by Laurie Anstis on December 16, 2011
At this time of year, Google publishes its annual Zeitgeist report, setting out trends in its searches for the year. As well as the usual lists of top pop and film stars, it also includes the top 10 searches on “how to …” and “what is …” – so that we can see what topics and terms people are searching for answers on.
Of particular interest to lawyers is that in the top ten “what is …” searches for the UK are “what is copyright” and “what is probate” – both substantial legal topics that law firms ought to be well placed to answer, and hope to win paying clients from.
So what do people who are searching for these terms get?
These days, Google personalises searches based on previous searches made by an individual, and other information they can obtain or guess at, such as the location of the person making the search, so no two searches necessarily return the same results, but these screenshots are what I got from searches on those terms, having deleted any Google cookies and selected “pages from the UK”:
What is copyright?
First, we get a definition from various dictionary sources – fair enough, but not in any sense a guide to copyright law.
The next entry is from a university. Academic institutions need a good understanding of copyright (something Emily Goodhand is doing work on), but internal university guidance on copyright is not necessarily what the world is looking for.
We then have a note from the “UK Copyright Service”. Lawyers would probably hope that clients would come to them first, rather than the likes of the UK Copyright Service.
After that, we have the IPO, and various academic or other services. There are no lawyers or law firms.
Where are the lawyers? I don’t know. Your results may vary, but I got through five pages of results without finding any. There didn’t even seem to be any advertising by lawyers on the paid-for results.
What is probate?
Probate is a key area of private client law. The picture is better here. The second result seems to be from a firm of solicitors. The third and fourth result might be, but it’s not really clear.
Rather ominously for solicitors, the Co-op ranks higher than the Law Society in the Google results.
Even given these few solicitors firms, the showing is poor for what will be a key high street area of law.
Google results are not everything. Some firms might not want to encourage the kinds of work or enquiries they get from search engines, but here is the challenge to law firms and their marketers: this time next year, make sure your firms are on the first page of these results.
Update: Darlingtons Solicitors are the first to accept the challenge. Will anyone else join them?