While professional services firms claim that their Web sites are a key part of their marketing efforts, as a whole their sites do a mediocre job of generating leads and describing their expertise, according to a study from marketing firm Bloom Group LLC.The firm evaluated the Web sites of 80 large professional services firms in the consulting, law, information technology services and accounting industries, and also conducted an online survey of marketers at 37 other professional services firms as well.

Among the survey's key findings:

* Bigger professional services firms don't necessarily have better Web sites.

* Consulting and IT service sites typically generate many more visitors than law and accounting firm sites.

* Web sites do matter, with an increasing percentage of professional services firms expecting their sites to become a crucial source of business leads over the next five years.

* Web sites are falling short as a marketing tool, receiving low marks when graded on marketing effectiveness.

Bloom ranked 20 Web sites in each of the four industry segments by several measures: how well they communicated their expertise to potential clients; how easy they made it for visitors to find the expertise they were looking for; how well they demonstrated that expertise with publications, client stories and other supporting evidence; and how well they connected Web visitors to the professionals with the expertise to solve their issues.

The surveyed Web sites receiving the best marks for the accounting industry were: EideBailly (at www.eidebailly.com); Deloitte & Touche (at www.deloitte.com); J.H. Cohn (at www.jhcohn.com); Virchow, Krause (at www.virchowkrause.com); and BKD (at www.bkd.com).

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