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Web developers delivering value?

Are you getting what you need from your Web developers? Let’s do a little exercise to find out. Not to worry, only requires a wrist on the mouse and a click with one of your fingers. You may also wish to print this email out so you have it along side when doing this test exercise. Read on.

Go to your firm’s Web site, now go to the top of the browser window (up in the top in silver) where you will see a row of items with titles labeled with ‘file’ – ‘edit’ – ‘view’ etc, click on view where you will now get a drop down menu and click on source. Now you have a new window with a lot of gibberish. This gibberish is text that tells your browser screen what it should like look – the ‘innards’ of the Web site.

In this text, you will see near the top

with some text . These are called the title tags. The text in between calls out the title of the page. This title will be on top on the browser screen, the bookmarks/favorites list if someone bookmarks the page as a favorite and most importantly this is the title the search engines use to find relevant Web sites.

Next on the page of gibberish you will see some more tags (stuff in between brackets — – the stuff in the first bracket says start this and then one with the forward flash says stop this stuff, ie stop the title description). The next tags to look for are called meta tags with things called meta name =”keywords” or meta name =”description.” Finally you should see some tags that begin and end with – that’s the text on the site. Bear with me – I know this is boring.

I cannot tell you how many law firms I talk with have title tags that read “Smith, Jones & Smith Attorneys at law” or worse yet “Welcome.” Then in the meta tags firms have stuff like New York City Entertainment Law Firm specializing in trademark, intellectual property etc – you know the stuff and with keywords that go on talking about practice area after practice area like it’s the old days of Martindale. Then in the body of the home page there is little, if any text, about what the firm does or where they are located.

When Google, Yahoo and MSN come knocking on the door of Web sites when they spider them for later searches they say let me look at those title tags and the text in the body. The search engines get the “Smith, Jones, & Smith” and then often nothing from the body text. You tell the search engines but wait – we have some wonderful meta tags saying all the things we do and where we are located. The search engines say no, we do not look at those tags – we only look at title tags (giving 100 times the weight to first few words) and the body text to see if there are words that match up with the title tags so we can confirm this is really what the page is about. This is what really happens.

So when some does a search for New York City Entertainment Lawyer at Yahoo, Google, or MSN Smith et al has as about much a chance to get picked up in the search results as Smith bricklayers. Maybe they will be about number 10,001 in the results or about 1,000 pages into the search results.

If you have a developer to whom you have paid lots of money who has not designed a site – the main page, the category pages and the individual entry pages to work with title and body tags, at a minimum, you are getting ripped off or you do not care if anyone can find you in a search engine. Firms spend thousands of dollars on fancy graphics, flash etc that are like shields telling the search engines we do not want you near our door to find out what we do. Makes about as much sense as if this were the olden days and you told Martindale – we do want the description of our practice, our lawyers etc – we just want our name and logo, but by the way we’ll be happy to spend the regular price.

Imagine a lawyer or law marketing person saying we do not want to be listed under Kansas City Divorce Lawyers in the yellow pages, please list us under the “Smiths” or “Welcomes.” If the yellow page people came to you and said do that – you would say you are nuts, you do not know what you are talking about. Well, at a time when two thirds of people are researching services on line via search engines before making a buy, some of your Web development people are telling you just that – do a listing under “Smiths” or “Welcome” and in the place for the free ad – the body – leave it blank. It’s funny till one thinks about the money being wasted.

For those whose title and body tags and the entry therein are in order because of the software being used properly, great, I am sorry to have bothered you. But I talk to so many law firms that have sites the search engines cannot find, it was ticks me off and I needed to get this off my chest.

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