3 Important Key Phrase Factors

Gyi Tsakalakis
February 16, 2010

When it comes to using law firm search engine optimization strategies to help your website get found, everything starts with key phrases. Key phrases are the words and phrases that people use to find things online. For example, if you are an injury lawyer in New Jersey, someone might type "New Jersey personal injury lawyers" into a search engine. In the example, "New Jersey personal injury lawyer" is called the key phrase.

One of the very first steps to getting your law firm website found online is determining what keywords and key phrases people are likely to use to find your services. There are three important factors to consider: Relevance, Volume, and Competition.


Relevance is the measure of a key phrase's "relatedness" to your law firm. For example, "lawyer" is more relevant than "pineapple" but less relevant than keywords that more specifically describe your practice. In our New Jersey injury lawyer example, "New Jersey personal injury lawyers" is more relevant than "lawyer", "injury lawyers", and "New Jersey". However, it is probably less relevant than a key phrase containing a more specific geographic modifier or specific injury.

In general, the more relevant a key phrase is, the more likely a visitor that found you by that key phrase is likely to "convert" into a lead or a new client.


Search volume measures the number of people using a particular key phrase over a period of time. While people have many different ways of searching, certain terms have a tendency to be used more frequently that others. Searchers also develop patterns in their search behavior.

In general, the higher the search volume, the more opportunity to capture search traffic to your site. Additionally, higher search volume may also mean higher competition for the key phrase.


In general, competition measures how difficult it will be for a website to obtain high position in a search engine result page for a particular key phrase. There are numerous techniques that can be used to gauge a key phrase's competitiveness. One of the easiest ways is through the use of advanced search operators (a subject for another post).

In general, the higher the competition, the more difficult it will be to get your website to appear on the first page of a search results page. However, competition depends, to a large extent, on your site's relevance, authority, and optimization for a given key phrase.

Key Phrase Pitfalls

Failure to account for these various key phrase factors can lead to a broken law firm internet marketing campaign. Here are some common examples:

High Relevance - Low Volume: Remember, people search in all sorts of different ways. You might think a key phrase is highly relevant to your practice. Just because you think it's relevant, does mean that anybody else does. Even if a key phrase is highly relevant to your law firm, if your potential clients aren't using it in search engines, it won't increase traffic and leads through your site.

Low Competition - Low Volume: This is a classic SEO snake oil scenario. The law firm SEO will tell you that they can get you ranked for "x key phrase" in a very short time. You feel great seeing your site in the number one position on Google. The catch: no one is using the key phrase in search engines. Which means, you won't have any increase in traffic or leads through your site. Beware of those selling rankings!

High Volume - Low Relevance: This is another classic situation. You're number one for "new york criminal defense lawyer" but you're a personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles. Even if the key phrase has a ton of search volume, if it's not relevant to your practice, it will probably only generate a lot of un-targeted traffic that won't turn into leads and new clients.

As you can see, when these key phrase factors aren't working in harmony, your search engine marketing will not produce results.

Gyi Tsakalakis
Co-Founder of AttorneySync
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Brian Farrell
14 years ago

Interesting post. If lawyers (and other professional service providers) would ask their clients "what keywords did you use on Google to find me?" they'd be so much further ahead of their competition, and able to focus purely on phrases that bring in the business.

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