This is getting expensive!

If you are an attorney reading this article, you have probably heard a proposal from one of these 3 directories (among others) regarding why you should be listed on their website. But how do you know which listings have value? Which ones offer a good return on investment? Which ones offer value from a search engine optimization perspective?  Are there intangibles to being listed? And how do you stand out on these directories? I intend to answer all of these questions below.

Which listings have value?

All of the following website listings have at least some value, in some markets:

  • Lawyers.com / Martindale.com
  • FindLaw.com
  • Avvo.com
  • Justia.com
  • BBB.org
  • Yelp.com

Do a few searches for common keywords in your region. You will almost definitely see at least a few of these listings in the top 5 placements for your keywords after the local search box.

wisconsin criminal defense lawyer

These high-powered directories tend to hold their placements over time and no matter how good your SEO team is, you are going to miss numerous opportunities by not being there when the customer clicks into the directory.

Does that mean I have to pay for these listings?

For some yes, for others no. A few of these such as Justia, Yelp & Avvo will allow you to list yourself free of charge. If you are paying for these listings, generally you are paying for enhanced placements. Do these advanced placements have value? That’s a question for your marketing team. If you are a Wisconsin criminal defense lawyer and your search results look like the above, it will likely help you to have those top placements when the customer clicks through looking at the above (this is one way you can stand out).

If there are already 2 dozen other attorneys in the “enhanced placements” section in your region, there may not be much value. If these directories aren’t found for your core keywords, there also may not be much value to paying for preferred placements.

If you have questions, you can always feel free to call us at 877-916-0644. One of our specialists will be happy to sit down with you and help you determine what is in the best interest of your business.

Which of these offers a strong return on investment

All of these offer a strong return on investment if you choose the right ones. If you simply keep throwing money at all of them, you are unlikely to see the strongest ROI. I strongly recommend discussing each one individually with your marketing team (preferably an independent party such as Digital Law Marketing or an internal team that doesn’t own or compete with the directory you are analyzing).

I hear I’m not supposed to buy links. Is this true?

Generally speaking, you are not supposed to buy links. How do some of these sites get away with charging for links?

The answer (which is a pretty weak answer at best) is that they are not charging you for the link. They are charging you for maintenance on your listing. Many of these legal directories will not update any information they have on you without this fee.

What I believe personally to be the truth is that Google recognizes that while some of these sites may violate their guidelines at times, the product they put out provides a strong user experience and the links provided are a benefit to their search results. These factors (strong user experience and strong conversion metrics from click-through rates) are why Google ranks them so high and why you should at least consider getting listed.

Which ones offer the best SEO value

This is a tough question to answer and depends on what your SEO metric for success is. When I look through all the clients I have worked with over the years here’s what I’ve found (another marketer’s data may say differently, but this is based on quite a large data set). Everything below is based strictly on my data and is one expert’s opinion.

Lawyers.com – From what I’ve seen recently, of the legal directories, Lawyers.com seems to be the one least likely to rank on page 1 for your search queries. However, the on-site metrics of users coming in through Lawyers.com are very positive in some competitive markets. These users seem to be ready to convert and are viewing a lot of pages, frequently ending on a contact page or with a phone call. (My general opinion: Best conversion value.)

FindLaw.com – This is (and has been for some time) the strongest legal directory from an authority perspective. That strong authority makes it very likely to rank on the 1st page for your keywords. I see strong conversion for clients callilng directly from their website, but very low click rates to individual attorney sites (meaning you won’t often see FindLaw listings driving traffic to your site). Their listings are very bare-bones and basic in comparison with Lawyers.com and Justia.com. (My general opinion: Best SEO value.)

Justia.com – This is my favorite of the directories from a building standpoint. You can add high quality videos, your twitter feed, your blog feed, additional websites and social profiles and more. When a customer finds you on Justia, they may not even need to click through to your website. Everything they want to know about you is at their fingertips. In terms of conversion, Justia is very hit or miss not just regionally, but by area of practice. I see comparable listings that receive dozens of clicks to our websites each month and I see websites that may only see 1 or 2 clicks. However, most attorneys tell me that they see an uptick in business that tends to correlate with their listing on Justia being built out in its entirety. This leads me to believe that there are strong conversions directly from the site that we don’t track. (My general opinion: Best profiles and great SEO value from your listing appearing on multiple other sites.)

Avvo.com – Avvo.com is the most hit or miss directory in any niche that I’ve ever seen. I have spoken with numerous attorneys that spend thousands annually with Avvo and swear by it. I have also spoken with numerous attorneys that just wish Avvo would get shut down.

From a factual standpoint alone, Avvo pops up for a lot of major keywords in major markets. There’s a ton of value to it. There are a few “buts” though. Avvo does not allow you to hide your rating (as Lawyers.com does). The scores are based more on the completeness of your profile (and if you pay for your listing) then the actual quality of the your firm. If you have ever been disciplined (even minor) it will be displayed on your Avvo profile. The people that dislike Avvo, usually dislike them because they can’t get information removed that’s hurting their business because of how popular the directory is.

My Avvo Advice: If your score is low, complete your profile. Add everything you can think of. Get that score as high as you can. If you have some bad dings on your profile, call your friends and colleagues and make sure you get lots of peer endorsements. There is no way to get rid of an Avvo profile to my knowledge!

Yelp – Plain and simple, the #1 local business directory in the marketplace right now. While generally more people think “Yelp” when thinking about food, all businesses benefit greatly from having a robust and correct listing on Yelp.com. Yelp is also among the most important local citations for local search engine optimization (Google Maps).

BBB.org – I’ve been saying for a very long time that I believe this is a place Google is leaning on heavily for local search information and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. If you are listed and accredited by the BBB, its usually safe to assume you are open for business, actually listed at the address you are claiming. BBB.org also recently added a nofollow tag to their links, meaning it no longer directly passes PageRank. This addition may not be wonderful for SEO at face value, but it shows they are proud to be a resource Google can lean on and are going to adhere to the guidelines. (My general opinion: Very important for local search.)

The other guys

Which other legal directories should you pick up? There is an endless list of directories to consider getting listed at. Generally speaking, if you are considering a directory there are 3 tips you can follow:

  • Perform core keyword searches on Google.com and see if the site comes up in your area.
  • Talk to other attorneys that are listed (both preferred placements and normal listings) and gauge the response.
  • Speak to a marketing team that is not affiliated with these websites as well as a representative from the directory itself.

Track everything!

Don’t be afraid to setup an intake structure that allows you to gauge where your clients are coming from. Keep it very specific (do not accept “internet” as a response or assume “Google” means they landed on your website). What search query did you use? Where did you land? Did you do any further research?

These types of questions may seem annoying but you may be surprised by the answers you receive and the data you will collect in the process is invaluable to future decisions.

Have questions? Call us.

If you are confused by anything mentioned above or you’ve been told differently, please feel free to contact me via our contact form or the comment thread below. I will try to respond to any questions and comments in a timely fashion.