This post is a quick break from my series on how to build the best law firm website. I’m taking this break to share something I read this morning which drives home a point I try to make to attorneys all the time. That point is the fact that attorneys must stop and consider what it is people are actually looking for. Attorneys who take the time to consider such things will wind up looking like this:

Money raining on woman

While their broke as a joke competitors wind up looking like this:

Business man with empty pockets

I’ll make my point rather quickly.

I’m currently reading a great book titled How Google Works, which is written by Eric Schmidt. Eric is the former CEO of Google and the company’s current chairman. The book has nothing to do with SEO or how search works. It’s all about how the company works from a management perspective and how they continue to innovate. One tidbit, which was used as an example in the book, made me immediately think of a common online marketing mistake attorney’s make. You’ll see how this book ties into the point I’m about to make.

I regularly stress the importance of focusing on web traffic and not on particular search phrases. Too many attorneys focus on ranking first for “[name of city] criminal defense lawyer” or something along those lines. There’s two problems with this. First, if you type in “[name of city] criminal defense attorney” and “[defense attorney] in name of city” your going to get slightly different search results. The two people conducting those searches, however, are looking for the exact same thing and their checks cash the same. So trying to rank for some particular phrase automatically leaves out a significant chunk of the market. Second, and this is where the book comes in, a large number of people are looking for specific information and asking specific questions and not doing generalized searches. The types of specific searches I’m talking about are referred to as “long-tail searches.” Attorneys regularly try to tell me that such searches don’t matter (little do these lawyers know that we have vast amounts of data which say otherwise). In my last post, for example, I mentioned that one of our early clients has seen a 2,300 percent increase in traffic since we’ve been working together. Her revenue is also way, way, way, way (way) up during that time. That client (who practices family law) is not on the first page of search for “[name of city] divorce lawyer,” or “[name of city] child custody lawyer” or many other such searches. In other words, when gauging how your website is doing you should be looking at your overall traffic numbers and not where you rank for generic phrases.

Why does the book I’m reading relate to this idea? In a section on intra-company communications, the following example is given (I’ll spare you the whole context):

[Google] users are getting more sophisticated, as proven by the fact that search query length [increases] five percent annually

In other words, the number of words people type in a search increases by five percent per year. Still think potential clients aren’t typing in more sophisticated search terms? The moral of the story – focus on your overall traffic and not on particular phrases. There’s my rant for the day. We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming on Thursday.