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How to create a legal website map to improve SEO and user experience

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Use a website structure diagram to make the most of your web content

Legal website maps

A guest post from Enrique Serrano

The Internet has changed the way in which we work and think. As Samuel Johnson once said: “Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information on it.” With such a huge volume of information at our fingertips, the potential for finding and gathering knowledge seems endless.

Search engines play a vital role in the information-gathering process and, ultimately, in client development.  Every day around the world, an Internet user types a query, finds an answer to her needs on a website, and eventually becomes a new client.

If you want your legal website to get new clients through this procedure, you need to consider two important subjects:

  • Search engine optimization, often shortened to SEO, is a process aimed at appearing in an easily visible position in a search engine’s results. If you aren’t listed near the top position, your legal website runs the risk of being nearly invisible.
  • User experience, describes the process that allows your users to find exactly what they are looking for in an easy way. If a user fails to find exactly what she needs, she will quickly leave the site dissatisfied.

The solution for a great-performing legal website in this very competitive environment is to have a lot of high-quality content, easily crawled by search engines and easily browsed by your potential clients. If your pages aren’t easily read by search engines or aren’t delivered in a way that makes it easy for your clients to find them, the site won’t succeed —- no matter how good your text is.

That’s why determining how to arrange and link the pages of your website is so important. And that’s where a website map comes into play.

What is a website map or web structure diagram

A website map is a graph of the pages that make up your site, depicting the links between them as connections. Each link provides a way for a user to reach a new page and distributes the importance that search engines assign to each page.

Website maps are site diagrams, readable by human beings, that structure development. They shouldn’t be confused with the XML sitemaps used by search engines to find all of your content or with on-site maps that include in a single webpage HTML links to all of the other pages in your site.

Website maps as diagrams are a powerful tool, providing an easy way to determine what you need to write and where you need to place it in your main site structure.

Your goal is to improve your website’s user experience and SEO. Whether you plan to develop a new legal website for your firm or improve an existing one, creating a website map or website structure diagram is the first step toward making the most of your Web content.

The hierarchical structure of a website map

Website maps are usually depicted as hierarchical structure diagrams:

Tiers in website maps

  • Your homepage should be at the top, as the only tier 1 page. The homepage serves as a quick introduction of who you are and what you do.
  • Tier 2 pages usually contain listings, or your main content categories, and provide an easy way to find the kind of information you were looking for.
  • Tier 3 pages, the most numerous, provide a good way to access detailed, specific information.

If it takes too many clicks for a user to get to your target content, your site will be inefficient and visitors will probably abandon it before finding what they were looking for. To ensure a good user experience, make sure that important content is never more than a couple of clicks away.

A website structure diagram optimized for legal web sites

Any law firm could consider the following ideas when developing a legal website.

Suggested structure for legal websites

First, your homepage is your most important page. It is given high relevance by search engines and has the potential to draw many new visitors.

That’s why your homepage should be simple and clear with just a few links that:

  • Distribute the importance of link juice from search engines to your other pages.
  • Allow users understand who you are and what you offer. The homepage should serve as a clean way to let them navigate to the relevant tier 2 page.

These tier 2 pages should mostly include listings of your main legal categories:

  • Your main general practice areas (e.g., Auto Accidents.) This is the first step that a new user would take in refining her search.
  • Listings of recent verdicts and press releases. This is a sign of healthy activity at any law firm.
  • Listing of client testimonials. Again, this is an important way to build trust. (However, be sure to check first with your state bar to determine whether testimonials are permitted.)
  • The categories of your articles, a listing of your main articles/FAQs or your legal blog. This kind of legal website content is essential to get good search engine performance. Including listings at this level of the map will prevent a cluttered navigation structure with too many articles as tier 2 sections while keeping your contents easily reachable for search engines.
  • Your contact form. You need to provide an easy way for your users to call, visit and hire you, because that’s your main goal.
  • An About Us section. People need to feel reassured about the firm they are making contact with.

Legal categories site map

The tier 3 pages should be mostly focused on specific legal articles on very specific topics. You may cross-link the relevant tier 3 articles between them if they feel related. So tier 3 pages could include:

  • Your specific practice areas (e.g.: Auto Accidents > Frontal Impact Collisions)
  • A detailed verdict or press release per page.
  • An article, FAQ or blog post per page. If you aren’t sure about what to include in your blog, here are some legal blog ideas.
  • A detailed client testimonial or case study.
  • Your contact form should still be easy to reach from any of the previous pages.

Investing time and effort to write a complete piece of legal web content at each tier 3 page will prove being extremely effective getting search engine traffic and converting visitors, since it will contain exactly what they where looking for with enough amount of detail.

Writing a legal website map will let you organize all your content, identify what to include, highlight new ideas and ensure good SEO and usability properties.

Do you need to identify the best structure to improve your legal website? Contact Legal Media Matters and learn more about our website development and content writing services.

Enrique Serrano is a telecommunications engineer expert in online marketing and website development.

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Do you need to identify the best structure to improve your legal website? Contact Legal Media Matters and learn more about our website development and content writing services.