Ask the SEO Expert: Keyword Research

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By Eric Warncke
Director of SEO

As an agency, Omnizant is often asked about our approach to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). In the most basic sense, a great SEO strategy consists of three rounds of activity:

  1. Ensuring a website has no technical problems that prevent or limit its ability to rank in search engines
  2. Finding keywords that your audience is searching for and then creating content that appeals to those people
  3. Earning relevant and high-quality links pointing to your content

In this article, Omnizant’s Director of SEO, Eric Warncke, tackles some of the most common questions we receive about the second step — keyword research! 

Q: What is keyword research? 

A: Simply explained, keyword research is a blanket term for discovering what terms your audience is searching for on search engines like Google, so that you can create content that will hopefully help your law firm’s website rank at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). The goal of achieving a top spot in the results is, of course, an increase in organic traffic to your website and more leads.

Q: At what point in the website development process should a firm do keyword research?

A: Keyword research should be done before any website development has begun. It is vital to know what keywords your audience is searching for so you can capture the largest portion of your audience possible. 

For example, let’s say you are an attorney that specializes in personal injury cases and you are located in Cincinnati, Ohio; at the start of your website development project, you’ll want to know which keyword variation gets the most clicks so you can tailor your URL, page title, meta description, heading tags and content around the keyword with the highest potential traffic. Some findings in this example would include the following:

  1. Personal injury lawyer ohio (500 average searches per month)
  2. Cincinnati injury attorney (450 average searches per month)
  3. Accident lawyer ohio (780 average searches per month)
  4. Personal injury firm cincinnati (610 average searches per month)

Having awareness of the intent, search volume, and how difficult it will be to rank for a certain keyword is critical to the organic success of any website.

Q: How do you approach it? Best practices? Tools you use? 

A: When it comes to keyword research, there are many tools and methods you can use to find data, so we will only recommend one method here that utilizes free tools available to anyone. To start, ask yourself several questions:

  1. What areas of law do we specialize in? What services do we provide? (It’s important to note the difference between these two questions. If you are an estate planning firm in Oregon, your answer to the first question might be “estate planning and probate”. But the second question is different; your reply to this one might be something like “we help our clients protect their assets and create trusts for high net worth families.” 
  2. Which matters/cases are most important for the firm by contributing the most to your bottom line? 
  3. What geographic locations do we service?
  4. Who are our clients?
  5. Why do our clients need our assistance?
  6. When a client needs legal assistance/representation, how do they typically find it?

Once you have this data collected, you can begin assembling your initial keyword list by hand. Let’s go back to our earlier example, your initial keyword might include the following:

  • Estate planning lawyer Oregon
  • Estate planning lawyer Portland OR
  • Estate planning lawyer Salem OR
  • Estate planning lawyer Eugene OR
  • Last will and testament attorney Oregon
  • Last will and testament attorney Portland OR
  • Last will and testament attorney Salem OR
  • Last will and testament attorney Eugene OR
  • Probate law firm Oregon
  • Probate law firm Salem OR
  • Probate law firm Portland OR
  • Probate law firm Eugene OR

Once we have our initial list of possible keywords, we can begin the keyword research process in earnest. Ahrefs has a great free tool that offers some information about keywords you enter into it. As you work through your keyword list, the tool will tell you how difficult it would be to rank well (based out of 100, with 100 being the most difficult), the average number of searches per month, the last time the data was updated, and a number of other similar keywords you could consider targeting. Once you perform this operation for all of your keywords, you will end up with an understanding of how many searches these keywords get, how difficult they are to rank well for, and other keywords you could consider making content for as well. 

The site, AnswerThePublic, is absolutely fantastic for generating keyword ideas based off of an initial prompt. For example, if you insert the first keyword listed above, “estate planning lawyer Oregon,” AnswerThePublic will generate 47 additional questions that are related to your original term for you to consider. There are, of course, many other free and paid tools to perform keyword research, but at the end of the day, you only need to know which keywords are getting the most searches and how difficult it is to rank for them. Another great idea is to do a Google search for your chosen keywords and see what pages are already ranking at the top of Google SERPs and strive to make your pages better than those already at the top of the list. Google provides a number of helpful resources outlining what it considers quality content. This article shares the basics.

Q: Any words of warning for a firm going at it alone? 

A: It is very tempting to always go after the keywords that have the highest search volume, but many times this is not the best tactic for success. Everyone goes after the keywords with the highest search volume, and that makes those keywords the most competitive and difficult to rank for. Oftentimes it is better to optimize your web pages for keywords that may have fewer searches, but a greater possibility to convert once reaching your website. For example, let’s say your firm specializes in criminal defense, it might be prudent to try to rank for the keyword “drug possession lawyer in Queens, NY” instead of “criminal defense lawyer in New York City.” Even though the more specific keyword gets fewer searches, people that search for more specific keywords are often more likely to convert once they land on your website.

Q: If your research yields a long list of keywords, how many can you realistically optimize for in your law firm SEO strategy?

A: The truth is, you can write content on your website for as many keywords as you have time, energy, and resources for; as long as your content is high-quality and valuable to searchers, you could potentially rank for an infinite number of keywords. However, that is not feasible for most businesses, so a general rule of thumb is to focus on the highest priority keywords first and make those core pages as useful as you possibly can before moving on to the more niche keywords that are considered “nice to haves.” Being able to prioritize your keywords and your content is what makes the difference between average and extraordinary results from your SEO efforts.

About the Author
Eric Warncke is the Director of SEO at Omnizant where he helps law firms expand their digital footprints and supercharge new business from the web.