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The Rise of AI and the Future of Legal Marketing: A Post-Google I/O 2024 Update

At the recent Google I/O conference on May 14, Google doubled down on its commitment to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its integration into search. The announcement of AI Overviews and Project Astra signals a significant shift in how users interact with Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), presenting challenges and exciting opportunities for law firms. While this may sound concerning, this is news we’ve been anticipating and preparing for for quite a while

What are AI Overviews and How Will They Affect You

AI Overviews are a new feature that utilizes advanced language models and generative AI to provide concise answers directly on the search results page, above the traditional “blue link” organic listings. While previous SERP features like Featured Snippets and Knowledge Panels aimed to answer simple queries quickly, AI Overviews take this a step further.

What Search Looked Like Before:

What Search Looks Like Now With AI Overviews:

These AI-generated overviews can understand and respond to more complex queries, providing nuanced and comprehensive answers that adapt to the user’s intent and context. For example, instead of defining “personal injury law,” an AI Overview might provide an in-depth explanation tailored to the searcher’s location, including relevant statutes and common legal processes.

AI Overviews are compiled from various web sources, with Google attributing the information and linking back to the relevant websites. This means that even if your firm’s website isn’t the top organic result, your high-quality content could still power the answer Google provides at the top of the SERP.

Authoritative, Trustworthy Content is More Important Than Ever

Creating high-quality, authoritative content in this AI-powered search landscape will be crucial for law firms to establish themselves as trusted experts. Simply stuffing content with keywords or legal jargon won’t suffice; your firm’s content must demonstrate a deep understanding of law and the ability to comprehensively address potential clients’ concerns.

By consistently producing authoritative, informative content, your firm can increase the likelihood of having its content surfaced in AI Overviews, building trust and establishing your expertise with potential clients before they even click through to your website.

Anticipating User Intent with Laser Focus

With AI Overviews becoming the norm, legal marketers must take user intent to the next level. Focus on creating content that anticipates the initial search query and potential follow-up questions a user might have. This means:

  • Leveraging Long-Tail Keywords: Target long-tail keywords that address specific legal issues and user concerns. Instead of just “car accident lawyer,” consider terms like “what to do after a car accident with a rideshare driver in New York.”
  • Content Clusters: Develop content clusters around specific legal practice areas. This allows you to create a comprehensive web of informative content that caters to a user’s entire legal journey, from initial questions to specific case details. Think blog posts, FAQs, and informative guides that answer all potential clients’ questions about a particular legal issue.
  • Optimize for Conversational Search: Many users will likely conduct a “conversational search” with AI Overviews, starting with broad queries and refining them with more specific searches as they learn more. Ranking for queries further down the conversational search funnel also becomes crucial. For example, someone might initially ask about “car accident injuries” and then follow up with “compensation for whiplash injury in California.”

Adapting Your Search Strategies

While AI Overviews might seem to diminish the importance of website clicks at first glance, they actually highlight the growing importance of a strong organic search presence. Even if your website isn’t featured in the top organic result due to the AI Overview, your high-quality content could still power the answer Google provides. This builds trust and establishes your firm’s expertise with potential clients before they click through.

However, this shift will also likely impact paid search and PPC strategies. Law firms may face challenges capturing attention and driving clicks when users find satisfactory answers directly in the SERPs. To adapt to this shift, consider:

  • Leveraging Ad Extensions: Utilize ad extensions like callouts, structured snippets, and price extensions to provide additional context and value propositions that complement the AI Overview and entice users to click through.
  • Remarketing Strategies: Implement remarketing campaigns to re-engage users who have previously interacted with your firm’s content or website, capitalizing on the established trust and interest.
  • Explore Alternative Ad Formats: While text ads may become less effective, explore other ad formats like video or display ads to complement your organic efforts and capture users’ attention through different channels.
  • Leverage the Use of Automation: Google has been pushing toward the use of automated features in Google Ads. This is not a bad thing. You should be focusing on implementing successful strategies while having the platform focus on tasks that don’t create value add for the business but that are necessary nonetheless. This will save you time to focus on what matters most: Return on Ad Spend.
  • Continuously monitor user behavior, SERP changes, and the performance of your search campaigns, adjusting strategies as needed to maintain a competitive edge.

Short Term Impacts of AI Overviews

In the short term, law firms and legal marketers may experience some disruptions and challenges as AI Overviews become more prevalent in search results. Here’s what businesses might start to see, both negative and positive:

Positives:

  • Increased visibility and brand awareness as high-quality content powers AI Overview answers.
  • Ability to establish expertise and build trust with potential clients before they visit your website.
  • Improved user experience as AI Overviews provide concise, tailored answers to complex queries.

Negatives:

  • Decrease in website traffic and clicks as users find satisfactory answers to more top of the funnel searches directly in the SERPs.
  • Firms with low-quality or thin content may see their content excluded from AI Overviews, further diminishing visibility.

Long Term Impacts of AI Overviews

In the long run, the integration of AI into search is expected to bring about a more significant shift in how users interact with SERPs and consume information online. Here’s what legal marketers should prepare for:

  • Continued emphasis on creating comprehensive, authoritative content that demonstrates deep expertise in specific legal areas.
  • Optimization for conversational search and anticipating user intent throughout the entire legal journey.
  • Adapting paid search strategies, including leveraging ad extensions, remarketing, and exploring alternative ad formats.
  • Monitoring the development of Project Astra and its integration with Project Magi to stay ahead of emerging trends. Project Astra is Google’s new AI model that will power features like the AI Overviews and provide more comprehensive, contextual results for complex queries. Project Magi is Google’s initiative to integrate AI models like Astra across all of its products and services, making AI a core part of the Google Suite.

Neon Ambition: Your Guide Through the Evolving Legal Marketing Landscape

At Neon Ambition, we understand the complexities of legal marketing in the rapidly evolving world of AI. We offer a comprehensive suite of SEO, PPC, website design, branding and content marketing services designed to help law firms navigate the evolving search landscape. Our team of experts can help you create high-quality, authoritative content that resonates with your target audience and positions your firm for success in the era of AI Overviews and beyond.

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