Over and over again I see attorneys make the mistake of trying to optimize their websites for the biggest and best search terms or, worse, paying big money for pay-per-click ads for those terms. Allow me to explain why, as counter-intuitive as it may appear, that you want to optimize for the search terms that come up less often, referred to as the long tail searches.
The chart I have provided illustrates the difference between a short tail and a long tail search. Let’s assume that 20 million people search for “camera” every month and only 1,000 search for “Sony Digital 7.1MP with 3x Optical Zoom”. If you were selling cameras, you might therefore think the search term you would want to optimize your site for is “camera”.
But here is why the riches are in the niches, and why you want to go for that long tail search.
First, as a practical matter, you’ll never dominate the search term “camera”. Yes, there are 20 million people searching for that term, but to come up on page one, you’ll be competing with Ritz Camera, H and K Camera, and other huge camera stores.
Second, you don’t want to come up in the search term “camera”. The reason is that anyone who searches for such a broad term is still in the very early part of the decision making process. A shopper who searches for “camera” has not narrowed his preferences whatsoever, but the shopper who searches for “Sony Digital 7.1MP with 3x Optical Zoom” is far enough along in the process that he is getting very specific. That might actually be OK for a camera store. If someone wants to browse your site, more power to them. But as an attorney you don’t want unqualified clients calling you.
One problem my firm faces every day is that we get calls from all over the world seeking to hire us for, say, a wrongful termination action. I will never comprehend why someone in Greenland thinks I will be able to help them with their wrongful termination action, but we get those calls on a regular basis. The last thing I would ever want to happen is to come up number one when someone searches only for “wrongful termination”, regardless of where they are located in the world. I want the potential client who calls my office to have found me because the long tail search he used was specific to my practice area and location.
The easiest long tail search to go for is the one limited by your geographic location. SEO experts will tell you that you don’t need to keyword optimize for your location, because the search engines take care of that. For example, when I just searched for “camera” to see who would come up, one of the search results was for a camera store in the city where I am located. I didn’t use the city in my search, but Google checked my IP and determined where I am located in order to give me local results. But by keyword optimizing for your location, you force Google to put you up when someone uses that in their search term. Stated another way, if someone in Tustin is searching for a “wrongful termination attorney”, I’m happy to come up if Google is checking their IP address and presents me for that reason, but I can assure that specificity myself by optimizing for “Tustin” as well as “Wrongful Termination Attorney”.
The other big advantage of optimizing for your location is to capture the people who search from outside that location. This is a point entirely lost on the SEO experts who say you don’t need to optimize for location. Say Jane Doe was fired here in Tustin, and went back to stay with her parents in Phoenix. When she decides to search for a wrongful termination attorney, if she uses only that term she will be met with Arizona attorneys in the search results. She’ll immediately revise her search to add the search term “Tustin” since that is where she worked, and she’ll find me.
The bottom line is, don’t be disheartened if you are a divorce attorney who does not come up when someone searches only for “divorce attorney”. That is probably a good thing. Instead, create a niche site that comes up when someone searches for “fathers rights divorce attorney Pasadena California”, combine that with other niche sites for your other practice areas, and you’ll have more business than you can handle.