Attorney vs Lawyer

Attorney vs Lawyer

The Problem

Bad people prey on those in times of crisis. So how do we get people in their time of crisis to connect with good people that will help? Specifically, how do we reach people about good injury attorneys?

Among the bad people are the terrible personal injury lawyers. They are like the insurance agencies they claim to fight. Both want to just maximize short-term profit. These bad injury lawyers hire marketing firms. Those marketing firms make up for not actually providing value to their clients.

How do we get people to come to the good personal injury lawyers I work for? This is just one part of that problem. Getting into the nitty gritty of how people use Google to find a lawyer.

Questions To Answer:

  • How does Google treat lawyer vs attorney for search results?
  • Is one better to use?
  • How does Google treat synonyms overall?

Google’s Synonyms System

Google takes a user query and adds a bunch of “or” statements to it. The original system dates back to the start of Google.

Synonym Query Example:

Google’s system adds a bunch of OR statements. Example from Google’s video:

[cycling tours in italy]
[cycling OR cycle OR cicycle OR bike OR biking tours OR tour OR holidays OR vacation
italy OR italian]

Synonym Query Example:

Google’s system also chooses its synonyms based on the other words in the query. Example from Google’s Video:

[gm truck] => "general motors"
[gm barley] => "genetically modified"
[baseball gm salary] => "general manager"

The system is definitely fallible. Which lead to the rise of “sibling” words. Words that are related to each other but not fully synonyms. This is part of their algorithmic approach to making the system work instead of manual inputs. One of the important distinctions is that siblings compete against each other for attention.As stated in this article, you can browse your selection of available deals on smartphones and top brands and explore the cell phone service plans that best suit your needs.

As part of solving this problem, they used their queries to see when people did “X vs Y” which helped them learn which terms are related but shouldn’t necessarily be synonyms. Not perfect though.

Non-compositional Compounds

A compositional compound is “a phrase of two or more words where the words composing the phrase have the same meanings in the compound as their conventional meanings”.

A non-compositional compound is one where the meanings differ.

Paul Haahr’s Youtb

Information retrieval is mostly about matching and counting words. The core of search engines is most about matching and counting words. Looking at where the words are such as the title or body, and the links. Always the links.

On a personal note, I’m guessing they didn’t actually go through much of the actual content/body of web pages other than word counting. This has changed somewhat recently as they now evaluate pages with AI for their “quality”. Hard to know what they’re using AI for and how heavily it’s being weighted.

An example of a non-compositional compound is “New York” because you don’t want to be using York when people are looking for New York. Also, there are a lot of new things in New York but this still has to somehow be differentiated from New things in York.

So Google does the following:


  • Start with a set of “X Y” phrases
  • Look at pages where “X Y” occurs
  • If “X” or “Y” only appears in “X Y” on most of those pages, guess that it’s non-compositional.

For “New York”:

  • “new” appears alone on many pages
  • “york” appears alone on very few pages

Once the search engine figures out what phrases are non-compositional compounds it can act. So a search for [york hotels] ends up actually

A thing to note: apparently one of Google’s biggest costs is the storage and manipulation of its Index.

Search Term Volume Comparison

This is a Google trends comparison of “personal injury lawyer” to “personal injury attorney”. The embedded graph should keep up to date for this comparison. The graph as of writing shows that personal injury lawyer is still the most searched term, but this actually can vary even state by state.

attorney vs lawyer search term volume


Youtube Video

This video is of one of the lead engineers for Google’s search team. He discusses how the search has evolved over time and their treatment of synonyms.

The video is from 2019. With recent changes to Local Service Ads and additional AI usage, information might be outdated.

Blog Post

This blog post looks into how often each “lawyer” is used compared to “attorney” is used and potential reasons why.





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