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Search engine optimization helps lawyers strengthen their digital marketing strategy by focusing on visibility in Google Search results and other search engine results too! Check out this post to learn more about basic law firm keyword research for SEO beginners.
Effectively optimizing your law firm website for Google and other search engines helps your practice grow by connecting with clients looking for legal information and representation online. However, a sound SEO (search engine optimization) strategy is more than just a one-time effort of putting together a website with basic optimization techniques.
Instead, effective SEO strategies consist of many building blocks working together to create a robust plan for improving visibility in search engine results. Just as a car requires ongoing inspections and maintenance, SEO is also a continuous process of revisiting these building blocks to ensure they remain aligned with the best practices required to succeed in the face of continuously changing search engine algorithms.
If you are new to SEO, this can seem like an overwhelming process. However, there are resources available to help guide you! In this post, we are helping demystify some SEO basics of keyword research for lawyers and law firms.
A Short Intro to Search Engines & SEO
Not too long ago, information was not readily available at our fingertips. People had to go to libraries for research. Home computers, much less home internet, were not commonplace. However, in the past 25 or so years, that has all changed.
Now, “googling it” has become common, and 85% of American adults have a smartphone. As such, the idea of a search engine no longer requires in-depth explanation, and you are undoubtedly familiar with utilizing Google, Bing, or another search engine to locate information.
However, are you familiar with how search engines determine what information to display in your search results? In short, Google and other search engines utilize a process of crawling, indexing, and ranking to evaluate all of the content online and determine which results are relevant to searchers for each query. This is a highly complex technical process.
Related Post: The Basics of Crawling, Indexing, and Ranking
Put very simply, crawlers are bots navigating online information and collecting data to be indexed by search engines. You want these bots to crawl your website.
Indexing is, in essence, a categorization process. At this stage of the process, Google (and other search engines) analyze the information gathered by the bots to better understand a website’s content and sort it accordingly.
After the crawling and indexing process, search engines rank webpages by evaluating and weighing numerous pieces of data. The search engines’ goal in this process is to ultimately serve unique, relevant content on the search engine results pages in response to user search queries.
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None of this is a one-time or static process. Not only are search engines continuously changing and adjusting their algorithms and ranking factors, but the crawling, indexing, and ranking processes are repeated over time to update previously collected data and ensure results stay as relevant as possible.
At its core, SEO is the process of optimizing your law firm’s website so that the search engines better understand your content and your site performs well on each of the various ranking factors that determine your position on the search engine results page (SERP).
Why Focus on Keywords?
Numerous tactics can improve your website’s SEO. You need a strong technical foundation for your law firm website, such as the foundation offered for law firms with a Justia Elevate website. This technical foundation includes various design aspects, site structural requirements, and title tags.
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In addition to a strong technical foundation, you need high-quality, original content on your law firm website. You also will need a strong linking strategy and promotional efforts.
With numerous factors in play, keywords are just one small puzzle piece in an overall strategy. Nonetheless, keywords still matter for effective SEO, and incorporating natural keywords can play an important role in your site’s overall performance in Google Search results.
Searchers may use single words or long, complex phrases when they look for information. Ideally, you want to appear on the SERP for all types of searches when they are relevant to your firm.
For example, a personal injury attorney may want to connect with searchers that look for information on car accident liability, slip and fall accidents, or even dog bites. She will want to be in front of searchers who look for a short phrase, such as “car accident attorney”, and also wants to be in front of searchers inputting longer phrases, such as “the best lawyer for car accident lawsuits in Nevada.”
By focusing on keywords, you can better optimize your website content for each of these queries. Researching the applicable keywords for your practice that should be incorporated into your content is one of the first steps in this content optimization process.
Related Post: Justia Q&A: 5 Common Questions About Search and SEO
To be clear, you should not overstuff keywords into your content. Using too many keywords that diminish readability does not do your law firm website any favors in the long run. However, researching and naturally using keywords within well-written, original content is one of the many building blocks available for SEO success.
Keyword Research Basics
Now that you understand a little bit more about why keywords, and in turn keyword research, matter for your law firm, you are ready for a few basic tips to help you get started on your research.
1. Make a List of The Cases That Matter to Your Law Firm
You do not want to rank for every possible law firm or lawyer search term. Attempting to optimize your law firm website for every possible law firm search would be a waste of your time, effort, and energy. Additionally, it would not connect you with the best clients for your practice.
Instead, you want to focus on the cases that are the best fit for your law firm. So, consider your core practice areas and the types of matters you typically handle. For instance, if you are a family lawyer, your list may include matters such as custody disputes, alimony, or prenuptial agreements. Once you have a list of approximately 10 types of cases within your core practice areas that you would like to target, you are ready to move on to the next step of research.
2. Take Advantage of Free Resources
When you search on Google, have you noticed that it suggests relevant searches to what you have already typed? These autocomplete predictions are intended to help save searchers time as they input a query. They also present a great opportunity for a little bit of free keyword research.
In the words of one Google blog post, the autocomplete predictions are determined by “look[ing] at real searches that happen on Google and show[ing] common and trending ones relevant to characters that are entered…” This means Google is making these predictions based on real searches happening on the platform, which in turn means they offer you a glimpse into the keywords and phrases people use when they search for legal information and assistance in your practice areas.
Additionally, Google Search Console can give you insights into what search terms and keywords your law firm website pages are currently ranking for, as well as the search terms that currently drive the most visits to your site.
Google also offers the Google Keyword Planner that can help with basic keyword research. While the tool is largely intended for Google Ads pay-per-click (PPC) advertisers, it offers keyword insights that can also inform a well-rounded SEO strategy.
Related Post: SEO + PPC = Holistic Marketing Strategy for Lawyers
Use Google and other search engines to search for the keywords and search terms you are considering for your firm and analyze the results your search returns. Does your law firm appear on the SERP? How about your competitors? Are they on the SERP for your desired terms? This can further help you with evaluating keywords for which you should optimize your law firm website.
3. Leverage Additional Third-Party Tools (Both Semi-Free and Paid) to Supplement Your Research
Everybody likes to save money, but third-party (non-Google) tools definitively help take your keyword research for SEO to the next level. Many of these tools offer some sort of free level or testing feature before requiring payment, so think of the options as semi-free and paid.
Popular SEO tools offer exciting insights to guide your keyword research and optimization strategy. For example, SEMRUSH offers a tool that lets you get insight into your competitors’ online performance and the keywords for which they are ranking. In addition, you can get insights into their traffic and how many organic visitors they receive from Google. Likewise, the platform offers a Keyword Magic Tool that offers lists of various keywords and phrases to get ideas of search terms for which you could optimize your law firm’s website.
4. Pay Attention to Details
While much of your keyword research may be light on the details, you want to pay careful attention to extra data when it is available. For instance, you want to pay particular attention to keyword search volume because this helps inform you as to how difficult it is to rank for a particular term, as well as whether it is worth your effort to optimize for a particular term.
For instance, you may not want to optimize generally for the term “lawyers”. Why? The competition on that page would be fierce and, in addition, you are unlikely to connect with the type of clients your law firm is targeting with such a general term. Instead, if you want to appear in searches that include the word lawyers, it should be included as part of a longer phrase targeted to long-tail keyword searches.
However, you do not want to optimize for overly narrow or niche keywords and terms that people do not frequently include in their searches. These terms may be less competitive, and you would likely stand a better chance of appearing at the top of the SERP. However, this does not do your firm any good if you are not appearing in search results for the queries your potential clients are actually inputting into Google and other search engines.
5. Don’t Overlook Local
Many searchers (and your potential clients) look for results that are nearby. This phenomenon is what cleared the way for common search results you are likely accustomed to seeing, such as the Google local pack. While many other strategies help you target local clients, such as setting up your Google Business Profile, it pays off to be cognizant of your local market and the keywords they may be using while optimizing your website pages.
For instance, if you practice in a large metropolitan area, you should try to include keyword references in your content that cover the name of the metro, major cities within the metro, and smaller cities and counties too!
Final Thoughts: Why Do You Care?
A robust SEO plan improves your law firm website’s performance in the organic search results for Google and other popular search engines. To build a robust plan, you must carefully pay attention to various aspects of optimization. While keywords play just one role in a multi-faceted optimization strategy, they are an important part of developing high-quality content and optimizing your law firm website that should not be overlooked.