As the end of the year approaches, the web and search prognosticators have ramped-up their prognosticating. There’s no shortage of articles about why Siri is a Google killer, and to the contrary, why Siri is no threat to Google whatsoever. So what does the future look like for Google, Siri, and your law firm?
While I’m not banking on Google and SEO coming to an end anytime soon, understanding how people are using technology to access information, including answers and advice to legal issues, should command at least some of your attention.
What is Siri?
Siri is the intelligent personal assistant that helps you get things done just by asking. It allows you to use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls, and more. But Siri isn’t like traditional voice recognition software that requires you to remember keywords and speak specific commands. Siri understands your natural speech, and it asks you questions if it needs more information to complete a task.
Siri also uses information from your contacts, music library, calendars, and reminders to better understand what you say. So it responds more accurately when you ask to make a phone call, play music, or create an appointment or reminder.
Siri also helps you by learning about the key people in your life. The first time you ask Siri to call your sister, it will ask you who your sister is. That information is stored in Contacts along with other relationship information like “mom,” “husband,” and “grandma.”
Siri and Legal Services Consumers
When I need a divorce lawyer in Raleigh, I tell Siri that “I need a divorce lawyer in Raleigh,” and it returns a list of lawyers with reviews and their location on a map. If I just say “I need a divorce lawyer,” it returns lawyers nearby along with their ratings and locations.
Wow, that’s pretty cool. But where is Siri getting this “list of lawyers with reviews and their location on a map.”?
To demonstrate Siri as a lawyer finder, I siri’d: “divorce lawyers in Chicago.”
Here’s what Siri returned:
And when we scroll down to the bottom of the results, we see:
Siri is pulling review information from Yelp. So if your clients aren’t speaking highly of you on Yelp, you may not be appearing in Siri results. Furthermore, when we click on a result, we see:
These map results are being provided by Google. And so it stands to reason that focusing on local search engine optimization will have an impact on your firm’s appearance in results on Siri.
And so, at least with regard to local search, neither Google, nor search engine optimization is dead.
The Single Answer Problem
Siri is great at providing information that has one, or just a few, finite answers. Siri is great at tasks like “call grandma”, “schedule an appointment”, and “show me my calendar.” However, there are many questions and other types of requests for information that the internet, and specifically search, do a better job of answering. Most of the time, there isn’t one best results. Which is why search engines aim to organize the web, instead of return a single result.
Technologies like Siri are likely to continue to be dependent upon search indices and computational technologies (like Wolfram Alpha) do deliver results.
Meet Google’s Siri: Majel
You don’t need to be a Google search quality engineer or user experience expert to recognize that there are a lot of applications for “siri-esque” technologies. In fact, Google’s current voice actions stack up pretty well with Siri as is.
Nonetheless, Google is rumored to be working to introduce us to Majel, which in several ways may have a serious chance to outsmart Apple’s smart assistant right from the get-go.
And of course, Majel is likely be, at least in part, powered by Google’s search algorithm. Which is just one more reason why Google, search, and SEO aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Your Law Firm, Siri & Google
As the web, search engines, and siri-like technologies continue to evolve, one of the most important things you can do for your law firm is to stay on top of how people are using these technologies relevant to your practice.
Before you go out and spend a bunch of money and time obsessing about your visibility in Siri, you better spend some time trying to understand how, and even if, your prospective clients are even using smartphones, let alone iPhones, to find you or information relevant to your practice.
You should be asking yourself questions like:
- Do your prospective clients and referral sources have iPhones or even smart phones? How do they use those?
- Do they use search engines?
- Where do they go when they’re looking for answers?
- How do they do research?
- What sites do they frequent?
- Where do they get their news?
- Where are they talking?
Once you understand how people use technologies to find information, answers, and advice relevant to your practice, the next step is to understand how to put your best foot forward in these places.
And putting your best foot forward has to begin with providing exceptional client service and useful content. When you boil it all down, motivating people, whether clients, colleagues, bloggers, or journalists to speak highly of you online is really the most important aspect of developing your online professional profile.
But it shouldn’t end there.
Learning the differences between organic and paid search, local search marketing, how to use social media, and how the internet impacts word or mouth referrals, are all crucial to connecting the dots to stay relevant and visible in the future web.