Personal Injury Marketing, Search & Speed

If part of your client development strategy includes targeting specific types of injury victims (think mass torts, pharma, products), you have to be able to move fast.

Lawyers will sometimes contact me with a “big idea” about a new type of mass tort / injury class action audience to which they want to market.

Conceptually, this thinking can be sound. Obviously, it’s a bit speculative as to the viability of pursuing these types of claims. Nonetheless, when they “hit” they may be especially lucrative.

It should also be obvious that the mass tort legal web marketing landscape is particularly competitive. Especially, in well-established keyword marketplaces. However, if you can be first and fast, you may be able to stay ahead of the competition.

The traditional wisdom is that SEO campaigns are long-term. Most of the time, this is true. It can take a relatively long time to go from no visitors to new clients from organic search in competitive, mature keyword marketplaces. However, if you can build web presence in an emerging keyword marketplace, you might be able to beat everyone else to the punch.

If you like the sound of this approach, you’re going to need the ability to launch sites quickly. In fact, you probably need to turn new sites around the same day that you learn of a new potentially dangerous drug, product, etc.

Further, these sites can’t be light. In other words, you need to be able to generate a variety of useful pages as the news about the target emerges. You need to think of your new site like a journalist covering a story on the ground does in the age of the 24-hour news cycle.

Admittedly, this can be exceptionally difficult and require a lot in terms of time and money. Who is launching the sites? Who is writing the content? Who is editing it? A lot of the same problems news agencies face in an environment where speed is given precedence over quality.

Of course, the better your site’s content, the more likely it is to be shared, liked, linked to, and therefore, rank in search engines.

If it’s unrealistic for you to move at that pace, you should consider paid search advertising (SEM, PPC, AdWords, etc).

You should be able to launch paid search campaigns and landing pages much, much faster than you can build useful content sites on a topic.

Typically, I recommend that you investigate an area of new claims with paid search advertising first. Then, as you’ve vetted that the claims are viable, and likely more numerous, you can supplement with an organic strategy.

This is one of the ways that paid search marketing and search engine optimization complement one another.

If you’re going to do this yourself, your process probably needs to look something like this:

  • Use Google Alerts or Mention to stay notified when target drugs / products make news.
  • Register for a more robust web host (we like WPEngine) that will allow you to launch many sites very quickly.
  • Have a few responsive WordPress themes from which to choose. You might register for a developer account with somewhere like Themify.
  • Register for a phone call tracking solution that uses dynamic phone insertion (we like Ifbyphone and Call Rail).
  • Check out Unbounce for landing page creation and Optimizely for testing.
  • You should also probably sign-up for Fotolia or another place you can get a lot of stock imagery.
  • You should also have a CRM solution in place to track open files by source (at a minimum). Salesforce and Avvo Ignite are good options.

Remember that speed is the key issue. Much of your success will hinge upon discovering a new opportunity to launching marketable web assets and paid search campaigns. If you can’t be fast, you’ll likely loose to faster competitors.

This is certainly not an approach for all (if not most) plaintiffs’ lawyers. As you might imagine, there are many very well-resourced firms playing in this sandbox. However, if you’re good at spotting new claim opportunities and can react very quickly to launching new campaigns, this might be a very effective approach for you.

Whatever approach you take, don’t forget that, to be successful, you have to understand how people search and find lawyers like you.

How to Research Personal Injury Keywords

Once you have a pretty good understanding of who your target audience is and what they need, you can begin to research some of the keywords they might use to search.

If you’ve ever used Google before, you’ve probably noticed that as you begin to type, Google tries to finish your answer for you.

Google calls this feature Autocomplete:

Autocomplete predictions are automatically generated by an algorithm without any human involvement, based on a number of objective factors, including how often past users have searched for a term.

Our algorithm automatically detects and excludes a small set of search terms. But it’s designed to reflect the diversity of our users’ searches and content on the web. So just like the web, the search terms shown may seem strange or surprising.

In other words, Google use their fancy math to generate predictions based, in part, upon what other people have searched for in the past.

Put simply, if it’s being predicted, it’s probably been searched for by many others before.

As SEER Interactive’s Wil Reynolds has demonstrated, “not hitting enter” on a Google search is a simple and quick trick for finding new keyword ideas:

Simply, take some of your top keywords and plug them into Google. Don’t hit enter and make sure there is a space after your keyword. You’ll see keywords that are already on your list but you’ll also get a glimpse of what else people are searching for when they type in your keyword.

This simple method can be particularly effective for doing some very basic keyword research/discovery for targeting potential personal injury clients:

Google PI Keywords

This example is particularly useful as it demonstrates a few search queries they may earn meaningful traffic that don’t include the terms lawyer, attorney or law firm.

This goes back to a previous point that many of the research queries that your target audience may be using have nothing to do with hiring a personal injury lawyer.

I suspect that at least some readers will conclude that searches like these aren’t sufficiently targeted toward potential clients. Once again, this conclusion stems from a basic misunderstanding about how many people use search engines. Many more people are performing research queries than are merely performing a business look-up. That’s not to say that look-up searches aren’t important, they most certainly are. But they tend also to be exponentially more competitive. Which means, that in order to appear prominently is search results, it’s going to take a lot of time and probably a quite a bit of money too.

While research queries may be counter-intuitive to the way you might think about how potential clients search for you, they’re also counter-intuitive to your competitors. Which means that they aren’t as aggressively fought for. Which means, with much less time and money, you can earn prominent positions for these queries.

The truth is that you should attack both the head and tail of your relevant keyword universe.

Another useful tool for performing keyword research is Übersuggest.

Übersuggest takes your base term, add a letter or a digit in front of it, and extracts suggestions for it.

Here’s a spreadsheet I generated from Übersuggest with the base term “how do I file.”

This is a handy way to do some quick and dirty research.

Don’t get too hyper-focused on any particularly keyword. Instead, group related keywords by theme and search intent. If you’re familiar with managing a paid search engine marketing campaign (SEM), think about grouping keywords that you’re targeting organically in much the same was as you would build AdWords Ad groups.

In my opinion, organizing keywords is much more important than most SEO writers tend to discuss. The reason is that it’s counter-productive to create content for every permutation of a particular query. Doing so is more likely to result in duplicate page issues. Furthermore, it makes your site seem silly to visitors. For example, having unique pages for each of the following:

Personal injury lawyer
Personal injury lawyers
Personal injury attorney
Personal injury attorneys
Personal injury law firm
Personal injury law firms

It’s much more important that your pages read naturally. Google, the search engine, is smart and getting smarter. You don’t need to obsessively target synonyms the way that many SEOs did years ago. If you don’t believe me, you can prove it to yourself by searching for these queries.

personal injury attorney   Google Search

Notice that a search that includes attorney serves up a variety of results that target lawyer. Furthermore, in many instances, Google lists the term lawyer in bold. Clearly, Google is able to match these simple synonyms.

On the other hand, if you live in a part of the world where there actually is a difference between how the terms lawyer and attorney are used, you should consider that in choosing these words on your pages. Ultimately, you should use the language of your target audience.

Okay, one more tip. You can use your AdWords campaigns to harvest new queries. You can do this by including broad and phrase match keywords in your campaigns and the reviewing the matched queries report.

It’s important to note that this costs money and can impact the performance of your paid search campaigns. Nonetheless, it can be an exceptional way to find new keyword ideas that you know people are actually using.

How Do Injury Victims Search?

Part of our journey to understand how they look for lawyers like you, involves thinking about how injury victims (your potential clients) use search engines.

Before we dive into specific search queries, let’s spend a brief moment putting ourselves in the shoes of the injured.

Who are these folks? What are they worried about?

As we’ve previously discussed, anyone can get hurt. However, some folks may be more likely to get hurt than others. The most obvious examples include people who live and work under relatively dangerous circumstances. Despite great improvements to work conditions, some jobs are still rather dangerous. It stands to reason that people working these are seriously injured more than people with less dangerous jobs.

Generally speaking, when you’ve identified such a job, there will be identifiable demographic information that flows from the employment.

Furthermore, people who are seriously injured tend to face similar concerns. Things like lost wages and medical bills. Ultimately, they tend to be concerned with their health (hopefully a road to recovery) and caring for their families.

Obviously, I’m just really scratching the surface here. But it’s useful to get into this mindset when beginning to think about how these folks might perform searches.

Head Terms

At one end of the search query spectrum, we have head terms. As defined by WordStream:

A head term or head keyword, in contrast to a long-tail keyword, is a popular keyword with high search volume. Head terms are generally competitive to rank for in search results.

In our context, one popular head term would be [lawyer]. If you’re wondering why I put brackets around lawyer, it’s to indicate exact match.

The search query [lawyer] has very high search volume. According to the Google Keyword Planner tool, The average number of times people have searched for the exact keyword [lawyer] in the United States in a single month is: 60,500.

As you might suspect, the competition for the query [lawyer] is very high. In fact, Google returns about 273,000,000 results for this query. Which means a page is competing with around that many other pages for visibility with a Google search engine result page (SERP).

Head terms are the types of keywords that everyone considers. This is part of the reason that they are also so competitive. In fact, my guess is that most of you who read this think of keyword research with a heavy head term bias. In other words, you conclude that most of your potential clients search in a pattern something like this:

[city] + [personal injury] + [lawyer]

And many most certainly do. However, in aggregate, the other end of the spectrum holds much more opportunity.

At the other end of the search query spectrum, we have long-tail keywords. As defined by WordStream:

Long-tail keywords are longer and more specific keyword phrases that visitors are more likely to use when they’re closer to a point-of-purchase. They’re a little bit counter-intuitive, at first, but they can be hugely valuable if you know how to use them.

In our context, the long-tail might include a search like:

[How do I file a claim for lost wages in Illinois?]

Unfortunately, searches like this won’t even show up in Google’s Keyword Planner tool so it’s difficult to assess search volume for terms like this. In terms of competition, Google returns around 2,370,000 results for the example query. That’s only around .8% as many pages competing as the head term [lawyer].

Typically, when I explain long-tail keyword searches to lawyers, I am met with considerable skepticism. “No one searches like that,” is a common response.

But they’re just wrong. There’s really no other way to put it.

Many people use search engines to perform research. While users are becoming a bit more sophisticated, most still search in very basic ways. This includes typing full questions, even paragraphs (sometimes including punctuation) right into the engine.

Hopefully it’s obvious that these are only some of the most basic examples. The point here is that your target audience of injury survivors isn’t limited to those who merely search for those highly competitive head terms.

Again, the point here is to put yourself in their shoes and try to understand the types of questions they have to which they might turn to search engines for answers.

Further, keep in mind that it’s very unlikely that most of your potential clients will search the way that you, a plaintiffs’ lawyer, would.

First, you probably know a lot of lawyers and would never even consider turning to the internet to research a lawyer. Second, you have acquired knowledge and language that has vastly influenced your perspective.

Even the way that you hypothesize about the way that people use search engines has been shaped by your education and experience.

Therefore, it’s fantastically difficult for you to accurately imagine how your target audience uses search. Combine that with the fact that around 15% of the questions people ask of Google every day are questions the search engine has never seen before. Whoa.

This is one of the reasons that audience research is so imperative before launching into a search engine optimization (SEO) campaign. If you don’t understand who your audience is, what issues they are facing and how they use search engines, you are likely to miss out on a lot of targeted traffic. Further, even if you are able to earn traffic, without audience research, it’s likely that traffic won’t have meaning to your practice. In other words, you’ll attract visitors who aren’t potential clients.