5 On-Site SEO Factors That Matter Most for Any Law Firm

We need to move past the mindset that Google, Bing and other search engines only place importance on three major ranking factors. While links and publishing content are still of utmost importance, search engines are becoming more complex than simply relying on traditional site analysis for ranking.

A Series of Working Parts

We need to be looking at current law firm SEO as its own type of ecosystem, where every little piece of code either directly or indirectly correlates with the overall success of your website. For example, performing link building on a slow site is useless, just as publishing strong content is futile on a site that isn’t mobile friendly. The bottom line is that it’s only useful to follow best practices if you’re following all of them. 

What Are The Best Practices?

While there’s always going to be disagreements among experts on best practices for law firms, there are a few that are universally agreed upon.  

1. Content

Content rules the roost, but only strong content can take you to the top. Over 90 percent of website content generates zero traffic from Google, rendering it almost totally useless. So what type of content does one need to find SEO success for attorneys? 

Relevance = User Intent

Having an understanding of user intent is key to the future of search engines. As a matter of fact, a major portion of ranking shifts made by Google last year were associated with new matching capabilities. Without taking a deep-dive into the nerdy details, Google’s algorithms are hard at work in an attempt to better understand the semantics of its user searches.

There’s already been some discernible success in this via the use of knowledge panels, answer boxes and even an expansion of the diversity in search results. It’s been argued that user intent is the overall most important ranking factor due to the overarching value found in relevance. 

How You Can Optimize

  • Recognize the intent behind your keywords (informative, shopping, navigational).
  • Analyze the search engine results of these keywords to find out what kind of content is ranking best.
  • Research similar terms to that keyword and optimize your site content around those words.

Long-form Content

Deep/long-form content is used to address a variety of user concerns while also providing unique perspectives on a topic. Even the top search engines appear to prefer long-form content when it comes to informative user searches.

A recent study showed that content ranging from 2,250 and 2,500 words was most likely to receive organic traffic. This appears to be a sweet spot for effective law firm SEO, although pages that are much longer than 2,500 words can also see high traffic.

Becoming the master of your content isn’t just useful for better SEO for attorneys, it can also boost you to becoming a conceptual leader within your specific industry, thus creating additional business opportunities.

How You Can Optimize

  • Research highest ranking pages for a specific target keyword, then deeply analyze their site content.
  • Include semantically-related keywords in order to flesh out your content via sub-topics.
  • Thoroughly answer all questions your users may have regarding that topic.

Organized Content

The use of law firm SEO tags does still factor in when it comes to content creation, regardless of the increase in semantic analysis.

The optimization of title and header tags can assist with:

  • Informing on the intention and syntax of your webpage content.
  • Organizing the document to make it simpler for your users and the search engines to read.
  • Making pages easily scannable.
  • Assisting the page with passing the 5-second rule.

How You Can Optimize

  • Input focus keywords into your page titles, title tags, and URL slug.
  • Create your header sections through the use of related keywords.

2. Audience Engagement

Essentially, we create websites meant for both humans AND search engines. When your design is focused on users, it’s important to take a look at your site and its content from an outside perspective and ask yourself “Am I engaged by this content? Am I already bored with this after one minute?”.

User engagement, AKA user signals, appear to be a legitimate ranking factor when it comes to Google, even if it is indirectly. Regardless, these user signals are certainly a solid indicator of any improvements you should make within your website.

Pages per Session

Pages per Session metric demonstrates just how many pages a typical user looks at prior to leaving your website.

This metric used alongside the average session duration (the time users spend visiting your site), is shown in Google Analytics.

What this shows you is just how engaging and interactive your site truly is navigationally. Analyzing this and behavioral flow can swiftly shed light on issues that may be negatively impacting your business and ability to draw in clients.

This can also demonstrate how interactive/engaging the blogs and news articles you’re posting are. Typically, if a person is reading multiple articles during a singular session on your site, it translates that you are doing something correctly to satiate their search intent.

How You Can Optimize

  • Analyze the pages that have the highest bounce rates and seek out ideas and opportunities that will encourage longer sessions or simply more pages-per-session.
  • Place calls-to-action on appropriate pages to encourage even more conversions.
  • Give more navigational options within your content, such as interlinks or related reading ideas.

Bounce Rate

This is another somewhat confusing metric that can be both positive and negative, depending on your outlook. Overall, your bounce rate shows how satisfied your users are with the landing page or website.

A high bounce rate may be indicative of your pages not being engaging or not satisfying user intent, especially when it comes to ecommerce pages. However, user bounces can also indicate that the user is fully satisfied and simply got the answer they were seeking.

How You Can Optimize

  • Begin with a story or compelling hook to get people engaged. 
  • Rid your site of any intrusive interstitials or pop-ups.
  • Improve your page loading time.
  • Ensure that your landing page content is completely relevant to your potential search queries.

Click-Through Rate (CTR)

Your initial search engine listing is the absolute first interaction that a user will have with your site. CTR is one of the indicators of whether the interaction was effective or not.

A low CTR may be an indicator that your initial messaging does not appear to be relevant to user searches. It could be indicative of your meta description or title tag not being compelling enough for someone to click.

How You Can Optimize

  • Put your precisely matching keywords into the title tags and meta descriptions so that they are bold.
  • Incentivize clicking on your page (e.g. a coupon) into all of your meta descriptions.
  • Ensure that your tags are the appropriate length so that they don’t get cut off.

3. Technical Structure

The technical side of law firm SEO could easily be considered the foundation on which everything else is built. If you do not have a solid technical foundation, the entire site will collapse.

Crawlability

In order to be indexed, your website must be crawled. The search engine crawlers can only access links that you have provided within your sitemap and that are readily-available from your homepage.

Crawl Rate, Demand, and Budget

Crawl rate means the measurement of just how many requests per second search engine spiders are making to your site. Crawl demand is the frequency at which search engine spiders crawl your site (determined by site popularity). However, your law firm’s crawl budget is what will ultimately determine just how many pages the search engines will actually crawl during a session.

Typically, webmasters don’t pay much mind to a crawl budget, but it is a significant concern for the larger sites. Crawl budgets give webmasters the ability to place priority on the pages that should be crawled and indexed first.

How You Can Optimize

  • Construct a sitemap, then manually submit it via the Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
  • Utilize the “disallow file” of your robots.txt.file to block the pages you do not want crawled or indexed.
  • Organize and clean up your redirect chains and set up parameters for URLs.

Security

It is incredibly valuable to have an HTTPS secure site because it ensures that the transactions on your site are as safe as possible. It also happens to be a small ranking factor in Google.

Commonly, the major error we see on our client’s sites is linking to HTTP pages or mixed content. This error happens during SSL migrations and can be caused by a variety of factors. 

Theoretically, all pages should redirect to an HTTPS counterpart, but it is never advantageous for your links to redirect to mixed content. Additionally, these links will not always redirect.

How You Can Optimize

  • Touch base with your hosting provider regarding persistent issues with your SSL certification and implementation.
  • Perform your own crawl using a tool such as Screaming Frog in order to pinpoint errors.
  • Make sitemaps located in your robots.txt file totally independent from user-agent commands.
  • Rewrite the .htaccess file so it redirects site traffic to a specific domain via the HTTPS URL.

Clean Up Your URLs

You do not want content linking to broken or redirected pages. This can not only impact speed, it also impacts indexing and crawling. 

Typically, you should have clean URL structures along with status 200 codes.

How You Can Optimize

  • Perform your own crawl of your website with a crawl tool to show any 4xx and 5xx statuses.
  • Utilize 301 redirects to send your users to a working, relevant page.
  • Create custom 404 pages with URLs that redirect site traffic to another relevant page.
  • Contact your site host regarding 5xx errors that are impacting your URLs.

4. Interlinking

This is valuable from multiple perspectives in effective law firm SEO, including:

  • Content
  • Crawlability
  • UX and IA
  • Link Building

Considering technical SEO for attorneys is the bones of a website, internal links are the doorways that give you the ability to move freely room to room.

However, as websites age and businesses shift, make sure that there is consistency throughout your site and that there’s an identifiable solid interlinking structure.

Deep Links

Deep links have been a best SEO practice for quite some time, and is imperative to your law firm’s SEO success.  

This technique is meant to link to “orphaned” pages via a higher category page on your site. This ensures that the page gets indexed and passes authority checks.  

Developing organized interlinking structures around akin topics will allow for lower pages on the site to leach some authority from your higher-level pages.

This also gives users additional actions they can take on the site, including traveling to another section or further reading about a subtopic.

How You Can Optimize

  • Perform a site crawl to find your orphaned pages that are not currently indexed.
  • Use these links to your advantage within your content to share some authority and provide additional content.

Utilizing Hierarchies

Every website contains a topic hierarchy meant to communicate to its users and the search engines what the exact purpose is for every section of the site.

A site such as Search Engine Journal will show you how to most effectively design a topic tree for digital marketing.

Tags are even implemented to help organize content and to assist readers with understanding the context of certain topics.

Typically, the hierarchy should be built using a top-down approach which allows the search engines to effectively crawl and index chosen pages in clusters.

How You Can Optimize

  • Analyze to see what potential clients and customers are currently searching for.
  • Utilize exact match keywords in order to optimize your category pages and use semantically-related keywords for your subcategories.
  • Place breadcrumbs and/or links in your footers so users can navigate back to specific pages.

5. Mobile Response

Due to the increased use of mobile devices in web searches, it’s imperative that your law firm’s site is completely mobile friendly. This has become the search engine’s primary ranking index, which means it’s updated before the desktop index is. 

When building sites for mobile users, it’s necessary to note the limited dimensions of the actual device being used, as well as the other unique considerations for mobile devices.

For example, the search engines prefer long-scrolls in lieu of links that require users to load additional pages and interrupt the surfing experience.

However, the two biggest factors are having a mobile-friendly design and good page speeds.

Tips to Optimize

  • Utilize responsive site design.
  • Tag your pages with AMP code via CMS.
  • Increase page speeds by minimizing onsite resources.

What Does This All Mean?

It may not be possible to cover every aspect of SEO here in this blog, but this is a terrific jumping off point to making your site as search engine friendly as possible. Consider it the foundation of your own law firm SEO campaign. 

SEO for attorney’s can be quite dynamic and organic, and by viewing it from a holistic perspective we are better able to serve users and make it through the ever-changing algorithms.

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