In presenting seminars on article writing for digital audiences to authors in professional services firms over the last 10 years we know there are some partners who are either publicly or privately sceptical about the value of search engine optimisation for their law or accountancy firm, and rightfully so in some respects.
Boiled down, the main two arguments from search sceptics are:
- we can’t track business from people finding us in search engine results
- we are not a B2C/plaintiff-side firm and we don’t believe people make B2B hiring decisions on the basis of search results; it’s all about reputation and referrals
A lot of the usual points trotted out by search supporters in opposition to the sceptics are aimed at argument 2 (‘we don’t believe people make B2B hiring decisions on the basis of search results’). For example search supporters note:
- studies showing that people attribute expertise to firms simply because they appear near the top of search results
- searching is a pretty gold-standard indicator that people actually have a matter they need advice for
- search engine traffic simply accounts for such a high proportion of traffic to professional services firms websites (on average 60-70% in our lawfirm website benchmarking) but note we have some reservations here
- and that searching is done for both validation reasons (should I include X in my tender?) as well as ‘researching my problem’ reasons i.e. nearly everyone will have researched you online before they go to the trouble of contacting you
But let’s just dismiss all those search supporter counter-arguments above for the moment and just focus on argument 1 from the sceptics that ‘we can’t track business from search’.
Because if you can show matters originating from search then you don’t even need the other pro-search arguments above.
How can you really prove matters originate from search in a professional services firm?
Well for a start you might use web analytics (Google Analytics for most lawyers and accountants) to look at people over a longer (multi-year) period who:
- come in to your website direct from a search engine
- then do something which represents a higher value activity for your firm like going to your Contact Us page to get a phone number or contacting a lawyer via one of your lawyer bio pages (as part of our GA Enriched process we start tracking phone calls and emails to lawyers from your web pages amongst other things)
You can then simply see if there is a formal high correlation e.g. as search traffic changes month on month do the number of high value contact activities rise in lock-step?
But let’s get tougher. What about if I search for ‘John Anderson Biglaw Partners’ on Google as a pre-existing client because I simply want John’s phone number? Frankly a search for John Anderson at Biglaw isn’t worth focusing on SEO for (John’s bio page on biglaw.com will always top the results) and only tells us that people use Google like a telephone directory (hardly a surprise). So let’s remove from our data set all visits from organic search where the landing page is the lawyer’s bio.
What’s the correlation between high value activities and search traffic?
We took some of our longest standing clients where we had put in GA Enriched (where we could track contact with the firm via Google Analytics) and we ran the numbers over a multi-year period to calculate the actual correlation and excluded all searches that were phonebook usage scenarios as explained above.
Based on an average of tens of thousands of search visits over that multiyear period and thousands of high value activities, the correlation was actually .82.
To refresh your memory about correlations: +1 is perfectly correlated and -1 is perfectly inversely correlated. .82 is what as known as a strong correlation e.g. the amount of traffic from organic search is highly correlated with higher value activities on your website.
Hey, arguments about strong correlations are never going to persuade every search sceptic in your firm – but it might help for some who want evidence served up hot with their marketing recommendations.
Photo by davidmulder61