A Guide to Law Firm Directories

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There are a number of actions to take to ensure that your firm’s online marketing strategy brings you traffic and new clients. One key consideration to boost your online presence is getting listed in legal directories.

In short, legal directories are databases of attorneys that enable clients (and other law firms) to search for lawyers. While they can be an essential way to connect with users seeking legal services, in some cases, they can impede your marketing objectives. In this article, we go through the considerations to make when deciding how to use legal directories, and offer some of our top suggestions.

The Benefits of Law Firm Directories

Though there are often financial costs and potential marketing detriments, selecting the right law firm directory for your practice is still an important aspect of your marketing campaign. With a quality directory, you can obtain these useful benefits:

Finding New Clients

Around a third of those seeking legal services used online legal directories in 2020. This means that by putting your firm into a legal directory, you are essentially opening up a whole new search engine that can funnel people to your website.

Additionally, when law firms need to refer cases to other law firms, they often also use lawyer directories, opening up another pathway to gain more business.

Building Trust and Authority

Being listed in legal directories, especially those with a good reputation, raises your firm’s credibility, as you are essentially being vouched for by a third party. What’s more, some legal directories allow law firms to publish blogs on their website.

Improving Your Search Rankings

Most lawyer directories link directly to your website, creating a backlink for your firm. The more backlinks you can get from credible legal directories, the more your website’s search engine ranking rises, effectively improving your SEO.

The Caveats of Law Firm Directories

While there are many benefits to listing your firm in legal directories, it’s important to understand a few recent changes in the digital world in order to leverage your directory presence strategically. We discuss these caveats below.

Google’s Evolution

Legal directories were helpful in the early days of search engines, when users relied less on Google to find trustworthy law firms that fit their needs and objectives. However, especially in the last decade, Google has evolved significantly in how it provides accurate connections between users and relevant services (especially through Google reviews). Legal directories have not innovated to this extent, making them a less authoritative source of information.

In other words, while listing your firm in a legal directory can be helpful, it is important to invest time and energy into improving your SEO and search engine rankings.

Legal Directories Are Losing Revenue

As a result of the above trend, attorneys have decreased their spending on legal directories. Having lost significant revenue, some legal directories may reduce their sales and technical staff, potentially reducing the effectiveness of their services.

Directory Badges May Redirect Your Traffic

Depending on the directory, you may earn a website badge that shows that your firm has passed their verifications and requirements or that you have produced content for them. While this can serve as a mark of authority, in some cases, this may redirect users from your website onto the directory to find other legal services.

How to Choose the Right Legal Directories

Many legal directories are free to list your practice or attorneys, so an in-depth analysis isn’t necessarily required. A general perusal to ensure that the site wouldn’t be considered “spam” is a fair assessment.

Many legal directories, however, do come at a cost. To decide whether a specific directory, award, or promotion site is worth the money to seek a listing with them, you must look at three, key factors to determine whether the cost justifies the investment:

  1. Internet traffic;
  2. Real-world readership; and
  3. Search engine optimization backlinks/inbound links.

Some directories bank on the fact that their listing fees are so low, you will think their low cost has to be worth the expense. Other directories bank on name brand recognition to make you believe you have to be in the directory. Some provide a good balance of traffic, views, and backlinks/inbound links. Finally, a lot of directories just plain suck.

So, is Directory X worth the money? Below are the key factors you should consider to determine whether you should be listed.

Internet Traffic

Let’s start with whether your directory listing will bring real internet traffic, clicks, and potential clients to your website.

  • Rank – Where is the directory ranked?
    • Do a Google search for common search phrases that they should be associated with.
      • Are they listed in the free/natural/organic search rankings?
      • Are they listed in the sponsored links?
    • If they are ranked or listed as a sponsored link, then odds are they are actively promoting their directory through SEO and/or PPC methods. Depending on the search volume, this will mean they are probably getting traffic to their site from search or sponsorships. This means your listing may actually be shown to a real potential client! The question is, of course, how much traffic they are getting from the search engines.
  • Traffic – What is the actual traffic of the site? The number of page views?
    • Unfortunately, a lot of directories will not give up that data. Any directory should have an overall traffic analysis report to give you.
    • The directory should provide at a minimum the page views (not hits) of their site and visitor time on site.
    • If they have demographic data, then you can determine your audience and potential client base.
  • Specific Traffic – What are the details of the kind of traffic that the directory gets?.
    • Your niche page that you might be listed on may not have a lot of traffic, so be sure to analyze that in addition to the directory as a whole.
    • If your listing is only on one page, then you should know exactly how many people in the last year viewed that page (or at least the last month for new directories).
    • Push the directory to give you this data. They have it so long as a decent stats program is installed on their server, but it may be so low they simply don’t want to release it. That is basically a warning that it may not be worth the money.
  • Verify – How trustworthy is the directory?
    • You can actually verify estimated traffic through independent websites like SEMRush or Similar Web. If your directory does not divulge traffic data, or you simply want to verify, do it yourself. While these sites use small datasets to extrapolate, it can be effective in checking on whether the directory has true traffic.

The bottom line is that the directory should have some type of metric to give you. If not, look it up yourself. Finally, if a directory’s sale sheet seems too good to be true, it probably is. Use common sense in figuring out the traffic.

Real World Readership: Should Your Law Firm Appear in Print?

Yes, there are still printed materials offline! Real-world readership boils down to whether the directory has a print presence that is actually viewed and a name brand presence that passes value to your firm by being listed. Will you get real eyeballs looking at your ad from this printed directory? Will it make your firm seem legitimate? Ask yourself these questions.

  • Does the directory have a real world print presence?
    • Is there a printed directory that goes to potential clients?
    • Who are those clients? What are their demographics? Do they match your target market?
    • How many people view them? Most directories can give you subscription or readership data. Is it a lot or a little?
    • If they have a printed directory, factor in the views that you can get from the print edition. It may add up, or it could be nothing.
    • If they do not have a print edition, then only look at the internet power listed above.
  • Does the directory have name brand recognition?
    • Does the brand name of the directory mean anything to potential clients?
    • Do your potential clients still look at the directory and value its accreditation?
    • Do your potential clients not care about the name brand?
    • Does this accreditation help your firm?
  • Does it have a cool badge or award?
    • Some directories allow for your site to be listed as an award.
    • If you can put the badge on your website, will it help you or hurt you?

Search Engine Optimization & Backlinks

The next question to ask is whether the directory will pass over links to your website. From a search engine optimization standpoint, getting links to your site is critical. The more links to your site, and the more from trusted sites, the better.

Directories play a major role in this as they are typically trusted links by Google (well, some are and some are not). Because getting quality inbound/backlinks from directories is important, getting listed in a good quality directory can work wonders for SEO. It can raise your rankings from page 10, to page 5, to a first page and even a top spot ranking, if you are listed in all the right directories.

To analyze links provided by a directory, ask yourself these questions:

  • How valuable is the directory? You can get a Moz subscription and check out their list of top ranked directories. They also have several tools to determine the value of a link.
  • Finally, checkout some technical blocks for a good quality link to your site:
    • Is the link “not followed”? If so, it passes over NO LINK VALUE! Make sure it does not have that tag applied.
    • Is the link setup incorrectly with javascript pop-up windows, odd redirects, or framed headers? If so, it may not be a true link to your web site and may not get indexed correctly as a link to your site.
    • How many other links are on the page? Typically Google values only the first 100 links. So if you are on a page with 100+ off-site links, it could spell trouble.

ROI – Is the Cost of This Legal Directory Worth It?

Now that we have explored the factors, let’s talk about return on investment (ROI). How many visitors came to your site, called you, or visited in person? Finally, how many became clients? You need that data, too.

If your firm is not tracking leads, then you should start. You have to have a sales tracking process tracking all phone, email, internet inquiries, and meetings. That is a starting point for your data. You should also track it not just from a lead, but to a sale. How many of those leads became clients?

If you are paying $25 per year for a directory listing that passes over 5 people to your site and gets you another 5 calls, this can be considered a pretty good listing ($2.50 per click or call). Throw in the value of backlinks/inbound links and it may well be worth its weight in gold.

If that same directory listing only received one click per year, that is $25 per click and a pretty high cost-per-click (especially considering that most Google Adwords go for $1 to $5 per click in most practice areas). Perhaps that directory has killer backlinks/inbound links, so it makes up for the fee, but in terms of internet traffic or real world readership, it sucks.

If you take this on a larger scale, say a listing of $500 per month, and that listing only gives you 10 visitors per month, then that too is a very high cost-per-click ($50 per click). That directory better be passing over significant backlinks/inbound links to your site or it’s a waste of money.

By now you should be getting the drift. Calculate the traffic from both the internet and the real world. If the traffic is an acceptable number per lead, then sign up for the directory. If it’s too high of a number, then it better pass over some major backlinks/inbound links to help with search optimization.

From an SEO perspective, you can also view the directory listing as worthwhile. Is it passing over good backlinks/inbound links and raising your overall ranking? If signing up for the top 50, or even top 10 directories, can move your site from a page 5 ranking to page 1, then that may mean you just doubled, tripled, or quadrupled your traffic. Those same directories are now causing your site to go from 100 visitors to 1,000 visitors. In other words, getting listed in the top directories can have a significant, tangible improvement on your site and lead to more clients.

Final Notes

When choosing directories, make sure you evaluate the ROI and the SEO backlinks/inbound links. They are both important to the quality of the directory. Figure out what your ROI point is per lead or prospect, and then make sure your directory is either passing over that amount or passing over backlinks/inbound links that help out with search.

Top 5 Legal Directories

Based on our former research on law firm directories and more recent research from Bipper Media and Constant Contact, we’ve compiled the following list of the best directories to improve your SEO and get you new clients. Data is based on traffic and domain rating.

5. Martindale

Martindale’s legal directory contains listings for over a million law firms and filters results by areas of practice and location. Listings can include reviews.

4. Justia

Justia is a highly ranked domain that offers free listings for licensed attorneys. Obtaining a listing with Justia also gets you on the Legal Information Institute’s directory.

3. US News – Lawyers

US News’s lawyer directory is another well-sought-out site. While free profiles do not include scores, ratings, or rankings, you can purchase an expanded profile to showcase awards, credentials, and rankings.

2. FindLaw

FindLaw is not just a directory, but also a resource for those seeking to learn more about certain legal topics and solutions, particularly on how to hire an attorney and understand different state laws.

1. Avvo

Lastly, Avvo is one of the most visited legal directories out there, with around 8 million visitors per month. For each listing, clients can rate and review the firm’s services. Additionally, Avvo gives a rating based on information provided by the state bar association, legal community, and other law firms.

Get Expert Advice on the Best Legal Directory Strategy for You

While legal directories can be helpful for your internet marketing efforts, a solid strategy for which ones and how many to choose is necessary for success. If you need help in this process, PaperStreet’s expert team is here for you. Contact us today to learn more!

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