Lawyernomics blog

Letting Go of the Keywords You Think You Want

Letting Go of the Keywords You Think You Want

Posted onJune 5, 2014


So you want your website to be present in the top three organic search results when someone searches “your practice type + your location” (eg. “Personal Injury Lawyer Denver”), and why shouldn’t you! It’s a logical goal and it will likely produce relevant leads for your practice.

However, it shouldn’t be your primary goal. Here’s why:

You Probably Won’t Ever Get There

Perform a search in Google right now for the keyword for which you’d most like to appear in the top three. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Did you see sites like and on the first page, possibly even in the top three spots? Did you also see sites like and on that coveted first page? I’ve got some bad news…

Those are the sites that you’re competing against.

These aren’t law firms. They don’t have to focus on running a law practice. Their only focus is on creating great websites, and they spend millions doing so.

Can you compete with that?

The odds are, even with great SEO, you’ll never get there.

These Keywords Aren’t Actually Searched Very Often by Real Customers

If you research your primary “practice area + location” keyword on Google’s Keyword Planner, for example “Denver Personal Injury Lawyers”, Google will probably tell you that it gets searched several hundred, or maybe even several thousand times per month. And then you’re like:

Not so fast.

I, along with many in my field (whether they’ll admit it or not), have this nasty habit of searching the queries you want to rank for about, well, everyday. It’s nothing malicious! We just want to see if we’re helping you move up the ladder.

The number of times that these queries are searched by your actual potential customers is far less that what Google is telling you.

Even If You Get There, It Likely Won’t Last

So you’ve reached the top three spots for your money keyword; hurray!

What now?

Now, myself and all of my fellow SEO’s are gunning for you. We’re looking at your link profile and getting the same links for our clients (your competitors). We’re reverse engineering your content strategy and using it for our clients. We’re copying what made you successful!

Before you know it, your top three ranking will be gone.

Obsessive Focus on These Keywords Can Lead to Bad SEO

You’re SEO provider really wants to deliver the results that you want.

When the result you want is a top three ranking for the most competitive term in your space, your SEO might start feeling some pressure to deliver.

That pressure might lead to him/her to engage in aggressive link tactics that could set your site back years.

Judge your SEO provider on what really matters; that you are seeing more traffic and more leads.

The Gist: Reputation and Relationships > Keyword Ranking

Hopefully someday your site will rank in the top three results for all of the keywords you want. But even if it never does, your SEO investment is a worthwhile one if it achieves the following:

  • It helps foster productive relationships with influencers in your space
  • You look really good to anyone who finds you online, regardless of where
  • You get invited to contribute articles on relevant sites, or to speak at conferences, or to give interviews
  • Data shows that the web, not just Google, is a source of consistent new business for your firm

Image courtesy of Flickr by Randy Heinitz

5 Responses

  1. Matt, this is a great article. Particularly for lawyers who are SEO obsessed and want to rank not just top three, they want to be number one. The concept of SEO and ethics is a difficult one to explain. I won’t do most of what competitors are willing to do to rank, and there is always a lot of pressure because of it. Thanks for helping to explain it to the audience that needs it the most.

    1. Matt Green

      Glad you liked it, Laura!

      I can see how some of my fellows SEOs may look at what I’m saying here as a cop out.

      However, the real point is not that ranking for these keywords won’t be profitable, or that it shouldn’t be a part of your online marketing goals, but rather than it cannot be the primary goal, because if it is, you likely won’t help promote your business on any other level, and may actually end up really hurting your web marketing efforts, and possibly your reputation, in the long run.

  2. I SO wish more lawyers took this message to heart, Matt. Great post! I work for an online marketing company that, from its founding, has committed to an ethical approach. Of course, that frees us from the “gimme gimme” keyword mentality that you describe here. We’re just concerned with hitting those final four points you outline for our clients, and we get great results. Again, thanks for sharing! I posted on my social media channels.

  3. I too at one time was keyword crazed. Now when I write blogs, yeah I may have certain keywords and long tailed keywords in the blog, but only because just flows well within the blog. I feel with how the Google algorithm updates have been going, keyword importance will decrease in importance drastically.

    My husband who does my SEO campaign as a hobby always tells me to worry less about having good SEO and worry more about being a good lawyer. If the latter is on point, success will follow.

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