By Chris (Tres) Homer
Working in the legal marketing industry for almost 5 years now, I have seen a lot of quality sites and even more horrendously optimized websites. I’ve seen it all, from websites lacking actual pages, to sites that were blocking all web crawlers, and even designs that look like they were done in 2001.
I’ve recently been taking a lot of time to educate attorneys on how to better their web presence. I’ve analyzed over 100 websites in the past couple of months and compiled a list of SEO mistakes that I run into the most.
1. The website is not mobile responsive
This is one of the biggest mistakes that I see on a daily basis, and it shouldn’t even be an issue anymore! In April of 2015, Google rolled out their mobile friendly algorithm, giving a slight boost to sites who were mobile friendly and issuing a significant penalty to the sites who were not mobile friendly. Before the algorithm was released, Google spent 2 years prepping webmasters and website developers to make the switch. At this point, it has been 4 years since Google started pushing mobile responsive sites, so a site that is not mobile responsive is intentionally neglecting a basic SEO concept that has been around for years.
There have been basic WordPress templates out for years that allow for mobile responsive sites, so there is no excuse. Over 50% of all searches and traffic are done on mobile devices, so the time is now. Do not wait any longer, get this done NOW.
2. Where is the content?
Recently, I’ve come across a good amount of law firm websites that have less than 5 pages. I’m asked by attorneys why they aren’t generating leads from the web. Well, they have a website that features 2 pages, a homepage and a contact page. How is Google supposed to understand what you do if you have no content for it to disseminate information from?
You can’t properly optimize a website if there is no content to optimize. A law firm website needs at least a homepage (800-1000 words), attorney bio pages, practice area pages, some form of resources (FAQ, guides, etc.) and a contact page. Without a basic amount of content Google will never be able to display you in the search results.
3. Site structure? Who needs that?
If I were to take you to a city you’ve never been before, give you an address of a house, and then tell you to drive there without any directions, maps, or GPS you would look at me like I’m crazy. That is exactly what your website is doing to Google crawlers if you don’t have a logical site structure. If you create a new page and do not nest it under appropriate parent pages, it will be extremely difficult to find.
Proper site structure is a roadmap for the crawlers to find pages and understand the correlation between that page and others. For example, having a page that talks about Head on Collisions is great for a personal injury attorney. If the page is by itself, it doesn’t quite make sense as to why that is on a legal website. Now if that page is nested under appropriate parent pages, like a personal injury and car accident page, it makes sense. An example of a URL with structure would be: yourwebsite.com/practice-areas/personal-injury/car-accidents/head-on-collisions/
From the above URL, without even knowing the content on the site I know that the page is talking about head on collisions that results in injuries for which I can receive legal help and advice.
Please, please, please structure your site.
4. One tracking number to rule them all
Tracking numbers are essential if you want to measure any form of ROI on your legal marketing. The problem with tracking numbers arises when you hard-code them on the site and use them in your directory listings. By having the tracking number hard coded on the site, Google will pick up that number as the main office number, which will hurt your local SEO. Having tracking numbers in directory listings will not just hurt your local SEO; it will destroy it.
Also, if you are going to use a tracking numbers, make sure you use more than one so that you can properly measure ROI for each channel in your lead funnel. Don’t let agencies take credit for EVERY call you receive.
5. No title tags or meta descriptions
Ok, this is SEO 101. When you are optimizing your site for specific keywords these are the first two items you focus on. I’ve seen so many sites that neglect to create either one and that just makes me sad, like very sad. Like kicking puppies sad.
6. The international travelers of backlinks
In order to rank anywhere decent in Google, you need backlinks. The problem is that obtaining quality backlinks in a consistent manner is a lot of work. There are a lot of agencies out there that will promise a first page listing in X number of days. Well, all they do is throw your site into multiple link farms and generate terrible, destructive links to your site that will prop your site up, temporarily. These domains are usually from Russia, China, Brazil, etc. and carry little to no domain authority. These backlinks will eventually send your website into Internet abyss. The fastest way to find bad backlinks is to look at the country of origin. Don’t kid yourself, you are not that popular in Russia.
7. The over-optimizer
Most of the previous examples are all based on law firms that just fully neglect any SEO work. The next offenders are the ones that are way over the top. If your title tags read like, “Car Accident Attorney | Car Accident Lawyer | Personal Injury Attorney | Atlanta Injury Lawyers | Truck Accident Lawyers ….” you get my point. This will only hurt you.
Also, please don’t use the same keyword 28 times on a page that has 200 words. Do you want your website to sound like an infomercial? Because that is what you are doing.
8. Mr(s). “I Don’t Believe in SEO”
Oh really? Tell me how your leads from the Yellowpages are working out for you.
9. The Impatient Strategy Changer
Whenever we create a strategy for our law firm clients, we ask them what their goal is. We will focus our SEO strategy around specific keywords in order to meet their goals. SEO strategies can take a couple of months to gather solid data in order to make an informed decision.
What I see all too often is the constant changing of strategies. Some conversations go like this: “I want to rank on motorcycle injuries.” “Ok great, let us optimize for motorcycle injuries.”
2 days later. “I’m not ranking for slip and fall injuries.” “Well, we agreed that we would focus on motorcycle injuries.” “But, I’m not seeing any cases so I want slip and fall injuries.”
Look, SEO takes time. You can’t keep changing your mind. Pick a strategy and adhere to it.
10. “I can do all of this by myself, why do I need you?”
Yes, of course you can, just like I can represent myself in court. *mic drop*