Checkpoints for a Comprehensive Attorney Website Tune-Up: Part 2
Part Two: 4 SEO Tips To Improve Your Website Ranking
The first part of our comprehensive website tune-up covered the basics of an effective website. Assuming by now you've cleared the first series of checkpoints, let's take your site to a higher level. These are the strategies that turn your website into a high-performance tool to attract new clients. They're all search engine optimization (SEO) tactics -- and they happen in places unseen by your reader, although the results are visible.
1. Check your metadata
If you don't know why metadata's important, you should probably hook up with a web developer ASAP. (We're not trying to be snooty here, just realistic.) Briefly, metadata is information that describes other information. A legal citation is metadata; so is a footnote. For SEO purposes, metadata tells the search engines what your site is about.
The effectiveness of metadata depends on what kind of meta-information you've included. When metadata is done incorrectly, this is what you could get:
When no metadata has been included, you'll simply see the first text that appears on the page:
A decent job with metadata will result in an intentionally worded description of your site. And when it's done really well, you've got a meaningful description, keywords for SEO, and a good way to drive visitors to your site.
Make sure your site has, at minimum, a title tag and a metadescription tag for each page.
Keep in mind that metadata, like every other bit of text on your site, should be clear, concise, and targeted.
2. Give the search engines a map
Lots of websites include a sitemap for visitors. A sitemap makes navigation easy for your readers. And that's a good thing -- you'll probably want to have a sitemap. But it's not what we're talking about here. We're referring to an XML Sitemap, or Sitemap with a capital "S." XML Sitemaps use Extensible Markup Language to communicate a list of all the important pages in your website to Google's robot crawlers.
You might be wondering why you should care about communicating directly with the robots; it's a reasonable question. Here's your answer: search engines rank single pages as well as websites. You want the bots to find all your pages credible individual resources, and also to support the validity of your site as a whole.
Some content management systems (Wordpress, for example) can create an XML Sitemap. Even then, it's sort of a complicated endeavor for beginners. If you're looking to produce a Sitemap, you should probably contact your webmaster. When your Sitemap is complete, make sure it's submitted to Google and Bing. While it's true that the robots will eventually find your Sitemap, there's really no downside to handing it to them on a silver platter.
3. Create a custom 404 page
You've seen a 404 page before. It's that annoying message that pops up when a page you're trying to reach can't be found. And you probably know from experience that encountering one of these generic error pages is liable to send you right off the site.
A custom 404 page gives you the chance to keep frustrated visitors on your site by helping them find their way past the lost page or mistyped web address. A good 404 page has a search box and a list of your popular topics and pages.
4. Cut load time to a minimum
You've probably run into websites that load slowly. (Or run away from them!) But slow-loading pages are more than a pain in the neck. They're a barrier between you and your prospective clients. A slow-loading website will also be penalized by the search engines making it less likely that users will find your site at all.
There are a number of tools you can use to assess the speed of your website. Use at least one of them to evaluate your site. If results are sub-par, a skilled pro should be able to tweak the source code and speed things up.
When these four strategies are carried out successfully, your website will be functioning full throttle. But if you're interested in creating a site that's rocket-fueled, watch for the third installment in this series.
You may also want to take advantage of a free evaluation of your site's optimization. It could offer valuable clues for improving your website's position on search engines.
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