In an essay on the future of law firm websites, Robert Algeri of discusses how he sees the role of law firm websites changing:
During the past two years, my colleagues and I have studied the Great Recession’s effects on legal marketing and law firm Web sites. Our conclusion is that the law firm Web site is about to undergo a revolution. Specifically, we expect law firm Web sites to:
• Become more valuable. Web sites will rival face-to-face meetings in terms of their importance in business development.
• Become bigger. They will grow to accommodate much more content.
• Focus more on attorneys. Law firm Web sites increasingly will cater to the business development needs of individual attorneys.
The folks at Great Jakes have their finger on the pulse of legal marketing and understand ways search marketing can work for law firms. And while how law firm websites are most effective for a particular firm largely depends on who the firm’s clients are, generally speaking, I think Robert has it right:
Here’s what it boils down to: legal marketing increasingly will be about demonstrating your specialized expertise. And, in a world in which your clients may be located far, far away, this will happen largely via content found on your Web site.
If you accept the notion that the future of legal marketing is largely about demonstrating highly specialized expertise, this inevitably prompts the question: how exactly does one do this?
The answer is content marketing. This means creating reputation-enhancing content (like articles, blog posts, presentations, videos and podcasts) and posting them on the Internet for prospective clients to read.
No question, publishing quality online legal content matters. Whether someone gets your name from a word-of-mouth referral, the television, or elsewhere, chances are that they are going to do some internet vetting of you. What they find when they look for you may be the critical difference of whether they decide to hire you or even to contact you at all.
But if you write it, will people come? Publishing online legal content, while a critically important piece of an effective web strategy, will only take you so far. Sure, it is likely that your content will be found by people specifically searching for you and/or your law firm. But what about those potential clients that are using the internet in other ways?
What about people who are researching a specific legal issue, legally-related news topic, etc? Will those people find your content? Will they find you demonstrating your specialized expertise on websites other than your own? Will they find industry expert, legal journalists, publishers, and other people that they deem authoritative quoting you, citing your work, and referring to you as an expert on a subject?
If your Shakespearean content is a needle buried deep in the internet haystack, it’s unlikely to do much for you in terms of building your professional reputation.
If Content Is King, Sharing Is Queen, and Publicity is a Prince Or Something
In order for your reputation-enhancing content to be effective, you have to get the right content in front of the right audiences. You might publish something excellent on civil rights but if it’s only seen by someone looking for information buying a car, it probably wasn’t of much use to them, which means it wasn’t of much use to you in terms of growing your reputation. You have to find ways to get your content viewed, distributed, shared, linked to, and further publicized. This means that you have to get in front of people who are interested in viewing, distributing, sharing, linking to, and further publicizing it.
I have seen many lawyers who publish stuff that does a really nice job of showing their knowledge, skill, and experience in a specific area of law. Many of these same lawyers have also complained that it’s just not working. This might mean that they aren’t seeing increases in readers on their site. They might be drawing that conclusion because they aren’t seeing increased visibility in search engines or other areas of the web. Ultimately, they aren’t seeing the benefit in terms of growing their business and/or reputation.
So, while there is no question that what you write will play a huge role of the success of your legal web marketing, how well you are able to get your content in front of the right audiences is almost just as important. Which is where social media and networking can add value.