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What Your Mom and Google Have in Common

    Online Marketing for Lawyers    January 24, 2012

Like your Mom, Google just wants what is best for you.

As a lawyer, you have a very real need to know and accurately measure how you and your firm rank in search in relationship to your peers. Google’s Personalized Search Results may give you a false sense of your true standings.

In late 2009, Google announced it was extrapolating “Personalized Search Results” from its signed-in users to its signed-out users as well. Search results are now colored by the Web History of signed in users and the data within a cookie cataloging the search queries of the past 180 days of signed out users. (Unless you specifically opt-out.)

Earlier this month, Google told us about Search plus Your World which will also influence your search results. (Unless you specifically opt-out.)

When you go to Mom’s for Sunday dinner, she serves up all your favorite dishes. Similarly, with its personalized search results, Google tries to serve up the search results it thinks you will like best. Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding vs. Liver and Brussel sprouts if you will.

Privacy and arguments surrounding diversity of opinions aside, for most people, this is great! The most relevant results are up top – saving us from scrolling through or clicking on less useful links. With Search plus Your World, you may see websites friends or family clicked or commented on because if someone you know and trust found something helpful online, you too will probably find it worthwhile.

You are probably not doing as well in Google as you think you are

But what if you are the marketing director, managing partner or other lawyer responsible for your law firm’s website and search performance? You are probably not doing as well in Google as you think you are.

You likely perform regular competitive analysis of how you rank in Google versus your competitors for various law related terms. As you enter and click on these keyword phrases, Google will determine, “Hey. This user clicks a lot on Let’s make their life easier by pushing it up to page one instead of making him/her scroll through three pages to where it naturally fits in our search algorithm.” So you may see your firm appear in the top three or six search results, and think, “Hey! We’re doing pretty well!” The reality is, unless you opt out of personalized search results, you probably are not doing as well in the search results as you think.

Give it to me straight, Google. I can take it

If you are responsible for your law firm’s website; you need accurate, consistent, unadulterated data. You need to know that what you see when typing a search query related to your legal practice is what the general public, in your city, seeking your services and entering the same query sees.

What you can do to determine more accurate rank results

There are steps you can take when performing regular competitive analysis of competing lawyers and law firms in your area to see a more accurate picture of how you rank to most users for a given query in Google.

  1. As a signed in user, you want to delete previous web history then disable web history to prevent further tracking. Then sign out.
  2. Clear your cookies and cache
  3. As a signed out user, you want to click the small “gear” at the top right and click web history then click “Disable customizations based on web history” NOTE: This has to be done every session. I.E. Every time you open your browser.

Additionally, most browsers offer a “Private Browsing” option that limits the storage of data during the session or deletes it. In MS Explorer, for example, click Tools > InPrivate Browsing.

The take away

This is not an “Anti-Google” post. On the contrary, Google is an important part of many businesses and its available tools are incredibly helpful in their growth and success. Business owners, and the lawyers and law firms that are the target audience of this blog, have a very real need to know and accurately measure how they rank in search versus their peers.

One must ensure they take steps to “anonymize” their browsing session when researching their law firm’s search rankings to avoid costly, inaccurate results as to the true standings in search for the keyword phrases important to your practice and those used by the people seeking your particular legal expertise.

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Whether you are a sole practitioner or a law firm with offices across Canada, our national online lawyer directory,; and our related municipal based lawyer directories, give you the exposure you need in a competitive legal marketplace.

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