Make the Most Out Of Your Website Design
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is all about understanding how complex algorithms pull information from websites and then rank sites according to search relevance and importance. Yet, that does not mean that law firms must hire mathematical and IT geniuses in order to make the most of their SEO efforts.
If your firm is considering implementing a few website changes in order to boost lawyer SEO efforts, be sure to include the following SEO best practices as part of your law firm’s website design plan.
The most widely used search engine in America is Google, which uses an SEO algorithm called Hummingbird. Hummingbird judges websites based upon their functionality and ease of navigation. Essentially, disorganized websites filled with dead end links rank lower on the search results page than organized, intuitive, user-friendly pages.
In order to become more user-friendly and increase law firm SEO strength, a law firm’s website design should focus on these layouts tips and tricks:
- Organize all websites logically and hierarchically. Messy code and confusing page routes will not help Hummingbird pick up on key phrases and other relevant information.
- Make sure that webpages are easy to navigate; viewers should be able to jump from page to page using text links, and also easily return to the homepage.
- Maintain a sensible number of relevant links on each webpage—don’t go overboard!
- Place keywords and key phrases in optimal locations. For instance, utilize keywords in header tags, image alt-tags, body text, titles, and URLs.
Experiment with including long tail key phrases in your law firm’s original blog and webpage content. More and more Internet users are typing complete questions instead of a single keyword when utilizing Google and other search engines, which can greatly impact your law firm’s website design strategy.
Another best practice to implement when producing content is to bold key phrases within body text in order to signify their elevated importance to the Hummingbird algorithm.
Images and Infographics
Infographics and captioned images can be great ways to present information alongside, or in place of, text. When producing original content or overhauling your law firm’s website design strategy, try to make it a point to include visually appealing images and infographics among written content.
This can increase content viewership on your law firm’s website and may also mean that more websites and social media users will share your material on outside forums. A higher number of inbound links (links that point back to your law firm’s website) increases your chances of ranking toward the top of search results pages.
Optimizing for Mobile Viewing
According to Pew Internet, half of Americans own smartphones and more than one third possess tablets. Considering this massive group of mobile users, it’s essential to also implement the best practices above when crafting your law firm’s mobile website design strategy.
How to Use Image for Your Law Firm Website Design
Gone are the days when lawyer marketing was simply an avenue for talking at consumers. Now, the most successful attorney marketing practices include storytelling in order to speak with audiences and elicit an emotional reaction that establishes a genuine connection to your brand. One of the most effective methods of storytelling—aside from well-written, custom content, of course—is to utilize images as a vehicle of communication.
Here’s how to use images for your law firm website design.
Brainstorm Your Storyline
First, figure out what story you’d like to share. What differentiates your firm from others? Website visitors, on average, assess a website within a few seconds—what one message would you like to tell them using the images on your law firm website?
A Social Security disability benefits firm may want to feature its core values and purpose at the forefront, in order to demonstrate that their compassion for clients sets them apart. A DUI defense firm, on the other hand, may desire to make a more forceful impact, signifying that they have the capabilities to aggressively protect a defendant’s rights.
Pinpoint Your Image Style
The message you’d like to convey to your audience hugely influences the look and feel of all images. For instance, the screenshot below was taken from the website of The Law Offices of Robert Haberer (designed by Optimized Attorney’s website development team). Similar to the DUI defense firm example above, this practice chose to employ a more forceful image—a dark, close-up image of someone in handcuffs—that sends one message: when you or your loved ones end up in this scary, helpless situation, we will be there to help.
Once your firm has decided upon which message you’d like to send to viewers, consider which types of images would efficiently portray it.
Find Your Image Source
Most practices don’t have the time and resources to develop unique images for their law firm’s website. Luckily, there are other options including:
- Stock image sources such as Thinkstock or Getty Images
- Free photo sources like Picjumbo and Pixabay
- Outsourcing to a qualified web design team that can manage everything from design to functionality
Place Images Appropriately
Once you’ve decided on which images to utilize in your law firm’s website, simply choose where to place them. Would you prefer to have one banner image that spans the width of your webpage, or several smaller images scattered down the page as visitors scroll down? Feel free to experiment with a few variations and see which receives the greatest audience engagement.
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Morgan Stanley researchers predict that by 2014 the number of smartphones sold will overcome that of desktop computers. That’s a whole new universe of potential clients that no law firm should overlook.
Reasons You Need a Mobile Site:
It’s easier for prospects.
It is unwise to expect prospective clients to read tiny type, scroll side to side to finish reading a sentence, and search high and low for a telephone number.
Lawyers as a group are late adopters.
So, you have a chance to (a) recognize now that mobile search volume will soon surpass desktop searches and (b) establish a difficult-to-dislodge mobile beachhead in your geographic region.
For mobile searchers, Google offers one-click calling on its local listings. This is a huge inducement for mobile users to respond to a local-listed attorney.
Get Your Website Noticed
If you got someone to set up a website for your practice, you may have started to look into ways to get that site noticed. Your site may have sleek presentation and make you look like a hot shot, or a legal shoulder to cry on, but your website isn’t worth much if no one knows it’s out there on the Web.
Get Ahead Of The Competition
Young, hungry sole practitioners are often derided as “ambulance chasers.” The only way to get ahead of the competition is to be there on the ground when a distressed member of the public unexpectedly needs help. The big firms get corporate clients who pay them retainers, but the little guy has to serve the general public, who rarely need legal services and don’t have a regular lawyer. Mobile technology makes you available at the touch of the button, without having to sit all night in the Emergency Room waiting for potential clients to be wheeled in.
Mobile Is The Future
The email marketing company, Moveable Ink produces a quarterly research paper called the US Consumer Device Preference Report. Their Q4 2013 edition marked a turning point. This survey showed that more people opened their emails on smartphones and tablets than on traditional computers such as desktops and laptops. Smartphones are a particularly useful communication tool for small legal practices and the tipping point that people are more likely to pick up their emails on them than on their home or office computer presents an opportunity.
Email communication is a major reason why the general public accesses the Internet, but it is not the only reason. Moveable Ink’s survey focuses on email access methods purely because that is central to their business. However, this data is indicative of the growth in use of smartphones for general Internet access, and that also means searches. A smartphone user has that phone with her at all times and if she has started to use it in place of her computer, she can use it to look up the number of a local lawyer in troubled times.
Mobile technology will greatly improve the image of the “ambulance chaser.” You can get distressed clients to find you and call to take advantage of your 24 hour emergency services. The first step on the road to getting smartphone-friendly is to become aware of the possibilities. If you tailor your services to people in distress, you need to get on the mobile bandwagon.
Legal SEO Best Practices for Your Firm’s Web Images
They say that “content is king” in this age of search engine optimization (SEO), but it’s not just content that your law firm should be focused on; images also matter to your practice’s legal SEO strategy. In fact, failing to implement an SEO strategy for web images could damage your law firm’s overall attorney SEO rankings.
Follow the guidelines below to ensure that your web image SEO approach is living up to its potential, and rest easy knowing that your law firm’s search engine optimization efforts are on track!
Don’t Let Your Image Stock Go Stale
Making the most of your SEO strategy requires hosting a variety of images that represent your brand well. Instead of posting just one type of photo—for instance, your logo—host photos of your attorney team, the front of your office, and you attending a legal conference in addition to your logo.
Also, be sure to upload new photos on various sites regularly. Although nothing ever disappears on the Internet and older images are still relevant, Google’s image algorithms may rank them as less relevant as time goes on. Pushing out up-to-date images is important to maintaining the integrity of your brand and ensuring that web users find photos that accurately represent your law firm. Similarly, the quantity of images spread by your practice matters to your SEO rankings. The more images your post online, the greater the search engine optimization effects for your law firm.
Name Images Carefully
Did you know that file names affect SEO rankings? Always include your law firm’s name in the file name.
Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
Spread the image love—host images on various platforms including:
- Your law firm’s website
- Social media pages like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google+
- Blog pages
- Press releases (online newswire services often enable you to include a logo or additional images with text)
- Outside locations like reputable guest blogs
Google Your Law Firm
Periodically Google your law firm’s name and view the results under the “Images” tab to determine what types of images are ranking high in terms of SEO. If they are images that you have uploaded and that represent your brand appropriately, keep up the good work! If not, revisit these search engine optimization tips in order to steer your legal SEO strategy on the right path.
Google Mobile Algorithm
Regular readers of the Optimized Attorney Blog will have been following our close monitoring of Google’s expected mobile-friendly algorithm. Google started applying its new ranking methodology to benefit mobile-friendly sites on April 21. As with any Google ranking changes, the application of the new system will take time to ripple though all the pages in the world, so don’t take your rankings on April 22 as set in stone. Now we are into the following week, the results of the changes should finally start to show. However, give your rankings another week to settle down before you take action. In this week’s SEO Trends article you will read the reaction of the SEO news sites to “mobilegeddon.”Search Engine Roundtable has a very heavy technical bias and their posts carry more weight on matters relating to technology. This review also includes articles from Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land.
As a lawyer, you probably don’t have time to sit re-querying and analyzing rankings all day. Fortunately, Barry Schwartz, editor and main contributor to Search Engine Roundtable, has got the time, and that’s pretty much all he’s been doing since April 21. Schwartz setup his vigil on the day of the change over, reporting that nothing seemed to be happening. In this post, the day after the algorithm shake up, Schwartz confirmed that the roll out had begun.
When Google rolls out a change to its ranking algorithm you may notice that the pages of your law firm’s website might suddenly fall and then rise in search engine results, and then fall again. It might seem that Google is reordering rankings hourly, and the rapid yo-yoing of your website’s position may seem over-worked. This phenomenon is caused by the fact that Google meets demand by keeping its records in several different places. Searchers get redirected to one or other database, according to demand. These data centers all have to be updated and the reordering process doesn’t happen simultaneously. So, if your law firm ranks number two for a particular search term and then an hour later is number seven, and then back at number two an hour later, this is because you are accessing different databases. The site has been re-ranked on one of those centers, but not on another. This is why it is advisable to wait at least a week before seeing the effects of new ranking algorithms. This Search Engine Roundtable illustrates this situation.
Search Engine Watch jumped the gun a bit with this article on the effects of the rollout, before the rollout had taken effect. However, the interesting feature of this piece is that it lists some big businesses that just haven’t bothered being mobile-friendly. Enriching the user experience on very small screens may be an impossible task for certain types of products and large businesses with regularly returning customers, such as Ryanair, may not need to please the mobile Web surfer. However, most small law firms in the US get all of their clients from their immediate vicinity and often gain customers who are in a moment of panic and in urgent need. Those types of customers are more likely to search for services on their smartphones, so you really need to do well out of this mobile-friendly algorithm change, even though American Apparel does not.
Google’s interest in access from mobile-devices has been a feature of SEO since the beginning of 2014. It is difficult to work out whether Google is working on searchers from smartphones because that is where the future lies, or whether people are switching to mobile search engine access because Google has willed it to be so. This month’s dash to build mobile-friendly websites was entirely driven by Google’s announcement of its new algorithm. This article shows that your efforts to get your law firm’s site accessible were part of a movement directed by Google. However, the 4.7% increase seems surprising low.
You may have rushed to get your mobile-friendly version out, or maybe you were just too busy with your case load to test every page. This article lists some of the errors that may be lurking on your site and now the panic is over, you should run through all the pages on your site on a mobile device to make sure everything is working properly.
As ever with its worrying schemes of penalties and promotions, Google has provided a path through the ranking chaos to those that pay. If your law firm’s rankings have been ripped to shreds and you just give up trying to recover from the downgrade, signing up for Google AdWords may be your best solution.
The big trend in SEO during 2014 was the switch to searches conducted from mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones rather than from desktop computers. The switch to mobile marches hand in hand with the evolution of local search and both phenomena provide important sources of clients for US law firms. The importance of having a mobile-friendly Web presence is becoming even more important in 2015. News from SEO sites over the past week explain why you should get your law firm’s site mobile friendly. The articles that are recommended reading this week appear on the Bruce Clay blog, Search Engine Watchand Search Engine Journal.
News on the site of SEO guru, Bruce Clay explains why mobile-friendly sites have suddenly become a hot topic again. Google is about to bring out an update to its algorithm to greatly benefit mobile-friendly Web pages. As this article explains, the announced algorithm update will be extremely significant and Google wants to impress that point on the world – they don’t usually pre-announce algorithm updates. Check your law firm’s site on a smartphone and on a tablet to make sure each page displays well in the other formats. The Bruce Clay article explains that there are still a lot of unknowns around the impact of the update and probably more tips will emerge in the weeks to come.
Although this Search Engine Journal article is another take on the Google announcement, both this and the Bruce Clay article are worth reading. This article contains some useful tips and a link to a Google tool that will enable you to test the mobile-friendliness of your law firm’s website.
Justin case you still haven’t got the message that you should be in the race to get your law firm’s website mobile-friendly, here is an item about a market research company’s forecasts about future advertising spending. Just before Christmas they predicted that firms would be spending 76.7 per cent of their search advertising budget on mobile platforms by 2018. Last week, just a little over two months after that prediction, the company has revised its projections up to 83 per cent. This shows that the pace of mobile take-up is even taking those who focus on these issues for a living.
Although you may have committed your law firm’s marketing budget to search engine optimization, Google’s announcement of its algorithm update means that you need to divert some of that money towards getting your site “mobile responsive.” This term means that the pages on your site detect the type of device your visitors are connecting from and divert to a mobile-formatted version of the requested page if it detects a smartphone or a tablet.
As a lawyer, you may not have the time, or the insight to investigate which aspects of your firm’s website should be prioritized, with respect to mobile accessibility. This article from Search Engine Watch summarizes the attributes of a mobile-friendly site that were highlighted by expects speaking at a recent conference.
With just over one week to go before Google releases its mobile-friendliness algorithm on April 21, the SEO news sites are full of further advice on getting your law firm’s site ready for the big change. Although you may worry that all the reading involved in learning about mobile access for websites is taking you away from your case load, getting your site ready for the new rules is a worthwhile exercise. Most small law firms get their clients from their immediate neighborhood and local search is closely linked to mobile access. The articles in this week’s trends review appear at Search Engine Roundtable, the Moz Blog,Search Engine Journal and Search Engine Land.
As a lawyer, you are probably not that motivated by technical tasks, like getting your firm’s website mobile-friendly. This article covers all the issues involved in redesigning a website for mobile access. If you have already got your redesign underway, this read will help you to review priorities for the project. If you haven’t started your website redesign yet, start by reading this article to get familiar with the task.
Search Engine Roundtable is a haven for techie news and if you are not involved in programming your law firm’s website you will probably be bemused by much of that site’s content. However, given the technical nature of rewriting a website, you sometimes need to plunge into the deep end of website production. This is a short article, but it contains three important pieces of information. The main topic of the article explains that you don’t need a sitemap for your mobile site. In the course of imparting this information, however, the writer includes a link to an explanation on the three types of mobile configuration. He also explains that no one bothers writing a feature-phone version of their sites.
Loading speed versus attractiveness has been a hot topic in Web design for some time. The general consensus is fast loading speed is more important than gimmicky displays and content. Potential customers will move on to another site if they arrive at a page that is slow to load. This very useful Moz Blog article explains methods for testing the loading speed of your mobile pages. Even though the explanation of a solution to improving your load times is pretty technical, it is explained so clearly that you shouldn’t have trouble understanding it, even if you are not your legal team’s tech supremo.
This guide on mobile-friendliness from Search Engine Journal is very long. It covers the topic of testing your site’s response times. Probably the best pointer here is how to use Google Analytics to identify the amount of traffic your law firm’s site is attracting from mobile users.
This final item on this week’s reading list points the way to the next stage on your journey to get your law firm’s website to attract clients. The main purpose of the mobile redesign is to tie in with local search. Although you are probably too involved with your mobile-friendliness work at the moment, it is worth bearing local search considerations in mind while you plan your mobile-friendly presentation.
Mobile-Friendly Marketing: Maximizing Your Law Firm’s Social Media Efforts
Some law firms spend hours establishing a social media presence on a number of platforms only to later wonder why they are not receiving the expected amount of audience feedback. The truth is that they may be overlooking one of the most important elements of any law firm’s social media strategy—mobile optimization.
Keep the following advice in mind while designing your social media posts to accrue mobile social media followers.
Know Your Mobile User Demographic
The audience that views your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and blog pages via a computer may not be the same audience who accesses your content via a tablet or smartphone. There is a good chance that the latter is composed of younger, more technologically savvy viewers than your traditional audience, which means you may have to adjust the tone and substance of your law firm’s social media material.
Tailoring material to the appropriate demographic is essential, but it won’t make a difference if the content does not reach an audience. Follow these tips to promote viewership:
- Post current material often. Social media posts remain fresh for only a short period of time and mobile viewers are constantly refreshing their feeds to uncover the most recent trends and information.
- Experiment with new platforms. If you’re not using Instagram and Pinterest to promote your firm then you can say goodbye to tons of potential clients.
- Use link shortener programs like bitly when sharing web links to track interaction levels and determine where your law firm’s social media efforts achieve the greatest results.
Brand Everything but Avoid Clutter
All social media posts should include your firm’s name and logo, and a clickable link back to your firm’s website (mobile website) when possible.
Best practice is to keep the design tidy and the text concise. Posts with detailed graphics and tiny text may look fine on a computer screen, but they’re going to look cluttered on a six-inch smartphone screen. Also, images tend to capture more attention than text. Think of each post as an advertisement. Would it catch your eye if viewed on a mobile device?
Use the Three-Step Rule
Mobile users should be able to quickly and easily interact with posted content. Your law firm’s social media contests and promotions shouldn’t require participants to complete more than three simple steps to enter. If mobile users have to bounce around to various webpages or download an app to participate, they’ll most likely lose interest.
Google’s algorithm changes were particularly frequent during the course of 2014 and you may find that your law firm’s website no longer ranks as well as it used to in search engine results pages. With every algorithm change come new SEO tips and tricks and sometimes, the threat of penalties from a sudden change in Google’s philosophy can make it a better idea to just scrap your current website and start again, rather than try to root out outdated SEO features. This week’s SEO news roundup focuses on articles that contain some strong advice on designing a new website, or updating an existing one. These articles are currently appearing on Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land.
For the vast majority of US law firms, the answer to the question of whether your website should be mobile friendly is “it certainly should.” Small US law firms get most of their clients from their immediate neighborhood and so local SEO is an essential part of any law firm marketing strategy. The rise in the amount of Web access from smartphones and tablets over the last year has been remarkable, and so you are now far more likely to get calls from potential clients who access your site from mobile devices than those who search using laptops and desktop computers. Google offers a range of free tools that can help you assess your website, and any new pages you add to it, for their mobile-friendliness. This article points you towards the right tools to check on your new mobile-friendly website design.
If you intend to hire someone to create your law firm’s new website, you would benefit from the points outlined in this article. Most of the tips here are no-brainers, however, they mainly revolve around getting a clear definition of the development project and defining the requirements for completion. These straightforward definitions are often overlooked on many business projects and it is the failure to define goals and boundaries for commissions that keeps so many lawyers in business. Don’t make the mistakes that you are often hired to resolve for others.
This is quite a long article, but it is worth reading to the end because it explains very clearly some website terms that you may come up against when working with a website designer. You know a lot about the law, and so you are not stupid. However, specialists in IT can often try to bamboozle clients with buzzwords and new techniques. By reading this article you will be better equipped to head off any fashionable but damaging methods your designer may want to include in your new site.
Making changes to an existing site can be harder to manage than creating an entirely new site. If you are redesigning your law firm’s site instead of commissioning a new one, you would benefit from the tips in this article. The main thrust of this piece is to make sure you don’t lose the existing good points of your site, like backlinks, and don’t let the project result in a site that looks fancy, but has terrible SEO.
This Search Engine Watch article pulls together all of the advice contained in the previous articles in this review. It logs the various points in a website design project where SEO considerations should be applied. This runs from scoping the project, through to agreeing the look and feel and on to assessing the finished project. If you are a sole practitioner trying to deal with your case load, you may find all the involvement this checklist recommends a little time consuming. However, it is worth paying attention to details yourself on such a project, because a new website with bad SEO features will be a waste of your time and money.
In addition, incentivizing content sharing and asking followers to interact by posting relevant photos taken using their smartphones and tablets can significantly increase your law firm’s social media reach.