This is code that is placed either on the entire site, typically in the footer or header, or on an individual page. The purpose of Schema is to alter the way a search result is displayed. You might have seen a star rating next to your own links or those of a competitor. These stars are placed on the result by putting Schema code on the page. It is important to note that Google decides what to display. Just because you have Schema on your website, this does not mean you have complete control over how your search results will look.
You can visit this website for a full list of potential Schema variations.
If you want to test code, see whether your page has Schema, or test the Schema on a page, Google has a tool you can use. You can also use this tool to see what your competitors are using Schema for.
#46: Above the Fold
Above The Fold refers to everything someone can see without having to scroll. What is further down the page is considered Below The Fold. We believe that every page on the site should try to answer the following questions (I say “try” because it is very difficult and, depending on the design of the page, it may be impossible…)
- Can you help me? – The first thing people want to know is whether you can solve their problem.
- Your H1 should be above the fold and usually answers this.
- How can you help me? – This can be accomplished with a short one-liner, kind of like an elevator pitch in a single sentence.
- Why should I let you help me? – Have testimonials or past successes somewhere close. This is the section that is often the hardest to include above the fold and frequently is the next thing shown when someone starts to scroll.
- What do I need to do next? – They need to contact you, so show them how to do that.
#47: Attorney / Author Biography
The second-most-viewed page on a law firm’s website is the attorney biography section. Once people know that you can help them, their attention turns to who you are and why they should let you help them. Your biography needs to be compelling and an accurate reflection of who you are. You can’t be “The Hammer” in your marketing but a teddy bear in person.
Your biography is also an opportunity to sell yourself to Google. Don’t be bashful. List your accomplishments and accolades. If you don’t have any awards, like SuperLawyers, then figure out a way to get them. Local awards are great as well.
I can’t stress the importance of making yourself seem like a real person. That doesn’t mean you have to be warm and cuddly. If people hire you because of your no-BS nature, then paint that picture of yourself. Do likewise if you want to be warm and approachable.
#48: Inner Linking
This is another area that marketers used to abuse when they found out that inner linking could help with rankings. Because of that abuse, we now operate under the less-is-more philosophy.
Inner linking should be used when it adds to the user experience. Don’t put in a link to your Car Accident page every time ‘car accident’ is mentioned. If you believe that someone may legitimately want to visit your car accident page because of what they just read, by all means link to that page.
There are two other important components when it comes to links on your own website:
- Anchor Text – This is the text that is linked. Here is an example link that takes you to a page on MOZ about onsite SEO. The anchor text I have used in the foregoing sentence is ‘example link.’ The way SEOs would manipulate the system is by using ‘rich’ anchor text, or anchor text that includes the main keyword. This anchor text would tell Google that the page is heavily related to the anchor text. Now that we are taking a ‘less-is-more’ approach, you don’t need to worry about not using rich anchor text. Just remember that you should put in place an inner link only if it is going to be helpful.
- No-Follow – There is no reason to put in place a no-follow for links that go to important pages on your website. Some SEOs may suggest using the no-follow for links that go to unimportant pages that Google doesn’t need to see. This is a way to control your crawl budget.
#49: Outbound Links
Most SEOs agree that outbound links do play an important role in SEO. These outbound links can either help your site or harm your site. An outbound link is a link on your site that takes people to a different website. You should be linking to the sources used to substantiate your content. If you are citing statutes, then link to the government site with those statutes.
That would be a good link. What you don’t want are links to untrustworthy websites or outbound links that do not work. It is important to check all outbound links before they are placed on your website and periodically review those links to ensure they still work and go where you think they go. Occasionally, the owner of a website will allow their domain to expire or be purchased. After this occurs, that linking website may no longer be trustworthy. This is a good example of why websites do require ongoing maintenance.
Another factor to consider with outbound links are no-follow tags. This is a small piece of code that is associated with a link that tells Google to ignore the SEO relationship between your website and another website. It is like saying, “I need to link to this website, but I don’t want to vouch for it.” Google has specific guidelines on when to use the no-follow tag. This includes links to untrusted content, paid links, or due to crawl prioritization. You should never link to untrusted content. There really is no reason to sell links on your website, so that should not be a factor either. The only reason you would want to use a no-follow internally is for crawl budget, which we discuss more below.
#50: HTTP Status Codes
Before we get into how or why status codes should be used, we should discuss what they are. Visit this Wikipedia article for a full run-down on HTTP Status Codes.
- 1XX – Informational
- You won’t really work with these because they are in the backend communication between devices.
- 2XX – Success
- The most common code is 200. You probably won’t use this for anything but are likely to see these codes used in some of the tools. For instance, many webpage crawlers will list the HTTP status code next to each page crawled. A 200 code means OK, or that the page is normal.
- 3XX – Redirection
- Let’s pretend that you wrote five pages on mesothelioma, but you decide they would function better as a single page. Thus, you have four pages that will be going away. What if someone has one of those four pages bookmarked or there are links to those pages? You need to put in a redirect so people who click on those links will be taken to the new consolidated page.
- By far, the most commonly used redirect is a 301. This is a permanent redirect.
- 4XX – Client Errors
- These are errors that are occurring on your own website.
- The most common error is a 404. This occurs when someone tries to go to a page that does not exist. This might happen because they typed in the wrong URL, or the page has been deleted and no one put in a redirect.
- 5XX – Server Errors
- As the name sounds, these are errors that occur on your server. The distinction is important, because a 4XX means you need to fix your site. A 5XX means you need to troubleshoot the server or contact your server admin.
#51: Redirects (3XX)
There are server-side redirects and client-side redirects. The result is the same; what is different is where you physically input the redirect.
- Server Side – To accomplish this redirect, you log into your host server and navigate to the redirect section. If you use WP Engine for your hosting, here is an article on how to do it. If you use a different hosting platform, you can search their how-to database for a guide.
- Client Side – The best way to manage redirects on WordPress is through a plugin. These make it very easy to see all redirects and create new redirects. For a full walkthrough on placing redirects, here is a fantastic article.
- The article recommends the plugin Redirection. The best part about this plugin is that it is free and will also report on 404 errors.
- If you have the premium version of Yoast, you can use that plugin instead.
#52: 404 Errors
It is important to have a custom 404 page, because you want to help people get back to where they want to go. The default 404 page is just going to tell people that the page they are trying to visit does not exist. But there is a better way to handle this. Here is what you want your 404 page to be …
- Simple – Don’t overcomplicate the page with excessive navigation options.
- Explain Why – Tell people why they are there, i.e., because the page they were looking for doesn’t exist.
- Tell People What To Do – We know they are looking for something, so tell them to either:
- Select from a list of available pages or
- Utilize a search bar to find what they are looking for.
- You can also include a small call-to-action to contact the firm if that is easier for them. You never want to lose out on a potential sale because people can’t get hold of you easily.
Here is a great walkthrough video of creating a custom 404 page in WordPress.
The most common redirect that every website uses is listed in the below example.
Each of the above addresses could be considered a different website, but to most businesses, they are all the same. That is because the website owner has put in place a redirect on the versions they don’t want. If number 4 is the way the firm prefers their address to look, then numbers 1, 2 and 3 should point to number 4.
A canonical tag tells the search engine which page is the original in case you have multiple versions. This is similar to a redirect, except if a visitor lands on a page that is not the original, they won’t be taken to the original. Instead, they will stay on the page. A redirect would automatically take the person to the page the redirect points people to. If you want the full technical breakdown on canonicalization, you can hear it from Matt Cutts.
#54: Crawl Budget
Every website is assigned a crawl budget. Websites that are more popular and get more traffic will have a larger crawl budget than smaller websites. If your website has more content than the crawl budget allows for, your entire website will not be crawled, which could lead to indexing issues. (Some pages may not be available to show in the search results because Google didn’t have enough time to find them on your site.)
Here are a few tips to ensure your website utilizes its crawl budget efficiently.
- Periodically review the content on your website and remove content that is not being used. If a page goes a full year and doesn’t get many organic visitors, then it might be a waste of space.
- Does that page target high-volume keywords but just doesn’t rank? Then you might not need to get rid of the page but instead work on rankings.
- Does that page rank for niche keywords with very low volume? In that case, the page may be worth keeping because it still adds value to the internet.
- Diligently Add Content – Don’t just write a bunch of content because you believe it is interesting. If people aren’t going to be searching for it, and you are adding it for an SEO purpose, then it is just a waste of space.
- Use The No-Index Tag – If you have content on your website that is not meant to rank in the search engines, add a no-index tag to that page. These could be PPC landing pages, category pages, or supplementary pages that add value once people get to your site but aren’t suited to rank.
- Consolidate Pages – Sometimes you can improve your organic traffic by consolidating pages that are similar.
Here is Google’s explanation on Crawl Budget.
#55: Website Speed
How fast your website loads is a ranking factor. There are two tools that I recommend using because they both provide different information.
The first is Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool. This tool is important because it is published by Google and tells you exactly how to improve your speed score.
The above is a snapshot for Amazon. I use that site to show you that even large websites don’t get perfect scores. If you can get your website to score a 90, then do it. A better score will give you a boost. But realize that speed is a push-pull conundrum. Amazon could easily make their site faster by removing all the functionality of the page, but that would kill the user experience of the site. So, Amazon sacrifices speed to better meet the needs of its users, and they still rank very well.
The second tool that we recommend is GT Metrix. This tool provides an incredible amount of detail and offers ‘a second opinion’ on your site speed.
Most ways to improve the speed of your website require advanced knowledge of programming and WordPress management. This is not the type of work you want to do yourself.
#56: Google AMP
Google offers content publishers the option of hosting content on Google Servers. AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. This allows the page to load substantially faster. News publications must use Google AMP in order to rank No. 1. It is a requirement set by Google.
Law firms are less reliant on Google AMP. In fact, most law firms will not use AMP. The benefits just don’t outweigh the costs. AMP requires technical knowledge to implement correctly; AMP can impact backlinks which are critical to SEO; and the branding of the firm can suffer.
Unless your firm publishes a large amount of content, we don’t recommend Google AMP. Instead, focus on getting your website as fast as possible, provide an exceptional user experience and, above all else, have the best content possible.
#57: Mobile-First Indexing
In 2017, Google stated that they were going to begin indexing websites based on (1) what the bot finds on the mobile version of the website and then (2) the desktop version. This is in response to most of the internet traffic coming from phones. Google also mentioned this change was going to take several years to complete. In December of 2018, Google announced that over half of search results are now on mobile-first indexing.
In a nutshell, you need to pay just as much attention to the mobile version of your website as you do the desktop. This can be difficult for working professionals because we spend so much time on laptops or desktop computers. We naturally use the full desktop experience more than potential law firm clients do. Here are a few things to look at:
- Page Loading Speed
- Ease of Navigation
- Site Functionality
- Ensuring that the content on mobile is the same well-written content from the desktop version.
More on Mobile First Indexing.
#58: Website Security
- Viruses & Malware – Keeping your website safe for website visitors is imperative. Fortunately, law firm websites are not prime targets for attacks, because they usually do not store personal information. That means there isn’t much financial opportunity in attacking a law firm website. Hosting your website with a host company like WP Engine is a good start. Yes, they are more expensive. But they also take a more proactive approach to keeping your website clean.
- Website Scan Tool
- Privacy & Disclaimer – Privacy laws in the USA are behind those of other developed nations. However, domestic laws are beginning to come under increased scrutiny. It is a best practice to let visitors know what information you are collecting and how you use it. Some jurisdictions, such as California, may require it. Here is a good guide to start putting together your policy.
- HTTP vs. HTTPS – Here is a direct quote from Google: “You should always protect all of your websites with HTTPS, even if they don’t handle sensitive communications.” That is cut and dried. HTTPS is a way to keep your visitors safe. This is accomplished by encrypting the connections with your website.
- To implement an HTTPS certificate, it is easiest to do it on the website’s host server.