First it was The Yellow Book, The Real Yellow Pages and all the other phonebook directories. Now it’s the online attorney directories like LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell and Findlaw’s attorney listing service that just may be the latest casualties of Google and the other search engines as more and more law firms develop websites and leverage pay-per-click and search engine optimization (SEO) strategies.

As recent as five years ago, it was a sign of success for a law firm to advertise on the back cover of the local yellow pages directory and have firm listings and attorney listings with LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell and Findlaw – and it made good business sense. But the benefits of using these legal directories have been declining for the last several years with many law firms either reducing their spending on directory services or are canceling their agreements altogether.

The directories and their ala cart services are typically overpriced for the value they provide as client-acquisition tools, especially when compared to pay-per-click campaigns, banner ads and other web-based marketing efforts. While these services do not price their services by the number of people who “click-through” from a directory listing to a law firm’s website, it is fairly easy to identify how many people are clicking through to a law firm’s website by looking at the site’s performance metrics.

As I discussed last September in “What your web provider doesn’t want you to know”, your website statistics will identify the number of visitors coming to your site and where they are coming from. By tracking the number of visitors that have come to your site from a directory site and dividing the cost of the service by the number of visitors, you can easily see the acquisition cost of each visitor. From here it is easy to compare this cost with the costs of other web-based marketing techniques. The directory sites may provide value to your law firm, and the LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell’s of the world may continue to innovate and improve their offerings. In any case, savvy law firms will compare the cost-benefit of their directory listings with the cost-benefit of other potential marketing and business development strategies.