The fallacy of being listed on the first page of Google

Over the last month, I’ve had several conversations with law firms about their websites and their desires to be listed on the first page of Google for specific search terms. Obviously, this is a desirable goal, and any business, given the option of showing up on the first page for their appropriate searches, would be thrilled. Where I take issue is with the fallacy that search performance alone is enough. Many firms and many sites focus on search performance through search-friendly title tags and H1 tags, external link programs, and key-word-rich content at the expense of branding and providing relevant, fresh information for a visitor. I’ve talked to several firms that are either on the first page of a general search or are getting great website traffic through pay-per-click ad words but are not getting conversions, and they have no idea why. It’s simple to understand why they aren’t getting results when you look at the sites in question. They aren’t branded, the content is targeted at search engines rather than potential clients, and there is no compelling reason for someone to call. This is a classic case of bringing a horse to water but not being able to make it drink. Getting strong organic search performance is great, but it clearly is not a silver bullet. You need a branded site with relevant content to entice someone to call. There is an entire industry of web-development firms that are more than willing to help improve your organic search performance for a fee, and may even guarantee results for a limited period of time. If you do elect to focus on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), don’t do so at the detriment to, or in place of, a branded website that is focused on solving your potential client’s problems.