Is Your Legal Directory Profile & Advertising Worth the Cost?

A directory listing is one of the most traditional ways to promote your services. It used to be that attorneys would be listed so that other attorneys could find them for referrals. Now that most directories have moved online, more and more consumers are using them to find the legal representation they need. Some of the biggest providers include FindLaw (a part of Westlaw) and Martindale-Hubbell. These are established companies that once produced only print directories and have since moved into the world of online attorney directories and marketing. Many of you have paid to appear in their listings and have hired these venerable firms to create and host your websites, and advertise your practice in their online directories.

But over time, many clients of these big companies become dissatisfied by the results they get for what they pay. If you’re a FindLaw or Martindale-Hubbell client, you’re most likely spending more than you need to for inferior results and missing out on other opportunities to help your business succeed. Read on to find out if your listing in the FindLaw or Martindale-Hubbell directory is worth the cost, and what some good alternatives are.

National Listings vs. Local Clients
FindLaw and Martindale-Hubbell serve a national clientele. Their directories contain thousands of attorneys across the country and their products are not tailored by geography. But when people search for an attorney these days, they tend to look for one that’s close to them. Someone looking for an attorney on FindLaw may have to page through hundreds of profiles, most offering sparse information with only a name and address. The pitch from the sales team is that their directory attracts millions of visitors every month and is a viable source of qualified traffic. While millions of visitors sounds impressive, most attorneys are really only concerned with attracting prospects that are quite literally within a 25 mile radius of their office. Those are your clients. The rise of local search and the fact that more people trust local listings makes local online directories more important for attorneys than national ones.

Static Listings vs. Rich Content
Another way that the older directories miss the mark is that static information directories have recently seen a decline in use, while more dynamic content sites containing recommendations, reviews, forums, Q&A’s, and ratings show increased use. Avvo is a good example of a site that offers rich content for consumers and engages them in a more social way. Described as “an expert-only Q&A forum where people can ask legal questions of lawyers,” Avvo caters to consumers and its forum offers an effective way for attorneys to interact with prospects. Avvo’s rating system also allows attorneys who complete a full profile with video and other rich media to get the highest rating, which FindLaw and Martindale-Hubbell don’t.

Their Listing vs. Yours
Typically FindLaw and Martindale-Hubbell’s directories appear high in the search engine results while individual profiles within do not. While you do want a higher listing in general, the reality is that if a prospect searches for a term like “Metrowest divorce attorneys” and both the FindLaw directory and a local law firm’s website appear in Google’s results, more people will choose to visit the law firm’s actual website than get trapped in a massive legal directory. If they do choose to click on the directory they may have to drill down three or four pages to find the listings they’re looking for, wade through multiple other results from sponsored listings, and they may never see your profile.

Short Term Payoff vs. Long-Term Costs
Many FindLaw and Martindale-Hubbell clients spend over $2,000 per month. While this may be worth it to get your marketing up and running quickly, that cost soon becomes prohibitive in years two, three and beyond. What most don’t realize is that you can easily get locked in to depending on their services for years to come, which of course is exactly what they want. If you spend $24K a year to get your Internet marketing underway, that expense quickly adds up. Consider the return on your investment over time. With the bigger firms there is definitely a case of diminishing returns. Thinking about ROI long-term will save you from making an unworthy investment.

One Channel vs. Many
To make the most of Internet marketing, a savvy attorney will take advantage of all the opportunities online – not just a directory listing — creating a “’digital arsenal” that they can use to attract prospects and engage clients. This can include Facebook, Twitter, monthly videos, LinkedIn, Google Places, Google AdWords, and listings in other effective and affordable legal directories like Justia and Avvo. FindLaw doesn’t offer these services and having just a website and a directory listing with just one company won’t cut in in the competitive world of Internet marketing. Being in more places will help you save money, spend more wisely, and get as good or better results. To find out more about local Internet marketing for attorneys contact Ian Bardorf at BardorfMarketing.com.

Ian M. Bardorf is an Internet marketing, mobile marketing, and social media advisor to attorneys and law firms seeking to grow and advance their business via the web. This article is copyrighted as original content by Ian M. Bardorf and Bardorf Legal Marketing. This article may be reproduced or republished with appropriate attribution and credit.