When one uses the phrase “the law” in relation to SEO, the idea that most comes to mind is how SEO marketing affects/relates to the legal industry. How are law firms and others in the industry marketing their services and does SEO play a significant role in their doings?
More specifically, where is the line drawn between what is ethical and what isn’t?
Do Some SEO Marketing Firms Go Too Far?
As some companies have discovered, SEO marketing firms, in an attempt to get top-notch ratings among search engines, have been using what is being sarcastically called “black hat services.” Simply put, this involves creating links between sites and paying clients (the law firms hiring marketers) using a number of deceptive and unethical practices.
J.C. Penney, for example, hired an SEO firm to help it out-sell the competition (Macy’s, the Gap, Wallmart, etc.) in a number of popular product lines. When people typed certain words (“evening dresses,” “bedding,” etc.) into search engines, J.C.Penney’s site came up. This was accomplished, however, by placing keywords in websites that either had not consented to the link or which had no connection to the products in question.
While “black hat services” are not illegal, they usually compel Google (and other search engines) to penalize companies that utilize them (even if they did not knowingly okay the practice). If anything, this example illustrates the sad fact that laws have not caught up to the technology; it also illustrates that you cannot blindly trust SEO marketers to do the right thing. To that end, ask how your firm will be SEO-helped; more importantly, ascertain the reputation of the SEO experts you hire.
Are Law Firms Putting Too Much Faith in SEO Potential?
Many law firms spend huge amounts of money in order to enhance their visibility online but some experts question whether this is money well-spent. After all, people looking for legal services are not like customers looking for lawn mowers, shoes and jewelry.
By far, people decide to hire legal experts through word of mouth, through referrals, and, when the Internet is involved, through informative/useful content.
As such, legal firms need to utilize blogs, legitimate articles that address major legal issues, ethical brand-building, and the slow-but-effective building up of a good reputation (such as by speaking at conferences/seminars, producing informative videos, etc.).
SEO is a legitimate tool for building up a law firm’s bottom-line/image but only when it’s used ethically and intelligently. To that end, it should be used in conjunction with other marketing tools as part of a comprehensive, well-diversified marketing campaign.
Legal Industry Expertise Not Marketing Hocus Pocus Matters Most
If you want to increase your legal firm’s visibility, don’t just look for marketing shortcuts or magic bullets. Seek to establish yourself and your firm as first-hand source for your area of expertise.
As people get to read the insightful articles that directly link back to your practice or which your staff wrote or were quoted in, they will remember you when legal needs arise. The chance of this increases in direct proportion to how often and how much you publish/produce useful legal information.
Everyone in the legal industry that wants to maintain/enhance their presence in the Internet must make realistic and ethical use of SEO tools. After all, the law is about emphasizing the importance or rules and how they make society work better. Shouldn’t SEO marketing practices reflect the same principles?