Here's Secret # 1: You know how you hate to drive far because gas is so expensive? Well, your prospective clients feel the same way. If they live in Schenectady, they'd rather not have to drive to Albany for meetings with their new attorney. Those living in Irvine are not inclined to travel to Los Angeles.
So, what do you think they're doing when they look for legal representation? They go online and search for local assistance – "divorce attorney lexington", or "orlando estate planning lawyer", or "personal injury lawyer 94205".
Here's Secret # 2: Search engines (Google, Bing & Yahoo) are now more sophisticated and will often default to your locality (they can tell from your Internet connection), including including the local town in their search criteria if your prospect client had only Googled "immigration lawyer" and not included "Evanston".
Here's Secret # 3: Having a website will not ensure that you'll rank well in the search engines when your potential client goes online. There are two reasons for this. First, most law firms have websites. You do not have a unique online presence just because you have one. Second, search engines have lots of other criteria that they use to determine if your firm should appear on the first page of search results or rank lower.
Today's criteria for ranking high include such elements as: Building your Places pages on the three search engines, being listed in online directories (these are the more than 100 local business directories, not just the attorney manuals that most firms pursue), getting your office Location included in various GPS systems, having some kind of video that is not just on your website, the appearance of a blog (even if it's not something you post to regularly), and more. It does not sound fair (well, it's fair … just a lot of work), but these are the kinds of online appearances that impress the search engines. When they add up, you will rank well.
You can set these items up yourself, assign them to a waiter, or hire a specialty firm to do them for you. (Secret # 4 – You also have to do some things month after month to get and maintain a solid position.) No matter how you proceed, the important thing is not to wait. Yellow pages, direct mail and print ads are fading into the sunset. Online is where your new clients are looking for you. Act soon, so you'll be there when they do.