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We’re Number 1 – So Why Are We listed Number 126 in the Search Results?

Your law firm is well-known to be number one. You’ve got the best attorneys, all of whom graduated from prestigious schools, and the legal media consistently names your firm the best in your city.

Why, then, does Google list your firm as number 126 and bury it on the thirteenth page of its search results? Who is behind this ranking? Don’t these mysterious web search gurus read your partners’ resumes or your firm’s ranking in the legal magazines and newspapers?

The truth is that no person at Google ranks law firms—or companies, restaurants, or other subjects. Google’s rankings are completely automated—no humans intervene to sort out the rankings.

Instead, Google and other search engines  use complicated algorithms to determine search order results. When a person initiates a search, the search engine compares millions of web pages to determine their “relevancy” based on many factors to the specific search term(s) used.

These factors include page content and meta tag information, the number and “quality” of links to the page, and many other super-secret factors. The exact factors used, and, more importantly, the weight accorded to each factor, are proprietary trade secrets of each search engine company—and they’re guarded more closely than KFC’s secret spices (which is why the same search in different search engines usually leads to a completely different list of results).

As a result, the website of a newly minted attorney who has yet to try a case may rank higher in the Google search results than that of a long-established, white-shoe firm with partners who have years of litigation experience.

When reading a firm’s short description on the Google search results page, potential clients likely won’t have any idea which firm has more experience. In fact, a prospect may click on the link for the new attorney’s firm, like what he or she sees on the website, and give the rookie a call.

It’s more important that your firm receive high search results rankings for search terms prospective clients use when searching for an attorney than to appear at the top of a search results page for a search done to find the “best law firm” in a particular city.

How can that be? Think about it this way. When potential clients search for a lawyer, their search terms tend to be about the specific problem they have, such as “Chicago divorce lawyer,” not “best attorney in Chicago.” Thus, the focus of your law firm’s search engine optimization (“SEO”) program should be on the terms that your prospective clients actually use.

At Esquire Interactive, our search engine optimization program for law firms enters on identifying the key search terms a firm’s clients are likely to use and creating optimized web pages focused on those terms.

EI Ten Word Learning: Optimize web pages for search terms used by potential clients.


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