Four Big Questions Law Firms Should Ask SEO Providers

Anyone who has ever bought a home knows, the minute you sign the papers, the remodelers and window companies start showing up offering their services.

The same is true for law firms. There’s always another SEO provider asking for your business – and for good reason. SEO — the process of optimizing your law firm’s site search engine performance — has long been a fundamental aspect of online marketing. Sure, times have changed and SEO isn’t quite the be-all and end-all tactic that it used to be. But there’s no denying that when attorneys think of internet marketing, many of them think of search first.

Making an SEO vendor even more enticing is that effective SEO is an incredible task. It requires deep technical knowledge, excellent judgment and a dedication to ongoing education especially since the rules and effectiveness of various SEO methods often change, often in subtle ways.

Not only is SEO difficult, it’s also a high-risk process. Done poorly, SEO can cost a lot and return very little. Done unethically, SEO can result in steep penalties from the very search engines your firm is counting on; penalties that can make your law firm all but invisible to legal consumers online.

So it makes sense that SEO consultants and providers may be beating at your door – they know you need them. But the consequences of choosing the wrong SEO provider are dire enough that you need to properly vet anyone who wants your marketing dollar.

The right provider can help your website earn the type of traffic and visibility needed to build your practice. The wrong one might do more harm than good.

Don’t be afraid to ask some tough questions when choosing who to hire. Here are four that reveal more than you’d initially think:

  1. Do you guarantee top search engine rankings?

    If the answer is “yes,” take a hard pass on this person. The truth is, no one can make such a guarantee. Even the most highly-optimized website’s page rank is fluid. The rules change. The internet changes. Anything from search engine algorithm revisions to content freshness to competitors’ site performance can disrupt your current page rank. There are simply too many variables in play for any provider to honestly guarantee top rank to your firm. We outlined this years ago in a FindLaw white paper explaining why chasing after this “silver bullet” called top page rank is a waste of time.
    Similar to promised page rank, watch out for timelines that are simply too good to be true. Real SEO involves multiple elements, including site architecture, keyword usage, linking strategies and the like. As a result, the effects of SEO often take a bit of time to appear. Choose a provider who understands this and doesn’t approach your business with short-term thinking.

  2. Can you explain your SEO processes?

    Yes, SEO is complex, and the salesperson you meet quite possibly isn’t the developer actually optimizing your website. Regardless of their personal technical expertise, a competent consultant will be able to explain, in simple terms, their company’s approach and what you can expect from working with them.

  3. Do you follow accepted best practices or webmaster guidelines?

    Google, Bing and Yahoo have well-established guidelines for acceptable SEO practices. You don’t need to memorize these yourself, but you should at least be aware that they exist. If your provider is following them, it’s likely that they’re also following widely accepted, ethical SEO practices.
    This is also a good time to listen for the vendor to concede that SEO isn’t a recipe or magic formula. A consultant you can trust will be honest about this and tell you that their success is the result of high-quality content, “natural links” from other sites that value your content and a well-crafted website structure.

  4. How much experience do you have in the legal industry?

    It may seem obvious in hindsight, but choosing a provider with experience in your specific industry can be a huge advantage. Particularly in the legal industry, there is a unique set of parameters that can influence your SEO performance. This could be which types of content are most relevant to your audience. It could be regulations around marketing your law firm that are unknown to the general public. A provider with industry expertise will also see the bigger picture, understanding how SEO fits into your overall online marketing strategy.

Now, just like no vendor can promise top page rank, no writer can explain every possible reason to choose one vendor over another. Use these four questions as a conversation starter. And as you would with any decision surrounding your firm’s business, practice due diligence when choosing who to bring onto your team.

To have this conversation with us, and see how our integrated approach to law firm marketing has distinct advantages for you, set up an appointment with your FindLaw representative today.

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