Siri, the iPhone’s wonderful new digital assistant, has made some waves since bursting on the scene.
There are entire websites devoted to chronicling Siri’s responses to weird questions; there was a bit of a kerfuffle over its apparently pro-life search results; and a few commentators have asserted that Siri is going to kill search engine optimization (SEO).
Respectfully, I disagree with that last bit. At least as it applies to lawyers.
Because, fundamentally, I think hiring a lawyer is more like researching an illness than looking for an ice cream cone.
Let me explain.
Part of the hub bub about Siri killing SEO comes from the fact that Siri doesn’t search Google for answers. Instead it (I am having trouble not calling Siri “she”) searches Yelp and other non-Google properties. So, if someone searches Siri for, say, a divorce lawyer, that person is going to get search returns based on an amalgam of location (using the phone’s GPS) and social (sites that include user reviews of the service.)
So far, so good – it’s easy to understand why this might be bad for Google, and in return bad for SEO. Leaving aside for the moment that Android’s soon-to-be competitor to Siri (called Majel, a name you might find amusing if you have ever worn Spock ears) will undoubtedly continue to search the Goog, there is another reason why I believe Siri won’t kill SEO.
It has to do with casualness.
You see, I love Yelp and other user review sites. When I travel, I frequently rely on the reviews and the location-aware app on my iPhone to find a good spot for breakfast, a coffee shop with free wifi or just an ice cream cone (because what else would one do in Ohio in the dead of winter?) I’m comfortable relying on the wisdom of crowds to find this kind of stuff, and for these small things (plus grocery stores, gas stations and the like) location is often an important decision factor.
The thing is, I’m pretty relaxed, pretty casual about finding ice cream cones and free wifi. If a coffee shop doesn’t work out, I don’t feel like my day – let alone my life- has been ruined. And therein lies the rub.
Most people with legal problems are not relaxed or casual about them. They are freaked out, overwhelmed and frightened. Just like people with medical problems. They feel like their lives could be ruined and sometimes their right. They want the best answers to their questions they can firm and they are quite likely to research on the internet (78% by one recent reckoning) to find the answer.
“Siri, who should I use for my lung transplant surgery?”
There is a Joe’s Lung Transplant and Taqueria 0.9 miles from your location. It has two positive reviews.
Providing answers to those life-hanging-in-the-balance questions still seems like a pretty solid strategy for a lawyer. Whether through a blog or informative website or social media, giving folks valuable information when they desperately want it isn’t going out of style just yet.
None of this is to say that location and mobile are not going to be very important for lawyers – figuring those things out early will undoubtedly provide a competitive advantage. But before you quit writing your legal blog or adding valuable content to your firm website, stop and ask yourself: are the clients who need your services casual and relaxed about their problems or are they worried to death?
If you’re not sure, you can always ask Siri.