I went to a suburban chamber of commerce party earlier this month. Networking events like that normally aren’t my cup of tea, but my schedule suddenly lightened up a little. Why not get out of the office for a few hours and have some fun?
I had a great time and met some very nice people, but I was surprised by just how many people were there promoting their social media and search engine optimization services. I would bet that more than half of all the people at the event had businesses involving computers or the internet. At least half of those people did SEO and social media work. Even people with businesses that seem very traditionally business-like to me (insurance salesmen, accountants, repairmen) seemed to dabble in SEO for extra profit. There really must be an awful lot of money in it.
After a day or so, calls started coming in from people I’d met. Suddenly, I remembered why I’m not so crazy about networking events, but that’s a different post altogether.
Some of those calls were from companies that do SEO and social media. They all wanted to get together and talk about my “online presence” and “social media strategy.” I could tell that what I was hearing from each was a carefully crafted sales pitch. Being the nice guy I am, I humored them.
I explained my situation as honestly and accurately as I could. I get way too many calls from people who found me online and either don’t need or can’t afford my services. Those rare people who do need and can afford my services tend to want free advice over the phone followed by a free initial consultation, and they don’t understand why I can’t guarantee I’ll match the lowest price they find. I am no different from every other lawyer, after all, so why can’t I do what every other lawyer does?
After explaining my predicament, I made each SEO guy a proposal. I’d seriously consider hiring them if they could figure out a social media and SEO strategy that reduces my overall call volume while increasing calls from people with disposable income and an immediate need for a lawyer in a pending Arizona criminal matter. Those people need to have a clear understanding that I am providing them with professional services and not a guaranteed result, a good deal, or just a warm body to keep them company at court. I give the SEO guys an example of what I want.
One of my former law professors, a practicing lawyer who maintains a thriving practice and a person whom I respect immensely, has given me a great deal of guidance since Adrian and I began the firm. He hesitantly sent me one criminal referral during my first year of practice. Things ended up working out, and the lady became a client. She was extremely pleased with my representation, and the professor has continued to refer me cases.
It always starts the same way. The professor calls, tells me the type of case, and finds out first if it’s possible I might have some kind of conflict. He gives me a general overview of what he knows about the client and the situation. If I say I’m interested, he gives the client my name and number and recommends the client call me. He tells the client I am busy and charge for an in-person consultation. For each client, I’m the only lawyer he recommends. I always get a call from the client within an hour or so of his call, the client always schedules a meeting, and the client always shows up for the meeting. I’ve never had one not hire me.
I want the web equivalent of that. I tell this to the SEO guys knowing such a referral will likely never come from a web marketing company. Maybe, just maybe, it might come from years of building relationships online, but I still doubt it. It certainly won’t come from 140-character high-fives and blog posts repeating keywords ad nauseam.
The SEO guys are never deterred. They tell me the secret is keywords. They act like they believe it, so I almost feel a little guilty for harboring no realistic belief they are telling me anything even remotely resembling the truth. I tell them I might believe them if they had proof, and I tell them what I’m going to need from these magical keywords.
To reduce my call volume, I will need terms few people will enter. My site must be chock full o’ terms only people with the means to hire a private lawyer would know. It must have terms only people with a pending Arizona criminal matter would know too. Furthermore, the terms must be carefully selected and combined to display an understanding of the nature of the professional services I intend to provide. The terms should probably be ones known only to those who know and appreciate me already. My site should be invisible to most people.
You may grasp the absurdity of any keywords fitting that bill, but the SEO guys don’t. They tell me it’s possible, but they always revert to the same old stuff everyone’s been trying to sell me since I first set up shop. They can tell me whatever they want, but I’m going to see through it when their ideas don’t go much past spamming other blogs with nonsense and tagging my site with meaningless catchphrases. I’m open-minded, but only to a point. As the title says, I’m open to embracing a new social media strategy…maybe. If I keep hearing the same stale lines about keywords, however, that maybe is going to become a no.