Having seen my website rise to the top of the Houston Criminal Lawyer, Houston Criminal Defense, Houston Criminal Defense Lawyers, and texas Criminal Lawyer Google organic search results, I have a few thoughts for other criminal-defense lawyers who recognize that potential clients aren’t looking in the yellow pages anymore.
First, you don’t have to spend money on search engine optimization (SEO) or even on website design. For these particular search terms, my site ranks above those of many of my comrades who have spent lots of money on SEO and website design, and I haven’t spent a dime. I got a call the other day from someone at an SEO company who claimed that she had found my site listed 80th in a search. SEO, like every other enterprise that involves cold-calling, is a vile business filled with untrustworthy people selling some form of snake oil. Any SEO firm that takes more than one client for a particular search term is robbing someone. Nevertheless, she may have been telling the truth — if you search the very broad category of Criminal Lawyer on Google my site pops up somewhere on the fourth page. But if I keep blogging about criminal law matters, that’ll certainly change.
SEO is the process of gaming the search engines so that your website pops up first. The race between SEO firms (trying to game Google) and Google (trying to create an ungameable algorithm) is one in which the SEO firms can’t stay ahead for long. So once you’ve paid an SEO firm to game Google, you’ll have to pay them again when Google tweaks its search algorithm. And again. And again. And again. But once I hit the top of a search, the only way you’re going to displace me is if I stop blogging, or if you produce mass quantities of quality content yourself.
Why? Because (second) content matters to Google. (What about Yahoo? I’ve got no idea; Yahoo doesn’t seem to like BennettAndBennett.com as much as Google does. But then, there’s a reason Google has five times the market cap that Yahoo has.) Other than one silly post, which I can’t even find now (Austin criminal-defense lawyer Jamie Spencer, help me out, brother!) I haven’t written particularly “keyword-rich” text, either. I don’t like to read conspicously keyword-rich text, and I don’t like to write it. So I just write what I’m interested in. People read it, link to it, and voila.
(A digression: one of the other top-ranking criminal-defense lawyers in Houston, John Floyd [there’s a little free link love for you, John!] pays someone to write content for his website. Three things about that: John also paid someone to design his site with annoying keyword-richness; John’s content writer is a real treasure, a non-lawyer who knows more about the criminal justice system than most lawyers; and John took a chance on giving the writer a job, and so richly deserves to reap the benefits of that risk.)
Third, if I had to account in six-minute increments for every hour I’ve spent blogging, paying someone else to raise my search engine ranking would undoubtedly seem like a much better investment.
But fourth, content matters to the clients too. I’ve been saying this for a decade: people looking online for a criminal-defense lawyer aren’t looking for an advertisement; they want information. They want to know what it is that has happened to them, what is going to happen, and what might happen. They also want to know what might be done about it. If your website just brags about how great you are, you’re wasting your time. Someone charged with DWI wants to know what the process is like. If you answer his questions online, even if you haven’t claimed that you’re the best DWI lawyer ever, he’s likely to want to talk to you more about representation.
Fifth, content lasts. If you say something well now, people will be coming back to it for as long as the lights stay on.
So there are lots of great reasons to blog as a criminal-defense lawyer. But you shouldn’t even think about it if stringing together coherent sentences is a chore to you, but if you enjoy writing, find a place to post, and start making your voice heard.