Better Keywords vs. More Keywords: The Eternal Debate


When SEO consultants are looking at a potential client and trying to determine a strategy for what keywords they would like to recommend optimizing a website for, the first thing they (should) look at is the business itself.

Understanding who the client’s target audience and who they are trying to reach through search engine marketing is crucial to the success of any online marketing efforts, whether it be search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, remarketing, newsletter distribution, etc.

SEO is not going to be effective for everyone, and there are a lot of SEO’ers out there who will promise you page one or number one rankings on Google for keywords that are either a) not going to result in more QUALITY visits to you website, or b) are very easy to obtain top rankings for because your competition is not focusing on these keywords, which (most of the time) is because these keywords are hardly ever searched for.

I’ve been on the record in the past saying that keyword research is not always necessary for SEO. Google Keyword Tool, Wordtracker, and other keyword research tools are not always accurate when giving search estimates, and a lot of times SEO’ers will be so focused on obtaining top rankings for a small number of “crucial” keywords that they fail to focus time and attention to keywords that aren’t recommended but actually are important keywords to rank for.

Keyword research can be good for certain national websites and non-geographic-specific products and services, but for most local businesses, it’s a waste of time.

I have spent the past four years working for small businesses, and the majority of this time (over the past three years) has been with solo attorneys and small law firms.

SEO works for these clients. Not because they rank number one for keywords like “accident law firm” and “trial lawyer” that keyword research tools tell them they should be ranking for based on estimated monthly search volume, but because they don’t think that every search engine user is the same.

The worst thing that SEO’ers can do is stereotype, and assume that every person who uses Google, Bing, or Yahoo! searches for the same thing.

So, let’s say I am doing SEO for a personal injury attorney in Dallas, Texas. This attorney has a brand new website, a brand new domain, and he handles practice areas such as auto accidents, child injuries (specifically shaken baby syndrome), and medical malpractice.

From my experience and after analyzing the client’s competitors, I know that I will not be working for this client for very long if I recommend that we go after keywords like “Dallas personal injury attorney” and “Texas medical malpractice lawyer” because, even though a keyword research tool may tell me that these are the best phrases to go after, I know that I will not be able to get him page one results within the first 6 months to a year because of the level of competition. The websites that he is competing against have domain names that have been around from anywhere between 5-8 years, and have a large number of quality back links coming into the site focusing on these types of vanity keyword phrases.

But Dallas is a big market, which means there are plenty of other opportunities out there.

I notice that phrases like “best shaken baby syndrome lawyers in Texas, “Dallas auto accident caused by drunk driver”, “Dallas accident settlements”, “Dallas car crash lawyer”, and “Texas lawyer lawsuit against hospital” aren’t as competitive.

I also notice that some areas just outside of Dallas, like Irving, Richardson, Duncanville, and Grand Prairie are pretty much un-touched by the client’s competitors, but instead of assuming that we should go after these areas, I schedule a call with the client to see which of these areas personal injury events such as auto accidents and medical malpractice (maybe there are hospitals in these areas where med-mal claims occur more frequently) occur more often and which area has residents that are more likely to contact my client based on his location and his knowledge of his area.

Now we’ve put together a strategy, and the client is likely excited because he sees that I’m going the extra mile to not only out-think his competition and whoever is handling his SEO strategy, but I’m also taking the time to understand his business and the best ways that we can reach his target audience.

Or at least he’s a lot more excited than if I were to say “let’s get you on page one for Texas Personal Injury attorney, it may take a while, but just keep paying me every month and wait for the clients to come piling in”.

For certain websites, especially local businesses, spending all of your time and effort on ranking for 5 keywords is likely going to result in your client complaining about lack of results, and ultimately (and the only thing that your client really cares about), lack of business.

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