Keyword research for law firms: 2022 guide

Chintan Zalani Article by Chintan Zalani Last updated

Most law firm SEO campaigns start with keyword research. But it’s much more than finding popular phrases people are typing in search engines.

In fact, legal keyword research could make the difference between:

Getting clicks from search engine results that turn into pageviews — or into customers for your law practice.

For numerous clients and prospects of our law firm SEO services, we often identify problems with the quality of website traffic — because of poor keyword research or a lack thereof.

Let’s fix that for you today.

Below is how to conduct keyword research for your law firm so that your legal content creation efforts drive your ideal customers to your website.

First, let’s start with understanding SEO basics around keywords. Skip the next two sections if you want to execute keyword research directly.

Frequently asked questions about legal keyword research

What are keywords?

They are phrases input by users — ideally your prospects and ideal customers — in search engines. You want your law firm’s website to rank at the top positions for as many keywords as possible to get high-quality traffic to your website.

What is legal keyword research?

It begins with seeding legal keywords you can consider targeting on your site and getting traffic from organic search. Then separating the wheat from the chaff, i.e., finding the keywords your ideal customers could be searching for and that your site could rank for.

What are some of the best keyword research tools?

Ahrefs and SEMRush are industry-leading SEO tools with robust keyword data. If you’re testing the waters, try a free tool such as Ubersuggest — though it has limited capabilities.

Keyword research parameters you need to know

To find the right keywords for your lawyer search engine optimization campaign, here are three parameters you can use.

Keyword search volume

The average number of times a certain phrase is searched for in a month in a certain country or locality. Typically, it only considers Google searches (because of the company’s dominant search engine market share in the last decade).

Remember, it’s not an official metric by Google — instead, it’s developed by SEO tools — so the numbers aren’t accurate.

It’s a classic SEO myth that more popular keywords will drive more organic traffic. Do not blindly target keywords with the highest search volume — because it will not equate to more traffic.

For instance, look at the keyword “west palm beach aviation accident lawyer.” It has a monthly keyword volume of 60 merely in the United States (as per the Ahrefs Keywords Explorer).

Word image

Yet despite ranking at the tenth spot, our client, 1-800-Injured, gets estimated monthly traffic of 31 for it!

Word image 1

Takeaway: As opposed to search volume, use Ahrefs’ estimated monthly organic visitors metric to get an idea of the subject’s popularity — and if you should write an article on it.

Keyword difficulty

A metric on a scale of 1 to 100 in an SEO tool such as Ahrefs tells you how hard it is to rank for a specific keyword. Targeting a low keyword difficulty (KD) phrase could mean ranking for it faster and unlocking organic traffic to your site.

The score has its limitations laid down by Ahrefs, the company that has a proprietary KD tool below:

Our law firm SEO audits begin with identifying low KD phrases your law firm’s website can rank immediately for. However, we like to add a layer of the next parameter to ensure you drive relevant visitors to your site.

Takeaway: Try to find low KD keywords for your law firm’s website.

Keyword intent

Ah, here comes the Achilles heel of most attorney SEO campaigns. The intent of a keyword indicates where a prospective client of yours is in the buying journey.

Let’s evaluate in the context of a personal injury lawyer SEO campaign. A keyword such as:

  • “Miami car accident lawyer” indicates strong purchase intent. The searcher wants to hire an attorney right now. And so our client, 1-800-Injured, shines on the first page for it (at the time of writing this post):
Word image 2
  • “What To Do After a Car Accident While on Vacation” indicates a prospect who will need a lawyer soon, but needs education on what to do right now. Again, here, 1-800-Injured, rocks the bottom of the first page, sharing helpful information in a blog post on the above subject:
Word image 3
  • “Does Zantac cause cancer” targets a prospect who’s a victim of consuming the controversial product. But probably not even aware that they can file a lawsuit and seek financial compensation if they are. Again 1-800-Injured ranks at position seven for the keyword (at the time of writing):
Word image 4

Now onto a fundamental question:

What kind of keyword intents should you target on your website?

All of them eventually — but prioritize the ones with buying intent (which is the first type in the above example). They will get your ideal customers on your website.

Takeaway: You can target subjects with zero search volume (per a keyword research tool) if they have a buying intent and could drive your ideal customer to your website.

How to find law firm keywords you can target

An old-school tactic many marketers rely on — even today — for finding keywords is to enter a seed keyword (which are broad one or two words topics) inside a tool. Then simply write content around high-volume keywords. Theoretically, that could drive the highest volume of traffic.

However, that’s a mistake because search volume data is largely inaccurate. Also, you should not aim for more “eyeballs” on your website. Instead, get those prospects on your site — by thoughtful SEO keyword research — that are likely to hire your legal services.

Here are four simple strategies to find valuable keyword phrases (the first two are rarely discussed):

Strategy #1: Refer to the top legal questions of your prospective clients

Instead of relying on a tool initially, research law firm keywords inside out. Recollect the top questions your prospects ask you frequently on the phone and over email.

Once you identify their nagging frustrations and pain points, map them to keyword ideas. And begin writing blog posts on them.

Using this strategy, you’ll get keywords with low keyword difficulty and are likely to land your ideal customers on your site.

Sure your keyword research tool may show their volume as “zero.” But neither is the keyword volume in keyword research tools accurate — nor would more traffic on your law firm’s website get you more customers.

For example, Steven Rubin Law, one of our clients, wrote an article on extended medical leave rights.

Word image 5

Ahrefs shows the global monthly keyword volume under 40 for an associated keyword. But it’s a subject of interest to the audience of their employment law practice.

Word image 6

Strategy #2: Scout legal forums

If you’re starting a new law firm (or don’t have many questions from your audience), browse a legal forum like Avvo. You’ll find questions that people who might need your legal services are asking.

First, narrow down the questions on the forum to your legal services:

Word image 7

You’ll now be able to see the questions people tend to ask around your law practice. You can further filter by choosing your state from the dropdown menu:

Word image 8

Using a keyword research tool, you can again choose to find keywords related to these questions. Or, if the question is pressing for a large section of your audience, then directly add it to your law firm’s SEO campaign.

Strategy #3: Conduct competitor analysis

Competitive analysis is one of the most common ways to begin lawyer SEO, and it works like a charm. You plug a competitor in a keyword research tool, then evaluate the SEO keywords they rank for in Google’s search results.

Be careful not to go after too competitive keywords (with a high KD) — especially if law firm websites with a relatively higher domain authority than yours rank for them.

Here’s a quick Ahrefs tutorial on finding the keywords your competitors are ranking for:

Strategy #4: Use Google Search Console to find keywords you can rank for

Another great strategy to find keywords your law firm’s website can easily rank for is looking at the keywords you’re getting organic impressions for but aren’t turning into clicks. Search Console is a great tool to find these.

Here’s how:

Go to the Search Console. Then head over to the “Search results” under “Performance” in the left sidebar for your chosen domain:

Word image 9

Now open the “Pages” report:

Word image 10

And “Inspect” any page that you think can do better. I selected our “link building for law firms” page: Word image 11

Now switch back to the “Queries” tab, and sort the table by “Impressions.” You’ll find many keywords for which your above page gets impressions, but they are not turning into clicks.

Now if you find any keywords that could turn into a dedicated article themselves then attack it. For us, digging the reports for the legal link building page, the keywords I identified that could use separate pages were “link building ideas” and probably even “enterprise link building.”

Word image 12

Google already deems your domain important for these phrases. So if you can target these related keywords, you have a high chance of ranking.

Bonus: Popular law firm keywords for legal services

Here are some researched keywords that you can consider starting with. You can add a location modifier to spice them up for local SEO.

  • personal injury lawyers near me
  • personal injury lawyer
  • divorce lawyers near me
  • personal injury lawyers near me
  • immigration lawyer
  • family law
  • personal injury lawyer
  • solicitors near me
  • business law
  • attorneys near me
  • find a solicitor
  • car accident lawyer
  • Divorce lawyer
  • Divorce lawyers
  • Personal injury lawyers
  • Real estate lawyer
  • Family lawyer near me
  • Immigration lawyer near me
  • Divorce attorney near me
  • Real estate attorney
  • Corporate lawyer
  • Criminal lawyer
  • Criminal defense lawyer

Keyword research tools for attorneys

Here are some tools you can try to find the best keywords for your campaign.

Ubersuggest

One of the top free tools on the market, Ubersuggest offers decent data to begin your legal keyword research. Take the estimates with a grain of salt, though, as their accuracy is doubtful.

Word image 13

Ahrefs

If there’s one SEO tool that can alone power your content creation efforts, it’s Ahrefs. Their keyword explorer tool can return many relevant metrics, and its keyword difficulty score is pretty neat to help you find the right keywords for your SEO campaign.

Word image 14

Google Keyword Planner

Google’s keyword research tool interface is meant for paid search advertising. Its estimates are broad and rarely directly helpful, but the data is from Google. You can consider using the tool at the beginning of your keyword research.

On The Map Marketing’s signature legal keyword research formula

Most law firm search agencies show off vanity metrics such as rankings, backlinks, and traffic. However, if none of this traffic converts — because it lacks buying intent.

On The Map Marketing relies on a proven law firm SEO formula that establishes your site’s topical relevance in Google for all important legal keywords related to:

  • Your practice
  • And your locality

For a criminal defense attorney, below is what the keyword research plan may look like (75 pages across 13 categories):

Word image

For starters, here’s a breakdown of the topic cluster model to get some context on how the strategy works:

Final thoughts

Search engine optimization is an important digital marketing tactic for law firms to ensure they get a steady stream of potential clients from Google and other search engines. And keyword research is pivotal to SEO success.

I hope the steps and tactics in this article help you identify keywords for your next campaign. Now it’s your turn to start researching specific phrases that will appeal to your target audience and create high quality content for them.

Table of Contents

Article by Chintan Zalani

Contributors

I’m the inbound marketing director at On The Map Marketing, taking care of content marketing and SEO for our website. Previously I have helped numerous SaaS businesses with content and got my own website to over 50k monthly visitors. I have written more than 500 articles on digital marketing, small businesses, sales, and related subjects, with my work appearing on the likes of Entrepreneur, Content Marketing Institute, WordStream, CoSchedule, and G2.