I’m a former lawyer, and lots of our clients at JSO Digital are lawyers. One of the biggest misconceptions we see from our law firm clients (but also clients in general) is that their potential clients only search for them in a limited number of ways. “If I was a client, and I needed a lawyer, I’d search [BIG CITY] + [PRACTICE AREA] + [LAWYER].”
Sure, some people do search for these “vanity” terms, and there can be great benefit in earning exposure for these types of searches. However, analytics data tells us that many preconceived notions about search marketing are unfounded.
Just because we assume that clients only find law firms through high volume, obvious searches, it doesn’t make it true.
The data is often counterintuitive
The data tells a different story. Even with dwindling keyword data, we see that most visitors to a law firm site come as the result of “long tail searches.” This is especially true for firms that have invested in strong content. Long tail searches are questions posed to a search engine, and they take on an incredible diversity of phrases, concerns, and research initiatives. In essence, they mirror the conversations potential clients have with friends, and themselves, about their legal issues.
Consider this sample of long tail searches that brought visitors to an employment law firm client of ours in the last 30 days.
- Converting from employee to contractor
- Discriminating boss
- Got fired CA lawyer
- My employer isn’t paying me overtime
- 1099 independent contractor laws for employer
- are automobile salespeople considered exempt
- CA must employee pay reimbursement of expenses
- CA cell phone work law
- can an employer make an exempt employee use pto in hourly increments
- can i file a lawsuit within a year of the right to sue letter under the dfeh
- contract between employee and employer for cleaning company
- customer called me harassing name employer did nothing to protect me
- do employers have to pay for employees mileage in california
You don’t court searches like these in the same granular way that you optimize for a local search campaign.
Instead, you “optimize” for your niche, by building a website that serves as an informational hub for clients facing the type of matters you handle. This is a long process, but one that, over time, generates more business than the more obvious searches ever could.
Optimizing for your niche – getting the long tail to bloom
So how exactly do you “optimize for your niche?” It sounds esoteric, I realize. Perhaps an example is a good way to begin. Take a look at Josh Gerben’s website. Josh is a trademark lawyer in the DC area, but represents clients all over the country. He created “Trademark University,” to educate potential clients about all of the potential issues they could encounter with a trademark. His site is full of page after page of useful content, complete with videos as supplemental sources of information.
It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but still accurate to say, that the visibility of Josh’s content will be driven largely by links. This isn’t a problem for him since he has used content to position himself as a subject matter expert, and is frequently quoted by the media. When combined with other important SEO factors such as speed, sound HTML, good semantic page structure, strong domain authority, etc., investing in great content like this will drive a tremendous amount of long tail search traffic. If analytics data is used to evaluate which pages are converting, and which are not, site owners like Josh will know what topics to emphasize as they move forward.
In short, the long tail blooms when a site combines on-page SEO, domain, and page, authority (a strong link profile) with great content.
The search engines aren’t broken
If search engines were broken, and could only process a set number of predetermined queries for a given topic, our presuppositions about how search works would be right.
However, the reality is that Google processes 40,000 search queries every second, and 20% of searches on Google have never been asked before.
The winning strategies for law firms, and other businesses, step up to address their niche holistically, not narrowly based on what we think we know about search.
Optimize for your niche, not your keyword biases.