Technical SEO for lawyers (and how to optimize a law firm website)
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You’ve probably heard about technical search engine optimization (SEO) or technical SEO. It’s the Achilles heel of SEO for attorneys. Most lawyers find it intimidating assuming it’s about using structured data and coding.
Well, as you’ll find in the article today, that’s not entirely true.
While it can seem complex from the outside, technical SEO is important to provide a great user experience to your prospective clients. It will in turn also help you rank higher in Google search results. Let’s begin with the basics.
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Technical SEO refers to optimizing a law firm’s site so that search engines can adequately crawl and index its content. It involves managing your site architecture (such as its practice area pages), optimizing the loading speed, internal linking, and the like.
Many websites fail in organic search because their sites are badly structured. They have duplicate content, are not mobile-friendly, or are plagued with other tech SEO issues. Let’s look at how you can fix them.
Some key improvements to your law firm website, such as increasing site load speed, optimizing for mobile, getting an SSL for your domain, and fixing your site structure, can greatly improve your site’s ranking. And even help your local search efforts.
Here’s an example of how On The Map Marketing was able to update one of our client’s website structures and get the main keyword ranking for the first page in less than three months (+71 position):
According to our technical SEO director, Anete Lazdina, here are the most important factors for achieving a well-optimized website that search engines can crawl and index:
Internal linking is done when you link a web page to another web page within your law firm’s website. It is crucial to ensure that the website structure is understandable for bots. Anete recommends that you interlink related pages and use direct anchor text for these links.
Google’s John Mueller said that strategic internal linking helps tell Google which pages in your law firm website you want to highlight – a contact page or a blog post. While he didn’t say that internal linking is a ranking factor, he confirms it’s a critical piece of the puzzle.
Types of internal links
There are different ways you can implement your interlinking strategy. These include:
- Navigational links – these help your visitors navigate through the entire website. Here’s an example of how Arizona-based firm Wattel & York implemented internal linking for their law firm website:
- Contextual links – these are links that provide related or relevant information to the current page or post. These links help potential clients find information faster and compel them to take the needed action, such as scheduling an appointment or visiting your office.
One of our clients, Jesse Minc Personal Injury law firm, uses contextual internal links on their pages.
Anete recommends aiming for the same level (if not higher) of page speed with competitor websites in your niche. You should also have a mobile version of your law firm’s website. Lastly, your sites should have a secure socket layer (SSL), which means your domain should start with https:// and not http://.
You can contact your web host about getting an SSL for your website. As for site speed, you can start checking your site’s speed with a free tool like GT Metrix or check the Site Speed page of your Google Analytics dashboard.
Just like a book that has paragraphs, headings, and chapters, websites should have organized pages, starting with main pages that house secondary pages, and all pages should be optimized accordingly. A site structure that is organized well helps search engines crawl and index all pages of your law firm website.
On The Map’s team suggests organizing your site’s structure as follows:
- Home page
- Individual pages or posts
Here’s one of our clients, 1-800-Injured, implementing their site structure:
Another strategy is to create dedicated pages for your locations, which is something that you do for local SEO but can further define your site structure.
A sitemap is a list of all pages on your law firm’s website. Submitting your website’s XML sitemap to Google Search Console is a must. If you have a large website, consider creating an HTML sitemap, as it can help bots crawl and better understand the structure of your website and its hierarchy.
You can use tools like Screaming Frog to create sitemaps or follow Google’s guidelines in creating one. Your sitemap is your site’s blueprint, and it’s important for search engines to crawl and index each page of your site.
A meta description is a text that appears below a page’s title on search engine results pages (SERPs). And title tags are the webpage’s title and can be found on the browser’s top bar and the SERPs.
Both meta descriptions and title tags aren’t ranking factors, but it can help you to grab the reader’s attention, enticing them to click on the link and read through the content.
When it comes to meta descriptions and title tags, Anete says, “When you make a meta description, think of how it will call for action. I always like to keep title tags simple. I want to add the main keyword and brand name (for brand exposure).”
Images should have an alternate tag or alt tag. Alt tags or alt texts are alternative text that will load in place of an image if the image can’t be loaded.
In addition to providing accessibility to vision-impaired users, alt tags help search engine crawlers understand a website’s content and accurately index it.
Here’s an example of an image alt tag from 1-800-Injured’s website:
We talked in-depth to Anete about the top mistakes that lawyers and law firms make when carrying out their technical SEO strategy. He identified three common errors. They are:
Anete defines duplicate content as “content is very similar, or the same in multiple pages and that causes competing pages, where keywords or groups of keywords are ranking for multiple pages.”
Anete uses Ahrefs to identify duplicate content and fix the problem to prevent this error.
When there’s duplicate content, Google’s algorithm is forced to choose which page should be given the top spot in SERPs. There is a considerable risk that the original content might not get selected.
Regarding website structure, Anete reveals, “Sometimes, it is an overlooked aspect, but from our tests, the right URL structure can give significant improvements in rankings.”
As mentioned at the start of this article, law firm SEO best practice includes structuring your site in an organized manner with a clear site map and strategic internal linking.
When your law firm’s website has significantly large and helpful content, it’s important to link them together. It lets search engine bots better understand your website and establish the relationship between different pages on your website.
Here at On The Map marketing, we carry out internal SEO audits. These audits ensure that there are no technical aspects of our clients’ sites that might hurt their SEO rankings.
Our SEO tech team divides the audit into four parts based on priority:
The critical phase includes this basic information:
These two elements need to be present before we can do anything else.
Below is an example of how we use multiple tools for an audit, which can change over time.
Yes. Schema is essential for helping bots understand a law firm’s website and its contents. There are different types of schema. They are:
- Local business schema: This schema has information about the attorney or law firm, its address, phone number, business hours, and other related business information. One thing to note here is that you have to enter the correct business type, which is Legal Service for law firms and lawyers.
- Breadcrumb Schema: Google defines breadcrumb schema as “markup in the body of a web page to categorize the information from the page in search results.” The main goal of a breadcrumb schema is to show a web page’s position in the site hierarchy and help users navigate a site easily.
- FAQ Schema: This is a markup that contains a list of questions and answers. Google recognizes FAQ schema and uses this to provide the best answer to a question and show it in a featured snippet.
Below is an example:
In our multiple tests, we could not show significant improvements in organic traffic or ranking that came from improving the user experience. However, if your content and legal link building game are sorted, you should work on your user experience. It’s
Core Web Vitals (CWV), which are specific standards that Google requires from websites to provide a great user experience, is a useful tool for comparing your site to your competitors.
However, On The Map Marketing’s team has not seen significant improvement in rankings due to CWV scores.
Technical SEO for law firm websites need not be a complicated or tedious process. Using documentation and processes like the ones I shared today from our team, you can ensure your law firm’s website is in great technical shape.
Ultimately, you want to create a website that’s easy to navigate for your visitors while helping Google’s algorithm understand your content. That’s what is key for your local SEO and overall organic presence.
SEO for Lawyers: (Step-by-Step) Law Firm SEO Guide