The Tools I Use: A Resource Page for Attorneys
Chris Dreyer | March 11, 2016
It is difficult to recommend a tool if you have never used it before. Attorney Rankings uses a variety of tools on a daily basis to analyze and improve attorney websites. If you are looking for software in any of the following categories, these tools come with our highest recommendation.
Domains and Hosting
For the most part hosting is a pretty commoditized business. That is true until you end up going with a bad host. Then you really learn to appreciate the ones that do it well. Namecheap was founded in 2000 and they provide domain name registration, hosting, security and other web-based services.
Here are some pros to going with Namecheap.com
- Extremely inexpensive domain name registration (some are less than a dollar)
- A professional and easy-to-use interface
- The latest services for managed WordPress hosting
- Excellent customer service (a huge plus when it comes to hosting)
- SSL certificates
- Applications that make adding functionality to your website easy
To stand out in the hosting world, companies really have to be on top of their game and Namecheap does that well.
WordPress has roughly 27% market share of all websites on the planet. That is a huge chunk of the internet using the CMS. WP Engine is specifically designed for managed WordPress installations.
That’s important to point out because that means they know the platform inside and out. Their services are tailored to work well with WordPress and they can ensure that customers have all the right software in place to run the CMS effectively. They can recommend the best plugins, the best themes and provide the best support for WordPress sites.
SEO Competitive Analysis Tools
SEMrush is an onsite SEO and backlink analysis tool. It is web-based software that lawyers can use to make SEO projects and printable reports. They also can gauge the difficulty of keywords they want to rank for, compare domains, and do analysis on paid advertising. Lawyers can either sign up for one month which is 79 bucks, a recurring monthly plan for 69 per month or an enterprise version (called Guru) for 149.95 per month.
One of the things that sets SEMrush apart from other SEO tools is that lawyers can do some pretty in-depth analysis on PPC related data. For example SEMrush will show you keyword history as it relates to search ads, average cost for competitive keywords and the same data for your competition.
Ahrefs is all about link analysis. They have developed a number of other features as well but their claim to fame has always been the analysis of links pointing at a website. Here are some highlights on why Ahrefs should be your go-to software program for link analysis:
- Get a complete picture of all referring domains to your site including type of TLD, number of unique domains, number of backlinks, dofollow vs nofollow and even the anchor text used on each backlink
- See trends over time of when links were acquired (a very useful feature for tracking campaigns and also for spotting any fishy negative SEO behavior)
- See broken links that are coming from your website to others which is great for fixing usability issues
- Some of the newer features at the time of this writing include organic keyword data, keyword rank tracking, PPC keyword analysis and competitive link analysis tools
Magestic has another take on link analysis. You get all the same analysis touch points you do with some of the other leading programs but you can explore domains in a little more depth.
One really sweet thing that sets Majestic apart is their Trust flow metric. One of the most influential aspects of links are the sources they come from. Google and other search engines that rely on linking as a ranking factor look at the source of links to determine how trustworthy the target site is.
The more authoritative and trustworthy the site a link is coming from is, the more benefit it provides to the target site. Magestic provides reporting on those metrics and places links into topic categories so lawyers can see where their most trusted links are coming from. This is extremely helpful when looking to increase topical relevance for practice areas.
Open Site Explorer
OSE is a tool from Moz (formerly SEOMoz) that specializes in backlink analysis. Moz is a trusted name in SEO and yet another flavor as SEO tools go. Using OSE, lawyers can get metrics on anchor text, inbound links, competitive analysis, and top pages in terms of links.
Moz is not as robust as some of the competitors but it is a solid tool for backlink, keyword and spam analysis.
Onsite Auditing Tools
Lawyers can get a snapshot of what their onsite status is using Screaming Frog’s crawler. It is a desktop software program that can be installed on PC or Mac. With the free version up to 500 pages can be crawled and the following information extracted.
- Number of pages
- Page titles with length
- Meta descriptions with length
- Meta keywords
- Page status response code messages (like errors)
- SERP previews
- Header tags for each page
- Directives (i.e. redirects, robots tags, etc)
Screaming Frog is a super simple onsite analysis tool to get all the nuts and bolts of pages quickly. It can help lawyers identify obvious issues with core onsite elements.
This is a sweet tool for finding duplicate content and broken links across your site. Finding issues like that is nearly impossible without software. Lawyers would have to comb through every page of their site reading content and clicking on links to find any problems.
Lawyers can just plug in their domain name to scan their site. Siteliner generates a detailed report showing you exactly where all the issues on your site are.
Woorank combines a lot of tools into one and their specialty is giving a snapshot checklist that makes it easy for website owners to scan and see what’s wrong right away. Lawyers can check the tool out for free and get some limited data.
The full-featured version scans a site to provide:
- A marketing checklist
- Various on-site and off-site factors related to SEO
- Adherence to mobile best practices
- A usability analysis
- Technical aspects of the site
- Social signals that are important for the site
- Local directory and citation analysis
One of the cool things about Woorank is their color-coded checklist that lets you know what is a priority and what can wait a little bit. Here is a snapshot of the report.
Free SEO Tools
Google has a vested interest in making sure site owners provide a good experience to their users. After all, Google is only as good as the sites it is able to serve to its own users. All of the following tools are free to use.
One of the most widely used analytics’ platforms is provided by Google and it is completely free. Google Analytics is relatively easy to use and provides lawyers with a lot of basic and some advanced data related to their website visitors.
For WordPress users, Analytics is also extremely easy to install. There is a fair amount of documentation on the web about how to use the platform for web tracking.
Google Keyword Planner
Google’s advertising platform (AdWords) is accompanied by a keyword research tool known as the keyword planner. With it, lawyers can get data on search volume for any given keyword phrase. Like Analytics, the planner is also completely free.
Google Search Console
Formerly Google Webmaster Tools, Search Console is a tool specifically for technical SEO related research as well as keyword positioning. Search console is also a Google product and is free of charge.
Once set up on the platform, website owners can track rankings for pages and the keywords associated with them. They can also get reports on indexed pages, HTML improvements; send requests for Google to fetch pages and more.
Google Mobile Friendly Test
The Mobile Friendly test is a scan provided by Google to make sure a website is mobile friendly. Not only can site owners figure out if their site is mobile friendly in Google’s eyes, they can also get specific tips on how to fix those issues.
Google Page Speed Insights
Lawyers can plug their domain name into Google’s page speed analyzer to see how quickly the page loads. Page load time is said to be a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm so pages that load slowly may not fare as well as those that load quickly (all else being equal of course). Like on the mobile scan, Google will also provide recommendations to fix page speed issues if they exist.
Google Trends helps lawyers identify keyword search volume over a specific time period. Where the keyword planner shows other keyword variations and their search volume, Google Trends provides insight into how users are search over the long term.
Structured Data Markup Helper
Structured data like microdata helps search engine understand the meaning behind text content. Structured data markup can be tricky to implement so Google provides a free scan tool that lawyers can use to see if their markup has been installed correctly.
Uber Suggest is another keyword research tool for finding keyword ideas. Like the Keyword Planner lawyers can type in a seed keyword and get more ideas on other phrases and terms to target.
You can choose from among web searches or other platforms like images and mobile. While you can get a lot of ideas and see Google Trends data from within the interface, you cannot see search volume.
Rank Tracking SEO Software
This is a keyword ranking tracker that can keep tabs on where your site is ranking for specific keyword phrases. The interface is pretty straight forward. Plug in your domain name, use the keyword list that AccuRanker gives you and/or add a list of your own keyword phrases, then click the scan button.
AccuRanker scans your site and delivers a detailed report on where your site ranks for each keyword phrase, the associated page related to the keyword phrase and lots of other data. Lawyers can also generate reports, see where competitors fall in SERPs for the same phrases and more.
WordPress SEO Plugins
The Yoast SEO plugin is perhaps one of the most well-known SEO plugins for WordPress. With Yoast, lawyers can do all the basic on-site SEO stuff to their blog or website by easily plugging in values to text fields.
Yoast also has really helpful content analysis that tells you if the text you wrote in a page or in a post is readable or not. For example huge blocks of text with no images or other elements can be difficult to digest.
All-in-one SEO Pack
The All-in-one pack is another SEO plugin great for on-site SEO optimization. Lawyers can fill out titles, meta descriptions, keywords, and even configure Google Analytics right inside the main settings of the plugin or on a page by page basis.
Structured data markup is important for search engines to be able to interpret the text that they read and understand why it may be important to searchers. Adding schema markup (whether in the microdata format or otherwise) can be tricky.
The Schema plugin allows lawyers to easily add schema markup to content on their site without having to know a programming language or guess which elements markup should be placed on.
There are a ton of content syndication programs out there. Hootsuite, Sprout Social and buffer just to name a few but Scoop.it has some features that many others do not. Just scheduling posts is not something that makes a social syndication tool stand out and if they don’t integrate with the right networks they are pretty much dead weight.
Most mainstream tools will sync with the big social media sites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc). Scoop.it can leverage those as well as Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook profiles, Facebook business pages, LinkedIn profiles, LinkedIn company pages, Google+ company pages, Buffer and Yammer.
Attorneys can also obtain no-follow links from Scoop.it.
Managing work can be hard when you don’t have the project management tools in place to keep things organized. Basecamp 3 is a web-based project management platform that allows multiple users to keep track of to-dos, ideas, and projects in a collaborative way.
Team members can leave comments in threads on a particular topic, share files like documents and images, and move tasks through to a close.
Local SEO Tools
Bright Local is a citation-based tool. It helps law firms spread their business information consistently across the internet quickly and with far less effort than doing it manually.
Basically you fill out your firm information including name, address, phone number, website, etc and then Bright Local sends that information to multiple different business listing websites and data aggregators. Bright Local costs $55 annually as opposed to Moz local at $84.
Whitespark was a local SEO company that used to provide a more comprehensive set of services. Now they focus primarily on citation services for multi-location businesses. Their team audits and builds citations by hand. They manage the entire cleanup process for you.
Coming up with content that your audience will love is no easy task. Fortunately Buzzsumo makes that challenge a little easier. Using a few keyword phrases, lawyers can find other content on the web that has been shared a lot.
Lawyers can search on a keyword phrase to see what content has been written about the topic. They can also see links built to those relevant pages, number of social shares, publication dates, and snippets of the content from the site it is published on. You can also filter by date, language, country, domain and content type.
User Experience Testing
User testing can get expensive but Crazy Egg provides an affordable and easy to use method for usability testing. All website owners have to do is apply a single snippet of code to their website and Crazy Egg will track clicks and display them in a heat map-like patter on the page.
Even though it is basically just clicks on the page, attorneys can get all kinds of insights into user behavior. They can see referral source, time on site, page views, bounce rates and other metrics all in perspective of where people are clicking.