On Page SEO for Attorneys
Your site architecture plays a critical role in how search engines crawl and understand your site. It also affects user experience and your ability to scale your firm. You may not intend on growing your firm into a multi-city operation but don’t write it off. It’s better to prepare for it just in case.
This chapter is going to get pretty dense and some concepts will require a fair bit of technical knowledge to execute. I will mark such sections with a ⚙️symbol.
Optimizing Site Architecture
As we just discussed, your site architecture needs to be easy to use for visitors (i.e. potential customers). It’s not just important for them, however, it’s also important to the bots that search engines use to crawl your site for indexation.
Everything needs to be organized and grouped in a deliberate way. If you let just anyone work on your website this is where you’ll often run into problems.
Nothing against web developers (I used to be a full-stack dev myself), but most of them don’t know the first thing about SEO, much less SEO for law firms.
A quick way to test this is to take a look at the names of your images. If they’re saved as something like IMG_2019-918.jpg then that’s a clear sign they do not understand how Google interprets and indexes images.
Ideally, an SEO would be involved in the development of your site from the very beginning. They’ll help form the architecture and organization of the site based on the needs of your content strategy.
How this all gets done for attorneys can vary depending on what type of firm is involved.
The site architecture for a single service firm (i.e. personal injury attorney) will differ from a firm that offers multiple services (i.e. a firm that offers criminal defense, personal injury, family law, etc.).
A firm which offers its services in multiple locations will have a different site architecture from both of these as well.
While we have focused primarily on personal injury up to this point we’ll now be discussing what you might do if your firm were to offer other services.
Single Service Law Firm SEO
For firms that specialize in a single area of the law, the structure of site should be set up in the following fashion:
Use Exact Match Domain Name
Only take this approach if you know you’re only ever going to practice one type of law. Otherwise, opt for something that allows you more space to expand such as www.louisvillelawyers.com.
I know many firms opt to use their names and that’s fine but ensure that you won’t ever need to change the firm name.
Morgan & Morgan have taken a great approach taking up the domain forthepeople.com. If you have a good tagline you can utilize I would encourage you to do so. It will be more immune to time.
Service Page Structure
Your service level pages should target each segment of your practice’s scope. For example:
Each one of these pages can target the keywords related to this type of case easier than broad pages that send mixed signals to Google. You can, and should, take this same approach to your blog as well.
Multi-Service Law Firm SEO
For firms that offer a few types of services, the structure of the site should be set up in the following fashion:
Branded Domain Name
brand name + a keyword will work great here. For example:
www.bryantlawfirm.com (better than bryantpsc.com)
If the domain name is taken, get creative.
Service Page Structure
If you offer multiple types of services your URL structure should reflect that. For example:
Each one of these pages needs to be robust and treated as if it were a home page because it effectively will be. You want each one of these pages to be the landing page ranking in Google when someone searches for the keywords associated with it.
Stop trying to rank your homepage for all your terms. You’re just confusing the shit out of Google when you do that.
You should also use additional sub-service pages as well. You don’t have to make one for each type of sub-service though.
Each one will require resources to design, build, and fill with content so prioritize them based on the volume they can drive and their associated margins.
Even if the volume for some of the more niche services you offer aren’t that high you can take the profitability of those services into account and quickly realize the value of every single lead delivered by ranking for that keyword.
Multi-Location Law Firm SEO
If your firm is operating in multiple cities, congrats, you’re probably succeeding as a firm already!
If you’ve made it this far without a solid agency spearheading your SEO efforts then now is the time to ask yourself how much more market share could you be capturing?
Compare your current site structure to the one I’ve listed below and see if there’s additional room for improvement (and profitability).
Partition Your Site Structure by Location
You can take a subdirectory approach here or a flat approach. For example, let’s suppose you have offices in Louisville & Lexington.
Adding the city name to the URL string will help you rank your firm within that particular city while also keeping the URL shorter than it would be if you used a /locations/louisville/ approach.
Each one of these pages will need to be designed and developed as if they were pages that existed all on their own.
Ensure you’re not just reusing copy and content between location pages to avoid being smacked by a duplicate content penalty by Google.
Make it easy for people to switch between cities as well. You can imagine a scenario where someone accidentally lands on the Louisville page when they were really looking for the Lexington page.
If it isn’t easy for them to switch to the appropriate location you risk losing a potential lead.
You can make this easy for users by adding your locations above your navigation menu, in a global sidebar, the footer, and any other ways that provide a good user experience.
Just be careful when doing so as it can dilute your ability to pass equity developed via link building (which we’ll discuss in a later chapter) between pages.
Just don’t try to reinvent the wheel here.
You can rank a site using either architecture approach but our personal preference is to use the flat architecture. It’s easy to maintain and can be easily tested and manipulated to get better results by using optimal internal linking.
Optimizing Title Tags
There are a few common practices here that we recommend people follow.
- Keep the title tag length between 50-60 characters.
- Use lawyer instead of attorney — it tends to have a higher search volume.
- Use the following format for your primary money pages: City + practice area + lawyer
Optimizing Meta Descriptions
In addition to the items listed above you also need to add a meta description that is appropriately written for conversions. The meta description is that little snippet that appears just below the website link on the search results page.
You’ll also want to ensure your site has a well structured sitemap.xml file so Google can crawl it properly.
Page Speed Optimization: Just How Important is It?
Page speed in the SEO community is by and large a topic that gets blown way out of proportion. I will not deny that page speed is not important. It is a major factor when it comes to UX. It is also a confirmed ranking signal (albeit one of many).
Google would prefer to see everyone’s page loading in less than 3 seconds. However, given the vast number of sites on the web this is still very far away from happening.
You can check your page speed by visiting Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. Just enter the URL you want to check and you’ll see something like this:
Note: Not our client ↑
There are a variety of things you can do to improve your site speed. Most of the time optimizing your images by compressing them will dramatically improve page speed.
Now I know that’s probably a foreign language to you. Your best bet beyond smushing your images with a tool like WP Rocket, if you’re on WordPress, is to work with a seasoned web developer who knows how to handle backend web development.
This is something we implement for people quite often. Our advice when looking for someone is to ensure they understand what is the most important. They should discuss and be familiar with the documentation PageSpeed lighthouse uses.
A good litmus test is to ask them which of the 6 factors has the heaviest weight in their PageSpeed tool.
The answer is time to interactive (TTI) — Source
Internal Linking Optimization: A Critical Lever at Your Disposal
What’s an Internal Link?
An internal link is a hyperlink that you can click on that takes you to another page on the same website. If the link takes you to another website then it’s an external link.
The Importance of Optimizing Internal Links
Components of the original Google search algorithm are still used to this day — notably, PageRank. You can imagine each website like a state and each page on a website like a city or town.
Within each state we have state highways (sometimes called routes, like KY-121) that connect the various cities and towns within the state together — these highways are like internal links between each page on a website.
Now, we can have ways to get to our states (and therefore towns) from other states as well. The major connector between states are our interstate highways (and U.S. highways). We can think of these interstate highways like external links (a.k.a. backlinks) from one page on another website to a page on our own website.
So what’s the importance?
- These connections allow users to navigate our websites more easily.
- These connections between our pages allow information and topical identity to form — which in turn helps Google figure out what our web page (and website) is all about.
Understanding the Concept of Equity and Distribution
There is a concept known as link equity. Link equity is essentially an unknown value an individual webpage possesses that indicates how much it is worth relative to all other pages both on the website itself and the world wide web as a whole.
The more equity a particular page has the easier it is to rank for its target topics on search engines. Moreover, the more equity a page has flowing into it (from both external and internal links), the more it can distribute out to other pages on a website.
More often than not you will find that a small percentage of your website’s pages get the most external links.
These will often be the pages that other people would find most useful. For example, if your website has an in-depth guide that provides people with a lot of valuable information for free then it is incredibly useful to them.
Resources like that can often pick up several external links which help bolster their link equity.
The pages that have built up equity from external websites are then able to distribute that equity to other pages on the site in the form of internal links.
⚙️The tricky part is setting up your internal linking in an optimal way. We rarely find a law firm website that has a well thought-out and scientific approach to internal linking.
Every time you link to another page you are giving up equity (measured as an eigenvector called CheiRank).
Diving into how to optimize your internal linking structure is worthy of a doctoral dissertation. We have developed a tool internally that processes a ton of data to assist us when doing this for clients.
If you’re a technically savvy person who’s trying to do this for a law firm client and want to embark on this endeavor yourself a good starting point is Kevin Indig’s article INTERNAL LINK OPTIMIZATION WITH TIPR (note that some of his images do not seem to be loading at the moment but the important components of the article are still there in the form of text).
Optimizing Schema (and What the Hell It Is)
If you’ve made it through the internal links section and are worried this is going to be another overly complex section — put your fears at ease. Schema is far easier to understand and work with than the linear algebra it takes to optimize internal linking.
What is Schema?
When we talk about Schema we’re really talking about Schema.org, a community dedicated to developing schemas of structured data for the web. So what the hell is structured data?
Structured data is just a standardized way to organize information so that it can be read and understood. When a book is written top-left to bottom-right in English that is a form of structured data.
If the convention were to be broken we would have a much harder time interpreting what we were reading and getting the point of it.
When we talk about schema and structured data with respect to SEO, what we’re really talking about is a way to organize information so that search engines can understand it.
Using schema allows us to do some pretty cool things to our search results on Google. While there has been no confirmation that it helps pages rank higher in the results, it does have a definite impact on click-through rate.
So rather than talk about this abstractly, let me show you some examples of schema types you can use and others are using.
The LegalService schema is the primary form of schema you need to have for your website. It explicitly tells Google that your website is a business that provides legal services, advice and representation (e.g. a law firm).
You can also add other types of schema which are visually appealing to your site such as FAQPage and Review. These will cause your listing to take up additional real estate on the SERPs and pop out a bit more with review stars.
There are a variety of SEO plugins for WordPress that will assist in the creation and implementation of structured data on your pages.
In addition to Schema.org you can also use Google’s Structured Data Testing tool to test your implementation.
This is one of those things that a member of your agency or internal development team should be more than capable of accomplishing.
We’ve covered a lot in this chapter and know it may be a bit much to get your head wrapped around — and that’s okay.
We assume most firms out there already have a marketing agency that can implement these things for them or will be hiring an agency (or someone internal) to manage it at some point.
The content in this chapter can equip you to have more informed conversations with your agency and consultants.
In the next chapter we’re going to dive into one of the most important aspects of SEO: linkbuilding.
If you found this useful, please share it!
An avid advocate for small business owners and victims of personal injury. Committed to helping the best attorneys help others.
Founder of Ardent Growth. CMO of RunDoyen. Author of the #1 Guide to Google My Business.
B.S. in Computer Science & B.S. in Philosophy from MSU (with honors).