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Does Your Legal Website Have a Search-Engine Friendly Design?

Although search engines are incredibly sophisticated—more so than most of us could have ever imagined—and have evolved steadily to keep up with the ever-increasing numbers of users on the web, they still have certain limitations in how they interpret content in order to display results. You should have a goal of creating a legal website with search-engine friendly design which is optimized for human visitors as well. To do this you must be aware of the many aspects of web design. HTML format is first on your list of things you should at least minimally understand.

 The content which is available to any users of your site must be in HTML text format if you want search engine spiders to be able to read it. File formats such as flash files, java applets and other content which is non-text is almost invisible to search engines despite the great technological leaps which have been made. The exact phrases displayed to your users must be visible to the crawling spiders and the best way to do this is to place them in HTML text on your pages.

 What Do I Look Like?

If you are uncertain how the search engines are “seeing” your webpages, you can use Google’s cache feature. You may be shocked and dismayed to see that your beautifully designed web page looks nothing like you intended to a web crawler. Sites which are built around Flash may find the search engines unable to index any of the content or even the links. You may also want to use a tool like an SEO browser in order to ensure your pages are just as visible to spiders as they are to humans. In other words, if the search engines are unable to see content, they are also unable to list your pages in any meaningful way.

The Importance of Keywords to Web Crawlers

While many people realize keywords are important to the success of their web pages, they may not realize that keywords are fundamental to the entire search process.  In the most basic terms, if the word “lawyer” doesn’t appear anywhere in your web pages it is highly unlikely your web pages will be listed in the search results for “lawyer.” Make sure your keywords are highly visible to the search engines. When a human types in a search query, the search engine determines what pages to return based on those specific words. The order of the words as well as spelling, punctuation and even capitalization narrows the search field by providing extra information to the search engines.

Search engines further calculate how your chosen keywords are used within your web pages in order to sort the relevance of a specific document to a person’s typed-in query. If your goal is to optimize your page rankings—and whose isn’t—you must ensure your chosen keywords and key phrases are displayed prominently in your titles and text. The notion of keyword density is not nearly as important as it once was, and can actually provide worse results than other more advanced types of keyword analysis. So skip the keyword density, use your keywords in the title tag, as close to the beginning as possible, once in the H1 header tag, at least three times in the content and at least once in bold.

Pay Attention to Your URL

Many people choose their URL on a whim, never realizing how very important it will be to the success of their website. Since the URL appears in multiple—and important—locations, it can be of great value. Search engines display your URL in the query results and it is used in ranking documents. A poor URL structure can result in negative user experiences so when thinking of the best URL for your law firm, try to first put yourself in the mind of a potential user. You want to be able to confidently predict the content you expect to find from the URL, so ensure it is appropriately descriptive. Short URLs are better because they are easier to remember as well as to copy and paste.

While there are many more practices which will make your web pages search-engine friendly using the tips above will give you a great start.

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