The concepts of search engine optimization are new to many in the legal profession. There is a lot of misinformation out there as well as unreasonable expectations and promises regarding law firm SEO and how it works. What follows are 5 things you should know about law firm SEO:
It Takes Time
Search engine optimization is not a process that happens over night. In fact, it doesn’t happen in one week or one month either. An analogy I like to use is that SEO is similar to losing weight. You don’t eat right and exercise for a week and expect to be thin. It is a process of doing these things every day over the course of months in order to see results and reach your goals.
I am hesitant to give exact time frames for success since the competitive landscape, practice areas, monetary investment, age of your website, etc. all have an effect on the length of time it will take to reach a tipping point. That being said, 6-12 months is a reasonable expectation.
It Isn’t The Same As Advertising
Hiring a company to perform SEO is not the same as investing in advertising. This is often a source of confusion and frustration for firms used to paying a fee and receiving an immediate flow of leads or phone calls. When you invest in SEO, you are building equity into your online presence. You are positioning yourself as a go to place where people looking for your type of legal services come to find you. As Lee Rosen explains in his article Would You Rather Rent Or Own Your Marketing:
Advertising is like renting. You get to borrow someone else’s audience for 30 seconds or a minute. The audience has come to the newspaper, magazine, radio, or television to see something they’re interested in, and you happen to be there. Hopefully, they’ll pay a portion of their attention to you rather than to what they actually came to see.
Of course, if you stop paying the rent, you’ll lose your opportunity to speak to that rented audience. The minute your ad budget runs empty, you’re cut off, and you might never reach those people again.
Does advertising work? Sure it does, but it’s tough to build equity when you rent. You’ve got to keep paying the piper, or the music stops.
It Doesn’t Create Demand
Law firm SEO doesn’t create demand, rather it fulfills existing demand. In other words, if no one is looking for your very specific niche of legal services, SEO isn’t going to fix that. SEO can help you position your website/blog, content, legal services, etc. in front of individuals that are in need of those services.
This is an important distinction because I talk to many lawyers who view SEO as a “magic bullett” to getting new business in a new, creative niche. They’ll say, “I’ve searched all over and no one else is doing anything like this!” While there is an incredibly small possibility that it may be a new potential market no one has tapped, odds are there is a reason others aren’t doing it.
It Isn’t A Commodity
SEO is not a commodity, it’s a service. While the underlying, fundamental principles of SEO remain consistent across various law firm SEO campaigns, the approach for each individual firm should be unique. The link targets, keyword research, content strategy, etc. are all dependent on the practice areas, resources, and competitive landscape for each firm.
It Requires Participation
Performing SEO properly requires participation from members of the firm. Whether it’s assistance with content, activity by the attorneys on social networks (which are increasingly having more impact on your visibility in search), or feedback on the lead quality the success of your campaign will increase with participation in the process.