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Are Legal Directories Worth The Investment

There are as many opinions and takes on legal marketing strategies as there are people that consider themselves legal marketing professionals. The value of legal directories and their importance is a polarizing topic in the legal marketing world and if you follow any legal marketing forums, the topic has surely been argued. People will profess that they haven’t seen one case or a single client convert through a legal directory listing but that doesn’t mean that directories do not have a place in a law firm’s online marketing strategy if used effectively.

So, what exactly are legal directories and where is the value? There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of legal directories out on the web. These directories offer searchable listings, similar to an online phone book, for finding an attorney based on a given practice area and geography, but not all legal directories are created equally.

Legal directories should be an integral piece of any legal marketing campaign for several reasons. Several legal directories show up very well on page one of search engines for vanity searches (practice area + attorney/lawyer + geography). Directories are a very good way to drive qualified traffic to your firm’s website for those that are doing these types of searches. Now, this traffic isn’t always perfect traffic as these people could have a very broad range of needs and needs that you do not want to address. Potential clients doing these types of searches could simply looking for free legal advice or people that simply do not fit into the types of cases you want. For example, a firm focuses on high asset divorce yet the person looking for a divorce attorney in that metro may be three years removed from college with no assets and needs a simple dissolution, or so they think. Traffic to your website is important, but it is only one piece of the puzzle. Your website needs to be engaging, informative and help people think about their issue at a deeper level. What if that seemingly simple divorce client that found you through a vanity search gets to your site and realizes that their spouse may have hidden assets? If your site addresses those questions, that potential client picks up the phone. On top of engaging prospects, your website also needs to be easy to navigate and effectively project the strengths and the proper image your firm wants to present to potential clients and your referral base. Directories help drive traffic and without traffic to convert into clients, your website is the proverbial billboard in a cornfield.

Legal directories also provide a solid amount of link value back to your firm’s website and practice area pages. Most legal directories are valuable sites based on page rank in the eyes of the search engines and having directories link back to your web properties provides valuable off-site search engine optimization. So even if a legal directory doesn’t show up on the first page of a search, there is still value to having a presence there. Search engines evaluate the value of inbound links based on the number, the quantity and relevancy of the links. Based on this theory, a firm needs several legal directory links back to your site to provide the search engine optimization value. Another value that directories provide is extended online confirmation of your firm’s name, address and phone number. Search engines want to make sure that the address you are listing for your firm is legitimate because a lot depends on showing good quality search results for location-based keyword searches. Search engines take into account a law firm’s “citations.” Citations refer to any reference to your law firm’s name and address on other websites, blogs, and social media channels even if this doesn’t include a link back to your website. If your firm’s name, address and phone number are consistent across a variety of online properties, search engines have more confidence in knowing that your listed real physical location is real and increase your visibility in local searches. With the multitude of legal directories, a law firm can really take advantage of building that online confidence in their contact information.

If you are convinced that they should be included in your overall strategy, how does one go about selecting which directories to participate with? We talked about the need for having multiple directory listings to provide link value back to your website as well as building search engine confidence in your firm’s name, address and phone number. Now that we reaffirmed that multiple listings have value, you will want to do your research to find out which directory listings fit with your firm’s marketing strategy. A good place to start would be to do some of those vanity searches and find out which directories are showing up on the first page of your search. Do multiple types of searches around this and see which directories consistently show up. You can also do your homework to find out how often people are doing those types of searches online. Each search engine offers free tools that allow you to see the volume of the searches that matter to you and your law firm. Legal directories from legal rating services (Super Lawyers, Martindale Hubble, etc) should also be considered as they provide third party validation for your law firm. Search engines value connections to these types of directories as they are exclusive and essentially give your firm an online thumbs up from a third party service. Lastly, you should only look at reputable legal directories that provide and produce actual and real legal content. Search engines want relevancy and so do your prospects. Legal directories that you choose to work with should also be able to provide you the historic impression (number of times a directory spot is viewed) as well as click through numbers and provide you with realistic expectations about the traffic you can expect to come to your site through that directory.

In closing, legal directories should be an integral part of a law firm’s marketing strategy to help drive traffic to your website while providing solid search engine optimization back to that website. If you have a limited budget for marketing you should invest that in your website and your brand. Legal directories are certainly not the end-all-be all of a marketing strategy, you also need to have a web site that engages a potential client and ultimately gets them to pick up the phone or send that email. Legal directories can bring the horses to the water but your website and your attorneys are the ones that are responsible to get them to drink!

Steve Stauff

Steve Stauff is an law firm marketing consultant with FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters business, and has over 6 years of experience working with law firms in various capacities. For over three years, Steve was the national sales director for Super Lawyers and has extensive knowledge of the legal rating service industry. Previous to that, he managed a regional sales team with West Publishing that sold legal research products to small law firms, giving him a well-rounded understanding of the inner workings of small law firms. Steve has over 12 years of combined sales and sales management experience, holds a B.A. in liberal arts from Gustavus Adolphus Collage and is currently working on his M.B.A from St. Mary’s University.

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About the Author: Steve Stauff is an law firm marketing consultant with FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters business, and has over 6 years of experience working with law firms in various capacities. For over three years, Steve was the national sales director for Super Lawyers and has extensive knowledge of the legal rating service industry. Previous to that, he managed a regional sales team with West Publishing that sold legal research products to small law firms, giving him a well-rounded understanding of the inner workings of small law firms. Steve has over 12 years of combined sales and sales management experience, holds a B.A. in liberal arts from Gustavus Adolphus Collage and is currently working on his M.B.A from St. Mary’s University.

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