In this chapter, you’ll learn:
- How to create an optimal site structure for your law firm
- How to optimize your title tags
- How to optimize your meta descriptions
- How to leverage internal links to distribute link equity
- How to use structured data to help Google understand your website
- How to speed up your site
- How to optimize your content for semantic search engines like Google
What is On-Page SEO?
On-Page SEO is the practice of optimizing website elements such as content, HTML tags, and structure to improve search engine visibility and rankings.
What’s the Purpose of On-Page SEO?
The purpose of on-page SEO (sometimes called on-site SEO by older school SEOs) is to make web pages individually appealing to both search engines and users by optimizing the content and metadata. It helps in improving the site’s visibility in SERPs, provides value to users, and establishes relevance and context, ultimately leading to a higher ranking, increased engagement, and more conversions.
The primary way SEOs do this is by:
- Optimizing the content and structure of a website.
- Improving user experience by improving navigability.
- Establishing relevance through the proper use of metadata and semantic SEO.
<div class="callout callout-info"><p><strong>Note:</strong> Site speed is a component of Technical SEO, not On-Page SEO.</p></div>
Why the Site Architecture You Choose Matters
The architecture you choose for your website will impact your ability to scale content production and rank.
There are two primary structures you can choose from:
- Flat Architecture
- Sub-Directory Architecture
If you want to rank in highly competitive metros, it’s imperative that you utilize all available advantages.
A flat architecture is easier to implement but can create problems downstream when attempting to organize information in a sensible way for users when they navigate your website and Google when it crawls it.
What is a Flat URL Structure?
A flat URL structure is a type of site architecture that does not use subfolders. Each web page exists at the same hierarchical level directly under the root directory of the website.
In a flat URL structure, each web page is assigned a unique and descriptive URL that typically reflects the page’s content or topic. For example, if you have a website for a blog, the URLs for individual blog posts would look like:
Here’s an example:
Pros of Flat Architecture Websites
Flat architectures are simpler to create.
Cons of Flat Architecture Websites
- Limited organizational capabilities. Which impacts both users, search engines, and your ability to evaluate data in tools like Google Analytics and Search Console.
- Increase the risk of keyword dilution over time if you create a lot of content.
- Search engines use subdirectories to understand how content relates to each other, and a flat architecture forces you to intentionally create internal links to help guide Google.
What is a Multiple Sub-Directory Structure?
A multiple sub-directory site structure, in the context of site architecture, refers to a hierarchical organization of web pages and content within a website using multiple levels of subdirectories. It is a way to categorize and organize website content into logical groups or themes, creating a clear and organized directory structure.
In a multiple sub-directory site structure, the main website is typically organized into a series of parent directories or folders, with each folder representing a higher level in the hierarchy. Within each parent directory, there can be additional subdirectories that further categorize and organize the content.
Which Structure is Best?
SEOs are fairly divided on this issue. Some will tell you to use a multiple sub-directory site structure to help Google understand and navigate your content more easily.
Others will tell you to use a flat architecture and point to Brian Dean’s study that showed shorter URLs rank better.
I’ll go ahead and point out that Brian Dean’s study is flawed.
While his study did show that shorter URLs were correlated with higher search engine rankings, he failed to consider the reason why that might happen: click depth.
As a general rule, the fewer clicks a page takes to get to a page from the home page, the more easily Google will be able to discover and index it.
Most people who use subdirectories do not properly internally link their web pages or make navigation to them easy.
This is a problem with implementation. Not an inherent problem with subdirectories.
Neither structure is inherently better than any other. But if you’re looking for a definitive answer, Google’s John Mueller has hinted multiple times in the past that a subdirectory structure is better.
And that’s what Google uses themselves.
Make sure you religiously and meticulously internally link between your pages if you do decide to use a flat architecture.
Sub-directory structures have a natural hierarchy that promotes good internal linking among a website’s pages.
Breadcrumbs are needed to achieve the same results (as shown below).
Optimizing Your Pages Title Tags
Every page should have a unique <span class="inline-code"><title></span> in the <span class="inline-code"><head></span> of your HTML document that accurately describes what the page is about. A user should be able to read your page title as it appears on Google and have a pretty good idea of what they’ll find if they were to visit your page.
If you were to inspect the code of your page, you should see something like this:
Optimizing a title tag is one of the most impactful tactics for on-page SEO. This is the first method for informing Google about a given page’s topic. Here are some best practices:
- Use your target keyword in your title tag in a way that reads naturally.
- Do not just stuff keywords into your title tag.
- Keep your title tags short but descriptive. Aim to keep them under 50-60 characters in length.
- Apply copywriting best practices to entice a click without trying to trick or confuse people (and search engines).
- Always include a city or state when optimizing for local search.
- Use the term “lawyer” instead of “attorney.” Lawyer tends to have more search volume.
- You can use modifiers like “near me,” “hire,” “free consult” and if it makes sense for the query.
Here are some things to avoid:
- Do not target multiple locations with a single page. Instead,
- If you create individual state and city pages, check to make sure Google doesn’t view them as the same topic. If it does, you’ll want to canonicalize the least prominent one to the most prominent one. If that’s confusing, see the example under this list.
- Do not include your phone number in the title.
- Do not target multiple practice areas with a single page (e.g., don’t create a page that targets both car and truck accidents with the same title).
- Do not add the name of your firm at the beginning of the title.
Here’s the foundational formula that we use for practice area pages:
- <span class="inline-code">city + practice area + lawyer</span>
Which would make a title like:
- “Chicago Car Accident Lawyer”
Depending upon the length of the practice area keyword, you can then add modifiers to improve click-through rates.
For example, Chicago Car Accident Lawyer | Free Consult or for additional search volume opportunities like Chicago Car Accident Lawyer Near Me.
Avoiding Cannibalization with City & State Pages
If you search for two terms on Google and see a majority of the same URLs ranking, it’s a good sign you should just create a single page. The same applies if you search for two topics on Google and get results back that have very similar titles.
For example, if we search for <span class="inline-code">illinois personal injury lawyer</span> we’ll see 3/4 of the top results include the term <span class="inline-code">Chicago</span> in the title tag.
That’s a good sign if you were to create a page targeting the topic <span class="inline-code">illinois personal injury lawyer</span> that you’d want to canonicalize it to your <span class="inline-code">chicago personal injury lawyer</span> page.
Optimizing Your Meta Description Tags
The goal of writing a good meta description is to compel the searcher to click your result by giving them one more signal that your page will have what they’re looking for.
The more enticing the meta description, the greater the chance that a prospective client on Google’s search results will visit your page.
There’s no ironclad blueprint for writing good meta descriptions, but all effective ones need to include your geography and primary keyword, couched in a compelling reason to click through the result.
When in doubt, apply copywriting best practices here.
Here’s an example of a quality meta description:
<div class="callout callout-danger"><p class="p_margin-small"><strong>Note:</strong></p><p>The example above uses the word “best,” which is frowned upon by most state bar associations, but this is otherwise a superb meta description; always be careful when using superlatives in your advertising. Ensure that your SEO or PPC agency understands the restrictions placed on law firm marketing in your respective state.</p></div>
Our study of over 112,000 law firm websites shows a direct correlation between meta-data optimization and better ranking positions.
How to Optimize Internal Links
What is an Internal Link?
An internal link is a hyperlink from one of your web pages to another of your web pages on the same web domain.
Why Does Internal Linking Matter?
Using links within the body of your content bridges the gap between related articles. This is good for users trying to navigate your website and also helps distribute link equity throughout your website.
You can think of link equity as being a measurable quantity, fluidly moving throughout the pages of your site.
By using internal links, you can distribute the equity of those links to your most important pages. This has the side effect of allowing those pages a better opportunity for ranking.
Another significant benefit of internal linking is keeping a user engaged on your site for a longer period of time, thus lowering your bounce rates.
In practical terms, if Google sees a consumer staying on one website longer than another, it may interpret this as the user having a better experience on the site where they stayed the longest.
Lastly, I want to point out that internal links also have a positive effect on conversion rates, as they direct a consumer towards the bottom of the funnel to your conversion point (that is, the contact form).
How to Find Internal Link Opportunities
Here’s an interactive guide explaining how to find internal link opportunities.
Using Structured Data Like Legal Service Schema
Structured data markup is a way of organizing information on a website in a format that search engines and other systems can easily understand. It uses special code or tags to label specific details like names, dates, and locations, helping search engines display more relevant and helpful results to users.
For attorneys, legal service schema is the most important structured data to add to a website. Adding legal services schema to your site explicitly tells Google that the content is related to a law firm.
Legal service schema markups can make your page more relevant to users searching for legal information, which typically results in an increase in your click-through rate.
Having schema markup gives you an additional opportunity to rank over those sites that do not.
<div class="callout callout-info"><p class="p_margin-small"><strong>Tip:</strong> You can insert “free consultation” into the <span class="inline-code">priceRange</span> field rather than fees. See below.</p></div>
Example Structured Data Used by Morgan & Morgan
Page Speed & Load Times
53% of all mobile users leave a site that takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
With search increasingly being driven by mobile use, that’s a percentage of your prospective client base that you simply cannot afford to ignore or underserve.
How to Check Your Website Speed
First, head to PageSpeed Insights and run a diagnostic scan. Here’s an example of how the results might look:
<div class="callout callout-warning"><p><strong>Note:</strong> This isn’t our client. 🐢</p></div>
Most of the time, the largest obstacle to a better website speed is the use of uncompressed, high-definition images. If you upload uncompressed images frequently, this tends to drag down the overall performance of your site.
Remedy this by installing the Smush Image Compression and Optimization plugin.
This tool removes extraneous and hidden information from your images, reducing their file sizes (compressing them) so they’ll transfer across the web faster when a web page is trying to load.
It also scans new images as you upload them, repeating the process of stripping away unnecessary data.
Optimizing Your Website’s Images & Media
First, determine which pages on your site are performing well and which ones aren’t.
You can do this through Google Search Console or our preferred method, Ahrefs’s Site Audit.
This interactive guide will show you how to use the tool to find issues with images on your site.
You can use the list you exported from the site audit to get a head start on fixing and optimizing images. The tips below will help you determine the most important things to pay attention to.
Use HTML Images
The way you handle images and media on your website can have an impact on SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
Search engines rely on various signals to understand and index your website’s content, including images.
- ✅ Use standard HTML elements like <span class="inline-code"><img></span> and <span class="inline-code"><picture></span> to render your images.
- ❌ Do not render them with CSS alone if you want Google to be able to recognize them.
- ✅ Consider using the <span class="inline-code">loading="lazy"</span> attribute to make your pages load faster.
- ✅ Use short but descriptive filenames. A person should be able to look at the name of the file and guess what the image will be like if they opened it. Avoid names like <span class="inline-code">image.jpg</span> and other generic names.
- ❌ Don’t stuff keywords into your file names. It’s a waste of time.
- ✅ Use <span class="inline-code">alt</span> attributes or structured data markup to help Google understand what your images are about. It also ensures your image will display alternative text if your image isn’t loading properly.
- ✅ Use short but descriptive alt text.
<div class="callout callout-warning"><p class="p_margin-small"><strong>The “Alt” Attribute Plays a Vital Role in Ensuring Accessibility on the Web</strong></p><p>It provides a textual description of an image’s content, enabling individuals with visual impairments to understand and engage with the visual elements of a webpage.</p><p>When a screen reader encounters an image with an “alt” attribute, it reads the alternative text aloud, allowing visually impaired users to perceive and comprehend the image’s context and meaning.</p><p>This feature not only enhances their browsing experience but also ensures equal access to information.</p></div>
Optimize Your Images to Improve Your Web Core Vitals
Images are one of the biggest culprits behind slow-loading web pages.
Image file size can have a significant impact on web core vitals, which are performance metrics used by Google to assess the user experience of a website. Here’s how image file size can affect web core vitals:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): LCP measures the time it takes for the largest element, typically an image, to be visible within the viewport. Large image file sizes can delay the rendering of the main content, resulting in slower LCP times. Optimizing image file sizes can help improve LCP by reducing the time it takes for the largest content to load.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): CLS measures the visual stability of a webpage by assessing unexpected layout shifts during page loading. If images with undefined dimensions are present or if the dimensions change after the page loads, it can lead to layout shifts and affect CLS. Optimizing images with defined dimensions helps prevent layout shifts and improves CLS.
- First Input Delay (FID): FID measures the time it takes for a webpage to respond to the first user interaction. Large image file sizes can increase the time required for browser parsing and rendering, potentially impacting FID. By optimizing image file sizes and implementing lazy loading techniques, you can reduce the load time and improve FID.
- Total Blocking Time (TBT): TBT measures the amount of time during page loading when the main thread is occupied with long-running tasks, blocking user input responsiveness. Large image file sizes can contribute to longer parsing and rendering times, increasing TBT. Optimizing image file sizes and utilizing techniques like lazy loading can help reduce TBT and enhance user interactivity.
Helpful Resources on Image Optimization
Optimize Your Page’s Content for Comprehensiveness
Google’s main goal is to give people the most relevant answers when they search as quickly as possible.
Your goal should be creating content on your website with that focus as well.
Once you pick a topic you want to rank for to support to goals of your business, you’ll want to figure out what subtopics to cover.
Most writers take the lazy approach by going to Google, searching for the keyword, then skimming the content across the top-ranking pages to get a sense of what to talk about.
This approach has X problems:
- It’s based on human observation, which is prone to error and inconsistency.
- It takes a long time to do.
- It biases the writer from the get-go and makes it more likely they’ll end up rehashing what everyone else is saying (leading to zero information gain).
Tools like Clearscope can help fill the gap by analyzing the top-performing content and aggregating the relevant terms (entities) and subtopics being used.
A law firm’s website is an indispensable method for getting new clients through Google. Enhancing your site’s online visibility requires understanding the principles of on-page optimization.
Unique and descriptive title tags should provide an accurate page content preview. Meta description tags should work with these title tags to compel visitors to click on your site. Legal Service Schema simplifies your site’s search engine accessibility and can improve click-through rates.
Paying attention to page speed and load times is crucial. Slower sites risk higher bounce rates.
Once people are on the site, use internal links to move them through your funnel. Internal links are also critical for spreading link equity across your site.
HTML format images and alt text on images are necessary for effective image optimization. Keeping image file sizes in check can significantly elevate your Web Core Vitals, enhancing the user experience. Using attributes like lazy loading can also help improve the experience when it comes to images.
Lastly, page content should be exhaustive and relevant. Content optimization tools like Clearscope help you create content that exceeds visitor expectations.
On-page SEO optimization means keeping your pulse on all of these factors. Knowing what to optimize can take a lot of work. But your website can be a substantial growth driver for your law firm by following these best practices.