Reaching the top of the law firm search results can be intimidating. Focusing on site architecture is an essential step toward creating a top-ranked search presence.
Virtually every aspect of search optimization, from content to user experience, depends on a site architecture that makes it easy for site visitors to find what they’re looking for and is flexible enough to accommodate adding more topics should the need arise.
Accomplishing this requires a deep consideration of site navigation to make the important sections of the site one click to two clicks away from the homepage.
Website architecture is a part of what’s known as the internal linking structure and can also include how information is organized, which means the content.
Google’s John Mueller emphasized that internal linking is important.
“…internal linking is super critical for SEO.
…it’s one of the biggest things that you can do on a website to kind of guide Google and guide visitors to the pages that you think are important.”
Mueller also said that internal linking is an opportunity to tell Google which pages are important, thereby indicating what the site should rank for.
“You can decide to make things important where you earn the most money or you can make things important where you’re the strongest competitor or maybe you’re the weakest competitor.”
This article will introduce three fundamental elements of site architecture that can contribute to higher search performance.
Website Architecture: Page Organization And Links
Let’s take a few moments first to discuss website architecture and why the user experience (UX) segment is important for getting ranked.
The Importance Of Website Architecture To SEO
You already know that SEO content and your website structure should be constructed for people over search engines.
However, it just so happens that what is good for users is also good for Google.
So, all the most important aspects of an expertly crafted site architecture will contribute to a better user experience and make the site easy to understand for Google.
A well-organized website will be easy for users to get around.
From the homepage, they will be able to access a host of other resources that are located just a few clicks away.
And that point is important.
You don’t want to bury important webpages multiple clicks away from the homepage or not have anything on the homepage that links to them at all.
Google’s web crawler will have a hard time finding those pages, and the pages will likely not rank very well (and probably no one will ever actually see them).
Another benefit of well-organized website architecture is that the internal linking spreads PageRank around the website.
If your local service pages all link up one level to your main service page for bankruptcy, business, or whatever kind of law you practice, you are telling Google that that primary service page is important, optimized, and worth ranking highly.
So, now you know why you need to put the time into organizing a straightforward and tidy website architecture.
Aspects Of Effective Law Firm Website Architectures
It’s important for any business in any industry, but now, let’s look at how law firm websites should structure themselves for maximum organic results.
Your website’s main navigation must be concise and clear in its layout since that is what potential clients will use to get around your site to see your services.
You must organize the navigation in a logical, top-down way. A “Services” or “Practice Areas” tab should drop down to a menu showing organized columns of your legal specialties.
Any kind of “About Us” or “Our Firm” tab can break down into a few sections that perhaps provide a history of the firm or state your organization’s mission.
Law firms are known as service-based organizations.
Instead of hundreds of product pages with little descriptions, your website should ideally feature:
- A homepage.
- As many main service pages as necessary to describe what your firm does.
- An informational content section.
- A contact page.
- An “About Us” section where you profile your attorneys and profess your firm’s values and mission statement.
Those are the essential elements of a quality law firm website, but how do you structure them on the site itself and link among them?
URL Naming Conventions And Structure
I have reviewed the importance of getting your main navigation and internal links correct.
Next is an overview of the importance of creating a simple but informative URL structure for the pages on your website.
It is vital to get this right because you aim to tell human users and search engines alike what your pages are about through the structure of your pages’ URLs.
The general advice on creating URLs is to remove excess words and include some keywords to be as descriptive as possible in the least amount of words.
Your URLs should reveal what will be found on that page.
Keep it simple.
Look at these examples:
For a blog post, make the URL a simpler version of the actual title.
So, your post entitled “10 Great Ways To Succeed In Business On A Budget” might be:
While you’re at it, be sure to add canonical tags to your URLs on the back end.
That way, if there’s a chance a page could be picked up using multiple terms, Google knows where to direct people.
Information Architecture: Content Organization
Create A Descriptive And Helpful Homepage
The homepage needs to do many things, such as inspire trust, make it easy to contact the business, plus serve as an effective entrance to the rest of the website.
How is this accomplished?
Focusing on what will help users the most is the best approach to creating the best home page.
There are four communication goals:
- Communicate what the general topic of the law practice is (i.e. of the entire site)
- Describe what the top major topics of the business are
- Make it easy to reach all the major specific sections of the website
- Use keywords that users would use
General Topic of the Law Practice
Businesses are said to be organized by verticals. A vertical market is simply what kind of business it is serving.
So the first goal of the homepage is to communicate what vertical market the law firm serves.
In the legal profession, typical verticals can be:
- Bankruptcy law.
- Corporate law.
- Criminal defense.
- Estate planning.
- Family law.
A law firm that is focused on family law can use that as the description for the topic of the entire site. Because most law firms serve a geographic region, that information is also used as part of the general description, the overall topic of the website.
So if the website is a family law attorney based in Springfield, Massachusetts, then the home page of that site should communicate that information from the title tag of that webpage what that vertical market is.
Family Law Attorneys - Springfield MA - Example Law Firm
The job of the homepage is to rank for that general term. It’s the job of the inner pages to rank for the more specific areas like child custody, divorce, pre-marital agreements, etc.
Describe Major Topics of the Business
The second goal is to describe the different areas that the business serves, for example:
For example, suppose the website is about personal injury in City A.
But now, it must also describe very briefly (and even link to) the specialties within that personal injury vertical.
Examples of Specialties Within the Personal Injury Vertical
- Motorcycle injury.
- Medical malpractice.
- Car accidents.
- Brain injury, etc.
Link to Major Sections of Site From Homepage
Third, it’s super important to link to as many of the inner sections of the site that correspond to the specialties within the legal vertical that the law firm serves.
This can be done from the top of the page navigation menu. And it can also be accomplished from somewhere within the body of the homepage.
Top takeaways about keywords and the homepage:
- Always use the words that your potential clients tend to use.
- Organize the webpage according to the most popular reasons why clients tend to call. If most calls are about slip and fall, list that as the first practice area. If the next most popular reason for calling is a brain injury, then make that the second section. This makes it easy for most site visitors to find what they’re looking for.
- Use images that contribute to communicating your message (this breaks up the page and makes it easy to scan).
- If possible, A/B test using user experience analytics like Microsoft Clarity to identify pain points that site visitors might encounter. An example of a pain point can be if site visitors are “rage-clicking” certain links or areas where they expect to find links.
More reading on keyword research:
Next, remember that you are a service-based company that must rely on customer reviews to gain traction in your geographic area.
You should devote a block of your homepage to displaying five-star customer reviews with brief blurbs praising the legal services you provided.
Those reviews will help to generate trust among new visitors to your site.
Homepage Internal Links
Related to the main navigation is the internal linking you do in your homepage content.
You already know that homepages should not be loaded with written content, but small blocks can briefly describe your service areas and link to them using keywords.
That internal link structure is vital. Everyone knows homepages are important; Google does, too.
The pages you link to from there are going to be easily crawlable. They will also be easy for actual human users to get to.
Colors matter on a website.
The use of colors can affect the choices that site visitors make.
- Visually contrasting colors are best for call-to-action elements.
- Blue conveys trustworthiness and authority.
- Always check if the color choice has sufficient contrast for color-blind site visitors.
Law firm websites looking to convey auras of professionalism should avoid bold, vibrant colors in favor of lighter schemes.
Create Above-The-Fold Content
Website architecture is generally considered internal linking, but I include information organization into the site’s architecture as well.
Above the fold is a way of saying in the main block of visible content.
With a law firm website, you don’t want to get too fancy or obtuse with presenting your content.
Users come to your site for help with their legal troubles, and those people are probably worried and hoping they can trust you to help them.
Reward their effort in visiting your site by making it clear that you are there for them.
Do this by presenting your most important content in the first block of content that is visible to site visitors.
Don’t make users dig around to find the information they need, like that service page explaining how you have helped thousands of people declare bankruptcy or that blog post showcasing your knowledge of recent tax-resolution cases.
Depending on how your homepage is organized, present some links to those service pages, a contact form, or some reviews to establish trust right away.
Sticky content is a good idea, as well.
Videos, forms, and surveys get people to stick around your homepage longer than they otherwise might, so don’t rule out those elements.
Whatever you feel is most important to your firm, make it one of the first things users see upon arriving on your homepage.
Essential information presented above the fold is necessary for well-made website architecture.
A law firm that performs quality work on behalf of clients needs to be able to reach every site visitor and convert them into a client.
The best way to accomplish that is to organize the information on the website in a manner that makes it easy for site visitors to quickly scan the homepage and find the exact topic.
That makes it easy for search engines to identify what the entire site is about and, consequently, may begin ranking the inner pages for the more granular search queries.
Identifying the best user experience for site navigation will always make it easier for the site to achieve maximum search performance.
Featured Image: fizkes/Shutterstock
How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint & Rank Higher
How To Measure The Largest Contentful Paint Of Your Website
Run a free website speed test to find out. Your LCP speed will be displayed immediately.
The results of your speed test will tell you if:
- The LCP threshold is met.
- You need to optimize any other Core Web Vital.
How Is The Largest Contentful Paint Calculated?
Google looks at the 75th percentile of experiences – that means 25% of real website visitors experience LCP load times of 3.09 seconds or higher, while for 75% of users the LCP is below 3.09 seconds.
In this example, the real-user LCP is shown as 3.09 seconds.
What Are The Lab Test Results On My Core Web Vitals Data?
With this specific web speed test, you’ll also see lab metrics that were collected in a controlled test environment. While these metrics don’t directly impact Google rankings, there are two advantages of this data:
- The metrics update as soon as you improve your website, while Google’s real-time data will take 28 days to fully update.
- You get detailed reports in addition to the metrics, which can help you optimize your website.
Additionally, PageSpeed Insights also provides lab data, but keep in mind that the data it reports can sometimes be misleading due to the simulated throttling it uses to emulate a slower network connection.
How Do You Find Your Largest Contentful Paint Element?
When you run a page speed test with DebugBear, the LCP element is highlighted in the test result.
Sometimes, the LCP element may be a large image, and other times, it could be a large portion of text.
Regardless of whether your LCP element is an image or a piece of text, the LCP content won’t appear until your page starts rendering.
For example, on the page below, a background image is responsible for the largest paint.
In contrast, this page’s LCP is a paragraph of text.
To improve the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) of your website you need to ensure that the HTML element responsible for the LCP appears quickly.
How To Improve The Largest Contentful Paint
To improve the LCP you need to:
- Find out what resources are necessary to make the LCP element appear.
- See how you can load those resources faster (or not at all).
For example, if the LCP element is a photo, you could reduce the file size of the image.
After running a DebugBear speed test, you can click on each performance metric to view more information on how it could be optimized.
Common resources that affect the LCP are:
- Render-blocking resources.
- Images that are not optimized.
- Outdated image formats.
- Fonts that are not optimized.
How To Reduce Render-Blocking Resources
Render-blocking resources are files that need to be downloaded before the browser can start drawing page content on the screen. CSS stylesheets are typically render-blocking, as are many script tags.
To reduce the performance impact of render-blocking resources you can:
- Identify what resources are render-blocking.
- Review if the resource is necessary.
- Review if the resource needs to block rendering.
- See if the resource can be loaded more quickly up, for example using compression.
The Easy Way: In the DebugBear request waterfall, requests for render-blocking resources are marked with a “Blocking” tag.
How To Prioritize & Speed Up LCP Image Requests
For this section, we’re going to leverage the new “fetchpriority” attribute on images to help your visitor’s browsers quickly identify what image should load first.
Use this attribute on your LCP element.
When just looking at the HTML, browsers often can’t immediately tell what images are important. One image might end up being a large background image, while another one might be a small part of the website footer.
Accordingly, all images are initially considered low priority, until the page has been rendered and the browser knows where the image appears.
However, that can mean that the browser only starts downloading the LCP image fairly late.
The new Priority Hints web standard allows website owners to provide more information to help browsers prioritize images and other resources.
In the example below, we can see that the browser spends a lot of time waiting, as indicated by the gray bar.
We would choose this LCP image to add the “fetchpriority” attribute to.
How To Add The “FetchPriority” Attribute To Images
Simply adding the fetchpriority=”high” attribute to an HTML img tag will the browser will prioritize downloading that image as quickly as possible.
<img src="https://www.searchenginejournal.com/optimize-largest-contentful-paint-debugbear-spcs/471883/photo.jpg" fetchpriority="high" />
How To Use Modern Image Formats & Size Images Appropriately
High-resolution images can often have a large file size, which means they take a long time to download.
In the speed test result below you can see that by looking at the dark blue shaded areas. Each line indicates a chunk of the image arriving in the browser.
There are two approaches to reducing image sizes:
- Ensure the image resolution is as low as possible. Consider serving images at different resolutions depending on the size of the user’s device.
- Use a modern image format like WebP, which can store images of the same quality at a lower file size.
How To Optimize Font Loading Times
If the LCP element is an HTML heading or paragraph, then it’s important to load the font for this chunk of text quickly.
One way to achieve this would be to use preload tags that can tell the browser to load the fonts early.
The font-display: swap CSS rule can also ensure sped-up rendering, as the browser will immediately render the text with a default font before switching to the web font later on.
Monitor Your Website To Keep The LCP Fast
Continuously monitoring your website not only lets you verify that your LCP optimizations are working, but also makes sure you get alerted if your LCP gets worse.
DebugBear can monitor the Core Web Vitals and other site speed metrics over time. In addition to running in-depth lab-based tests, the product also keeps track of the real-user metrics from Google.
Try DebugBear with a free 14-day trial.
How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint & Rank Higher
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