Directory Evaluation Checklist for Law Firms & Legal Marketing

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“Should I be listed in Directory X?”

I am asked weekly about whether a specific directory, award, or promotion site is worth the money.

When reviewing whether your law firm should be listed, you must look at three factors to determine whether the cost justifies the investment:

(1) Internet Traffic;

(2) Real World Readership; and

(3) Search Engine Optimization back links/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 back links/inbound links. Finally, a lot of directories just plain suck.

So is Directory X worth the money?”  Check out this checklist to determine whether you should be listed.

Internet Traffic

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

  1. Rank – Where is the directory ranked?
    1. Do a Google Search for common search phrases that they should be associated with.
      1. Are they listed in the free/natural/organic search rankings?
      2. Are they listed in the sponsored links?
    2. If they are ranked or listed as a sponsored links, 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 are they getting from the search engines.
  2. Traffic – What is the actual traffic of the site?”  The actual page views?
    1. Easy enough question, but a lot of directories will not give up that data. Any directory should have an overall traffic analysis report to give you.
    2. The directory should provide at a minimum the page views (not hits) of their site and visitor time on site.
    3. If they have demographic data, that helps too, so you can determine your audience and potential client base.
  3. Specific Traffic – Get specific with the traffic though; don’t just stop at raw logs.
    1. Your niche page that you might be listed on may not have a lot of traffic.
    2. If your listing is only on one page, then you better know exactly how many people in the last year viewed that page (or at least the last month for new directories).
    3. 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.
  4. Verify – You can actually verify estimated traffic through two independent web sites. 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.
    1. – Alexa ranks its sites via their own methodology found here. Let’s check out the traffic rank of some of the well known legal directories (#1 site on the net is according to Alexa). is 137,656 (not bad for a web, print and marketing company). J”  ” ” Here are some top law firm directories:
      1. – Traffic Rank 4,815
      2. – Traffic Rank 10,229
      3. – Traffic Rank 31,817
    2. – Compete is a cool new service that also tracks traffic. You can view their data methodology here.Let’s look at April’s visitors to these popular sites:
      1. – 1,820,925 visitors
      2. – 953,983 visitors
      3. – 236,661 visitors
    3. Of course, please note that this is just a few examples. We have a list of over 100 directories of varying quality and 50+ top directory web sites with a legal category.
    4. 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

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.

  1. Does the directory have a real world print presence?
    1. Is there a printed directory that goes to potential clients?
    2. Who are those clients?”  What are their demographics?”  Do they match to your target market?
    3. How many people view them? Most directories can give you subscription or readership data. Is it a lot or a little?
    4. 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.
    5. If they do not have a print edition, then only look at the internet power listed above.
  2. Does the directory have name brand recognition?
    1. Does the brand name of the directory mean anything to potential clients?
    2. Do your potential clients still look at the directory and value its accreditation?
    3. Do your potential clients not care about the name brand?
    4. Does this accreditation help your firm?
  3. Does it have a cool badge or award?
    1. Some directories allow for your site to be listed as an award.
    2. If you can put the badge on your web site, will it help?
    3. Sometimes having nice badges on your site impresses visitors. Personally, I hate them, but alas if you have enough awards it can look good to some potential clients.

Search Engine Optimization & Back Links / Inbound Links

OK, here is the question often overlooked:”  Does the directory pass over links to your web site?”  From a search engine optimization standpoint, getting links to your site is critical. The more links to your site, 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 top spot ranking, if you are listed in all the right directories.

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

  1. What is the site’s overall PageRank (PR)?”  While PageRank is an often dated metric to follow, it can help determine whether a site is offering you good links or bad links. The good news is there are hundreds of tools to check PageRank for your potential directory (and most importantly the listing page itself). Personally, I install a plugin into my Firefox browser.
  2. You can also get an SEOMoz subscription and check out their list of top ranked directories – They also have several tools to determine the value of a link.
  3. Now that you have your PR for your directory, how do you evaluate it?
    1. If the PR is 5 or above, definitely consider getting listed, especially if your link is on the home page that has that PR 5 or above (PageRank is determined by each page).
    2. If the PR is 2, 3, or 4, consider getting a link, but weigh the costs against the listing. If the directory is $1,000 a year, ouch!”  If it’s a few hundred dollars or less per year, it might be worth the cost, especially if it has traffic and readership.
    3. If the PR is 0 or 1, you might want to save the money. Sure, enough 0 and 1 links will help, but it’s always better to get higher ranked pages linking to your site. The cost of these directory listings need to be cheap to be worthwhile.
  4. Now that you have the site’s PR, the better question is what is the listing page’s PR?”  What is the directory page you will be listed on ranked?”  See above for the factors. This is the most important step, because the actual link value to your page is determined by the PageRank of that page.
  5. Finally, checkout some technical blocks for a good quality link to your site:
    1. Is the link “not followed”?”  If so, it passes over NO LINK VALUE!”  Make sure it does not have that tag applied.
    2. 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.
    3. 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 – Does This Actually Work?

Now that we have explored the factors, let’s talk about Return on Investment (ROI). If you are viewing a directory listing purely on Internet or Real World power, then you must look at ROI. How many visitors came to your site, called you, or visited in person?”  Finally, how many became clients?”  You need that data.

If your firm is not tracking leads, then start. You have to have a sales tracking process. Sales?”  Ugh, what an ugly term, but everyone sells. If you want to call it business development, fine. Just call it something and track 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?

Now that you are tracking every lead, let’s talk about ROI for directories. 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 back links/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 most Google Adwords go for $1 to $5 per click in most practice areas). Perhaps that directory has killer back links/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 back links/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 back links/inbound links to help with search optimization.

From a SEO perspective, you can also view the directory listing as worthwhile. Is it passing over good back links/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. You see where I am going with this. 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 back links/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 back links/inbound links that help out with search.

Soon we will be releasing a comprehensive list of law firm directories, both free and paid. Stay tuned.

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