Chris Dreyer About the Author Chris Dreyer is the CEO & Founder of, a law firm search engine optimization agency that offers high-quality SEO services for lawyers. Chris contributes to the blog and also to many Internet marketing & legal marketing publications including but not limited to Moz, Ahrefs, Legal Ink Magazine, Attorney at Work, and more.
Search Engine Optimization Guide for Law Firms > Law Firm On-Site SEO

Chapter 5: On-Site SEO for Attorneys

onsite seo for lawyers

What is On-Site SEO?

On-site SEO refers to optimization of those elements of a website that allow search engines to crawl, analyze, index, and return relevant results for users. These optimization tasks are performed on the website itself, as opposed to tasks performed elsewhere on the internet to influence a site’s ranking. Examples of on-site SEO include:

  • The optimization of page copy for specific keyword phrases.
  • Optimization of page titles, headings, and meta descriptions.
  • Utilization of schema and/or other structured data.
  • Organization of a logical content hierarchy.
  • Implementation of best practices for usability.
  • Technical elements like site security (HTTPS), sitemaps, and indexability.
  • Usability like mobile responsiveness, page load times, and working links.

Onsite SEO vs Offsite SEO

Offsite SEO is just what it sounds like РSEO that happens off of, or away from a website. These tasks are performed in other areas of the internet to influence a website’s ranking in a search engine’s results. Some common examples of offsite SEO are:

  • Link-building
  • Creation of citations (mentions of a business’s name on other websites)
  • Submission of a website to directories

Offsite and onsite SEO work in concert with one another. Onsite SEO is the foundation of a website’s performance in search with things like structure and content at its heart. Offsite SEO are tasks related to promoting that foundation.¬†Both onsite and offsite SEO can have a profound impact on where a site ranks in search. Both are necessary to achieve success with any kind of SEO campaign.

Matthew Laurin

From Matthew Laurin, Director of Marketing at
‚ÄúWell crafted title tags increase the likelihood that people will click on your search result which sends signals to Google that the result was helpful.¬† Google provides some good advice for crafting good titles here‚ÄĚ

page titles best practices for onsite seo

Section 1: Page Titles

What is a title tag?

Page titles are the text that appears at the top of webpage in your browser tab. They may also show up in other areas like the main blue heading of search results pages or in the snippets generated when URLs are pasted into social-media websites. 

Title Tag Example
Live title example on website

Best Practices

Page titles are one of the first ways people learn about your website when they scan search results pages from left to right. Here are some common best practices for page titles:    

  • They should contain the target keyword phrase for the page
  • The target keyword phrase should be first (all the way to the left)
  • Page titles should be 60 characters or less
  • Titles should ‚Äėsell‚Äô the webpage
  • They should stand out from titles used by¬†other competitors


How to make a good title tag:

  • Front-load your titles by putting the primary keyword first, then any applicable secondary keyword phrase (a synonym or related phrase), followed by the name of your law firm last.
  • Ensure that it is no more than 60 characters in length (including spaces).
  • Title tags should “sell” the web page they are about if possible.
  • Make sure your titles stand out from competitors targeting the same phrases.

Here’s a page title targeting a primary keyword phrase:

An example of a title tag targeting a primary keyword phrase in law firm seo

And an example of a title targeting a long tail phrase:

An example of a title tag targeting a long tail keyword phrase in law firm seo

Most content management systems have text boxes where you can type in the title of a page. For example, when using the All-in-One SEO plugin in WordPress, users can type the title of the page into a text box.  It will tell them if their title is too long and if it contains the page’s target keyword phrase which saves time.

all in one seo pack title tag optimization

Users can also configure the app to use the post or page title entered at the top of the editor as the title for the post or page itself. 

If you aren’t using a content management system and your website is custom coded, page titles have to be written in HTML.  There’s more on this here.

Further Reading

Meta Descriptions For Attorneys

Section 2: Meta Descriptions

What is a meta description?

A meta description is a snippet of text that search engines and other websites use to give a preview of what a page contains. They basically serve as an excerpt and (like page titles) are usually what make people click on a search result. 


Best practices

Not every page of a website needs to have a compelling meta description. ¬†Some pages like terms of service, legal disclaimers and other boilerplate content don’t really need to be marketed. ¬†Pages that do should use the following best practices:

  • Meta descriptions should contain compelling sales language
  • They should feature a call to action
  • They should be no longer than 160 characters if possible
  • They should contain the target keyword phrase for the page
  • All pages relevant to your business’s main services should have a relevant meta description

It should be noted that meta descriptions are not a ranking factor for search engines, but they are a website owner’s chance to ‚Äėsell‚Äô themselves when they show¬†up in search results pages.¬†They are one of the primary things searchers look at before they click on a search result.¬†


If you are using WordPress (or some other content management system) you are able to write out meta descriptions in the same way they would page titles.  By using a plugin like All-in-One SEO pack or Yoast, users can quickly enter meta descriptions right into a text field in the page editor. 

how to update your meta description

If you are not using a CMS, meta descriptions have to be coded manually onto a web page. There are examples on this page. 

Further Reading

h1s and h2s for attorneys

Section 3: Headers and Sub-headers

What are headers?

Headings refer to the headlines that appear before blocks of text on a webpage. In SEO, software programs called bots crawl the internet to index web pages. These bots use headings to determine what the content on a page is about. H1 headings are considered the most influential and indicate the most important concepts on the page. 


Best Practices

The following are some best practices for writing page headings:

  • Each page should have only one H1 page heading, and any additional heading should be a sub-heading (i.e. H2, H3, and so on)
  • Page headings should contain the target keyword phrase for the page
  • Headings should help break up content on the page
  • Headings should be descriptive of the content underneath them
  • Keywords should be included in H2, H3 and additional sub-headings
  • Use long-tail and semantic keywords in headings


Headings are written during the generation of page copy.¬†If you’re using¬†WordPress you can wrap headings in appropriate header tags or use a text editor from within¬†the CMS. ¬†

Here is the basic syntax for doing it manually as well as some perspective for how browsers and search engines view header tags (Hint: the lower the number, the larger the headings are to users and the more important they are to search engines):

<h1>Your Awesome Legal Headline</h1>

<h2>Your Awesome Legal Headline</h2>

<h3>Your Awesome Legal Headline</h3>

<h4>Your Awesome Legal Headline</h4>

<h5>Your Awesome Legal Headline</h5>

Further Reading

best onsite practices for in-depth content

Section 4: In-depth Page Content

What is it?

The copy on web pages should be as substantial as possible.  This means that it should cover a topic area completely and be framed as a reliable resource for that particular topic compared to other, similar content on the web. Content that fits this bill is typically well-written, edited, proofed, contains links to additional resources, etc. 

Best Practices

Note that not every page on a website must have content of this caliber, but the Practice Area, Bio, About, Service, and Blog topic pages should all have substantial amounts of well-written content content that should: 

  • Be¬†written by a JD
  • Be longer¬†than 500 words
  • Contain links to external resources that support arguments/points in the piece
  • Be¬†a better resource than other similar pieces of content on the internet
  • Be¬†grammatically correct without errors
  • Be¬†relevant to the target keyword phrase for the page (and only about that concept).


There is no set template for producing good content, but businesses can start by improving their most important pages. These include:

  • Service pages
  • Bio pages
  • Blog pages
  • Pages that contain helpful information for your audience

These pages should contain more than just topical information. For example, a car accident practice-area page should have lots of helpful information for consumers about the types of personal injury insurance that could be applicable in their state; references to statutes in their respective states; definitions of legal phrases; how insurance carriers handle auto accidents; and pretty much all the information one might need to know if they were involved in an auto accident and are now seeking legal advice.

A page like this could then be enhanced with links to external resources like state organizations that represent the insurance industry or links to relevant state statutes.  The whole point is to make the content a go-to resource for people looking for that information.     

Further Reading Point #3

SEF Urls and permalinks

Section 5: SEF URLs and Permalinks

What are permalinks?

Permalinks (a WordPress-specific label) are essentially everything that comes after the .com. SEF stands for search-engine friendly.  In the past, search engines had difficulty processing unique characters like @, or $, or _, or other parameters found in many URLs.

Search Engine Friendly permalink vs a non-friendly URL

Best Practices

The following are tips for making your URLs search-engine friendly:

  • Avoid special characters wherever possible
  • Make your URLs short (try to keep them below 100 characters)
  • Use target keyword phrases in URLs where possible
  • Use a single domain or sub-domain
  • Make them as readable as possible by humans
  • Exclude words like and, or, but, of, etc.
  • Avoid using punctuation
  • Use fewer directories, which is generally better (i.e.

URLs must be easy for people to read, short, and not contain special characters.  People have a hard time reading long ugly URLs and search engines can have a hard time interpreting special characters.  Clean URLs can also make interpreting reports in analytics platforms easier. 


Setting up SEF URLs is pretty easy with most CMSs.  In WordPress for example, all site owners need to do is log into their admin panel and navigate to Settings > Permalinks and choose the Post Name setting.  This will make all your URLs follow the title of the page you choose.

how to update permalinks

Setting your preferred permalink structure in WordPress

If you’re using a content management system other than WordPress, look for documentation that describes how to set search-engine-friendly URLs. For custom websites, simply naming the file name something readable before it gets loaded on a server is the best way to make the URLs easily readable.

Further Reading


Section 6: Structured Data (schema)

What is structured data?

Schema is structured markup that helps machines understand content. There is specific schema for many different types of industries including for attorneys.  It can be used on information like phone numbers, addresses, geo-location and other pieces of content. Adding the markup basically tells search engines that the content is unique to to businesses or professionals in that industry. Leveraging industry-specific schema does not increase the rank of your website in search. It does help search engines better understand the data on your site so that it can display it to searchers in more meaningful ways. 

Legal Services Schema example

Best Practices

Website owners can use schema on all kinds of content including names, addresses, URLs, published works, emails, phone numbers and more. Here are the best places to leverage it:

  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Reviews
  • Geo Location
  • Opening hours
  • Email


There are a few different ways you can implement schema on your website: 

  1. WordPress users can download a plugin
  2. Schema generators
  3. Manually adding schema (not recommended)

WordPress Plugins

This is the easiest way to get schema on your website.¬† It requires no coding knowledge and will get the job done quickly and accurately.¬†Here’s a list of plugins that work well:

Schema Generators

These are websites that will generate schema code for you that you can then copy and paste directly into your site.  This works well if you need to put code in an area of a site that your plugin can’t reach or if you use a platform that doesn’t have a lot out there in the way of plugins.

The idea here is that site owners can generate schema markup using a tool, then copy and paste it into their website. Pulling it off smoothly requires slightly more knowledge of coding and how everything works.

Manual Installation

This method is not ideal for because it requires more advanced knowledge of HTML coding. If you’re up for the challenge though, there is a great tutorial on how to install it here. 

Further Reading

Section 7: Internal Linking

What is internal linking?

Internal linking is simply means linking one page on a domain to another page on the same domain. These could be links in navigation menus that lead to other pages as well as links in page copy that lead to other pages (all on the same domain). PageRank flows throughout a website’s pages just like it flows from website to website.  Internal linking is extremely important for the flow of link authority throughout a website.

Best Practices: how to do internal linking

There will always be different internal linking strategies depending on your goals so there is no one right way. That being said, here are some broad guidelines to follow:

  • Link to service pages using relevant anchor text from blog posts
  • Link popular pages to less popular pages to spread PageRank
  • Make sure the home page is accessible from all other pages on the site
  • Add links to the most important pages on your site from the home page (because home pages typically get the most links)
  • Make logical connections among pages of content (think of your users and how linking to different pages would be helpful)
  • Ensure that internal linking is as natural as possible
  • Use anchor text instead of images
  • Make sure all links are do-follow

Internal linking should be done sparingly. Don’t overdo it or make it look manufactured. 

What is PageRank?

PageRank is a proprietary metric developed by Larry Page, founder of Google. It is a value assigned to a page of a website that indicates its overall popularity on the Internet based on other pages that are linking to it.


Website owners should first start by analyzing their internal linking structure. SEO Review Tools has a good internal link analyzer that allows site owners to gather data on the internal linking structure of their site. It analyzes links on a page-by-page basis. 

In general, it’s good to scan a site and look for linking opportunities where pages trying to rank for a particular keyword phrase are linked to by another page on the site using that phrase as anchor text.¬†Pages that are popular in search results should be linked to pages that may have difficulty ranking for whatever reason.

Further Reading

what is a robots.txt file

Section 8: Robots.txt

What is Robots.txt?

A robots file instructs search-engine spiders (which are software programs that crawl the internet through links) where they can and cannot go on a website.  These spiders can choose to ignore a robots file, but major search engines always obey them.    

Best Practices

As a general rule, you should always avoid blocking any bots from crawling your website. There are however cases where it becomes necessary. Here are some best practices for robots file configuration:

  • Make sure you actually have a robots file (you can check by visiting
  • Ensure that all User agents (search engines) are allowed to crawl the site
  • If you do block certain directories from search, make sure they only contain pages that you don‚Äôt want showing up in search results
  • For WordPress users, disallow indexing of category and tag pages


If you don’t have a robots file it is super easy to create one. WordPress comes with a robots file by default but if you have to create one yourself, simply use the notepad text editing program on your computer.  Type in the following string and save it as robots with the .txt (text file) extension.

The star after User-agent: tells the bot that this robots file applies to all bots. If you were to allow access to all areas of your site, there would be nothing after that string.  The Disallow directives tell bots where they are not allowed to go. 

Further Reading

canonicalization tips for law firms

Section 9: Canonicalization

What is canonicalization?

In SEO canonicalization is the process of choosing among many similar URLs that have the exactly the same content that can be delivered through different URLs.  Every URL on the internet is treated as unique by search engines. Even the www and non-www version of domains are treated as different URLs. Instructing search engines which URL is the right one to index is known as canonicalization.

Best Practices

Canonicalization helps you avoid duplicate content issues. Here are some best practices for making sure you do it right:

  • Use 301 (permanent) redirection on www vs naked versions of domains
  • Stay consistent with your internal linking (always use the same format of URL)
  • Avoid using parameters in URLs to track internal site movement
  • Avoid using tracking parameters on organic links
  • WordPress users should leverage a canonicalization plugin to make sure each page has a rel=canonical tag to define that page‚Äôs URL

What is Duplicate Content?

Duplicate content is large blocks of identical text on different pages of a website. For the most part, duplicate content is unintential. Website owners may have printer friendly versions of pages, boilerplate content that does not change from page to page, or category or archive pages that have snippets of duplicate text from blog post pages.


The first place to start is by using the rel=canonical tag on pages of your site to let search engines know that the page they are crawling is the one that needs to be indexed. It looks like this:

A Canonicalized URL

WordPress has some good plugins for this that can easily be implemented. Otherwise, canonical tags have to be inserted manually.

Further Reading

user experience (UX) onsite seo suggestions

Section 10: UX (User Experience)

What is it?

UX stands for user experience and it is an important part of SEO. It is the study of how people use a website and how goals are or are not being achieved based on that user’s experience with the website. 

Best Practices

Usability is a multi-dimensional concept, and many aspects of usability can make or break a user’s experience. For many businesses the main goal is to drive leads and phone calls to get more clients, so here are some best practices to achieve those ends:

  • Pages should load quickly
  • Contact information should be at the top of every page
  • There should be a contact form in the practice area/service page sidebars or other logical location
  • All links should work
  • The site should have a logical content architecture and category layout
  • The site should be mobile-responsive and easy to use on virtually all devices
  • Contact forms should have good validation and be easy to use
  • Common web conventions for navigation and placement of elements should be followed

Further Reading

website speed optimizations for law firm websites

Section 11: Page Speed

What is it?

This simply refers to how quickly a page fully loads and is ready for a user to interact with.  Page speed can vary from page to page on a website. To reduce the chances of this happening. 

Best Practices

Page speed can negatively affect search rankings when pages load too slowly.  In fact, Google named it as a ranking factor in 2010 and page load time can even impact the success of your paid search campaigns. This is related to user experience, in that pages that load slowly cause people to bounce off (i.e., not view any more pages). 

  • Try to get page load speed as low as possible (under 4 seconds is good).
  • Enable compression of files (like images)
  • Minify CSS, JavaScript, and HTML (this enables these files to be transferred faster)
  • Reduce the¬†numbers¬†of redirects on a URL
  • Leverage browser caching (instruct the browser that it does not always need to check for new versions of a page)
  • Use a CDN (content distribution network) if you have a lot of images
  • Optimize images (make them the size they will end up being when rendered for users)

Many website owners may not need to worry much about things like CDNs, but any time saved by compressing files is a good first step. 


Run your site through Google‚Äôs Page Speed Insights tool, which gives you a score of where your site sits right now in terms of page speed and offers¬†suggestions on how to fix anything that’s sub-par.¬† If you’re using WordPress, here are some good plugins for improving page load speed:

Further Reading  (this post is dated, but illustrates that page speed is a ranking factor in the core algorithm)

attorney law firm mobile responsiveness

Section 12: Mobile Responsiveness

What is it?

Mobile-responsive design is the practice of configuring a website to display elements differently based on the screen size of the device on which it is viewed.  Instead of having a separate mobile and desktop version of a site, the two are one and the same, and change based on the user’s device. 

Best Practices

Mobile responsiveness is now a ranking factor in search and a website should be responsive to the devices people are using to view it. 

  • Make sure your site loads well on mobile phones, tablets, as well as laptops and desktops
  • On mobile phones and tablets, make sure buttons and links are large enough to see and click on
  • Strip out unnecessary content
  • Use common web conventions for mobile devices
  • Make sure phone numbers are clickable
  • Don‚Äôt use Flash

The user experience is much different on mobile devices than on desktop or laptop computers, so websites need to be responsive. 


If your site does not exist yet or you are revamping one, go with a WordPress theme that is already mobile-responsive. By doing so you won’t have to worry about going back and creating the responsive design later. If your site already exists you will have to find a way to make it responsive. Here are a few options:

  • Have¬†a developer convert your site to be mobile responsive
  • Start a new website using a mobile-responsive theme (keep your old content)

It should be noted that building a separate mobile site is not an ideal option.  In theory it would be convenient to have a separate site for mobile devices but it presents problems.  The first thing is that any link equity you have on your main website will be diminished because links are not pointing at the mobile version.  

The second issue is that Google has moved to a mobile-first index where mobile versions of pages are indexed instead of desktop.  This is fine unless you have a mobile-only site.  Then users on desktop will be served mobile URLs.  

Further Reading

meta-tags and how to implement them

Section 13: Meta Tags

What are they?

Meta tags are page data tags that search engines can read and interpret.  The most common meta tag that many marketers know about are meta descriptions, but there are also many other types of meta tags. Meta tags can be very useful for configuring how your search results appear to users. Sometimes, if these settings are not configured properly you may leave things up to chance. Here’s an example from our site:

Meta Tags on the Site

Best Practices

Search engines, social media sites and other websites all use meta tags to get information about a webpage. This could be a description, imagery that is on the page, the type of content it is, as well as how the page should be crawled by a search engine spider. Here are some things site owners should be doing with meta tags:

  • Use the meta description tag to have a compelling description about your page
  • Use the meta noodp tag to tell Google to use your meta description and not one they generate
  • Use of (open graph) meta tags for sites like Facebook to grab information and populate it in snippets on their site
  • You don‚Äôt need to use the meta keyword tag any longer (search engines ignore it)


Meta tags need to be programmed manually unless you’re¬†using a CMS like WordPress.¬†The Add Meta Tags plugin for WordPress allows you to add information on all kinds of different tags right from your WordPress admin area.¬†Here‚Äôs a screenshot of some settings from that plugin:

how to implement meta-tags

There are meta tags for descriptions of your site; for how robots should index your pages; and even ones that tell Google (and other search engines) if they should be using your meta description or making their own. 

Further Reading

why you should link externally or outbound

Section 14: Outbound Linking

What is it?

Outbound linking simply refers to linking to other websites from yours. Linking to authoritative and useful sources is extremely helpful for both SEO and the user experience. 

Best Practices

Linking out to other websites helps bolster arguments and provides for a variety of viewpoints and extra resources for users. Here’s how to “link out” the right way:

  • Link out sparingly on a page-by-page basis
  • Link to resources that are authoritative and relevant to ¬†your page’s content
  • Don‚Äôt use anchor text you are trying to rank a page for in the external link
  • Don‚Äôt link out to your competitors
  • Don‚Äôt just link out for the sake of it – make sure it will make¬†sense to¬†your users
  • Reach out to those sites you link to and let them know (they may reciprocate)


Businesses should comb through their content and look for ways to beef it up.  For example, blog posts could contain links to helpful information. Resource pages on a website could have more links added or updated.  Service pages could have sections of content where there could be outbound links added to other resources.  Any time new content is written, look for opportunities to enhance the content with links out to other websites. Link out to relevant resources that complement your organization.  For instance a doctor might link out to relevant insurance resources.  A plumber may have a referrals page with HVAC professionals on it.  

Further Reading

LSI Keywords and semantics

Section 15: LSI Keywords and Semantics

What are LSI keywords?

Semantics is the study of the relationships among words and Google has been known to use semantics in webpage copy to determine relevance.  Using words that are synonymous or complementary terms can help your page rank better. 

Best Practices

Each page of your website should be focused on a single keyword phrase, but adding synonymous terms can help the page rank for close variations of a keyword phrase. So:

  • Use plural versions of terms
  • Rearrange the phrase on the page in a different order
  • Use terms that are synonymous with the target keyword phrase


Just like analyzing your site for linking opportunities and high-quality content, you should be scanning pages and looking for ways to incorporate semantic terms. In many cases, this might just be a matter of having your JD scan through content that has already been written and making the necessary content changes. 

Further Reading
image optimization alt-text and other tips

Section 16: Image Optimization

What is it?

Image optimization refers to making sure your images are relevant to the target keyword phrase on the page they live on. This means naming the image after the keyword phrase targeted on the page as well as optimizing the alt text (also known as an alt attribute or alt tag) of an image tag.

Best Practices

Every portion of a page should be optimized for a target keyword phrase including the page’s images. To do this, website owners should:

  • Name image file names after their target phrase
  • Insert keywords into alt attributes of images
  • Use the target keyword phrase in captions
  • Ensure that images being served on your site are sized appropriately for their use


Optimizing images for WordPress is extremely easy. When it comes to optimizing images for ideal page load times, use a plugin like Smush. It optimizes images by compressing their size so they can be served faster.

For keyword targeting using images, simply save the image you’re uploading using a file name that is the same as the target keyword phrase of the page. Then enter descriptive text containing the page’s target phrase in the alt attribute box in the media upload dialogue box.

example of image optimization for WordPress

Further Reading

social sharing for better SEO

Section 17: Social Sharing Buttons

What are they?

These are buttons that make it extremely easy for a website visitor to share content on the visitor’s social-media channels. They typically generate a snippet of text from the page along with an image, automatically creating a post that can be shared with the user’s network.

social sharing icons

Best Practices

The point of social sharing buttons is to make it easy for visitors to share your content on social networks.  Their placement on a websites should coincide with the type of content. So:

  • Place social sharing buttons on articles you‚Äôve written
  • Social sharing buttons should be at the end of or on the sidebar of your blog
  • Place Pinterest buttons should be on imagery on your website


WordPress has tons of social sharing plugins available.  Regardless of which one you go with, it’s as simple as installing the plugin and then configuring it.  Here are some good ones:

Be sure to set up plugins to highlight social sharing functionality on blog and article pages.  They aren’t really necessary on service and practice area pages unless the content could be shareable. 

Further Reading

content hierarchy best practices

Section 18: Logical Content Hierarchy

What is it?

Also known as a “content umbrella”, the architecture of a site should be laid out in a logical fashion.¬†This means having an overall theme with sub-themes as pages underneath.¬†The layout of the content on your site should be like an umbrella.¬†

Best Practices

Businesses should start with an overarching theme and then drill down into more specific categories.  For example an attorney might start with personal injury law and have categories like car accidents, truck accidents and slip & fall.  A plastic surgeon my start with facial rejuvenation and then drill down into face lifts, eyelid lifts, brow lifts and neck lifts. 

  • Break up service areas into different categories
  • Make a page for each service area of your site
  • Make a separate bio page for each professional in your business

Further Reading

why every site should have an SSL certificate

Section 19: SSL

What is SSL?

The SSL literally stands for “secure socket layer”, but is more commonly referred to as a security certificate.¬† It is a security technology for websites that creates a secure connection between a server and a browser.¬†

Best Practices

In 2014, Google announced that it would use SSL as a ranking factor in its algorithm. While having SSL on your website won’t skyrocket you to the front of the search results, it can help you outrank your competitors when all other things are equal. It can also create a more trustworthy experience for your users.

  • Website owners¬†should purchase a basic SSL package (but a sophisticated one is not required)
  • Change the preferred URL from http to https in Google Search Console (Webmaster Tools)
  • Make 301 redirects from http to https
  • Update your robots.txt to allow for crawling of https pages
  • Resubmit an https version of your sitemap

HTTPS as a ranking signal

In mid-2014, Google announced that SSL or security certificates applied to a website would be a ranking factor in search. In other words, if two sites were pretty much equal in terms of being optimized, the one that had a security certificate installed would be favored in search results over the one that did not have SSL.


The first thing businesses need to do is purchase a security certificate from a provider.  Typically, many mainstream hosting providers also sell security certificates.  Once a certificate is purchased, a host will generally provide instructions on how to install it.  Most companies will want to have their web development or digital marketing agency install the certificate for them.  Doing it improperly can result in broken pages or security warnings that cause issues for visitors.   

Further Reading

no-indexing pages on your website

Section 20: No Indexing Archive, Tag and Category Pages

What is it?

In WordPress and other content management systems, content can often show up on multiple different pages because of the way it is segmented in different categories.  Excluding these directories in a robots file helps search engines keep those pages out of search and avoids duplicate-content issues. 

Best Practices

There are basically two tasks to be performed here:

  1. Make sure category and tag pages are not indexed (if they are they can be removed using Google’s URL removal tool)
  2. Configure your site to exclude tags and categories from search.

Your Robots.txt file should look something like this:

Example of Disallowing categories and tags on your site

Further Reading

what is keyword density in relation to onsite seo

Section 21: Keyword Density

What is keyword density?

Keyword density refers to the number of times a keyword phrase is mentioned on a page of content compared to the total number of words on the page.

Best Practices

According to Google’s former head of webspam, Matt Cutts, there is no ideal keyword density for a page.  That said, businesses still need to mention the target phrase for a page about 2% of the time to make the page relevant.

  • Mention the phrase at least 2% of the time on the page
  • Include the keyword phrase in the headings and sub-headings of the page
  • Use synonyms and re-orderings of the keyword phrase on the page
  • Ensure the keyword is in the title of the page
  • Ensure the keyword is in the meta description of the page

Overall a page should be entirely about a keyword topic. It should be all about that particular keyword phrase, so and mention it a number of times. 

what is a sitemap

Section 22: Sitemap

What is it?

A sitemap is a listing of all the pages on a website. It is typically written in XML markup and is indexable (crawlable) by search engines. 

Best Practices

Sitemaps are a good way to get search engines to discover all the pages on a site more quickly and accurately.

  • Submit a sitemap in Google Webmaster Tools (search console) as well as Bing Webmaster Tools
  • Re-run a site map on a regular basis and re-submit it to Google and Bing


Use a sitemap-generation service such as to make a sitemap of their site.¬† It‚Äôs free for up to 500 pages. After that, it’s just a matter of loading it onto the root of your website.¬†

There is also a WordPress plugin for creating sitemaps.

Further Reading

Section 23: Bio Page

What is it?

When it comes to search engine optimization for lawyers, physicians, surgeons, dentists, accountants, etc, it is important to have biographical pages on your site.  These pages can help enhance your brand as a professional, give social proof to visitors and help people learn about you.  They can also help you rank for your name (which in some cases may be as valuable as your company name).

Here is an example of a well-made professional bio page (in this case for an attorney).

An attorney bio page

Best Practices

An bio page should be all about a single professional including his or her awards, a lengthy description, and other relevant information.

  • Use person schema and profession-specific schema on the page
  • Highlight awards and accreditations the professional has received
  • Feature videos and as much content as possible about the person
  • Include the professional‚Äôs name and target keyword phrase

Further Reading
keyword targeting best practices

Section 24: Keyword Research & Targeting

What is keyword research?

One of the core goals of SEO is targeting keyword phrases to rank for. Keyword research or keyword targeting is the process of finding search terms that an audience is using to find content a site owner want to rank for in search results. A website needs to target one or more keyword phrases to rank for in search.

Best Practices

Choosing keywords is a crucial component of marketing a site in search. 

  • Choose keywords that have a decent amount of search volume which relate to your practice areas and are not too competitive.
  • Each page of a website should target a single keyword phrase
  • Point internal links at pages that use the keyword phrase that page is trying to rank for as anchor text


You can use free tools like Google’s Keyword Planner or Google Trends to find keyword ideas and targets. These tools allow you to see search volume and competitive metrics for any given keyword phrase that Google has data on. 

Start with a list of keyword phrases that relate to your practice areas as well as location-specific terms. Pare it down to those that are most important for your to rank online, and start there.  Then, work to optimize the relevant service area and service pages of your site for those keyword phrases.   

Further Reading

Onsite SEO Checklist

Do service area pages have an accurate and descriptive title that contains the page’s target keyword phrase?

Do service pages have a compelling meta description that contains that page’s target keyword phrase?

Does each page targeting a keyword phrase have one <h1> header tag containing the keyword phrase?

Do service area pages have substantial content (greater than 500 words)?

Does the site have a blog with in-depth articles on topics relevant to the target audience?

Are URLs on pages easy to read and contain target keyword phrases if relevant?

Does the site utilize schema on phone numbers, addresses, published articles and other content?

Are the site pages  linked to one another through relevant anchor text and page copy?

Does the site have a robots.txt file and is it configured to allow search engines to index the site?

Does the site utilize canonicalization of URLs?

Does the site provide a good user experience (i.e. do links work, do pages work, do contact forms work, etc.)?

Do pages on the site load quickly?

Is the site mobile-responsive?

Does the site make good use of meta tags for SEO purposes?

Does the site link out to other authoritative sources where appropriate?

Does the site leverage social-sharing buttons on content that is tailored to be shared (i.e. blog posts or articles)?

Do pages that target keywords have synonyms of those keywords throughout the page content?

Does the site follow a logical content hierarchy?

 Does your home-page title tag targeting your main keyword? Is it less than 150 characters?

Do you have a page specifically for your bio, versus only including an About Us page that lists everyone?

Does your bio include your name and keyword phrase?

Does your bio include person schema?

Does each page target a unique keyword phrase?

Does the site have a sitemap and has it been submitted to the major search engines?

Are category and tag pages excluded from Google’s index using robots.txt?

Do pages follow best practices for proper keyword density?

Does the site use SSL?

Has the https version of the URL been claimed in Google and Bing Webmaster Tools?

Do http pages permanently redirect to https pages?

Does the site leverage social sharing buttons on blog and article pages?

Are images optimized with the keyword in the file name?

Do images have the keyword in their alt attributes?

Do reviews on the site leverage review schema?

Does the site leverage meta tags to improve search engine rendering of information?

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