Far too often I come across yet another law firm website that obviously took lots of time and money to design and develop, but which, for one or more reasons, was never graced with search engine optimization (SEO). Whenever I see one of these SEO-challenged websites, I always feel bad for those who paid good money for it because they likely have no idea why it doesn’t seem to be bringing in any new business. And I typically can guess why one of these websites lacks SEO: The business didn’t understand its value, and neither did the web designer brought on to build the site. Ultimately, neither the law firm nor the web designer raised the issue, and SEO never had a chance.
Which is a shame, because I see each of these non-SEO’d websites as a virtual cry for help, with each one loudly proclaiming that as good looking as it may be, it’s actually been a huge waste of time and money. Now I’ll admit that these websites may not have been a total waste of money; sure enough, as promised, they’re right there on the web whenever the law firm’s attorneys provide the web address to someone they’ve already met. And the firm’s current clients can visit the site and appreciate the web design or the Unique Lawyering Proposition of the law firm with which they’re already doing business.
But what about all the potential clients who are looking for a law firm exactly like yours, or who might be searching for an attorney just like you, but who don’t know either your name of that of your law firm? It’s for these potential clients that you need search engine optimization. This is because most prospects, whether they’re interested in a divorce lawyer or an estate planning attorney, will pull up Google and search on two things: 1) the type of attorney in which they’re interested, and 2) the relevant location. This typically will look something like “divorce lawyer Denver” or “estate planning El Paso.”
In a nutshell, search engine optimization is the art and science of helping your website place higher in what Google and its brethren call the Search Engine Results Pages, or SERPs. Google looks for “relevance” above all else. The question Google asks itself millions of times a day is which websites appear to be most relevant to each particular search query? Although there’s a lot of mystery about Google’s algorithm, and there’s an equal amount of misinformation about SEO generally, success in search engine optimization is neither black magic nor beyond the budget of most companies.
So, who comes up in Google’s search results when you enter your practice area and geography? Is it you and your firm? If you’re not on the first page, are you on the second? The third? Studies differ as to exactly what huge percentage of users don’t even bother to look past the results on the first page, but everyone agrees that if your website is not on the first few pages, you’ll get almost no traffic from Google, Yahoo or Bing.
And that’s not a good thing, because, as you’ve heard for years now, these search engines are today’s Yellow Pages. They are how lawyers, professionals and almost every business gets found today by those who are interested in making a purchase. And it’s not just consumer products, but business services – and yes, legal services – that are consistently researched on the web before any buying decisions are made.
Which means that as important as a great website can be to your success, it’s equally important that you make every effort to make sure that it can be found by those who don’t yet know your name. Because with strong SEO, you will be found, and that’s how you’ll make that website pay for itself, ultimately many times over.