Stop Using [Location] [Practice Area] Attorney

Somewhere along the way, lawyers got it into their heads that they should refer to themselves with some iteration of their location, practice area(s) and attorney.

Yes, Chicago personal injury lawyer and Illinois bankruptcy attorney, I’m talking to you.

Why are you doing this?

Since you probably aren’t doing this offline, I’m guessing it has something to do with your understanding of search engines and the internet.

Maybe you’re trying to rank for these keywords in search engines?

Perhaps this explains why the titles of every page of your site repeat this pattern. However, you’re likely doing more harm than good. While you should create unique descriptive titles for each page of your site, stuffing repetitive, boilerplate keywords throughout your site makes you look spammy silly.

And what about you folks who are using this pattern in your twitter handles?

Again, I’m guessing many of you think were told that this will help you rank. And admittedly, sometimes it does.

However, I’m willing to bet that you can’t keep your doors open from the search traffic to your twitter profile from a single keyword. Plus, even if you get some traffic, you still have to motivate people to hire you. How many people do you know that would hire a lawyer merely from a generic nondescript Twitter profile? And how many of those people are actually likely to turn into profitable paying clients? One? Two?

Maybe you’re still unconvinced. You know you’ve been getting great “results” from buying keyword-rich domains, building anchor text links and leaving comment spam that all follow this pattern. And maybe you have.

Just don’t go crying and complaining when your sites and blogs begin losing huge amounts of traffic.

Let’s forget about search engines for a moment. Maybe you simply think that this is an effective way to concisely communicate what you do and where you do it.

Of course the problem is that everyone else is doing the same thing. That’s not really going to help you differentiate yourself from your competitors. I suggest that you’ll have much better luck with a haiku.

And what about the people who already know you. Have you thought how this might appear to your actual clients, colleagues, friends, family, etc. You know, the people who might actually refer new clients to you? Do you think that they will be more or less motivated to refer other people they know to your nondescript website? “You should talk to Chicago Bankruptcy Lawyer, she’s the best.”

But don’t take my word for it. Go search on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for attorneys that are doing this. Check out how many authentic conversations they are having. See who is really following them. Look to see whether or not people are actually commenting, liking and sharing the “stuff” that these profiles are posting.

Think about your own online interactions. Do you usually follow nameless faceless social media profiles and pages? Aren’t you more likely to unfollow, ignore or even block them?

Isn’t any slight perceived value of describing yourself this way far-outweighed by the loss of authenticity and distinction?


  1. Avatar Alexis Neely says:

    I’m curious what you recommend instead.

  2. I would agreed if all you’re going to do is have that generic name. But the thing about advice like this (and some of the other posts on this blog) is that it means nothing unless we try it out and see for ourselves what may work for us individually.

    My man website has two names, and one of them is fldivorcepaternitylawyer. com..very generic indeed. Does it stand out to the exclusion of every other site in Florida about divorce, probably not; but it does get some traffic under that name because thus far this year it’s been the referring name 22 times (and last year it was 66 times). So, I’m keeping it.

    Same thing with my blog, which fails Sam’s tests yet it does bring traffic, and gets some conversion.

    Same thing for what I’ve read as the much-touted Google penalty for keyword domain names. Yet the site I started this past April (with none other than MiamiDivorceOnline) gets visitors–more importantly, it has resulted in clients. Ask yourself: if these engines have visitors searching for a term, and you have relevant content on your site, what the heck are they going to serve those who search popular words? really?

    So yes..Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer and Fl Divorce Paternity Lawyer are not marketing silver bullets for domain names, brands or content alone. But test it and find out for yourself.

    And I hate haikus…

    • Yes, everyone should try things out for themselves. There are very few universal truths.

      My point wasn’t limited to domains. I’m talking about social media profiles, blog comments, descriptions in author bylines, business cards, names of law firms, telling people what you do at cocktail parties, etc.

      Your site has your name, which is also your firm’s name, prominently displayed. In other words, it doesn’t merely say Florida Divorce Paternity Lawyer.

      Feel fortunate that you haven’t suffered from the EMD search engine penalty. I’m not saying that it doesn’t “work.”

      My point is that there are ways to “do it better.”

      If you can support your business on the traffic you’re getting from the site, by all means, continue.

      What will search engines serve instead? Established, recognized brands that people trust, talk about and share. It’s already happening.

      But absolutely test “stuff” and find out for yourself.

      It’s great to hear you’ve found something that’s working for you.

      • Hi Guy…yes, I realize that your point wasn’t limited to domain names, that’s why I included domains, brands, and content. I do agree with you that just having location/practice is not good, but a combination of things just might work some, not a lot but certainly a meaningful number that can grow. I thought that I would get hit with the EMD penalty, and was surprised when I wasn’t.

  3. Avatar Jeramie Fortenberry says:

    A lot of people need to read this, Gyi. But this article (and Sam’s newsletter praising it) assumes that the only way to rank for [Location] [Practice Area] Attorney is to stuff that phrase into every nook and cranny you can find. Sure, a lot of people do this with no concern for human readability, but that’s not the only option. You can still rank for [Location] [Practice Area] Attorney while using the keywords sparingly and building a solid link profile with mixed anchor text. In other words, you can optimize and rank for a keyword (particularly on a single page) without sacrificing authenticity and distinction.

    For consumer-facing practices that aren’t referral-based, having “meaningful conversations” online isn’t nearly as important as (a) being visible and (b) quickly conveying that you can solve your prospective client’s problem. And if you’re on page 10 for the term they are using, you’ll never get that chance.

    “Go search on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for attorneys that are doing this. Check out how many authentic conversations they are having.” Who cares? These things aren’t a metric of success for all practices. If someone is searching for a Chicago DUI attorney, they probably aren’t hanging around online trying to build relationships in the DUI community. They don’t want to follow DUI attorneys on Twitter, subscribe to DUI blogs, or like DUI-themed Facebook pages.The prospective client will search for what they need, go through the top several results, and choose someone. If you’re not there, you lose the chance.

    Finally, despite all of the propaganda to the contrary, exact match or near exact match domains still outperform branded domains in the legal niche. Search for Chicago DUI attorney, Florida probate attorney, etc. Look at the link profiles and content for those sites. It’s clear that keyword rich domains are causing them to rank well, both in local and generic search results.”

    • Hey Jeramie. I didn’t really intend for this to be limited to SEO, but obviously it came across that way.

      I would disagree with your dismissal of social engagement. Social is awesome for staying top of mind with people who are likely to refer clients to you.

      Yes, unfortunately, EMD still works rather well in legal. But don’t be shocked to see them continued to be dialed back.

      • Avatar Jeramie Fortenberry says:

        Hi Gyi. Thanks for the response. I wouldn’t dismiss social engagement for all practices. “Who cares?” wasn’t a rhetorical question. I think its important to find out whether the client base cares about social engagement. I think that the all-or-nothing approach misses this distinction. I believe that social engagement is critical from some practices (particularly those that depend heavily on referrals) and not worth the effort for others.
        Have a good weekend.

  4. Good, thoughtful post, Gyi.

    I’m not a lawyer, but it might help some of you to see an example outside of your own. If I start at the basics, I am a Professional Marketing & Social Media Advisor to Lawyers, Law Firms and Legal Marketers. My website URL has nothing to do with that. It uses my company name, myrlandmarketing. My Twitter handle is NancyMyrland, Facebook Page is Myrland Marketing…on and on and on.

    You might be wondering how in the world do any lawyers ever figure out what I do if I don’t use these words in my Social Media profiles? I try to do what Gyi said. I engage the people within the target markets I care about. I share content relevant to them (with a bit of my personal side thrown in because I am, well, a person after all). I engage them by commenting on their posts. I talk to them about what they’re working on, congratulating them when they mention settling a case, asking what they think of x, y and z as it pertains to marketing, the legal profession and social media. It’s easy for me to do this because I actually care about these things, am genuinely curious and look to learn from my clients and prospects.

    I could go on, but I think you get where I’m going. It *can* be done. We can reach those with whom we want to do business by the ongoing, consistent use of these communication tools we have been given by making sure we use them in the “Social” manner they were invented.

    I, too, am not saying don’t use these keywords within your titles as I don’t know what success you’re having, how the rest of your content is prepared for the next onslaught of Google’s attempt to clean up the web by unleashing Google Puppy or Google Platypus, or whatever P they have on deck. What I am saying is that there are ways to add to your current strategy of keyword-stuffing your URLs and titles, if that is your strategy, that will enhance your ability to be found.

    Again, good post, Gyi.

  5. Avatar billbalena says:

    Boutique keywords like Area+City+Attorney only really appeal to attorneys who are novices at internet search. Ranking well for that is what the paid SEO guy sells. Although I rank well in this arena, by far most visitors to my site are asking a specific question that my site will answer. Then they either call or enter the pipeline by opting in for my bankruptcy e-course. The downside is that it takes time, commitment and hard work to get your site to produce at this level.

  6. Avatar Joseph Dang says:

    This advice depends on your individual practice doesn’t? If your clients are finding you through Google, you need to sprinkle practice area and location around your site. Not on every single page of course. But Google likes to send Chicago area sites to Chicago searchers. Go to your SERP’s and click “Search Tools” and there is your city.

    So even if you don’t type in, “Chicago Divorce Attorney” if you search for “how to no fault Illinois divorce” Google wants to send you local results. You let Google know where you are located (with the address) and who your content is for.

    Advice about using your name (great … if they know your name), building relationships (not the best in certain practice areas like personal injury … who wants to build a relationship with a PI attorney) are too generic.

    It’s not just one, or the other. It’s all of it. You can develop these concurrently.

  7. Avatar Barney Fife says:

    There is a certain large legal publisher whose website drafting personnel insist that is the way to do it.

  8. Avatar lawyerlib says:

    Is it just for ranking? Attorneys are are required by law to indicate where they are licensed to practice law in print advertisements.

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