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Law Firm SEO Like It’s 1985

By Gyi Tsakalakis

The best law firm SEO results come from doing really good authentic marketing. While most people scour the web for the latest magic trick to drive more search traffic to their sites, the real magic SEO bullet for lawyers was cast long before the Internet even came into existence.

Say what?

Pretend, for the moment, that we are living in 1985. The Internet’s Domain Name System is created (though you probably don’t care at that point). Actress Keira Knightley is born in March (you may not even care in 2014). U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev meet for the first time (I hope you care about that). And what else? A notable difference (or dearth) in the kind of marketing tools lawyers use today.

No Google. No Bing. No Yahoo.

OMG! What could a lawyer possibly do to get new clients? Would you:

  • Buy old domains and 301 redirect them?
  • Build hundreds of websites and link them together?
  • Create spammy Twitter handles?
  • Buy text links in footers?
  • Build reciprocal links?
  • Create hidden text?
  • Participate in paid link networks?
  • Buy followers, page likes and +1s?

Of course you wouldn’t. This trash doesn’t exist yet. Instead, you might:

  • Focus on providing excellent service to your clients.
  • Go to dinner with other professionals.
  • Attend professional networking events.
  • Actively participate in community organizations.
  • Take on leadership positions in professional associations.
  • Conduct seminars on the subject matter of your expertise.
  • Create, nurture and solidify relationships that could lead to more word-of-mouth referrals.

Alright, McFly — Time to Jump Back to 2014

The world has changed. In 2014 the Internet matters. Search engines matter. Social networks matter. The battle to “be found” rages, and for many this battle means “ranking number one in Google searches.” A whole industry supplies this demand for visibility. But you’ve just returned from 1985. You know the real secret to client development is to get people talking. SEO? You don’t need no stinking SEO.

So, you continue to focus on providing excellent client service. You network and meet new people. You take on leadership positions. You speak, perhaps you even write. You do real law firm stuff. Sure, you have a website. Maybe even a blog. But establishing your professional reputation in the real world remains your primary focus.

But something strange is afoot. People are calling claiming they “found you on Google.” How is that possible when you don’t do SEO? How can these people be finding you in search engines?

Well, you may not realize it, but you might in fact be doing SEO. Here’s how:

  • That local community organization you are so active in posted a link to your website bio.
  • When you scheduled that speaking gig at a local high school, the school posted the event with a link to information you published on your site.
  • When you wrote that blog article about [insert subject matter expertise], a local journalist read it, and when she covered the subject, she sourced the article on your blog.
  • When you went above and beyond for your last clients, they went online and posted positive reviews of the exceptional job you did.

All of this online “stuff,” created by real people, got vacuumed up by search engines. And when the engines did the math, they concluded that their users would benefit from finding you. So, now they deliver your pages prominently in their organic search results.

This, in part, explains why those folks who called you said they found you on Google.

Admittedly, This Is a Bit Oversimplified

The technical SEO savvy among you will likely be screaming about accessibility, indexation, structured data, page load times and those additional on-page search ranking factors that we know are so important. The quality-link builders among you will likely be shouting that great links “don’t just happen!” And largely you are right. Just because “you build it” doesn’t necessarily mean “they will come.” You have to be good enough that you motivate:

  • Online discussion
  • Sharing
  • Linking
  • Reviews and testimonials

And you need to connect the dots — that is, find the people who can help spread the word and take your offline relationships online.

My point remains: What you do in the real world can have a profound impact on your visibility in the world of search engines. In fact, taking this approach will significantly outperform the law firm SEO trash. It will also make your web presence algorithm-update-proof.

Gyi Tsakalakis helps lawyers put their best foot forward online because clients are looking for them there. He is a co-founder of AttorneySync, a digital marketing agency for law firms. You can find more of Gyi’s writings in his “Optimize” column on Attorney at Work, on Lawyerist and on Avvo’s Lawyernomics blog. You can ask him a question (or just say hi) on LinkedInTwitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Illustration ©istockphoto

Categories: Daily Dispatch, Law Firm Marketing, Optimize
Originally published February 18, 2014
Last updated February 18, 2020
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