Chapter 4: On-Site SEO for Lawyers
Table of Contents
On-site SEO, also known as on-page SEO, are the optimizations done to different components (content and HTML) inside of a website or webpage. These optimizations are easy to manage, but defiantly need at least a certain level of research in order to achieve the best results inside SERPS.
The organization of your law firm’s website matters. Not only is it vital for your site to have a captivating design that entices potential clients and provides helpful information for them when choosing a lawyer, but a well-organized website also makes it easier for Google and other search engines to read your website and index your pages. The key elements of an optimized website structure include:
- URL organization, the site is divided into folders and subfolders that contain similar and relevant topics
- Integration of high quality, relevant, and easy-to-read content
- Heading Structure
- Proper placement of meta tags, ALT tags, TITLE tags, and other information that Google uses to determine the quality and intent of your websites
- Organization by topic and intent, which makes the website transactional, informational, and navigational
- For older sites, condensing similar content into one relevant topic page. example: A Pillar pages, or Guides
Below we provide more specific information about meta tags, internal linking, domains, calls to action, and other aspects of content so you can implement on-site SEO best practices.
Meta tags are HTML elements used to describe or explain your page content to Google bots for indexability and to users for user interface reasons. Many types of meta tags exist, so we will cover the most important ones for your law firm. Specifically, we want to give you information about the meta tags that can impact your visibility and presence on Google. Here are some meta tags you will encounter while building your site:
- Title Tags
- Meta Description Tags
- Heading Tags (H1-H6)
- Image Alt Attributes
- Nofollow Attributes
- Robots Meta Tag
- rel=”canonical” Tag
- Schema Markup
- Social Media Meta Tags
The most important tags to use on your law firm’s website include:
Meta title tags are an HTML element used to describe a page. Title tags are the most important out of all meta tags in terms of the way they impact the online performance of any page you create. A title tag not only tells Google and users about your page, but it gives you the chance to present your practice to the public.
Creating the best meta title requires following some simple guidelines:
- Put the most important keywords at the beginning of your title because Google reads from left to right, and so do users.
- Keep your title concise because, after somewhere between 56 and 62 characters, Google will cut it short and use an ellipsis (…).
- Google reads at least 70 characters even when they cut your title short, but users cannot read your entire title. This leads to fewer clicks, so you must find a good balance.
- You must have a unique title for each page. Titles can be similar. For example, you might include your law firm’s name at the end of each title. However, it’s best to use your main keyword for the page at the beginning of your title. Google reads like humans from left to right so it gives more relevance to the keywords at the beginning of the title than it does to the later keywords.
- Keep your law firm’s name to the right of the title as an ending. This also helps promote your firm, even if a user does not click on your listing in the SERPs.
Pro Tip: Titles are not a one-time task. You need to constantly test if they are performing well. You might find new keywords relevant to your page, or users might change the keywords they use to find your content.
Another way you can search for keywords to use on your content is to look at Google’s Search Console. Here you search for any webpage on your site, and with their filters, it is easy to find the queries people use to find your specific content. Choose the query with the most impressions and a high amount of clicks for implementation into your title.
Here is a free tool to preview titles and descriptions and see how they will appear on Google’s Search Result pages.
The meta description is an HTML tag, which looks like this in the HTML code for the page:
If you are using WordPress or another CMS for your website, you can enter the description in the program instead of adjusting the page’s HTML code.
Google and other search engines do not use meta descriptions to rank your pages like they do with meta titles. However, meta descriptions impact your click-through rate (CTR), which is a ranking factor. To organically increase your rank, it’s best to create a catchy and enticing meta description that leads the reader to click on your listing.
Here are a few pointers about meta descriptions:
- The meta description has a maximum length of 156. Since the description is not a ranking factor, it’s best to keep it around that character limit.
- Users’ search terms will BOLD if they appear in the meta description.
- If you do not include a meta description for a page, Google replaces the description with relevant content on the current page. Even when you do include a description, Google chooses what to show the user, meaning they still might show different content from your page instead of your meta description.
- We measure descriptions in the total number of characters because it’s easier, but Titles on Google are actually measured in pixels. This means that a “W” will use up to 3 times more pixels than an “I”.
- Your metal descriptions must be unique. Duplicate content will negatively impact your efforts.
In a nutshell, meta descriptions should describe your page with more detail than its title since you have more characters to use. They should also attract searchers and draw them in so they want to click on your organic listing.
Meta Image Tags
Image tags, also known as the image alt tags attribute, describe the contents of an image you have on your webpage. Meta image tags serve two purposes. First, they allow Google to understand your image. Second, and most importantly, they help users who cannot see the image because of a loading issue or difficulties with eyesight.
Here are some tips for creating a good image tag:
- Keep your description concise and succinct.
- Avoid using words such as image, picture, or photo in your description.
- Provide unique tags for each image. Don’t use the same tag for multiple images.
- Do not create tags for images that only serve as part of the decoration and design of a webpage.
WordPress makes it incredibly easy for you to create and change your Image Alt Tags. You need to go into your media File>Library and choose what image you want to optimize. Add the alt text in the area WordPress provides.
Internal links are a major component of on-site SEO for lawyers. They are any link from one page of your website to another page on your law firm’s website. The links that you put in your page content provide a structural picture to Google and other search engines, so they can guide users to the most relevant content. When done correctly, internal linking increases your page authority. It also establishes a hierarchy of the pages on your website, giving you the opportunity to provide more link value to the most important pages.
A variety of strategies exist for how to implement internal linking into your law firm’s website. If your goal is to organically increase your Google search ranking, you need to focus on links that impact that ranking. You can get the most SEO value from your internal links by implementing these linking practices into your content:
- Link the pages of your site with the most authority to other pages on your site with less authority. This passes authority and SEO value from one page to another.
- If you have pages that aren’t ranking quite as high as you want, you can provide links to these pages from higher authority pages on your firm’s website.
Use some of the tools we discussed in previous chapters to guide you on where you might include more internal links. Google Search Console provides a Top Linked Pages report. Use to see which pages on your site have the most authority and which pages you need to link to, so you can increase authority.
Internal linking also creates a structure for your website. If you link with an eye towards authority while maintaining easy-to-follow, user-friendly navigation throughout your law firm’s site, you improve usability. Users spend more time on user-friendly sites, giving you the best chances to convert a site visitor to a client.
Brand vs. keyword-focused domain
Law firms have the option to register for a .law or .lawyer domain, as well as others that stray from a typical .com or .net. From a brand management perspective, securing your firm’s name in different top-level domain URLs may be a good idea. With regard to SEO for law firms, you will find little difference between .com, .law, .lawyer, and others. Don’t make the mistake of assuming you can rank easier by using a .law or .lawyer domain for your website. You still need a great design, a well-thought-out site structure, excellent content, and authoritative links to have the best odds of ranking well.
If there is a chance to secure a .com top-level domain, we would suggest acquiring it. Not because it is in any way better than the other top-level domains but rather because of the familiarity users already have with this top-level domain. This makes it easier for users to remember and find your domain.
Keywords and Content Umbrellas
Attorneys conducting business online need potential clients to find them organically, which means using best practices when optimizing your website. Use the keywords on your pages to organize your content under a main theme or umbrella. Remember, Google is a relevance-based search engine. By making yourself more relevant, you’ve won half the battle.
Perform some keyword research to find out what terms you should be targeting for your specific location and practice area. They should then decide what the overall theme of their site is going to be. Each page of the site should be a subcategory of that theme. They should be optimized to target a specific keyword phrase.
For example, a personal injury lawyer might have personal injury law as the overarching theme to their site. Sub-categories would be medical malpractice, car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, etc. Organizing a website in this way not only makes it easier for users to navigate, but it also makes it easier for search engines to index and serve the content.
A logical structure is best for SEO. Users stay longer because things are easier to find, sending good messages to Google and other search engines.
Keep Actions Above the Fold
Lawyers should not make their visitors dig for the information they are looking for. If there is something that you want users to do, make it as easy and obvious as possible. Keep content like CTAs, phone numbers, and other important items above the fold, which is the point at which a user would have to scroll to see more content.
Break Up Text and Reduce Clutter
It’s easy to forget that when people are researching attorneys online or looking for legal information, they don’t necessarily want to wade through tons of text. At the same time, lawyers need to balance the need for long-form content for search with the equally compelling goal of keeping users on their site.
Break up text with imagery or bulleted lists. This makes paragraphs shorter and easier to digest. When lines are shorter, and when there is white space among words, people are more likely to read your content. Lawyers should also resist the urge to clutter up pages with too much information, imagery, and/ or functionality. This is especially important on pages where a user is directed to take some sort of action, like filling out a form.
If there is too much clutter on the page, the action gets lost, or users get distracted and go somewhere else. Remember, it’s not exactly what design you think is best; it’s what is best for the visitor.
Technical and on-site SEO is the broadest level of optimization and the place where everyone must start. For even better results, you need to narrow your focus to local SEO for lawyers. In the next chapter, we discuss the importance of local searches, their rankings, and how you can organically increase your local search rankings. Think of local SEO practices as fine-tuning on a telescope or the trim when driving a boat or flying an airplane. Local SEO helps your site run even better and provides better results.