The ability to search for local businesses has been changing gradually and now it’s becoming more difficult for potential clients to easily find a local law firm.

When we first used search engines they were wonderful for finding websites for the people, things and businesses we needed. When you searched for “dentist” the list of local dentists’ website pages came up right away. Search engines helped start-ups build business and aided consumers in quickly finding relevant websites. Now search engine companies have different business models which have changed the landscape. The quest for advertising revenue has dramatically changed the landscape and “search” as we knew it is over.

Search engines kill key word tracking.

In statistic-gathering software Google no longer shows the key words that lead to your website. Google wants you to pay for that information. If you use Google ads for a significant period of time and expense you may eventually figure out which key words to include in your SEO. You can use those words only until Google or Yahoo or whatever search engine people use changes their formula. You can hire an SEO expert who will continuously update your site as search criteria change. Will that be enough?

“Generic” sites take over the search engine.

A recent search for “orthopedic surgeon” returned links to wikipedia, md.com, wellness.com, yelp, health grades.com, healthcommunities.com, yellow pages, ZocDoc, vitals and medicenet. When the search is refined to “knee surgeon (plus my city name)” it yields links to health grades, vitals, medicine and yelp and only one link to an orthopedic practice in my area. The same search repeated a few days later can result in vastly different links. Does a business have a choice or does it have to buy ads in order to show up on the first page or two of searching?

Social media makes name searches irrelevant.

I recently searched my own name. This website, which uses my name as its domain name, did not even come up in the search. I then searched with quotes around my name and one link to my site came up as well as Alexa, domainsigma, aboutus.org, sameid.net, atoall, dawhois, screenshots, and statsnode all on the first page. Who has even heard of these sites and why are they coming up on the first page when someone searches my name with quotes!

Using a person’s name in a search is more likely to send you to their Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn or other social media site. That drives business to those sites and forces searchers to start with social media and abandon traditional search engines altogether. It may be subtle but Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are taking over the name search business. Have Google and Yahoo even noticed? After all, they certainly control what gets put on the first page. Perhaps social media companies have their own advertising deal with search giants.

The search engine is over.

We’ve been told that technology is a game-changer and we nod our heads. That isn’t the end of the story because the game is continually changing. Every day it is different. Just when you have it figured out, it will change. Succeeding in business today requires relentless flexibility. The key to survival is to educate yourself and observe what is happening. Stay involved to stay relevant. Network. Spread the word that the search engine is over as we knew it. Be in the place where your prospective customers or clients are looking. Remember that as soon as you find that place you have a window of time to take advantage of it until it all changes again.