In this article we’ll be looking at the core requirements of building a structurally sound law firm website that meets the needs for both visitor engagement and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Unfortunately, all too often, when creating a legal firm website, designers tend to focus on the aesthetic appeal, with little attention given to the structure of the site and its optimisation for law firm search engine rankings and even less, if any, attention given to user experience (UX) i.e. the customers visiting the website.
Before we discuss how to create a well-structured website, let’s briefly look at the 2 key benefits which impact massively on your website’s success:
Maximising user experience
The closer the match between your site’s information architecture and your customers’ expectations, the greater the user experience will be.
A law firm website that is appealing to the eye, has a logical flow in terms of the legal services you offer, easy-to-use navigation and contains information your customers are seeking about your law practice, the legal services you offer and details about your partners the more likely your visitors will stay on your website and read and engage in your content.
Our brains prefer to work in a logical approach, so if a site confuses visitors with an illogical structure, not only will it frustrate them, but it’s also unlikely they will ‘fight the battle’ trying to work through your website pages to find the information they are seeking, and they’ll leave.
The foundation of SEO success in any industry is a good website structure. The better your structure the easier it is for web crawlers to crawl your website and index its content (the information it uses for search engine results). This indexing impacts your law firm search engine rankings, and will determine whether you are found when customers are searching for legal services related to those that you offer.
Furthermore, good site structure is often rewarded by Google with sitelinks in search results (see the image below). These are indented page links under your home page, that link to main pages within your website. Such sitelinks have many SEO advantages, but the two most relevant to this topic include the fact that they help you to dominate search engine results and they improve user experience by navigating visitors directly to the page they are seeking on your law firm website.
The 6 steps to creating a well-structured law firm website
Plan a Site Hierarchy
When planning a website, there are many various structures that can be used, but a typical structure for an informational law firm website is a pyramid hierarchy where the pinnacle of the pyramid is the home page, the next level down is the categories, with the pages below that being relevant content to each of the categories. For a bigger law firm that has a large website with many categories, a more complex web structure that has sub-categories may be better suited.
Match Your URL to Your Site Structure
If you have adopted the hierarcichal approach above, achieving this step is simple. Essentially, what this means is that your URL for each page on your law firm website should reflect the navigation path of that page i.e. the site hierarchy.
This approach allows you to incorporate relevant keywords into your URL’s that you want to rank for – which once again assists in ranking your website for relevant law firm search terms.
Create a Flat Structure
As per “The Art of SEO” by Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer and Jessie Stricchiola, all content on websites that consist of less than 10,000 pages, should be accessible in 4 clicks or less.
This approach creates a flat structure and one you should look to implement within your website. Such a structure has benefits for SEO as well as for the user experience of those visiting your law firm website.
Leverage Site Navigation for Law Firm SEO
Your site’s navigation is so much more that just the ability for customers to navigate around your law firm website – it’s a powerful tool to distribute SEO weight througout your website and in particular to those pages that are important to you. Therefore, you should include those pages you want to rank for, in your navigation.
Implement Internal Linking
Internal linking within your website offers great SEO benefits and is essentially the linking of two pages within a single site. Such internal link networks provide a more useful way to navigate throughout a website and also provides an opportunity to leverage keword rich anchor text i.e. those legal terms you want to rank your law firm website for within the search engines.
It’s therefore important for you to give detailed thought to creating an internal linking strategy relevant to the structure of your law firm website.
Post Relevant and Quality Content
The final element, but by no means the least important, is quality and relevant content. Quality content that is relevant to what users are expecting to read when they click on a link, is a basic necessity for all website owners. Furthermore, Google continues to refine its algorythm to penalise those websites that don’t follow this best practice.
It is well worth the effort to create law related articles and content on your website that is relevant to the legal terms your customers are searching for. When they click your search engine listing, it’s very important that the information it links to on your law firm website is written well, is relevant to the search term the customer used and is of an informative nature that it encourages them to contact you.
By implementing these 6 steps when designing the structure of your website, you will be better positioned to rank in search engines for legal search terms that are relevant to your law firm website, as well as providing your website visitors a great user experience when they visit your website.
About the author
Peter Heazlewood is a management and marketing consultant, he specialises in helping law firms develop their practices using business planning marketing and performance reporting techniques refined in his own successful law firm. Peter lives in Sydney with his wife and is the father of five adult children.