Where do clients find a specialty lawyer?
As a legal SEO Strategy Manager the question of how legal clients find a specialty lawyer, is something that I ponder on a daily basis, before I get to the data I will discuss my position. So I can compare my hypothesis to the survey results from Mike Blumenthal.’s research for Moses & Rooth.
It is my professional opinion that educated consumers under the age of 50 would most likely turn to a search engine to find a specialty attorney for most consumer law practices such as; divorce, bankruptcy, personal injury or criminal law. It would be the most logical choice. My criticisms to this strategy would be that many people are not comfortable sifting through large amounts of attorney related data, are not interested in visiting multiple attorneys for a free consultation, and finally are not comfortable with lack of privacy and confidentiality found online.
Also, there is what I will call “the grandmother test”, would my grandmother be comfortable hiring at attorney via the internet, or would she take a traditional approach such as asking a knowledgeable friend or family member, looking in the yellow pages, or possibly for the Techno-baba’s possibly asking Facebook or their favorite social network for advice.
Question #1: When you need to find a specialty lawyer how do you start your search?
Ranking my opinions across the board.
- Google — (75%)
- Bing or Yahoo — (5%)
- Asking a Friend or Family Member — (10%)
- Yellow Pages — (5%)
- Social Network — (4%)
- Ask my current lawyer — (1% – I once met someone that was surprised by the fact that most of the USA doesn’t have a “family” lawyer on retainer. I think we know that 1% isn’t a coincidence.)
In response to the data below it appears that I over-estimated the likelihood that someone would ask a search engine to find a specialty lawyer. I also under-estimated the undying zombie-like stubbornness of the yellow pages. Although I know that word of mouth is a powerful source of leads for many established law firms, I never would have thought it would out rank Google. As a professional legal marketer of the millennial generation my bias is clear and I still stand behind digital marketing as a focused channel of a real law firm marketing, however taking care of your client is the number one priority and will result in strong word of mouth over time. It helps you build word of mouth and name recognition, which in turn helps build your brand, which helps you gain better traffic on the web and thus digital marketing is a channel of real marketing stuff. Do not put the cart before the horse. Clients should always come first, marketing second.
- Ask a Friend — 34.6% (+3.0 / -2.8)
- Search Engines — 21.9% (+2.7 / -2.4)
- Ask my current lawyer — 20.1% (+2.5 / -2.3)
- Look in the Printed Yellow Pages — 10.8% (+2.1 / -1.8)
- Look elsewhere on the internet — 10.5% (+2.1 / -1.8)
- Ask on my favorite social network — 2.1% (+1.9 / -1.0)
Question #2: If you Search for a specialty lawyer on the internet what is most important to you?
Mike Blumenthal covers some great takeaways on his blog, but I would like to drill down on some of the data. Many of our clients are interested in dominating their local SEO market. Some of these market’s like Chicago for example are saturated with competition. Additionally, Chicagoans are unlikely to travel far to visit an attorney. So I ranked distance to the attorney as a strong indicator. Also, I am strong proponet that a visitor to your website views the website as an extension of your firm, if the website appears unprofessional, so does your firm.
If I were to guess the outcome of this question based on the 5 choices I would rank them in the following order.
- How close he/she is to me on the Map — 30%
- The impression created by their website — 25%
- Google Reviews — 20%
- Yelp Reviews — 15%
- Information about them elsewhere on the internet — 10%
Once again, I would have been surprised by the data. I am a firm believer in authorship and credible sources, (Thank you for years of help with my homework Wikipedia. Donate Here). I would never trust information from elsewhere on the internet, outside of very credible sources like Wikipedia. I imagine that this is referring to the multitude of Martindale-Hubbell like ratings, Super Lawyers, AVVO ranking, best lawyer rankings, all of the U.S. News ranking copycat legal industry specific that allow the uninformed to make a comfortable, however uninformed decision. Although, I think these are great to increase your practice’s brand awareness, I choose an attorney based on a ranking service. I personally put strong emphasis on Yelp as a curator of quality businesses, including law firms locally. However, I understand that Yelp isn’t a service that is used by a large enough number of people. I was shocked by the results, find them below.
- Information elsewhere about them on the internet – 30.8% (+2.9% / -2.7)
- The quality of reviews on Google – 24.7% (+2.7% / -2.5)
- How close he/she is to me on the map – 13.6% (+2.2% / -1.9)
- Endorsements from friends on Facebook – 11.3% (+2.1% / -1.8)
- The impression created by their website – 11.1% (+2.1% / -1.8)
- The quality of reviews on Yelp – 8.4% (+2.0% / -1.6)
This set of data clearly illustrates the growth of digital marketing with a social focus. It’s the equivalent to passive word of mouth, and will most likely cannibalize word of mouth in the future. Imagine being able to ask someone you knew who went through a bankruptcy who their attorney is without the public humiliation and shame of discussing your own financial situation with friends and family. Regarding reviews, I knew yelp had a low number of users, however, I believe that within the next three years we will see yelp and similar services climbing to the top of this list.
Question #3: If you searched for a specialty lawyer on Google, what would you do first?
I am self-diagnosed “heavy-user” of the web. I like to think that I am efficient in using the Google search and other information on the web. So although, I know I use structured markup data like rich snippets, Google authorship, and others, it’s not for everybody. With that in mind I prepared the following guess.
- Visit the lawyer’s website? – 50%
- Read the reviews on Google? – 25%
- Read reviews elsewhere on the internet? – 10%
- View the map to see where they are located? – 10%
- Call and see what they are like – 1%
- Look at their photos / description on Google 4%
- Visit the lawyers websites – 29.5% (+2.8% / -2.7%)
- Read the reviews on Google – 27.6% (+2.8% / -2.6%)
- Read reviews elsewhere on the Internet – 18.4% (+2.4% / -2.2%)
- View the map to see where they are located – 10.6% (+2.0% / -1.7%)
- Call and see what they are like – 9.8% (+2.0% / -1.7%)
- Look at their photos & description on Google – 4.1% (+1.7% / -1.2%)
My biggest crime here was under estimating the sophistication and adoption that typical users have towards structured data. Google makes it extremely easy to find relevant information. Structured data is a tool that Google and others use to maintain competitiveness within the Search Engine industry. I was also surprised by the number of people who call to find out what an attorney is like over the phone. So many of the calls that are looking for information, may simply be calling to determine if they like an attorney’s personality.
I am a big support of data driven decision making despite being an artsy-fartsy adman who advocates emotional oriented content that connects with users on a deeper level. The reason I advocate approaches that sound this mushy is simple. Results. I like results. Let’s thank Mike Blumenthal and Moses and Rooth for providing us with this data just before the New Year so we can include this information in our legal marketing plan for 2013.
- The landscape is changing as millennial and Gen X account for a greater amount of the legal market.
- Drill down the data so that it’s relevant for you. For example, if you are a social security disability firm in the Midwest, it might be reasonable for you to use phone book advertising.
- Yelp is going to dominate online reviews in about 2-3 years. Google might buy it.
- Social is going to only get bigger and more influential in the SERPs. SERPs are going to reflect the real world. So take care of your clients.
Mike had some MUST READ take-aways. Please find them here.
“The results of the survey are telling. Here are some top level take-aways:
- Word of mouth from clients is critically important.
- Search engines are the most likely source for new clients
- Facebook offers little value in finding new clients
- The print Yellow Pages, while not as likely to be used as the search engines, still have some life in the legal industry. This is particularly true in the MidWest and amongst older clients
- Google reviews are 3x more likely to influence a decision than Yelp (question 2)
- A website and online reviews play a critical role once the consumer makes it to Google (question 3).
- …those over 55 are more likely to use the Yellow Pages and more likely to ask their current lawyer. Those in the under 35 brackets were more likely to search the internet.
If I were a lawyer and saw these results I would:
- Make sure that I am gathering my client’s emails and staying in touch
- Invest in local search and possibly Adwords
- Go out a buy some great bourbon for those lawyers that consistently refer me business
- If I chose to invest in any other marketing, be sure to put in place measurement tools to evaluate and periodically review the investments.”