Lawyers SEO is all about getting free advertising for your law firm by getting to the top of results returned by search engines, such as Google. You know that there are many factors that contribute towards successful rankings and the main two are grouped as Content and Links. However, if you do all the right things with these two factors for your law firm’s website, you may find that other law firms still get into the list above you, and so get better visibility with potential clients. Quite often the difference in ranking one place higher could be just 0.0001 of a ranking point. So, many SEO gurus focus on finding small tweaks that can gain that extra little fraction of a point and push their client’s site up one place on the results page.
This week Lawyers SEO Trends looks at the current debate on the power of technical factors as reported by the SEO news sites. The most technical of SEO sites out there is Search Engine Roundtable, so you will read a lot of articles from that site this week. We also have tips from the Moz Blog, Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land.
Columnist Clayburn Griffin focused everyone’s attention on technical SEO this week with an article on LinkedIn Pulse, and this piece, which appeared in Search Engine Land. The point he is making is that technical SEO factors alone won’t put your law firm’s site to the top of search engine results pages. He is right. As you saw in the introduction to this week’s SEO Trends, technical factors involve keeping your website working correctly, so you don’t have broken links, and getting a little boost for your rankings from organizing your files in a special way. You need great content and quality backlinks above all else. If your website looks bad and has no links, no amount of technical SEO can get you to the top of the page.
Griffin’s piece provoked two major responses, both of which came out on the 16th of this month. The first is this article that appeared in Search Engine Watch. Max Holloway is hot under the collar about the things Griffin said, mainly because he makes a living as a technical SEO consultant. Holloway lists a number of technical SEO tasks that cannot be overlooked. These are all relevant, except most US lawyers don’t need to bother with hreflang settings because you are unlikely to be touting for business from different foreign countries. The issue of moving folders around on your server is an important one. The path of a page ends up being part of its address, so if you change a folder name all the links that other people have pointing into pages in that section of your site will break. That’s bad for attracting customers and it also loses you ranking points. Optimizing for load speed is another important technical factor. The second response to Griffin’s article appeared in Search Engine Land – The role of technical SEO is “makeup”? Really?
Here is a very detailed guide on a technical SEO topic that you don’t need to be very technical to master – URLs. Believe it or not, the names of the files you store your law firm’s Web pages in can make a difference to your rankings. On the issue of top level domains (TLDs), however, be aware that Google’s Gary Illyes and John Mueller both advise that these make no difference at all to your rankings. This was reported in the article, Google Ignores Keywords/Content In TLDs at Search Engine Roundtable this week.
If you looked into the problem of your law firm’s website loading slowly, you may have been enticed to use a content delivery network to speed things up. A slow loading time is one of the technical factors that may be harming your rakings. This is mainly because people are not inclined to hang around waiting for your page to load and so go off to the next result in the search engine results page, thus increasing your bounce rate. If so, you may have found that the crawl rate you get on your site from Google has recently dropped dramatically. This is an example of how using technical advances to improve a feature of your site can actually do you harm. It will take Google a while to catch up with the new techniques and in the meantime, changes you make to your site won’t get registered in Google’s databases as quickly as they would have done had you not employed this method to speed up your website loading times.
Now we get into the realms of the super-technical. As you are probably very busy managing your legal case load, you might not be trained in the skills needed to manage the code in your Web pages. Few people are, so mastering factors such as semantic markup may require hiring-in skills. However, Google Tag Manager makes this task a lot easier by presenting a non-technical user interface that anyone can master. As with any whizz-bang piece of technology, it doesn’t always work. This article from Moz guides you through the pitfalls so you can insert JSON-LD code into your pages and get some ranking points.
Linking Technical Factors
As a lawyer, you probably have to grapple with all the technical issues relating to creating a Web presence for your law firm. Techie tasks such as buying a domain name, getting hosting, uploading Web pages and inserting pictures into text are difficult enough, without going into the details of the code behind the screens. However, small tweaks and little cheats can give you a ranking boost over similar pages. If you have looked at the sites of your rivals and can’t work out why their pages place higher in Google than those of your site, it may be that they have made the investment into technical ranking boosters that you have overlooked. Now is the time to look at these factors. This week’s SEO Trends round up focuses on the structural factors that internal links create that will give you an easy ranking boost. Search Engine Roundtable is the go-to site for technical issues, so you will be reading advice from that source today. This round up also includes articles from Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land.
Here is a fairly simple technical task to get you started. A site with a lot of dead links is losing out on rankings and losing out on potential customers. You may have links to background information on other sites, and not realize that those resources have been moved. If you decide to rename a directory that contains a lot of pages for your law firmwebsite, all the links in the rest of your site pointing to that page will break. Any small change in a file or directory name will lose you links. So, first of all be very careful when handling file names, and, secondly, check all of your site periodically for broken links.
Here is an example of how the structure of a website can enhance your ranking points. Internal linking is often overlooked. However, if you take two websites that have exactly the same content, but attract all backlinks to a top-level page on one (preferably the Home page), that site will have a higher ranking than the one that gets backlinks pointing all over the site. Similarly , you should push outbound links as low down in your website’s hierarchy as possible – don’t rely on “nofollow” to try to preserve your link juice. Getting all your backlinks pointing to the Home page is frowned upon by Google. However, the concept of hub pages, outlined in this article would work well for a law firm. You could have a hub page for each practice area and attract all the links there.
Backlinks, which point into your law firm’s website carry votes with them and those votes convert into your ranking. Outbound links (also called “forward links”) do not enhance your rankings. You pass your points on to all pages linked to from a page in your site, however, so the fewer links you have out to other sites, the more ranking gets channeled back to the other pages on your site that you link to. Managing the recirculation of ranking points around your site is one of the most powerful technical methods available to a Web designer.
Search Engine Roundtable has another article on the topic of internal links this week. Overall, you shouldn’t bother with nofollow for internal links. All nofollow does is it tells Web crawlers to ignore a particular link. You get more of a ranking boost if Google sees all of your internal links and follows them. It used to be assumed that putting nofollow on all external links prevented the link juice of a page from leaving the site. However, Google counts the number of links in a page (including the ones that have nofollow) and divides link juice by that figure, so you lose link juice through external links even if they have nofollow on them.
This article contains a very interesting insight into some changes that have occurred in Google’s ranking algorithm. It used to be that all links on a page were given equal weighting when gaining a share of the link juice that page has to pass on. It seems that links in headers, footers and side bars have less weight than those in the main body of the page. You can use this to your own advantage by putting internal links in the body of your law firm’s Web texts and putting external links, such as to the courthouse, or professional bodies in footers and site-wide menu bars.
Tips on URLs
Having a memorable name for your legal practice can give a law firm marketing boost. Having a memorable address for your law firm’s website can be just as important. Traditionally law firms use the names of the main partners in the practice as the name over the door. However, if you are starting up your practice you might like to think about giving it a name that relates to your area of expertise – particularly if you have an unpronounceable name. This week we look at the address of your website and how the different elements of the Web address should be handled to make access to your important pages easier and to enhance your ranking in Google. Search Engine Roundtable has some interesting tips on the addresses of Web pages this week. You will also read an older post from the Moz Blog about URLs and we have some advice on URL selection from marketing expert, Hanif Sipai.
SEO Tips for URL Optimization in 2016 #Infographics
We start off with a rundown of URL advice, written at the end of last year. There is some good solid advice in here, so if you are starting up a new law firm, or just creating a website for an existing firm, this is a good place to start when deciding on what address you should buy for your company.
One of Sipai’s tips on URL choice was to get an address that includes your keywords. He also recommends addresses that have the most important keyword for a site as close to the beginning as possible. The Search Engine Roundtable article weighs in with the ranking value of keywords in addresses. It seems they don’t give you much of a ranking boost. However, if you are starting a new site, a little boost is better than none. Also, getting your practice specialty in the name of your site as prominently as possible cannot harm the visibility of the site and it will help to make the address more memorable for those who hear about your site by word of mouth.
Here is Rand Fishkin of Moz explaining his take on URLs. He does rate putting keywords in there and doing everything to make the site name and the names of pages memorable. He explains that some links show the URL rather than an anchor text with the URL embedded behind it. In these instances, having a descriptive URL acts as an advert for your firm’s purpose and the points of interest in the page that should attract visitors. Fishkin covers a lot of the same advice that Sipai prioritized. However, reading the same tips twice from two different sources isn’t a waste of time – it confirms the veracity of the advice.
Fishkin mentioned redirects in his list of advice on addressing. This is a field that a lot of Web designers try to avoid, because there is a lot of conflicting advice on whether Google likes or dislikes them. As a rule, you should try to avoid them. However, the main purpose of a redirect is to forward people on to a different address when a page moves. If you have several directories to hold the pages of your law firm’s site, you may one day change the name of one of them. As the directory name is the path in the address, it is actually part of the address. Changing the name of directory, therefore, will make all the links out in the world pointing to pages in that directory result in a “Not Found” message being displayed. To avoid this you have to put in a redirect. This will seamlessly move the visitor over to the new address. A 301 redirect is classified as a “permanent” move. A 302 is “temporary.” According to this advice, even if you have permanently moved a page, use a 302 redirect code, because that will pass ranking points over to your moved page, whereas a 301 will not.
Another important decision you need to make when setting up a new website for your law firm is what protocol to use. This is the bit that goes before the “://” in the address and the default is HTTP, which will give your URL an “http://” on the front of it. Google wants everyone to be on the encrypted version of HTTP, which is called HTTPS (HTTP Secured) and will show as “https://” at the beginning of your URL. If you are already running a site over HTTP, you might consider switching to HTTPS. If you are working on that move, this article should answer some questions. Follow the links in the article to read Search Engine Roundtable’s advice on the topic and an explanation of their experience when they made the move from HTTP to HTTPS.
Scrapers and Spammers
You may have some content on your law firm’s website of which you are particularly proud. However, without you knowing it, someone may have copied all or part of one of your articles and have the text indexed in Google. The result of this is that when someone searches for the keywords you rank for, they will also get other sites popping up in the search results that show exactly the same information as your site. This is extremely annoying because it makes it difficult for your site to be seen as authoritative when it appears alongside a heap of trash. There is very little you can do to solve this problem. However, Google is finally starting to address the issue. Find out more about scrapers and spammers from articles appearing in Search Engine Journal , Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land.
Being outranked by a scraper site? Google says it’s your problem
This article sets the scene on the issue of scraper sites. Most scrapers use a program to copy text from other pages. The presentation of that text is usually poor and it may join together text from several different sites. A lot of scrapers even include the author name and the name of the original website the text was stolen from, so they can rank for searches on your law firm’s name. Not only can your own pages get crowded out by spammy plagiarizers, but some of those sites can even rank higher than yours, because, being copies, they are newer than the original and benefit from a “freshness” ranking boost. To find out whether your content has been scraped, you just need to copy some of the text and paste it into a Google search. See if other sites come up in the search results showing exactly the same content as yours. Alternatively, copy all the text of an article into a plagiarism checker, such as the one at Small SEO Tools.
Google is Rolling Out Algorithm Changes Targeting Hacked Spam, Affecting 5% of Queries
The difficulty of dealing with scraper sites is that Google has no mechanism that allows you to report copycats, and they won’t remove those sites on an ad hoc basis. So, you are left to fight the issue in court as a copyright infringement case. As a lawyer, you are ideally placed to pursue scrapers through the courts, but only if you can trace them. Every site has to be registered to an owner and that information can be found by typing “whois” followed by the domain name into a Google search, for example “whois jamesattorneymarketing.com.” However, if that site is registered to an address in Russia, or China, the feasibility of chasing the scraper through foreign courts is drastically reduced. Google now says it is dealing with this problem to weed out scraper sites. Fingers crossed that it works.
Study: 29% Of Sites Face Duplicate Content Issues & 80% Aren’t Using Schema.org Microdata
Google penalizes duplicate content, and its automatic procedures can’t always tell the difference between the original and the copier, so your legitimate original content will be down-ranked if someone scrapes its content. This article is slightly tangential to the topic of scraping and spamming, because it deals with duplication in the HTML code of your site. If your law firm’s site was generated out of a website assembling service then every page is likely to have the same tags in it. Not only are these tags duplicated on your site, but also on every other site that used the same website generator. So, your site may appear spammy because Google’s programs look at the HTML of a page, not at its finished appearance in the browser.
The Verdict Is In: Internet Searches Gaining Traction In Legal Referrals
The damage scrapers can do to your website’s ability to get clients for your firm is increasing each year. As the Web-savvy generation grows up, the use of the Web is becoming ingrained as the primary medium to find services. This report explains that law firms increasingly get their clients from their websites. The influence of word of mouth is still more important than Web searches as a source of clients. However, the younger generation is more likely to hire you because of your website, rather than because of recommendations.
What is an authority website and how can I become one?
No matter how much of an authority you are on your area of specialization in the law, you have to build an online reputation through your website as well in order to project authority. This effort is seriously undermined by scraper sites, so Google’s plans to get rid of scraper results will really help your online marketing work. If you find spammy sites have copied text from your articles, you will probably have to take those pages off your site and rewrite them, so they no longer include the copied text. This article explains the concept of authority and will help you gain a good reputation online.