The Top 5 Mistakes Lawyers Make with Their Keyword Optimization

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Marketing professionals say it all the time, but it’s the truth: SEO is not something you can learn overnight. Those of us in the field appreciate how tricky this aspect of legal marketing is to manage, but not all lawyers are aware of the nuances involved to make an optimized site.

As a content manager, one of the areas of SEO that I see causes the most confusion is the use of keywords. Law firm websites often misuse keywords, target the wrong phrases, and simply overlook key opportunities. This post identifies the top 5 mistakes that lawyers need to be aware of as they optimize their websites – either with the help of digital marketing agency or on their own.

1.      High volume keyword phrases shouldn’t be your only focus.

With any SEO campaign, you are going to have highly competitive keyword phrases that you want to pursue. For example, if you’re a family lawyer in Miami, one of your keywords is likely to be “Miami divorce attorney.” It’s critical to target the popular phrases you want for your business, but not all of them correctly correlate with your practice area.

For instance, a disability law firm may wish to target clients who suffered back injuries and believe that the phrase “back injury lawyer” is the best keyword phrase to target. What the firm is overlooking, however, is that personal injury law firms are also targeting that phrase. Worse yet, a person searching for a “back injury lawyer” may wish to file a worker’s compensation claim or a personal injury lawsuit rather than one for disability insurance benefits.

Does this mean the disability law firm shouldn’t target the phrase? Of course not. Instead, it’s critical that the firm have other more firm-appropriate keywords that they should also focus on within their content. Secondly, interspersing a more relevant phrase such as “back injury disability lawyer” within the pages that may not be an exact match for the high volume phrase will provide an added boost.

Thus, make sure the keywords you target are a mix of the “money phrases” as well as the ones that best suit your practice. You can still pursue the high volume keywords, but also corner the market for the cases you specifically target.

2.      Keyword phrases are very nuanced and can’t be used interchangeably.

This mistake is a critical issue that lawyers make far too often – and is caused by a bit of tunnel vision. Practice areas from a lawyer’s perspective are not necessarily how Google  or your potential clients will search for your business.

This issue is most often seen with personal injury lawyers, but can happen anywhere. An injury lawyer will have a car accident page but not be ranking for personal injury-related keywords. Though those may seem like the same topic from a legal perspective, you need distinct content in order to rank for both phrases. Thus, a personal injury lawyer would need a negligence page or similar topic to rank for the personal injury keyword phrases and separate content for the phrases targeting car accidents.

This rule applies to those is commercial and residential real estate, family law and divorce, etc. Google values these phrases differently, and your website content must reflect that. You’re more likely to be successful if you think in term of how your clients refer to you, more than how your legal colleagues do.

3.      Geography needs to be carefully considered when picking keywords.

This is not necessarily something you see on many “how-to” sites for SEO but is still something our law firm clients often grapple with. Your keyword phrase is connected to your target location, and can’t be used interchangeably with another location.

For example, a lawyer may select Beverly Hills as the location used in the keyword phrase, yet want to target Los Angeles clients. Though the locations may seem synonymous, the same rule as #2 applies for locations. Thus, you can’t just use the different cities or states on the same page of content.

By alternating your phrasings between the two locations on one page, you’re likely to detract from your overall rankings. Yes, sometimes smaller cities can be mentioned on one page, but combining locations rarely works for competitive markets.

Instead, we advise our client to create location-based hubs. Thus, if you are targeting two major cities or popular terms, you’ll create practice area pages for each location. For example, a Raleigh truck accident page and a Durham one. The content CANNOT be the same for the two locations, so double the locations likely means double the content.

4.      Long-tail keywords are often overlooked, but can be vital to your site’s content.

The primary focus of SEO campaigns is the short keyword phrases that are the quick searches on Google. “Miami personal injury lawyer,” “Car accident lawyer near me,” etc. Yes the search volume is often highest for those phrases, and optimization for those phrases is certainly most important.

That said, amateur marketers often overlook how valuable long-tail keywords are. These are the longer phrases that people frequently search for; often in the form of a question.

Examples include:

  • How long do I have to file a lemon law claim?
  • Do grandparents have visitation rights?
  • What is the penalty for drinking and driving in Florida?

Depending on the particular phrasing used, the searcher may be asking a question due to an immediate need. Thus, adding related content to address these keywords is strongly encouraged. The “People Also Ask” section of Google is a great source of inspiration.

Of course, it’s worth addressing the counterarguments for this kind of keyword optimization. It’s true that these searches may not be potential clients, and may simply be curious minds. Once these questions are answered, further action may not be taken. That said, you can still earn a high search position with these keywords and may even be eligible for a featured snippet. Thus, the pros outweigh the cons of this SEO tactic.

5.      Keyword density is critical. No page presence = low rankings.

An all too common scenario:

Lawyers pick their keyword phrases. They understand why they need them on their site. After that, the disconnect happens:

Many attorneys balk at the use of the keyword phrase within the content on their site.

Plain and simple, your keywords MUST appear in various locations on the corresponding page. Headings and title tags, especially.

Yoast considers keyword density a critical factor – as do other SEO leaders in the field — and you shouldn’t ignore their advice. It’s typically encouraged to have the phrase appear at least once per 100 words.

Yes, it may feel unnatural and seem gimmicky, but there are plenty of tricks to make the application feel organic.

Can your page rank without using the phrase more than once? Yes, of course, it’s possible, but there also needs to be a host of other SEO techniques in place in order for that to happen. Adding the keywords within the text is often the easiest technique to apply and is certainly correlated to success.

For More Tips about SEO Mistakes to Avoid, Read Some of PaperStreet’s Other Posts:

SEO Content Mistakes to Avoid

The Difference Between Core Content and Blogs


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