Search Engines are still a big part of the digital lifestyle. With all the talk of blogs, wikis and social networks these days, it’s easy to lose sight that very few web applications have the ongoing impact of online searching. And in living that digital lifestyle, I feel pretty confident to say that most everyone who reads this post will have been exposed to their handy work – that of Search Marketers.
Search marketing goes by two primary names (and acronyms): search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). Name wise, I’m not that particular which people use. Personally, I tend to stick with the original ‘SEO’ term. Mostly because that’s the term I learned first, and because the industry has never fully removed the term from its vocabulary.
The Question of Credibility
While every industry has image problems, if you do any investigation at all you will find SEO has more than most. Often accused of gaming the search results, or facing ethical questions regarding their strategies & techniques (See: white hat vs black hat), it’s very easy to overlook the core purpose to their business – to help match content to its appropriate audience. And for a law firm’s online presence, I consider this to be fundamental.
If you want to expose your firm’s content, it is not enough to simply build webpages and hope for the best. You must employ a strategy to get your chosen content in front of its target audience. In-house newsletters, email marketing, content syndication, etc. are all wonderful pieces to your marketing puzzle, but are more effective at marketing to existing clients.
Extending Legal Brands via SEO
If firms wish to stretch out their online branding efforts – for whatever reasoning they choose – they must expose their content to new audiences. And to that end, the search engines continue to be a the number one tool available to drive new readership.
The reasons why a law firm would employ an SEO strategy are numerous. Off the top of my head, I can think of a number of possible scenarios:
- The firm is looking to increase exposure for a new office in a regional market;
- Lawyer profile pages aren’t ranking for their areas of practice expertise;
- The firm is a market leader and sees a top search ranking as a ‘must have’;
- The firm wishes to increase market share for lucrative or high-margin area of practice;
- A competitive regional practice, where service pages are buried beyond the second page of search results;
- The firm has a new or innovative service offering, and seeks the first strike advantage;
- The firm is a boutique practice without geographic boundaries, and simply needs a top-10 listing to turn volume;
We could probably push this list a lot further, but no need. The reasoning behind ‘why do firms do SEO’ isn’t nearly as commanding as the equation of supply & demand. The difficult truth is that there are only so many ranked positions available: 10, in fact. Maybe 20.
There’s also the fact of diminished returns within those results. The top position for some search phrases can be the equivalent of having the only full-page advertisement in the yellow pages . Reports have shown the top search position to receive as many as 42% of the available clicks. On the bottom side of that comparison, rankings between position #11 and #100 will share as few as 11% of the clicks available. Suffice to say, ranking on that first page is more than a desirable. If firms wish to use Search as a marketing tool, chances are those first page results are going to be a must have.
SEO is a topic that I will be posting more on in the future. It’s a topic that, especially within the legal realm, deserves to be known for more than hucksters and gaming of the search engines. For the past 10+ years I’ve worked on various strategies to get content & brands in front of web audiences. It’s important in any type of marketing to engage new target audiences, and especially over the web, SEO is a great method to do just that.