The Fundamentals of Blended Search
Search engines have changed how they return results. That requires your firm to change its online marketing strategy.
As a marketing-savvy attorney, you know how crucial it is to for your firm to be found on online searches. You’re aware of search engine optimization (SEO) techniques that make your website more appealing to Google and Bing. After all, you want your firm to appear at or near the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) whenever a potential client is looking for an attorney with your specialty in your area.
But what you might not know is that this approach to SEO is becoming out of date. During the past couple of years, online search have changed in some subtle but profound ways.
The new approach that search engines have been pursuing is called blended search. (Some use the term “universal search” or “enhanced search.) What blended search means for legal marketing is explored in a new white paper from Thomson Reuters, “Is Your Firm Ready for the New World of Search?”
Very simply, the idea behind blended search is to return more useful search results by drawing from multiple online sources — not just websites. It reflects search engines’ ongoing goal of giving people the kind of information they are really seeking. But that means that old tried-and-true SEO techniques are no longer quite so true. Because of that, you need to be more active in the ways you go about reaching the legal consumers your practice is targeting.
To understand why, let’s take a closer look at blended search.
How Has Online Search Changed?
1. SERPs Have Become Crowded Real Estate
They used to be simple lists of links. But now, a typical SERP delivers a mix of many elements. You’ve seen many of those elements when you’ve looked for the weather, a place to eat, or other searches. They include videos, ads, and news articles related to the topic you’re searching for. If Google thinks you’re looking for basic information for, say, a restaurant, it typically will display a “Knowledge Graph” — a box with a photograph of the eatery, along with a map, contact information, hours of operation, even customer ratings.
2. More and More People Are Using Their Smartphones For Searches
Mobile searches make more than half of the searches executed since 2015. On mobile devices, you’re likely to see accelerated mobile pages — links to news stories and blog posts related to the search request.
With all the elements coming up on a SERP, it’s increasingly possible that your firm will show up “below the fold.” That is, where searchers can’t see it immediately on their screen. That’s especially likely on smartphones.
If you’re still relying on traditional SEO techniques such as keywords, it’s very possible that a legal consumer won’t find you easily online. And that, of course, could mean lost business.
How Can You Adjust?
For law firms, blended search means always keeping in mind what your potential clients are looking for when they have a legal issue. And that requires you to use a broader strategy in appealing to that target market – broader than website SEO.
Does this mean that your website is no longer the center of the universe when it comes to online search? Not exactly. Even with blended search, your firm’s website still has a great deal of power in attracting business. In our next post, we’ll look at the online assets you need to better attract legal consumers.