in Business, SEO

There Can Be Only One (in the #1 search position)

I was, and although I haven’t seen it quite a while, still am, a pretty big fan of The Highlander. For those that haven’t had the pleasure of seeing it, The Highlander is about immortal swordsmen who battle each other to the death in order to receive “the quickening.” While allegiances and friendships often formed between the immortals, it was well-known among all immortals that ultimately, only one immortal would eventually remain. And throughout the film, they would remind each other of this basic fact that:

There can be only one!

And, as I was spending some time thinking about search engine results today, the “there can be only one” mantra popped into my head.

Like the immortals in The Highlander, on any given search engine result page, there can be only one listing in the #1 position. And this applies both to paid, as well as, organic search results.

Lawyers spend a lot of time and money focusing on being #1. It’s a pretty brutal fight. Big dollars are spent. Reputations get besmirched. Borderline tactics are implemented.

But here’s the thing, very often, focusing all your resources on ranking #1 is really a fool’s errand. You see, people use search engines and the internet in vastly different ways. In fact, a great deal of the search queries that are entered every single day have never been entered before and may never be entered again.

But in order for us to wrap our heads around search marketing, many people quickly fall into the #1 ranking game. And while thinking about increasing positions in search results generally, is critically important to getting people to your website, many times, overly focusing on being #1 for any keyword, really isn’t the best use of resources. Here are some reasons why.

Your “Best Keywords”

How do you know what your “best” keywords are to rank for? Are they the ones that generate the most visitors? But what about terms that generate a lot of visitors but not a lot of inquiries. Are they the ones that generate the most inquiries? But what about terms that generate a lot of inquiries but not a lot of new clients? Are they the ones that generate the most new clients? But what about the ones that generate a lot of new clients but cost more to get a visit for than they produce in new revenue?

Inherent to focusing on ranking #1 is the issue of identifying your best keywords. And this is a difficult, if not impossible propositions for most lawyers. While you might think that most people search for queries like “chicago injury attorneys,” you’d be surprised to learn that these types of terms probably account for much less of your entire potential relevant traffic pool than you think.

Sure, these practice and geographic specific legal search queries are highly targeted. Guess what else, they’re very expensive. And don’t kid yourself, organic search traffic for these competitive terms isn’t free. While you might not pay Google, you’re going to have to pay someone to do all the “stuff” that needs to be done to acquire these positions.

But even if you’re a big spender and heavily invested into organic search strategy, you still have to figure out which of these “head terms” are the best for your firm. And chances are that you don’t have the measuring tools in place to be able to figure that out.

Further, as I said above, these highly competitive, very specific, head terms have very limited search volumes month over month. And limiting your focus to ranking #1 for these terms likely means that you’re not doing enough to focus on a variety of other types of terms for which there is even greater, and perhaps even better, search traffic.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Not only are these competitive head terms very expensive and difficult to rank for, but if you’re starting out fresh, it’s going to take some time to rank for them. So the question becomes, how are you going to generate business while you wait (more on this later)? Sure, you could start spending some money on Adwords advertising for some immediate traffic, but guess what? It’s going to be very expensive to play in the sandbox of these terms.

Chasing the Engines

One of the biggest issues with trying to be #1 is that the strategies that you’re likely to employ to focus on this term, or these handful of terms, are likely to make you very susceptible to search engine updates. Building too many links too fast with the same or similar optimized anchor text is likely to stand out like a sore thumb to search engines. If your footprint gets too ugly, you might find many of these links being dismissed by search engines.

Now don’t misunderstand me, as any SEO will tell you, search engines use links to rank sites. It’s as simple as that. But not all links are the same. Not only are links from different pages and sites vastly different, but how those links appear on those pages matters too.

Focusing on ranking #1 for head terms is likely to impact your overall strategy to the point that you become more vulnerable to search engine updates.

Other Fish in the Sea

In the end, the most compelling reason not to get too caught up in the ranking number one battle is that there are many other, more catch-able, fish in the sea. And in fact, many times these fish will be much more valuable to your firm.

So, I encourage you to place less focus on tracking 5, 10, 15, or 20 head terms, and instead focus on thinking about how people are likely to use search engines and the internet to find information about the services you provide and the problems you help your clients solve.

Nine times out of ten, you will be able to generate more targeted traffic much more efficiently than if you focus on trying to rank #1 for a handful of very competitive head terms that might not even be the best in terms of generating new profitable business to your law firm.