Search engine optimization (SEO) is an essential part of any effective 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.
The object of SEO, of course, is to optimize your pages for search engines. The goal of this optimization is to achieve higher positions within search results for the keywords and phrases that are important to your law practice.
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. Following 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.
✅ Do your keyword research. The starting point for your 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.
✅ 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 firm’s profile on Google Business. 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.
✅ Keep up to date with new SEO best practices. This year has been all about voice search – think Siri, Alexa, and Google Home. Since they have a more natural tone, voiced queries are longer than the normally short list of keywords entered into text search boxes which is why you must consider voice search optimization differently.