We came across an interesting survey conducted by Mike Blumenthals on behalf of a client of his (an Orlando personal injury law firm) which asks participants questions regarding what they would do when it comes to looking for a specialty lawyer.
The Google consumer survey asks three different questions:
- When you need to find a specialty lawyer how would you start your search?
- If you search for a specialty lawyer on the internet what is most important to you?
- If you searched for a specialty lawyer on Google, what would do you first?
The results are very interesting, especially as they pertain to arguments like:
- “Is social media the new SEO?”
- “Is SEO dead?”
- “Are the Yellow Pages ancient?”, and
- “How important is online reputation management (ORM)”
We’ll eventually touch on each argument in a separate post, but first lets dive into the results and we’ll offer some insight and opinion and, of course, feel free to comment on this post with anything you’d like to add or discuss.
When you need to find a specialty lawyer how would you start your search?
So if someone is looking for a specialty lawyer such as a personal injury attorney, bankruptcy attorney, family law attorney, etc., what are they most likely to do first? The options that participants were given are:
- Ask a friend
- Ask my current lawyer
- Look in the printed Yellow Pages
- Look elsewhere on the Internet, and
- Ask on my favorite social network
Of the 1500 responses that the survey received (at the time of publishing this blog post), referrals/asking a friend is the leading response, which is no surprise. No matter what business you’re in, referrals from past clients, friends, and associates is almost always going to be your best source of new business because we trust the opinion of those who are close to us and who might have gone through a similar experience.
After referrals from friends, which received 34.6% of the votes, search engine results are the second most trusted resource for those looking to hire a specialty attorney. In third place is “ask my current lawyer”, followed by Yellow Pages, looking elsewhere on the Internet (Yelp, Avvo, Youtube, or any other site that the particular person uses on a regular basis), and asking on a social network site such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn comes in last with only 2.1% of the votes.
If you wanted to group “Ask a friend” and “Ask my current lawyer” together as something like “referrals from others”, then searching on a search engine would be the second-most popular answer by far for those looking to hire an attorney.
The survey also allows you to break the results down by Gender, Age, Geography, Urban Density, and Income. The data for each of these categories can be extremely important when you take into account certain practice areas.
Results by Gender
In certain practice areas, it’s important to know how to market to men or women. One example is, in family law, some divorce attorneys brand themselves as “Divorce attorneys for men” or include “Father’s rights” as one of their practice areas, and vice-versa. Are females more likely to hire an attorney (male or female) who brands themselves as “Divorce lawyers for women” when searching for a divorce lawyer? Most likely. The same goes for child custody and other family law matters. They may be disqualifying half of their target audience, but they’re also going after a niche which is more likely to convert potential clients at a higher rate because they’ve established themselves as the experts in that particular field.
It should be noted that the majority of the results of this survey are from women. Of the 1500 responses, 64% (or 945) are from women, and 540 men answered the survey.
When it comes to where men and women look when hiring a specialty lawyer, the results are as follows:
Asking a friend or lawyer is both male and female participants’ preferred resource when searching for a specialty lawyer, but women rely on their friends’ and/or lawyers’ recommendations more than men.
Search Engine Results
Women are more likely to rely on referrals, and according to the survey, men are more likely to search on Google, Bing, or Yahoo! for a specialty lawyer than women.
Yellow Pages and Additional Internet Resources
Not much useful information from the Yellow Pages or additional Internet sites. Men are slightly more likely to look at Youtube, Yelp, or sites other than a search engine than women, but other than that “nothing to see here people move along”.
According to the survey, women are more likely to refer to the opinion of those on their social networking sites (Facebook friends, Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections) than men.
Results by Age
Just like with gender, age also plays a factor when it comes to marketing certain practice areas to certain demographics. Age can come into play in practice areas such as (just a few examples that we came up with, feel free to add more or chime in):
SSDI (social security disability)– The average age for a person receiving SSDI is 53, so they would probably fall under the older few age groups.
Personal Injury Lawyers for Children (Child Injury, Birth Injury, Cerebral Palsy, Lead Paint etc.)- The average age for a first-time mother is around 25 years old, so a parent looking for a personal injury lawyer specializing in child injuries is more likely to fall under the age demographics categories of (in no particular order) 25-34, 35-44, or 45-54. That’s not to say that a child’s grandparent, older brother or sister, or someone else outside of these demographics won’t search for a specialty lawyer on their behalf. These are just generalization for marketing purposes.
Elder Law Attorneys- Those looking for attorneys in the elder law practice area are more likely to be the elderly person’s son, daughter, or in-laws. Those looking for an elder law attorney probably fall under the age demographics of (in no particular order) 25-34, 35-44, or 45-54.
Family Law (Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, etc.)- These numbers can vary by state and practice area, but average age for each probably plays an important role in each.
DUI/DWI- Are you a criminal lawyers who represents DUI/DWI clients? You can probably market to someone in the 18-24 age group with certain marketing messages (“Don’t ruin your future”, “This is a VERY Serious Offense and You NEED a Lawyer”, etc.) than those in other age groups. Younger drivers, between the ages 21 to 34, are responsible for more alcohol-related fatal crashes than any other age groups.
When it comes to where each age group typically looks when hiring a lawyer, the results are as follows:
According to the results, the younger a person is, the less likely they are to rely on a referral from a current lawyer (which really isn’t too surprising, how many lawyers does an average 21 year old interact with on a regular basis?). So those catering to elderly clients, make sure you get a solid referral program in place and start reaching out to other lawyers in your area. Networking always helps (State, city, or county Bar events, Mastermind Groups, etc.).
Search Engine Results
No surprise here either. According to the survey, the younger a person is, the more likely they are to search on Google, Bing, or Yahoo! for a lawyer. Of those who said they would rely on search engine results to find a specialty lawyer, 63% of them were between the ages of 18 and 44. However, the 45-54 age range is also well-represented, while people between the age of 55-65+ are more likely to rely on…
Traditional Yellow Page Ads
Results by Location/State
The law firm that Mike conducted this survey for (a client of his) is located in Florida. If we look at participants who were only located in their home state:
More people in Florida, according to the survey, are likely to rely on search engine results than their friends’ recommendations. There were only 56 verified responses, so I wouldn’t feel too confident in this as a generalization.
Results by Region and Suburbs
Instead of going into each state individually, here is are some interesting results broken down by region and suburbs when comparing Yellow Pages to SEO
SEO vs Yellow Pages By Region
SEO vs Yellow Pages By Urban Density
Results by Income
There are just too many variables and questions marks to make generalized statements or conclusions when it comes to the results broken down by income, so instead of doing so I’ll just share the results:
If You Search for a Specialty Lawyer on the Internet, What is Most Important to You?
If people searched for a specialty lawyer on the Internet, the had the options to choose the following as what’s important to them:
Information about the lawyer elsewhere on the Internet (Online Reputation Management, Most Important Factor)
It’s common knowledge, when it comes to a lawyer and/or law firm maintaining a presence online, that the name of the law firm and/or attorney(s) are always the top keywords used to search for a law firm’s website. This may be because a friend referred them and they’re looking for the firm or attorney’s website for more information (the attorney’s bio, contact information, etc.), or because someone saw or heard one of the lawyer’s advertisements, but regardless of why someone is searching for you, your law firm, or another attorney in your office, it’s very unlikely that your website is the only place they’ll end up. You need to know what’s out there on Google, Bing, or Yahoo! results when people are searching for you.
The Quality of Reviews on Google (Second Most Important)
If someone found you on a major search engine, it was most likely on Google. Which means that it would be pretty important to have some good reviews out there, right? (This sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many lawyers take their Google reviews, or lack thereof, for granted).
How Close The Attorney is To Me on a Map (Third Place)
How close your office is located to the person searching on a major search engine for a lawyer is also going to play a factor in whether you’ll actually appear in the search results (depending on what they’re searching for), but the general conclusion here is that people will be willing to drive a little further if they’re confident in you as an attorney, but you have to rank well for these searches first!
Less Important Factors, But Different Takes on Each
Endorsements from Friends on Facebook- If someone shares, +1’s, likes, or Tweets something about your website or promotes it in other ways through social media, there’s a chance that it can have a positive affect on SEO and improve the chance that your website ranks when someone is searching for a specialty lawyer on Google. So, while Facebook Likes may not be an important factor for conversion, it does still play a role in SEO.
The Impression Created by their Website- I’m not sure that someone would actually say “I don’t really care if they have a crappy looking website” or “So what if their website was down when I tried to visit it?”. Don’t take this answer for granted, the image that your website portrays is a LOT more important than you and/or others think.
The Quality of Reviews on Yelp- This can actually be a sub-category of the first answer, Information about them elsewhere on the Internet. If someone searches for you or your law firm on Google, they’re likely to come across your Yelp profile if there is one and if it has reviews. If they see negative reviews, it’ll be a turn-off. If they see positive reviews, it’ll be the exact opposite. The same holds true with your Avvo profile and reviews, CitySearch, MerchantCircle, and other trusted directory/citation sites where past clients typically post reviews. Granted, it depends on the review and reviewer and how sincere they both seem to be, but the general conclusion- reviews matter, and a presence on Yelp and other citation sites can influence conversion AND SEO.
If You Searched for a Specialty Lawyer on Google, What Would You Do First?
This is another subconscious type of question where participants try to answer what they would do first when searching for a specialty lawyer, and I think that variables such as:
1) Are they searching for the law firm or attorney’s name, or for a search term like “Orlando personal injury lawyer”?
2) Do Google+ Local/blended results appear for the search, and are they trying to decide between multiple law firms/attorneys?
3) Do people actually have a set gameplan in their head in terms of what they would do first, or would it depend on what’s presented to them?
keep me from drawing specific conclusions when looking at the results. We’ll just assume that people are searching for something like “Orlando personal injury lawyer”, and here are the choices that participants were given:
Visit The Lawyers Website (Most Important)
It’s a given that most people would want to see a lawyer or law firm’s website when searching for a specialty lawyer, but certain factors such as:
- Search engine rank (it’s a known fact that the higher on a search engine for a search term like “Orlando personal injury” that you are, the more visibility your website will have)
- Meta description (the preview in the search engine results)
- Shared or endorsed by a friend/social media connection?
And other factors will influence the user as to which website they should visit.
SEO Sidenote: Additional website factors (authority, load time/errors, on-page SEO and structure, content, etc.) will determine if the website actually ranks in the search results.
Read The Reviews on Google (Second Most Important)
Again, we’re assuming that these are blended/Google+ Local results that we’re talking about, and if that’s the case, it’s hard to imagine that a user would see something like “4 Google Reviews” next to a listing and not click to read them.
SEO Sidenote: Reviews also play a part in whether or not a law firm’s website is listed in the search results. It’s not a MAJOR factor, but it does help if your law firm’s Google+ Local profile has some good reviews.
Read Reviews Elsewhere on the Internet (Third Place)
This is a given. Whether I’m going to hire a lawyer, buy a home, or rely on someone else for any other type of major event, I’m going to Google them and see what else is out there.
View The Map And See Where They’re Located
You’re not going to hire a lawyer 3 hours from where you’re located, I don’t care how great their website or reviews are. But the main thing I’d like to add to this is that it DOES matter where your office is located, so if you’re trying to rank well for search terms in Houston, then guess what- you should be looking into a Houston address.
Call and See What They’re Like
So people just call in to have a nice friendly chat with their potential lawyer? Not sure this is always the case for volume-based practice areas like bankruptcy or family law, but it’s possible for criminal defense or personal injury. I think that people usually look at lawyers’ Youtube or other videos more often then they just pick up the phone and call, and I also think that Live Chat and Free Downloadable Reports are additional actions that could be added to the list.
Look at Their Photos/Description on Google+
Appearance matters. Be aware of what pictures are out there and what impression people have of you. Spending some extra money on good, professional photographs is a good idea, but putting up a picture of yourself from 10 years ago with a full head of hair is probably a bad idea if you’re now bald(er) because it starts things off on the wrong foot.
The only closing comments that we’d like to make is to thank Mike for sharing such a great survey, and to remind you that not everyone does the same thing. While this data may be useful for generalization purposes, not everyone searches for the same thing on a search engine, not everyone in a certain age group or geographic area is the same, and not everyone realizes how important certain factors are until they’re presented to them in real-time. Long story short- don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, and don’t assume that all of your potential clients are the same.