In 2019, we’re introducing a new monthly column to our legal marketing community, called “Let’s Debate Legal Marketing”. Each month we’ll bring into the spotlight a topic that seems to have lawyers and legal marketers divided and present to you both sides of the issue. We begin with a discussion about voice search, a rising technology with a lot of marketing promise, that still faces a lot of skepticism in the legal community.
What To Know About Voice Search
While there’s plenty to debate when it comes to how voice search will be used by law consumers, there seems to be no doubt that voice search technology is increasing in popularity.
Some statistics to know:
- 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020, per comScore.
- About 30% of all searches will be done without a screen by 2020, per Gartner.
- As of January 2018, there were an estimated one billion voice searches per month, per Alpine.AI.
With just about everyone owning a smartphone with built-in voice enabled assistants these days, and more and more people investing in voice-enabled devices like Amazon Echos and Google Homes, it’s not surprising that voice searches are on the rise. Voice search offers convenience and quicker results, as people can speak about three-times faster than they can type. Many of lawyer’s potential clients are already using voice search. The question is, are they using it when searching for legal assistance, and doing so enough to justify lawyers making significant changes to their website content and marketing strategies.
The Case For Getting Ready
Many legal marketers, like Larry Bodine of LawLytics, seem to think that it’s inevitable that law firms will be seriously impacted by voice search technology.
“We’re entering an era where search will be dominated by voice,” said Bodine in a May 2018 blog post. “We are on the verge of a full-scale search revolution that will change attorney marketing. The world can’t get enough of voice-enabled virtual assistants.”
In a piece for Attorney at Work, Mark Homer, CEO of a leading law firm marketing agency, stated why he believes an increasing amount of legal consumers could be using voice search to reach out for legal help. Here’s what he recently discovered from viewing the AdWords accounts his agency manages.
“We have seen an increase in longer search phrases and in confusing and misspelled words in these long phrases,” Homer said. “Here is a recent example: ‘whena juvenile is at fault of a accident what does courtaid?’ Our assumption is that many of these strange longer search phrases are due to the increase in voice searches.”
Whether or not these findings represent a larger trend among consumers is unclear at this point, but in this case, there was enough evidence to convince Homer that voice search needs to be taken seriously by lawyers.
“As mobile devices began dominating search results over the past few years, those law firms that did not adjust their website to optimize for mobile searches saw a decline in traffic,” says Homer. “As we see voice searches increase in the coming years, start incorporating some of these techniques now to avoid a similar fate.”
Voice Search Skeptics
While many marketers are all in on preparing their business for voice search, some are still a bit uncertain about the technology’s place in the legal industry.
“I am a voice search skeptic and find it…difficult to use at best”, says Steven Long, Co-Founder of Precision Legal Marketing. “I’m sure many will argue that point, but for me it’s not ready for prime time. We are now past the early adoption phase, and aren’t seeing any conclusive evidence that the technology is being used to search for legal services.”
Douglas Bradley, founder and managing partner at Everest Legal Marketing, echoes Long’s skepticism, noting that consumers may not feel comfortable using voice search in a way that would be conducive to attorneys getting new clients.
“The concept of ‘voice search’ and how it applies to legal marketing is intriguing,” Bradley said. “It’s easy to comprehend how it works for things like trivia questions, simple answers or recipes, but if it will actually bridge the gap of helping people find a lawyer to hire remains to be seen. It seems plausible that people might use voice search to get ‘straightforward’ legal information like laws, recent news or decisions. At the moment though, I find it hard to believe that people will choose an attorney or make critical decisions regarding legal problems based on an answer to a voice search. In my opinion, the higher the complexity of a search the more people want to absorb information visually. However, people’s unwavering ability to blindly trust technology never ceases to amaze me.”
So What Should Lawyers Do?
Well before we answer that question, let’s talk about what the marketers that do believe lawyers should be preparing for voice search, recommend attorneys do.
In his “Let’s Talk Legal Marketing” feature in June of 2018, Bodine dished out some advice for capitalize on longer keyword inquiries, that might be produced by voice search technology.
Here are five things Bodine recommends lawyers do, along with his reasoning for each recommendation:
Create FAQ pages
“Smart attorneys will answer frequently-asked questions on their websites, because help-focused content will match up better with voice searches.”
Write blog posts
“Blogging about current legal events and trends is an excellent way to capitalize on voice search.”
Answer the question succinctly
“The point is to get your answer to be chosen by Google’s verbal answer to a verbal question.”
Write in a natural voice
“To be found in a voice search, attorneys should dictate their web content. It’s a sure way to produce conversational English.”
Make it local
“Mobile voice-related searches are three times more likely to be local-based than text.”
While listing these strategies may seem like a declaration that voice search is something lawyers need to be concerned with, we assure you it’s not. There are lot of good reasons for legal marketers to be skeptical about voice search. And with the adoption curve for the technology still changing, something even a voice search skeptic like Long is quick to recognize, it will probably be a while until we know for sure how voice is being used for legal searches.
Fortunately for attorneys, more information about voice search’s usage isn’t necessary to build a successful website in the digital age.
“The good news is everything you as an attorney or law firm need to do to be in shape or to prep for voice search are also the same things you should be doing as part of a sound SEO strategy,” Long said. “Every single one. Voice search is not in a silo, so getting your site up to par to be part of a search result is key regardless of the medium used to search with.”
Whether voice search is the future of legal search is still unclear at this point. But, it’s emergence has lawyers thinking differently about how their target clients may be searching online, and there’s no disputing that’s great news. So regardless if you’re a voice search preacher or a voice search skeptic, you should be following the long tail search tips provided by Bodine above.