Search engine optimization can be as heady and complicated as the term suggests, but most SEO can be boiled down to a few basics. What can make it complicated are the many variables that affect whether your firm’s website comes up in a Google search. According to Kyle Vanderneut, director of SEO at Nolo.com, you can implement SEO best practices by following some basic principles that don’t require any special tech knowledge or software. Start by focusing on five key components of your website in two areas: site organization and content.
Organize Your Site Well
Users discover your content through searches and browsing your site. Help them with simple navigation and clearly labeled, easy-to-find content.
- URLs: Make sure your URLs clearly and specifically pertain to the content on a page. Rather than giving a page the URL “injurylawyer.com/three” be clear about what a user will find on the page in question, such as, “injurylawyer.com/bios.”
- Title tags: This is the title that is in your browser’s tab, which defaults to whatever the article or page title is, but you can change it to any number of things,” explains Vanderneut. Use tags to include additional keywords when appropriate (for example, “DWI” could be included on a page about DUIs). “This allows you to cover all your bases without being horribly obvious about it, which Google tends to frown on.”
- Navigation: Easy to follow navigation creates a better user experience for anyone who lands on any one of your site’s pages. Imagine that a prospective client finds your car accidents page; they should then be able to easily find your firm’s contact information or attorney bios from that page. Logical, clear navigation also helps your Google rankings. When Google crawls your site, it will only look at pages that are linked from somewhere else. “If you have any pages that are not accessible through your navigation, Google is not going to crawl them,” says Vanderneut. “It’s just going to ignore those pages.”
Make Your Content Work For You
Your content should be informative and engaging—in addition to containing those keywords SEO people are always talking about.
- Keywords: You want to be specific and realistic about which terms will result in your website coming up in a Google search. “The idea of ranking for something that you will never rank for, like big general terms that get a ton of search traffic, is not going to happen,” explains Vanderneut. Try searching for “bankruptcy” or “personal injury” and see what comes up. But more specific terms, such as “Chapter 7” or “construction accident injuries” to give your site a fighting chance.
- Content: You don’t need 300 keywords in every article. In fact, an article that is overly keyword-dense could actually raise a red flag to Google and hurt your SEO. Instead, write organically about any given subject by explaining the topic well and making it relevant and interesting. Include keywords in your text and title but otherwise don’t obsess about using them in every sentence.
If you have a blog on your site, keep it concise and up to date. If you find your posts are over 800 words long, consider breaking up a topic into two or more posts. Vanderneut recommends 500 to 800 words as a target length. Remember to write for an audience of laypeople—not other lawyers. Be a ruthless editor and avoid wordy sentences and long paragraphs. Remember—unlike a contract or legal brief, no one is obligated to read past the first line.
For all of your site content, including your blog, keeping everything up to date is critical. What might have worked with Google’s algorithm a year ago may not still work today. If you have articles that no one goes to, it’s time to replace them with new content. Looking for ideas? Vanderneut suggests researching your competition to see how they rank and what their site covers. If you find any gaps, write about those topics on your site so that users searching for that subject matter will find you and not the competition.