Law firms of all sizes struggle with online marketing. Here’s a quick test to see how your firm’s site measures up with SEO best practices.
Go to your website. Now scroll to the footer. Do you see a link that looks like this? If the answer is yes, you can stop here. Digital agencies, like Findlaw, that insert branded footer links on client websites are, in my opinion, usually untrustworthy.
Now I want you to visit a resource that will help you determine whether you have issues with your link profile. Link problems have become more of a focal point in SEO over the last few years as Google’s search algorithm has gotten better at detecting spam. Lots of exact match anchor text, and links from low quality directory sites, can lead to algorithmic downgrades and manual penalties. In order to have a clear picture of site performance, and potential, it’simportant to know what links are pointing to your site. Webmaster tools, ahrefs, and Open Site Explorer are all useful resources for researching link profiles. I use Open Site Explorer quite a bit, so I’ll put my focus there for this article.
Type your URL into Open Site Explorer. Then scroll to the left sidebar, and select “linking domains.” This will give you a list of all the domains that link to your homepage. Do you like what you see? Are there strange or off topic sites linking to you? Click through to some of the linking pages. Are they reputable? Multiple links from spam directories, and shell blogs should raise a red flag.
Next, scroll two slots down and select “anchor text.” Are the links to your site built within “branded” terms, such as your firm name, or within “money” keywords, like “your city law firm?” The more optimized your anchor text, the greater the likelihood you have a Penguin issue.
Step #3 – Search console
If you did see some suspicious link activity, Google Search Console can help you determine whether you’re the victim of a manual penalty. Under the “search traffic” tab, you’ll see an option for “manual actions.” I’ve attached a screen shot below of what this area of Search Console will look like if your site is “clean.” Keep in mind that the absence of a manual action doesn’t mean your site is free of algorithmic issues.
In addition to link issues, Google Search Console is a good resource for accessing data on a host of performance issues, from site speed to average ranking for important keywords.
Step #4 – Search the search index
This is a big one. It’s easy to use Google’s search index to learn about your site. Start by searching “site:www.yourdomain.com.” This will bring up a list of all the pages from your site that appear in Google’s search index. Be on the lookout for thin or duplicate pages, like tag pages on WordPress sites. If you see multiple pages appearing in the index that don’t add value, your site could be vulnerable to a Panda downgrade. The bottom line is that there are certain types of pages that you don’t want to appear in Google search index because they are thought to have little value for users. Allowing them to leak into the index can cause site wide problems.
But, we’re not done with looking around the search index. Next, we will scan for duplicate content by searching complete sentences from your content. Choose five pages from your site at random. Highlight a sentence of your content, put in quotes, and do a Google search. Your site’s page should appear first in search results. If another site appears first, Google associates your content with another site and views yours as duplicate. This is another way you can run afoul of Panda.
Here is what you should see:
Step #5 – Test for mobile
Many of our sites, as well as client sites, receive more mobile traffic than any other source. Run your site through the testing tool and see how the site performs. Is your site mobile ready?
If you have yet to invest in a good responsive design, it’s probably time to do so.
Step #6 – Site speed
As of 2021, Google baked page speed and user experience into its algorithm as a soft ranking factor. Known as the “Core web vitals” update, site owners are encouraged to build sites that load promptly and are easy for users to navigate.
For a fast site speed analysis, run your site through Google’s Page Speed Testing Tool.
At JSO, we like to see clients scoring in the 90s for both desktop and mobile searches.
Step #7 – Analytics questions
Ask yourself these analytics questions:
- Do I have access to my firm’s analytics account?
- How many first time callers is your SEO campaign generating per month? At what cost per lead?
- What are your highest converting landing pages?
- Approximately what percentage of traffic to your homepage comes as the result of clients searching directly for your firm?
- If you’re not using call tracking, why?
- What city and state are most of your visitors coming from?
- Have you filtered visits from you and your staff from analytics data?
- Do rankings you’ve achieved generate calls? How can you tell?