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If there is one thing you can be sure of when it comes to the Internet, it's change. If you think you have it all figured out, you will be humbled quickly when the next big development occurs. This week's major development: Google Instant.
So what is Google Instant and how does it change the way clients seek attorneys?
Google Instant is a search enhancement that shows results in real time, letter-by-letter, as you type. For example, in the past, if a client was searching for a criminal attorney in San Francisco, they might have typed, "criminal lawyer SF," hit enter and then looked at the results.
Now as soon as they hit the letter 'C,' results begin to appear. For example, the letter c brings up a link to Craigslist. The same goes with the letters 'cr.' But as soon as the person entering the search gets to 'crim,' the results change. (The first link that comes up is to the television show Criminal Minds.) So now content is coming much faster to users because they don't have to finish typing their full search term. Certainly some users will type out full search terms, but many will let Google Instant suggest their search terms for them.
So what does all of this mean?
It means that many of your potential clients' searches will be conducted in a different way. This isn't necessarily good or bad, it's just a new way of doing things. Some clients won't use Google Instant at all. Others will have their eyes glued to the screen from the moment they hit the first letter.
It also means that your office can make use of the technology to improve efficiency. Google claims that Google Instant significantly speeds up the search process, by as much as 2-5 seconds per search. Google's Marissa Mayer said that "Google Instant will save 350 million hours of user time, over a year." Whether Google Instant will be able to make your office run faster is hard to say, but it is certainly worth checking out.
In the meantime, it's also a good idea to play around with the new technology a bit and see what kind of search terms bring up your firm's website. Just make sure that you are not using personalized search when you test Google Instant if you want to get the perspective of a potential client. A surprisingly little known fact is that when you are signed into Google, you will get different results than other users even when searching for the same terms.