Building a Digital Marketing Strategy Beyond Your Law Firm’s Website

There is more to digital marketing for a law firm than just having a website. You have to reach out to your community too. When we think of “community” and “lawyer,” it gives us an excuse to mention the character of Jeffery Winger from the hit TV comedy series Community.

What can we learn from Jeff’s character? At the beginning of the series, Jeff is a disgraced former lawyer, due to skimping on his academic credentials, hence why he’s attending a community college. Jeff is brilliant but lazy; he starts out convinced that he needs no one, that he can function relying only on his own resources.

Naturally, as a part of the study group at community college, he learns over the course of six seasons that he is not an island unto himself after all. He has to get along with all the quirky characters around him and gains valuable insight into his own flaws when he cooperates with others. At first, he despises the community college and its culture, but he ends up single-handedly saving the school and becoming its hero.

There’s a metaphor for digital marketing there. Your website by itself is just Jeffery Winger, alone against the world. But when you combine your skills with a hodge-podge of quirky friends in the digital market community, you end up with a force far more powerful than the sum of its parts.

This strategy is necessary for today’s digital world, which relies on so much more than just your website. When it comes to legal firm marketing, the complete kit looks more like:

  • Social media on multiple channels
  • A Google My Business listing to reach local searches
  • Ratings and reviews on professional listings
  • Google PPC ads to claim top spots on the search engine results page
  • Multimedia channels to reach broader audiences
  • Email marketing to nurture former or interested prospects
  • Facebook ads to improve brand awareness

Taken together as a package, an integrated digital marketing strategy builds out your business from just having a website to having a whole web presence.


Onsite SEO is the Backbone

Your website is still a central function of your online marketing efforts. When you first launch your website, you might have a home page, a few pages dedicated to your services or products, an about page, and a contact page with a form for new leads to contact you and set up an appointment.

That’s a good start, but if people aren’t able to find your site, you won’t get the traffic flow needed to sustain a business. That’s where search engine optimization (SEO) comes in; it helps searchers find your website. There are several components in SEO that boosts your website’s ability to be found:

  • Onsite content: when users search Google with keywords, you want those to match the content and keywords on your website
  • Onsite optimization: beyond keywords, your website needs to be technically optimized for things like speed and mobile responsiveness
  • Citations and directory listings: the legal business is a localized one and local listings can help boost your rankings
  • Backlinks: you need links from reputable and relevant sources

Your onsite content (the text on your pages) should emphasize keywords such as:

  • Legal terms
  • Your specific area of practice
  • Your location

However, just mentioning the essential terms in a list won’t cut it—nor will a basic legal service page with 300 words. To rank for your target keywords, you need to publish comprehensive information to your website that positions your brand as an expert authority on your legal specialty. When you provide useful information that brings value to people, Google will rank your web page higher.

For many websites, the way to generate enough content to support their SEO strategy is with a blog. When people have legal questions, they often head to the Internet to find answers. The way to attract them is by answering their questions and providing information on your blog. If you’re not sure how blogging supports SEO or what law firms should write about, I encourage you to read our article “5 Examples of Effective Legal Blogs.”

Coming up on the top of page one is obviously what everyone wants. Ranking on page two or later, you’re almost doing nothing. To clarify this: you’re not trying to come up at #1 for general terms like “attorney”—that would be impossible and not an effective strategy. But when users search for “accident attorney in Kansas City,” that is a specific enough search that there’s likely to be only a handful of relevant results to start with. Coming up at the top in this scenario is very possible—and the way to do it is through a robust SEO and content strategy.


Google My Business

Google, as the web’s leading search engine, understands the importance of helping small businesses gain a foothold with their local market. Along with their Google Maps product, they offer Google My Business (GMB), a listing service for physical businesses to anchor their identity to a specific location.

If you haven’t heard of Google My Business, you’re missing out! It’s not just a pin on Google Maps; it lets you set up photos, videos, links, reviews and testimonials, hours of operation, and even interactive features like an appointment widget where leads can engage you right there!

Furthermore, when users in a location search for your business, a Google My Business listing helps it come to the top in Google’s Maps “3-pack”:

Google shows these results whenever a user searches “near me” on a mobile device with location tracking turned on. It also works on laptop searches if Google has a lock on that person’s location. If you want to claim one of those coveted three spots, you need to optimize your GMB listing.


Multimedia Content Marketing

We discussed earlier how a blog can support your SEO strategy and help your legal website rank higher on the SERP. Content can come in other forms too. Multimedia on the Internet has become the most frequently consumed form of media.

YouTube is one of the most frequent web destinations, and the rise of popular streaming services like Netflix has all but decimated the traditional TV broadcasting platform.

One way legal firms are well-positioned to enter the multimedia market is with podcasts. The legal industry lends itself to in-depth discussions of narrow topics, while the audience also wants a broad-bandwidth channel to learn more about legal issues.

Lacking a full-scale weekly podcast, YouTube content marketing can be easier and takes less of a commitment. Post a few videos addressing frequently searched topics or questions clients always ask you, and your content can sit on your YouTube channel farming leads for you. Of course, broadening that strategy into a consistent video posting schedule will help you get subscribers, which is even better.

The legal system is an entity shrouded in mystery for most people, so putting up any kind of informational, informative multimedia content is bound to be a welcome resource for the public.

Branding in Content Marketing

No matter if you’re using videos, podcasts, or a blog to market to the masses, you should always be mindful of the bottom line goal: to build your brand.

Who are you as a law firm? What’s your selling point? What makes you unique? Why should people choose you over a competitor? What expertise do you bring to the table? What image do you want to portray? These are all questions you answer with your branding.

Composing your media content becomes part of your “brand voice.” Your brand identity can be anything tailored to your specialty. Your firm might be projecting “the voice of experience,” “the underdog helping the little guy fight big business,” “the consumer advocate informing the public,” “the tiger in your corner when the IRS is after you,” “the fair referee who will guide you through a divorce,” “the tough litigator who stops corporate raiders in their tracks.”

Whatever that brand identity is, every piece of multimedia content you put up can feed into it. Use it to build an image. Don’t be afraid to have a sense of humor or use some quirky gimmick. It helps you stick in the public’s mind and distinguish your content from your competitors.


Google PPC Ads

Everything we’ve covered so far is “free” in the sense that you produce your own content and publish it on the web at little cost beyond resources. But legal firms also benefit greatly from pay-per-click(PPC) direct advertising. Just be forewarned: legal keywords are some of the most pricey to bid on. Just look at that chart below: a fifth of all keywords pertain to legal services, and the insurance keywords are bound to have some legal relationship as well. The competition for these keywords can be fierce, which drives up bid costs.

There are several winning strategies that law firms can use to leverage PPC ads. The key point to remember is that searches that result in ads frequently exhibit “high intent” to complete a transaction.

A person who searches for any legal-related keyword (“lawyer,” “law firm,” “attorney,” “accident,” “settlement,” “defense,” etc.), followed by anything like “appointment,” “consultation,” “near me,” “cost,” “how much,” or “hire,” shows someone with high intent to retain counsel soon.

A person searching for a question like “How many people get out of a DUI in Kentucky every year?” is probably idly researching with little intent to retain services. They might even be a digital marketing blogger researching a post!

Be sure to also use geo-targeted keywords, like “Kentucky,” and keywords specific to your field, like “DUI.” Due to natural economic factors, there’s less likely to be heavy competition in your area for more specific keywords, as opposed to broad legal terms that apply to a national audience.


Facebook PPC Ads

We certainly don’t need to sell you on the dominance of Google in the search market. But don’t underestimate Facebook! Facebook’s monthly active users total 2.7 billion as of Q2 2020. The population of the world is only 7.8 billion, so that means 35% of the world population is on Facebook. That’s a lot of reach for an ad campaign.

There are some benefits that Facebook ads have over Google ads. Facebook has a more well-defined audience and lets you fine-tune an ad strategy to target demographics, locations, interests, and other metrics. While anybody can search Google anonymously, Facebook has a lock on users’ identities. It’s easier to track user behavior this way, and measure performance stats off ads.

On the flip side, people search Google when they need something. Facebook ads are displayed more arbitrarily to the audience you target, even if their sole concern at the moment is posting the video of their daughter’s ballet recital. Take some of column A and B. The more important strategy of Facebook advertising is building brand awareness. Even if the user doesn’t click on your ad to do business today, you can lay an impression into them which will surface when they do need your services.

There’s also a cool trick you can pull with Facebook audiences and your own website’s email list. So if you have an address harvester on your site getting visitors to sign up for your newsletter:

You have a list of email addresses. You can then load that list into Facebook and form a custom Facebook audience for ads. You can also clone demographics off that custom audience to produce a “lookalike audience,” for more custom ad targeting. It’s a way of saying “Here’s a list of people who have shown interest in doing business with us; use their profiles to find more people just like them and advertise us to them too.”


Reputation Management

This is a common “gotcha” for law firms. Like many local professionals, legal firms are vulnerable to review and rating websites like Yelp, Angie’s List, BBB, and Foursquare. One bad review can cost you business. And the longer you stay in business, the more inevitable it will be that you run into that one client—you all know the one—who will be impossible to please, blames you for things that were their fault or is just a mean-spirited person.

So managing your legal business’s reputation is clutch. Fortunately, it’s not hard to do. You can set up a program to encourage former or present clients to pop in a good review or testimonial for you. The weight of good reviews outweighs the bad over time. Contrary to what we might think from browsing the news every morning, most people are mellow enough not to leave a negative review unless they were really bent out of shape about something.

You can also keep tabs on your business reputation and swoop in to remedy the situation. Sites like the BBB allow vendors to address and respond to user ratings. A dissatisfied customer can be engaged, with an offer to make things up to them, and sometimes the customer will reassess their review. At the least, you should never allow a bad review to go un-commented. If users see some response, even just an apology or an update on a change you made to prevent this situation in the future, that polishes your halo again.


Analytics and Reporting

This is the part where even the best businesses drop the ball. We get it, honestly! In this age crammed with digital information overload, who has time to pore over a boring old page of website traffic metrics? We already spent the money on the ad and the effort to come up with a campaign, why do more?

You should follow up on every digital marketing campaign with an after-analysis to find out what worked and what didn’t. Even the most accepted truisms of digital marketing, including the ones we spout around here, are up for grabs when it comes to marketing analytics. You never know when you might be in a niche market where your ideal buyer persona just happens to not match up to conventional wisdom.

You can be blindsided by anything because there are exceptions to every rule. Maybe you’re located in an area with a high Chinese immigrant ratio so users there are more loyal to Tencent QQ than Facebook. Or you have an area with a high ratio of retirees, who don’t typically watch or listen to online multimedia channels. Maybe your ad campaign is pulling in too many “looky-loo” users with a low intent to do business with you, and it’s killing your return on investment.

Determining Which Metrics to Track

A key performance indicator (KPI) is any metric you use to judge the efficacy of your marketing strategy. KPIs typically fall into two categories: marketing campaign metrics and financial performance metrics. The financial performance metrics tell you if your marketing strategy is helping you meet your business goals. While the marketing metrics tell you how effective your actual campaigns are.

What you track depends on your business’s specific goals and strategy. For example, if you’ve invested heavily in content marketing and SEO, you’ll want to track SEO metrics like organic traffic search queries, pages per visit, bounce rate, and new business from organic search. This will tell whether your efforts are getting the results you want. If your web traffic is declining, maybe need to adjust your content strategy. Or you may be targeting the wrong keywords if you’re not bringing in the ideal clients you want.

There are many marketing analytics tools out there, most of them free or available for a reasonable subscription fee. Google itself provides Analytics and PageSpeed Insights to help troubleshoot performance issues. Other SEO analytics tools have dual-focus, both helping you plan out a strategy and see an after-report to find out how it went.

You do get value out of a high-end analytics tool because it helps concentrate and present the data in the most visible way. It’s so much easier to keep your coworkers in the loop if you can send them a one-page report with some graphs rather than thirty pages of marketing-speak they won’t have time to read.


Putting It All Together

The days when you can effectively build an online marketing strategy from just one website are long gone. The social web brought us some much more user space to work with beyond just paying a web host for your corner of the Internet, but at the same time, it made it necessary to get your marketing message onto multiple media channels.

Most of this is low-cost or free, requiring only the effort to fill in the requirements. So there’s no reason not to tackle as much as you can find the time to devote to it or hire an outside agency to help you take care of the details. A concentrated, multi-core digital marketing plan can take your website from being yet another anonymous law firm to a respected, engaged member of the web community.


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