I recently did a presentation for a group of lawyers on marketing their practice on the internet, and I was surprised at how much resistance there was in the room. Only two of the lawyers present had a LinkedIn profile, but even those two hadn’t used LinkedIn for much of anything except accepting invitations from others. Neither of them had profiles that were considered to be 100% complete. Even worse, many of the lawyers in the room did not have a website. Those with websites had very rudimentary resume-style websites. Most didn’t understand how beefing up their presence on the internet could help them.
Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise to me – after all, I wrote about lawyers’ resistance to websites over five years ago in my post, Think You Don’t Need a Web Presence?
Unfortunately, it seems that the thinking among lawyers hasn’t changed much over the past 5 years.
It always makes me laugh when lawyers tell me that their clients come to them via word of mouth, so they don’t need a website. It’s even funnier when they say, “I don’t need a more complicated website with all of those bells and whistles. My clients don’t find me by doing an internet search.” Duh! That’s because you’re practically invisible on the internet!
During the presentation I mentioned above, I even had one lawyer tell me that when you Googled her name, plenty of other things came up (like newspaper articles, mentions of her bar association activities, etc.), so there was no need for her to have a website!
Why is this thinking faulty?
First of all, if people are searching for you – by name – on the internet, they have already heard something about you. They are either looking to verify that information, to find out more, or to find your contact information. Why rely on what other people, who may or may not have your best interests at heart, have to say about you? Who knows how long that content will be there? Wouldn’t you rather control the content that’s out there about you? How do you know that what other people have to say is what your clients want to hear or know about you?
Perhaps more importantly, do these other sites contain your contact information???
Secondly, if people are looking to ‘vet’ you on the internet, one of the things they are specifically looking for when they search for you by name is your website (or your law firm’s website). When they can’t find one, what do you think they are thinking about you? How do they know that the newspaper story or bar association mention is even about you as opposed to someone with a similar name? What do you do when you cannot find a business website? I know what happens when it happens to me – I think that the business isn’t serious and I move on to someone else.
If that’s happening, it’s no wonder your clients are not finding you on the internet! The clients who retain you must be finding you some other way.
While I agree that a lot of people are not searching for a lawyer on the internet, the fact is that many people go on the internet to search for information. Often they do that search before they do anything else. (For more on this topic, see my post from last month, ABA Techshow, Lawyer Blogs and Social Media).
OK, so maybe your firm does have a website – but you can still be virtually invisible to potential clients online if you are not ‘working’ the site. This TED talk by Eli Pariser (see video below) is an eye-opener that shows that Google and other search engines (including Facebook and, most likely, YouTube, the second biggest search engine) are increasingly ‘customizing’ search results based on user preferences and geography.
Not only does that mean that someone in Nebraska gets different results for the same Google search as someone in New York for the exact same search terms based on geography, but it means that two users in the same town may get different search results based on their past use of Google and the internet.
This means that if people aren’t using and clicking on your site and links to that site, it may become more and more invisible. It also means that if you are not taking advantage of easy ways to optimize your site for your clients’ preferences and their geographic area, you’re going to lose out bigtime.
One easy example? A Google Places account. For most businesses (including lawyers), having a Google Places account is a no-brainer. (There are exceptions to this, for example, where a lawyer has a home-based practice and does not want to advertise their home address).
When you do a search in Google for a particular term, usually the Google Places results come up at the top of the page, directly underneath the ‘sponsored links.’ Here is a screenshot of a search I did for “divorce attorney long island”:
The red-flagged "A" result in the search results corresponds to the map on the right side of the page. Those results usually show up before the rest of the 'organic' search results. That means that if you have a Google Places page that corresponds with the search, chances are that you will come up much higher than a more 'optimized' website with no Places page.
When I did a search simply for 'tax attorney' with no location designation in the search, here is what I got:
While the Places results were not at the very top of the results, Google did return a number of Places results on the first page geared toward my location, even though I did not enter a location as one of my search terms. Notably, many of the Places results were not firms that otherwise came up on the first page of the search results.
(I recognize that these screenshots are difficult to see here, but you can see the list of red Places results, even if you can't read them).
It goes without saying that your Places page should contain a link back to your website and/or blog, but notice (if not in the images above, then in your own Google searches) that when you appear in the Google Places results, a link to your site appears, as well as a link to your Places page. Those results without a separate website link solely to the Places page.
If your law firm is invisible (or so far down in the search results that it might as well be invisible), do something about it - whether that's setting up a Google Places account or generating some good content for your website.