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Are Paid Legal Directories Worth It for Law Firms?

Legal directory listings can be worth it for Google alone, but it's important to be strategic in which directories you cover.

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by carlton smith in Blog
July 21, 2019
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If you own a law firm or work as an attorney, you’ve probably looked into the many ways to improve your search engine rankings to bring in clients.

One excellent way to improve your likelihood of bringing in clients is to join a legal directory. But what is a legal directory? How can one join a legal directory and what are the steps one needs to take to make the most of it?

There are so many legal directories out there that it can be really tough to determine which ones are worth your time, energy, and budget. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about legal directories and their benefits.

What are Legal Directories?

A legal directory is a type of business directory specifically used for legal firms. A business directory is essentially an online list of businesses or companies that involve a specific niche, physical location, or category. Local companies can be discovered by online searchers who need their niche services or products by including themselves in specific business directories.

A legal directory, also known as a citation site, is essentially a searchable web-based directory of law firms, judges, lawyers, and attorneys in different areas of the world or who share a similar goal or niche. Web-based directories are typically not available in print. Legal directories contain information involving private, government, and corporate offices, attorneys, and profiles of courts, judges, and law school professors or professionals.

There are a significant amount of well-known legal directories out there that law firms and attorneys can get their particular companies listed on. Being listed on a niche specific site can help legal groups improve their local SEO rankings and authority.

Legal directories tend to cost money to utilize, but there are some free directories out there. Many legal directories that are high quality require an interview and additional fees in order to join them.

As an attorney marketing firm, we see many clients who are continuously badgered by sales representatives from paid legal directories. They are aggressive in their efforts, and our own clients often wonder whether they are worth the money.

Our advice for medium-sized law firms is always the same: Spread it out and pay for a listing on one or two directories in order to cover as many practice areas as possible. This way, one’s firm can have as many first page presences as possible, as well as generate as many valuable SEO backlinks as possible.

For example, one can take different attorneys and partners under a specific firm and enlist them under different legal directories that are popular. Most of the time, legal directory admissions are permanent or last for a significant amount of time. This way, purchasing listings under numerous directories is more of a one-time expense that can benefit your overall SEO.

One example of this strategy could look like this:

One law firm has five different successful attornies working out of its home office. The attorney directory listings are split up as such:

  • Attorney 1: FindLaw, Avvo
  • Attorney 2: Justia, Lawyers.com
  • Attorney 3: Super Lawyers, HG.org
  • Attorney 4: Martindale.com, Mediate
  • Attorney 5: Nolo.com, BestLawyers.com

This strategy could prove useful for medium-sized firms. For smaller firms, it may be beneficial to split up two or three attorneys among several legal directories as well.

Legal directory listings are also worth it for Google alone. Google will consistently reference these legal directories and attorney citation sites to learn more about a particular company. By having the correct contact information, a list of services that are unique to your business, and (ideally) some previous positive online reviews can help the Google algorithm understand more about you as a law firm. This can give your company the added SEO authority that will help you rank higher and get the most out of your directory listing.

Just as well, legal directory listings are great for customers too. Potential customers and new clients will often visit local legal directories and other such websites that contain law firm listings when they are looking for the best lawyers in their local area for a particular niche. Because of this behavior, getting your law firm properly listed on these sites can result in more direct leads and an overall improved marketing plan.

Plus, these vital leads are usually converting higher than other similar sources, so you are reaching potential customers who are specifically searching for legal solutions in your physical area.

Even with all of these benefits, a legal directory listing still may not be the ideal choice for every law firm. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons.

The Pros of Legal Directories

Legal directories can be much more inexpensive than you’d think. Yes, legal directories often cost money. But when you compare them to other commonly accepted marketing options, listing your attorneys in various legal directories can be a really inexpensive way to successfully market your law firm and the lawyers within. Many legal directories will charge less than a few hundred dollars per month and others will charge a flat fee that will keep your business up on their website for months or years. It really does not take a substantial amount of new clients to generate a ROI (return on investment) for a few hundred dollars per month. Plus, in many cases, a legal directory listing can generate a really substantial ROI that is more than worth the initial money and effort.

Legal directories can also deliver substantial results quite quickly. As soon as one’s legal directory listings goes live for the first time, complete with all the necessary information, the office phones could start going off with potential new clients. This alone makes the use of legal directories one of the quickest and most lucrative ways to generate new customers and clients. Most legal directories will also get your listings up and running within less than a day after the interview process is complete.

Business directories can also deliver a substantial volume of fresh leads, which is beneficial to any and all businesses in many industries. Business directories are pretty much the commercials of the world wide web. The more potential customers come across your “commercial”, the more potential customers will contact your firm. It’s as simple as that. Potential customers find it simple and easy to respond to business directory listings, and most of the fresh new calls that originate from those business directories are relevant for your law firm’s niche set of service. Because so few potential clients simply “come across” legal directories by accident, most users that are on those sites are people who are actively looking for attorneys or law firms.

The Cons of Legal Directories

Unfortunately, nothing is perfect. Legal directories are no exception. There are a few situations where a legal directory could not be worth your time and money.

A lot of the time, it can be very difficult and a bit tricky to figure out which legal directories are worth investing in, simply because there is such a high volume of sites like this. It is vital for law firms that are looking into this source of marketing to speak directly with reps from any online attorney marketing company that they are currently investigating. Since these companies will all boast their services as the best choice, it is your duty to figure out who to believe and ultimately invest in. It helps to ask a certain set of questions, which we’ll dive into momentarily.

Some legal citation directories can offer less than ideal visibility for your law firm. The whole point of getting these listings is to improve your company’s visibility, so if they can’t deliver, then look elsewhere. Just because a legal citation directory shows up fairly well in search engine results under the appropriate keywords does not mean that your law firm will get top tier visibility on the website itself. Make sure that your firm will get some sort of preferential placement regularly, and make sure to get the exact consistency they promise you in writing. If a directory visitor has to click to additional pages or scroll around through a painstakingly long list of attorneys and law firms to find your law firm, it’s probably not going to be a very effective marketing method for your specific firm. Keep in mind that directories tend to differ significantly in their methods for giving your firm visibility, so be sure to ask them to explain their methods in detail.

Legal directories also don’t typically offer filters or the act of qualifying of leads. Some could see this as a con or a pro, which depends entirely on your particular firm’s unique approach to getting leads. Essentially, legal directories will publish your office phone number for anyone to call. This means that you’ll often get calls from people who are not yet 100% sure whether or not they’ll need an attorney for a specific issue or situation. However, this also means that you’ll get a much higher volume of leads. Law firms that can learn how to best handle these types of specific leads and follow up on them when necessary will usually see the best return on their investment for a legal directory listing.

It’s very important to allow yourself time to identify the best legal citation directories for your firm to work with. With so many legal directories to choose from, it may seem that all legal directories are essentially equal, but that is definitely not the case. While the price for their services matters, you should really try to evaluate all legal directories based on what features they offer and what they can deliver first and foremost. Then when you have you have narrowed down your options, consider pricing and negotiation with them. It’s not that complicated of a process– it’s simply like a new business deal.

What to Ask Potential Legal Directories

It always helps to ask the same inquiries of all possible service providers:

  • What can my firm expect from you?
  • What are your prices like?
  • How long has your directory been live and active? (Older websites have a better chance of generating results over a period of time, so they’re often a better choice.)
  • How is your relationship with the BBB (Better Business Bureau)? (If their answer is not great, ask them why. Negative customer experiences can be a bad sign and a red flag.)
  • What are your main traffic sources online? (Look for big search engines like Google and Bing which can account for a significant amount of internet traffic.)
  • How do you track your results? Can you explain to me how this method is beneficial?

While a legal directory will ultimately be interviewing you, you will also be interviewing them. The relationship will ultimately be mutually beneficial, so treat this interview as a business opportunity. (Which it essentially is.)

How to Make the Most of Your Company Listing

First and foremost, it is vital for your company listing (once accepted) to contain some core pieces of information:

  • Consistent and accurate name, address, and phone number. This is also known as NAP. If you are able to add or update your company on multiple legal directory listing websites, be sure you’re providing the same business information across each and every directory. No inconsistencies.
  • A correct link to your law firm’s website or individual attorney’s website. Backlinks, which are also known as inbound links, are extremely important to your business website’s online domain authority. It may be worth adding a tracking link at the end of this website link URL too, so one can see how much traffic the website gets from the legal directories that are linking directly to it. Regardless, plug in a link.
  • A brief but in-depth business description. Make sure that you have a very detailed, accurate, and understandable description of your law firm that accurately reflects your legal firm’s mission statement, company culture, and core values.
  • Some multimedia, but not too much. Give directory searchers and potential clients a more visual projection of your law firm with a phone or video of your firm’s main office, your employee team, or your everyday business operations. Avoid overusing this type of media and keep it professional.

These are all very good ways to make the most of your listing and bring in those leads.

Local Citation Sites for Attorneys and Law Firms to Consider

The top legal citation directory sites include Avvo, Lawyers.com, FindLaw, Martindale-Hubbell, Justia, and Yelp. There are a few additional decent directories to consider as well. In our next guide, we’ll be covering some of the best free legal directories to consider.

It’s worth noting that a law firm should utilize a majority of these legal directories, rather than just settling for one.

1. Avvo

Avvo is one of the main top legal directory sites online. It constantly comes up in legal searches for more legal keywords, however niche they may be. After Google’s Pigeon update, this was one of the directories that increased exponentially in visibility, making it the top legal directory to check out. Avvo is known for being authoritative and relevant, as well as a great backlink source for law firms. It’s been a tried and true referral source that provides a boost in site traffic and legit new case opportunities for years. There is some controversy surrounding Avvo, however. Many attorneys believe the website has been less than honest about how it works, its costs, and its tendency to be scammy and full of libel. Regardless, one should try this directory out to see if it is worth both the hype and the controversy.

2. Lawyers.com

Lawyers.com is one of the most popular and well-known legal directories around, likely due to their coveted website domain. It is a very visible site and unlike frontrunners like Avvo and Justia, the name itself makes it very easy for potential clients to remember and type into their browser bar when they need legal services or want to ask a legal question. Because of this, it’s not a directory to overlook! Like all the other directories on this list, it’s one that comes up time and again for most niche legal searches.

3. FindLaw

FindLaw may not be #1 on this list of legal citation directories, but it is indeed a worthwhile place to look at. FindLaw is a unique legal directory in that it boasts features that are fairly unique, such as their FindLaw Answers section. In this feature, lawyers can answer burning questions asked by users about laws, legal proceedings, and other legal information. By letting lawyers take the time to answer questions, they’re opening up an opportunity for the question-asker to consider that particular lawyer for future cases.

4. HG

HG is a powerful directory that may seem not as popular as the other directories on this list, but ultimately is one of the older and more powerful directories to consider listing on. And like most of the entries on this list, you will need to pay for a company listing that includes a name, phone number, and a link. It’s also one of the few directories that charge by the year instead of monthly.

5. Justia

Justia is yet another big attorney directory website. Like Avvo, it comes up in most legal keyword searches. By getting a listing on this website, you can improve your backlink profile and get discovered by local potential clients, as well as improve your online image and overall brand. This directory has been proven to reward its users with many legit new cases. You can also create a free profile for your law firm that will be distributed through the website’s directory and also in the Legal Information Institute, which is a non-profit service provided by and extended by Cornell Law School. The premium membership for Justia provides a much higher placement, however.

6. Yelp

It may seem strange that we’re adding Yelp to this list of directories, especially since it isn’t a specifically “legal” directory. However, Yelp has been a tried and true review aggregate and business directory for many users for many years. Gettin your business listed is free, easy, and worth doing. Like Google Maps, Yelp allows your potential clients to find your law firms, all of its relevant information (name, phone number, address, operating hours, photos, etc.), and leave reviews for their experiences with your firm.

7. Martindale-Hubbell

This legal directory is unique in that is emphasizes peer and client reviews specifically, rather than just existing as a legal directory in the traditional sense. If you can get your firm listed on this site, a listing will also simultaneously appears on the directories Lawyers.com and Nolo. A profile on these websites is vital because potential clients can search for lawyers using varying keywords and different platforms. Subscribing will also give you a citation and backlink on the parent site.

8. Hire Me Legal

Hire Me Legal is a very unique directory that sticks out from the rest. This directory allows users to post their specific niche legal issue in a secure place where no personal information is shared and they can speak candidly and anonymously. The most qualified lawyers that are specialized in the right legal space are then notified. Then, they have the chance to essentially “pitch” themselves to the user (and prospective client.) Users can also search the actual directory function and reach out to specific lawyers or law firms themselves if they prefer to do so. The site has it all– chatbots, instant messaging, email and video conferencing to stay connected to new or potential clients, and a legal digital workroom, which allows new and potential clients to track the status of their specific case and securely upload and download documents. It’s so much more than a directory and is absolutely worth getting involved with.

9. Nolo

Nolo is a super powerful resource for firms to exponentially grow their business. It has domain authority as well as page authority that still stands strong. With a Nolo listing, your firm will get a citation and a backlink in a very trusted directory that carries a hefty amount of weight in search results. Nolo is unique in that it offers two different subscriptions options with wildly different features, so any law firm will be able to find the right membership for them. In addition to these features, all members can publish articles on their profile to further improve their SEO reach.

Preparing for a Legal Directory Interview

As we previously mentioned, legal directories typically require an interview either online or in person to determine if your firm is a good fit for their directory. Here we have some brief suggestions step-by-step for attorneys on how to prepare for, and what to expect from, a legal directory interview.

The Overall Structure

Legal citation directory interviews typically follow a similar pattern. The first half of the interview is an opportunity to talk about one’s own practice and the practice of the firm itself. The second half of the interview is a more in-depth discussion about the market and your views on other law firms, attorneys, etc.

Interview Length and Timing

Typically an interview will be about half an hour long on the phone or in person. Online interviews are rarer and their timing will vary. Legal directory researchers will often extend the interview call if you provide them with helpful and interesting market feedback. Which, realistically, you should be doing anyway. To be safe, allow an hour in your agenda for the interview just to be safe and to avoid cutting the call short.

Prepare for the Interview

Read the entire submission before the interview and make sure you have it on hand during the interview to remind you of what the team has assessed and worked on. It is also wise to have the last year’s rankings for your firm in front of you so you can comment on that information. If you don’t have a hard copy of the books, print them from the internet.

Practice and Rehearse

Begin the interview call by providing a brief overview of your firm in the last twelve months, highlighting any and all key developments.

Know the Context

Explain why the strengths of the firm are important to potential and existing clients. The amount of technical knowledge among legal directory researchers can vary, so make it a point to avoid technical language and make sure they understand the bigger picture. You may need to explain specific terms and references, though. Give ample details of any significant changes in the past year that have had an overall positive impact on the firm, such as new hires, internal promotions among successful team members, new and improved office openings, new or controversial client wins, etc. Make sure you write all of these out ahead of time.

Be Inclusive

Highlight the entire team behind your firm. A successful law firm is nothing without its backbone. Be sure to mention their names explicitly and explain what value they add and their unique strengths. Legal directories like to see impressive individual attorneys within a firm, but they also admire successful teams.

Be Persuasive and Know Your Arguments

If you want to improve your Google search rankings, you will need a convincing set of arguments. Of course, this is just another day on the job for attorneys. Any significant changes in the rankings are closely and thoroughly inspected by the directory’s team of editors, so give the directory researchers the evidence they need to make a convincing case for you.

Promote Your Firm But Don’t Oversell It

It’s obvious that one will have to really promote their firm during the interview. After all, that’s essentially the point of the interview overall. The legal directories recognize that the interview is a marketing opportunity, but make sure to be truthful and realistic at the same time. Researchers speak to dozens if not hundreds of attorneys and tend to be wary of those that oversell themselves at the expense of any more in-depth commentary.

Discuss Your Local Competitors Carefully

The second section of a legal directory interview usually involves discussing who you believe are the leading attorneys and firms in other places in the market and their placing within the legal ranking tables. Though it may not seem like an obvious way to promote your law firm, the legal directories will appreciate your candidness and ability to talk intelligently about the market. Be candid, as the legal directories tend to love individuality and personality, and feel free to criticize other firms constructively. However, avoid dismissing every other rival firm. It will lend credibility to your assertation to be an expert in the legal community if you can talk positively about some peers, even if they are competitors.

Confidentiality, Security, and Attribution

Every single thing you say about your firm during the legal directory interview will be treated as ultimately printable unless you say otherwise. Most legal directories take any comments you make about other firms or attorneys and keep that information confidential. However, be mindful of anything that shouldn’t be attributed to your or your firm publicly, such as sensitive high-profile client information or names.

Follow Up Later On

Let the legal directory researcher know that you are happy to take on any follow-up inquiries. Sometimes, researchers tend to come back to previously helpful interviewees for clarification or further market commentary for their own use. Make sure to provide up-to-date and clear contact information for a follow-up.

What do you think about law firms utilizing legal directories to improve their business? Do you think it’s worth it, or do you think there are better alternatives? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.

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