Is an Attorney Directory All a Small Law Firm Needs to Generate Leads?
July 13, 2018
We’ve argued before that an online presence is necessary for a small law firm to compete effectively in the marketplace and the best online presence is a website (see Your Small Law Firm Really Does Need a Website). But what about Attorney Directories? These also provide an online presence, and mostly are, at least at the most basic levels, free. You may even feel you need one just so you're not invisible among the competition. But a directory listing alone may not be enough - and could even impact you negatively. Here's why:
Attorney Aggregation and SEO
One of the selling points of an attorney directory service is the SEO it may provide an attorney, and one of the ways it does this is by aggregating thousands of attorneys onto the directory. The greater number of names that can be searched via a search engine such as Google, the greater chance the directory service will rank higher - and, if you are part of that directory, you may be included in that search result listing. This, however, is very dependent upon whether or not your small law firm name was specifically used in the Google search. If it was not, as in a general search for a lawyer in your practice area, you will most likely rank "beneath the fold." In fact, in this case, the directory service may not rank well, either.
Are You Just Part of the Pack?
The same can be true for a general practice search on the directory, itself. On Avvo, for instance, I recently searched for a patent lawyer in New York, which resulted in a list of close to 900 attorneys. When I searched for the larger practice of criminal defense, again in New York, the results jumped up to a little over 4,000. There are filters for a prospective client to help narrow the search, but even when I narrowed the search to defense attorneys licensed 10+ years, there were still over 3,100 results. Don't get us wrong, having an additional form of an online presence can be good, but you may very well find it hard to stand out from the competition.
What about Advertising on the Directory?
Many of these directories do offer you the chance to stand out by advertising with them. If you have the budget, you may very well want to consider this. Not only may you be placed at the top of one of their search result pages, but your ad may also display on a competing attorney's profile page. If you do advertise, you may want to revisit your decision after a few months to see if the advertising cost is converting to leads and at what rate of return. You also don't have to advertise on a directory; but you most likely will have to pay to keep a competing attorney's ad from showing up on your profile page.
Leeching Your Referral?
But what if you do not want to pay for advertising or to keep others from advertising on your profile? You, like a good many small law firms or solo practitioners, may still rely primarily on referrals, and, hell, if a directory is willing to provide you with a free profile, why not take advantage of it? The issue becomes plain in the following scenario:
- A former client of yours refers a potential client to your practice
- This potential client searches your name on Google just to do a little check before calling you
- One of the Google results is the directory service with your small law firm highlighted. So far, so good
- But when your potential client goes to your directory profile, they see an ad from a competing attorney
- Do you really want to compete for your own referral?
Are You Ranking Lower in SEO Because of the Directory?
Because of the above-mentioned aggregation, and the higher ranking this may provide the directory service, your own SEO may suffer. Essentially, you are competing with a service that has greater name recognition, and this could very well push down the ranking of your own website.
Listed Whether You Want To Be or Not?
Some directories will list you whether you request this or not, and there may also be an issue with the accuracy of your information. You may very well be able to modify your information, but this depends on the directory and their protocol for adjusting it. You can also ask that your information be removed, but each service is different, and you will need to check with them directly about this (again, keep in mind, they increase their SEO by aggregating as many attorneys as they can onto the listing).
Is a Directory Listing All You Need to Generate Leads?
This really depends on the competition in your practice area...and your wallet. If your small firm combined practice and geographic areas do not have much competition, if you are satisfied with your profile information, and if your rating, if any, is high, this may be enough to generate some leads. If, however, your practice and geographic areas are highly competitive then most likely, no. To stand out within the directory, then, you will have to pay to advertise. And you will also have to pay to keep others from advertising on your profile and possibly leeching a referral who has landed on your profile.
When all is said and done, we believe a website is a better way to go. You also have to pay for this, but at least a small firm website allows you to control how you do market yourself and limit the competition, as well as provide many great features that a directory, alone, cannot.
Have additional questions? Contact us. No pressure - we’re happy to help!
~Your Friendly AttyHub Team