Keywords allow law firms to connect with potential clients at the moment they are seeking their services. If you rank for the right keywords, you can generate leads passively, for free. But before you can start generating leads, you’ll need to know how to find these keywords and how to optimize your content to rank for them.

We’ve analyzed thousands of attorney keywords using Google Search Console, Ahrefs, SEMRush, and the Keyword Planner. We’ve then tested these keywords for dozens of law firms around the country to find what gets the best results. This blog will show you how keyword research works and how it can benefit your law firm.

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What is Monthly Search Volume?

Monthly Search Volume (MSV) is the average number of times a given word or phrase is entered into a search engine every month. MSV can vary greatly depending on how niche a term is. For example, the keyword “personal injury lawyer” is searched for, on average, 90,500 timers per month in the U.S. alone. But when you get more specific, MSV declines. The keyword “do i need a personal injury lawyer” is searched only 390 times per month. You can get MSV data from keyword research tools such as SEMrush, Ahrefs, or the Google Keyword Planner.

It is important to understand that MSV is not an exact science. You could get different numbers depending on your tool, as each tool has a different way of collecting its data. MSV should be used as a guiding metric. Just because a keyword has 0 search volume according to a tool does not necessarily mean it is never searched.

Two quick tips for using monthly search volume metrics:

  • The MSV is a relative metric, so use it accordingly when comparing priorities
  • Tools don’t necessarily know your industry. If you know of an emerging or valuable keyword that tools aren’t aware of yet, get in the game early

Keyword Difficulty

Keyword difficulty is an estimation of the amount of effort that is required to rank your website for a given keyword. Many keyword research tools will provide you with this statistic.

Example of Keyword Difficulty in SEMRush


As you can see, it’s more common for higher volume keywords to be more difficult to rank for because more people are fighting to rank for them. In order to rank on the first page for these keywords, you will need more authoritative backlinks and supporting content to help your page stand out to Google. While keyword difficulty is important to factor in when selecting legal keywords, you shouldn’t always shy away from competition; there’s usually a reason so many people want to rank for them. However, It’s also important to understand that high volume does not always equate to high value, as we will discuss further in the article.

Keyword Intent

The final and most important concept to understand when it comes to keywords is the intent behind the search; what is the user looking for?

Example of Keyword Intent in SEMRush


In this example, SEMrush has labeled these two keywords with a different intent. The first “how to select a personal injury lawyer”, is marked as “informational” meaning the user wants to find an answer to a specific question, how should they choose a lawyer? The second term “indiana personal injury lawyer”, is marked as commercial, meaning users are investigating brands or services and are closer to the point of converting.

Someone searching for a keyword with commercial intent is likely ready to procure a good or service, so having a page rank for that keyword will probably generate more calls than someone who is only starting out in their purchase journey and seeking information.

Keyword Clusters

Keyword clusters represent groups of different keywords that all represent similar intent. Take this list of keywords, for example:

  • divorce lawyers new york city
  • divorce lawyers nyc
  • divorce attorney in new york city

Even though there are slight variations in the language, all three of these keywords are looking for the same service, a divorce lawyer located in New York City. You would only have to create a single page to rank for all three of these. Creating multiple pages would harm your SEO because Google would not be sure which one to rank.

Top Attorney Keywords By Practice Area

Here are some of the most valuable keyword variations you can rank for with your law firm website in 2022.

Best Keywords for Personal Injury Lawyers

Keyword Volume Difficulty Intent
1 personal injury lawyer 90,500 Hard Commercial
2 car accident lawyer 74,000 Hard Commercial
3 truck accident lawyer 33,100 Medium Commercial
4 auto accident lawyer 27,100 Hard Commercial
5 motorcycle accident lawyer 27,100 Medium Commercial
6 car accident lawyer near me 22,200 Medium Transactional
7 wrongful death lawyer 22,200 Medium Commercial
8 slip and fall lawyer 14,800 Medium Commercial
9 bicycle accident lawyer 14,800 Medium Commercial
10 workers compensation lawyer 14,800 Medium Commercial
11 uber accident lawyer 8,100 Medium Commercial
12 premises liability lawyer 8,100 Medium Commercial
13 birth injury lawyer 6,600 Medium Commercial
14 boat accident attorney 5,400 Easy Commercial
15 slip and fall accident lawyer 3,600 Medium Transactional
16 construction accident lawyer 3,600 Medium Commercial
17 best personal injury lawyer near me 1,300 Medium Transactional
18 how to find a personal injury lawyer 590 Medium Informational
19 when to call a lawyer after a car accident 590 Medium Informational
20 best medical malpractice lawyer 390 Medium Commercial


Best Keywords for Criminal Defense Lawyers

Keyword Volume Difficulty Intent
1 criminal defense attorney 33,100 Hard Commercial
2 criminal defense lawyer 27,100 Hard Commercial
3 dui lawyer 27,100 Medium Commercial
4 criminal attorney 14,800 Hard Commercial
5 traffic ticket lawyer 12,100 Hard Commercial
6 dui lawyer near me 9,900 Medium Transactional
7 white collar crime lawyer 5,400 Medium Commercial
8 probation violation lawyer 5,400 Easy Informational
9 drug crime lawyer 5,400 Medium Commercial
10 murder lawyer 5,400 Easy Informational
11 criminal defense lawyer near me 3,600 Hard Transactional
12 felony attorney 2,400 Hard Commercial
13 federal criminal defense lawyer 1,600 Medium Commercial
14 drug possession attorney 1,600 Medium Commercial
15 dui defense lawyer 1,300 Hard Commercial
16 best criminal defense lawyer 1,000 Medium Commercial
17 drug defense lawyer 590 Medium Commercial
18 homicide lawyer 390 Easy Commercial
19 drug defense lawyer near me 260 Medium Commercial
20 theft defense lawyer 90 Easy Commercial


Ranking for these keywords will almost certainly get your phone ringing for cases. But without a proper criminal defense SEO strategy, it will be extremely difficult to rank.

Why You Should Use Localized Keywords

Google has become sophisticated enough to understand that people searching for a lawyer are, in most cases, looking for a lawyer based in their city, county, or state. Using users’ location data, Google will return different results for the same keyword for people searching in different cities. Go ahead and google your practice area right now, try searching “XYZ lawyer” and you will likely get a map with the locations of local businesses, and pages that are optimized for your location.

It may not come as a surprise that you’re much more likely to rank when users are searching in your geographic area. If Google doesn’t understand where you’re located or what area you serve, it will have trouble knowing what audience to show your content. This is why using more specific, localized keywords will get you much better results than simply optimizing your content for generic, high-volume keywords.

How to Conduct Localized Keyword Research

1. Creating Seed Keywords

Start by making a list of your most important services or practice areas. Let’s say you were a personal injury lawyer. This list might look something like this:

  • car accident lawyer
  • personal injury lawyer
  • slip and fall lawyer
  • etc.

Now, simply add the geographic area you serve either before or after the keywords you have. Moving along with the personal injury example, we’ll suppose we are doing SEO for personal injury lawyers in Chicago.

  • chicago car accident lawyer
  • chicago personal injury lawyer
  • slip and fall lawyer chicago
  • etc.

2. Using a Keyword Research Tool

Now that we have a few variations of possible high-value attorney keywords, we will place them into a keyword research tool. If you have access to SEMrush or Ahrefs you can use those, however, if you’re just getting started a great free alternative is Google’s Keyword Planner. This tool will give you mostly the same metrics as paid tools with the main difference being a range of MSV as opposed to specific numbers but this is fine, as we’ve discussed, MSV should only be a guiding factor. You will need an active Google Ads account to use the tool, but you won’t need to spend any money on advertising (so it’s still free). If you don’t want to make an account you can always use Google Trends or Ubersuggest.

Once you create a free account you’ll want to navigate to the “Discover New Keywords” section and enter the keywords you’ve created. Your results will look something like this.

Google Keyword Planner Example

Now you can compare which keywords have more average search volume, are more competitive, and discover variations you can use throughout your content. Compile this data with your list and you will have an idea of what practice areas have the most potential to drive value for your firm.

3. Researching Competitors

You may have noticed another tab in the “discover new keywords” tool labeled “Start with a Website.” This option allows you to see what keywords a specific page or entire website ranks for. Try taking a competitor website that ranks well for one of your highest value keywords and placing their domain into the tool, and select the option “Use the entire site.”

This can be a great way to discover keywords you may not have even considered while also getting an inside look at your competitors’ SEO Strategies.

Make the Most of Your Digital Marketing

Now that you have a list of local keywords, you can begin putting them into clusters based on their intent, and creating your content strategy. But there are many more ranking factors to consider such as site speed, your backlink profile, and crawlability just to name a few. If you need help with your full digital marketing strategy, check out our full law firm SEO page to learn how we can help you rank for your most valuable keywords.