What’s the easiest way to lose qualified leads looking for your law firm? Have a website other than your firm’s homepage show up in Google’s top spot for your branded search term. Even if a social media property, including the firm’s Facebook or Twitter, shows up before the main site, you’re still sacrificing valuable clicks that could turn into business revenue. Don’t think branded search matters for your law firm’s SEO? We guarantee you it does and here’s why.

What is Branded Search?

For search engine marketing purposes, branded search terms are keywords containing all or a portion of your company’s brand name. For example, someone typing “Nike shoes” into Google is conducting a type of branded search. They want shoes made by a certain company and aren’t looking for products outside of that brand umbrella. Just show me shoes made by Nike, Google. That’s all.

Searchers looking for products or information in this way have already heard of the brand they want to find. Maybe they’ve seen ads or commercials about the company and now want to get more information about their products or services. Maybe their friends recommended the business. Maybe they’re just bored. Either way, something motivated them to give the company a closer look. How the business appears in terms of rankings for its own branded keywords plays a large role in how the searcher engages and where they click.

Click-Through Rates for Branded Search Results

Click-through rate (CTR) varies depending on a site’s placement in search engine results pages (SERPs). In terms of organic (non-branded) search terms, the site occupying the top organic spot in Google results receives a click about 33 percent of the time, if you believe the good folks at Marketing Land. That means for every 10 searchers, three click on the top result.

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For branded organic search queries, the numbers show a heavy bias towards the website owning the number one search result. More than 50 percent of searchers conducting branded search queries, as of 2014, click on the top result. This happens because searchers often assume the top result for a branded search is the most relevant to the name they’ve typed. Why would they need to look anywhere else? The data certainly supports that assumption.

The second result on first page receives a click just 10 percent of the time. From there, the CTR continues its precipitous drop with first page branded results in positions six through 10 getting clicks less than 1 percent of the time. For all intents and purposes, these websites don’t exist in the minds of searchers.

How Branded Search Gets Difficult

Wading into a crowded field where a company or person that shares part of your name is more accomplished than you can present branding difficulties. I’ll use my own name as an example. Jonathan Lister is the Vice President of North American Sales for LinkedIn. He’s also an investor and advisor for multiple startup companies, including FlashStock and Taplytics. Getting Google to believe that my identity is more relevant for my own name’s branded search query than the more successful Mr. Lister is going to be an uphill slog.

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Your law firm may also experience similar difficulties, especially in states where ethics rules require your name to appear as all or a portion of your fictitious business name. Woe to the attorney who wants to name his practice, ‘The Smith Law Firm.’ That lawyer will need to compete with multiple law firms of varying degrees of success as well as a billion-dollar NFL franchise. Distinguishing a business in the face of that congested field isn’t a smart strategy because the branded search is such a zero sum game. Your company website needs to rank #1 for the branded term or it does not exist.

Steps to Fix Branded Search Problems

Careful planning during business formation is often the best strategy to make sure your firm’s brand gets off on the right foot. If you’re just starting out your practice, here’s what you should consider:

  • Unique Business Name – Your firm’s name will become synonymous with the services you provide. Aside from the legal requirements your state imposes, you want the name brief enough to make it memorable, yet distinct enough to avoid confusion with other practices.
  • Choose Your Logo Wisely – Going with that gavel and/or balanced scales is tempting, but you’ll be joining a field clogged with the unimaginative. Choose an image that melds with your brand name to provide a cohesive image for the viewer. Pick a font for the business name that communicates your firm’s professionalism and unique perspective – avoid stock imagery at all costs. The last thing you want is to end up in a Reddit Photoshop Battle.
  • Don’t Get too Wordy – Your law firm’s branded name doesn’t need a long string of superlatives that increases its total character length. Doing so actually makes it harder to market that name online and incorporate it into your page titles, meta descriptions, etc. Starting your law firm name off with ‘The Business Law Offices of’ and ending with an ‘LLC’ or ‘PC’ has taken up a third of the space Google allows for title tags.

Once you’ve chosen your business name and logo, remain consistent in how it’s published online, including your social media profiles and local directory listings. Diligence in that area is necessary to bolster and grow branded search rankings for your business. If you’re not starting your law firm from the ground up, don’t worry, there’s still a number of things you and your marketing team can do to increase brand awareness and relevancy.

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Established Law Firms: Achieve Brand Consistency

I’ll be the first to point out that social media outlets continue to limit their organic traffic, which hamstrings their utility for businesses looking to reach new leads or customers. They’re all going the pay-per-click route for abs because, as it turns out, shareholders like to see a steadily increasing revenue stream.

These networks, despite the blatant cash grab, are still useful for law firms. Chances are, your firm has a Twitter account or a moth-balled Facebook page. Check out the business name, business address, and business phone number across these networks – are they exactly the same? Are the logos for the firm on each social network profile – G+, Facebook, Twitter, (yes even) Pinterest – exactly the same? Fix them, and while you’re at it make sure each page has a link pointing back to your firm’s website homepage with your firm’s branded business name as the link anchor text. Ex: My Law Firm LLC

Maintaining brand consistency across your web properties is a key ingredient to improving your site’s ranking when it comes to branded search. If you changed business names in the past, have your SEO company or in-house team go through those old social profiles and cleanup the incorrect listings. You don’t want to confuse visitors (or Google) about the name of your law firm as it relates to your brand and your business location.

Consequences of Losing Branded Search

We’ve talked about the click-through rates for branded queries, but maybe that doesn’t do a good enough job of explaining the potential problems your business might face if it’s not the top result. Let’s try this scenario out: let’s say your company’s Facebook page is the top organic result for branded search queries in Google. Maybe that page has a couple negative reviews on it from disgruntled clients. There’s also a low number of page likes, missing business logo, and no contact form to get in touch with the firm’s lawyers. Think those visitors are going to learn into leads? Here’s a brief breakdown of the risks:

  • Main Site Loses Traffic: When branded searchers opt for other pages outside your own domain to engage with your company, your main site loses that traffic. Losses in search traffic can cause drops in organic rankings for non-branded search terms due to reduced authority based on user signals.
  • Missed Conversion Opportunities: Because searchers are looking for your business when they conduct branded searches, you could lose out on revenue-generating opportunities. Unless your law firm’s Twitter page is optimized for conversion, you won’t see very many leads make it through the funnel to make contact.
  • Reduced Revenue: If the business loses its chances to sign leads, it stands to reason that the firm will also experience a corresponding drop in revenue. Less money in the door means fewer free dollars to spend on things like marketing, support staff, and other services crucial to practice development.

Losing the branded search battle is a preventable injury that your law firm and website don’t need to suffer. There’s no reason, outside of battling with a commonly used practice name, that your main website can’t rank number one for its business name on any search engine. Stay diligent in maintaining your firm’s brand online, give customers a great experience so they leave positive reviews on Google+ and other social outlets, and you should begin to see your firm’s branded search results shift in your favor.

Image Credit: Derek Gavey

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