Keyword Research for Lawyers
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research involves a few component parts. It is first and foremost the practice of discovering which terms and phrases people use when using search engines. It is also identifying which of those keywords are the best to optimize a web page for with the goal of ranking higher in the search results for them.
Why is Keyword Research Important?
Without keyword research you might as well be fumbling around in the dark. You can think of the keyword research process like the investigation and discovery process as you prep for trial.
Can you imagine going to trial without having a thorough understanding of the facts of the case? The same applies when you create content on your site. Content without keyword research is an unguided and inefficient mess.
By finding the right keywords and topics you’re better suited to target the most valuable keywords in your industry. Keyword research also helps you get into the minds of your potential customers — something that many people think they understand, but usually do not.
Keyword Research to Find Personal Injury Keywords
First off, this is a framework to go by. It is not a set-in-stone guide that you must 100% adhere to. Keyword research is not an exact science. However, there are certain things you should be doing in order to set yourself up for success.
Following this framework will cause drastic improvements to your website’s organic traffic.
2.4x Growth (YoY)
If you’re an attorney reviewing this guide yourself you may feel like some of this information is a little confusing. If that’s the case, I’d encourage you to keep reviewing it a few times until you get it. You practice law. Trust me, if you can learn to interpret that myriad mess you can learn to do keyword research as well.
With that being said, let’s get started!
Seed Keywords: Starting with Very Basic Keywords
A seed keyword is a base word or phrase of words that really define your industry and help you figure out who your primary competitors are.
Ask yourself, “How might people search for me or my business?”
For personal injury these would include terms like:
- accident attorney
- accident law firm
- accident lawyer
- injury attorney
- injury law firm
- injury lawyer
- law firm
- personal injury attorney
- personal injury law firm
- personal injury lawyer
You’ll come up with (discover) many more seed keywords later on but this is a nice place to start.
Finding Additional Keywords
Once you have your seed terms, it’s time for us to begin generating a list of other keywords that are relevant to them.
We’re going to show you how to find these other relevant terms using one of the best keyword research tools on the market: Ahrefs. Normally we would include guides on how to do this for people on a tight budget (using free tools like google keyword planner) but this guide is for personal injury law firms. If you want to be the best you need to be willing to invest in the best. You know that.
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Ahrefs is a premium tool that has several pricing tiers to choose from. If you’re an attorney wanting to do your search engine optimization yourself we would suggest you opt for the Lite Plan ($99/month). If you’re doing SEO for law firms as a consultant or agency we’d suggest you opt for at least the Standard Plan ($189/month) though you’ll get access to a lot of additional and useful data with the Advanced or Agency tier plans.
Note: I am not affiliated with Ahrefs in any way. I do not get any sort of incentive for recommending their products. I recommend them because they really are one of the best and most useful tools when it comes to SEO.
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There are a lot of ways to go about finding additional new keywords using Ahrefs, you could:
- Analyze your current keywords and your competitor’s keywords using Site Explorer’s Organic Keywords Report or Top Pages report.
- You could use Keywords Explorer to take your seed keywords and generate a number of reports containing additional keyword suggestions.
However, each of these ways can quickly take an inexperienced person down a rabbit hole of data and leave them lost wondering how to act on it.
So instead, I’m going to show you a simple process you can use to find plenty of actionable keyword ideas for the next several months.
Finding Keywords Your Competitors Rank for That You Do Not
We can use Ahrefs to find keywords that your competitor’s rank for that you are not currently ranking for. This is a great starting point because these will be the keywords you’re essentially letting your competition have for free.
In order to identify these keywords you’ll first need to identify a few of your closest competitors. I’m sure you have a list already forming in your mind but let me stop you right there. Who you think your competitors are and who Google thinks your competitors are on Google are often somewhat different.
Finding Your True Competitors
Your competitor’s on Google are the websites that rank for the keywords you want to rank for. To figure these out you can start by using the Competing domains report.
- Start by visiting https://ahrefs.com/site-explorer
- Type in your website’s domain name stripped of the https:// and www prefixes and hit enter. We’re using edelmanthompson.com in our example.
- In the left hand navigation column, click on Competing domains.
- Copy the top three competing domains into a document. You’ll need them shortly.
Now that we have the websites that have the most overlap with us on Google we want to find what I call the paragon competitor. This competitor is another law firm that ranks well for several keywords across the whole country — even if they don’t take cases nationally.
Why do we need this paragon? Because more often than not, your local competitor’s will only rank for a small number of relevant keywords that you do not. You’ll see what I mean shortly.
Finding Your Paragon Competitor
One great way to find a paragon to use is to do a Google search in an incognito window, search for a very general term relevant to your industry, and see who ranks high and is not a local competitor.
For example, we might search for something like: injury lawsuit, car accident lawsuit or truck accident lawsuit. Since you’re incognito, Google might ask you for permission to use your location. We want to say no because we do not want localized results to appear in the regular organic search listings — we want national results.
Look for a result that is an actual law firm. Not just an aggregator website like injuryclaimcoach.com, nolo.com, etc.
Using car accident lawsuit, we can see that several of the top results are websites like Nolo, Findlaw and Alllaw. We want to ignore these and find a competitor first. In this case we have two options: Dolman Law and Crosley Law.
For the purposes of this guide we’re going to use Crosley Law.
Go ahead and copy that URL and put it with the other 3 compeitor’s URLs you documented earlier.
Note: If you’re searching for your paragon competitor and the search engine results page (SERP) keep showing you local law firms (e.g. if you see a local map pack with 3 results in it) then there’s a good chance you need to try a different keyword.
The primary thing you are looking for is a law firm who is ranking for terms and that is not a local competitor. This is why we chose words like lawsuit instead of lawyer. If you use words like law firm, lawyer, or attorney in your keyword you’re probably going to keep getting local results.
Finding the Gaps with the Content Gap Report
Returning to Ahrefs we’re going to open up the Content Gap report found found on the left hand navigation pane.
Once you open the Content gap report you will want to input the URLs of the 3 competitors you’ve identified.
You’ll need to add a target in order to add your Paragon competitor.
⚠️Ensure that the dropdown selections available on the far right of these fields are all set to *.domain/* Also ensure that you strip any preceding elements like https:// or www from the URLs.
Also make sure that your website’s URL is in the bottom field underneath the label: But the following target doesn’t rank for.
Cleaning Up the Report
One of the first things you’ll want to do is clean up the report. There will be a ton of keywords listed that we don’t want to target right now. These include things like the names of the competing firms and the names of their attorneys.
We’ll filter out their names by typing them into the field containing Exclude keyword.
You could type in every variation of how your competitor’s brand names might appear or you can use a little trick called a wildcard. To do this, type in some core element of the term you know you want to filter out and append an asterisk onto the end.
You can add multiple terms by adding a comma after each one.
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In our example we’re going to enter the following into the field and hit enter:
We could go further and enter in the attorney names as well but this is good enough to go ahead and export the report. You can do so by clicking the button that says Export.
When determining whether or not you should export a Quick Report or Full Report, just look at how many rows there are. A Quick Report will return the top 1000 rows of data. If there are more rows than that you can opt for the Full Report if you’d like.
You can open the report using Excel or Google Sheets. We prefer Google Sheets because it’s better for collaboration and we can automate a lot of things using scripts and free add ons.
Interpreting the Report: Finding the Best Keywords for Personal Injury Lawyers
Once you have the report open you can begin investigating which keywords your competitors rank for that you don’t.
Now, you can go through the report one element at a time or you can apply a nested sort to the data to make it more sensible.
To do this, highlight all of your data, then go to Data → Sort Range → Click the checkbox for Data has header row then add each competitor’s column to the sort (as shown in the GIF below).
Ensure the sort is set A → Z.
This will show you all of the keywords in order that your competitor’s rank for that you do not. Looking at this list of keywords we can see that keywords like dennis eagan and dirk vandever are likely the names of other lawyers, so we can ignore those.
However, we do see some keywords that stand out as great opportunities to tackle. The obvious one’s include search terms like:
- brain injury lawyer kansas city
- kansas city discrimination lawyer
- kansas workers compensation settlement calculator
- kansas hostile work environment
- sexual harassment attorney kansas city
- hostile work environment missouri
Other opportunities exist though as well that look interesting like:
- shoulder pain after car accident
- car accident while delivering pizza
- shoulder blade pain after car accident
- eggshell theory
- escalator injury
And a lot more. We can begin to prioritize these based on monthly search volume and keyword difficulty to find terms with low competition. The higher difficulty the more links you’ll likely need to rank in the top 10 for the term. In most circumstances the longer and more complex the keyword is the easier it is to rank for it. We call these keywords long-tail keywords.
Once you’ve identified your preliminary set of keywords the next steps you should go through involve determining the searcher’s intent so you can write content for the target audience.
We’ll be covering that in that in the next chapter over content marketing for law firms. If you get search intent wrong, your content is going to have a much harder time ranking and an even harder time converting anyone. It’s as simple as that.
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An avid advocate for small business owners and victims of personal injury. Committed to helping the best attorneys help others.
Founder of Ardent Growth. CMO of RunDoyen. Author of the #1 Guide to Google My Business.
B.S. in Computer Science & B.S. in Philosophy from MSU (with honors).