How can your law firm stand out online and connect with more potential clients? One important way is through search engine optimization, or SEO — making changes to your Web site that attract the attention of search tools like Google, Yahoo! and MSN.
SEO starts with keywords. A keyword is simply a word that appears in a user's search query. Search engines look for lots of keywords or keyword phrases in Web site content.
For example, if a person searches on Yahoo for the term "Minnesota attorney," there are two keywords that the search engine would look for in the content of a Web site — "Minnesota" and "attorney." A keyword phrase is simply several keywords grouped together ("Minnesota attorney" in this example).
One element of using keywords effectively on your site is usage: where you put them in site content and how often you repeat them.
Generally speaking, the higher on a page a keyword is found, the more importance a search engine will give to that content. Repeating keywords or keyword phrases numerous times also will cause the search engine to consider that Web site more relevant. (Provided you don't overdo it and drive prospects away with uninteresting, overly repetitive content. Use diverse keywords and make sure your content reads well).
Equally as important as usage, however, is selecting the right keywords and keyword phrases for your site. Here are three key questions to consider.
1. What is your marketing objective?
Keywords are an opportunity to define your firm. They steer a particular type of person or case to you. Therefore, in selecting keywords you need to think about your "ideal client" and "ideal case."
Here are a few criteria to consider when choosing keywords:
- National or local practice?
- Metropolitan area or specific city/suburb?
- Specific practice area or sub-practice areas?
- Contingency basis or hourly rate?
- Quantity of clients or quality of clients?
2. How much competition is there for a particular keyword?
It's important to be both strategic and realistic in selecting keywords. You're better off ranking high in less-popular searches than low in searches for the most popular keywords.
Say, for example, that a small firm wants to compete for the search query "personal injury firm." The competition would be fierce. Despite its best efforts, the firm likely will come in somewhere around #2,480 in a Google search for that term. It can't match a national firm that might spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on SEO and inbound links to its site.
A better strategy is to focus on keywords that have a good chance of generating high rankings for your firm. Instead of "personal injury" try "Valparaiso personal injury lawyer." Instead of "Dallas lawyer" try "Arlington Texas lawyer."
Sharpening the focus of your keywords in this way also improves lead quality. The prospect who clicks through to your site is more likely to be that qualified "ideal client" that you're trying to attract.
3. What keywords would a potential client type into a search engine?
Finally, try to put yourself in the prospect's shoes when selecting keywords. Avoid "legalese" and terms of art, and focus on everyday descriptions of legal cases.
Incorporate layman's terms for your key practice areas. Instead of "mass torts" and "product liability," consider phrases like "cancer from asbestos" and "tire blow-out." Include "lawyer" and "attorney" and "law firm."
Selecting the right keywords to represent your law firm, then utilizing them effectively on your site, will give you the edge in attracting more (and better-qualified) new clients online.
Thomson FindLaw, a division of Thomson West, is the legal industry's most effective provider of online marketing and client development services. FindLaw provides law firms with web sites and other online marketing services that generate new business with qualified prospects and build stronger, more profitable relationships with existing clients. Attorneys can also be prominently listed on our web portal, Findlaw.com, the world's most-visited legal information site. To schedule an appointment with a FindLaw online marketing consultant, call 1-866-44FINDLAW (1-866-443-4635) or e-mail . Visit www.lawyermarketing.com for more information about the importance of law firm marketing.