Search engine optimization (SEO) is an essential part of any law firm’s online marketing strategy. While many marketing methods can bring your law firm traffic and leads in quick bursts, SEO provides a slow and steady stream of potential clients that will grow over time. Implementing SEO and achieving good results is not always easy. There are, however, some basic guidelines you can follow to make sure you’re giving yourself a solid foundation. Here is a checklist you can use to make sure you’re hitting all the important points as you put SEO techniques to work for your law firm.
A Comprehensive SEO Checklist for Law Firm Websites
Do your keyword research
The starting point for your law firm’s SEO efforts is always going to be keyword research. First, you’ll need to pick a few words or phrases that are relevant to your law practice. From there, you can find related terms to consider and make estimates of the traffic these keywords will drive if you rank well in the search results. The idea is to find keywords that will give you a good balance of high traffic and low competition.
If you go to Google and search for “keyword research tool” you’ll find plenty of free tools to help you with your research.
Select a target keyword for each page you create
Every page of your firm’s website should be created with a specific keyword in mind. This basically means each page needs to stay on topic. Discussing more than one topic on a page will dilute your results. The only exception might be your home page, which could list several different services that your firm provides. Even this is debatable, though.
Build inbound links that include target keywords in their text
Inbound links are an important part of SEO. Search engines see many inbound links as a testament to the quality of the information on a page. Their logic is that there must be a good reason so many people are linking to the same page. The result is higher ranking in search results.
As you set up inbound links or contact others to ask them to link to your site, it’s important to make sure links contain the keywords you’re targeting. Again, if the search engines see many links using the same or similar keywords, they assume this page has authoritative information on the topic. You should try to avoid links that say “Click Here” in favor of specific links like, “Corporate Law for Small Businesses”.
Page titles should include the target keywords
Each page should include the target keyword or phrase in the title, preferably in the first 2 or 3 words, and written in natural language. Consider that the page title will be the first thing a user sees in the search results. It should tell the reader (and the search engine) quickly and clearly what they will find on the page.
Keep page titles under 70 characters. Anything longer will be truncated.
Include target keywords in the meta description
The meta description will appear immediately after the page title in search results. Like the title, it should contain the target keywords written in natural language, and within the first few words if possible. The description should be clear and concise and entice the reader to click on your page in the search results.
Your meta description should be 156 characters or less. Anything over this limit will be truncated and not displayed in the search results.
Use sub headers to reinforce ideas on the page
Usually placed as “H2” tags, sub headers help break up blocks of text on the page for readers, and, more importantly, help reinforce the ideas behind your content to search engines.
Include target keywords in “H” (H1, H2, H3, etc.) tags
Your target keywords should appear in at least one page or paragraph heading. Again, don’t force anything. Make sure it appears in naturally written language.
Create a human-readable URL structure
Whenever possible, you should try to create URLs that describe the content of the page and include your keywords.
This means, for example, that in place of a URL such as “example.com/?post=4753” you should strive to create URLs more like “example.com/laymans-small-business-law-guide”. Most content management or blogging systems can be configured to do this automatically.
Optimize for Featured Snippet opportunities
If you search on Google, then you’re familiar with Featured Snippets. They are short snippets of text that appear at the top of Google’s search results in order to quickly answer a searcher’s query. A Featured Snippet is worth a lot to your firm’s organic presence as they occupy the most real estate on a search engine results (SERP) page.
To win a featured snippet spot, you’ll need to structure your content according to the type of snippet. There are four types of featured snippets: paragraphs, lists, tables, and videos. Paragraphs are by far the most common, but those with images or or other attention-getting elements tend to perform well and really boost traffic. The next most important type of snippet is a list. These can be numbered, such as when there are steps that should be taken in a certain order, or bulleted when specific order doesn’t matter.
Refresh your content
Fresh, up-to-date content is important for rankings. Periodically check your content and make sure it’s still relevant. If you’re making changes and repurposing content, also refresh the publishing date. According to Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, “… unmaintained/abandoned ‘old’ websites or unmaintained and inaccurate/misleading content is a reason for a low E-A-T [expertise, authority and trustworthiness] rating.”
Images greatly enhance your pages. They break up the text and keep a reader interested. When adding images to pages, make sure to reduce the file size as much as possible and to include an alt attribute. Alt attributes (or alt tags) provide better image context to search engine crawlers, helping them to index an image properly. You can also optimize the caption and the text surrounding an image to reinforce what the image is about.
Create HTML and XML sitemaps
Sitemaps are basically a list of all the pages that appear on your site; an index. A sitemap allows search engines to quickly and accurately see every page your site has to offer. The result is faster and more accurate inclusion in search results.
Maintain a robots.txt file
Most search engines will look for a robots.txt file on your site. Generally, sites use this file to tell web robots (like search engine spiders) to ignore certain files or directories on the site.
If you want absolutely everything on your site to appear on search engines, you might not need this file, but you should familiarize yourself with how it works and what it can do before you make that decision.
Establish a presence on major social media platforms
Aside from using social media to engage and share and promote your content and curate useful information, it can help to boost search results. As more people find your site and share your content, your perceived authority will grow.
Complete your law firm’s Google My Business listing
A Google Business listing is especially important for reaching your firm’s local audience. Not only will people in nearby geographic areas be more likely to see your listings, they can read and write reviews of your service, get directions to your office and easily find things like contact information and hours of operation.
Visit your law firm’s website using your phone. How does it look?
With the prevalence of smartphones, it is more likely than ever before that potential clients will look for a lawyer on their phone instead of via their computer. When this happens, you want your website to load properly. There are a lot of elements to consider when you’re working on mobile optimization, including load speed and minimizing intrusive pop-ups. Visit our checklist on mobile optimization for law firms.
Site speed and performance
This is one of the most important elements of our SEO checklist for law firms. Why? Because page speed is important to user experience. Pages with a longer load time tend to have higher bounce rates, lower conversion rates and lower average time on page. Check PageSpeed Insights in Google Search Console to analyze and improve your website’s performance on desktop and mobile devices.
A regular SEO audit is mandatory if you want to maintain the same level of website productivity in the long run. Every once in awhile you need to examine your entire website and find weak spots that slow you down. Click here to get a free SEO audit now.
SEO is an ongoing process, and it would be impossible to include everything that’s important in one checklist. Having said that, if you tackle the checklist items in our SEO checklist for law firm websites, you’ll be well on your way to increased visibility and higher rankings on search engines. For more SEO best practices, check out our free eBook: SEO for Law Firm Websites.
Contact us today if you need assistance developing a comprehensive SEO strategy that will improve your search visibility and increase the number of visitors to your firm’s website.
Updated and Republished from June 11, 2018