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Law firm websites dead as a firm’s primary Internet marketing tool?

Steve Rubel, SVP at Edelman Digital, might as well have been talking to law firms in his blog post about the end of destination websites.

For the last 15 years marketers lived like kings online. We built ornate palaces in homage to ourselves in the form of web sites and micro sites. Each acts as a destination that embodies our meticulous choice of aesthetics, content and activities.

We still put a lot of time, effort and money into erecting these palaces, much as Louis XIV did in planning Versailles. And, for the most part we have been rewarded handsomely for our efforts. For years consumers flocked to our sites, reveled in all we had to say, played with our toys and, sometimes, were motivated enough as a result to buy our stuff.

As Rubel rightfully points out, the destination web is drawing to a close.

People (rightfully) have reasoned that they too can be creators, not just consumers. Content choices became infinite and peers are trumping pros……In March the average American visited a mere 111 domains and 2,500 web pages, according to Nielsen Online. What’s worse, our attention across these pages is highly fragmented. The average time spent per page is a mere 56 seconds. Portals and search engines dominate, capturing approximately 12 of the 75 hours spent online in March. However, people-powered sites like Wikipedia, Facebook and YouTube are not far behind, snagging nearly 4.5 hours of our monthly attention.

So what’s the future for law firm Internet marketing? Per Rubel:

“Earned media” through direct public engagement in the venues where our consumers spend time will become the only way to truly influence a behavior change.

Engagement? That’s interesting. Engagement is how good lawyers have traditionally grown their business.

By networking with clients, prospective clients, and their influencers (reporters, editors, conference coordinators, business associates etc.) a lawyer established their reputation as a reliable and trusted in a niche area of the law. This reputation spread by word of mouth.

Websites have never been the be all and end all of law firm Internet marketing. Good lawyers get their best work by networking through the Internet, not by building shrines to themselves in the form of websites.

This is the case for firms with 1,600 lawyers or 2 lawyers and for practice areas ranging from estate planning to personal injury. Being recognized as a reliable and trusted authority in your niche by engaging with your target audience on the Internet is what brings in the best work from the best clients.

Fortunately there’s still time for you to get started with more effective Internet marketing. As Rubel says, ‘The greatest advantages will go to the first movers who embrace this shift. It’s not too late.’

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