If you use WordPress for your website or law blog (and you probably should), there are some basic optimizations you should consider making if you care about people finding your content in search engines. If you follow these optimization tips, you can avoid some of the most common WordPress SEO problems, and your website will perform better across the Internet.
Of course, every lawyer’s website is different, so spend some time learning about how search engines work and the consequences of various WordPress configuration settings before applying them. Also, while you may not be comfortable making administrator-level changes, these are basic tweaks any WordPress programmer should be able to do easily and quickly.
Search engines use your site’s URLs to understand what your pages are about. Out of the box, as a default setting WordPress uses “postids” to create URLs. For example: http://yourwebsite.com/?p=123. This doesn’t communicate any semantic information to search engines. Instead, to optimize your permalinks, I suggest using http://yourwebsite.com/category/post-name/. To change the WordPress default to follow this structure:
- Navigate to Settings > Permalinks
- Select Custom Structure and enter: /%category%/%postname%/
- Click save changes
Now your URLs will reflect your post categories and post names instead of a random string of numbers.
Yoast SEO Plugin
While WordPress has a lot of “search engine-friendliness” built-in, I encourage you to install Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin.
To install the plugin:
- Navigate to Plugins > Add New
- At the Install Plugins screen, search for “WordPress SEO”
- Look for “WordPress SEO by Yoast” in the results, then click “Install Now”
Once you have the plugin properly installed, you should see “SEO” under Settings in your WordPress administration menu.
I encourage you to set up both Google and Bing Webmaster Tools. If you have already set up these accounts, you can verify them from WordPress SEO by navigating to SEO > Dashboard and entering their respective meta values.
Next, you’ll want to configure your Titles & Metas settings. Under the Titles & Metas General tab, I usually recommend checking the add “noodp” and “noydir” meta robots tags boxes. This will give you more control over your pages’ meta descriptions.
If you’re configuring a blog, under the Home tab, you should configure author highlighting. This will set up authorship across your blog. If you’re configuring a static law firm website, you probably ought not configure authorship as it may violate Google’s Quality Guidelines.
Whether it’s a website or blog, you should also configure your Google Publisher page settings. Under the Post Types tab, you can configure how your post and page titles are generated globally. I usually recommend using:
- Title template: %%title%%
- Meta Description template: %%excerpt%%
Of course, these global settings can be overridden on an individual page or post basis.
Under the Taxonomies tab, you can configure global settings for your categories and tags. How these are configured can vary greatly from one installation to another so I won’t make a general recommendation here.
More Advanced Configuration and Optimization Settings
Fortunately for all of us, Yoast has written a Definitive WordPress SEO Guide, covering a wide variety of additional configuration settings to help your site or blog perform better in search engines. If local search is part of your marketing plan, I also recommend Yoast’s Local SEO WordPress Plugin. And if your site or blog contains video content, the Video SEO for WordPress plugin.
As always, before you implement any major changes (including plugin installation, configuration settings changes, etc.) be sure to have a viable backup of your site files and database before you make the changes.
Don’t break your sites!
Gyi Tsakalakis helps lawyers put their best foot forward online because clients are looking for them there. He is a co-founder of AttorneySync, a digital marketing agency for law firms. You can find more of Gyi’s writing in his “Optimize” column on Attorney at Work, on Lawyerist and on Avvo’s Lawyernomics blog. You can ask him a question (or just say hi) on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.