Writing this is a struggle. I so don’t want to be the knucklehead branding himself as The SEO Curmudgeon. SEO works. It really does. But it’s a zero-sum game. There are limits. And those limits are well illustrated by a web developer with whom I was speaking last week. We were talking about bundling SEO services for lawyers who want the full Monty when it comes to duking it out for the 17% of survey respondents who say they would use a search engine to find a lawyer. (That number from the Clio 2019 Legal Trends Report.)
My web developer said, “I will never promise a lawyer that I can get him organically on Google page one.” And this is a problem, especially when coupled with the realities of buying SEO. He went on to say, “There are so many big firms spending so much money, it’s a jungle. If a lawyer has 10-12 thousand dollars a month to spend, I’ll get them results. But more than half of that budget is going towards ads.” The rest will be content. And still, he refuses to guarantee the elusive butterfly of SEO results: living and dancing organically on Google page one.
I repeated these figures to a new, small-firm client, who replied, “10 to 12 grand a month? Forget it.” And this is why we do not encourage the small firm or solo to chase the dragon of SEO. It’s unwinnable. There’s only so much room on page one.
But, you know what the small firm can win? The small firm can win in the soft and squishy world of conveying customer experience. “Customer experience” is the new marketing buzz phrase. (Frankly, the "buzz phrase" thing is annoying. Customer experience has always been part of delivering on the promise of your marketing messages.)
Now, if only 17% of prospective clients would use a search engine to find a lawyer, you’re probably asking, “Where do the other 83% come from?” To which I ask: Does it even matter? Once they hear about you, what’s the likely place to check you out? Your website. And that is where their client experience begins. Not on the phone. Not in your office. On your website.
FOOTNOTE: Survey says, “Referral!” According to the Legal Trends Report, that’s where a lot of the other 83% are coming from. Over half of prospective clients seek a referral. And in the brave new world of endless thumb typing and mouse clicking, your website is likely to be found not in a search for “lawyers near me,” but in a search for “INSERT YOUR NAME HERE.” And that is where your prospective client is first likely to meet you: in a search for you. That’s why paying $120,000 a year for SEO matters less than conveying the client experience on your website.
Not that I have an opinion on this.
IT IS PRESENTED AS A TRUTH THAT "Without SEO, lawyers die." What if you defy this ostensible truth? In a business where referral is king, SEO is useful. It just isn't a silver bullet. Instead, be human. Be evocative. Be the best part of you. A search engine can't understand that. But your client can.
Blaine Parker writes good words for good lawyers. Learn more at Firm Appeal.