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Exact Match, Broad Match or Phrase Match—Do You Know the Difference?

When determining your SEO strategy for your website it can be helpful to understand the difference between the various types of keyword matches. Basically, a broad match will contain all the search words however they can be in any order and can include other words as well. A phrase match will contain the search words in their proper order, but could include other words before or after the specific phrase. An exact match is just what it says—it contains the exact keywords in the exact order. Generally a searcher who wants a phrase match will place the words within quotation marks to ensure their search is precise and targeted.

 Broad keyword matches will almost always return more results than phrase or exact matches, and normally phrase matches will return more results than for an exact match. In the interest of predicting your potential keyword traffic, exact matches are usually the most helpful, although there is no set keyword match type which will work best in all situations. The “ideal” match would give you the flexibility of a broad match, the controlled reach of a phrase match, and the extreme specificity of an exact match, however reaching that ideal can be a serious stretch.

 How Competitive Are Your Keywords?

Obviously, the effort you expend to achieve high rankings for a specific keyword phrase is proportional to how competitive that keyword is. While the less competition there is for a particular keyword phrases, the less traffic it will bring you simply because few people are searching for it. The best way to predict the volume of traffic a specific keyword phrase can bring you is to use a tool such as Overture or Word Tracker to give you data regarding your chosen keywords.

You can also learn to use Google Analytics in order to determine which of your keyword phrases are bringing in the most targeted traffic. To do this you will first set the keyword search to broad match to see what variety of keywords brought users to your site.  The analytics algorithm tracks each and every search term, allowing you to see which are the most popular. Ultimately, you want keyword phrases which are popular enough to bring you traffic, but not so competitive that there will be a thousand businesses ahead of you.

How to Choose Your Keywords Wisely

Brainstorming a list of every possible keyword and keyword phrase you can even imagine that a user would type in to find your business is your first step. Then ask co-workers, friends and family to do the same—two heads are better than one really applies in this situation. Keyword phrases should generally consist of two to five words, including words which describe your firm and the specialty as clearly as possible. Think about what your potential clients would associate your company with then include those words in your keyword list. Make sure your keywords are very specific—general keywords will bring in users who are looking for something entirely different than your firm offers. Try to imagine all the variations of your keywords including synonyms and plurals to expand your list then analyze your closest competition. You may be surprised to find relevant keywords you’ve simply overlooked.

Keyword Placement

Your prime keyword phrases should definitely be in your title tags to describe what your website is all about, in your header tags which appear as headlines and in the text of your content body. Now that you understand the difference in exact, broad and phrase matching and have a good idea of how crucial those keywords are, you should be able to give your SEO a solid boost.

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