nicheAll online searches begin with someone — maybe a client or a prospect — typing a keyword into a search box. Finding out what they’re typing, what keywords they’re using to find a lawyer like you is a coveted insight.

Placing high in the rankings in response to searches for the right keywords is crucial in being discovered online. The idea being that higher search engine ranking will translate into more traffic to your website and ultimately more leads and more business for your firm.

However, there is another valuable reason why a lawyer should undertake keyword research. Finding out which key phrases your target audience are using, enables a lawyer to find out what topics or issues are important to that audience. It enables the lawyer to get on the other side of the table – to step into the shoes of a prospective client and to to view the world from that client’s perspective instead of the lawyer’s.

Keyword research forces the lawyer to think about what words or phrases a prospect is likely to use in searching for what he or she needs. Instead of using a legal term or concept such as “personal injury,” a consumer might be more likely to type in the phrase “car accident” or “whiplash.”  Instead of searching for “workers compensation,” the prospect may be searching for advice on being “injured at work.”

Keyword research helps a lawyer discover the interests and concerns of his or her target market. It provides a path to open dialog with your prospects by identifying the language your potential clients are using to describe their problems.This insight can prove invaluable in helping a lawyer use accessible language to explain legal concepts. 

Tapping into the right keywords and phrases will drive qualified leads to your website. You need to think about what sort of phrases people might be using and then you need to look at the frequency with which those words or phrases are being used in your market or geographic area. 

For example, if you specialize in personal injury law and have recent experience working on cases involving serious brain injury, it’s well worth finding out how many searches were conducted in the last month in your city or region for the phrase “traumatic brain injury.”  With further research you may discover that there is not much competition for that particular key phrase. With a little bit of digging you have found the kernel of a potential marketing strategy.  

The more specific the niche, the better. For example, most people are not searching for “personal injury law firm.” In order to find exactly what they’re looking for, a lawyer has to conduct the research and find out keywords and phrases that have a high enough search volume and at the same time are not too competitive. This is known as the “long tail” of a search and queries like this make up 70 percent of all internet searches. See: Why Long-Tail Keywords Are Important For Law Firm SEO.

There are several tools that provides insight into meaningful keywords. Google has a tool called Google Adwords Keyword Planner that lets you to find keywords most relevant to your practice, how often they are searched, and estimates on AdWords costs to hone your list of keywords to fit your budget. 

You should also use Google Autocomplete. This feature shows related queries when you type something into the main Google search engine. For example, if you type in “legal marketing,” Google autocomplete will suggest “legal marketing association,” “legal marketing jobs” and “legal issues in marketing.” It’s worth knowing what people are actually searching for so that you can leverage these phrases in your content.

Google Trends is another tool that can help a lawyer see which keywords are popular at the moment and allows them to track the performance over time. This is particularly helpful for seasonal trends, such as tax season or hot political and other topics in the news.

While the Google tools are popular, there are many others, a number of which are also free. Of particular note are SEMrush and SocialMention. Also Web CEO, BrightEdge and Moz are great resources to see which words you’re already ranking for. 

Keyword research enables the lawyer to think like their clients and to develop a marketing and business development strategy that can generate real business results. It can also help individual lawyers determine what their niche should be and how to create a strategy to position themselves as thought leaders in that niche.

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