Improve Your Discovery & Rank

How many people can find your website when they search online? And how high are you ranking on key search engines?

The Basics of Discovery & SEO

Understand the basics of how people discover websites online — and how to improve how your website appears on search engines with this SEO Cookbook for Legal Services.

Civic technologist Dave Guarino wrote this friendly introduction to help lawyers, policy-makers, and other non-techies to understand how search engines work & how to get your websites out to more people through them.

Improve Your Website’s Discovery

Use these tools & strategies to improve your discoverability and search rank online.

These steps can all work together to help people find your site more easily.

#1

Schema markup on site

Are you telling search engines what’s on your page, and which audiences should visit it?

You can use Schema to add info about your organization, its services, its jurisdiction, and issues served. This code is added to your header code for your home page and individual pages.

Create Schema markup for your site, and paste it into your backend: Follow the steps and use the tool here. This will help search engines find you and show you to the right users.

If you are on Drupal: you can follow these instructions on how to put Schema markup on your website, to tell Google about your organization and resources.

#2

Keywords that match users’ searches

The website should use headings & phrases that match what people type into Google or ask Siri about.

The words your website uses — especially in titles, headers, bullet point lists, and FAQs — will affect if & how your site appears.

Check out these common Google Searches, and rename your pages & headings to match them.

We have been collecting popular search queries around housing, debt, and other legal problems. If you can rephrase your existing content (especially your Headers & Titles) to match these questions & keywords, you can better match with people online.

#3

Backlinks from other sites

Are other, reputable websites linking to your website? Increase your search placement with these ‘backlinks’.

Search engines will rank your website higher if other websites (especially those with .gov, .org, and .edu) are linking to you.

Reach out to local and statewide website administrators to ask if they can link to your website. For example, you can reach out to administrators of websites for these organizations:

  • State court
  • State attorney general’s office
  • Legal aid organizations
  • United Way or 211 providers
  • Mayor’s office and city government agencies
  • Governor’s office and state government agencies
  • Law schools
  • Law libraries
  • Bar associations

Ask them if they can link to your legal help website by adding a paragraph like: “Find free legal help for your problems in [jurisdiction name] by visiting the [website name] at [URL]. This website offers free, reliable legal help to the public.”

#4

FAQs and Lists to be featured

Can your website’s content be featured directly on the search results page?

Increasingly, search engines like Google or Siri try to answer a person’s question directly. They excerpt websites’ FAQ answers or bullet-pointed lists, and provide them directly to the user (instead of taking them to the website).

Do you have content that you want featured directly by the search engine? This can be used even without clicking on your website, so it’s more likely people will find it and use it. Or it can be a good way to get people to notice your website & come visit it.

Prepare your content to be featured by search engines by preparing it in certain formats:

  • Frequently Asked Questions structure, with a header that announces the section has FAQs and then presenting information in a question and answer format. If you have developer resources, you can encode the FAQs using Schema markup.
  • Ordered List structure, in which your content is presented in bullet point or numbered lists (and encoded as such in the HTML)

More to do…

In addition to these discovery-focused steps, working on your technical performance, content, and design can also improve your search placement.

Search engines factor these areas into their rank as well. The faster, more bug-free, more mobile-friendly, and better content you have — you will get placed higher & have more satisfied visitors.