Thoughts on Internet Marketing for Lawyers

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 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.

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0 responses to “Thoughts on Internet Marketing for Lawyers”

  1. Mark,

    This is an excellent post. I am firm believer in consistent, quality content and this is the magic fairy dust that SEO companies cannot replicate….and which Google loves beyond all reason. But more importantly, this is about clients. A smart lawyer knows clients love to be educated. Education in a voice they can relate to resonates. It makes them feel more secure about the selection of their lawyer. And blogging as a marketing tool is about getting clients.

  2. Great post. I did sell out and trade in my blogger for a Justia website. One of the reasons was SEO optimization. However, there are other benefits.

    Writing my blog is very time intensive. I love it and it has become a hobby so it’s not a big problem. I did want to outsource the areas of website/blog maintenance. Dealing with widgets, plug ins, links, site editing etc. I can now focus on the highest value added service I provide to my blog- writing.

  3. Mark:

    A lot of what you say is true about search engine optimization right down to the vile companies that do the work. However not all search engine marketers are bad people. I will agree with you and say there are a lot of crooks in my industry and I make it work for me. I would say the 50% of the clients I get have been burned by another company. Some of us are honest people who run honest businesses. I work with a lot of attorneys myself and love working for them, I find them very easy to work with and they always pay on time. But as you know attorneys have the reputation on being bad people, sometimes referred to as snakes. That may be true for some them, but not for all.

    As far as doing it yourself, true it’s not hard, it just takes time and there are a few things you need to know how to do to rank well. You seem like a computer literate person and this comes easy to you, but for some; well lets just say I can’t imagine them taking on a project like this, you know that type, the ones who struggle with email.

    Anyway, I’m happy to find your blog, good info here and keep up the good work.

    studiosix creative.

  4. I admire your article and your approach to online marketing in part because I do likewise. I am a Toronto lawyer and lived in Houston for several years and some of my children and grandchildren still live there. For most of the years after I graduated from law school I was in house counsel for a number of companies and about three years ago I decided to return to the practice of law as a sole practitioner. The first question I had was how do I obtain clients-most lawyers used referral services and the ubiquitous yellow pages-one lawyer I know spends some $300,000.00 yearly on yellow page advertising. I did not have that amount to gamble and I decided to create two blogs and suddenlt I obtained clients-free. Now according to Google statistics I have several thousand blogs and business is booming in a way I never expected especially as a general practitioner. Some nine months ago I allowed myself to be sold on a website with a reputable SEO company and found my business substantially increased as a result-I try to determine the sources of clients. Nevertheless I continue to produce blogs prolifically and enjoy the writing. However I find I am running out of solid content and tend to praise my own ability and experience. I feel awkward at time but recall the words of Rabbi Hillel some 2500 years ago-“If I am not for me , who will be for me? If not now, when? Then what am I?” I have not read any of your blogs yet and noticed your note on what you have successfully done and congratulate you. Perhaps we could collaborate in exchanging ideas and content. My practice is quite varied as you will note in my website because I felt I would become bored because of doing the same thing over and over ad nauseam. Whats more I began my second practice at a young age of 71-quite a challenge but it keeps me going and learning the new constantly including extensive litigation. My very first case entailed a trial and it was the first time I had been in court as a lawyer in almost 50 years. I was successful and my client thanked the Judge for ruling in her favour. The JUdge said “Thank your lawyer-he obviously is an experienced counsel.” I blushed probably for the first time since I was a teenager.


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