One of the hot topics at the last SMX Advanced conference (an annual search marketing expo held in Seattle, Washington, each year) was schema. If you’re a law firm fighting to improve your search engine click-through rates in a competitive market, you need to pay attention here.
What Is Schema?
Schema is code used to mark up your website and provide the search engines with extra information about your site in an agreed-to format. This allows Google, Bing, and Yahoo to display information about your law firm in the search results pages. Not only does this give searchers useful information about your business at a glance, but the right schema codes can dramatically improve your click-through rates from the search results pages.
There are several different ways that you can mark up your content. At Foster Web Marketing, we have chosen to use schema.org markup. Schema.org is a collaborative effort from Google, Bing, and Yahoo and provides many ways to mark up your code. However, the search engines do not use all of the markup options in an obvious way, so the benefit can be limited to a few main categories.
Those following markup trends have advised that businesses look for opportunities to mark up the content their websites despite a lack of obvious benefits, as the search engines may find ways to take advantage of more and more schema categories down the road. You’ll be that much further ahead of the competition if you’ve figured out how to integrate additional markup text on your website!
The most popular use of schema for law firm websites is authorship. If you implement authorship correctly, you can dramatically improve your click-through rate. In one example provided at the conference, clicks through from the search results have doubled after implementing this type of markup.
At Foster Web Marketing, we were one of the first companies to successfully implement multi-author tagging for our clients. This means that you can have multiple authors contribute content to your website, yet they still get to take credit for their own pieces. Using DSS, clients can link their Google+ personal page to their bio page in DSS. They can then add an “author tag” to any piece of content on their website. This is great for clients who use a different email address than their domain name because it can be trickier to link your website content to your Google+ profile when your email address does not match your domain name.
If set up correctly, your image from your Google+ personal profile will show in the search results (as you can see below). You can sign up for authorship on Google+ and read more about Google authorship and the use of rel=author to link the content on your website to your Google+ profile.
UPDATE: As of 6.25.14 authorship images are no longer being displayed along with search results.
Video schema allows your video thumbnail to show up in the search results. Again, the main benefit here is improving your click-through rate from the search engine results page. In this example, we’ve used the VideoObject schema to show the video thumbnail in the search results. This schema is integrated into DSS. This means that, any time a client adds a video to his or her website through DSS, the video automatically gets video schema code on the page.
You’ve probably noticed search results with review stars—they certainly catch your eye. This is another form of schema called the rating schema. There is also Aggregate Rating, which allows you to—as in the example below—show the aggregate rating out of a specified number of reviews:
Many sites that accept online reviews display starred ratings, which give online searchers quick information about the business or individual they’re looking up. Avvo and Yelp are two examples that attorneys should pay attention to both show review stars in the search results. Get bad ratings here, and potential clients decide to move on to somebody else without even clicking on the link. Get a good rating, and you may actually get business thanks to one of these sites.
We’ve been trying an online review tool called GetFiveStars. They have both agency and individual accounts, so you can try it out for your own law firm. It is very intuitive and easy to use.
Do you give talks or seminars, or do you volunteer in your community? Make the most of your public speaking efforts by including event markup on your website. Event schema allows you to mark up the date, location, and a description of your event so that it will show up right in the search results. Making this information quickly and easily available to searchers is a great way to capture people’s attention. And it’s a great way to provide the search engines with data about your firm that they can easily digest.
Here are two examples of event markup at work, one for a law school and one for a law firm. You can see how timely event information would capture your attention in the search results:
Other Types of Schema
There are many different types of schema markup that you can use on your law firm’s website, but definitely start with the four suggestions above. We also mark up our clients’ office addresses using the schema.org Local Business markup, and bio profiles are marked with Person schema. We have not seen these types of markup used in the search results, but we believe they have value—especially Local Business.
Once you implement markup on your website, be sure to test your pages to make sure you or your developer did the work correctly. Google’s Structured Data Testing tool is invaluable here. This is definitely something you want to start doing and get good at before everybody else is doing it and you’re forced to play catch-up.
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