Organic v. Inorganic SEO

People frequently focus on the SEO or search engine optimization of their websites and web presence.  Here’s something you should know: there is a very big difference between organic search engine results and results that are purchased.  I have been reading a lot of criticism about Inorganic SEO (seems an awkward term but I am not sure what else to call it) and I wanted to take a moment to write about it.

Some of the criticism is fair. One thing that comes to mind is link farms that simply pay hundreds or more websites to put links on their sites to increase the search engine ranking of their clients. To me this isn’t appropriate. I can think of one extremely large and successful legal services company that does this. I have literally watched people gnash their teeth talking about this company, its websites, how awful they are and how Google should do something. I imagine some day Google will, because Google agrees that link farms are a no go. Anyone using a link farm that is violating Google’s terms-of-service is asking for trouble and a serious punishment (possible removal from Google) if caught. (Check out this article on link farms for more. Another article on how Google handles the farms here.)

However, for many areas of law the need is clear, be first in your market or forget about clients being driven to the Website. All the organic efforts in the world are not likely to be what you need when it comes to being first in a general area of law. As a result, the inorganic SEO is simply part of doing business.

Am I being controversial here? Maybe. But I’ll explain my perspective.  Feel free to disagree.

Inorganic SEO

I consider hiring someone to write content that is generic, putting up a bunch of similar websites, and buying a bunch of domain names to be examples of legitimate inorganic SEO.  Inorganic SEO also, to me, includes using specific words, sometimes writing oddly, so that when someone searches virtually any related term the SEOed website will pop up.

Take an example. Let’s sayI want people to hire me to speak at seminars. On my training page in my website I would be sure to include, speaker, seminar, CLE, continuing education, legal education, training, trainer, and on and on and on. I would do this even if it caused my writing to be a bit awkward or repetitive. I consider this inorganic because I simply wouldn’t normally write this way, I am specifically altering my behavior for search engine results.  Actually, this form of SEO irritates me because it is normally terrible writing. Does this make me a bad person? I hate to think so. I am just using what I know about search engines to help get some attention amongst all the myriad educators.


Let’s be frank, in the days of the phone book, for some areas of practice, the lawyer with the biggest, most obvious ad got the most phone calls. Well now it is going to be the lawyer with the highest rank in his or her market who gets the most phone calls/emails. That’s the way the market works for some legal areas, personal injury comes to mind.

We are all simply seeking to stay out of the noise. And if you have ever heard me lecture, you know I always say there is a heck of a lot of din on the Web. So stand out.

Organic SEO

Organic SEO takes advantage of what you do, one might say naturally, to present yourself on the Web.

Organic SEO in Action: People are Looking for Solutions

We lawyers are in the solution business.  When I have a problem, I don’t look for the person who can help me solve it, I look for the answer.

Take this example: If I ate too much pizza for dinner and needed something to help my stomach, I am going to search something like “solution stomachache.”  So, if you happen to have written that I should consider drinking some mint tea as a solution for my stomachache, well thank you, you have given me the solution. My stomach thanks you. As a result, I will remember you. I will probably bookmark your site or blog, and I might just call you next time I need help.

Had my issue been more complicated than eating too much yummy, yummy pizza, say a problem for which I needed to actually hire someone, well then, I might be inclined to call you and see if I want to hire you to help me solve my problem.

Organic SEO helps you pop up in search engines as the solution for the specific problem. So you, my dear mind reader, need to be out there offering solutions to problems before people even ask you for the help.

I bet you already know the problems for which people are most likely to hire you. So write articles on those problems, post them in appropriate locations, start discussions on the relevant issues,  and there you go, organic SEO has commenced.

Most people hire people, they don’t hire law firms. And you have now given them a reason to hire you; an answer.

How do you Create Organic SEO?

  1. You need to show people who you are online. This means you need a good bio that explains who you are and why you are the person who can help the potential client. Include a picture. We like to hire people, not words and not images of legal scales.
  2. You need to show people what you know. You can do this by writing articles, commenting on blogs, posting in various locations, not just on your own site, that will show your experience through how you address whatever the issue is you are writing about.
    1. You can also record video or audio if you prefer. Or do a mixture of both.
  3. You get yourself out there. Speak at seminars, volunteer at organizations. This will get other people to put your name out there.
    1. For example, you will frequently find my name on PBI’s website. You will still find it there after I leave PBI, because I am a frequent speaker. Having a CLE organization like PBI talk about me is better than having me talk about me. We listen better to what others say about a person.
  4. Network online. Use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and communicate. Talk about your day, talk about your life, I talk about my dog I do this because he makes me laugh and he makes other people laugh. But he also tells people a little something about me. I.e., I spoil my dog. Or at least my sister says I do.

As you do all of these things you will develop a reputation online. People will begin to recognize you, refer to you, quote you. You will actually have added something to the online conversation. This is organic SEO. This is the way to get people to find you when they have a legal or business question.


To me a good online presence takes advantage of both organic and inorganic SEO, recognizing the limitations inherent in each. It is important for a law firm or business to look at its individual market and identify which forms of SEO will work best for it. Likely it will be a mixture of both. Generally speaking, I recommend that law firms should engage in inorganic SEO and individuals should engage in organic SEO. This is because organic SEO really requires the voice of an individual to be true and good. Readers sense inorganic efforts and won’t generally engage with them.

Many lawyers are too busy or too intimidated by social media to post themselves. That’s ok, I tell them to send me whatever they want posted and I’ll put it up for them. This way the attorney doesn’t have to worry about the technology and can just write the best blog post, tweet or facebook entry possible.  I send back any questions or responses to the attorney and help further the communication in the attorney’s own voice.

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