in Business, SEO, Web

How Do I Choose Keywords for My Law Firm Website?

Recently on the SOLOSEZ listserv a lawyer asked about how one figures out what phrases are searched for on Google. The responses actually include some pretty good information. One response recommended Google Trends. Another recommended the Google Keyword Tool. Another recommended Hubspot. All very good suggestions.

However, I’m going to suggest another approach entirely: Think like your target audience.

Now I know this response doesn’t get at the heart of the matter in terms of identifying specific search volume and competition for various phrases. But I suggest that taking this approach will generate more traffic than trying to weed through and interpret the various keyword tools available online.


The first step in deciding what keywords your target audiences are using in Google should start with brainstorming. What do you think these different people would search for to find you or the information that you publish online? Chances are that you will probably come up with at least some of the words that people are actually using.

During the brainstorming process, don’t limit yourself to considering only the search phrases that you think someone shopping for your services would use. For example, many folks get stuck in the “location / practice area / legal term” pattern. This results in keywords like:

chicago personal injury lawyer
los angeles dui attorney
new york divorce lawyer

While these might be the types of search phrases that some people use, and you might want to keep them on your list, they represent only a very small fraction of some likely extremely competitive search phrases. They also only represent a very small part of the relevant search market.

Not everyone uses search engines like yellow pages directories. Some people perform research. Some type their questions directly into the search engine. Don’t forget to think about these people. They might use search phrases like:

how can i pay for medical bills after an accident?
i was recently arrested for breaking the speed limit in los angeles
what is my spouse entitled to in a divorce in ny?

Further, you shouldn’t limit yourself to thinking only about those people that might be clients, and instead find a way to help clients find the services they need. Sure, getting new clients is what ultimately pays the bills, but I suggest that your website and/or blog shouldn’t target only prospective clients. There are many other people that will likely visit your website and these people can have a huge impact on your success within search engines.

For example, your colleagues, journalists, and other legal bloggers might visit your site. What they find, or fail to find, will be the determining factor as to whether they subscribe to your site/blog, interview for an article they’re writing, link to your site/blog, or otherwise evangelize you as a lawyer. In fact, these types of people are usually more ready, willing, and able to evangelize you than your actual client.


Duh, right? Ask people that you know how and where they would look for you, or the type of information you publish online. Would they even go to a search engine? Would they even go online? If they do go online, where do they go? Do they go to news websites? Do they participate in social networks?

When I ask someone about how they would look for me, or the type of information that I post online, I usually come to find something out that I hadn’t expected. People use the internet in vastly different ways.

Google Adwords, Google Analytics, and Webmaster Tools

If you have some budget for it, Google Adwords can tell you a lot about search behavior. Now I’m not talking about the Keyword Tool, which can be quite misleading. I’m talking about actual adwords impression and click data. You see, your actual Adwords account will show you how many times your ad was served for a particular keyword. You can also dive into the specific terms for which your ad matched. This can give you a really good look at search-user behavior.

While I recognize that it’s impossible to measure what people are searching for in Google Analytics without first acquiring traffic, once you do have traffic, this is another great place to get keyword information. Analytics will show you the specific keywords that people came to your site by. Analytics will help you understand larger patterns of searches that come to your site and help you anticipate future searches. One thing that I do from time to time is to write a blog post based upon a query that I found in Analytics. Chances are that if one person had a question that they typed into Google and found my site, there will be others.

Finally, recent changes to Google Webmaster Tools make it an invaluable tool for understanding what people are searching for. Webmaster Tools now includes both query data and click-through data for your site. Don’t get hyper-focused on the actual numbers in Webmaster Tools. Instead, look for trends in in queries. This will help you understand how people are using the search engine and how Google is organizing your pages for these queries.

Deus ex machina

To me, the most important part of keyword discovery is creativity. Every single day, there are a huge number of searches that have never been performed before. Obviously, anticipating those new searches can be quite difficult. However, if you think like your audiences, you will have much more success than if you rely solely on inaccurate keyword tools. That is not to say that keywords tools don’t have their place. They do serve a purpose in getting some ideas about what search terms you might want to add to your target lists. But don’t stop there.

Think about how your audiences use the internet. Think about what types of information they are looking for. Ask friends, colleagues, prospective clients, and clients how they use the internet and what types of things they search for. It is the best keyword research you can do.