the search engine based on your user’s original search query.

Title tags used to be like the magic of Gandalf in lord of the rings. Now they are very important and lay a foundation for your topical optimization but are just one part of the larger picture.

Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions are another HTML element you can optimize for an indirect benefit to your onsite SEO. Keywords in meta descriptions do not cause ranks to go up but the improved click through rate by users seeing a keyword and a solid reason to click, can help your SEO.

A meta description gives you a chance to go beyond your title tag and provide both the users and the search engines another opportunity to understand what they might find on your web page.

In the example above, they use the following meta description: ‘Learn about the necessary forms and processes to file for a divorce in Illinois.’

If this is what you were looking for, you’d be inclined to click through onto this website.

Meta descriptions give you a chance to summarize the content on your webpage.

Key tips for meta descriptions:

  1. It’s best to keep them under 160 characters in order for the search engine to show the entirety of your meta description.
  2. You should try to make sure your meta description doesn’t come across as spammy and it should simply advertise the value of the content to be found on the website.
  3. Use your keywords to encourage users to click through, ensuring they can find the information they’re looking for on your webpage.

As with title tags, it’s important for each page to have its own unique meta description, so that the search engines and the users know which page to click on to find the information they’re looking for.

URLs

You probably have heard keywords in the URL help SEO and perhaps you spent a long time coming up with your specific URL for your business.

But did you know that there is a strategy involved in putting together your URLs in order to rank most effectively within the search engines?

A URL (uniform resource locator) tells the search engine and the user where they will be headed to on the internet if they click that link.

www.yourwebsitename.com

Optimizing your URLs to better the experience for the user can help a little bit for ranking. Keywords themselves don’t help a ton in the URL, so don’t get crazy over this. With that said, clean hyphenated-keyword-driven URL’s that are not too long or too short are good.

When you put together well thought out URLs, it makes it easy for the user and the search engine to understand what the page is about.

For example.

www.yoursitename.com/hfjsdfhakjsfhherrf

Tells the user nothing about the site and gives no indication what they should rank for.

But

www.yoursitename.com/family-law/resources

Tells the user and the search engine what that specific page is about and what they hope to find on it.

Putting together a good URL enables search engines to define your page relevancy to a specific search query.

Key URL tips:

  1. Make them scannable by people (easy to read)
  2. Try to keep your URLs no more than 2083 characters
  3. Keep your URLs short, simple and accurate to the content on that page
  4. Use hyphens if necessary to split words up in order for users to better understand the content.
  5. Don’t use too many sub folders (slashes) but some categorization is helpful, like /blog/post-name

Optimizing Images for SEO

You may not have known, but you can improve on-site SEO by optimizing for images too.

A basic part of this is done by adding an ‘Alt attribute’.

The alt attribute, or alt text are a HTML element that describes the image you’re using on a webpage.

Note: visually impaired users will be read an alt attribute to understand what the image is, so it’s an important step of the user experience and SEO optimization process.

When sites fail to load all the images for any reason, they will instead show the alt text. Again, another reason why you should be including alt texts for all your images.

Images are indexed on Google the same as webpages. How often have you used the Google image search tool?

The best way to format your alt text is to describe the image and its use. It’s an ideal way to include keywords too (just don’t go crazy and be a spammer).

Alt tags are just the tip of the iceberg and a few more items are in the list below.

Key tips for Image SEO for law firms:

  1. Describe the image as specifically as you can in the file name and alt tag. This will provide users and search engines with an explanation of what the image is.
  2. Use your keywords but sparingly in image alt text.
  3. Don’t make image file sizes too large.
  4. Specify your image dimensions in your HTML code so the page loads faster.
  5. Add captions and or some text with subtle keywords on the page around images.
  6. Make the pixel dimension size reasonable and offer larger pop up versions when appropriate.

Takeaways

Optimizing your law firm website for SEO is no simple feat and involves far more than keyword optimization. In fact, search engines can now look beyond keywords and into your authority more than ever.

There are a number of elements you need to check however for best practices and there are a number of different best practices for each.

Part 2 of onsite SEO for law firms will talk about techniques like heading tags (H1 and H2 etc.), bullet and numbered lists, paragraph size, word count, page depth, interlinking and more.

Use this handy guide to ensure you are optimizing all the key elements on your law firm’s website and its content for each of your chosen keywords.

Doing so will give you the best possible advantage at ranking in the search engines for your specific topics / keywords and getting more high-quality leads for your law firm.

What elements of your website have you tried to optimize and what SEO tactics do you think are bad to use? Leave a comment below, we’d love to find out!

About John McDougall

John is the CEO of McDougall Interactive, publisher of The Legal Marketing Review and an authority on internet marketing for law firms. His team of over a dozen people helps law firms understand how to create a comprehensive internet marketing strategy and how to use of SEO, Paid Search and Social Media to generate more, and better, leads.

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