Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Who "Owns" Your Name

Over at The Legal Underground, Evan Schaeffer points to a couple of blog posts about legal websites. I think that the posts are most helpful to corporate firms, as opposed to solos and small firms, but if you have a law firm website (or are considering getting one) they're worth reading.

But there's something a lot of lawyers aren't considering - at least that I can see - in the Internet era. Specifically, what comes up in a search engine when somebody types in their name. If you have a generic name, it can be difficult to "own" your name - that is, to have your site come up as the number one search engine result for "John Smith", "John Smith Lawyer", or "John Smith Attorney". (But you still may be able to achieve that result for "John Smith Kalamazoo" or "John Smith Michigan Lawyer".) If you have an unusual name it will often be easier to lay claim to the number one search engine spot - but not just for you.

I had a lawyer call me recently to complain that one of the top Google results for his name was a client rant posted on ripoffreport.com. I have seen lawyers whose name draws as the first result a news article or official online announcement of disciplinary proceedings. It is easy to post a site, or publish an online review, criticizing a lawyer - and if you haven't taken some time to optimize for your name, when new or potential clients search for you on the Internet they may well see such a review before they find your actual firm website.

If you're hiring a web designer, one of the topics of discussion should be search engine optimization, and which keywords you wish to emphasize on your site. I would suggest that, among the keywords you designate as being important, you include your name.

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