Over at SearchEngineLand, Jessica Bowman recently asked: Should you do 100% of your SEO in-house? You should go read her article. She provides a lot of good recommendations, many or which, have specific applicability to law firms.
The question of "in-house" versus "outsourced" law firm SEO frequently crops-up in lawyer communities. For the most part, more and more lawyers are concluding that they should either do their SEO themselves or build an in-house team.
While I'm sympathetic to lawyers who have been burned by their firm's SEO agency, much of the "for lawyers by lawyers SEO advice" is seriously misguided.
That's not to say that all lawyers and firms should hire an SEO agency. In fact, many lawyers probably ought not spend much time or money on search engine optimization at all. On the other hand, let's be real here, if you're in a competitive practice area and location, and attracting clients from the organic search channel represents a significant component of your firm's growth plan, you're unlikely to be successful solely by "adding Yoast," updating meta tags, and "writing great content." Have examples to the contrary? I'm all ears.
The truth is that SEO for most practice areas and locations is extremely competitive. The overwhelming majority of firms in these competitive search landscapes make significant investments of both time and money improving their visibility in organic SERPs. And most of them do some combination of doing SEO themselves, hiring in-house experts AND working with an agency.
We've been discussing the "in-house" vs. SEO agency issue since our founding. To me, the key to making good DIY v outsourcing decisions is to get informed. You can’t possibly decide whether to handle something yourself or pay someone else to do it unless you have a pretty good understanding of what matters. We also put together a quick guide (.pdf) that contemplates some of the major considerations.
In my view, the question of whether to DIY, in-source, or outsource is only part of the analysis. A better question to ask is what aspects of search engine optimization are most effectively and efficiently handled by you, full-time employees, or outsourced (whether by independent contractors or an agency)? Your time isn't free and it's certainly not unlimited. Even if you are a competent SEO, you have to ask yourself what your time is best spent on.
From what I've seen, most of the resistance lawyers have to outsourcing SEO, and marketing more generally, relates more to the quality of the services of they've retained in the past, than an actual analysis of whether outsourcing makes sense for them from a business perspective. And while much of that resistance has been earned by law firm SEO companies, the only cure is to ask more questions.
Finally, to the lawyers evangelizing that "all law firm SEO agencies are scumbags," take a moment to reflect on how you react when the same is said of the legal profession? Having worn both labels of lawyer and SEO, I can tell you that it's truly a toss-up of which one carries a more negative stigma. As my mom used to say, "there are good and bad people in every field."
Let's stop overgeneralizing about lawyers and SEOs and let's start learning and sharing about what works and who we trust.
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