Attorney Directories and Attorney Websites: 3 Myths Debunked

There are thousands of attorney directories on line. At the least, these online listings allow firms to share their contact details, usually broken down by state and practice area. Some of the more comprehensive directories allow firms to add a description, client reviews and even video.

While many of these directory listings are free, most aren’t and some come with a very high price tag. In determining whether it is worth the investment, we examined the top three claims made by the leading online directories.

Selling Point #1: A listing will help your law firm’s website rank better in the search results.

This false selling point is based upon the principal of “PageRank”. Simply stated, PageRank generally measures the quality and quantity of hyperlinks back to your website.  In essence, search engines interpret these link-backs to your firms’ website as an endorsement of your site’s credibility and relevancy.  All other things being equal, a website that has “link-backs” from many other highly ranked, relevant sites will rank better than a page with no “link-backs.”

There are a number of issues with the links from directories; first off, most of the link-backs are “no follow” which means that there is a snippet of code (not visible to visitors) which tells the search engines not to transfer authority to the sites listed. A link-back with a “no follow” tag will have no effect on your site’s PageRank. There is a theory (although Google has not explicitly confirmed or denied it) that search engines perceive sites with an unusually high ration of follow to non-follow links as manipulative “overoptimization” so you should be weary about having your firm listed in a multiple directories, even when the listings are free as they may jeopardize your site’s SEO.

Even if a directory does not denote the firm’s website link as a no-follow, directories generally link out to thousands of websites meaning that the value of these outbound links is greatly diminished.   This is because the amount of authority passed by a particular page is increasingly diluted by each successive link on that page.

The most important factor, however, which debunks this claim, is the fact that Google’s search guidelines explicitly ignore “paid” links and, as a result, no longer gives any sort of authority to links from sites like paid directories.

Do not sign up for a paid directory listing in hopes of increasing your site’s PageRank and in turn your site’s ranking in the search engine results pages.

Selling Point #2: The directory is on the first page of the Google results when searching for an attorney in your area so you’re sure to get more business.

Many directories rank very well with Google; they’ve been around for years, have thousands of pages and are loaded with keywords–all critical components of SEO. Does their success, however, translate into business for your firm? Generally, no.

Keep in mind that while the directory may come up on the first page of the search results, that doesn’t mean your firm’s listing will be easily accessible. A visitor will likely be presented with a long list of firms to choose from.  In some cases, a directory may allow you to purchase a “premium” listing so your firm appears at the top of the list presented to visitors but this can be another hefty fee for a service without guaranteed outcomes.  Also, studies have found that consumers are increasingly skipping over directory pages and going direct to listings of individual websites.  This is due to the fatigue of using one listing (the search result page) to access a page with another listing that is often filled with distracting ads and pop-ups.

Selling Point #3: A listing in the directory is cheaper than creating a website for the firm

A directory listing is no substitute for a dedicated attorney website for your law firm (and in most cases, it’s not cheaper than one). Would you want your business card to list as your firm’s URL? Of course not; it’s just not credible.

Your website should be the cornerstone of your online marketing strategy where you house dozens of pages filled with information on all of your practice areas, staff members and experience. A directory listing may supplement a comprehensive website but it should never seek to replace it. After all, clients that come to a directory are still “shopping around” for the perfect attorney and when they review several innocuous listings, they will likely turn to the firm’s website to learn more and decide whether you are a qualified to handle the legal matter at hand.

With listings costing a few hundred dollars each month, adding your firm to a directory can be a big investment with little return. If you find yourself with some extra money in your marketing budget, consider alternate strategies which will likely yield a higher return. If your goal is to improve your site’s search engine optimization, consider investing in a blog or customized content for your firm which is likely to help your site’s ranking and your website visitors’ impression of your firm.

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Dolores Obrien

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