Editor's Note: After you read Tanner Jones' guest post on Law Firm SEO Basics, have a look at a three-part series we created a few months back on Law Firm Website Marketing.
Digital marketing for lawyers can seem overwhelming; the fast pace of innovation and change make it seem like you can never catch up. In this article, we break down the basics of on-page optimization and SEO. By understanding your site’s ‘digital footprint,’ you can better guide your law firm’s digital marketing strategy for the next steps.
ON-PAGE OPTIMIZATION AND SEO FOR LEGAL WEBSITES
On-page work is work that is done on your actual website. This means that this work is full of opportunities that we can control. Your content should always be unique, informative and engaging. We can use visuals to guide users through the content and keep them engaged for longer, but the actual subject matter requires a deeper dive.
Some of the more technical aspects of your website may be a bit more complicated to understand and execute, but they can make a huge difference in your online presence. We have listed a few of those important factors below.
- Site Speed: Google has recently been reported to start using mobile page speed load time to rank websites. Studies have also reported that 40% of users will click away from a page if it loads in more than 3 seconds.
- Mobile Responsiveness: Your website’s mobile responsiveness is also a huge factor in not only the way robots interact with your site, but also the way users interact with a site. How many times have you been on your phone and visited a website that loads a desktop version? Search engines don’t like it, and neither do people.
- HTTPS / Secure protocol: Google started to really crackdown on unsecure websites recently. This year, Google Chrome browsers started to issue warnings whenever a user landed on an insecure site. Using HTTPS also allows for increased site speed.
If you have been diving into online marketing, you have likely heard the phrase “Content is King.” This is fairly accurate, since without grade A content on your site it will be very hard to move the needle.
We consider the following pieces of content must-haves for law firms:
- Firm information: This should include how long the firm has been in business and talk about the overall culture of the firm. This is also a great place to include a unique value proposition (UVP). Your UVP is what sets you apart from your competition what makes your business unique. Examples could be that you offer a free consultation, have been in business for over 20 years, or that you have a state-of-the-art case-management system.
- Attorney and Staff Biographies: People are hiring your firm, but they really care about the person who will be handling their case. Provide detailed information about your attorneys and staff members, including their experience in the legal world. This is a great place to brag about awards, education, and even personal achievements.
- Testimonials: Our online culture lives off reviews and recommendations, so featuring testimonials on your site is a critical component to converting clients.
- Case Results: This is another great place to show off what your firm has accomplished for your clients. This is an opportunity for the firm to show their strengths across different practice areas.
- Practice-related Content: Now that we have given users an opportunity to get to know the firm via the above bullet points, we can really dive into content related to legal issues. Content related to your practice areas is what will bring people into your site via online searches. The information about your firm is what will help to keep them there and convert them into leads and hopefully into case signups. We want our practice-area- related content to touch on all areas of practice that the firm wishes to take cases in, but it should not overlap or compete with itself. For more information on what type of content Consultwebs creates for our clients, visit this link.
No doubt your firm is involved with numerous organizations in the legal industry. Many of these organizations give out awards, ratings and membership badges that can be displayed on your site. Featuring these relationships is a great way to build trust with users since they may not have heard of your firm before, but they have likely heard of bigger-name organizations such as Avvo, Nolo, US Business News and World Report, etc.
Local Business Information
This may seem like an obvious piece of the digital puzzle, but oftentimes we find websites that do not mention the firm’s physical address or contact information. Having your firm’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) listed consistently in a centrally located place on the site is essential to gaining local rankings. We typically place this in the footer to ensure it is rendered on every page on the site. In our off-page section, we will discuss more about why this consistency is important.
The content section above outlines what users are looking for. This section focuses on structured data, or what search engine robots are looking for. Structured data is a way for webmasters to explicitly tell search engines what is on a website with no guessing. In the past, SEO was very focused on creating websites that were optimized for search engines instead of users. This often led to extreme keyword stuffing and other unsavory practices. Over time, Google and other search engines have been hard at work creating robots that think more like humans. They now claim to favor websites with content that is optimized for humans instead of robots.
While technology has made incredible advancements, search engine robots are not perfect. Therefore, we use structured data or pieces of code that spell out exactly what is on a website in terms robots can easily understand. Some examples of structured data are fairly straightforward, such as adding heading tags to content, instead of subheadings, to say what is the most important heading on a page.
Another more recent development in structured data is schema markup. This markup is the most inclusive and widely used external markup that covers almost everything under the sun that could be on a website. Schema, or rich snippets, not only helps robots understand what is on a page, but lately Google has been featuring schema-based data boxes in searches. The example below demonstrates the structured data markup results for a recipe on pumpkin pie:
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About the Author
Tanner Jones frequently shares his insights on online marketing with the legal community. In addition to serving as a regular speaker at PILMMAand M&L conferences held throughout the country, he has spoken at the Attorney Breakfast Club (Miami-Dade Chapter and Broward County Chapter) and co-hosted webinars with Avvo, The Rainmaker Institute’s Stephen Fairley, LawMarketing.com Editor-in-Chief Cindy Greenway and Raleigh attorney / PILMMA founder Ken Hardison. He also has been featured numerous times in Lawyers Weekly newspapers as well as Attorney at Law Magazine. Tanner is regular contributor to the Consultwebs online legal marketing blog. A native of Waynesville, North Carolina, Tanner earned a degree in Business Management (with a minor in Economics) from Berea College in 2008. He recently moved back to the mountains of North Carolina with his wife, daughter and son and enjoys camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, golfing and playing “any other competitive sport available” in his free time.