Develop Your Message
As is the case with other media, online legal marketing begins with positioning. Why should a potential client choose your firm over another? What can you do better than anyone else? How can you benefit your clients in a way that other law firms cannot?
Perhaps you can provide better customer services than your competitors. Perhaps you have had unique experiences that make you better equipped to handle your clients’ specific situations. Perhaps you can offer your services at a more affordable rate.
Once you have developed your message, the next step is to find ways to deliver that message to your target audience.
Deliver Your Message To Your Target Audience
When it comes to online legal marketing, there are may avenues available for delivering your firm’s message to your target audience of potential clients. At the core of all of these is your law firm’s website and/or blog.
You don’t have to surf the web very long to find the recurring website pattern: Homepage, Attorney Profiles, Practice Areas, and Contact. Most law firm websites you will come across will have some variation of these four standard pages.
It’s not that having these “types” of pages is wrong, just that they generally fail to carry any message (other than here’s where we went to school, we work hard, we have a lot of experience, we have knowledge, this is the type of work we do).
While I concede that your potential clients may be interested in knowing some basic information about you and your practice, it needs to be delivered in a way that demonstrates your value to your audience. More importantly, everything on your site needs to carry your positioning message. For every page of your site, you should identify how the information helps your visitors and whether or not it clearly expresses your positioning message.
Build/Write For Visitors, But Keep Search Engines In Mind
One of the most difficult aspects of online legal marketing is striking the right balance between making your site “people-friendly” and “search engine-friendly”.
Some experts believe that you should focus completely on your visitors and ignore search engines altogether when building and writing for your website. At the other end of the spectrum are some of those search engine optimizers that will tell you that stuffing your keywords all over your site will help your site “rank better” in Google.
As with everything else in life, balance is the key. If you completely ignore the search engines in creating your website, you are likely to run into several common pitfalls. Some of these will be minor, however, some of them may have a significant impact on your website’s visibility. On the other hand, if you build your website for search engines, and completely ignore your visitors, any search engine traffic that you do generate (which will probably be limited because you suffer some over-optimization penalty) won’t convert into any actionable potential client inquiry.
While each firm’s online marketing goals and needs will vary greatly, here is some general advice that we’ve seen work for a wide variety of firms:
- Remember Your Message: As you get caught up in the exciting world of online marketing, it can be very easy to overlook the most important part, your marketing message. Demonstrate the value, benefits, and reasons that someone should hire you. Don’t try to convince your visitors that you’re the hardest working or smartest lawyer out there. Chances are, you’re not. More importantly, while diligence and intelligence may play an important role in the quality of service that you provide, visitors to your website may not make that connection. Tell them how you can help them with their problems.
- Just Use WordPress: I know there are a lot of other great platforms out there, but for simplicity, features, and affordability, you’ll be hard-pressed to beat it. And since it’s endorsed by Matt Cutts, we know it’s Google-friendly.
- Calls To Action: Make sure you give your visitors several different ways to interact with your website. These may include video (if executed properly), contact forms, informational downloads, subscriptions, phone numbers, etc.
- Keywords: This may be a little too complicated for the less search-savvy, but you really want to do some basic keyword research. Without going through a complete keyword discovery process, you should aim for a short list of keywords (maybe 5-10) to use throughout your site. Make sure to use these keywords in page titles, headings, internal site links, and in your regular text.
- Images: If you’re a trial lawyer, you already know that pictures can be worth a thousand words. Using images on your website is critical. Internet users have short attention spans, get bored easily, and if they don’t like your website, they have a lot of alternative from which to choose. Be sure to check with your state bar about what’s ok and what’s not when comes to using images on your site.
Start Spreading The News
Now comes the hard part, finding out which platforms, sites, channels, etc, will generate visitors, potential client inquiries, and eventually clients for your firm. While this is a subject better covered by full books, here are some of the basic topics about which to start learning:
- Press Releases
- Online Legal Directories/Listings
- Online Social Networks
- Social Bookmarking
- Content Distribution
- Link Building
If you’re looking for a resource for understanding the basics about how to use these tools, I recommend checking out Jerry Work’s most recent book Be The Magnet (I receive no compensation, nor have any agreement or arrangement with Jerry to promote his book, I just like it). He keeps things simple and provides a good framework for how these pieces fit together without over-emphasizing the importance of any particular strategy. If you’re just getting started, it’s worth checking out.
No matter which options you choose to explore, make sure you have an identifiable goal by which to measure any of your online legal marketing strategies. Generally speaking, I recommend staying away from long-term commitments. Depending on the strategy, I like to start to see some results in 4-6 months time (sometimes shorter, rarely longer). Use a web analytics solution to monitor traffic and visitor behavior.
Once you have identified your goals and key performance indicators, don’t continue to pay for services, strategies, etc, that consistently fail to meet those established goals.