At Edge, we don’t usually divulge details of client engagements, including our client’s names. In this rare case, I asked permission to share some non-confidential information, because of specifics that help in this story….
This client is a large Dallas, TX law firm.
But this is no ordinary firm of attorneys. To start with, it’s not often you come across a law firm with literally tens of thousands of active social followers, and it’s even rarer to find one with their own YouTube channel tuned in regularly by thousands of subscribers.
Like some of the other very large law firms in the US, they handle thousands of cases every year with a team of 100+ employees and a large contingent of lawyers on staff. Like many, they appear in local TV commercials and the founder is a recognized personality in the area. For this industry, their social outreach is massive, authentic and active; with over 40k+ followers on Facebook and strong daily engagement. They have their own popular YouTube Channel with thousands of subscribers who tune in for the bi-weekly live feeds featuring competitions and giveaways targeting their faithful followers.
In fact, in their market, by almost every measure of brand presence, they must be top (or near the top) in all the categories, all that is except one.
It seemed that Google barely knew who Ben Abbott Associates were and on my 1st day working with them I was asked a question I’ve never been asked before;
“Why doesn’t Google know we are one of the best?”
I have to admit; I dismissed this at first as being a little conceited. But the more time I spent with this client, the more I realized that the question was revealing a fascinating issue. Google’s search algorithm, as beautiful, mysterious and ever-changing as it is, aims to connect you to great relevant trusted appropriate content. But when you are looking for a lawyer, is excellent informative content the first thing on your mind?
I mean, seriously!? I know great content is valued, but when you’re choosing a lawyer, is it prioritized? And more importantly, would you trust someone trying to sell you those services to provide it?
Or, are you just looking for the best-darned lawyer you can get?
I think most would want a geographically relevant, honest, qualified, credible, highly regarded and experienced lawyer. Someone who will stand for us.
We want the ‘best.’
Maybe, I’m describing Mr. or Ms. Perfect, and perhaps the reality is, this firm of lawyers doesn’t exist. The problem you quickly arrive at is simple: I’m describing what every lawyer says about themselves online.
So how does Google rank the ‘best’? Importantly for my client; How do they convince Google that they are the ones for you? It seems like the ‘best’ lawyers are faced with two options, the ‘Organic Charade’ or the ‘PPC Knife Fight.’
When it comes to the ‘Organic Charade,’ beautifully written articles dressed with rich content and doused with the strong scent of keywords adorn the highest organic traffic sites. Strategic backlinking to great content on sites with trusted domains helps boost the profile and position.
For most of us, it’s hard to avoid that these sites have (using a term I picked up living in Louisiana) ‘a dog in the hunt.’ Specifically, we may rightly question the sincerity of the personal injury lawyer’s wonderful write up on “‘What to do if you get in an accident” …
(by the way, according to some SEO tools this has +2K searches a month on Google in the US 😉
….when we sense that in every sentence of that well written helpful piece, all that lawyer REALLY wants to say is –
“PLEASE!… JUST CALL ME!!!!”
Of course, usually towards the end, they slip in the predictable invite, to come back to their place: Something like “…..In this situation, you should call a lawyer, and we are experienced at that sort of thing, sooooo…” and can we blame them? After all, they spent hours, at considerable expense, explaining to us what to do if we got in an accident.
While grateful we still may not be convinced. If these attempts don’t lure us, our other ‘Organic’ (and I use this term loosely) options are not much better. The many ‘directory’ listings “Top Ten…”, “The Best in ..” etc.… sites that range from the massive online affiliate franchises to content owners scraping a living making money on affiliate lead platforms.
It’s hard to find the ‘best’ when the ones at the front of the queue paid to be there and everyone in the line is five stars or has a 10 out of 10 rating. Looking for the best, using legal listings you will find 80%+ have reviews with a maximum 5 Star score. Some offer their own ranking systems, which are advertised as independent and not influenced by affiliate practices. All offer to get you priority on position with Ad spend.
If all that is overwhelming we can opt for Plan B: the ‘PPC Knife Fight’. For many, this is the preferred option. Fundamentally it is pretty simple: Pay enough money to Google, and you get to be in front of the line. For all you PPC experts I know it’s more sophisticated than that, but the ultimate point is fact: more money = more clicks.
In some markets, this means you and I won’t even get a single ‘Organic’ listing on the first page of our search for the “best personal injury lawyer in….”.
For the high rollers, PPC is a great place to be. At times $250 a roll can get you to the top of the bidding war for popular keyword terms and if you have the stomach for it, customer acquisition costs can be as high as $5,000.
A good friend and successful entrepreneur once gave me the analogy of PPC, being like
“…piling money in a wheelbarrow and tipping it into the street.”
I think, I finally get what he means.
So, the quest continues and while I don’t think there is one answer to this issue, I do trust the powerful and pervasive force of the consumer to find solutions.
I’m sure Google Search isn’t shaking in its boots just yet, but authentic, audited reviews on some of the big platforms, most notably Amazon, are starting to become the trusted search for the ‘best’ because they have authentically connected to the popularity and love of products and services on their platform. And while Google still sits on its lofty perch looking down on the rest, it has to be noticing the growth in trust that is happening there.