Legal Website SEO: How To Optimize Practice Area Pages
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of getting your website to the top of the search engine rankings. SEO for attorneys focuses on getting your law firm’s website in front of internet browsers using search engines to look for legal help—like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
In times past, attorneys could get in front of potential clients with advertisements and a listing in the phone book. But professional listings on search engines are a little more dynamic, because they are impacted by Google’s system of ranking information. This means that law firm SEO is a vital part of getting new clients—and a big boost to that SEO can come from optimizing practice area pages.
Why do your practice area pages need to be optimized?
It’s likely that your firm specializes in a number of related areas. But if you don’t communicate to Google (or other search engines) that you’re an expert in each and every area, you’ll lose traction in the results for that specific search—allowing other law firms to take your place.
That’s why law practice SEO is not just about communicating to Google that you’re the best law firm for a general area of practice. You’ve got to highlight your expertise in each specific area of practice by building out optimized practice area pages.
Google has also gotten a lot more nuanced in terms of local search. Local search is Google’s term for searches that they deem to have a local intent—in other words, the searcher needs to find a local business…like a law firm. In times past, the local search algorithm mainly focused on location and one key area of expertise—as listed by the business itself.
But Google has recently rolled out new algorithms that have a much more sophisticated ability to pair up searchers with the law firm that meets their needs. If you can show Google that your law firm does indeed match the needs of searches outside your main listed area of expertise, you’ll work your way above the competition in those areas.
What are the key optimizations for each practice area page?
There are a few best practices to optimize each practice area page, and one of them is increasing Google’s perception of your relevancy with target keywords. Keywords are words and phrases that are flags to Google for categorizing a web page and ranking the strength and relevance of its content. If Google determines that a particular web page has a high degree of relevance to a specific search, that page will appear at the top of the list of search results.
For example, let’s say your law firm specializes in bankruptcy law. As it turns out, there are several different kinds of bankruptcy, and each one applies to a different type of situation. While individuals and families will most likely need assistance filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, a larger business will file for Chapter 11.
If you don’t create separate pages for each of the types of bankruptcy cases your firm services—each page containing keywords that relate to that type—potential clients conducting a search for that type of bankruptcy will not see you come up in the search results. You may be the best bankruptcy law firm in town, but you have not optimized your practice area pages…and as a result, you will lose business to other law firms that have optimized specific pages.
If you need help figuring out what keywords you should optimize for, we wrote a great post on keyword research for your law firm. You should reference that before going any further.
How to optimize title tags
Title tags are not necessarily the title at the top of a web page (though they can be the same). Title tags are actually a piece of HTML code that tells a search engine the title of that web page. This in turn displays the title as a clickable result on the search engine results page. In many cases, title tags will also be displayed as the link when users share your web page on social media.
As such, you’ve got to make your title tags user-friendly, while at the same time using relevant keywords. However, if you make them long, clunky, and packed with keywords, you will ironically drive down your traffic—because web browsers tend not to click on phrases that confuse them. Keep in mind that your title tags will often be the first interaction a client has with your law firm’s website, if they’re finding it on a search engine or via a shared social media link.
Keep your title tags under 60 characters, so you don’t run the risk of a search engine cutting your title short. Use keywords early on in the title tag, because some browsers may only scan the first two words of a title. Give every page a unique title, and don’t try to pack in keywords by repeating variations of the same phrase—it not only makes a poor user experience, but Google will know what you’re doing…and they won’t reward you for it.
How to optimize meta descriptions
Meta descriptions are snippet-like summaries that appear under the title tags of your pages on the search results. If you don’t create a specific meta description, most site-building platforms will just generate one automatically from the introductory words of your content. This can create a poor user experience and also drive down your SEO, since you may not have enough relevant information in the meta description to create a good impression with Google.
Now as it turns out, the impression your meta description creates with Google may have nothing to do with their algorithm, but it does indirectly affect your SEO. Meta descriptions are shown to browsers as a summary of your page. If the summary is good, clear, and relevant, users will click on your title tag more often, which in turn will boost your SEO with Google.
Good meta descriptions tend to be around 150-300 characters long. They utilize keywords to attract attention. In fact, if your meta description uses the focus keyword (that is, the search term typed in by the user) Google may even highlight your page on the search results. Good meta descriptions have a call to action and are written in an active voice; they are unique and stand out from the other meta descriptions on the page.
How to optimize heading tags
Header tags look like subtitles on your web pages. Header tags used to be more important in terms of directly influencing your site’s SEO, and while they may not carry the same weight in the algorithm as they used to, they are still very important in a different way.
One of Google’s ranking factors in terms of SEO is site architecture. This refers to the layout of your site and your content, and how easy it is for users to navigate. The more clarity your web pages have, the better they will rank.
As such, header tags can be used to categorize content on your page. They help break your content up into sections, which makes it easier to scan for browsers. When browsers find your article easier to read, they’ll stay on the page longer instead of going back to Google. They’ll also be more likely to share your articles on social media, which can increase the likelihood of other sites providing links to your content.
How to optimize copy/content
You might be tempted to think that the path to optimizing copy content on your practice area web pages is about stuffing them with keywords—but that’s not the case. As mentioned, Google has become incredibly pinpointed in its ability to match up internet content with user searches based on relevance.
That means the main component of your content strategy should be writing content for people, not for Google. You will certainly still want to use keywords, but perhaps more sparingly than you think; some estimates suggest that keywords should only comprise around 5% of your copy.
As it turns out, if you write content for your practice area pages from a place of experience and knowledge, you’re going to naturally create relevant pages that Google will reward with higher spots on the search engine rankings.
How to optimize images
Images are one frequently overlooked area when it comes to SEO, but they can carry a disproportionate amount of weight in the search engine results. Fortunately, it’s very easy to optimize images in terms of SEO.
A huge boost to image SEO comes from uploading them to your site builder with a file name that relates to your targeted keywords. Many site builders will provide a place to write a description of the image (alt text), which Google can then factor into its algorithm. It’s also important to include a caption with every image, which will also be scanned by Google.
You will also want to make sure the image file is not too large, because that can slow down load times, especially on mobile—which in turn will reduce your SEO. However, at the same time, you will want to make sure the quality of the image is good to create a positive user experience (JPEG image types will be your best bet).
How to use internal links
As mentioned, site architecture is a big ranking factor with Google. And an easy way to boost the SEO strength of your site architecture is to have a decent number of working links to other pages on your site. This sends a signal to Google that your site is easy to navigate and can easily connect browsers to the information they need.
Moreover, internal links make it easier for potential clients who like your content to get to relevant pages for booking an appointment or learning more about your firm. Links do not have to be forced, but can naturally be woven into the content. For example, let’s say your law firm specializes in bankruptcy (to return to our earlier example). If you have an article summarizing bankruptcy in general, you should certainly have links connecting the browser to specific pages elaborating on each type of bankruptcy.
A final word about Optimizing Practice Area Pages
Optimizing your practice area pages is a crucial part of SEO for your law firm. Getting a little more granular with the different areas of law you cover creates a stronger, more nuanced impression with Google, which will translate to better law firm SEO. Moreover, you will increase the odds of a specific page appearing in front of browsers who are searching about a specific area of law your firm covers. As such, you will want to utilize some of the best practices we mentioned in this post to optimize pages for each and every area of law in which your firm specializes.