I think we've reached an inflection point where the concept of SEO has spread to the mainstream legal community. Firms that were resisting getting on board in the past now realize they need to allocate more resources towards their SEO strategy. There are certainly a large number of firms that have been actively involved in SEO for years. Every group has early adopters and trend setters. However, more than ever before, I am speaking to lawyers who are getting involved in SEO for the first time.
In my experience, one of the biggest misunderstandings is that SEO is simply an advertising strategy online. Many firms think of SEO in the same context as other advertising avenues they have used in the past. In other words, SEO is the online version of running a television ad, a radio spot, a yellow book ad, a billboard, or a direct mailer. The firm pays some money to an SEO agency, they show up in Google results, and the leads flow in. The problem is that SEO is more complex than this. It isn't a "set it and forget it", turn-key, advertising solution. SEO, when performed correctly, requires time, effort, patience, and participation.
If you are looking for an online advertising strategy, with no waiting time involved for results, then perhaps paid search is a better fit. With paid search, you can pay money and begin showing up in the paid listings on Google, Bing, and Yahoo immediately. The important point here is that SEO is not simply another version of paid search. It is a different beast altogether.
SEO is a marathon not a sprint. I like to think about executing SEO in the context of gaining or losing weight. If you want to lose weight you need to put together a plan that includes eating properly, exercising, getting enough sleep, reducing stress, etc. It isn’t something that happens overnight, in a week, or even in one month. It’s a series of small activities and best practices that build on each other over time. No one, outside of scam artists, would promise you healthy weight loss, overnight, by paying some money and taking a pill.
SEO isn't so different from this. There is no quick fix or magic pill. It is the art of building your online reputation to increase awareness and lead flow to your firm. SEO in 2012 is not just about manipulation of Google results in an attempt to rank #1 for a given term. In fact, with personalized results and Google, Search Plus Your World, you can see that the results are increasingly different for each user depending on a variety of factors. SEO needs to be a component of a larger inbound marketing strategy in order to be truly successful and long-lasting.
The best advice I could give a lawyer just starting out with SEO is to take the time to educate yourself before you start shelling out money for SEO services. Having an understanding of what SEO is, how search engines work, what the best practices are, etc. will enable you to make better SEO investment decisions. I recommend the following resources to get started:
SEO Guides To Read
SEO Blogs To Check Out
Photo by adambowie.