Keywords are a foundational part of SEO. Without pages that target the right keywords, visitors will not be able to find your site and if they do, the pages may not be relevant. There are a lot of keyword tools1 online for doing keyword research and Google’s (formerly the Keyword Tool) is known as the Keyword Planner. Along with the name change are also some differences in how the tool works. The changes make it easier for lawyers using AdWords to identify and group keywords for their campaigns. They also make it easier to use the data for a law firm’s SEO2.
In AdWords, campaigns perform much better when ads are only associated with keyword phrases that all follow the same theme and that are focused on the same basic thing. SEO works in much the same way because Google and other engines rank web pages and not necessarily entire websites. When a user enters a query, search engines find the most relevant page on the web for that query. When a page has many different themes, it is less likely that the page will be served to a user because it is not just about the keyword phrase. The keyword planner helps identify groups of keywords to use on each page of a lawyer’s website they may want to rank for.
Attorneys must have an AdWords account3 in order to use the planner. Note that you can sign up for an account and use the keyword planner without actually paying for advertising.
Once you are signed up and/or logged into your AdWords account, go to the Tools menu and select Keyword Planner. Once at the keyword planner page, you can perform various tasks related to keywords.
After you click on the Search for new keywords menu, you will see more fields appear.
It is in this exact instance when a lot of keyword research can go wrong. The first field asks for at least one keyword. It is tempting to plug in as many as you can think of (and there is no problem with that but be careful how you use the results the tool spits out).
The challenge here is organizing the results based on categories. There may be many keywords attorneys want to put in their site but they should only choose one per page (along with close variants). For example if the phrase were “personal injury lawyer chicago”, close variants would be “personal injury lawyers in chicago”, “chicago personal injury lawyers”, “injury lawyers chicago”, etc.
Naturally it is ok if you want to just generate tons of keywords however for the purposes of this post, let’s stick to one and see what the planner can do for us in terms of optimizing one page of a website for one keyword phrase and its variants.
For this example, we’ll use the keyword “personal injury attorney new jersey”.
The next field asks for a domain name. The best time to use this is when you are optimizing a specific page and you want to see how that shapes up for the phrase you are targeting. For this post we will leave it blank because we are just looking for search volume and how to group phrases.
Next is the product category. There are legal categories here that get pretty granular so you should enter them if you can. Notice that there is a section for personal injury law.
Another setting you want to pay attention to is the negative keyword setting. Naturally you can manually weed out the keywords that don’t work well for you but you can tell the planner up front that you don’t want specific keywords to be included in your ideas list.
You can add additional filters to your ideas for average monthly searches or cost per click. For instance maybe you have found that keywords with searches of greater than 1,000 monthly local searches are more attractive than keywords with less than that much activity.
For this post, all we did was enter the keyword phrase above, select a category, and have targeting set on United States and English.
Once you have everything like you want it, click the “get ideas” button.
The default screen that you see is the ad group ideas screen. Here Google is grouping together keyword phrases that have a similar theme (i.e. each group of keywords are all about the same thing). You have to click on a phrase to see the group of keywords associated with it.
We used the New Jersey example so clicking on that, gives us keyword phrases related to the original phrase. So if we were going to optimize a page on a website for the personal injury attorneys new jersey keyword phrase, we would use that main keyword in our on-page optimization4 as well as these variant keywords.
You will notice that we ignored talking about some aspects of the tool (such as those related to ad spend and cost data) and for good reason. The usefulness of Google’s keyword planner is directly related to the task at hand. In other words if you don’t have a goal in mind, the tool will just be confusing or misleading. In this post we were optimizing a page of a website for a specific keyword phrase. Lawyers should not let the tool tell them which keywords to use on their site. Those decisions should be made using information about the target audience.
The planner is useful for generating lists of keyword ideas and lawyers should be careful about how they use the data. It should be combined with other resources for keyword research to develop a clear picture of what phrases are most valuable to go after online.
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