With the intimidating complexity of today’s online marketing world, the adage “work smarter, not harder” couldn’t be more relevant for attorneys. You only have so many dollars to spend and so much time to take away from your practice. So it’s important that you get maximum impact from every action you take, especially when it comes to being found by potential clients online.

If you’ve been following our series on FindLaw’s original study on search, we first looked at the different sources of traffic and then broke them down. Now it’s time to take those lessons and formulate a cost-effective SEO approach that will succeed in today’s search landscape.

Ignore the Allure of Vanity Searches

While many law firms place primary importance on ranking for head-term phrases like “Dallas DUI attorney”, most would be well advised to lessen the obsession. As FindLaw’s study showed, head-term queries generate only 1.3% of the traffic to a typical law firm website and only 3% of the contacts. Even the rare firms that consistently rank highly for these sought-after phrases receive less than 5% of their traffic from this category. When you consider the high cost and intense competition to rank for this search type, focusing on head-terms is simply a poor investment for most firms.

Concentrate on “Long-Tail” Searches

By comparison, focusing on long-tail queries with lawyer intent like “drunk driving lawyer in Santa Barbara that handles cases with motorcycles” is most often the better approach. These searches are responsible for about 32% of the traffic for the typical law firm website and 71% of the contacts — clearly the best pathway for most firms to generate significant results from search.

But how do you put that in action? The quick answer is to create great content that addresses the common concerns and questions of clients. Write it in the language your clients typically use rather than in technical “legalese.” Blogs are a superb vehicle for writing consistent content in a digestible, Q&A format which Google increasingly favors.

Build Your Brand

Another critical finding of the study was that 38% of search traffic to law firm websites is associated with the firm’s brand. Not only is branded traffic a sizeable category, it also converts into law firm contacts at a 60% higher rate than any other traffic type. Firms that do not actively define, manage and promote their brands can miss out on the impact of this traffic category.

More than One Tactic

The overarching lesson from our research is that there is no single tactic — whether it be online ads, ranking for head terms or even advertising on bus benches — that will fully meet all the marketing needs of your firm. The road to success ends with a smart, integrated program that combines the right messages and media types to hit your target audience.

Follow us on Twitter: @FindLawLab.

– Mark Jacobsen, Senior Director, Strategic Development and Thought Leadership

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