Sometimes having a little information is worse than having none. Many times when lawyers are in the process of selecting keywords to target for their search engine optimization (SEO), they read background information to gain an understanding of what needs to be considered. While this is certainly helpful to an extent, relying only a basic knowledge of SEO can lead to just as many mistakes as conducting no prior research at all. Here are some of the most overlooked keyword considerations lawyers fail to take into account when selecting keyword to target on their legal website.
1. Don’t rely too much on keyword research.
Don’t get me wrong, keyword research is vital to proper SEO. You have to know what potential clients are looking for, and you have to consider what’s a fruitful search. Thus, you need to search for popular phrases and not spend too much time on low search volume phrases. Easy enough? I’m sorry to tell you that it’s not as simple as you think.
High volume keyword phrases are going to have steep competition. For example, think about how many lawyers are also trying to capture the potential clients looking for a “divorce attorney.” Of course, if you’re a family lawyer, you need to target that phrase. You just need to be able to devote significant time and energy to build up your rankings.
A page of content simply won’t cut it. To compete for the mainstream phrases, you need a strong page of content along with combination of at least some of the following:
- A content hub about your main phrase – Using the divorce example, a family lawyer will need several pages about divorce such as high asset divorce, contested divorce, property division, etc.
- A video or image regarding the topic
- MANY blog topics that link to the main page
- Ample backlinks
It’s also important to consider, that low competition phrases could still be marketing gold. Thus, you need to make sure to target a couple of phrases with a low competition rate.
Let’s say you’re a personal injury lawyer and you notice that restaurant negligence has doesn’t seem to have much competition. Definitely consider creating a page to corner that market. If you’re number 1 for a phrase, chances are, your law firm could be the one every internet user selects when looking for a restaurant negligence law firm.
Thus, a proper SEO campaign considers the research and selects the keywords that make the most sense for the firm – without relying on numbers alone.
2. Don’t think location is an easy decision.
Too often firms think location is the easiest criteria to select. Yes, for many firms this is the case. That doesn’t mean it’s true for all law firms.
Some law firms, for example, may think that two office locations is enough to target a state-wide keyword phrase. This would be like a law firm with Dallas and Houston offices targeting “Texas” keywords. What lawyers often neglect to consider is that some of their competitors may have substantially more office locations. Without proper SEO practices, those other law firms are often more likely to rank due to the abundance of content and link-building opportunities. Thus, it may be more efficient to rank #1 for two major cities as opposed to putting all of your efforts towards being the best in the state.
Google itself can cause problems for location-based keyword considerations. For example, you may be in Miami proper and but the search engines consider law firms in the city center to be more relevant to searchers. Without proper link building strategies, you won’t be able to overcome Google’s preferences.
There are a plethora of other location-based considerations, such as the notion that it’s better to target locations individually rather than try to target two locations on one content page. Thus, location planning is much more nuanced than law firms realize and requires careful consideration.
3. Targeting one practice area won’t help you rank for all your other practice areas.
Yes, a high ranking page will increase traffic to your site and that is a consideration for search engines in terms of your overall rankings. Nevertheless, if you are a multi-practice group and want to rank for more than one practice area, you have to apply SEO practices to all of your targeted areas.
This misconception is one I see frequently with our digital marketing clients as it is a twofold mistake:
- Being number #1 in several subtopics, such as being #1 for dog bites and #1 for boating accidents, won’t be enough to have you rank #1 for “personal injury lawyer,” in general.
- Similarly, if your firm ranks on page 1 for your criminal law practice, this will have little bearing on an unrelated practice areas, such as business law.
The problem with these misconceptions is that they’re not universal. Ranking #1 for a popular phrase can help you catch the “low hanging fruit” as our agency likes to say. For example, if you rank very highly for a personal injury page and briefly mention something like a bus accident, it may enough to rank for both of those phrases. The chance of that success, however, varies greatly.
Realistically, you’re going to need a page of content for each keyword phrase you want to rank for. It also doesn’t stop there. You need to routinely post blogs on these topics and pursue relevant links for all of the practice areas you want to earn a high ranking.
4. Don’t rely too much on keyword research (revisited.)
Though this is repeating the misconception from #1, I am revisiting this point with a completely different rationale. Another critical reason to take keyword research with a grain of salt is that the research does not always provide insight to user intent.
Here again, this is a misconception that I see far too often with our attorney clients. Some keyword phrases may have the right search volume and competitive value for a law firm to target. The problem, however, is that user intent is not reflected in this research nor does it take into account what Google considers relevant.
One of our clients is a disability law firm. Part of their SEO campaign involves targeting individual illnesses. There is nothing wrong with this. It is perfectly natural for a disability law firm to target “heart attack attorney,” for example. If, however, you look at page 1 of Google, all of the law firms that appear for that search are medical malpractice law firms catching clients with heart attack misdiagnosis claims, rather than disability claims. Yes those firms may have strong SEO campaigns for that keyword, but search engines may also find those types of pages to be relevant to the users intent. Thus, the disability law firm may have to spend even more time and energy to rank for that phrase beyond what the keyword research indicated – such as more content, more social media, etc. It may be an uphill battle, and the firm may be wise to invest that time and energy into a different phrase.
5. Your Keyword Selection is Never “Done.”
Many times, new clients come to us baffled that their page ranks number #1 but is not getting any clicks or conversions. There are a host of potential reasons for this – bounce rate and quality of content being main culprits – but keyword selection and research is an important factor, too.
Just with any other trend, the preferences of potential clients may change. It’s quite common, for example, for a popular search term to change. Thus, targeting “Manhattan car accident lawyer” could be good one year, but the clients will search to “Manhattan auto accident lawyer” the next. Thus, people may simply not be looking for your page any more. Keeping up with the trends and your competitors is an on-going process for your keyword selection and SEO, in general. Your law firm’s keywords and content can grow stale, so keep conducting your research and keep the above considerations in mind.