Why Attorneys Should Avoid Keyword Stuffing On Law Firm Websites

by | Sep 29, 2017 | Marketing, SEO

Attorneys sometimes overvalue keywords or may not understand their role in online law firm marketing.

They may believe that the only way for them to succeed is to focus on ranking for basic keyword searches, or they may believe that keywords need to appear a certain number of times on a page in order for that page to rank well for a particular search.

These beliefs may keep attorneys from focusing on what works and succeeding in their online law firm marketing.

Keywords matter to a degree, but sometimes, attorneys may consider engaging in keyword techniques that are either ineffective or that can damage their web presence.

One of those techniques is keyword stuffing.

Here’s what to know about keyword stuffing and why it can create problems in your online law firm marketing strategy.

What is keyword stuffing?

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines describe keyword stuffing as follows:

“Keyword stuffing” refers to the practice of loading a webpage with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results. Often these keywords appear in a list or group, or out of context (not as natural prose). Filling pages with keywords or numbers results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site’s ranking.”

Examples of law firm website keyword stuffing include (but are not limited to) :

  • Repeating words in your content — such as law, lawyer and lawyers, for example — in a way that seems unnatural or artificial to website visitors. Here’s an example of a phrase that uses keyword stuffing:

    Lawyers and attorneys believe they need to use attorney- or lawyer-specific keywords on their attorney or law firm website in order to have their attorney, lawyer, or law firm website rank well in search engine queries for the terms “lawyer, lawyers, attorney, attorneys, or law firm.

  • Repeatedly listing every city or town a law firm practices in, in an attempt to rank well for local searches related to the law firm’s practice area.

Why attorneys shouldn’t use keyword stuffing on their law firm websites

A decade ago, Google’s search algorithm was much less advanced than it is today.

When someone typed a query into Google, Google compared the query keywords to its index of website content and returned website results that included those keywords.

Keywords played a larger role in determining rankings and relevancy in search results at that time, and in some cases, the more often a keyword appeared on a webpage, the more likely it was that Google’s algorithm would consider that webpage to be a relevant result.  

It wasn’t long before some webmasters took advantage of that ranking system by stuffing keywords into their website pages. Keyword-stuffed webpages with little meaningful content — or content unrelated to the user’s query — might rank highly in search engine results.

At that time, some webmasters stuffed keywords into the page directly, or they might do things like use hidden text — white text on a white background — so that search engines could see the text but web users cannot. In some cases the text might even be hidden under other elements on the page.

Google’s success relies on providing search engine users with the most relevant and useful results for their queries.

Keyword-stuffed pages often didn’t provide a good user experience or provide relevant answers to search engine users’ questions. Keyword-stuffed text also looks awkward to web visitors and it can cause visitors not to trust your site and/or the information presented there.

As a result, Google developed new algorithms to spot websites that use keyword tactics designed to manipulate search engine results rankings. These algorithms have continued to improve search results for users, helping to provide them with more meaningful content that addresses their questions.

At one time, keyword stuffing may have been a useful tactic. But now, rather than increasing a law firm website’s ranking in search results, keyword stuffing can make it more difficult for your firm’s website to be found in search results.

The right way to think about law firm website keywords

Keywords will probably always matter to some degree.

For example, if you wrote about nothing but baseball on your law firm’s website, you probably wouldn’t get found for queries related to the law. But stuffing your law firm’s website with law-related keywords isn’t a good strategy, either.

So how should law firms think about the role of keywords in their online marketing?

Google’s advice (and ours) is to:

“Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.”

Creating in-depth, relevant content for potential clients and referral sources is much more likely to be successful than creating keyword-stuffed content that is meant to deceive search engines.

If your law firm creates high-quality content that answers search engine users’ questions about their case or problem, relevant keywords are likely to occur naturally in your content.

As a quick check, you can always read your content aloud. Does it sound natural to your ear, or does it sound awkward? If it sounds odd, a high repetition of keywords might be the issue.

For more advice on effective law firm keyword strategies, see our post, “How Keyword Research Can Improve Your Law Firm’s Website.”

Tip: Understanding Google’s Webmaster Guidelines can help attorneys avoid wasting time and effort on keyword tactics that don’t help their law firm grow. It can also help attorneys avoid wasting money on law firm marketing or SEO companies that don’t understand and/or follow Google’s guidelines.

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