Attorney SEO is competitive—the most competitive industry for search engine optimization, according to some studies. And yet, it’s also one of the most important digital initiatives a law firm can engage in. No other form of marketing caters so specifically to target audience behaviors and preferences.

Fortunately, that dichotomy is far from impossible to reconcile. Attorney SEO might be complex and competitive, but with the right pieces in place, even the smallest firms can find success.

That’s where long-tail keywords enter the equation. Done right, they’re one of the most important components within your legal SEO strategy

In this guide, we’ll start with a basic overview of the concept. Then, we’ll dive into the advantages of long-tail keywords and how you can find the right ones for your audience and marketing goals.

What Are Long-Tail Keywords in SEO?

Long-tail keywords are phrases, typically between three and six words, that are more specific than the typical ‘head’ keyword. Searchers using these phrases have a specific goal in mind, making traffic to your site more relevant as a result. Search volume for an individual keyword tends to be lower, thanks to a more narrowly focused audience.

Let’s use a simple legal marketing example to illustrate:

  • A head keyword in this industry might be “attorney.” That seems important to rank for, but could be used by anyone needing a lawyer, wanting to become a lawyer, or even looking for a definition of the term.
  • A long-tail keyword like “personal injury attorneys near me” is much more focused. It narrows the audience only to those needing a lawyer in a specific geographic radius, practicing a specific type of law.

In this case, the head keyword will receive exponentially more search volume. The long-tail keyword, though, will be much more relevant to personal injury attorneys looking to attract new clients within their core geography.

The same can apply to any other keyword, as well. We could look to optimize our content for keyword and try to leverage its search volume of 1.6 trillion Google search results. However, a focus on what are long-tail keywords accounts for less than 1/1000th of search volume. 

But, it is much more intent-based and increases the chances of meeting and exceeding audience expectations. 

13 Reasons to Use Long-Tail Keywords in Your Law Firm’s SEO Strategy

With a basic definition out of the way, let’s dig into the why behind long-tail keyword optimization. The 13 reasons below all work together to make a comprehensive case for strategic long-tail keyword marketing.

1. Match Your Audience’s Search Preferences

Given the volume of search results for head keywords, it’s tempting to assume that the majority of online users prefer searching that way.

Instead, the opposite is the case.

As one study found, long-tail keywords account for 70 percent of all search traffic. Another study, examining no less than 1.9 billion keywords, discovered that almost 30 percent of keywords with more than 10,000 monthly searches consist of three or more words. 

That leads to a simple conclusion. Head keywords have such high volumes because they are more commonly used in a variety of long-tail searches. In other words, to use the above example, few people ever simply search for attorney.

Instead, they might search for:

  • Attorneys near me
  • Personal injury attorneys in [city]
  • How to become an attorney
  • How much do attorneys make

Combine even these few examples, and “attorney” appears to have a search volume of four. But in reality, four different searchers were looking for four different types of results. By focusing your SEO strategy on long-tail keywords, you are able to match your audience’s search preference and expected results.

2. Get Some Easy Law Firm SEO Ranking Wins

Even with these typical behaviors, of course, search volume for long-tail keywords does tend to be lower. That, in turn, means that if you can find legal keywords specific enough to match your niche, you can probably rank your website more easily.

Another example best illustrates this point:

  • Ranking for patent attorney might require significant time and effort, given the number of patent attorneys in the U.S.
  • Ranking for intellectual property attorney in [city], on the other hand, makes it easier to rank, partially because of the next point we’ll make on competition below. 

Some recent changes in Google’s algorithm further help you rank more easily through long-tail keywords. For example, Google’s RankBrain uses machine learning to ensure search results are as relevant as possible. That provides a natural advantage for content that is optimized for long-tail keywords, which Google is more likely to deem valuable and relevant.

3. Lower Your Threshold of Competition

As we’ve established, legal SEO is about as competitive as it gets. Long-tail keywords, though, can help to directly lower that threshold. 

According to one study, long-tail keywords are more likely to change search engine rank based on how well a given page is optimized for them. In other words, taking extra care to make sure your website is optimized for long-tail keywords will have a bigger positive effect in terms of improving your rankings.

Adding to that, the naturally lower search volume also means that you have to contend with fewer direct and indirect competitors:

  • Other law firms, especially those with significant resources, are less likely to focus on long-tail keywords because the perceived benefit of ranking is lower.
  • You will be less likely to compete for rank against other websites that focus on an entirely different sense of a head keyword, such as law schools looking to attract students to train attorneys.

This is easy to confirm. When using a keyword research tool, general terms like attorney and lawyer rank at the highest possible competition level. As soon as you move to long-tail keywords, though, that competition level tends to drop. 

Largely because of this lower competition threshold, long-tail keywords can also have a significant impact on your paid search marketing efforts. With fewer players to bid for the limited ad space, each placement and click will ultimately cost less for attorneys looking to supplement their SEO strategy with paid ads.

We’ve discussed in the past how PPC, and Google Ads in particular, can enhance your legal marketing strategy. But that effort is at its best when supplementing a larger effort, like your search engine optimization.

Research shows that paid search ads tend to improve organic performance on the same and similar keywords. Within those paid search ads, legal long-tail keywords tend to come with lower costs. The conclusion is natural: a long-tail search strategy that spans both your paid and organic efforts is both more effective and costs less.

5. Improve Your Content Relevance to Match Search Intent

Content marketing, so central to legal marketing efforts, is only as successful as the content on which it’s built. With the help of the right long-tail keywords, you can significantly improve that content by taking the context and intent into consideration.

You may or may not be familiar with Google Hummingbird, an algorithm update that has impacted the way search terms are displayed for almost a decade. Among its most significant features was an attempt to match results to exact phrases more directly, in an attempt to keep search intent in mind.

Hummingbird still impacts search results today, but has been enhanced through features like the above-mentioned RankBrain. The core context, though, remains the same: with each update, Google attempts to better understand the context of a search and provide results specifically designed to match that context and intent.

That matters for long-tail keywords because they clearly and openly provide the context. So, when you find relevant keywords on which to base your content, you can write directly to the reason your audience searched for it to begin with. That allows you to improve the relevance, and ultimately the success, of your content.

6. Improve Your Content Value

In modern SEO, value matters. There’s a reason why the ideal length of a blog post, based on top Google results, is above 2,000 words. The more value you can provide your readers, the more likely you are to keep them on your page and clicking deeper into it.

Optimizing your content for long-tail searchers almost necessarily makes it more meaningful to your audience. Once you know, or can at least guess, the purpose behind a search, you can go deep on satisfying and exceeding expectations.

This is your chance to focus on niche topics specific to your firm and legal expertise. A blog post about how to fight a wrongful termination lawsuit because of COVID-19 may only receive a small handful of searches each month. But for each of these searches, you can provide tangible value that positions you as an expert and improves your credibility.

Naturally, the goal of any SEO strategy is not just website traffic. It’s generating website traffic that turns into leads, consultations, and new clients. So what if I told you that according to one study, the average conversion rate for long-tail keywords is 36 percent

Compare that to the average legal web conversion rate of 2.07 percent. The difference is drastic. At the same time, though, a higher conversion rate for long-tail search terms makes intuitive sense.

If you are able to get in front of more relevant audiences with more specific search intent, and deliver with content specifically designed to satisfy that intent, potential clients are naturally more likely to engage with your practice.

We’re moving into an area of voice search. Google reports that 27 percent of the global population now uses voice search on their mobile device, while ComScore estimated that number to top 50 percent in the U.S. during this year. Any modern SEO strategy has to account for this trend. Long-tail keywords are the only possible solution.

When using voice instead of a keyword, searchers tend to speak semantically. In other words, they use complete phrases and sentences rather than single words. It’s simply more natural. But most online users also realize that it will yield more specific, actionable results.

Try it out yourself. If you were looking for a lawyer using voice search, which of these two phrases would you be most likely to use?

  • Lawyer
  • How can I find a lawyer to help me with [X]

Google’s algorithms can somewhat simplify that sentence to search terms. A keyword on ‘how to find an [X] lawyer’ would likely rank just as highly as an exact-match keyword. But it will still remain a long-tail search. Optimizing your strategy for longer phrases is key to account for voice-based queries slowly becoming the most popular way we search the web today.

9. Focus Your Blog Strategy

Long-tail search patterns can help to develop individual content. It also provides important insights that can ultimately lead to a more fully developed content marketing and blogging strategy.

Put simply, a blog tends to be the best possible way to rank highly in Google results because of its ability to focus specifically on keywords you want to rank for. Each relevant long-tail keyword can make for a well-written blog post. It’s their combination, though, that truly makes them shine.

That’s because long-tail phrases tend to be related to each other. A post about legal recourse for a specific type of injury may be followed by one that dives into the difference between different types of personal injury attorneys, and how to find the best one. A single head keyword can be the hub for 10 or more long-tail keywords.

Focusing on the long tail provides you with a natural framework for your blogging strategy that, at its best, can fill out an entire content calendar. Together, these keywords also begin to elevate your efforts in a more general sense, as the next reason will show.

While long-tail search optimization matters, long-tail efforts can still be focused on the shorter, more general, high-volume terms. Fortunately, the two concepts are far from mutually exclusive. 

Recall that long-tail keywords, as outlined in the previous section, ultimately build around those shorter, more general terms. As a result, their success in terms of ranking, value, and conversion rate will “bleed” into those shorter terms as well.

Ranking highly for “intellectual property attorney in [city]” ultimately results, even in small steps, in higher authority for keywords like “intellectual property attorney” and even “attorney.”

That’s why industry leaders like Search Engine Land rank so highly on general terms like “SEO” and “Search Marketing”. They haven’t tried to create a content strategy focused on those general terms. Instead, they’ve written so much valuable, relevant long-tail content around these terms that eventually, their rankings for the general terms increased as well.

Rich snippets on search results pages are becoming an increasingly alluring target for digital marketers. They consist of singled-out content, often in the form of a definition, instruction, or answer to a popular question, that appears above all ‘regular’ search results.

Only the most well-optimized content appears in a featured snippet. When it does, click-through rates and conversions increase dramatically. The key to getting there, once again, consists of a long-tail search strategy.

Rich snippets, as it turns out, almost exclusively exist for long-tail keywords. They’re especially prominent in semantic search, but even appear on desktop devices. They’re all focused on getting easy answers to intent-heavy, specific searches.

To rank for these features, you need to find long-tail phrases that feature snippets in their results. Beyond that, it’s about optimizing the structured data within your content that makes results more interactive and visual for your audience on search results pages.

Most website builders default to their structured data schema anytime you publish your post. So, you might need to customize it. Use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to get started, and maximize the benefits of your SEO efforts.

12. Created Content Designed for the Entire Funnel

Where in your client acquisition funnel does SEO currently rank? Do potential clients seek you out online when they look for general information or when they just have a final question before coming in for the consultation? 

To some degree, that’s a trick question. With the right strategy, SEO can actually benefit your law firm at every stage of the funnel.

The reason, once again, goes back to search intent. Potential clients could look for your expertise or services at any point. Their keyword choices, though, will change. Once you move away from generalized terms with vague intent, you can build and rank for content specifically designed for any question they have, at any point in their journey to becoming a client.

As an added benefit, that process also allows you to diversify your content strategy. Make a direct connection between content and the questions it is designed to solve. This helps you build a wider range of content designed to fit the entire spectrum. More variety means ranking for a broader net of keywords, along with creating a more appealing content presence in general.

Finally, and perhaps most obviously, a strategy focused on long-tail keywords also allows you to build a heavily local emphasis within your SEO efforts. Across industries, as many as 46 percent of searches are related to local information. In lawyer SEO, especially for smaller firms not offering online services, that number is likely much higher. 

Local optimization is complex. But at its simplest, it includes making sure that your audience finds you when looking for legal help in a specific geographic area. That’s only possible by targeting keywords that include your location, providing additional context to search engines looking to serve the most relevant content possible.

How to Find Long-Tail Keywords to Enhance Your Attorney SEO Campaign

The case for a long-tail search strategy is clear. But it can only be successful with the right keywords and phrases to focus on.

That process takes time. There are, however, a few steps an attorney or law firm can take to begin evaluating and finding long-tail keywords that will optimize their SEO strategy:

  1. Use Google Auto Suggest. When you begin to type a keyword into the search console, Google will automatically suggest words that might complete the phrase. That alone can be helpful in understanding how your audience tends to phrase their searches.
  2. Use the ‘People Also Ask’ section. In many searches, Google will feature a ‘People Also Ask’ section under the rich snippet and top organic result with related terms and phrases. It’s another simple way to learn about potential keywords on which to focus.
  3. Use a keyword research tool. Some are free in their most basic form. WordStream’s Keyword Tool, for instance, allows you to enter a single word and returns the top 10 searches for long-tail phrases related to that word. 
  4. Use an advanced SEO tool. Platforms like SEMrush and ahrefs, for instance, allow you to dive into advanced keyword research. You can see what competitors are trying to target, along with the general difficulty to rank and related terms. They’re typically subscription-based and can be quite difficult to master, though.
  5. Check out your website analytics. For example, if you use Google Analytics, you will be able to see what keywords your visitors used to get to your site by navigating to Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Traffic > Organic. In keeping with the general audience preferences mentioned above, most of these will be long-tail keywords for which you can look to optimize further.  

You can also get keyword ideas from more obvious sources. If you frequently get the same question from prospective clients in their search for an attorney, that question might be worth turning into a long-tail keyword. Be sure to check its actual search volume, though, to make sure you actually have a ranking opportunity.

A focus on long-tail search engine keywords has the potential to transform your law firm’s digital marketing strategy. You won’t just see increased SEO success, but you will be better equipped to guide and optimize your content marketing efforts.

To get there, of course, takes time and effort. You’ll need a strategy to not just find the right keywords, but build content specifically optimized for them. It’s a comprehensive process, but one that will pay off significantly with increased traffic, conversions, and clients in the long run.

Ultimately, you’re a busy practicing attorney and your time is incredibly valuable. That’s why it’s smart to hire an SEO company for lawyers like LawRank to handle every aspect of your digital marketing efforts. Contact us to learn about who we are and what we do and to discover how we can help you get your law firm to rank when it matters.