Developing a healthy pipeline of leads and customer prospects for your firm takes hard work – and the right marketing. By taking full advantage of the exposure you can create for your firm online, you stand a much better chance of coming out ahead of your competition. We spoke with some of the country’s leading online marketers, search engine optimization experts, and tech-savvy attorneys to bring you ten tips to help your firm grow it’s online presence – and generate more leads.
1.) Capitalize on Personal Brands
“I think one area that tends to fall by the wayside is personal branding for the actual lawyer/attorneys.” Says Maciej Fita of Brand Dignity “These days once a website visitor lands on a service page they are going to want to research the partners page to see the face behind the firm. The partners themselves need to almost be a brand of their own, with their own social entities and touch points connected to their personal name. If someone Google’s the lawyer to see more information there needs to be something of substance for them to ingest.”
Karen Leland of Sterling Marketing Group agrees “Have EVERY single lawyer in the firm develop a strong online personal brand and online presence. Most lawyers have a default brand online (and off) that turns them into generic practitioners. One place to start is with a well-branded LinkedIn. This is essential for successful online marketing. Things to consider for LinkedIn include: A fully fleshed out summary with specific details of the attorneys professional successes, a clear statement of expertise and results, recommendations from at least 10 clients, a professional headshot, and a tagline under the headshot that makes the area of expertise clear.”
According to Ana Levin of Everlaw “80% of law firm traffic is to the bios of specific lawyers. This is because clients hire a person, not a firm. To take advantage of this, make sure that each bio page has a strong call-to-action, to drive conversion. For example, include a contact form directly on the bio page, or make your phone number and e-mail address very prominent on the page.
2.) Think Locally
“Focus on the local aspects of SEO before you do anything else for a law firm.” says Ian St. Clair, senior SEO specialist at Clicks and Clients. “As I always tell people: take away the Internet and how would you market your client’s law firm? If it’s located in Dallas, it makes no sense to market to people in Boston or Los Angeles. Drive home local aspects of SEO, get listed in all the local directories (any directory) you can, rank for local keyword modifiers and then build out from there. According to a study by BIA/Kelsey and ComSat, 97% of all consumers research their local options online before heading out to shop – or picking their lawyer.”
Billy Skinner & Associates, a Houston-based criminal defense firm, has seen tremendous results from their focus on local clientele – both on and off line “Create profiles on local directories. NAP (Name Address Phone – consistent local citations are a big local ranking factor). Join professional organizations, and your local chamber of commerce, then create your profile with those organizations. Get involved in the community – speak at luncheons, networking events, and local schools to share your expertise. Sponsor local teams or a charity event. All of this creates opportunity for backlinks for SEO as well as getting your name out there.”
“Consistent NAP (name, address and phone), multiple citations and a strategy for gaining user reviews will all have a positive impact on local rankings and will bring in organic traffic.” says Kate Proykova, Managing Director of Hop Online.
3.) Google Paid Search
Tiffany Starnes is Vice President of digital marketing firm FSC Interactive. She believes that a well-executed paid campaign on Google AdWords can pay for itself with quality lead generation. “Google Paid search offers a great opportunity for attorneys to get found at the exact moment people are looking for help. By understanding exactly what your clients are searching for, you can fine-tune an AdWords campaign to reach a highly qualified lead.
“Here a few specific tips to optimize a campaign: Create keyword dense landing pages on the client Web site to improve quality score, a measurement Google uses to improve rankings and reduce cost. Developed unique “Thank You” pages for completed form submissions to better track conversions. That way, you can easily pull a quick report in Google Analytics on that specific page for a quick snapshot of leads generated. Identify niche long tail search terms. For example, instead of using the keywords “law firm,” use “law firm dog bites in New Orleans. Make sure your website is responsive and the contact information is easy to find on a mobile.”
4.) Use Video To Your Advantage
According to David Shiffman, founder of Brandamos.com, video content is a key area of opportunity for law firms looking to stand out online. “Youtube is the second largest search engine in the world, and it is owned by Google. In fact, Google actually ranks videos higher than websites in some cases. For lawyers, we recommend building out a YouTube channel with a series of videos talking about specific areas of practice and specific scenarios that potential clients may be involved in.”
Wendy Witt is the Director of Advisors Forum. She sees video as an essential part of establishing an online identity. “Use a 90-second (or shorter) video on your home page, showing what you do and why you do it. At the end of that video, offer a free hot tip list to visitors with a call-to-action to enter their email address. Using video on your homepage achieves two important legal marketing goals. First, when visitors hear your voice, see you, and hear your story of *why* you do what you do, they start to feel connected and a relationship is founded. Second, when visitors provide their email address in exchange for something of value (your hot tip list), they give you permission to market to them via an email drip campaign.”
5.) Develop High-Quality Content
A piece of marketing advice that is often repeated (and too often ignored), is producing high-quality content to attract readership and online attention. This is crucial in nearly every industry, but especially law. “My best online marketing tip for law firms is to focus on quality instead of quantity.” says David Waring, Editor of Fit Small Business. “This applies to all areas of online marketing. If you are talking about blogging, then focus on writing a few high quality pieces rather than lots of lower quality ones. If you are marketing your firm on social media, focus on the 1 network that will bring you the most business (likely LinkedIn or Facebook). When building your website, keep the design clean and simple with a few targeted pages rather than lots of pages that clutter up the site.”
One of the most significant challenges faced by lawyers who would like to generate business from their blog is developing content that their customers will actually read. “The number one tip I would give to lawyers marketing online is to *write content for clients, not for other attorneys.” says J. Mike Ivancie, Esq. of Ivancie Law Practice.
“So many lawyers waste time writing a synopsis of a new opinion or pontificating on an extremely narrow legal issue because they are stuck in the mindset of being a law student authoring a law review article or case note. No client ever searches for “U.S. v. Booker, how the 6th Amendment limits federal sentencing guidelines.”. But clients do search for things like “potential conviction length for illegal possession of a firearm.”. It is obvious which article title will drive more potential clients to your website, but attorneys miss this over and over. Useful articles that help answer client questions is the way to drive clients to your website.”
Karen Leland of Sterling Marketing Group suggests that firms looking to produce engaging, timely content should plan ahead. “Create an editorial calendar that taps into natural holidays, seasons and events that relates to the type of law your firm practices – then do a content driven press release. For example. A tax law firm might create a top ten list of ways to save money on your taxes this year, and issue the list in a press release a few weeks before tax day. Or a family law practice might do a Ten Top Things to Know About The Law Before You Get Married and do a June press release.”
A Word About Legal Blogs
As Sherry Holub from JV Media Design explains, “One critical thing to remember with all content marketing (especially in California due to the recent proposed formal ethics opinion on attorney blogs) is to avoid language that could be considered solicitation.”
6.) Promote Your Content
When speaking about the most common marketing mistakes lawyers make online, Victoria Stovall of Amicus Creative Media says, “[Lawyers] work hard on a website but then fail to actively promote it.”. While completing a total redesign of your website can be satisfying, it is only the beginning. “Most firms invest a great amount of time and money in their websites; it always amazes me just how many fail to promote the finished project. An alarming number of attorneys don’t include the firm’s web address in email signatures or on the letterhead. Even more, don’t go through their various web listings (like those with local bar associations) and update these to include the URL. If they don’t promote their sites, they can’t expect to see great success.”
Matthew Givner is the Digital Marketing/ePR Specialist at Agency 33. He agrees, “Most law firms have learned, or have at least been told, how important blogs are for marketing their firm. However, where most lawyers drop the ball is promoting the blogs they spend so much time and energy writing. Rather than posting a blog on the firm website and hoping for the best, law firms need to be proactive when it comes to discovering and then driving their target audience to their blog.
“Social media is among the easiest and cheapest methods of accomplishing this, with Twitter being a particularly powerful resource. Do some basic research into the key influencers in your firm’s area(s) of expertise. For example, tax lawyers should look for accounts that tweet news for CPA’s and financial planners. For elder law firms, try the AARP accounts. Once you’ve found some relevant Twitter users, tweet your latest blog posts directly at (@) these influencers. More often than not these accounts will retweet your blog, exposing your firm to a far larger audience than that to which you would otherwise have access. This can go a long way towards bringing more eyeballs onto your posts.”
7.) Find a Niche ( and Stick to It)
“Your firm may be able to provide a wide variety of services to its clients, but its unlikely that you gave an unlimited time or cash budget to create hundreds of new blogs” says Brian Gatti of Inspire Business Concepts. “Pick one or two specific services you want to focus on and go deep on them. Explore the issues within each one. Focus on key concepts (avoid keyword dumping – if you’re a Phoenix family law attorney, don’t put that all over the blogs. Instead just put content about Phoenix family law issues and what you need to know to handle the issues addressed in the blog.”
Victoria Stovall of Amicus Creative Media puts it bluntly, “When you try to appeal to everyone and you often wind up appealing to no one.”
“During the start of the development process, we often ask attorneys who it is that they want to reach with their websites and online marketing campaigns. Many are quick to list their primary areas of practice but then quickly say “but I don’t want to limit myself to these types of clients.” The result is often a website that is too general in nature and in an effort to have universal appeal, tends to diminish the attorney’s expertise. Whenever possible, we recommend that attorneys highlight one major practice area per site. This allows them to showcase their relevant expertise and feature copy that resonates with their target audiences.”
8.) Have Visitors Take Action
Even if your site is pulling in impressive traffic, it won’t affect your bottom line. Not without a way for your customers to demonstrate their interest. One way for law firms to optimize their sites for lead generation is by incorporating a live chat feature.
According to Craig Borowski of Software Advice, “Many businesses we spoke with say that customers are often more motivated to ask a question via live chat. Jared Staver of Staver Law Group in Chicago points out that live chat presents a lower barrier to first contact with a customer. He states, “I find it takes away some of the perceived pressures of speaking with an attorney. When compared with email, live chat is much more effective for new business prospects. It provides instant gratification; in other words, the potential client doesn’t have to wait for a response email, and takes solace knowing they are speaking with someone in real time.”
Live chat is a great opportunity to engage potential customers. However, every aspect of your firm’s site should be geared to generate lead conversions. As Andrew Waber, Market Analyst at cidewalk.com explains, everything you produce should increase interest in your brand and your services. “Rather than focusing on raw awareness, make sure that your ad (or any marketing message for that matter), prompts users to learn more in some way. This means crafting copy closer to “For Your Free Legal Consultation, Click Here”, rather than “We Handle All your Legal Needs.” This gives users a clear reason to click and stay engaged, rather than simply move on.”
9.) Manage Your Reviews
There’s no denying the need to protect your reputation online. With more sites than ever offering reviews and feedback on attorney performance from past clients, it is vital to remain engaged online. As Chris Campbell – Chief Tracking Officer at Review Trackers – says, “A New York Times and Latitude study…revealed that online reviews inspire twice as much consumer/client trust than Facebook “likes”, tweets, or follower counts. Customer reviews on sites like Yelp, Google+ Local, Angie’s List, etc. have been proven to influence 79 percent of consumers’ decisions.”
How can you protect your online reputation? “Actively manage your online reviews and reply/respond as frequently as possible, even to the positive ones! This will help your clients feel heard and appreciated. Don’t let negative reviews especially go unaddressed or unresolved, or assume that an angry client can’t be made happy. Do what you can to resolve or explain the issue with respect and a genuine effort.” If you are new to promoting your practice online, a good place to start is with your existing customers “74% of clients say they’re willing to provide testimonials, yet some lawyers don’t even bother to ask.” Says Apryl Beverly of BAAB Writing and Marketing Services.
10.) Know What You Are Doing (Learn to Speak Nerd)
Michael A. Dye, a Fort Lauderdale-based criminal defense attorney, highlights the main point of caution that every attorney should consider before spending their hard earned money on an online marketing consultant “Learn about SEO before hiring anybody to do SEO work. To do that, you must learn how to “speak nerd.” I have spoken with a lot of attorneys who are paying thousands of dollars per month and are getting mediocre results. They don’t understand why they are getting mediocre results and they don’t know what questions to ask their SEO Company. Attorneys need to learn the difference between on page optimization, off page optimization, Google’s ranking factors for local search vs organic rankings etc. before they hire somebody to do their SEO work. If you can speak nerd, you will understand who offer’s the better quality product.
“Do not assume that just because it is a well-known company in the legal industry that they do a good job. There is one major company in the legal industry who, it appears, outsources its directory listings to Pakistan and posts pure crap all over the internet. All of the high quality directories take the profiles down because they know your name is not “Western Pennsylvania Automobile Accident Lawyer.”