By: The NBI Team
Tuesday, September 28, 2021
SEO Basics For Lawyers
Much is changing in law firm marketing, but one thing is certain: search rankings matter. SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization, is the process of improving your website so that it shows up at the top of search engine results pages.
Marketing agencies know that SEO is one of the most important trends for lawyers looking to advertise their services. And while many of these firms specialize in online legal marketing, it can be difficult determine whether the investment (which is often quite high) will pay off.
Still, if you manage a law firm—even a solo practice—understanding the basics of SEO can set you up with a consistent stream of potential clients who are actively searching for lawyers like you. In this article, we’ll cover key SEO basics and give you some tips so that you can get started on your own SEO strategy, regardless of your budget.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Defined
SEO is the process of making changes and additions to your website so that it shows up higher and higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). Ultimately, you want to optimize your website so that when someone types something like “attorney in Chicago” or “immigration attorney” into Google search, if you’re either, your website will show up at the top of the first page.
For a website to show up at the top of the SERPs, the search engine has to determine that your website (or a specific page on your website) is the best result for a particular search term. The search engine decides which web page is best by using very complex programs called “spiders” or “crawlers”. These programs read and analyze your website pages. In technical terms, this is called “crawling a page.”
Once the program is done crawling a page, the search engine indexes the page, which is like saving the page and adding it into a digital Rolodex. If the search engine’s spider has determined that your page is the best result for a particular search term, then it will place it at the top of the SERPs page.
SEO Ranking FactorsSEO ranking factors are factors that spiders consider when determining whether your page is the best result for a particular search. Google has about 200+ ranking factors. Important ranking factors include:
- Site security
- Page speed
- Page authority
- Optimization of pages
- Domain age information
- Business information (ie. Google My Business)
- User experience (UX)
There are multiple search engines that people can use, including Safari, Yahoo, Bing, and Google. In the United States, Google has the most traffic, which means that most people use Google to search for things they need.
For this reason, it’s usually best to optimize for Google, unless you have a specific target audience that happens to use a different search engine. For attorney SEO marketing, it’s generally good to optimize for Google.
4 Basic Elements of SEO
What is on your website is extremely important for improving your website’s SEO. Content includes written text, images, infographics, videos, and basically anything else that a person visiting the website can view, listen to, or read.
Whether content is viewed favorably by Google will depend on whether it’s good quality content. Content is generally considered good if it’s well written, relevant, easy to consume, and of the appropriate length.
Good content should be optimized for a primary keyword phrase. A keyword phrase is what a user is most likely to search in Google. For example, someone searching for a divorce lawyer in Chicago is much more likely to search “divorce lawyer in Chicago” than just “lawyer.” To optimize your website for the keyword phrase “divorce lawyer in Chicago,” you’ll want to add that keyword phrase to your content.
Quick Tips to Improve Content
- Increase word counts to about 650-750. About 650-750 words per page is generally considered an ideal word count for the average webpage.
- Include a title tag and headers. Title tags and other headers help search engines understand the content and increase readability.
- Optimize for relevant keywords. Optimize your content for one or two keyword phrases by making sure they appear on the page in your title, in at least one other header, and in your normal text. But! Do not engage in keyword stuffing.
- Optimize for local searches. Local SEO for lawyers is extremely important. Optimize your legal services for a specific geographic location.
- Include images. Include at least one image with alt text that is relevant to the image and the page content.
- Keep adding content! A great way to do this is by creating a blog where you can add fresh content every week. If you start a blog, publish at least once a week and write content that’s useful to your ideal web visitor.
How do you get from point A to point B on your website? How your website is structured, and how different elements on your website point to each other is called your website architecture.
Your website architecture will impact two things that are both very important to SEO:
- How easy it is for a user to access the information they need on your website.
- How easy it is for a spider to crawl your website.
If your website is hard to navigate, your SEO will suffer because search engines will see your website as hard to use and not as useful to users.
Quick Tips to Improve Architecture
- Keep menus up to date. Make sure your menus all point to the pages they’re supposed to point to.
- Use relevant keywords in your URLs. Good URLs contain relevant keywords and page titles, not random numbers and letters.
- Add breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs are a visible list of URLs that a user clicked on to get to the page they’re currently on. They’re usually placed just under your main menu.
- Use calls to action. Calls to action are short phrases that ask the user to do something. Common calls to action include “contact us”, “learn more”, or “schedule a consultation”.
- Add a sitemap. Sitemaps help spiders crawl your website by listing all of the web pages on your website. Since they’re not usually used by users, don’t put it in the main menu.
Website diagnostics measure how healthy your website is. This includes factors like site speed, whether all the pages work, and mobile friendliness. A website’s health impacts SEO because if not all of the pages can be crawled, or if they’re taking too long to be crawled, then search engines will consider the website as low-quality.
Moving to Mobile-First
It’s important to make your website mobile friendly because most website traffic comes from from mobile devices, not desktops. This new reality is changing SEO rankings because search engines are putting more emphasis on how websites perform on phones.
Quick Tips to Improve Website Diagnostics
- Fix broken links. Over time, you might delete some of your pages or update URLs. If you do this, make sure to update or remove any internal links pointing to that page.
- Make sure your images aren’t too big. Large images take longer to load. Although you want your images to be high quality, you don’t have to go overboard.
- Use a mobile-friendly website template. Mobile-friendly websites will adjust to the phone screens so that they’re easy to navigate from a smartphone screen. You can test how mobile-friendly your website is using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
- Invest in software to compress code. Too much code will slow down the crawling process. Software that compresses code can reduce the time it takes to crawl a page.
- Test your site speed regularly. Google allows you to test your site speed using Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
There are two types of links that will help you improve your SEO: backlinks and internal links. A backlink is a link to your website located on another website. An internal link is a link on your website pointing to another page on your website.
Backlinks are great for SEO because they’re a high-priority ranking factor to search engines. This means that search engines put a lot of weight into the number and quality of backlinks a website has. The more websites you have pointing to your website, the more authority your website has.
Your SEO will benefit even more if the websites pointing to your website also have high authority. For example, a backlink from an article posted on Forbes.com will be better for your SEO than a backlink from a relatively unknown website.
Websites with good SEO should have relevant internal links to help users engage with your website. For example, if you have a service page for a personal injury law, good internal links would point from terms like “car accidents” and “slip and falls” to pages that cover these topics.
Tips for Improving Your Link-Game
- Include relevant internal links. Include internal links where you can, but always make sure they’re relevant. Also, make sure that the anchor text, which is the text that you add the link to, is relevant to the link.
- Write blog posts that are related to each other. Blog posts present great opportunities to build internal links.
- Include your website in your byline. If you’re asked to write for another website, like the state bar website, you may be asked to provide a byline. This is a great opportunity to link to your website.
- Use social media. Social media SEO campaigns can help your website SEO by increasing website traffic and links, but it is not a direct ranking factor.
- Do not pay for backlinks! Google will penalize you if you pay for backlinks. Penalties negatively impact your SEO.
Need Help? Affordable SEO For Lawyers is Just Around the Corner
Some of the best SEO services for lawyers will unfortunately cost too much, especially if you’re running a small or solo practice. If you need an affordable solution, below are some SEO tools you can use either for free or for a reasonable monthly fee:
- Google Analytics. Google Analytics provides you with important website data, including how many people are visiting, from where, and how they’re behaving on your website.
- Google Trends. Need some topic ideas for your blogs? Trends provides real-time keyword data so that you know which keywords are trending.
- Screaming Frog SEO Spider. Screaming Frog’s SEO spider can complete a simple free audit of your website to help understand what is helping or hurting your search engine rankings.
- SEMRush. SEMRush is an all-in-one SEO tool that allows you to audit your website, search for and create keywords lists, and track your competition.
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