Over the past 15+ years I have worked with a variety of attorneys and law firms, helping them with their SEO practices.
During this time, I’ve seen Google Keyword Data come and go. I’ve also implemented some really great marketing strategies, and some really poor ones. Throughout all of this change one thing has remained the same.
The purpose of your law firm website is to help you sign more cases, and if you’re not targeting effective keywords (organically or through paid search), you won’t achieve that goal.
Things Have Changed Over The Years: Keyword Research in 2021
Before search was more localized back in early 2012 by Google, keywords that did not contain a geo modifier, such as a city name used to rank nationwide (ie. no matter where you were searching from, you’d see the same results).
But in 2021, Google understands searcher intent better than ever, and even head terms like “Personal Injury Attorney” are localized by the searcher’s geographic location where they are physically searching from.
Whether it be their home computer or a smartphone, Google is creepy accurate at determining your location down to the neighborhood.
Below is an example of results shown for the keyword “Personal Injury Lawyer” when I searched from Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Noticed that the organic results are localized right down to the city.
In addition to this, Google has gotten significantly better at understanding the intent of keywords. This is important because the days of writing a general article on any topic likely won’t help you rank. Instead you need to look at the search results for the keyword you’re trying to optimize for and understand the type of content (e.g. informational) that Google is rewarding with rankings.
Long Term Goals Make for Better Keyword Strategies
Johnny Cochran was a well recognized and highly regarded attorney. People didn’t know he had a great reputation because they typed “Best Criminal Lawyer” into Google.
Instead he created his reputation through high profile work and strong results. If you retain a client through a city+practice area keyword, you can pretty much assume that you have to build that trust through your website design, look, and feel.
But what makes your website better than anyone else’s’ out there?
I’m not talking about the design in this case, but really the message your content serves. If you want to rank for just your practice areas and you have generic practice area pages like everyone else, you’re going to sign less cases. So how do we change this?
Start By Understanding What Your Potential Clients are Typing into Google
Good keyword research is the foundation to the success for any effective SEO strategy.
However, all humans are different and therefore may search for the same thing differently online. However normally when a searcher is looking for something they are trying to solve a problem or looking for an answer.
In fact, if someone that resides in Los Angeles, they may type a number of different things to find a personal injury attorney. Here are some examples of these variants.
- Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney
- Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer
- Personal injury law firm
- best injury attorney
- best accident lawyer near me
- personal injury attorney
This is just a simple example that illustrates even though your potential clients are looking for the same things, they may find it in different ways. You need to take this into consideration when creating an effective SEO strategy.
Your Potential Clients Are Also Looking for Answers
Just like I mentioned in the section above, your clients are looking for answers to questions. Even though searchers are looking for the same answers, they may type in different keywords. For example if I was looking for a Car Accident Attorney searchers could type in the following variants:
- Car accident attorney near my house
- Best car accident attorney in Parker, Colorado
- Do I need to hire a car accident attorney?
Those were just a few examples of many possibilities.
Here Are a Couple of Quick Tips Before We Get Started
Create a Google Doc or spreadsheet to track your keyword ideas in one easy to reference place. As you record ideas, separate the keywords by topic, group, or theme, whichever you find easier for your strategy.
Start by putting yourself in your client’s shoes and think about topics that might appeal to your audience. If you’re in personal injury some of the topics that your clients might be most interested in could be:
- Injuries – When will I get compensated for my injuries?
- Financial Concerns – How long does it take to get paid after an accident?
- Insurance Questions – Should I just settle with my insurance company?
- Trial Concerns – How long do typical personal injury trials last?
- Human Concerns – If I sue someone who has to pay me?
Notice how these keywords are long tail keywords. If you answered these questions on your website you would be answering a question or solving a potential client’s problem.
- Build substantial resources around each keyword topic
- Think outside of the box, get creative and have fun.
- Have One topic per page
- Put yourself in your clients shoes
- Talk to your SEO before posting content
- Find keywords that fit into your already established strategy
- Make sure you label the intent for each keyword (informational, transactional, etc.)
- Just research head terms like Personal Injury Attorney (Everyone already did that)
- Create thin content pieces just to rank for a keyword
- Don’t cannibalize your keywords by creating competing pages
- Just add keywords with no thought to your overall strategy
Keyword Research Method 1: Use Google Auto Suggest & Related Keywords
Have you ever started to Google something and not pressed enter just to read the results that pop up? This is Google auto suggest. Google Auto Suggest is a very powerful tool to see potential searches clients may be already looking for.
To use this tool simply start by brainstorming a few ideas that your clients might be searching for. Keep in mind that you can also use the Wildcard Search by using an underscore. You can see an example of this below.
In the example above you can see that I types in suit_personal injury_ which gave us a few options to choose from. You don’t have to use the Wildcard Search function. You can also just type in the start of a sentence like in the example below:
Get creative with this and record any searches that apply to your firm in your spreadsheet.
Another quick method is to scroll to the bottom of the page after hitting enter. This will display similar results as you can see below.
Keyword Research Method 2: Use KeywordTool.io
One Keyword Research easy button in 2021 is using SEMRush. While it’s a paid product they will provide everything you need to know based off of one keyword. Simply type in a head keyword like “Personal Injury Lawyer” and you will be flooded with related keywords, search volumes, and most important: intent.
This will allow you to easily curate a keyword list and create content briefs to get the content written right away.
Here is another option….
If you haven’t used KeywordTool.io before you might find a use for it in your day to day keyword research life. This tool will allow you to search Google, Youtube, Bing, and the App Store to quickly find keyword variants.
To use this tool you simply pull up the website, select your search engine, and then it will give you a lot of potential keyword variants very quickly. It’s that easy.
Like with any other tool you need to go through the lists of keywords you generate very carefully and weed out the ones you don’t want.
Method 3: Use Ubbersuggest
Ubbersuggest is like Keywordtool.io where it will generate keyword ideas based off of just one idea. You can visit the website here. Conducting the same search as above, Ubersuggest gave me 171 keyword variants.
To use this tool you simply put in the idea and click the “Suggest” button. From there it will auto generate the ideas.
The results are returned in an easy to use format as shown below.
*Also check out Answer The Public for cool ideas.
**PPS: Did you know that YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine?
Keyword Research Method 4: Use Google Analytics or Search Console
Although Google started blocking keyword data for encrypted searches long ago, there are still some nuggets of information to find. If you have had Google Analytics installed for some time then you will have historical data.
To find this data start by Logging into your Google Analytics account. From here you should be taken to the dashboard where you can select Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/ Medium / Keywords. You can see the clicks you have to take in order in the example below:
From here you will be shown a list of keywords some visitors may have used to get to your website. You will of course want to ignore the (not set) and (not provided) as those pieces of data won’t actually help you. Instead look for other opportunities here. Typically I like to look at a years worth of data and then go through the keywords.
We are looking for potential opportunities so the keywords that got maybe just a few hits might be pages you can build out as substantial resources on your website.
Keyword Research Method 5: Ask Your Staff
Wait… How can you do keyword research offline? If you employ a staff or a front desk person they might be a treasure trove of information.
I like to interview these people and find out exactly what questions people are asking them most commonly. If they’re having to answer the same questions over and over it might benefit you to put on your website as a content resource.
I had success doing this recently by interviewing the paralegals in the firm. They tend to answer the most case related questions and they were able to provide a lot of valuable insight and good content ideas without leaving the office or going online.
Keyword Research Method 6: Review Your Competition’s Website
This one here is a bit of a slippery slope. While it’s always good to know what your competition is doing you must not assume that they’re being successful doing it. We just can’t know with complete certainty. That being said its a good idea to review competitor websites within your area and outside of your area of direct competition. Look for things that are different and see what content they produce that’s actually useful.
One way to do this is to review the practice area pages they have and see if they have subtopics on these pages. In addition you can scour their blog to see if they’re creating just catchy click bait headlines like “5 reasons to hire a PI attorney” (ugh boring), or something better.
PRO Tip: You can also plug your competitors website into SEMRush or Ahrefs and see what keywords they already rank for.
Keyword Research Method 7: Review Your Competition’s Reviews
In my experience people are much more brave behind a keyboard than they are in person or over the phone. When people care enough to leave you a good review, they’re impressed about something. When people care enough to lead you a bad review they had a complaint.
I like to scour these reviews and read between the lines. Sometimes you can get nuggets of information that can help you find actual questions or even just trigger a thought of a potentially strong keyword idea.
In the example below you can see there are some potential triggers where this reviewer didn’t know what a personal injury lawyer was. Does your site explain how you can help people? Is it better than the competition? If not then there is a potential opportunity.
Keyword Research Method 6: Wikipedia
Wikipedia has a page on just about anything you can think of. It’s human edited resources are vast and its the 7th most popular website on the internet. It can also be used to generate keyword ideas.
Now don’t spend all day here but you can search for a related topic. For this example I decided to search on the personal injury article.
While looking through the subheadings of this topic I found a question that seems to be popular. “Are Personal Injury Settlements Taxable?” This might be a good opportunity for your own website.
Keyword Research Method 10: Avvo Free Legal Advice
Did you know that Avvo has there Free Legal advice section? Although I don’t personally recommend Avvo advertising for signing cases or generating case leads you can use their resources to develop some great keyword ideas. All of the questions that appear here are questions that actual clients were trying to find the answer to.
Keyword Research Method 11: Findlaw Boards
Did you know that Findlaw has consumer facing forums where clients can ask questions just like Avvo?
Just like searching for Avvo Answers all you really have to do is start clicking around to find the questions you’re looking for.
The Options Are Endless, but Remember the 80/20 Rule
With keyword research just like anything else there is a cost benefit analysis. I included these ten websites because I use them commonly when doing my own keyword research.
At the same time it’s important to recognize there are a ton of other resources out there you can use. There are tools, more attorney directories, and virtually unlimited resources out there that will help you conduct more successful keyword research. But just because you could doesn’t necessarily mean that you should.
You should only do as much keyword research as your strategy entails. If your goal is to create one strong resource area on a topic a year than you might only need 12 good articles. That’s up to your overall strategy and goals. I encourage you to use these tools for good to accomplish your goals but don’t get too carried away.
If you have questions about your own firm’s keyword research please don’t hesitate to reach out to me and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have. I can be reached at cmeraz(at)jurisdigital.com or Follow me on Twitter @CaseyMeraz