Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Common Lawyer SEO Mistake: Keyword Envy

I was speaking with a lawyer the other day that told me, “if you want to generate case leads via search, there are only a few keywords that matter and even then, it only matters if you are in the top 3 positions.” While it is true that having a top search position for a highly searched phrase can generate traffic, it's a bad SEO strategy. Here's why:

  • Personalized search results.A few years ago, Google started personalizing the search results based on your search and click history.So, what you see is not necessarily what the average consumer sees or what any individual looking for a lawyer sees.
  • Changing consumer search patterns. Earlier I posted a entry on ReachLocal and a ReachLocal salesperson commented that a significant part of their strategy was to target longer search queries.Their observation was as follows: “The average length of a search query has gone from 2 words 10 years ago (like 'dui attorney') to now more than 4 words (Aggressive DUI Attorney Alpharetta).”I absolutely agree with this change in consumer behavior because we’ve seen it in our analytics data as well.As search queries expand by 1 or 2 words, the combination of search queries grows exponentially, making the “few keywords that matter” strategy less effective.

    So, if you fixate on a short list of keywords and the top 3 search positions, you’re missing the boat on search. To share some data:
    • On a site rich with content that helps consumers find a lawyer, like lawfirms.com, our top keyword only accounted for 1.1% of our search traffic. The top 50 keywords only accounted for 9.7% of traffic.
    • Our immigration lawyer site, usimmigrationlawyers.com, has the top position on Google for “immigration lawyer.”While this keyword has high search volume and we have the top position, it still only accounts for 12% of our traffic.And the top 50 only account for 38% of traffic.
    Capitalizing on organic search demands that you publish more information about your practice and that you broaden the keywords that matter to you.In the end, what matters most to lawyers is connecting with the consumer that is looking to hire an attorney. To do this, you have to cast as wide a net as possible.

    Monday, July 6, 2009

    Why SEM is Not Necessarily Faster Than SEO

    I was recently discussing with a well known mass tort lawyer various myths and tactics for generating consumer inquiries via the Internet. While the folks at this firm were not search marketing experts, they were far from novices. This firm was particularly interested in getting inquiries from consumers that had lost their sense of smell by using Zicam. Because there was time sensitivity to the campaign, the firm had believed that SEM was the best approach. Their approach was as follows:

    • Register a domain with the words “zicam” and “lawyer” in it.
    • Build a 1-2 page site with a lead collection form
    • Buy related keywords on Google and watch the leads come in.

    While there is nothing wrong with this approach, through the conversation it became clear that the firm had placed too much (IMO) value on a domain name that had relevant keywords in it and had felt SEO was going to take too long to be effective. The execution of the above strategy, while relatively timely, took about 5-8 business days for the law firm to pull off (most of the work was in the construction of the site and the Google Adwords campaign setup).

    To prove my point that SEO was not necessarily slower, I offered the following approach:

    The Result

    Two days later we were on page 1 for about 20 highly targeted keywords and had quickly generated a good number of case leads for our clients. Not only was our approach faster, it was also significantly cheaper – both in terms of initial set up costs and ongoing traffic acquisition costs. And while it’s true that we did not get on page 1 for every relevant keywords, that’s something that can be addressed from additional content development and link building.

    How to Use This Approach for Your Firm

    Although social media, blogs and twitter seem to dominate the legal technology blogs, the reality is that SEO is still the biggest and most effective marketing approach for generating case leads for your practice. However, most lawyers give up on the approach because of two reasons

    1. They become enamored with highly competitive keywords like “personal injury lawyer” and give up when they realize that they are unlikely to end up on page 1 anytime soon.
    2. They forget that the point of search is to provide high quality, consumer friendly information and instead rely on generic, keyword-stuffed articles produced in India or some other outsourced provider.

    One of the most interesting things we’ve done at ExpertHub has been our ExpertSyndication Platform. It’s the only SEO platform I’ve come across that allows an individual lawyer to execute the same exact strategy as the one we executed above. So, while you may not be launching a time sensitive campaign like Zicam, don’t put off your SEO efforts simply because you think it will take too long to show results.