Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a phrase that strikes fear into the hearts of most people, and lawyers are no exception. Optimizing your website for the best placement in Google search results can take a lot of work, and it necessitates familiarizing yourself with some techniques that were once the exclusive province of web geeks and high-paid consultants. But there's at least one component of SEO that's easy to grasp—the all-important “key phrase.”
What Is a Key Phrase, and How Can it Work for You?
Back in the infancy of the web, there were few enough sites that it was possible to attain success by targeting particular keywords: cars, computers, clothes, etc. (Witness a site like Pets.com, which once owned the word “pets!”) Those days are long gone; in order to stay competitive in Google search results, websites now have to target increasingly longer “key phrases” rather than “keywords.”
Let's take “lawyers” as an example. Twenty years ago, there were probably a handful of sites that competed for the word “lawyers.” When this niche was saturated, firms started specializing: “car accident lawyers,” “personal injury lawyers,” etc. The increasing ability of Google to target geographical search results naturally culminated in “Chicago car accident lawyers,” “Nashville personal injury lawyers,” etc., which is where things stand today.
What does it mean to employ a key phrase like “Chicago car accident lawyers” in your SEO efforts? Well, first of all, you have decided that your ideal client is someone who has just had an accident and has rushed home and typed “Chicago car accident lawyers” in Google. For your law firm's website to have any chance of showing up in the first few results, you'll have to incorporate this key phrase in a variety of ways: in your headlines, in your meta titles, and sprinkled throughout the copy on your site.
You need to be careful, however. Up until a few years ago, “black-hat” SEO experts overstuffed their client's websites with these key phrases, often in ways that seemed entirely unnatural. (It's not fun to read a 100-word paragraph that repeats the phrase “Chicago car accident lawyers” five times.) This technique used to work, but today Google's algorithm is much more sensitive to repetition, so you have to parse out your key phrase with the proper frequency—not too much, and not too little.