There will come a time where you want to add a table to your law firm’s website. Whether you’re a criminal defense attorney and you want to list the penalties of a conviction for murder and manslaughter so they can be compared, or you are a personal injury lawyer who wants to break down the compensation that was awarded in a recent verdict, tables can be a useful way to do it in a visual and intuitive way.
The problem, though, is that the formatting for some tables can trip up search engines. If you’re not careful, the information in your table can get ignored or, worse, misunderstood by the search engine’s algorithms. People searching for the information in your table are unlikely to find it because it will be buried in the search engine results page (SERP).
Here’s how to make sure the tables you use on your law firm’s website deliver on the SEO front.
A Steady Diet of HTML for Search Engines
Search engines rely more and more on automated programs to understand information on the internet and distill it into signs that can be used to rank websites against each other. These automated programs, called algorithms, don’t “see” some of the things that human readers see.
For example, instead of seeing this picture:
Search engines “see” something like this:
<img src=”https://www.myersfreelance.com/wp-content/uploads/Alt-Tag-Example-Mountains-1024×334.jpg” alt=”Panorama of wooded and snowy mountains, with blue sky and clouds” title=”It was an awesome hike!” />
In this case, the computer code that the search engine is “seeing” is HTML. There are plenty of different computer codes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. HTML is one of the most widely used computer codes used on the internet.
One of the things you can create with HTML is a table.
Rather than seeing something like this:
|Search Engine Result Placement
|Percentage of Clicks
Search engines see something like this:
While human readers would struggle to take any information from the HTML format and would greatly prefer the visual table, search engines can only understand the version of the table that uses computer code.
However, using HTML to create a table only ensures that the search engine won’t be absolutely confounded. There are still things you will need to do to make sure that search engines fully understand what your table is about so they can rank your page appropriately.
Couch the Table in Context
Google and other search engines have long since learned how to use regular text to understand what a website or webpage is about.
By surrounding a table with text that describes what the table is about – both setting the context before the table and then explaining the takeaways of the table afterwards – you can take control of how a search engine understands the table. Leading and finishing off with contextualizing paragraphs that have plenty of carefully selected keywords can guide the search engine into an understanding that they would struggle to create, otherwise.
Make Sure the Table Has HTML Headers
Even for human readers, the most important parts of a typical table are the first row at the top and the left-most column. The row at the top, the header, explains what kind of information will be found in each column. Meanwhile, the left-most column, also called the subject column, sets the context for each piece of information found to its right.
HTML has a particular line of code that sets apart a table’s header: <th>. If your table doesn’t have this line of HTML, search engines are probably going to read the top row of the table as a unexceptional part of the rest of the table. Not only does this create an outlier out of the top row of information, it also eliminates a description of the rest of the rows that come below.
Table Captions Help, Too
Finally, you can guide search engines into a full understanding of the content of your table by adding a table caption at the top. Like with table headers, HTML has a sign for the caption, as well: <caption>. Describing what’s in your table in the caption tag – using well-chosen keywords, of course – can help search engines see what the table is about and understand why it is important and informative enough to rank your page higher in the results.