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.
Step #1 – Inspect site footer
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. Your law firm’s SEO needs work. Lots of it. Take a look at this article. Everyone else can keep playing.
Step #2 – Research link profile
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 – Webmaster Tools
If you did see some suspicious link activity, Webmaster Tools 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 Webmaster Tools 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, Webmaster Tools is a good resource for accessing data on a host of performance issues, from site speed to average ranking for important keywords. For more on using Webmaster Tools for SEO purposes, check out this article.
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. In fact, it was through a site search that I was first able to diagnose Panda issues on the Law Insider. Cleaning up indexation issues was one of the strategies we used to help the site traffic break out after Panda refreshed last year. For more information on how we were able to increase Law Insider’s organic traffic by 200% in 9 months, take a look at this case study.
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
As of April 21st, 2015, Google will be increasing the importance of mobile friendly sites in the search results. Sites that aren’t mobile friendly won’t rank as well, if at all, especially for mobile searches. Now, Google’s mobile tools are known to be a bit buggy, but using their mobile tester is a good starting point. Run your site through the testing tool and see how you do. 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 – Analytics
This post is intended to give a quick way to for firms to begin auditing their online marketing, not as a comprehensive guide. The topic of analytics is so large, that I could easily write a 2,000 – 3,000 word article on this subject alone. However, I’ll still dive in and offer some questions to consider. These questions will get you thinking about key performance metrics you should be tracking on your site.
- 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?