Getting eyes on a great piece of content can be tough considering the tremendous level of competition in legal. In this article, we provide you with 20 content writing & optimization tips for better SEO.
- Always focus on user-experience first and technical SEO second
- Use your focus keywords within your article—and use them early
- Add more value, but not necessarily more words
- SEO takes time. Stick to a schedule and produce high-quality posts.
SEO copywriting is the practice of optimizing your content to improve its rank and chances of getting clicked in search results. While much of the below list includes technical SEO items, maintaining engaging, informative content is just as important. Many people focus too much on the technical side of SEO and lose sight of the real goal: to build a long-term, highly engaged audience that reinforces your client base and builds brand loyalty.
So we we go through this list of 20 SEO copywriting tips, keep in mind that quality always wins. Never sacrifice it for technical SEO practices (like keyword-stuffing).
#1 — The APP Introduction Method
The APP method is a blogging introduction strategy that stands for Agree, Promise, Preview.
This article, for example, immediately begins by empathizing with the reader, agreeing that it’s tough to drive traffic to good content. Next up is a solution—actually, 20 of them (tips). Lastly, I tell my reader how I plan to help, with formatting, on-page SEO, keyword tips, etc. Build you APP introduction after you’ve written your article so you can summarize the core value of each piece
#2 — Use Keywords Early
Work your focus keywords within the first 100 words of each post. This lets search crawlers know what what your content is about early into the crawling process. If you have a broken link on your page, once a crawler reaches it, it will stop crawling the page and move onto the next task. This means, the keywords that show up after any broken link on any page will not help improve your rank.
#3 — Add more value
This does not mean “add more words.” Long posts are great, but only if with length comes more value—no one wants to plow through 2,500 words of fluffy nothingness. Write for the user, not search engines. As backwards as it sounds, writing for search engines may not be best for optimizing for search engines. As Google’s ranking algorithm improves, they are better able to rank “ham” above “spam.”
What the SEO-focused bloggers fail to recognize is, when readers figure out a site’s content is all fluff, they stop reading, bounce rates rise, ‘Time on Page’ plummets and rankings wither away. Brian Dean of Backlinko did a study that included over 1 million Google search results and found first page results average about 1,900 words—for those stat-counters out there.
#4 — Optimize for Google RankBrain
Google RankBrain is an algorithm update that uses machine-learning to determine how to handle never-before-seen search queries. It’s one of the top-3 Google ranking factors and essentially accounts for content quality and UX in establishing ranks.
The machine-learning portion comes into play once a user clicks a link. Here’s how it works (in a nutshell):
RankBrain will see how long the user stays on that link—if they do not immediately back out or bounce, RankBrain considers that solid content for the given query. If a user goes back the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) immediately (aka “bounces”), RankBrain deems that content not-so-great for the given query and, in turn, lowers its rank next time it receives a similar query.
To optimize for RankBrain, you need to improve your click rate and ‘Time on Page’ for searches related to your focus keywords. There are many, many things you can do to improve these key metrics. Throughout this article, we will touch on things like Page Titles, meta descriptions and blog formatting—all of these things contribute to click rate and page-view duration.
#5 — Use LSI Keywords
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords are words or phrases that are semantically related to your keywords, ones that help search engine crawlers further understand the context of your content. Some have mistaken LSI keywords for keyword synonyms, but that’s not exactly the case.
For instance, if you’re writing a blog article with the term “IP” in the context of “intellectual property,” search engine crawlers could mistake this acronym for “internet protocol,” such as in an “IP address.” Google sues the LSI keywords such as “patents,” “trade secrets,” “lawyers,” “trademarks” and “litigation” to better understand the topic, making it easier to for search engines to more accurately rank content in search queries related to, say, “intellectual property lawyer” or similar.
Naturally, LSI keywords should take care of themselves so long as you are writing detailed posts, but there’s always room for improvement. Use LSIGraph to get a list of LSI keywords relating to each of your post topics and try working them into your posts—naturally.
#6 — Add Multimedia & Section Breaks
It’s been proven that adding multimedia such as images and video generates more sharing than do text-only posts. In fact, blog articles with images get 94% more views than those that lack imagery. Creating engaging visuals to illustrate legal concepts—such as in infographics—is a great way to make your content more consumable to general audiences. People are overwhelming visual learners—90% of information processed by the brain is visual. HubSpot recommends putting a visual every 350 words.
You can get professional infographics made for only $50 on Fiverr. Your infographic should be branded with your firms logo, color scheme, typeface, etc. to make your legal brand just as memorable as the information presented.
Adding multimedia also helps break up text-heavy content. A big brick of content is daunting. When I load an article, the first thing I do is scroll through to see how long and dense it is—if there aren’t checkpoints, such as images or sections, I often look elsewhere. You might look at this post and say I need more images, however, I’ve formatted Command Legal posts to fit my target audience—attorneys—who are comfortable diving into heavy text. So, take into consideration exactly who you’re writing for when measuring out multimedia content.
#7 — Optimize Images with Alt Tags
Optimize every image with alternative text tags (“alt text”). Search engines have no way of knowing what is going on in your images unless you tell them. Just like any other on-page SEO element, use your keywords to provide context if possible. A Houston personal injury lawyer uploading an image of car wreck, for example, could add alt text such as “Houston Texas Car Accident Lawyers.” It hits keywords both for a top practice area and local search.
For WordPress websites, go into your Media section and choose an image. In the right side-panel, type your alt text into the appropriate field and click Save.
#8 — Outbound Links To Authority Sites
Google’s mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Adding links to content that has relational significance to your own helps Google in its mission to provide more useful results for its users. Look for authority sites in your niche & geographic location, such as:
- Legal news websites
- Legal bar association websites
- Non-competing law firm websites
- Law school websites (.edu domains)
- Government agency websites (.gov domains)
- Relevant content with strong ‘authority’
Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA) are estimates of how well a domain or page, respectively, performs in search results. To determine the estimated authority of a site, install the Moz SEO toolbar for your Google Chrome browser—you’ll see site information just under the search bar. Shoot for outbound links to websites with high DA and PA.
Brain Dean, one of the best SEO’s in the business, aims for 2-4 outbound links every 1,000 words.
#9 — Internal Linking
Creating links to your own new and already-published content increases the chances visitors will visit more pages on your site. Internal linking can also be used boost the “link juice” to content that needs just a bit more love to rank.
Use your pages that have high PA to build links to the pages that land on the second or third pages of Google search for their focus keywords. Whenever I publish a new article, I build links to a few of my relevant, existing articles to create a linking network for my content. I will also go to a few of my top-performing articles and link to my new article to pass juice.
#10 — Text Styling & Formatting
Blog formatting is both an art and a science. According to Adobe, 64% of people prefer to read something presented through beautiful design than something “simple and plain.” To make your posts prettier and more consumable, embrace the white space!
Avoid dense bodies of text to make your writing structure easier to scan. Of course you want people to invest themselves into your content and read it wholly, but 79% of people scan. Remember, this content is not for you, it’s for readers—build it how they like to consume it.
Make use of header tags for titles, subtitles and section titles. Search engines look at these HTML elements and give more importance to header elements than content embedded in body tags. Don’t force it, but it helps to put focus keywords within header tags.
As far as font styling goes, your body type should be optimized for easy reading. This often goes overlooked, but things like kerning (letter-spacing), line-spacing, size, contrast, etc. all effect the UX. Here are 10 Typography Tricks To Make Your Set Much More Readable. Command Legal websites come with optimized text for easy reading.
#11 — Title Optimization
Each of your pages and posts has a title on display on the SERPs when they rank. Page titles should be optimized for both humans and search engines by adding keywords—and adding them early. “Front-loading” your titles with your keywords is recommended by the Yoast SEO WordPress plug-in.
For instance, instead of writing an article titled “What Happens When You File A Workers Compensation Claim in Illinois,” re-word it hit keywords early: “Illinois Workers Compensation Claims: What Happens After You File?”
Optimization techniques to get users to bite on your links include structuring in a common blog format. People tend to go after the same types of headlines, such as:
- “How To…”
- “A Definitive Guide To…”
- “10 Tips To…”
- “The Ultimate (fill in the blank) Checklist”
You can also use an online blog title generator such as the one offered by Impact.
#12 — Show Value In Your Meta Description
Meta descriptions are not used by Google as a ranking factor, but having a well-built meta description is still helpful in boosting click rate. Think of your meta description as a quick sales pitch to search engine users, a micro-persuasion to get them to click on your link. You have only about 300 characters to tell them why your content is better than the others.
I put a condensed version of The APP method into my meta descriptions. I include my keyword, show search engine users I understand that pain and preview the remedy. This is my meta description for this article:
“Getting eyes on your legal content is tough. In this article, we provide you with 20 SEO copywriting tips to get more interested visitors.”
And I did all of it in under 150 characters—make your pitch and make it quick!
#13 — Build Shorter, Readable URLs
Studies show that shorter URLs tend to rank higher in Google. WordPress allows you to build custom URL slugs (permalinks) for each page and post you create. Optimize your URLs to be readable to both humans and bots. Use keywords and eliminate “stop words” (i.e. conjunctions or prepositions)—no need to make URLs read like a sentence.
Similar to page titles, put your most important keywords at the beginning of the URL and try to limit it to just a few words. Matt Cutts, former head of the web spam team at Google, has gone on-record saying putting focus keywords in your URL does help, but not to obsess over the order in which they are sorted.
For example, an article titled “How To File A Provisional Patent” could have a URL slug reading “file-provisional-patent.” The focus keywords are included and we don’t water it down/lengthen it with unnecessary words. I aim for less than 6 words in each URL slug.
#14 — Improve Page Load Speed
Many studies have proven the importance of loading speed for UX—which is why Google has added it as a factor in their ranking algorithm (i.e. so now it directly impacts SEO). Each one second delay in your loading speed reduces page views by 11% and conversions by 7%.
Test your loading speed using GTMetrix. This free tool “gives you insight on how well your site loads and provides actionable recommendations on how to optimize it.” They provide an easy-to-read report card and rank action items by urgency.
Mobile load speed is just as important given that mobile devices handle the majority of search traffic. The open-source Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project offers a WordPress integration to make your site load instantly for mobile devices. Each Command site is equipped with AMP so you have better chances landing mobile legal consumers.
Always compress the images added to your blog, as loading multimedia is typically the bottleneck. There are several image compression plug-ins for lawyer with WordPress websites.
#15 — Analyze & Improve Old Content
Don’t market in the dark. Authenticating your website with Google Search Console (GSC) and Bing Webmaster Tools provides you with insight as to how people are finding your content, what keywords are responsible for your traffic and much more.
With this data, you can revise older articles to better optimize for the top searches queries and improve your top-performing content to generate even more traffic.
Adding more detail, boosting with your best keywords and re-share on social media.
Of course, the data you collect should impact your content strategy moving forward as well. Be flexible and adapt to the needs of your target audience.
#16 — Install an SEO Plug-in
The Yoast SEO WordPress plug-in guides users with an easy-to-use interface, provides readability ratings and SEO scores for all pages and posts. Underneath the builder/text-editor section on each page, Build and modify on-page SEO elements such as page titles, meta descriptions, URL slugs, focus keywords and more.
Use the XML sitemap switch to easily and automatically share your pages with search engines so they can be crawled and indexed. You should also be submitting sitemaps with GSC and Bing Webmaster tools when you publish a new page or make substantial edits to new content.
All Command Legal customers who purchase an SEO package will have the Yoast SEO plug-in installed and configured with Advanced settings for maximum on-page, technical SEO improvements.
#17 — Check Your Keyword Density.
Keyword density is the number of times your keyword was used divided by the total word count of the article. Yoast recommends a keyword density somewhere between 0.5-2.5%. Anything over 5% might start to look like spam or “keyword-stuffing.”
After writing an article, check your keyword density in Yoast’s ‘Keyword’ tab at the bottom of any page/post being edited. Yoast will tell you if your keyword density is within the optimal range. If you don’t have Yoast installed or your website is on a different CMS, use one of the many online keyword density checkers.
SmallSEOTools offers a free keyword tool that lets you check density for published articles as well as copy-and-pasted text.
#18 — Use Simple Language
Lawyers tend to have larger vocabularies than your average pedestrian, so your writing could go “over the heads” of your target audience. You’re not writing for lawyers; you’re writing for consumers. Use “wittnesseth” and “impliedly” in your contracts but keep them out of your content!
Mark Twain once said, “don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do.” When writing for the everyday legal consumer, take this to heart. Of course, it’s important to understand your client persona (target audience) on an intimate level, which includes researching things like education level, profession and reading level.
Improving the readability of your content has the potential to boost page views, increase ROI and even bring more clients. After writing a piece of content, plug it into the readable.io text readability tool to find your piece’s readability score based on predefined criteria. Shoot for below a 9th-grade reading level.
#19 — Add Social Sharing Buttons
Making your content easy to share can help get it posted to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter—which directly impacts SEO. Matt Cutts, the former head of web spam at Google, confirmed the Google algorithm uses social sharing data as a ranking factor.
Install a WordPress plugin such as Floating Social Share bar that allows your visitors to share content directly from your site on their own social profiles. Another great one to boost your mentions is the Click to Tweet plug-in, which allows readers to tweet specific snippets of your article very quickly.
Most social sharing plug-ins come with styling options, so be sure to alter the appearance of the buttons in a way that meshes well with your website’s color scheme, type styling and overall visual brand identity.
#20 — Fix Broken Links
When a bot crawls through your content, it analyzes your internal and external links. If any of these links are broken, the bot stops dead in its tracks, rendering the remainder of the content invisible to search engines. If you’ve written a 2,000-word article and a bot encounters a crawl error in the first few-hundred words, well, you’ve just written a thousand-plus words that aren’t doing much for your SEO. Luckily, there are plenty of tools to help you detect broken links on your site.
Both internal and external links should be checked. To find broken internal links, login to Google Search Console (GSC) and go to Crawl > Crawl Errors and click the Not Found tab. A list of crawl errors will populate; click on a link and check the broken link. You can either directly edit the link in the blog article or add a 301 redirect with the WordPress Redirection plugin.
To find broken external links, install the Broken Link Checker WordPress plugin. This plugin will notify you of broken links directly in the WordPress dashboard or by email, depending on the settings you choose. Fixing a broken external link is as simple as editing the post and removing or swapping the link with one that works.