10 basic on-site SEO tips for attorneys

There are so many complicated aspects to SEO we often forget about the smaller, foundational elements that can have an impact. These kinds of things are often overlooked, easy to change and (unlike a lot of other elements of SEO), under complete control of the website owner. Lawyers should double-check their site to make sure they have these simple on-site factors optimized for search.

Unique titles and meta descriptions

Not every page needs to have a title and meta description that target a keyword phrase, however, your primary practice and other sales-related pages should. These are opportunities to market to your audience through search.

Take the time and go through your site’s pages and write a good descriptive title and meta description for each one. Remember that these are often the first things people see in search that cause them to click on search results so compelling language is a plus.

Another tip is to use the noodp meta tag so that Google does not pull data from the Open Directory Project to build your meta description.  Google may totally ignore what you’ve written if it thinks another snippet of text might fit better (and they aren’t always right).

Good page titles and meta descriptions can help improve the click-through rate of your pages in search.

Schema markup

Schema markup is just code that makes your content understandable by machines. It helps search engines know that numbers and words are an address or that numbers, colons, and abbreviations are business hours.

Setting up Schema is pretty easy. Lawyers can markup important content like company names, addresses, business hours, reviews and locations so that search engines can better understand the information.  If engines can understand the information, they can more accurately display it in search. There is even specific markup for attorneys!

Header tags

Search engines use header tags to determine what content is important on a page as well as what content is about. They are one of the strategic areas where keywords should be placed to enhance the relevance of a page for a target phrase.

Headers also help break up content and make it easier to read.  Users scan web pages looking for information that is relevant to them. By providing descriptive, accurate headers, your visitors will have an easier time reading your pages.

Mobile usability improvements

The mobile first index is approaching and eventually, Google will use this repository of saved pages over the current desktop index. It’s estimated that about 77% of U.S. adults own a smartphone and mobile device usage online has already eclipsed that of desktop usage.

All of this means that if you don’t have a mobile site, have am M-Dot mobile version, or just a poorly optimized mobile site, your search rankings may start to suffer. Lawyers should look into what they can do to improve mobile usability including page load times, accessibility (how easy the site is to use on a mobile device), and a responsive design approach.

User-friendly URLs

Not only can keywords be placed in URLs to make pages more relevant for keyword phrases, they should also be easy for users to read.  Dynamic URLs are ok but anything else that does not change should have clean, easy-to-read URLs. If at all possible you should include your keywords in your URL as well.

Good content

Sometimes it is so easy to get caught up in making a site rank well in search that you forget about your audience. Make sure that before you do any optimization to your website that you are first generating good information.

That could be in the form of page copy, blog posts, video, audio, infographics, software or anything else that your target market would find helpful. If you can create a site that is helpful for your users, you will be rewarded for it.

Strategically-placed keywords

Search engines scan web pages and look for clues to what they are about. There are several places that keywords can be placed and each one contributes to the overall relevance of a page to a particular topic.  Attorneys should place keywords in the following areas of pages:

  • Title
  • Headers
  • Meta description
  • URL
  • Page copy
  • Image file names
  • Alt attributes (if it is possible without spamming)

Another important note is that you do not have to over-do this. Simply placing keywords in these locations and then making the page about the target keyword phrase (while at the same time incorporating synonyms) will help it perform better in search.

A good user experience

This concept is more nebulous than other optimization tasks. In general, lawyers should strive to put together a good user experience for their visitors. That means organizing content in a logical way, sticking to web conventions that people recognize, making sure things work and that people can find the information they need to find.

Information architect and usability expert Steve Krug wrote an amazingly simple book called “Don’t Make Me Think”. It gives some really practical and easy-to-follow information about how to lay out websites so they are easy to use.

Bot-accessible

Make sure that Google and other search engine bots can actually see your content.  Check that your site’s robots file is not excluding search engines from important pages. You can do this by visiting yourdomain.com/robots.txt.

Take that URL and plug it into Google’s Robots.txt Tester. You’ll have to set up your site in Google Search Consol (formerly webmaster tools) before you can use the tool but it’s all free.

Lawyers should also make sure they are not displaying important content using flash. For instance, I have seen websites where entire menus are built using Flash. They may look nice and work fine but search engines cannot crawl these links or any other content rendered using flash.

Social integration

Simply having a way for people to share your content on social channels will help with SEO indirectly. By having social sharing widgets on articles or blog posts, people can share your content with their networks and it will have a greater chance of getting more inbound links.

All of these tasks are easy on-site elements that can be changed quickly and with minimal effort. They may not rocket your site to the top of search results but you will be surprised at the impact they can have in a short period of time.