Editor’s Note: The author of this post is the head of a company that advises law firms in marketing technology.
By Jaron Rubenstein, Founder and President, Rubenstein Technology Group
Effective search engine optimization is crucial to the success of your law firm. With more and more clients turning to the web to learn more about referred lawyers and to find legal services, an effective firm website optimized with SEO isn’t optional anymore; it’s a necessity.
For many law firm websites, SEO is the foundation of their online presence. Without it, searches for attorneys in your firm might direct potential clients to other sites, such as LinkedIn or a local periodical, instead of your own site. This type of misdirection could result in lost business opportunities, which benefits neither your firm nor the people seeking your firm’s expertise.
The reality is that if people can’t easily find your firm and your attorneys online, they won’t — and will instead turn to a competitor with better digital accessibility.
SEO and Web Design: Then and Now
As search engine algorithms continue to evolve, so do modern standards for SEO. Today, SEO is largely focused on targeted website content and its implementation in HTML code. External search engine advertising or the use of PR campaigns to drive clickable links might also help give your firm a higher search engine ranking, but these are more costly and only effective if your baseline SEO is done correctly.
However, for law firm websites designed three or more years ago, this higher ranking might not be possible. Sites created using older web development technologies often don’t align with today’s SEO requirements. Site attributes, such as invalid website coding, missing mobile support, or a lack of SEO-friendly URLs, prevent these websites from maximizing the strong online search presence they need in today’s market.
Boosting Your SEO
With continued search engine progression and development, a pretty website design isn’t enough to draw in potential clients and drive revenue. Firms today need websites that encapsulate both an engaging design and effective, high-ranking SEO strategies.
Here are five tips to ensure your firm’s website is optimized for success:
- Use meaningful URLs.User-friendly, or human-readable, web addresses are helpful to both search engines and potential clients trying to navigate your firm’s website. Content management systems like RubyLaw and WordPress automatically generate these meaningful URLs based on page titles and offer the option of manually defining each URL. You can further manage these to ensure they contain keywords pertinent to your topic and your target audience.
- 2. Make content easy for search engines to index.Ensure your development firm builds web pages using standards-compliant HTML5, which enables search engines to properly parse your content. Use semantic coding techniques and microformats to help develop meaningful page structures, and ensure the proper hierarchy of headings and page content is in place. When possible, create web pages to house full content or abstracts on your site rather than upload PDFs or link to external resources.
Make sure search engines can easily itemize the topics your site is addressing through SEO-friendly site navigation, optimized page titles, meta descriptions, and keyword tags. Helping search engines crawl through your content from page to page allows algorithms to better index it, which means better SEO.
- 3. Focus on specific keywords.It’s important to use appropriate keywords within your content so search engines can properly index your site for common terms that your audience might use when searching, but be careful not to overdo it. Search engines’ complex algorithms are now sensitive to “keyword stuffing,” or inserting any relevant terms for the sake of indexing, which means using the same keywords over and over again will no longer push you to the top of a Google search result.
Use enough of the words or phrases that are important to your firm so the algorithms take notice — but not so much that they will ignore it. This tends to be easy for law firms, as key content phrases are often already a part of your content. When appropriate, tie website content into trending topics online to attract attention to the firm for these related matters.
- 4. Go mobile.With increasingly large numbers of the world’s web traffic coming from mobile devices, some search engines, such as Google, have already started penalizing sites that aren’t mobile-optimized .
While this might not affect your firm’s search engine ranking on traditional desktop computers, this means users searching for your expertise on their phones and tablets are less likely to see your firm listed on the first page of search results. Reduced visibility diminishes the number of chances to improve page ranking due to a corresponding decreased likelihood of getting hits on that link. Making your site more mobile-friendly by making text more readable or spacing out tap targets can help eliminate this issue.
- 5. Keep your content fresh.The most effective way to ensure the right audiences find your site is to continually publish rich, relevant content. When you publish valuable content regularly, it not only keeps your firm’s site up-to-date, but also allows search engines to accurately index your content. Provide a site map (via the Sitemaps protocol) to ensure search engines discover all of the content on your website and can prioritize their crawling accordingly.
It’s no secret that web development and SEO standards have changed over the years, but following these best practices for your website can be the difference between bringing in a new client and losing an opportunity.