Does Using “Lawyer” vs. “Attorney” Impact Your SEO Efforts?
Long gone are the days of having to feed Google exact match keywords. Through machine learning, including RankBrain and natural language processing (NLP), the search engine knows what people want when they enter a query.
That said, user intent may change based on whether they are using the term “attorney” vs. “lawyer”
If a local electrician is looking for representation in a workers’ comp case, he is going to be more likely to use “lawyer” or “attorney” vs. an insurer that is recruiting “lawyers” vs. “attorneys” to handle subrogation claims. Does this affect your search rankings?
In this post I’ll show you some data culled from local searches in the New Jersey and Philadelphia markets as well as some Google Trends data to help you determine if it matters whether you use “attorney” or “lawyer” on your site and if it does, which is likely to impact your website’s search rank given your area of practice.
Is there a difference between someone that is “a lawyer” vs. “an attorney?”
This is one of those questions that the first page of Google cannot seem to agree upon.
The majority of results on page one state something along the lines of “a lawyer is someone that graduated law school but doesn’t represent people in court. An attorney can represent clients in court.” In the United States, this is not true; there is no difference between a lawyer and an attorney. The American Bar Association states that ” A lawyer (also called attorney, counsel, or counselor) is a licensed professional who advises and represents others in legal matters”—the two terms are synonymous.
In countries outside the United States, such as the UK, there are legal professionals whose duties vary greatly depending on their title. For example, British legal professionals are either barristers, who represent clients in open court or solicitors, who are able to litigate in court but not to argue cases in open court. Additionally, a barrister doesn’t deal directly with clients, acting instead through a solicitor.
Using “Lawyer” vs. “Attorney” Changes the Search Engine Results
The first question is “does it matter whether you use ‘lawyer’ vs. ‘attorney’ when performing a search?”
We typed in a few different queries to see if changing “lawyer” for “attorney” had any impact on the results. Let’s check the results:
“Divorce Lawyer Near Me” vs. “Divorce Attorney Near Me”
“Personal Injury Lawyer Philadelphia” vs. “Personal Injury Attorney Philadelphia”
“Divorce Lawyer Philadelphia” vs. “Divorce Attorney Philadelphia”
This is a very small sample. Its purpose is to simply illustrate that the search results do change when using lawyer vs. attorney. In the next section, we’ll take a look at a very large sample of data through Google Trends. We’ll compare a number of areas of practice to see whether searchers tend to use “lawyer” vs. “attorney.”
What Does Google Trends Say About User Searches for “Attorney” vs. “Lawyer”
Social Security Disability
Google Autocomplete Insights Are Often More Actionable Than Google Trends Data
Autocomplete is one of the least talked-about and underutilized SEO tools in our toolkit. While Google Trends simply provides insights into search volume, autocomplete “predicts” what we are likely to type next, providing us insights into what the search engine thinks you are looking for. Autocomplete is impacted by your location, the time of day, your past searches, and recent search trends in ways that Google Trends isn’t.
Let’s take a look at a number of autocomplete screenshots from our office in Cherry Hill, NJ:
Bankruptcy lawyer vs. attorney
Personal injury lawyer vs. attorney
Social security disability lawyer vs. attorney
Workers compensation lawyer vs. attorney
In this case, it looks like a lawyer would be better served by focusing on “workers comp” than workers’ compensation and she’s definitely a “lawyer” and not an “attorney.”
Divorce lawyer vs. attorney
It is important to keep an eye on these autocomplete predictions. They are dynamically generated and more likely to correlate with search results than data from Google Trends. Ignore them at your own peril.
Can We Use Google Search Console Data to See Whether to Target “Lawyer” vs. “Attorney?”
Using Google Search Console data is going to potentially present biases into the data. We’ve already optimized our client sites to “lawyer” or “attorney,” which would skew the data. We want to know what people are searching for, not what Sagapixel has optimized for.
Ultimately, Keyword Permutations are Not the Most Important Thing in Your Firm’s SEO
You should be focusing your SEO efforts on answering the questions that people have about your areas of practice. First, doing so will put you in front of potential clients. Second, if people engage with your content—that is, they read it and don’t immediately click back to Google and look at the next result—you’ll earn trust signals that will help your site to rank
If someone types “divorce lawyer near me” vs. “divorce attorney near me” Google knows exactly what that searcher wants. They want someone located near him or her to represent him or her in divorce proceedings.
The algorithm is not looking at whether you used “lawyer” vs. “attorney” on the site.
It is looking at items such as:
- The proximity of the attorney’s office to the searcher
- The “trustworthiness” of the site
- If its copy well-written
- Whether the site mobile-friendly
- If it have spammy backlinks that seem manipulative
- Click data from past users that have clicked on the attorney’s result on Google (this a big one that not enough website owners and SEOs talk about)
- Links from other websites, especially local websites, which indicate that the practice is active in the local community