Earlier this year, Andy Beal referenced research on his blog showing that individuals are using more and more keywords in their search queries. Using data from Hitwise showing the percentage breakdown of search queries by keyword length in January 2009, Beal compared these numbers with the percentage breakdown of searches run in 2004 (displayed in parentheses):
- 1-word searches = 2009: 20.29% (2004: 19.02%)
- 2-word searches = 23.65% (32.58%)
- 3-word searches = 21.92% (25.61%)
- 4-word searches = 14.89% (12.83%)
- 5-word searches = 8.68% (5.64%)
- 6-word searches = 4.65% (2.32%)
- 7-word searches = 2.49% (0.98%)
- 8-word searches = 3.43% (no one did 8-word searches in 2004!)
In short, the percentage of search queries with 5 or more keywords (approximately 20%) in 2009 is more than double what it was 5 years ago.
Search queries with four or more keywords are known as "long-tail" searches. The concept is best illustrated by example:
Short keyword: ski vacation
Long-tail keyword: honeymoon ski vacation aspen colorado
The long-tail keyword is far more specific and focused than the shorter keyword. Marketers sometimes wonder whether is it worth going after something so specific since there can't be that many people searching for it. But as recently noted on MSNBC, that is exactly the point.
First, with long-tail keywords, it's much easier to get your target market's attention because there's less competition.Plug "New York personal injury lawyer" into Google and you get 1.38 million results. Plug in "New York broken sidewalk injury lawyer" and you get only 54,700.
Second, people tend to use long-tail keywords for searches when they're getting close to making a purchase. Which means you are pulling in clients ready to hire you.
The best way to optimize a law firm website or blog for long-tail searches is to use software that will allow you to insert unique long-tail keywords into the page title, meta description, headers and image alt text of each individual page on your website or blog. Of course, when optimizing a page for a particular long-tail search, make sure to also use appropriate keywords in the body copy as well.
Lawyers should also use long-tail keywords in pay-per-click ads, in the anchor text of external links pointing back to your website or blog from articles published on other sites, and in social media entries referencing your site or blog.