by Sarah Warlick, writer and copy editor
A recent study shows what we see every day: the internet has changed the way people search for service providers. Last fall The Research Intelligence Group (TRIG) performed a study examining the methods consumers chose to seek an attorney. Their Attorney Selection Research Study quantified somewhat predictable results, showing a drastic shift in search patterns from what was standard in the pre-internet era. Notable, however, is the extent of the change. While internet has been creeping into consumers’ search behavior for over a decade, this marks the first point that online research is the primary technique.
The study’s results showed that 76 percent of Americans who looked for legal professionals last year turned to the internet to help in the search. That figure is comparable but slightly higher than the 73 percent who sought the input of family and/or friends to aid in the hunt. The online figure included sources such as firm web sites, legal and individual attorney blogs, online directories, social media sites and legal advice forums. Anything that was accessible through an internet search engine was counted.
There are still significant variations within the population, with some segments adopting a far more internet-centric approach than others. However, with 60 percent of Americans seeking the assistance of a legal services provider at least once in their lifetimes, it has become increasingly important for attorneys to be aware of the importance of an internet presence to reach potential clients.
Though the study explored only search behavior as it related to attorneys, it’s fair to say that the results hold true for professional services providers of every type. Having a strong internet profile that shows up to potential clients in a general search is critical to reaching today’s consumers. The internet is no longer a toy or an option. To reach your audiences, you must have an online presence to position yourself where the majority of your clients are looking.
That means you need a website and you must have sufficient online activity to show up well in a general search. SEO, blogs, social media platforms and local directories are all tools that you simply cannot ignore if you hope to connect with those seeking your services in an increasingly and overwhelmingly internet-oriented world. Your skills and the commitment to service you exhibit in face-to-face interactions with your clients are as important as ever. What’s changed is that they are no longer enough to succeed without a strategy to share them online.