6 Common SEO Mistakes that Lawyers Make

Lawyers don't love SEO much and I respect that. But many lawyers want to get more attention from Google as part of their digital marketing strategy, and a little SEO knowledge can go a long way. At the very least, perhaps we lawyers could try to avoid making these really simple SEO mistakes?

Generally speaking (at least, for now) SEO efforts normally mean words on your site. Other content types are great, but articles (followed closely by video) are your best bet when it comes to SEO – so are you seeing the results?

Of course there are a tonne of things I could say you “must” do to see more SEO results as a lawyer, but let's start with some really easy-to-fix stuff.

Bad Site Structure Hurts SEO

When you're hunting for a service provider and you get to a website, what do you want to see?

Ideally, you want a clear and unambiguous way to get to the information that you're looking for, right? And if you can't find it fairly quickly (inside a click or two) then the chances are you're head somewhere else.

Googlebot is no different.

As well as content, one of the ways Google looks at your site is by following all the links around the place. A good site structure helps Google figure out what your site is about, and what's important content versus less important content. If everything you have is just inside a gigantic sea of words, then it's got buckly's chance of doing it.

Here's a basic picture of what I”m talking about, courtesy of our genius friends at Moz:

Improve your Law Firm's SEO with Site Structure and Internal Linking

  1. Create categories on the big buckets of content types for your site (eg – construction litigation, contract reviews, contract administration and so on);
  2. Use them when you write articles on the topics you have selected (if anything you produce is “uncategorized” then you've done it wrong);
  3. Create cornerstone content that links out to these detailed articles, and is linked back to by these articles

Misusing Heading Tags In your Articles

As you might know, when your articles are plonked onto your website, the headings have styles applied to them – normally using “heading tags” called H1, H2 and so on.

Ideally, a standard article should consist of:
1) A title – which will usually be an “H1” tag (remembering the on-page title may or may not be the same as your SEO title…);
2) Main Sub-headings – which will usually be “H2” tags;
3) If required, secondary Sub-headings of (2), which could be “H3” tags;
4) H4 and so on only if you really need them or the article structure demands it.

The Googlebot uses these tags as part of the way it figures out what your article is about and what the important words are. Basically – H1 is the most important, H2 next and so on.

Normally on a WordPress site, these heading tags have different styles (how they look) applied to them – but in truth, how they look isn't relevant for Google – it just looks at the tags. For that reason, if nobody likes how the H2 style looks and therefore doesn’t use it, the solution is to fix the H2 style, not just skip over to H3.

Practical Tips for Bad SEO from Heading Tags

  1. If you're using WordPress, you probably have your “H1” tags sorted out already – it will be the article title
  2. Edit a few of your articles, and check that the major headings in your article are “H2” styles
  3. Where relevant, H2 headings might also reinforce whatever keyword/s or topics you're writing about
  4. If you don't like how H2 headings look – get a web nerd of some kind to help you fix the H2 style, don't just use other styles…

Posting Constant Fluff Pieces

Producing content just for the sake of producing content is a no-no.

If you're going to write content that isn't a compelling detailed look at a topic, then at least do so with the understanding that its chances of ranking well in Google are probably very low. Sure, it might have other benefits but it's probably not going to help your SEO effort very much.

Why? Because Google wants to give people the most helpful responses to a particular query – and shallow writing is almost never that.

Practical Solution – Less Fluff

  1. Usually fluff writing is because there's no content marketing strategy in place – get one
  2. If you're going to incorporate shorter and less considered pieces then that's fine – but it shouldn't be all the time
  3. Take an audit of your last 5 articles – how long were they, and would you call them a comprehensive treatment of the topics they were covering?
  4. For lawyers in particular, I'd aim for 4/5 articles to be erring on the side of detailed rather than not.

Keyword Stuffing

While it might seem attractive to write “brisbane's best {insert area here} lawyers” into your content 485 times, I'm hoping you know by now that doing it is a bad idea for any law firm SEO effort.

Not only won't it work – it's probably going to do you damage.

Again – Google wants substance, not games. Why? Because that's what people want!

Avoid Stuffing

  1. Don't stuff your article with keywords – use them naturally and make it obvious what your article is about

Topics Nobody Cares About

Topic selection is a critical part of any law firm's SEO strategy.

Often, topic selection comes after a meeting where people say “oh hey – we haven't done an article in a while, get a clerk to look at the latest cases and churn something out”. This is a poor strategy for many reasons, including if your law firm wants to improve it's SEO efforts.

Next what happens is that we forget who we're writing for – our clients or potential clients. If we aren't thinking of them from the moment we come up with ideas, then inevitably our ideas end up being things focused on US and OUR interests, rather than our clients and their interests.

The result? You're producing stuff that might be great, but nobody in your target market actually cares about it.

Topic Selection for Effective SEO

  1. Write for your market – keep your ideal client/s in mind when selecting topics;
  2. Produce content that answers questions or addresses issues (pain points or burning desires) you know that people actually have;
  3. Use the same kind of language that your clients use.

Half Baked Content That's Not Very Helpful

This is connected to a similar issue as the fluff pieces section earlier, but it's slightly different. Your job is to produce the most helpful piece of content that you can.

Let's say you've chosen a good topic that your clients care about, and you're setting out to produce your article.

A number of main things can go wrong at this point:

  1. your firm imposes an arbitrary word count limit on articles – this is extremely silly and ill-advised;
  2. you become concerned that you're “giving too much away”;
  3. you get busy and rush finishing the article.

Each of these falls into the category of “Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!”

Firstly – length of content should never be arbitrary. For some topics, 500 words might be the best treatment you can give, for others 500 words might be scratching the surface. The concept that people don't read longer articles is completely wrong. People don't read longer articles if they're not helpful, or are poorly written. A well written, well laid out article that's actually helping people will do just fine.

Next – there is no amount of information you could possibly give away that would match how much other free information people can get. Maybe in years past, legal information was valuable, but it's now worth far less than you might think.

Last – stop making excuses about how busy you are.

Helpful Content Builds SEO Results

  1. If you've chosen a good topic, then that includes choosing a topic that will come out to a reasonable length, rather than a book – good topic selection will help you again here?
  2. Again, focus on the pain or desire that you're trying to help people with – have you done the best you can with that?
  3. If you can, get someone to read your article before publishing and offer advice on how it might be improved.

SEO Mistakes and How to Fix Them in a Nutshell?

For you scrollers, here it is:

  1. Bad site structure – implement categories and internal links;
  2. Heading tags – use them correctly;
  3. Fluff pieces don't build SEO authority;
  4. Don't stuff your desired keywords all over the place like a lunatic;
  5. Choose better topics that people actually care about;
  6. Write content that actually helps people.

Now it's over to you – what mistakes do YOU think you might be making now, or have made in the past?

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