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Three Keyword Rules for Law Firm Websites

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legal-content-writingFollow these guidelines for search engine–optimized legal content

Geri L. Dreiling

When computer-assisted legal research was introduced, many law students learned the importance of search terms. If you understood how they worked and which ones to choose, your odds of quickly finding relevant, on-point case law improved.

Keywords are also search terms, but, instead of researching cases, prospective clients use them to find lawyers and get answers to their legal questions. For organic search engine results — those listings that appear on pages that are not ads — keyword usage is essential.

When it comes to legal content writing, follow these three keyword rules:

  1. Research your keywords.
  2. Use your keywords.
  3. Assess the performance of your keywords.

1. Research your keywords.

Whether you’re trying on clothes or coming up with keywords, one size does not fit all. Practice area, geographic location and even your competition may help determine which keywords are best for your website’s legal content.

For example, the keyword “attorney” may be more often searched in Missouri, whereas “lawyer” is the preferred search term in New York. The word “attorney” may be used more often with some types of practice areas.

Keyword research can also reveal which term your competitors prefer. Legal Media Matters has sometimes found that law firms in a given region prefer using “attorney” on their websites but “lawyer” is the more frequently searched term. That means that favoring “lawyer” may give you a search engine boost.

In our recent blog post “Attorney Websites: Seven Tips for Legal Content Writing,” we highlighted three free keyword websites that will allow you to perform some basic research: Google Insights, Wordtracker and Google AdWords.

There are additional fee-based options. At Legal Media Matters, we provide a more comprehensive in-depth keyword research and competition analysis for our clients.

2. Use your keywords.

Keyword research will help you identify main keywords, main supporting keywords and long-tail keywords.

Your main keyword phrase is the one that should be most heavily emphasized on the page. The main keyword might be emphasized anywhere from four to 10 times in a 500-word text.

For example, if you’re writing a web page about boat accidents, the best main keyword phrase could be “boating accident attorney.”

The main supporting keyword phrase comprises words that also receive some search queries. Using them can help improve readability and present more search engine opportunities.

For the boating accident web page, a supporting main keyword phrase might be “boating accident lawsuits.”

A long-tail keyword phrase contains more than three keywords. Although searches involving the long-tail keywords are less frequently found, they still provide good search engine opportunities. And because the people using the long tail keyword phrase know what they’re looking for, they may be more likely to become clients.

One example of a long-tail phrase is “boating accident victim compensation.” A sentence including that phrase might read:  “For a boating accident victim, compensation and reimbursement for medical expenses may be a primary concern.”

Incorporating the main keywords, supporting keywords and long-tail keyword phrases into your legal content is important — just don’t forget that readability for your clients cannot be sacrificed. Balancing the twin aims of being found on the Internet and then converting those searches into inquiries is, admittedly, a challenge.  The fact that legal concepts are discussed can further complicate readability.

At Legal Media Matters we’ve found the best solution for balancing the sometimes competing interests is to subject the text to an independent copyedit before it is published.

3. Assess the performance of keywords.

You’ve done your keyword research and incorporated the terms into your legal content. Now you must determine whether they’re effective.

Most programs, including Google’s free analytics program, record the keywords that lead people to your website. Are the keywords people are using the ones you optimized your text for initially? Are some keywords performing better than others? Which keywords are better at keeping people on your site longer?

If you find some pages working better, you may be able to use that information to boost your underperforming pages.

Do you follow any special keyword rules when writing your legal content? If so, let us know.

To learn more about our keyword research or legal content writing services, contact Legal Media Matters via our online contact form or email

If you’re looking for more legal content writing, PR or marketing tips, subscribe to the Legal Media Matters email alerts: Get articles via e-mail

A Special Thanks

A special thanks to lawyer and tech blogger Nicole Black, who, in honor of International Women’s Day, highlighted women who blog about law and technology for Blawg Review. I’m excited to have been listed for my legal content writing tips.

Comments (7)

  1. Margaret Valliere-Pszczola

    Thank you for the article!

  2. Geri L. Dreiling

    Hi Margaret —

    You are very welcome. It is my pleasure!


  3. David Knott

    Excellent advice about managing targeted search terms for law firms website. I might suggest, in addition, that tracking rankings on targeted search terms would be advisable. There are free programs, like rank Checker which is add on for Firefox. There is more to learn from such reports than just which search terms are delivering rankings. When you combine this information with the Google analytics information, you can determine greater contributing factors to your website’s success. For example, should you be ranking a particular search phrase which has search volume and yet people are not clicking through to your website, you may be able to determine that your tagline for the appropriate landing page is not enticing conversion. This can help you focus better on where to spend your efforts. Should you only focus on the search terms that are returning visitors, how do you go about focusing on new search terms? Tracking ranking in combination with the Google analytics you can, you may recognize new opportunities.

  4. Geri L. Dreiling

    Hi David —

    To track rankings, I also like Google’s Webmaster Tools. It allows you to determine pages that rank well, yet might not be receiving a lot of clicks. Use this data, along with Google Analytics, and you can create some very meaning side-by-side comparisons.

    You raise an interesting question as to whether one should only focus on search terms used by returning visitors or focus on new search terms. I think sailing provides a great analogy. When sailing, you don’t arrive at your ultimate destination by following a straight line. It often takes tacking to starboard then to port and back again.

    The same can be said of returning visitor search terms versus new search terms. It often takes a combination of both to reach your goal of attracting new clients.

    For example, a potential client may visit your site more than once before becoming an actual client. Therefore, returning visitor search terms are important.

    However, new search terms can present new opportunities that your competitors may miss. That’s one reason I think our keyword analysis and competition comparison has become a popular Legal Media Matters service.

    I agree that conversions are an important part of any keyword performance analysis. Although that topic was beyond the scope of this blog post, you’ve given me a great idea for a future article.

    Thanks again for all your great comments!


  5. […] Three Keyword Rules for Law Firm Websites […]

  6. Dilip Singh

    Dear Madam,
    Thnks for the wonderful adivce you have given about web page writing. Very elucidating and value enhancing.
    Dilip Singh

  7. Geri L. Dreiling

    Dilip —

    Thanks for your kind comments. I’m glad you found the information helpful!


Comments are closed.