(And What to Focus On Instead)
While many attorneys still view ranking #1 on Google for specific keywords as the ultimate measure of success, this achievement may be less significant than you think.
Why is that, you ask?
Simply put, keyword rankings are a vanity metric. Focusing solely on how your website ranks for specific search terms can be a crucial mistake. While seeing your website appear high in the SERPs may look impressive, it is often an ego-stroke that has little actual impact on your bottom line.
Let’s explore why.
Why Search Rankings Can Be Misleading
Organic Results Are Only Part of the Overall SERP
As Google has worked to both improve the user experience as well as monetize its business model, organic results have been diluted for any given keyword. For a random search you could see the following in addition to the usual organic search results:
- Knowledge graph and cards– Google introduced this feature in 2012 to help deliver direct information to users quickly in the form of a neat card or carousel.
- Pay-per-click (PPC) ads– Advertisers can display ads for their products or services when users enter relevant queries in the search bar.
- Map results– When people search for businesses or services near their location, they will be served local results in what is called a “map pack”. This shows the company name, URL, business address, and star ratings based on user reviews.
In effect, the organic ranking that you’ve achieved is only one of sixteen or more possible options for the user to choose from. On average, they will see three PPC ads, three map listings, and ten organic results. For other searches, they could even see additional ads or map listings.
Rankings Vary Across Users and Devices
It is critical to note that not everyone’s search results will be the same, even in the same city, for the same search terms. Google has personalized search results based on your location (so local results can be displayed), previous search activity, and the type of device you are using. So, that number one ranking on your desktop could be completely different on a tablet or smartphone. It could also be completely different based on the user’s search behavior, or where they are searching from.
Different Keyword Permutations Show Different Results
The keywords a user enters can deliver drastically different results, even for the same firm in the same location. For example, the results for “Denver car accident lawyer” will often be different than those for “Denver car accident attorney.” The same goes for the singular spelling versus the pluralization of keywords.
“Money” Keywords vs. “Long-Tail” Search
There are countless ways that people can search for solutions online. They can find you by searching for the most direct “money” keywords (e.g., New York personal injury lawyer, Los Angeles car accident attorney) or they could find you through “long-tail” phrases like “Injury lawyer in New York specializing in slip-and-fall accidents.” If you’re only paying attention to the money keywords, you could be missing out on some of the most valuable search traffic out there.
Rankings Don’t Take Searcher Intent Into Account
The ultimate measure of success when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO) is driving qualified visitors to your site. This means showing up in front of people who are actually searching for your products or services. If the users who land on your site are not interested in hiring you or if they were sent there to find solutions that you do not offer, they will probably bounce off of your website. Poor quality traffic will never result in the high-conversion rates that you want.
Top Rankings Can Still Result in Zero Traffic
Ranking for specific keywords only implies success, but the proof is in the amount of traffic and subsequent conversions they drive to your site. Ranking for terms that no one is searching for will look impressive on a lengthy ranking report but will ultimately mean nothing to your business.
What Should I Focus on Instead? Start at the Money
There is no substitute for revenue when it comes to evaluating the performance of your marketing efforts. The only way to get a return on your investment is to generate more revenue than you spend. So, we suggest that you start with the money and work your way back to see what drives the most qualified business through your doors.
The following are what we believe are the leading indicators of success:
Qualified leads that come in through phone calls, contact forms on your website, or live chat are a reliable indicator of a successful digital marketing campaign. You should judge your efforts based on how many “at-bats” you have with prospective clients.
By examining the analytics and evaluating the flow of traffic to your site, you can gain a better understanding of the quality of visitors that are landing on your site. Quality traffic leads directly to consultation requests.
We feel that impressions are “still too far from the money,” but when you view them in bulk, they can still give you a good feel for the direction your campaign is heading. Impressions lead to traffic and traffic leads to conversions.
What Matters to Us
Our clients hire us because we zero in on what really matters: getting them qualified leads and focusing our efforts on only the digital marketing strategies that are proven to make them money. By choosing not to place emphasis on ranking reports that can be misleading, we work with our clients to identify the strategies that will drive real visitors who are looking for solutions that they can provide.
Don’t let your website’s rankings lull you into a false sense of confidence or accomplishment. The real value lies in the quality of the traffic and the actions your visitors take when they land on your site. That’s what matters to us, and that’s what we focus on when working with you.