For so many law firms, SEO can feel like the golden ticket or all-encompassing answer to their marketing questions and strategy. But great marketing and online presence goes beyond keyword searches, and in this episode we’re answering why focusing on keywords is the wrong approach to SEO. Joining me for this conversation is Lorraine Ball, who after spending too many years in Corporate America, said goodbye to the bureaucracy, glass ceilings and bad coffee to follow her passion helping small business owners succeed.
Today, Lorraine is a successful entrepreneur, author, professional speaker, and host of the marketing podcast, More than a Few Words, brings creative ideas, practical tips, and decades of real-world experience to every conversation. As the founder of the Digital Toolbox Club, she helps business owners use internet marketing to grow.
Lorraine gives listeners actionable tips on:
- How to create content for great SEO, without relying on keywords
- Creating content that answers questions
- How to provide value on your website and keep your visitors engaged
- Tips to re-optimize a blog post
Mentioned in This Episode
[00:00:26] Lorraine: Hi, this is Lorraine ball. And I guess I would describe myself as a digital marketing straight. I’ve done a lot of things over the years, but what I really enjoy doing is talking about marketing and talking about how business owners can use digital marketing.
[00:00:40] Karin: Lorraine. Thank you for being here. This is going to be a great conversation.
[00:00:43] Everyone loves to talk about SEO and, uh, I know we’ll get into it because it just seems like for so many firms, uh, SEO feels like the golden ticket that everybody thinks is basically. The all-encompassing answer [00:01:00] to their, their marketing questions. So, uh, we’re going to dive into that, but let’s get started with the question on everyone’s mind.
[00:01:07] Today’s episode’s big question is why focusing on keywords is the wrong approach to win the SEO battle. So let’s start with why is that wrong?
[00:01:19] Lorraine: So keywords are what Google wants sort of, yeah, but here’s the thing. Last time I looked Google wasn’t spending any money with you. Human beings are. So if you are in this all encompassing battle to get to the top of the keyword rank.
[00:01:38] So what I love
[00:01:40] Karin: that. I mean, it’s so true. I think so many firms lose sight of the idea that they’re not trying to win the Google race. They’re trying to win the client race. You know, at the end of the day, you are really trying to capture that client’s attention, not [00:02:00] Google’s attention. So. How do you find balance with that?
[00:02:04] Lorraine: So what you, what I’m going to recommend is not only good for building rapport with clients and actually building sales, it actually also keeps Google happy. Okay.
[00:02:14] Karin: That’s
[00:02:14] Lorraine: perfect. So it’s not that I don’t believe in SEL. I just believe that there’s a better way and the better way is to start with questions.
[00:02:25] Okay. What is it that your customers want to know? What are the questions that they have in the different stages of the customer journey when they’re just starting out and they don’t know what they don’t know when they are evaluating different providers, when they’re ready to make a sale at each step along the way they have questions.
[00:02:46] So how
[00:02:46] Karin: is that? How does that look different from keywords?
[00:02:49] Lorraine: So it looks different because instead of optimizing for a. I have a question and then I just answer it. And this is the [00:03:00] thing that just really amazes me is people obsess about getting keyword? Yeah. Hardwood floor, hardwood, floor, hardwood, floor,
[00:03:08] Karin: truck accident, truck accident, attorney, truck accident, lawyer truck accident, lawyer in X city.
[00:03:16] Lorraine: Yeah, but that’s not what people are doing. People these days are using voice search. And so they’re asking a question, but then here’s the. They’re very niche, something like a third of all the Google searches every day are completely unique. Think about all the searches already occurred and it’s because we’re at, we’re not doing furnace repair anymore.
[00:03:39] We’re doing. Siri. Why does my furnace smell funny?
[00:03:42] Karin: Oh, that’s a great distinction. So I want to just focus on that, uh, pull out that, that quote that you just said a minute ago, because that kind of my head exploded for a second. A third of the, of the Google searches are unique. So they have not [00:04:00] actually been searched
[00:04:01] Lorraine: before it used to be a half.
[00:04:04] And I’ve seen, I’ve seen data now that says it’s less because clearly there are lots of searches, but. Every human being phrases, it just a little differently. And so you can’t optimize for all of those variables, but you can optimize for the questions. And I’m amazed, like when I work with lawyers or, and particularly, uh, you know, legal professionals where the copy gets very redundant, because they’re like, how many different ways can I say that?
[00:04:32] But then I take that question and I go to their website. And I go to the search bar and I type in, um, what can I expect when I work with a personal injury attorney? What should I bring to my first meeting? When I meeting with a personal injury attorney, these really niche questions that real people have and nothing.
[00:04:58] Because there isn’t a [00:05:00] blog post. You can’t do it on your pages. You really have to do it with blogs, but there isn’t a blog post that cancers question
[00:05:09] Karin: and who knows these questions better than the attorney themselves. So it really is putting the power back in the attorney or the firm themselves to understand their clients better than handing over the control of that marketing to some random SEO.
[00:05:27] Who has never probably been in your firm who has never met with any of your clients who doesn’t have any idea, what they’re asking, who really doesn’t know, get to the heart of what’s happening inside that firm. And so of course the approach and the strategy is kind of random and generic. Yeah, absolutely.
[00:05:47] That makes
[00:05:47] Lorraine: so much more sense. Now you’ve got these questions. And so, I mean, if you’re not sure what the questions are, go to your. Look at what’s in your inbox. Look at the responses that you’ve already [00:06:00] written. Yeah. Cause you you’ve got it. You’ve done it using that content. Now the next thing that you do when you kind of are like, okay, I’ve run through all the questions I can possibly ask, go to Google and type in that question.
[00:06:14] And Google does something. It will show you a list of other things. People who have had. Related questions and you’re like, oh wow. I always talk about, oh yeah. That’s, you know, I always talk about this, but I never talk about that, but I could talk about that. And so now you’ve got an expanded list of questions and if you really want to go crazy, there are two websites that I just love.
[00:06:41] Oh, what
[00:06:42] Karin: are they? This is great. I love having resources.
[00:06:44] Lorraine: One is called answer the pumps. And the other is ask Socrates. That’s where the public.com ask Socrates. What’d you do in answer the public, as you kind of type in your, you hear you do kind of type in the keyword [00:07:00] phrase and it gives you this wonderful visual map of related phrases and questions.
[00:07:06] It’s a really cool visual. And then with ask soccer. It’s actually tapping into the Google algorithm. So as you put in your question, it’s going to give you
[00:07:15] Karin: the, all those other ones. Oh my gosh. That is that. That is fantastic. I love those resources. We will link to those on the show page and probably in the social media links as well, just because that’s so helpful.
[00:07:28] So playing devil’s advocate for a moment. If I’m, let’s say I’m a personal injury attorney in Chicago and. Uh, down the main drag in Chicago, it’s one building after another one law firm after another, they’re all going after the same big cases. And there’s a good chance that a client is going to shop those firms in the same way.
[00:07:53] So why should I not try to compete on those big competitive keywords that those other [00:08:00] firms are spending all kinds of money for?
[00:08:04] Lorraine: What I often find is that companies spend a lot of money on the keyword and not on the customer experience when they come to the website. Yeah. And so you get, uh, you get a hundred people that come and 99 leave.
[00:08:19] Cause they’re disappointed. Yeah. You are way better spending more time, more money, more resources on the customer experience. When they come now you only get 20 people who. But five are interested, right? And this is where this is where you take questions to that next level. Checklists. Um, I’m going to draw the parallel.
[00:08:44] I ran a digital marketing web design company, and one of the things that always made us crazy is people came to us and they weren’t prepared. So we created a checklist that you could download from our website to get [00:09:00] ready for that first call. Having resources like that on your website that give people a chance, especially when they’re in that early stage.
[00:09:14] I don’t know what, I don’t know. Oh, five questions you should ask an attorney before you hire. Okay, bam. And now I get what I want as a consumer and you get my email.
[00:09:26] Karin: Exactly. And they like marketing agencies. This is not something people do every Tuesday. They don’t typically hire a marketing agency or a law firm on, on the regular.
[00:09:38] So it’s not an experience they’re used to. So getting them through that decision process and through the. Not understanding what’s happening is a huge initial hurdle that we all have to face.
[00:09:52] Lorraine: Absolutely. You know, that’s the thing, when you’re in any kind of knowledge business, your customers don’t even know what they don’t know.
[00:09:59] Karin: [00:10:00] Right. And they’re depending on you to help them. Yeah,
[00:10:04] Lorraine: absolutely. And so, so that content on your website, short videos, and, um, and I know when I talked to lawyers, their definition of short is different than mine. Let me, let me, let me clarify. This short is like a minute.
[00:10:21] Karin: I say all the time, I have attorneys all the time who are like, can I just have a five minute call?
[00:10:26] And my, I have a canned response for this now because it comes up all the time. I have never. Ever had a five minute call ever. I’ve been doing this for 13, almost 14 years, five minute call with an attorney is a unicorn. It doesn’t exist. So, you know, and they all think, oh yeah, it’s just five minutes. They all ask for it
[00:10:47] Lorraine: now it’s it.
[00:10:49] And, and I’m not dissing the profession. My dad was a lawyer, so love lawyers. Right. But your world, your world is about words. [00:11:00] It is, it is, it is what, it’s, how you earn your living and what I’m asking you to do in content marketing and in digital marketing and social media is give me your words in little bits.
[00:11:14] Yeah. Now, if you really want to get long, the place to get long is in a blog post go 1200 words, but. Give me subhead
[00:11:27] Karin: because it needs to be scannable
[00:11:30] Lorraine: and you have my husband and my husband will read every single word and I’m going to jump right. And you want to keep both of us happy and get us to the bottom of the page.
[00:11:41] Karin: Exactly exactly. And I mean, I’m sure you’ve seen this too. Those eye tracking surveys about how most people read is in that F shape and they scan and you know, most people, no human actually reads the way my kindergartener reads, where she is sounding out every [00:12:00] letter of the word. Eventually we get to that point of mastery when we read.
[00:12:05] Where you’re glancing and you’re, you’re recognizing words, you know, for their whole shape. And so everybody’s scanning through, that’s just the natural human way. So if you give them way too much dense paragraph of content, their head, their brain is just going to be overwhelmed and they’re, and they’re going to be turned off.
[00:12:21] So, um, I think everyone knows that kind of instinctually, but lawyers feel like, but I just have to say a couple extra things. I got to just squeeze in extra
[00:12:31] Lorraine: and you know, what, what happens is. On the one hand, Google loves keyword, rich content, but they hate a high bounce rate. And that’s also one of the things that goes against you.
[00:12:43] So if I get to a page where there is just this really dense copy and I bounce away, cause I don’t want to read it. You then. Negatively impacted your SEO ranking [00:13:00] because keywords are only a tiny, not keywords are a small piece of your overall SEO score. It’s did people stay, did the page load quickly? Did they click through to some other piece of information?
[00:13:18] And you lose all of that. If you go to dance on that
[00:13:22] Karin: copy. Yeah. It’s basically asking, are they finding value here? And then this comes back to your, what we talked about in the beginning where you said, what is that customer experience on your site? Let’s start by thinking about how you can provide that value.
[00:13:36] That’s going to keep them there, not just get Google there, but keep that actual human being. On your site and finding value. I think that’s really the piece where so many people, first of all, I think they think that’s, that’s a lot of extra work. I don’t really know if I want to do all that. It’s like, well, yeah,
[00:13:57] Lorraine: you know, it’s, it’s, it’s like, if you go old [00:14:00] school, it’s like hiring somebody to set appointments for you and then showing up.
[00:14:08] And a t-shirt and pajama, cutoffs, and floppy and floppy. And flip-flops, you’re, you’re spending so much of your time trying to bring people in the door. You’re you’re advertising. You do a Google ad words here. You’re optimizing your website.
[00:14:30] Karin: I love that visual. I am totally picturing like some college kid sitting back with their pajamas on and like, it just is such a waste because like you said, you had put all this money and effort into it and then you just totally dropped the ball. So, yeah, that makes so much sense. Uh, okay. So. Lorraine, as you know, our audience is full of tireless lawyers who don’t have time to read all the books who are that all the books that [00:15:00] aren’t worth it.
[00:15:00] So what’s a book that you read that is worth their time and effort
[00:15:06] Lorraine: I loved made to stick. Oh, I love that book. And, um, there is an audio version. So if you’re like me and you’re high auditory and you like to multitask, it is a wonderful book to listen to. If you don’t want to read it is great reading.
[00:15:23] It’s, it’s nicely written, but it, it really is about stories. And as, as a digital model, Hard cold facts are great, but what, what bring people in when they get to their, to your website, when they get to a meeting with you it’s they want to know your story. And this is so many is filled with so many great examples of how people constructed and told stories and created.
[00:15:55] Karin: impact. Yeah. So that actually comes back to, do you have [00:16:00] stories about like the, the, your client’s experiences with, uh, keywords versus these big questions that they should be answering instead of those keywords that kind of bring it full circle?
[00:16:14] Lorraine: So. One of my favorite. Well, I have two, uh, which is sort of me against the SEO established
[00:16:24] Karin: David’s
[00:16:26] Lorraine: guess.
[00:16:26] Yeah. A little David versus Goliath. So the first one actually goes back about 12 years when everybody thought SEO was all about links, it was about who was linking to you and you, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Made my head hurt. And I said, you know, I really just want to create content that answers people’s questions.
[00:16:44] And all of my friends told me I was crazy that I was going to lose the SEO battle, that I was never going to rank on play and blah, blah, blah. Okay, fine. You do. You, I’m going to do math. Let’s see how this plays out and we’ll see. And then there was that moment that Google and I think it was the Panda [00:17:00] update said, you know, we’re going to deprioritize late.
[00:17:04] And we really are looking for content that answers questions. Imagine that I’m sitting there going
[00:17:11] Karin: guys I’ve been here for years.
[00:17:13] Lorraine: Page one, I had, I had a friend who had built his entire business around this link building strategy because he thought he had. Sort of locked in and I’m like, you’re gaming the system and Google is smarter than you are.
[00:17:30] Um, he ended up literally closing his business. Oh my love and doing something else. And I felt bad for him, but I was like, dude. Yeah. You’re not as smart as Google
[00:17:41] Karin: know. And also they got their eggs all in one basket. I mean, aside from all of those, you have to depend on Google’s changing the algorithm all the time.
[00:17:50] But aside from all that SEO, even if it is a significant part of your marketing, it should not be everything. And so no one Google algorithm change to [00:18:00] take your business down. That’s. You should have been able to see that coming at some point, if that was your entire marketing strategy, that’s, that’s a little, that’s a little intense.
[00:18:11] That’s crazy.
[00:18:12] Lorraine: But he, you know, it’s funny. He’s done well since he’s, he’s a smart guy and he figured out, you know, other things too, Tim good. But my clients that Al that update came out. People were where they were, they got their rankings, they got their traffic. The other one that really goes to content, that answers questions.
[00:18:33] Um, we worked with a company that, uh, beans, we worked with them. I want to say 10 years and way back again. Then everybody was obsessing about Northern beans and white beans. And we took the content approach. And 12 years ago, or 10 years ago, we wrote a blog. What’s the difference between a white bean, a great Northern white and a Navy bean.[00:19:00]
[00:19:00] We spent 10 years as the number one post for that question. And for 10 years, that blog posts drove trucks. Week-in week-out 10 years. One piece of content. Yeah. So we noticed that at some point we weren’t on, we weren’t the number one anymore. Somebody else had figured it out. So what did we do? And this is the thing I recommend to everybody.
[00:19:27] We reoptimize the blood
[00:19:29] Karin: pumps. That’s fantastic. I want to hear more about that too.
[00:19:33] Lorraine: We added, well, what you do is if you’ve got a winner, you got to remind Google that it’s a winner. Hey, we’re still here. So go back at a hundred words, add a picture, add a related link. Now we, we were fortunate again, Randall beans.
[00:19:51] Uh, website filled with bean recipes. So we just added links to more other stuffies. We added photographs and [00:20:00] boom. We were back up in
[00:20:01] Karin: the top. That’s good to know. Okay. Because, uh, I’ve had the same, you know, if you’re around long enough and you’re doing it right. That should happen from time to time. First of all, your competitors should be taking note.
[00:20:13] And, um, they’re there, you know, we all have these competitors who are kind of those little, um, bottom feeder kind of, you know, I can’t think of the word I’m looking for, but just sort of those kind of soul-sucking sort of competitors where they come after. And they just go after the same thing that you’re doing, which it’s like, you know, that’s kind of a sad strategy to begin with, but they do that.
[00:20:36] And so we all need to be preemptive of that idea and thinking, okay, if I’m here at the top of the mountain, Um, what’s my plan for when people start to come and approach and try to knock me off the mountain. Um, and even if you’re not at the top of the mountain, even if you’re on page one or kind of getting up there and doing well, you should have some plan for how you’re going to [00:21:00] sustain that, that growth or that success or whatever the case might be.
[00:21:04] I think that’s a really valuable, a little bit of, uh, You’ve put so much time and effort into that initial content too. So why not just go and, and take what’s working and then just Polish it
[00:21:15] Lorraine: up. You know, I’m Neil Patel who I think, um, is really has sort of unlocked and SEO and, and, uh, has so many great tips, but one of the things that he said, and I think this.
[00:21:31] Maybe two years ago, I was reading. He actually said he was writing less content because he’d been doing it for a decade. I’ve heard that a lot. He did instead is he started going back and re optimizing old blog pups. And if you, if you’ve been doing this for any length of time and you have a library that is like the best thing in the world, do.
[00:21:55] Um, just kind of revitalize a lot of that
[00:21:58] Karin: information because you [00:22:00] should have all kinds of data on that library and anything that you post now, that’s going to be fresh. It’s just a shot in the dark. Like let’s hope it works. And maybe it will because, you know, hopefully you’ve kind of figured out how to write some good stuff, but you don’t have any data on that.
[00:22:15] All of this stuff that you’ve got there in your website, you already know what people like and what they’re, what’s resounding with them. So, you know, use that as a starting point. It’s got so much more information there for people to
[00:22:26] Lorraine: use and also your existing content is a great jumping off point. We did a.
[00:22:34] Uh, I did a blog post very early on called the marketing org chart and it blew up. Yeah. Okay. So there were four pieces in that blog post. So I wrote four companion pieces. The marketing work tried to closer, look at sales, close to look at customer serve, blah, blah, blah. And they all linked back. Perfect.
[00:22:53] And then few years later I went, oh, there’s a social media marketing org
[00:22:57] Karin: check. There you go.
[00:22:58] Lorraine: Exactly. So if [00:23:00] you’re, you know, if you’re a lawyer and you’ve published something that you’re explaining a particular law and two years later, that law changes or, and I’m not necessarily saying, you know, you want to get in.
[00:23:13] I, I always want to tread very lightly on the whole politics. Right. But if there is a bill that is in front of the legislature, that is going to impact your clients without taking a state. You can explain what the bill is and how it’s going to work and really be a very knowledgeable and valuable resource for your community.
[00:23:38] Karin: Yeah. And even if you have successes in your firm that are related to that practice area, you should be writing posts that link to those other posts and link to your practice area. And it should all. It should all be related. I mean, let’s, let’s hope you’re not putting content in there that doesn’t relate to anything.
[00:23:53] The other part of your website. It should all have some ability to link to something.
[00:23:59] Lorraine: Yeah. [00:24:00] And, um, I think even in the, the biggest, most professional law firms at the end of the day, when somebody walks into your office and they’ve, they’ve hired you where they’ve been assigned to you, is there attorney.
[00:24:16] They want to know who you are. And some of the most valuable content are bios and not, not the resume. Yeah. You know, this is Moraine and yes, she’s got these credentials, but she’s an amateur photographer. She’s on the board of these organizations.
[00:24:37] Karin: Yes. Yeah. And she has successfully accomplished the following things for these clients that you can relate to because they have similar issues and complaints.
[00:24:49] Yeah, exactly. And to put some personality and like, let people get to know. And that also includes having your bio headshot not be 15 years old. [00:25:00] Oh God. You
[00:25:00] Lorraine: know, and, and, and, and, and, uh, okay. This, I’m sorry, ladies. Men can get away with it longer women. Um, unless you haven’t changed your hairstyle and in two years, You’re almost doing it every six months.
[00:25:17] I mean, you have a new hairstyle style. Maybe the color is changed.
[00:25:22] Karin: And the fact that if you do keep it updated, then you have the habit of it. You know, when you don’t keep it, I just redid my own headshots and I hadn’t done it in a few years and I’m just going to blame the pandemic, even though we all know that wasn’t the case, but when I, when you haven’t done it, it becomes a bigger.
[00:25:39] Project and all of that stuff, because I’m out of the habit of it. It’s like everything else. So just keep those things, like your content, your, your headshots, all of that stuff. You keep a habit of those things so that, um, you know, it’s not like it’s like working out when those muscles don’t get kind of all, uh, lazy and.
[00:25:58] Atrophied [00:26:00]
[00:26:00] Lorraine: well, and social media rewards you for new cover photos. Absolutely. You know, they, um, every time you change your photo on Facebook, little less on LinkedIn, but the algorithm is set up to share it. And so all of a sudden people see it and it gives you an opportunity to engage again in a conversation with maybe some.
[00:26:21] Well, you haven’t talked to in a while who needs to know what your
[00:26:25] Karin: absolutely. Okay. I got a little sidetracked on the book, but made to stick. We will link that in the show notes as well. And on the, on the website, anything else that you want people to know about that book? It’s, it’s such a solid, uh, just kind of a marketing, almost like a marketing textbook.
[00:26:41] It’s got so much great information.
[00:26:44] Lorraine: But it’s, so it is everything I love best because it’s very conversational and it’s very readable and it just, and the other thing is you don’t have to commit to reading the whole thing. [00:27:00] Um, you can, you can read a chapter and walk away because the next chapter. Another story about another company.
[00:27:09] So it is very matte. It it’s really like manageable bites, little lessons. Yeah. Um, I think that’s it just, um, and I just think there’s such
[00:27:20] Karin: great stories. They’re there really lessons that everyone can learn from, and it’s not a very recent book. So the fact that it’s really sustained, you know, the, the whole time of all this.
[00:27:32] All of these ideas that we’re talking about really do change a lot at Google changes all their algorithms and all those things. So the fact that it’s it’s, um, kind of stood the test of time is, is also a great, um, just kind of a great indicator of how good of a book it is. So aside from the book, what’s one big takeaway that you’d like people to take from this episode in general, just in terms of our big question about keywords being the wrong approach and SEO [00:28:00] and how.
[00:28:00] You know, the content piece of it is, um, I’m sorry if I’m kind of filling in the blank. Let me, let me stop talking for a moment. So you can answer that question.
[00:28:12] Lorraine: Yeah. I think, I think that you really said it in that very last phrase, the takeaway is use your content to answer questions that real people who want to hire you have.
[00:28:31] If you do that well, everything else falls into place.
[00:28:35] Karin: That’s so good. That’s, that’s such great advice. So Lorraine ball is the founder of the digital toolbox club and is a marketing digital marketing strategist. And thank you so much for your time today. I know this is going to be great information that people will find so valuable when they’re putting together their SEO and their content strategies.
[00:28:55] So thanks again, Lorraine.
[00:28:56] Lorraine: Thank you. This was so much fun.