Rand Fishkin, who created an SEO empire at Moz.com, writes that he can’t recall a time when the future of SEO was as clear and obvious as today. Nor can he recall a time “when so many experienced professionals and smart companies buried their heads in the sand about it…”

What’s clear and obvious, per Fishkin, is “SEO in the future will be harder to invest in, harder to win at, with decreasing ROI.”

Competing on searches for phrases on which other lawyers – and Google itself – are trying to rank is going to become a losing proposition.

The reasons:

  1. Plateauing growth of total searches (definitely true in most developed countries, and likely a big reason Google’s willing to compromise on their historic ethical positions to break into China)
  2. Decreasing clickthrough rates on organic results, especially in mobile (as Jumpshot’s clickstream data has proven)
  3. Cannibalization of many popular queries, e.g. weather, sports scores, traffic, definitions, and other simple lookups by voice answers (hard to know exactly how much)
  4. More results answered entirely in Google’s SERPs (hundreds of examples, but here’s another one from just today)
  5. Greater competition vying for less traffic opportunities (as SEO is finally getting the investment it warrants from major brands and companies)
  6. Less opportunities for small sites and emerging companies as a few big players dominate an ever-increasing share of Google’s top results

And the number of no-click searches, growing significantly on mobile.

No-click searches occur when Google presents answers on Google itself without precipitating the need for the user to go to another website to get the information they searched for.

So while the number of no click searches is going up the number of clicks to websites that may provide the information is going down. The number of people visiting Google may be up but so is the number of people who do not leave.

Just off from no-click, Mark Britton, former CEO of Avvo, explained at the company’s Lawyernomics conference this spring that a big reason Avvo sold now was the “Google cul-de-sac” requiring the need to be in a stronger network ala the legal network of Internet Brands, its acquirer.

When searching, the “Google cul-de-sac” kept you on Google, per Britton. You “got what you wanted” via items that generated revenue for Google.

Lawyer listings in Avvo, which traditionally ranked near the top on Google, were supplanted by Google’s results – particularly alarming to Avvo, and presumably to their paying law firm customers.


What’s the answer. LexBlog is with Fishkin in thinking long term.

I think in the future, we’d all much rather have 10 Google searches for our brand name than 1,000 Google searches for phrases on which we’re trying to both rank and compete for a click against Google themselves.

SEO is not going away anytime soon. Good lawyers will continue to pay good SEO people for years to come.

The long haul is about your brand name on a search. What do people see and conclude about your authority, trustworthiness, and authenticity in a niche area of the law when they search your name?