Search engine optimization, or SEO, can be a swirl of should-do, could-do, would-do-if-there-was-time … suddenly it’s an alphabet soup and not much has changed for your website.
But an SEO workshop earlier this year at LMA Tech West struck me as particularly helpful and actionable. As the panel discussed trends in search, questions flew left and right. Amid the high energy, I realized that legal marketers are hungry for some quick, relatively easy-to-accomplish SEO tips to start optimizing their website and content — as in, today.
Do You Consider SEO When Posting Articles or Blog and Social Media Posts?
If not, you should! These eight questions to ask in your firm address some of the low-hanging fruit that you can capitalize on pretty quickly.
1. Do we currently use outside website links as resources and hyperlink to important keywords? There are two things to consider in this question. First, what kind of link are you sending your reader to? It is beneficial for SEO when you add a hyperlink to a website with “domain authority.” Hopefully, that website will link back to your website. (These links back to your website are called “backlinks.”) Make sure your linking practices are thought out and make sense in the context of the webpage content.
The second thing to consider is keywords. Notice I used the term “domain authority,” above, to hyperlink out to a relevant article from a website with strong domain authority. The days of using “click here” in your text have passed. When you don’t use descriptive words for your hyperlink, the text and link aren’t effective for users, hence making this a bad practice. Work hyperlinks organically into your text, and choose relevant, meaningful terms that relate to the hyperlink’s content.
2. What should we do when we have to remove a departing attorney’s bio from the website? Don’t forget that the attorney has likely shared his biography’s URL, or the URL has been cited on some other website as a resource link. Once you “un-publish” your departing attorney’s bio page, that link is broken. Instead, be sure to set up a redirect link that sends the reader to a practical page as a replacement. You could redirect to that former attorney’s practice group page, or give the user the option to navigate to another area of your website.
3. How does my team manage all of the local directories? I hear they are important, but there are dozens of listing sites to claim for my firm’s locations. The easiest answer may cost you a little money, but you can get the analysis at no cost and then make an educated purchasing decision. Use a tool like Yext.com to help claim and clean up your listings and keep the listings locked down until you need to make an update. (Related: Top 10 Legal Directories Where You Should be Found.)
4. We’ve been using a WordPress-based (or LexBlog-based) content management site for the firm’s blog. How do I make sure our lawyers are writing good SEO titles for readers as well as site crawlers? There are a couple of options here, so you are in luck! The first option is a plug-in that can be added to the backend of your blog site. (Note: You may already have this tool so be sure to ask your account manager.) The tool is called Yoast SEO. Be on the lookout for it next time you are entering content. With Yoast you have the option to edit your SEO title, metadata and URL slug, and then define your focus keyword. Importantly, Yoast provides analysis to help you know what to improve, if there are problems, and what you have already done well (which is a good time to pat yourself on the back).
So Yoast isn’t available? The other option to maximize the impact of your titles is to use HTML coding and H1 tags. Yuck! I know, right? Coding is not the easiest to tackle, but this fix is pretty simple. Here is what you do:
- Enter your main title just as you normally would, knowing that this is the actual display title that readers will see on the blog post page.
- The second “title” you want to add will be the SEO optimized version of the title. Write a secondary title that would be best for a crawler to read. You then insert something like, “<h1>SEO Optimized Title Inserted Here</h1>” as a snippet of code at the very top of the blog post. WordPress also makes this easy for you. You can simply type this title as the first thing in the blog post text editor, highlight, and select the Heading 1 option. H1 headings are ranked high in SEO “juice” just behind the title.
5. How do we select the right keywords for optimization? Fortunately, a free tool from Google called “Google Keyword Planner” can make this super easy. You need to have a Google AdWords account, which is also free. Check it out, and narrow down the keyword options that you want your page content to be optimized for.
6. What is metadata, and how do we use it? Referring back to Yoast, metadata can be entered into Yoast, which then allows you to customize the “set of data that describes and gives information about other data.” Meaning? You can create a summary of the blog post (or other webpages) that tells both the reader and page crawlers what they are about to read by displaying this “meta description” as a snippet preview. Or create a title tag that displays at the top of your browser’s window tabs. Although most meta tags do not add SEO “juice,” it is helpful to be aware which meta tags are meaningful from a reader’s perspective. Learn more about meta descriptions from Google webmasters. (Note that this topic easily deserves its own post.)
7. Are we using alternative text (“alt text”) when we add images to our content? If you are not using alternative text with images, you are going to run into at least two issues.
- Crawlers can easily identify what is seen in an image when using a text description in the alt text. Therefore, the crawler can assess the value of the image relative to the content on the page.
- Your web accessibility will be negatively impacted if images do not have alt text. At the LMA Technology Conference Midwest, a presenter provided an example of what a screen reader sounds like on an inaccessible website. It is almost unbearable to listen to a poorly designed website through a screen reader. Imagine what a potential client will experience if they land on a site and their screen reader can hardly decipher what is on the page.
8. Are we being mindful of page speed and load time? Although page speed and load time are not inherently affecting your SEO, a high bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who leave after viewing just one page) can be as detrimental to your user experience as bad SEO practices. A quick tip for avoiding one of the major causes of bounced users: Increase page speed and load time. And how do you do that? Be mindful of your image sizes (a good rule of thumb is 100KB or less), and make sure they are web-optimized (typically, 72 dpi is a good standard).
Walter D. McCorkle is a Marketing Technology Coordinator at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP. He works closely with the firm’s 500-plus attorneys and the business development team to manage content flow through the firm’s various communication channels.
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