While some consumers still find attorneys through traditional methods – the Yellow Pages or asking friends and relatives for a referral – the internet has dramatically shifted the equation. People who are now becoming adults cannot even remember a world without the internet. For about two decades, internet users have been growing savvier and more comfortable doing business online. Search engines are smarter and more demanding, making marketing more competitive.

Even if a consumer gets an attorney’s name from an uncle, the phone book, or a newspaper article, most consumers understand the importance of doing their research before selecting an attorney. Therefore, it’s more than probable – if you are an attorney – that a consumer will check out your website before contacting your office. Potential clients will select you or reject you based primarily on your website. Is the information there reliable and fully up-to-date? Is the site attractive to the eye and easy for a visitor to navigate? Are you easy to contact?

And most importantly if you are an attorney, are you easy to find online? You probably know that there are a variety of ways to bring consumers to your website. People should be able to find you by using search engines like Google, through “shares” on Facebook and other social media sites, as well as through professional directories, consumer review sites, and links from other websites. A comprehensive online marketing strategy explores all of these approaches while emphasizing what’s working best for you.

WHAT IS AN “ORGANIC” SEARCH?

An “organic” search returns search results that are not paid advertising – that is, the results that come back automatically or “organically.” Organic search results are determined by complex algorithms that seek to match the most relevant websites to the search terms entered by the user. Among the considerations factored in are the content value of potentially matching websites and the geographic location of the user (or another location if the user so specifies).

If a consumer already has an attorney’s name, that usually makes it easier. Typically, the consumer will simply type the name into the search engine and will quickly be able to locate the attorney’s website. Other consumers are not sure which attorney they’re seeking, so those consumers are likely to type in something like “local lawyer” or “DUI attorney” or “Houston personal injury lawyer.” Search engines are designed to return the most relevant matching sites.

When a search engine decides that an attorney’s website matches a search, the website is listed on a search engine results page (SERP) and ranked with other matching sites. The websites that the search engine has decided most closely match the search are ranked in order. Search engine results can run for literally dozens of pages, so it’s imperative to be ranked as closely as possible to the top of page one.

Paid searches are the ads that are returned on search engine result pages – they are pay-per-click or “PPC” advertising. Advertisers pay a small fee each time someone clicks the ad. An experienced internet marketing company can explain PPC’s advantages and downsides and help attorneys set up PPC campaigns if they wish. PPC is only one of the many ways that attorneys can draw traffic to their websites, and it may or may not be right for any particular attorney or firm.

HOW DO PEOPLE FIND ATTORNEYS THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA?

Social media not only helps people find you, but it lets you share information that others may in turn share and share again “exponentially.” Most people are familiar with Facebook – and attorneys should take advantage of everything Facebook offers – but each social media platform is slightly different. At a minimum, attorneys in 2016 should have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  An internet marketing company can help attorneys and firms maintain those accounts, keep them updated, and suggest other social media sites that might be appropriate.

WHAT ARE RANKING SITES AND DIRECTORIES?

Online “directories” are essentially lists, and there are all kinds. There may be lists for all of the attorneys in a particular state, separate directories for criminal defense, family law, or personal injury attorneys, or breakdowns by county or city. Most of these directories require payment. Ranking sites, however, are more complicated and more interesting, and they’re growing in number and popularity.

Yelp.com is one example of a ranking site. Yelp reviews everything from airlines to zoos. Other ranking sites have a narrower focus. Many lawyers, for example, already know about Avvo.com. Clients can rank and post reviews of attorneys, but the problem with ranking sites in recent years is the difficulty of distinguishing real from bogus reviews. Anyone with a grudge can leave a fake negative review, and others have been accused of fabricating positive reviews.

An internet marketing company can look at an attorney’s ranking site reviews, and if necessary, can provide some legitimate marketing tools that may help mitigate any damage that negative reviews might be causing. Some ranking sites require payments for a more favorable ranking, but the sites are nevertheless popular with consumers, and they rank high on search engine result pages, so they may be worth considering as part of an overall online marketing strategy.

WHAT IS BACKLINKING?

Backlinks are the links on other websites that “link back” to your website. Potential clients may also find your site through those backlinks, which may be posted for a variety of reasons. Local schools, charities, and community organizations often have sponsorship opportunities or pages promoting local businesses that make a donation. A good internet marketing firm can see to it that an attorney’s website has sufficient, high-quality backlinks.

Links from other websites are a great way to bring new traffic to your site, and they are also imperative for boosting your website’s search engine ranking. Google now measures both the number and the quality of your backlinks, and it ranks websites accordingly. If your website has no backlinks, Google decides that you are offering nothing very interesting, and your search engine rankings decline.

A successful internet marketing campaign for an attorney or law firm will use all of these approaches, but it will also focus on the approaches that seem to be working best. Consumers make quick decisions and snap judgments online, so it is imperative for attorneys and firms to be highly visible across the internet – and to stay that way. Professional internet marketing experts can help attorneys identify what works and suggest effective ways to get more for your marketing dollar.