Putting Legal Web Sites on Trial

By Beacon Staff

Last week’s web site adventure was chasing down real estate websites in the Flathead.

This week, I put the websites of local legal firms on trial.

As I noted in a comment to a reader who responded to last week’s column – this is not about slamming company A or company B.

Instead, it’s about making you more aware of things you need to do in order to stand out in your market. That’s the primary reason I write this column: to help business owners build stronger businesses, become more profitable and as a result, become more stable employers. That helps everyone. OK, the group hug is over, so let’s get to this week’s group: attorneys, lawyers or whatever you call them (be nice….some of my friends are attorneys).

While I don’t want to turn this into an internet marketing column, it’s worth discussing how people search for you.

If you searched Google for an attorney, what would you type in?

I’m guessing you wouldn’t type these by themselves: Law suit, legal, lawyer, attorney, law firm, law, litigation, lawsuit, settlement, KALISPELL, MT, Montana, Civil Litigation, Family Law, Insurance Law, personal injury, social security disability, commercial law, probate, criminal, DUI, driver’s license petitions.

I mention this string of search terms because those are a combination of what you’ll find on most local sites. As an example, there are 1.5 million pages indexed for “personal injury”, so the likelihood that you’ll be found without additional searches is not high.

IE: “Kalispell personal injury” is a better term to focus on, with 10% of the competition that the generic term has – not to mention that you aren’t competing with a big city legal site.

Google tries to think like you do. Their primary goal is for you to find exactly what you wanted at the top of page one, on the very first try, because they want you to be so happy with the results you find that you will use them exclusively. Makes sense, doesn’t it?


One of the sites actually used common search words as their site address. Result: they are number 1 in Google for that term. Good, but those words might not be what people search for. In fact, a check at several sites that say what is being searched for yielded little in that area. Still, it’s a smart strategy if well researched and implemented.

A few of the sites were cookie-cutter sites similar to the real estate ones from last week. One of these had a really nice photo of the staff attorneys, but the rest of the information was clearly generated from the Lexis-Nexis Martindale-Hubbell lawyer database. The majority of the text for these sites was identical.

As I found last week, there were a few standouts. One site did a great job of “meeting the staff”, included a nice not too casual photo of each staff member, talked about their background, training and specialization/interest, family and their personal involvement in their community (eg: Boys and Girls Club, Rotary water projects, etc). Real people.

The nice casual photo was a rarity. Most sites didn’t include a photo at all, though a few did include a group shot of the entire staff. A few used the standard yawner attorney photo: the attorney sitting at a table in front of a wall of legal books, with an open law book in front of them – and every staff photo is identical.

When I choose an attorney, I’m looking for a highly-motivated bulldog of an attorney who is still a real person, has a great relationship with the court system, has strong expertise in the legal area of concern, thinks of things I never considered, wins a substantial percentage of their cases, and can explain things to me in a friendly, professional manner in real world English.

The more of that you can convey before I pick up the phone – the better. Remember, I might be narrowing down the list at 11pm before I plan to pick up the phone in the morning. If you don’t make the cut at 11pm, your phone doesn’t ring in the morning.

Take a look at last week’s “didn’t find much of this” list and review your site, because it could be costing you serious money.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.

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