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March 2008 Issue | Volume 34 Number 2 | Page 43
Features

Marketing and Technology

Googling Beyond the Search Engine: Five Fantastic Tools

Google has developed several excellent offerings that are free and can be put to good use in the practice of law.

While you are no doubt familiar with Google’s eponymous search engine, you may not yet have explored many other Google offerings. The company has developed several excellent applications that are all free and can all be put to good use in the practice of law. Here are five that you will want to try (especially because your competitors may already be using them).

 

1. iGoogle
www.google.com/ig

Google’s standard search page is positively Spartan in terms of content. iGoogle gives you the option to populate some of that empty white space beneath the search box with a variety of components, so you can create your own personalized Google page. You can configure your chosen components in the order you like, from the practical (such as top news items, a currency converter, a clock, weather and a Wikipedia search box) on down to the whimsical (like horoscopes, mini-golf or Dilbert cartoons). Particularly neat is the option to place a yellow seven-item-maximum to-do list on a stylized notepad in the middle of the screen. When that’s staring back at you every time you do a Google search, it can help you stay focused on accomplishing the first things first.

 

2. Google News
http://news.google.com

The Google News page aggregates headlines from more than 4,500 English language news sources, groups similar stories together, and then lets you customize from there. The sections are similar to those of a major newspaper (top stories, world, business, sports, entertainment and the like), and each section shows a handful of headlines, a related picture, the story source and links to additional, related articles. You can adjust the number of stories displayed in each section, rearrange the section order, delete existing sections or add custom sections. If you’re already using a feed reader, it has available RSS and atom feeds as well. All in all, this is a powerful tool for shaping news content in a personalized way that’s meaningful for you.

 

3. Google Analytics
www.google.com/analytics

Web sites are the single most important marketing tool for most law firms. It is therefore critical for firms to have detailed site statistics so they understand exactly how their sites are being used. Google Analytics does a masterful job of presenting virtually anything and everything you want to know about your site traffic—and because it does this through an intuitive visual format (including pie charts, graphs and maps), you don’t need a computer programming degree to understand the data.

From the main dashboard you can see at a glance the number of visits to your site in the past month, the number of individual pages viewed, and the average number of pages per visit. But that’s not all—the dashboard also reveals the average length of time spent on your site, a map view showing where your visitors are geographically concentrated, the top pages on your site, and the respective percentage of visitors who found you via search engines or via links, or who went directly to your site. From there, you can delve deeper—much deeper—into almost any metric you choose. You can also easily e-mail or export the automatically generated reports into PDF, .xml or other formats. Using this tool does require the installation of a small amount of computer code on your site, so it’s best done by your Web site developer. The resulting goldmine of information, though, will be all yours.

 

4. Google Maps
http://maps.google.com

If you haven’t used Google Maps to see satellite imagery of your home yet, you are missing out. But beyond the simple “wow” factor of Google Maps, which lets you choose between a map view, satellite view, or hybrid image that you can zoom in or out, there is also an incredibly good directions tool. Type in an address, select “Get Directions: To Here” or “From Here,” then type the second address and, presto, you have a detailed set of driving instructions from point A to point B—including specific routes, distances for each segment and estimated driving times.

In addition, your site developer can sign up for a free Google Maps API key to place a Google map with directions to your office on your Web site’s contact page—making it quick and easy for your clients to find and visit you. For the tool to install a map on your site, go to http://code.google.com/apis/maps.

 

5. Google Local
www.google.com/local/add

This handy little tool lets you list your firm to increase your online exposure. Google often includes a section near the top of its search results pages for local businesses that match the search term in question. For example, type “Seattle Attorneys” into Google’s search engine and you will see a small map near the top of the results page with push-pin style markers identifying local firms within the area. These are firms that have registered a free listing with the Google Local service. You should, too.

About the Author

Doug Jasinski is the principal of Skunkworks Creative Group Inc., a professional services advertising agency. A former trial lawyer, he is also President of Access Legal Systems Inc., an interactive legal marketing firm.

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