Why Some Keywords Might Be A Bad Investment For Your Law Firm

by Jun 29, 2017

Many lawyers think it’s important for their law firm’s website to rank well for simple legal search terms and phrases like “Tucson attorney” or “Boston DUI lawyer.”

Attorneys may spend a lot of money on SEO consultants that promise to get their website to the “top of Google” for these “no-brainer” keywords. Or attorneys may spend countless hours tinkering with their law firm’s website in a quest to “optimize” them for these keyword searches.

If your online marketing strategy is focused on ranking well for what we like to refer to as vanity keywords, you’re likely going to waste a lot of time and money fighting with many other law firms for those same keywords.

Lawyers who fight for space at the “head” of the “long-tail” also miss opportunities to target the kind of keywords and phrases that are more likely to bring qualified potential clients to your law firm’s website.

Competition for popular law firm keywords is fierce

It is difficult for a new law firm website to rank well organically for basic legal keywords, such as “divorce attorney Los Angeles” or “DUI lawyer Massachusetts.”

It’s a poor investment of an attorney’s time and/or money to focus their online marketing efforts on these kinds of keywords. These keywords have a lot of competition, and they also have a low conversion rate. There’s also an assumption that potential clients search for attorneys this way. (For more on these kinds of myths, see Law Firm SEO – The Simple Truth That Will Save You Money.)

If your law firm is using PPC advertising, competing for those keywords can be prohibitively expensive.

In a 2016 study by Search Engine Watch, legal terms accounted for 78% of the top 100 most expensive Google Adwords keywords. The most expensive keywords, “best mesothelioma lawyer,” cost a staggering $935 per click.

Even if you’re willing to shell out hundreds of dollars per click, most of those clicks are unlikely to actually result in new business for your law firm. Someone could click on your PPC ad by accident. Worse, your competitors could be clicking on your ads just to cost you money (this sounds terrible, but it really does happen!).

The goal of PPC is that a potential client clicks on your ad. But that still doesn’t mean the potential client will take the action you want them to take once they reach your website. Less than 5% of people who click on law firm PPC ads actually take the desired next action (making a phone call, filling out a contact form, etc.).

A note about PPC for attorneys

We’ve long cautioned attorneys against dependence on PPC ads for their law firm’s business because we always want to guide our attorneys to get the best ROI — not just in the short term, but over the long haul. As you can see in the above example, a lot of money can be spent without producing results when it comes to disposable advertising.

We want our attorneys to be able to build their websites to generate revenue instead of spending money on methods that may not produce results. The best way to build your law firm’s website into an appreciating asset is through quality content.

General law firm keywords don’t always convert clients

Some attorneys assume if they rank well organically for a general law firm keyword, that will result in a high volume of new business for their firm. But ranking well for general keywords doesn’t necessarily equate to new clients. Yes, people may be searching for these terms, but that doesn’t mean those people are your target audience.

There’s an assumption that potential clients usually know they need an attorney before they conduct a search, and that they usually search for attorneys directly. And there’s also the assumption that potential clients usually conduct basic keyword searches to find a lawyer. These assumptions usually aren’t true.

If you’re wasting time and money fighting a losing battle to rank well for basic legal keywords, it’s time to rethink your strategy. Here’s how to do it.

Why long-tail keywords are a better choice for your law firm’s marketing strategy

A 2016 study showed that nearly 2/3 of search engine queries used four or more words. These searches reflect that search engine users are often asking complex and specific questions.

These more complex and specific queries are called “long-tail” searches, and your potential clients are likely using long-tail searches when they’re looking for answers to their legal questions.

In contrast to basic keyword searches, long-tail keyword searches are very specific. A long-tail query is often an extended version of a basic keyword search. It often contains the basic keywords but in a more targeted context.

Instead of going after basic keywords like, “DUI attorney Massachusetts,” a long-tail keyword strategy targets these more specific queries, such as:

  • Will I lose my license if I get arrested for a DUI in Massachusetts?
  • Do I have to report a DUI to my employer in Massachusetts?
  • Can you get fired for drunk driving in Massachusetts?

There are several advantages of focusing on long-tail keywords as part of your law firm’s online marketing strategy.

1. There is less competition for long-tail law firm keywords

Due to their specificity, there is simply less competition for long-tail keywords.

This makes it more likely that your law firm’s website will rank higher in search results for those queries. (Assuming, of course, that you have plenty of relevant high-quality content on your website that relates to those queries).

2. Long-tail keywords bring in more qualified leads for your law firm

Your law firm’s website may get tons of traffic, or you may get lots of clicks on your PPC ads. But if that traffic doesn’t help generate new business for your law firm, clicks and visits are meaningless metrics.

For example, if someone searches for “DUI arrest Massachusetts”–and your website miraculously ranks well for that general term–a search engine user may click on your website in their search engine’s organic search or PPC results.

With such a broad query, you will likely attract a lot of website visitors who aren’t potential clients. They may not be looking for a lawyer or an answer to a legal question. They may be looking for statistics on the number of DUI arrests in the state.

In contrast, someone who types in a long-tail keyword search such as “Will I lose my license if I’m arrested for a DUI in Massachusetts” is much more likely to be a potential client or referral source.

Each long-tail query likely won’t have the same volume of searches as a basic keyword search, so long-tail searches may yield relatively few visits to your law firm’s website. But optimizing your website content for these types of long-tail phrases makes it more likely that you’ll be sending the right traffic to your website: potential clients and referral sources.

3. Long-tail phrases do double duty for your law firm

When you optimize your content for long-tail phrases such as “Do I have to report a DUI arrest to my employer in Massachusetts?” you also optimize for other words such as “DUI arrest Massachusetts.” 

If you’re struggling to come up with long-tail keywords, check out these 3 Steps for Better Keyword Research.

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