For Basic Legal Questions, Turn To … Google?

Does your firm’s website have the information potential clients are seeking?

Here’s something worth knowing. Go to Google and type in “filing for bankruptcy” or something similar. No, we’re not saying you need to file for bankruptcy. It’s to demonstrate how search engines are changing. You’ll see something akin to this:

022916_GoogleQuickAnswerBox

Note that highlighted box. This is Google’s best attempt to answer the question implied by your search, plus a link to the information’s source.

It’s not the kind of search engine results page (SERP) most of us have seen—until recently. Google calls this design “Quick Answers,” and introduced it in 2014 to provide more useful information for “how-to” and other questions. Very simply, Google gathers information from specific websites, then presents it in a “Quick Answers” box above the organic results in the SERP, and just below the paid listings.

You’ve probably seen Quick Answers in action when you’ve looked for information such as the safe cooking temperature for chicken or the distance between your city and another. It’s useful and very cool.

So what does it mean for you and your practice? Quick Answers reflects Google’s response to the way people are using the Internet. The search engine understands that in many cases what people are searching for are answers rather than websites.

This is certainly the case among legal consumers: Many of them are looking for legal answers more than legal services. Quick Answers makes it easier for them to do just that.

In Practice

Let’s say bankruptcy law is your firm’s specialty. A significant portion of legal consumers considering bankruptcy are most likely not looking for you, necessarily. At first, they’re looking for what they need to know about bankruptcy—the steps, the effect it might have on their credit rating and so on. They want to know where to begin.

Still, your website can provide answers to the types of questions this consumer might ask via a search engine. We’re talking good, useful content. Good content provides the type of information that’s more likely to attract a consumer, and a search engine, to your site rather than to one with a standard “here’s what we do” pitch. It’s one of the most powerful ways to improve your firm’s SEO.

Does this mean that strong, informative content will get your firm into a Quick Answers box? Well, most likely not. Google tends to pull its answers from widely referenced sources that are recognized providers of impartial information, rather than specific businesses.

But even if your firm can’t get inside the box, you can still think inside the box (so to speak). Google and other search engines clearly want to facilitate answering questions and solving problems. They are putting greater trust and authority into sites that provide value, not just a marketing pitch. In response, your website should move away from simply saying “We’re a great firm” to “Here are some key specifics about X that you need to know or can do. And we know about this topic—it’s our firm’s specialty.”

Quick Answers is evidence that search engines are constantly evolving to meet and anticipate the needs and behaviors of online consumers. FindLaw can help your firm navigate and benefit from the ever-changing currents of digital information and legal-consumer marketing.

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