In this section, Richard James will give you a peek into a conversation that occurred with a client on one of their regular monthly calls. At times we may purposely omit the client’s name to protect the innocent.
Google delivers it and Google taketh away
In the past, we have mentioned that solely depending on any one thing for your business is a really bad idea. At the same time, however, one simple change can literally triple your business in a month, just like Bob Doig did.
So, because there are so many of you who depend on the internet, namely Google for your livelihood, I thought we should cover this topic at a deeper level. And what better client to help me illustrate that point than someone who lives in the heart of “Planet Google,” right?
How Google Affects Your Lawyer Business
Not long ago, I was working with Janet Brewer, a dedicated client who runs the premier Estate Planning law firm in one of the most expensive areas of the United States, Palo Alto, California. I nearly choked when I heard what her rent costs were and how much she had to pay to hire a “decent” legal assistant; I think I heard my wallet actually squeak from fear!
When Janet bought a house there in the 80’s things were normal (if you can call what happens in Northern California “normal”). But not anymore. People today will pay millions of dollars for a home just to tear it down so they can rebuild one for tens of millions.
Naturally, it’s the onslaught of Google's billions and spin offs, that they and others like them have created, which has caused this glut of free-flowing money. Personally, I love the fact that there’s a place that believes in an unlimited supply at such a high level – but it makes turning a profit on $4000 estate plans difficult, to say the least.
Since Janet has been in practice for so many years and has such a wonderful reputation in the legal community (she even voted to the Bar’s Board of Trustees in 2014) as well as her community at large, she has relied on referrals for the majority of her business.
But, like most of you, her website is a vital component of Janet’s marketing campaign that does produce business for her. However, like most of you, especially Howard Snader, her site was hit hard by all the Google updates. These updates have become a big challenge even for some of the best law firms. Now Janet is seeking advice on how to make changes.
Making Your Lawyer Business Profitable
The funny thing is that Janet has been receiving conflicting advice. She contacted two different vendors that we’ve interviewed on our programs. Both have excellent reputations for getting results. Both have been around long enough to have ‘seen it all’ and both are very opinionated regarding what Janet should do next.
Because Janet’s site has been affected by what Google classified as bad links, Vendor 1 has advised her to start over with her website. Totally eliminate the old URL, purchase a new URL and start building from zero. Their argument: “it’s easier to start at zero than it is to start from -40”. Essentially, Vendor 1 believes that the damage done to the current URL is so great that it would take a monumental effort to fix it, and we’d be better off starting at ground zero.
Vendor 2, in contrast, believes that tossing out all the years and years the URL has been in existence is a monumental mistake. They agree that there has been damage done, but they believe the overall site ranking is strong and like a fine wine has just the right amount of “age” to warrant keeping it. Vendor 2 contends that we should build on the strengths, and this will surpass the weaknesses of the damage done. Further, they believe with some attention we could reduce the damage done by “disavowing” the bad links.
So, who should Janet listen to?
It’s a really complicated question. One that I don’t believe will be fully answered for a few years as we look back. But, since doing nothing is not an answer I’m comfortable with, I’m going with “show me the money!”
No, not actually making a decision based on dollars savings or rebates. Rather, show me someone you’ve done this for successfully. Give me the case studies (of local brick and mortar business, hopefully attorneys) that prove your point.
Always Take Action for Your Lawyer Business
If I owned Janet’s firm, I would absolutely take action. It's crazy not to for several reasons:
- Her site requires a refresh anyway. It’s older, which can be okay for estate planning firms because of their target demographic. But a refresh could make it stand out and look more with the times.
- Her site is not ranking. Due to the damage to her firm, her competitor is getting ahead in the Google Local/Places ranking.
- Her organic rankings are excellent. I understand the temptation not to mess with it.
- Her location is a tech-friendly place. She lives in one of the most tech-friendly places on earth, where I’ll bet they expect vendors to have their virtual act together.
So, if it were me, I’d ask for proof and call the proof to verify the facts. If neither firm had the proof to offer, I’d search until I found one who did.
If I decided to start from scratch, I’d ask about the possibility of keeping the URL and the content as it is to take advantage of the organic traffic while we build a new site.
If a gun were put to my head, I have to admit that the past decade was the Wild West when it came to Internet SEO and Google is the sheriff who seems to be cleaning up all the mess – and I don’t see them going away anytime soon. I believe I would vote to start over the right way, playing by Google's rules rather than fight the giant, only to find out they do one more update that sets me back even further.
The Need for Expert Law Firm Management
Janet's dilemma is a tough one, and is actually one more reason why you want to avoid putting yourself in the position of relying on one marketing lead source. And this is another reason why you should invest in good US law firm management. Most American lawyers are unaware of how much this can impact their legal practice.
Aside from providing top-tier client service, be it in family law, business law, corporate law, or any other law practice, legal professionals need the services of a legal systems expert. For both small and big law firms, seemingly simple changes in the way Google works can actually make or break your law business online.
Knowing Your Audience
Always remember that people in need of legal advice do not specifically look for big law firms. Whether you are just starting or are already one of the biggest law firms on the area, keep in mind that clients are simply looking for experts for their legal needs.
They will likely not know what the terms arbitrations, jurisdictions, insolvency, mediation, negotiations, or settlements mean. They would not be familiar with the terms used in the courtroom, such as plaintiffs, defendants, prosecutors, or verdict. They are just looking for what fits their definition of the best lawyers in America. With the right use of internet systems and through effective US law firm management, you can show them that you are one.
Why You Need a Business Consultant for Your Law Firm
Your potential clients could be in need of a law firm for legal matters between a creditor and a debtor in a restructuring bankruptcy, or for disputes on land use that could lead to real estate law litigation.
Under criminal law prosecution, they could be looking for lawyers for legal representation and criminal defense. In all these areas of law, people should see you as a trustworthy firm. In the legal profession, Google can help you with this, but only if you know how to maximize what it can offer, updates and all.
Let's say that you are a personal injury law firm. Victims of medical negligence or wrongful death would be looking for an expert on health law and medical malpractice law who will put in time and effort to help with their case.
If you are a labor and employment law firm, clients having problems with workers compensation and employee benefits would want an expert on labor law or employment law who they can entrust their papers with.
Whether you are a small or large law firm, a trusted business consultant can help you become one of the leading law firms in your area.
Call Our Legal Systems Expert Who Can Help You Handle Changes
If you want to have your best month ever, become a professional salesperson. The rewards are ongoing. If you want to know how to become good in sales, contact our legal management consultant Richard James or schedule a 1-on-1 consulting to get your customized practice growth plan.
Building a better practice, one Google battle at a time.