Top 10 SEO Mistakes Found on Law Firm Websites
Is Your Law Firm Making Any of These SEO Oversights?
As a digital marketing agency specializing in law firm website design, we've seen pretty much every type of lawyer website out there. Most of the prospective clients who come to us looking for a redesign have at least one—if not several—glaring issues present on their current site related to search engine optimization, aka SEO.
Some of the most frequently asked questions we receive at efelle revolve around SEO best—and worst—practices. In the spirit of education and making the internet a better place, we’ve compiled a list of the biggest offenses we find on law firm websites related to SEO and what to do about them.
What is SEO and How Does It Affect Your Law Firm?
Let’s start with a little background info: major search engines—primarily Google and to a lesser extent, Bing—have so-called spiders that crawl the web to determine what every searchable website is all about. These spiders review not only the visible content on a web page, but also the hidden meta tags (particularly the title and description tags), which provide further information.
Search engine algorithms then rank each site based on a number of factors that include things like domain authority and backlinks (How long has your domain name been around? How many other established websites link back to your site?), your site’s load speed, and how well you use relevant keywords in your site’s copy.
With that context in mind, read on to learn more about how you can best optimize your site to excel in search rankings.
10 Top SEO Mistakes Made by Law Firms
1. Having Ineffective Meta Tags—Or No Meta Tags at All
Meta tags—most notably title and description tags—tell search engines what your website is about. Title tags are not visible on the page itself but can usually be seen when your mouse hovers over the browser tab; they also appear on search pages as the linked page name above each result description.
Title tags should be around 40–60 characters long and succinctly describe the content of the page. Generic-sounding tags like "John Doe Law Firm" offer no real value to a searcher. A good title tag contains not only your law firm's name but also your law firm's specialty and geographic location. An example of an effective title tag might be something like, "Seattle Personal Injury Attorney | Accident Lawyer | XYZ Law Firm."
Description tags dictate what appears under your website title link on search results pages. These can be a couple short sentences long and, like the title tag, should describe the type of services your firm offers and where you’re located. Description tags do not directly affect ranking, but when done poorly, can impact site traffic negatively as users opt to navigate to other sites based on their more comprehensive at-a-glance descriptions.
2. Focusing Too Much on the Keywords Tag
So, what about the keywords tag? This is probably the most abused meta data tag. As noted by the SEO gurus over at Yoast, you shouldn’t expect any SEO boost out of meticulously filling in all your keyword meta data. The major search engines deprecated the role of this meta tag in their algorithms years ago thanks to keyword abuse—or “stuffing”—wherein webmasters would try to rank for anything and everything under the sun by adding thousands of terms to their keywords tag. Long story short, just ignore this tag and focus on putting your keywords where they will rank—in the visible content on your page.
3. Not Paying Attention to Page Load Speed
These days, few things are more paramount to search rankings than how fast a page loads.
But why is page load speed so important?
Because these days, more and more people are browsing the web using their phones. Mobile devices tend to have less operating power than as desktop computers and as such; websites that feature a ton of videos or huge image files may cause mobile browsers to crash which makes users—and, in turn, Google—very unhappy. True, smartphones are getting faster with each new release, but a good chunk of users are still on older models. As a best practice, consistently optimize all images and video for the web and make sure your website is mobile responsive.
4. Using Spammy/Repeated Content
In the early days of SEO, it was common practice to spam meta tags and even body content by repeating terms like "Seattle law firm” over and over. These days, this behavior will get your site penalized by search engines.
This is also true for blocks of content you copy and paste on multiple pages throughout your site with no differentiating context provided for each usage, especially if that content is “hidden” (ie, not immediately visible on the page). Google and other search engines tend to flag repeated content as keyword stuffing. Avoid these traps by keeping your content visible, descriptive, and original.
5. Using Flash for Anything Important
There are so many reasons to stay away from Flash these days. Flash may look slick, but search engines have difficulty reading and thus indexing content that’s embedded in Flash. Moz.com has a great article breaking down all the reasons you should avoid using Flash (which doesn’t even touch on the fact that most iOS users can’t access Flash content at all). If you’re still passionate about using Flash somewhere on your site, use it sparingly.
6. Having Broken Links
Broken links negatively impact SEO in a couple of ways. First, they can act like dead ends to search engine spiders, interfering with their ability to crawl and index your site’s other pages. They also create a very frustrating user experience, and when UX is bad, fewer people going to want to link back to your site. In the legal world, first impressions are paramount—your website should reflect the same meticulous attention to detail you dedicate to your clients and their cases; broken links will inevitably come off as sloppy.
7. Photoshopping Keyword-Rich Header Text Onto Images
Whenever possible, users should be able to highlight text on your site—this is a good indication that it is crawlable. By photoshopping text content directly onto images, you make it impossible for search engines to read it, which is particularly ill advised when it comes to the header text where your main keywords live. You can place “alt” text in the tag of an image’s web code, but these tags are meant to be textual replacements for images and don’t hold the same SEO weight as regular text content.
8. Not Submitting Your Website to Search Engines
Search engines seldom find and index brand new websites immediately after launch. While most modern search engines will probably find your website eventually, the only two things that can help guarantee a decrease in that lag time are getting other websites to link back to your site and submitting your site’s index to search engines directly. The longer it takes for your site to get discovered and crawled by search engines, the longer it will take for prospective clients to find your website when they search for the types of services your law firm offers. Submit your website to Google and other search engines once it goes live so that it gets indexed as soon as possible.
9. Not Having a Google Sitemap
A Google sitemap helps the search engine’s spiders crawl and index all pages on your law firm’s website. This is especially important if your site is large and complex, is brand new, or has pages that are hard to find (ie, pages that are only linked to one or two other pages throughout the whole site).
10. Ignoring SEO on Your Law Firm’s Website Altogether
SEO, or search engine optimization, is vital to the success of your law firm’s website because it helps your firm get found by prospective clients who are searching online for the types of services you offer. If your law firm’s website doesn’t rank highly, it is unlikely to get found and prospective clients will probably end up choosing one of your competitors instead.
Let Seattle Online Marketing Firm efelle creative Spearhead Your Law Firm Website Design Project!
Law firms rarely, if ever, achieve good search engine rankings by accident. For the best results, hire a professional online marketing company to build a proactive SEO program for your firm’s objectives. efelle’s SEO services are designed to boost your Seattle law firm’s website rankings, as well as improve the volume and quality of traffic. Call 206.384.4906 or fill out our online contact form today to setup your free consultation with a Seattle online marketing consultant today!