Yesterday I wrote about the changing nature of Google and how it means the end of SEO for lawyers:
All the SEO and content generation in the world doesn’t mean a thing with the way Google is headed with their search business.
So If SEO Is No Longer Important, What Is?
Before we get to that, the better question to ask is: was SEO ever really significant or important for lawyers? In a conversation I was having with Scott Greenfield yesterday (before he started reminiscing about Gopher protocol), he pointed out that SEO never really made sense for most lawyers:
Aside from some commodity law practices, DUI being one, why would any lawyer want to be found on a search engine anyway? These are the nightmare clients, which is why they are relegated to searching for a lawyer online. These are the client no good lawyer wants. That they look for a lawyer via Google is a win/win.
Mind you, checking out a lawyer online is an entirely different issue, and one that involves a very different search so that the SEO gaming doesn’t matter. Put in your name and they find out about you. Nothing wrong with that at all.
To which I wholeheartedly agreed. Most lawyers, outside of a few specialty niches, are unlikely to get clients from being found on Google. And as Greenfield pointed out, the clients who do find you off of Google are likely the sovereign citizen movement types – ie: clients no one wants.
SEO just doesn’t make sense for lawyers. But being Google-able to the extent that it is easy for a potential client who has been given your name by someone else is a different story. The best clients are often referred clients. These clients are usually referred to lawyers from another lawyer, former client, or friends and family – the most effective and trusted form of promotion.
Yet even though potential clients likely trust recommendations from their family and friends, they still want to check up on the lawyer before they contact them. It’s natural. It’s what Google and the internet has done to us. Personally, before I ever reach out to someone I Google them and check out their website, LinkedIn, blog, or Facebook. It helps provide context and background before I speak with them. Potential clients do the same thing. But they’re not searching for “Wichita DUI lawyer,” they’re searching for a specific attorney.
Using myself as an example, they’re searching for “Keith Lee lawyer.” Here’s what the search results look like:
If a potential client was wanting to “check me out,” I would be easy to find. The first results are my blog, then my LinkedIn profile. My profile on my firm’s website and news from our firm fills out most of the first page search results. This is because I blog, write, tweet, etc. and my digital footprint is larger than most.
But if you look at the search results, you’ll also notice “Keith A. Lee” who is a lawyer in Hawaii and “Keith lee law offices in Reno” are also on the front page. Potential clients in Hawaii or Nevada and were referred to the respective Keith Lees will be able to find them with a simple Google search. No SEO, nothing special being done.
The other “Keith Lees” are right there on the front page of Google with no effort. All my blogging, tweeting, videos, sharing, years-0f-SEO-build-up puts me on the equivalent footing of yellowpages.com and Hawaii Keith Lee’s 1990s-era Geocities-esque webpage. The takeaway should be clear: SEO isn’t necessary when someone is looking for a specific lawyer. Which brings us back to my original question.
So If SEO Is No Longer Important, What Is?
If someone is looking to check you out specifically – they’re going to find you. It’s just not that difficult. Instead, it becomes a matter of what do people find when they search for you online?
Someone looking for me specifically would immediately find Associate’s Mind and perhaps get a feel for me and what I’m about. Marketeers would trumpet this as an opportunity to “display expertise.” But it’s actually a double-edged sword. People might like what I have to say or that may think I’m a pompous ass or find what I said offensive. There goes a potential client. I suppose I could be milquetoast and neutral but a) it’s incredibly boring & b) I could pull it off for two weeks before I quit in frustration. Instead I just say whatever the hell I want to say and consequences be damned. Some people – potential clients – are not going to like what I have to say. So be it. It also means that if you screw up – on a colossal level – that your digital footprint is unlikely to ever recover.
Many lawyers will likely look at the above scenarios and decide that they are better off not having a internet presence at all. But that’s just burying your head in the sand. The internet is here to stay. Clients are going to check you out online. They’re either going to read what you have put up there or what other people are saying about you.
Better to step into it head-on and try and have some control over what people might find. That doesn’t mean you should hire marketeers or outsource your ethics. It means that you should conduct yourself and your practice with integrity and let that speak through your words and actions.
A few months ago I put up a post quoting President Lincoln and some other more recent lawyers on an essential aspect of a successful law practice. In my opinion, this same aspect is what is important to display when a client is looking to check you out online.
President Lincoln put it simply: “Resolve to be honest at all events.”
It was essential to being a good lawyer 150 years ago. It’s essential to being a good lawyer today. It will be essential to be a good lawyer 150 years in the future.
Truth is powerful. It doesn’t go out of style.