The Truth About Search Engine Marketing for Law Firms

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Many of the self appointed watchdogs of law firm marketing have been screaming, yelling and jumping up and down about search engine marketing and its use by law firms.  The issue many folks have with search engine marketing centers around the use of services that provide links to your website from related sites.

Search engines view inbound links as a measure of a website’s importance and relevance.  These services (based primarily in India and the Philippines) control hundreds of sites with legal content and, for a fee, they will link back to your law firm website from those sites.  Over time, these links will help boost your search engine ranking.

Search engine algorithms place a high value on inbound links because they should determine relevance and credibility.  If someone likes your content and they link to it, this should indicate that it is valuable.  Unfortunately, link building (paying for links) has become so prevalent that it is almost impossible to compete without purchasing links in one form or another.  While good content may receive 20 or 30 “true” links over a one year time period, a link building service can generate that many links to your website in less than a month.

Search engines have added some safeguards to try and detect and ban sites that use these services.  Google has been known to demote sites that add too many links quickly (using speed as a measure of suspicious activity).  In addition, several links from the same site will devalue the power of those links in the algorithmic formula).  These measures, while minimally effective will still make it difficult for individual websites to compete with those who subscribe to link building services.

Is it worth it?

Should you use a link building service to help with search engine marketing?  There is no easy answer to this question.  Link building will certainly help your website place better in search engine ranking but if you do not know how to leverage that traffic or how to qualify those inquiries, you may be wasting valuable resources.  In addition, these services can often take one year or longer to have any significant impact on your website’s position.

You are better off using the money you would spend on link building to help you deepen your relationships within your community.  Take a few hundred dollars each month and host a breakfast at your office for some of your key referral sources.  Build your true local relationships and you will get at least as many good referrals as you would from the additional Internet traffic.

Search engine marketing is important.  You can influence you position in the rankings by writing good content on your blog frequently.  While this will be a slow process and you probably won’t be number one in the search engine ranking game, but you also won’t have any concerns about a change in algorithm or being banned for building links.  And your budget won’t take a hit as a result of investing in something that may never pay off.