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As an attorney, you want to be visible in search engine results when someone in your area looks for help in your key practice areas. Optimizing your website content for Google and other search engines is critical to increasing your online visibility. Check out this post to learn more.
Have you ever told someone you want your law firm to appear first in the Google search results? What about the first page? Maybe you have set out with the more general goal of increasing your visibility online. While these goals may be easy enough to set, improving your online performance and rankings is no simple feat.
Search engine optimization (SEO) broadly refers to the implementation of best practices and strategies designed to help search engines better understand and categorize your website content. In turn, this helps boost your online visibility and increases your chances of ranking higher in search results on Google and other search engines.
Related Post: The Basics of Crawling, Indexing, and Ranking
While one blog post certainly cannot cover all of the ins and outs of effective SEO, we can offer a few suggestions to help you lay the initial foundation of a strong SEO strategy by better optimizing your law firm practice area pages for Google Search results. Keep reading to learn more.
Create High-Quality, Relevant Content
The number one rule for effective SEO is developing original content that is both high quality and relevant. There are several things to consider in your content creation process to help you better optimize for search results.
Avoid Duplicate Content
First and foremost, do not simply copy-paste content from elsewhere on your site or another website. We bring this up because we see this happen all of the time with law firms. Obviously, you know not to plagiarize others’ work. However, even if you wrote the content on another site, duplicate content is bad for SEO.
As discussed in this Justia Onward post, duplicate content does not result in a manual penalty against your website from the search engine. Nonetheless, the search algorithms are designed to only serve the most relevant content on the SERP. Two versions of the same content do not increase relevance for the searcher. Therefore, the algorithms typically choose the originator of the content to rank higher and the duplicate copies are buried beneath other results.
Thus, it is critical to your SEO performance that your practice area pages are not exact copies of other information elsewhere online. If for some reason you absolutely cannot create original content for each practice area page, suppress the duplicate pages using robots.txt. But seriously, we cannot recommend enough that you just write original content (after all, you are a lawyer and lawyers write).
Related Post: Crawling: Googlebot and Your Website
Write for Your Reader
Part of quality is ensuring that your content is accessible to readers. You want to make sure you are utilizing natural language, rather than content overloaded with unnecessary keywords. Any keywords should naturally fit into the content you are creating. For example, if you are an “Omaha medical malpractice lawyer,” you can include this phrase and variations as they fit within the content. However, stuffing this phrase into the content over and over for the sake of adding keywords will only hinder your efforts in the long run.
Additionally, avoid only writing shallow, generic information that comes across as fluff. You can set your content apart by including substantive discussion and real legal analysis. However, be sure to not overwhelm the reader with too much legal jargon. Avoid venturing off into detailed, tangentially related discussions. Remember, your potential clients are not generally law students looking to understand the nuances of the law. Instead, they are people who want to understand how the law applies to their real-life situations. Your content needs to be relevant to this audience.
Include common examples in your text to help illustrate your point. Illustrations make your content more engaging for a reader and help them better apply it to their own situations. Likewise, examples can help search engines better match your content to people who may search for legal information based on a specific situation, such as one similar to the example included in your content.
Lastly, you do not need to write a dissertation. Many lawyers are deterred from fully optimizing their practice area pages because they think it takes an overwhelming amount of time to create content. That is not the case.
While there is no minimum content length for a page to rank in Google, our experience has shown that writing 500 words is sufficient for any legal content page. If you need a number to get yourself to write, use 500 words (and it is easy to remember). By all means, do not limit yourself to a 500-word minimum. There is value in writing longer content, especially as it increases the likelihood of having different words on a page, which can increase long-tail search traffic when these additional words are searched. However, don’t feel pressure to continue writing once you’ve made your point.
Pay Attention to the Details
Content that is well-written, proofread, and edited is both more likely to perform well in search results and more appealing to your potential clients. Google and other search engines are readily able to check for grammar and spelling errors, which can factor into quality determinations. Content with lots of errors is more likely to be categorized as low quality. Likewise, your potential clients may be more likely to have concerns about a professional’s attention to detail when many errors are present.
No one is immune from a typo or grammatical mistake. However, you should try to avoid these issues in your practice area pages. Have someone else in your office check to see if there may be errors you are missing, take a step back from your work and revisit it later, or (even better) do both!
Related Post: Common Grammar Mistakes to Avoid on Your Law Firm Blog
Give the Page Structure
You do not want your practice area pages to simply be a long block of text with no organization or structure. Instead, you should organize the page and give it a strong structure.
Use relevant headings and subheadings to break up your content. This gives search algorithms better signals as to what your content is about and makes it more digestible for readers.
Here, consistency can be your friend. High-quality, optimized pages will typically follow a similar structure. First, there is an introduction answering some of the most basic questions searchers have, such as what is this practice area, where is this firm located, and does this law firm represent clients with problems like mine? Remember, this introduction is also your hook to entice potential clients to keep reading.
After this introduction, you can transition into your more substantive discussion. Be sure to break different issues into different paragraphs and implement a methodical approach to the issues. Don’t forget to include examples as discussed above and add in subheadings where they seem natural, such as a transition to a new issue.
Make use of header tags when adding subheadings to your practice area pages. All web browsers can read and interpret header tags and use them to show a page’s headings hierarchy. This organization helps search engines better understand and categorize content too.
Consider incorporating diagrams or bullet points onto these pages, if they fit your content. These snippets improve readability and highlight key information.
Finally, you should close out the page with a strong conclusion. If possible, add a brief recap of the content on your page. Be sure you also include a subtle elevator pitch to remind readers why your firm is the best fit for them and a call-to-action (CTA) to invite readers to contact your firm to discuss their own legal situations.
Page Headings and Title Tags
Give your page a simple, obvious page heading that conveys what it is about, such as “Child Custody” or “Medical Malpractice.” Sometimes you might want to add additional locality or practice terms, such as “Dallas Child Custody Lawyer” or “Medical Malpractice in Miami”
Your title tag should include (and ideally start with) the page heading that appears at the top of your page. The page title tag might also incorporate additional keywords related to the practice area. Unlike within the content, this keyword-heavy phrase can be a bit less natural. However, it should still be user-friendly.
Considering the example of a child custody lawyer in Dallas, you may have a “Child Custody” or “Dallas Child Custody Lawyer” practice area page heading, a corresponding title tag along the lines of “Child Custody | Dallas Family Lawyer | Jones & Smith LLP” or “Dallas Child Custody Lawyer | Texas Family Law Attorney | Jones & Smith LLP,” and content using the phrases “Dallas child custody”, ”child custody lawyers in Dallas”, and “child custody.”
On a final note about title tags, do not be overly concerned about length. While some may tell you that you should be cognizant of the characters to avoid clipped results in the search engine results pages, the data shows that Google will tweak (and even rewrite) title tags anyway. Plus, Google has explicitly stated there are no limits on your title tag length. It also indicated there is value in title words outside of the displayable area and that the limits suggested by some online are not aligned with what Google recommends (see this Search Engine Journal article and discussion with Google’s Gary Illyes about title tag length).
Additional Elements for Conversion
You should also add elements designed to increase conversions on your practice area pages. For instance, you want the relevant, key selling points for your firm to be at the top of the page, such as how many years of experience your firm has. However, you also want to reiterate these points further down the page too.
Don’t be afraid to add additional elements further down the page, such as a strip of client testimonials and a contact form with a CTA. Also, make sure your contact information is visible and easily accessible on each of your pages.
Use Links Wisely
Including links in your content is a great way to lend authority to your content and help search engines better understand your website. However, you need to use them wisely.
Do not engage in link spam by adding long lists of links to your pages. However, having a couple of external links on a page can be useful where appropriate and builds trust. Also, be wary of broken links and be sure to check them from time to time.
Try to avoid electing more than two to four words to be your linked anchor text and never link the same words to different pages, as this can confuse search engines. For example, if you link the phrase “truck accident” to a page with more detailed information about truck accidents on your site, do not later link this same phrase to an external source with laws about court procedure for accidents.
You also need to pay very close attention to linking content within your site (internal links) to avoid orphan pages and better help Google understand your site structure. Check out our article on the best practices for internal linking to learn more about using internal links.
Remember to Optimize Images
People often get so focused on the optimization of their website’s technical foundation and content, that they overlook images. However, you can optimize incorporated images so that they do their part too in helping your practice area pages perform better in Google search results. Moreover, this optimization is fairly simple.
First, be sure you use an image file that does not slow down your website’s load time. When uploading your file, choose a file name that relates to your image. Also, do not forget to add alt text that describes the image, as this is good for both accessibility and SEO.
Final Thoughts: Why Do You Care?
People regularly turn to the internet seeking answers to their legal questions or looking for a lawyer to help them with their legal problems. You want to set your law firm up for success by implementing best practices designed to improve your overall site performance and increase your online visibility.
Want to take the first step in building an optimized law firm website? Contact our team to learn more about Justia Elevate.