How to Optimize Your Law Firm’s FAQ Page

From what we hear from lawyers, they get asked some amazing questions. There’s a poll about lawyers sharing the strangest questions ever asked, with the best responses posted here. Read at your own risk. It might be hazardous to your IQ.

The general public is mystified about the workings of the legal system. To be fair, there isn’t a lot of education about it offered. A class in basic legal civics would be nice to have in high school, for starters. The law is also one of those topics everybody fervently hopes they don’t have to know because people look at going to court the way they view going to the dentist.

Consequently, whenever people have to know the law because they’re looking at their first citation, court date, or summons, they turn to Google. And that is where hopefully you, the legal expert, comes in. Because in your absence, that person is going to be tutored in the legal arts by Alex Jones.

Having a frequently asked question (FAQs) page up on your website sets the tone that you’re a helpful resource. By anticipating and answering your potential clients’ questions, you build up a relationship of trust. You set the potential client’s expectations by delivering transparent, factual answers. You become a voice of expertise as you relieve their anxiety (assuming they’re frantically searching the web with a lap full of legal papers).

What is an FAQ page?

An FAQ page is laid out very much like you’d expect, with frequently asked questions in bold headers followed by a paragraph or so of answer and explanation. The IRS has a good example with its taxpayer FAQ. Bank of America runs an FAQ page on Internet fraud. And here is the FDA putting up an FAQ about cannabis and its byproducts, as states keep legalizing. To our exact topic, here is a law firm FAQ on custody questions related to divorce.

Really, Googling any topic you want to know about plus “FAQ” is an efficient way of quickly finding information.

FAQ pages can be structured in several ways. Short lists are fine with simple text answers. Longer pages may either have the answers collapsed under each question so you click on the one you want to expand or a list of links that jump down to the section for that question. These are just convenient page navigation features.

FAQs and Google

Here’s the important part for your search traffic: Google’s search query matching algorithms have taken several leaps in sophistication in the past years. Google is getting better at zeroing in on exactly what the user is asking. Type in an equation, Google tries to answer it. Type in vaguely remembered song lyrics and Google will find the music video. And it works the same way for map results triggered off queries like “family lawyer near me” and featured snippet results for instructional queries like “how to file for a divorce.”

Another Google special search feature is the FAQ box, although it’s actually called a “People also ask” box. You see these on virtually any instructional query. The thing is, Google pays attention to the exact wording and intention within web results. You can publish a whole book on “auto accident fault scenarios” and not pop up as high in search results, but if your FAQ page contains the specific question “How do you determine who is at fault in a car accident?” you’ll appear in the box:

This is a neat feature. Try it yourself for any question that pops into your head. It’s also a great way to conduct research: click on a question and it will show the snippet answering that question, but it will also expand with more questions below it. As you go further down the list, the questions wander more off-topic. When you do this, sometimes you’ll find questions that you didn’t even know your clients had.

So you really want those FAQ spots, because these results tend to pop higher in the search results pages, which means you’ll get more web traffic. With a well-worded question and answer, you can ever outrank the top websites in your industry when you normally wouldn’t appear until the back pages.

 

Finding Questions For An FAQ

There is a simple process for this. Find a question within your industry, niche, or field of practice that people ask, but which isn’t clearly answered in FAQ form on the web. Then post a page stating that question with the answer. This is even easier than it sounds – if you know where to look, and if you can word things the way laymen word them.

Places to find questions:

  • Your practice: Everybody has that question they answer 1000 times.
  • Feedback on your website: Comments, contact form questions, emails, texts.
  • Surveys and polls: Any you can find, or conduct your own on your social media accounts or your sites.
  • Reddit: One of the top twenty highest traffic sites on the web. Good starting subreddits include /r/legal, /r/legaladvice, and /r/legaled.
  • Quora: Most popular Q&A forum on the web. Good starting tags are “Legal Issues and Law in Everyday Life” and “legal advice.”
  • Stack Exchange: Q&A forum geared more towards STEM/techie types, but it does have a law section. You can explore specialized tags from there.
  • Justia’s Ask A Lawyer forum.
  • Lawyers.com Ask A Lawyer forum.
  • LawGuru’s legal questions forum.

For example, we see this discussion on Reddit regarding property easements in Colorado. We might simplify this to a one-sentence question such as “Can a neighbor in Colorado force you to sign a property easement?” We also see FAQs pop up for related questions – the top one “Can an easement be forced?” is for New South Wales, Australia. So we see opportunities to fill in missing gaps here. Think about the region your law firm serves and create FAQs that address your community’s unique needs.

Location is a good thing to focus on in legal FAQs. Both because the law changes based on what state, county, and city jurisdiction you’re in, and because location information is one more way Google associates you with a region for local searches. So there’s less competition for a local FAQ about your state’s laws, while at the same time Google recommends you to local searchers.

A good way to identify new FAQ opportunities is to listen for questions about recent changes and developments in the law. For instance, here are seven state laws going into effect for 2020, an article tailor-made for our purpose. Going off those, we see Vermont will have some questions about mandatory composting, and Nevadians will be wondering about healthcare coverage laws for preexisting conditions, amongst other areas.

One final tip on content: An FAQ should be a “judgment-free zone” where no question is too stupid. You have no doubt met clients who were otherwise functional adults but had no clue about the basic concepts of law.

 

Formatting an FAQ Page

It isn’t enough to just plop down a page (or a blog post in WordPress) with questions and answers and leave it at that. Google likes a lot of site structural context to go with its content. We have an in-depth guide to proper site structuring here for all your concerns. For basic search engine optimization (SEO) purposes, you want:

  • A page title and meta-description matching the content
  • Grouping related questions together with a header (<h2>, etc.) tag or two to further flag the content for Google
  • Use internal navigation, such as anchor tags, to link to individual question sections
  • Use schema markup for FAQs – this makes Google find and index it easier
  • For larger FAQs or even whole categories of FAQ pages, include a search feature
  • Use internal links between the rest of your site and the FAQ. This helps on-site SEO because Google likes sites that have good interlinking so its search crawlers don’t get lost

Lastly, don’t forget your call to action (CTA), where you encourage readers to schedule a consultation with you to get all their questions answered personally.

Monitoring Your FAQ Performance

When tracking the effectiveness of your FAQ page, you can use several tools to improve it or gather new ideas for FAQ pages.

Your website traffic metrics will tell you which FAQ pages are pulling in traffic. Along with that, you can find out what search queries are bringing people to your site in the first place. You’ll often find “near miss” searches where, say, an FAQ about health code requirements for liquor licenses draws a small subset of driver questions about DUIs. So why not create a separate DUI page to answer those queries and snag some referral juice for your DUI-defense colleague?

If you implemented an on-site search feature as we suggested, check out the log of search queries. That can be a small goldmine of information telling you what users are searching for, and whether they’re finding it on your site.

If you added that CTA we mentioned, and you have it on multiple FAQ pages, you can monitor which FAQs trigger the most sign-ups or conversions.

Using an analytics tool such as Ahrefs or SEMRush will let you see the top search queries coming into your website and your closest competitor’s website! If you see lots of searches coming in for your competitor on a topic you don’t address, you know what to do.

Beware: Don’t Get Eaten By Google E.A.T.!

Legal websites are beholden to the Google E.A.T. standard. This stands for “Expertise, Authority, and Trust,” meaning in a nutshell that it ranks your website higher based on their perception of your website’s quality on these metrics. This isn’t entirely automated, either; a human being is on the other end manually checking your site to see if it passes the sniff test.

Google does this with sites it deems as having “YMYL” topics, which stands for “your money or your life.” Professional advice about health, legal, financial, political, and current news falls under YMYL because there can be serious life consequences from bad advice. As you might guess (and we hinted at with that Alex Jones crack back there), E.A.T. is Google combating the spread of fake news, quack cures, pseudo-science, and other garbage misinformation on the web.

Don’t panic about E.A.T. As long as you adhere to the following guidelines, you’ll be fine:

  • Have qualified experts create your content (don’t throw it to some fifty-cent hack off Fiverr)
  • Update your old content, correct errors, keep it current
  • Meet professional standards of quality reporting – AP standards work fine
  • Have good spelling and grammar, since Google does check for this
  • Have your content hosted on a site that’s devoted to that topic – as opposed to, say, hosting your legal advice on your sister’s muffin recipe blog

When in doubt, perhaps hire an editor to go over your work. But honestly, a practicing lawyer, paralegal, or even a good legal clerk should have no trouble meeting E.A.T. standards.

 

Conclusions

Good FAQs are almost like a “cheat code” for Google search results. When carefully created, they’ll capture searchers’ attention and drive traffic to your law firm’s website.

In your quest to reach the top of the SERP, don’t forget who the FAQ page is for: your clients. Google’s top concern is giving searchers the information and user experience they want. Your answers must strike a careful balance; they can’t be too long-winded, nor so short that they’re not useful. They should be easy to consume but also provide links to further reading. When you create an FAQ page with your clients in mind, you’ll become their go-to source for legal information.

 

How to Become a Legal Thought Leader

 

Professionals in the legal industry are sitting on the marketing golden ticket, and most of them don’t even know it.

Legal firm marketing faces several challenges in the 21st century. Their trade has a negative reputation among the general public, and clients who have to pick a lawyer generally play phone-book roulette and go with the first attorney who returns their call. A narrow set of specialties aggressively markets to the public, such as the accident settlement and debt consolidation niches, but the rest might as well be faceless as far as the public is concerned.

Thought leadership allows you to stand out from that gray background blur. Just getting a soapbox to talk to the public for five minutes does so much to give your firm a face and a voice, most importantly a brand identity. Not only does thought leadership help up you increase word of mouth recommendations and enhance your reputation, but it helps you rank higher on Internet searches your clients are likely to perform.

 

New Challenges in the Legal Market

What makes it harder for legal firms to market their services in the 21st century? For one thing, businesses have been creating products to encourage more potential clients to have a “do it yourself” attitude. Software tools like LegalZoom and ContractWorks let small business clients produce legal documents and contracts. Legal practice has changed in many fields into process managerial and technological practice.

The law firm business model also doesn’t do a lot to encourage long-term value. Lawyers don’t retain residual equity in a firm when they leave, so they’re often less motivated to contribute to the firm’s long-term standing. The legal firm biosphere encourages individuals to extract maximum short-term value from an engagement.

Last, the ongoing (oh no here it comes!) COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the market, in ways that are subtle and long-term. There are radical changes to business structure, with whole industries going under—goodbye movie theaters, casinos, and sports! This impacts the economy, which impacts every client in one way or another. Meanwhile, courtrooms are inextricably changed, when they’re open at all anymore.

Developing a content strategy that establishes yourself as a thought leader can help you overcome these challenges.

 

What Makes a Thought Leader?

A thought leader is an expert in a field who speaks out to the public, being recognized as an authority on their industry. Who do you think of when you think of space, physics, and science? Chances are Neil deGrasse Tyson leaps to your mind. How about computers? Maybe you thought of Bill Gates or the late Steve Jobs. If you’re looking for cooking advice, there are several celebrity chefs you might have caught on the Food Network.

An industry expert is recognized enough that if a reporter with a story in that field is looking for a quote, they’ll seek out that expert and ask their opinion on the subject. It’s quite possible to get that “famous” even in your small town practice because the legal industry thought leaders are pretty rare to come by.

The way you do this is by doing something you probably like to do already: give your opinion. Publish it online. And then keep giving it and giving it. The more you talk, the more the public listens. Building a reputation as an industry thought leader is a long game, taking much time to gain steam. But it’s valuable in the long run because that content sits there farming new clients to you year after year.

Why We Need Legal Thought Leaders

Let’s boldly assume that you pay attention to the news and general media. You might have heard how social media and public awareness are fraught with issues. Indeed, a lot of the news nowadays is just about the news…

It seems like any subject that isn’t general knowledge is up for grabs now, from vaccine denialists to flat earthers. In short, the world needs more experts, and it needs those experts to have a bigger megaphone than the layman spreading misinformation.

In America, legal issues are a matter of civics, and civics are woefully under-taught in the American education system. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni points out that the decline of civics education leaves students less prepared to be informed citizens. The National Education Association holds that civics education in the public school system has lost its way, not missing so much as misguided.

Lack of civics awareness leads people to not know their legal rights. This article points out many personal liberties that most people aren’t aware of. No doubt, many of these ring true to you, if you’re practicing in the field of personal defense or civil rights. These facts are the things that you have to tell clients over and over again.

 

Google and Your Audience

The Google search engine works by indexing content it finds on websites and matching it against keywords the user types in. We’re skipping over a world of details in that definition, but that’s the nutshell. In general, you want the content on your website to match up with the queries your potential clients will be searching for.

Google, believe it or not, wants to help you! It got to be number one by giving people the results they want, and they support themselves by helping businesses market. Google’s webmaster guidelines underscore this point: build the content for people, then optimize it for search engines. High quality, well-researched, authoritative content, presented in a well-organized form, wins the Google prize every time.

By posting informative content, you’re providing potential clients with the information they want, and encouraging others to link to you while citing you as an expert. That’s called “backlinking,” and it’s important because Google partially ranks websites based on their inbound links, out of the dozens of other ranking signals they use. Google looks for links that indicate that somebody found this content to be useful, informative, or helpful.

So we’re sold on the idea of becoming a legal thought leader. Now how do we go about that?

 

A Voice of Friendly Expertise

We read a few legal blogs and cite some favorites from time to time. Through blogging, over the long term, you develop your public personality or the personality of your firm. There are several ways we see legal bloggers distinguish themselves:

  • Idealism: Not being happy with the status quo
  • Insight: Being at the cutting edge of top news stories with clarification
  • Candidness: Giving frank, behind-the-scenes views
  • Casualness: Putting a friendly, human face on the stuffy legal profession
  • Stimulating: Exploring little-known nooks and crannies of legal niche fields

In the same manner that you make a legal argument to a jury, you can work on the public using any number of appeal factors. Appeal to their curiosity, offer help to those who are lost, or be a trusted voice of reason in the middle of a mad hothouse debate. Meanwhile, you use keyword research tools to build your content around the search terms your potential clients are likely to use.

After that, you have only to take these next steps to compose content:

1. Define Your Target Audience.

Is it best to write a general-purpose law blog or drill down into a niche? It’s always better to focus on a niche. Users aren’t likely to search for general law terms, but “rights during house arrest,” “fight traffic citation,” or “divorce and custody rights” are more relevant terms to potential clients’ needs.

You may want to keep a spare pad around when consulting with clients and note their most common questions. You can also do a bit of keyword research to find out how clients stumbled on your website in the first place, using this to get inspirations to create more focused content for the next search.

Staying up to date on current legal trends and issues is also an invaluable source of inspiration. Almost daily, a news story breaks that could use a legal expert’s insight. This is a great way to “go viral,” getting lots of backlinks in a short time because you have insight on an issue which people are discussing online.

2. Share on Multichannel Media.

Just because you have a WordPress blog on your site doesn’t mean you should stop there. There’s a whole range of ways to reach your audience, not all of whom read blog posts:

  • Webinars: A podcast / broadcast / Zoom lecture
  • White papers: Publishing for a more professional market (corporations are clients too)
  • Publishing to third-party sites: Guest-posting in your university’s alumni blog or a legal advice column in local news media
  • Podcasting and webcasting: Awesome fun to do, popular with a select audience
  • YouTube videos: Still puts a friendly face and voice on your firm
  • Social media: Blasting out little bites of information on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn

If you do go with video or audio content, be sure to get it transcribed and have the text on your website too. Google indexes text but has so far not realized its eventual plan of indexing audio and video content.

3. Be Yourself.

We’re not going to assume a stereotype, but most of the lawyers we’ve seen have at least a touch of ham in them. You have to be good at public speaking in most cases if you see the inside of a courtroom. If you deal with witnesses and juries, you even need to have a few “people skills.” Half of legal work is writing and talking (and reading) anyway, so lawyers develop natural communication skills as part of the job.

It’s OK to loosen up, write in the first person, and have a sense of humor. Injecting just a little zip and personality can take a boring subject like the law and make it fun and interesting. The general public has little to no understanding of the mechanics of law, so just about everything you have to say is likely something they haven’t heard before. You’re automatically interesting whenever you’re teaching people something new.

At the same time, curate your “blogger persona.” Who are you to clients? You’re their trusted advisor, their experienced veteran in their corner, their ace-in-the-hole. Project that into your content creation.

4. Don’t Stop!

This is where a lot of would-be greats retire to mediocrity: it’s tough to keep going and going. Everybody has a month of good blog posts in them, but the sign of a true natural adept is somebody who keeps blogging at the same pace years later.

“Content is king,” as we say about content marketing, but content also wins based on sheer volume alone. The best policy is to stick to a semi-regular posting schedule. Pace yourself out so you don’t burn out. Don’t apologize if you miss an installment, just jump back in. By keeping a regular schedule, you encourage readers to bookmark you (follow you, subscribe to your channel, etc.) and come back.

Consistency leads to authority and the sheer volume pulls in more search engine hits. It’s a little adventure because you never know what will be a hit. All our bloggers swear that they can pour their heart and soul into a timeless masterpiece and get 30 views, while a casual off-the-cuff rainy day post goes worldwide viral.

 

The Golden Ticket of Legal Content Marketing

Another astrophysics scientist, the late Carl Sagan, wrote a book titled “The Demon-Haunted World,” attempting to teach people critical thinking in what he pessimistically saw as a modern version of the Dark Ages. We’ll grant that things aren’t quite looking that grim! Maybe it’s social media’s fault, maybe we really do need to govern it more closely. Social media’s problem is that it spreads falsehoods faster than the truth.

The bottom line is that right now, we need experts who know what they’re talking about. The digital world is starving for facts and fed on a diet of shadows. Not only will your thought leadership be a marketing beacon that brings you steady clients, but it just might do some good in the world. We know there are lawyers out there who had that motivation in the first place.

 

Top Legal Marketing Trends to Watch in 2021

Deep breath, everyone. Despite the COVID-19 outbreak and the widespread economic downturn, the legal industry is not collapsing. The need for quality legal services is as diverse as ever. It’s not going anywhere. In fact, research from McKinsey shows that law firms have been particularly well suited to “weather” economic downturns throughout recent history.

That said, the world of law and legal marketing has not been immune to the “unprecedented-ness” of 2020. Beyond the deep, yet unfinished impacts of COVID-19, the legal industry is experiencing other deep-seated shifts brought about by technology and shifting consumer demand that cannot be overlooked.

Many firms, for instance, are “offshoring” document review, research, and legal writing to preserve their margins. Delivery models are changing, too, with client calls, discovery, and other traditionally person-to-person services moving 100% online—spurred on, no doubt, by health and safety concerns caused by COVID-19. And new “do it yourself online” services, such as LegalZoom, are proving disruptive.

Finally, and in light of current political and social issues, practice areas are coming under increased demand, such as bankruptcy and restructuring, debt financing, labor and employment, and so on.

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“Be Flexible. Be Ready.” Legal Marketing Trends for 2021

As with downturns past, flexibility is key for law firms hoping to not only weather the storm but emerge stronger on the other side. This will require some creativity, attention to digital branding and content, and a willingness to introduce new strategies for attracting (and keeping!) clients.

Based on our extensive work executing marketing and SEO strategies for legal firms, we’ve put together what we believe will be seven of the most pressing digital marketing trends facing the legal industry in 2021—trends that will shape our own unique approach to our valued clients in the legal field.

 

1. Put Clients First in Your Approach to Legal Marketing

There are too many options for prospective clients to waste time with firms that don’t put them first. In terms of marketing, here’s what “putting the client first” might look like:

  • People-focused marketing. In other words, be human, both in terms of how you present your brand and how you speak to your clients. Truth is, people want to know not only that you’re not just another faceless law firm behemoth, but that they’re not just another faceless cog in the marketing machine.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of client needs, challenges, and fears. What are clients in your particular practice area going through? The better you can empathize with the pains, frustrations, and desired outcomes for your clients, the more effectively you’ll be able to create value and help them address the pain and challenges they’re experiencing.
  • Create value, not just a clever pitch. Creating value for clients—current and prospective—must shape marketing strategy in the legal world. Video content that answers a common legal question, for example, or regular blog content offering legal tips and tricks for clients navigating the world of immigration law, copyright, or property law can significantly strengthen your brand ethos.

 

2. Pay Close Attention to the Growing Prominence of Semantic Search

There are tons of legal firms and services out there, so Google has to be really good at connecting people with the right search results. One of the prominent ways it will do so in 2021 is by using semantic search. This is how search engines use all the data at hand to determine the context, intent, and meaning they need to connect people with the most relevant and complete content possible.

It comes down to how, and why, your prospective clients are searching for you. What answers, information, or expertise are they looking for, and in what area of law? Here are some simple principles your teams can follow when it comes to semantic search:

  • Create content that answers your target client’s questions. If you want to be seen by wealthy, middle-aged men seeking divorce assistance in Tampa Bay, for example, narrow down your content to the type of questions and expertise that this target persona would likely look for when using a search engine.
  • Write for people, not search engines. That means developing content that is to the point, concise, and written in easy-to-understand language. This is especially important for the world of legal, where clients often (not always!) lack the technical understanding of the law that you and your staff might have.
  • Get contextual internal linking right on your website. Internal linking goes beyond creating logical click paths to related topics for your users. Done strategically, it creates a data-rich, well-structured map of related content around a central topic or search term, such as TORT or injury law.
  • Optimize content for topics instead of keywords. You can build out clusters of valuable content around a high-level legal topic, such as divorce law, including subtopics such as divorce law cost, divorce law timeline, etc. As you build and optimize around topic groupings, you naturally build a nexus of related short-tail and longer-tail keywords, all of which lends well to better rankings.

 

3. Get Your Local SEO Game Way. Way up!

Many small to medium-sized law firms serve specific geographic areas due to their physical location. It’s no surprise that they need to build awareness and drive leads in their local markets. Thanks to the rapidly growing prevalence of local search, legal marketers have a tremendous opportunity to reach local audiences and differentiate themselves from the competition.

Way back in 2017, Think With Google estimated that local search was growing 150% year over year (YoY). Today, that trend has only accelerated the increased weight of things like reviews and business listings to local search algorithms. By some estimates, nearly 50% of all Google searches have local intent.

Put simply, when people search for legal services in your geographical area, you want to make sure your polished, A+, well-branded content shows up, including business information, photos, and reviews. Here are a few ways to make that happen:

  • Set up your Google My Business, Facebook Business, and Yelp listings today. If resources are limited, spend your time on Google My Business, the one most closely tied to Google (the largest search engine in the world). Ensure that every aspect of these listings, from contact information, hours, and location, to available services and photos, are up to date.
  • Generate regular reviews. VERY IMPORTANT. Reviews are a ranking factor in most local search engines, especially Google, and they’re super important to prospective clients, too. We recommend that you develop a review management and encouragement program to generate reviews from clients. Your brand reputation and local search visibility will thank you for it.
  • Place content in local online publications, alongside your own dedicated blog. When reputable, local publications link to your law firm’s website, it sends a signal to Google that your website is valuable to that region. Part of your SEO and content strategy should focus on developing content that local audiences want. Read our article to learn more about building backlinks.
  • Update listings in legal directories so that your citations always reflect the latest information about your firm.

If you’re looking for more advice on how to optimize your local SEO strategy, you’ll want to read our article “How to Use Local SEO to Attract More Legal Clients.”

 

4. Make it Easy for Clients to Get What They Need

In other words, make sure you pay close attention to user experience (UX), a critical component of client-focused marketing strategies. At a high level, that means designing, testing, and refining any interactions with your digital entities as easily and professionally as possible. This includes searching for you on Google, booking consultations for your website, or even making payments. What about file transfers, chatbots, or FAQs? It all needs to be clean, simple, and on point.

Here are a few best practices for law firms trying to deliver better UX on their website:

  • Create an intuitive navigation
  • Provide the ability to search lawyers per specialty, location, etc.
  • Add comprehensive lawyer bios, including background, photos, and video introductions
  • Optimize your entire site for mobile
  • Create legal resources centers (guides, webinar downloads, legal forms, etc.) that bring value to current and prospective clients, as well as other legal professionals

Not only will your clients thank you for your stellar UX, but Google search engines will too. According to a May 2020 Google Webmaster Central Blog post, Google Search will now factor all kinds of UX signals into its rankings, including Google’s new Core Web Vitals. With these updates to its search algorithm, Google is signaling a greater emphasis on “delightful” web experiences for people.

That means websites that load fast, make it easy to find information, and play well across devices and platforms. Sites that can deliver this caliber of user experience will be rewarded with better search visibility, which is definitely something you’ll want for your legal practice in 2021 (and beyond).

 

5. Increase You Investment in Facebook Ads

In the world of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, Google Ads is a gold standard. The ability to advertise on the world’s most used search engine—to potentially reach that volume of people every month—can create tremendous returns. It also creates a lot of competition.

In fact, many legal firms come to us citing the rising cost of Google Ads and constantly maxed out impressions. And while there are still plenty of effective Google Ads tactics, we often recommend considering more investment in Facebook ads.

Why? Well, from the beginning of 2020, global cost-per-click (CPC) for Facebook ads is down, as are Facebook advertising costs across the board. And the options available to Facebook advertisers have never been so broad. The technology and resources are stunning. We think video ads make a lot of sense for legal firms. And you might want to check out Facebook Mobile Studio, which includes a rich feature set for creating killer mobile ads, including image enhancements, short video ads, and animated stories.

As exciting as these formats are, Facebook is not without risk. Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg have been regularly embroiled in controversy surrounding data privacy. Throughout 2020, a growing number of people and brands have expressed their distrust and displeasure with the social media giant by boycotting the platform altogether. In fact, major brands, such as North Face, REI, Starbucks, Unilever, Verizon, and most recently Disney, have massively cut back on Facebook ad spend in response to the ways Facebook is handling political advertisements, fact-checking, and hate speech.

As marketers in the legal space, this kind of controversy will likely raise an eyebrow. And it’s something we caution all of our clients about, so tread carefully when it comes to investing in Facebook Ads.

 

6. Diversify Your Content Marketing Strategy

As rich and informative as they might be, blog posts alone no longer cut it. Instead, law firms need to take a client-first approach to content that brings all that rich knowledge and legal expertise to clients, in the channels and media they prefer.

Today, people want simplicity, interactivity, and cross-platform availability. If they can’t find it using a quick Google search, or on their platform de jour—Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and so on—they’ll quickly move on. As a marketer in the legal space, responding to these ever-changing consumer demands requires openness to keeping up with new technologies.

At Atlantic, we like to recommend the art of smart repurposing, no matter which types of content make the most sense for our law clients. That is, build a higher-touch, longer-form asset around a cornerstone topic, then repurpose that content into smaller sub-topics and content types. A long-form blog post can become part of an ebook, social media copy, or even a video script. A webinar interview can be broken down into short, discrete videos that can be used in an Instagram campaign.

There are a few types of content that law firms, specifically, should consider investing in:

  • Podcasts. What was once a kind of clunky, new-kid-on-the-block, format is now a widely adopted, widely used content format. And the market for legal podcasts, in particular, is booming. Our recommendation is to build a podcast around your particular practice area or niche or to take down hot topics like problems with LegalZoom or legal structuring for small businesses. Podcast transcripts can be repurposed into blog posts and other content to maximize reach and engagement. Read our article “How Podcasts Can Benefit Your Law Firm” to get some ideas on how you can use podcasts at your law firm.
  • Video. Not much of a Spielberg? No problem. Think quick, simple, and clean videos that create value for your clients. In the legal profession, one of the best sources of video topics is your existing clientele: what common questions do they have? What particular challenge or case type keeps popping up lately? Maybe a senior attorney or partner can weigh in to give your videos that extra authority and pizzaz. You can also experiment with LinkedIn and Facebook Live to meet the growing demand for freshness and interactivity.
  • Webinars. Just like podcasts, webinars are rapidly evolving. Webinar platforms like On24, Demio, and even Facebook Live build in interactivity, such as chat and polling, as well as powerful back-end audience analytics that can populate marketing lists and help with lead generation. Within the legal space, virtual panels make for an engaging format that brings in diverse expert voices on a particular topic area.

 

7. Focus on Brand Awareness

We started this list by putting the client first, and we’ll end it with how to regularly remind those clients that you’re here for them. I’m talking about your firm’s brand reputation. Building a strong brand is an ongoing practice that requires regular attention and constant innovation. It’s also an excellent way to build authority in a noisy marketplace, instill client confidence, and weather the uncertain conditions likely to follow the legal profession into 2021.

Luckily, law firms provide a valuable service to their local communities, which makes for plenty of opportunities for building brand awareness, such as:

  • Attorneys as brand ambassadors. Because of public perceptions about the law profession, your firm’s attorneys enjoy a reputation for authority and expertise. When possible, showcase your attorneys in video content, webinars, and other marketing campaigns to bring that extra credibility and professionalism that attorneys tend to embody.
  • Participate in local events. This is a great way to get your firm’s name out there, as well as shake hands, build relationships, and support important local causes. Win-win. In the same vein, your firm can partner with charitable organizations and nonprofits in your city to extend your reach even farther.
  • Use real client testimonials. It’s one thing to talk about your own brand, and yet another to hear it from your satisfied clients. To that end, build in a process for soliciting and producing relevant, polished client testimonials for use across your digital entities.

By focusing first on your community, you’ll develop a brand reputation that you can be trusted and depended upon. When people believe that, they’re sure to share the word.

 

Roll With the Volatility and Find Ways to Emerge Stronger

The legal world is hardly immune from the uncertainty, and conflicting messages that recently characterize our broader world. Often, law firms are at the very center of helping people and companies navigate it all, especially when obstacles do arise.

This is what we believe marketing for legal firms in 2021 will be all about. Firms that can put client needs at the center of all they do, while being flexible enough to endure changing market dynamics and new marketing trends, will thrive. The seven trends detailed above are certainly good places to start.

 

 

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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.

 

7 Proven PPC Best Practices for Winning More Legal Clients

The year 2020 has so far been the truest realization of the old Chinese proverb “May you live in interesting times.” Recently-coined words include “doomscrolling,” where you’re so morbidly fascinated by the daisy chain of disaster headlines that you keep scrolling down your phone feed, entranced like a charmed cobra.

What can lighten this mood? The anticipation of more work than ever for the legal industry. The insurance industry is just one among many that are doing some early headhunting for in-house litigators. No matter what field of law you’re in, you’re likely anticipating some kind of windfall from the pile-up of COVID-19, nationwide protest violence, or the recent crop of seasonal disasters.

The one thing you’ll need to help snag some of these anticipated clients is some proactive digital marketing. That’s where we’re coming in. Perhaps you’ve already dipped a toe into pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on the Google Ads network. We’re assuming you’re familiar with the benefits of digital marketing strategies for law firms as opposed to the old-school world of Yellow Pages and billboards.

In a nutshell, PPC advertising is attractive to the legal industry for several reasons:

  • It’s easy to track campaign performance: unlike a sign on a bus stop bench, you know which impression led to which lead
  • You can get immediate results: as soon as your campaign is live, you could land a new client
  • Budgets are flexible: costs scale from the sole proprietor start-up to enterprise legal service firms
  • Easy to target your ads: narrow your scope to one demographic during one time of year or broaden it to blitz the whole state
  • Campaigns are flexible: you can start, stop, or change advertising campaigns on a dime

You also get lots of data to analyze, which some would call a feature. Feedback behavior from a PPC campaign is very telling. You can guess a surprising amount of user motive behind metrics like click-through rates (CTR), activity peak times, time on site, bounce rate, etc. We’ll dive into some of that below.

Our focus here is to help your law firm get the most bang for your PPC buck. But first, let’s talk about some PPC basics:

 

Legal PPC Ad Keyword Strategy

First-time advertisers may feel a bit daunted when they first plunge into Google ads and discover the world of keyword bidding and targeting. There’s a science to this stuff, so you can save yourself a bit of money and effort by doing your research ahead of time. Your PPC plan outline should look like this:


Step #1 Identify what your client will be searching for

The legal field being the specialization that it is, not all your prospective clients will know for sure that they need a lawyer in the first place. They might be trying to solve a problem on their own terms. Our task here is to divine “search intent,” narrowing our ad down to hit just those users who are either ready to hire counsel or can be drawn into such a decision.

What keywords to target depends on your field of practice, but they will always be related to the kinds of cases you normally handle and especially the “FAQ” (frequently asked questions) that new clients are asking when they first arrive for a consultation. For instance, a tax law firm might look into searches for keywords like:

  • IRS garnishment
  • tax lien on house
  • offer in compromise
  • back taxes owed payment plan

Not everybody knows that they can hire a lawyer to fight the IRS for them. Legal matters and tax matters are both intimidating subjects for the average citizen.

You also want to check out “high intent” keywords, which are search terms that flag a prospective client ready to obtain counsel this minute. For law firms, those may look something like “how much,” “legal fees,” “cost of retainer,” and especially “near me,” the sure sign of a client ready to head for your door as soon as they locate it. We’ll talk more about location targeting in a later step.

Step #2 Review keyword statistics and performance

You do pay by the click in PPC advertising, so you want every click to count. Determine how badly you want each of these search terms and the prospective revenue they’ll generate. Just because something is a common search in your field doesn’t mean you necessarily want to target that particular keyword. This looks like a good place to trot out the CTR (click-through rate) formula:

Use this later in testing your ad copy against results. We’re keeping in mind that even the most prestigious law firm doesn’t necessarily have the capacity to handle a million new clients at once. You might want to go for a more select keyword set with a lower, but more worthwhile, CTR%. Target the clients that bring you the highest value.

You should also be advised that some keywords cost more than others. Legal terms are some of the most expensive, at least for the words “lawyer,” “attorney,” and cash cows like “structured settlement” and “mesothelioma.” So you might choose to skip the more expensive keywords while targeting around the edges for the kinds of dilemmas likely to lead clients to seek your assistance.

There’s a number of keyword planning tools to help you formulate your PPC campaign.

Step #3 Finalize your keyword list

Google Ads allow you to do more than just target raw keywords. You can target by broad or narrow focus, by exact phrase, and even by negative keywords for the terms you want to exclude.

Keyword Matching Options: Select keywords that will help you reach your ideal client

  • Broad Match: Covers all forms of the word including stems, plurals, synonyms, and misspellings.
  • Broad Match Modifier: Sticks to the specific keywords only, not synonyms or partial matches.
  • Phrase Match: Even more fine-tuned, triggering only for the exact phrase, not just those words in any order.
  • Exact Match: Eliminates leading or trailing words, so you want only that specific word and its synonyms to trigger.

Say you work in copyright law, but you’re not interested in fielding every YouTube movie reviewer who’s irate because Google pulled their video for copyright infringement. Yes, this happens a lot lately. But not every basement vlogger has the funds to pursue a full claim. You can set the keyword planner to exclude the term “YouTube” with the negative keyword modifier.

Don’t forget to include branded keywords as well! People who are searching for your firm by name or an affiliated brand will sometimes search for the name itself, such as when they’re acting off a referral or when they heard your ad on the radio but can’t remember the phone number.

That’s it for the prerequisites. Break time: Did you know Warren Zevon, the rock star famous for “Werewolves of London,” died of mesothelioma at age 56? Did you know he also did a song called “Lawyers, Guns, and Money”? Zevon had a wonderfully dark sense of humor, his whole output is worth checking out.

Break’s over. Now for the main show:

 

Legal Industry PPC Best Practices:

#1 Create Client Personas

Know your audience! You should be able to draw back on past client business to create a profile to start with and craft this into your ideal business customer. Take into account historical data and current trends—for instance, medical malpractice specialties might want to brace for an incoming wave of COVID-19-related cases. You should also reach out to past clients and ask them probing questions. Ask them how they found your law firm and what factors they considered when selecting a lawyer. Collate all this into the profile as well. This is known as a “client persona.”

Every business uses client personas and targets their ads to this profile or at least the general demographic around it.

#2 Use Strong CTAs

A CTA is a “call to action.” In other words, your sales pitch. You’ve seen accident compensation law firm commercials on TV and the radio, ending with the CTA: “Call our number now to get the settlement you deserve!” Note the emotional trigger-word there: “deserve.” It’s crafted to make the client think “Have I not been getting what I’m entitled to? Have I gotten the short end of the stick?”

Crafting the perfect ad copy is such a refined art, making the most of a succinct pitch in a small space, that you might want to hire an ad copywriter just for this part. Lacking that, browse other law firms’ ads to absorb some inspiration. Don’t forget, never leave the client on stage without a script. Direct them to call now for a free consultation or set up an appointment, whatever the CTA is.

#3 Make It Easy For Them To Choose You

There’s a common blind spot to most any profession, where the things that are evident to us are something the general public doesn’t know. We here in thelegal marketing business take pains to spell out our acronyms and jargon terms. Because we’ve been talking about SEO (search engine optimization) for so long that we can’t believe there are people who don’t know what that means, but we have to allow for that anyway.

You have to see things from the clients’ point of view. What are the potential barriers or concerns they may have doing business with you? What if it turns out they don’t have a case? What if they have to testify in court? What if their court case drags out for years? They have all these concerns buzzing around while they’re contemplating hiring you. Depending on your field, you might be receiving an emotionally distraught spouse, an injury victim hazy off pain medication or the recipient of a DUI who just got bailed out of jail.

Now make it as easy for them as possible. Set up a landing page on your site to receive clicks from the ad. Make it consistent with the ad—reassure them they’ve come to the right place. Whatever your action step is, make it simple to find and complete. Have the form present for them to fill in, making it as short a step as possible.

The famed efficiency expert Frank Gilbreth coined the term “therbligs,” from his surname spelled backward. Therbligs are elemental units of motion. Count each movement, tap, or menu navigation as a therblig, and have as few of them as possible.

#4 Optimize Your Landing Pages

That stunner advertisement doesn’t do you much good without someplace for it to send the lead! Landing pages can be hand-crafted or generated from prefab software such as Unbounce. Here’s one great example of a landing page with our notes:

  • a: Value Proposition: An offer the customer can act on now
  • b: Consistent offer the same as the copy of the ad the user clicked on
  • c: CTA: One button, act now!
  • d: Service and pricing guide: Upselling from the original offer of the ad

Some landing pages also have a “social proof” section somewhere before the end. This is a testimonial, review, or good word from a former satisfied client, with a warm photo and a quote “Bulldog Attorneys got me a $2.4 million dollar settlement!”

A great landing page is composed, conservative, and reassuring. It’s clear and direct, easy to navigate, and leads the client right into your lap. Avoid cheap, tacky landing pages with garish colors like this nightmare:

Things that this landing page does wrong:

  • Too busy!
  • Too many colors, mismatched clipart graphics.
  • Too confusing: where do you go next?
  • There’s no way this page matches a short Google ad we clicked on to get here!
  • Too much hard selling.
  • Can’t sleep; scary disembodied head will eat me!

We realize that the legal profession doesn’t lend itself to many visual metaphors that make for versatile imagery. Even the best example of a landing page we can find still uses the overused graphic of a judge’s mallet. It’s either that or the ol’ lady liberty scales! No matter, give the people what they expect, keeping just enough branding to distinguish yourself from the competition.

We find that with law firm websites, design apparently isn’t emphasized much. You’ll find perfectly successful and established firms with a website that’s just unformatted text, one photo, a plain text-in-a-box logo, and a design that hasn’t changed since Microsoft FrontPage Express circa 1998. Clients do seem to expect a sensible, mature, and frugal design when they seek out a lawyer. But we do also want to be sure to stay compliant with modern web standards and to have enough branding that the client doesn’t forget you.

#5 Geotarget to Reach Local Audiences

Finally, we deal with those “near me” searches. Since legal clients aren’t going to travel very far, the trade of law counts as a “local business.” Local market targeting is a completely different ballgame from global marketing. Since there aren’t likely to be more law firms in a given area than what the market will bear anyway, you have less competition for local keywords.

Apply mostly everything in our article on local SEO for law firms here as well. If you don’t have a Google My Business optimized listing, get one as soon as possible. It’s free, it’s hooked into Google Maps, and will get you a location-based featured snippet on a search engine results page (SERP), right where the ads are—for free!

For PPC ads, you can set up “geofencing,” which will target your ad only at users within a specific area. This will also save you money from not having to pay for useless clicks from all around the world. If your firm has multiple locations, you can set up individual campaigns for each area or just set up a broad perimeter and point clients to the closest office.

#6 Use Ad Extensions Liberally

Ad extensions are these small attachments you can apply to an ad to give it extra features. These are offered on a pick-and-choose menu through Google. We have a whole detailed guide to Google ad extensions. Here’s a few of particular interest to law firms:

  • Location: Includes your street address in the ad
  • Sitelinks: These are mini-sections within the ad with direct links to different departments, useful in multi-partner / multi-field practices
  • Call button: Puts a link that auto-dials your phone number right in the ad. This is handy for searches conducted on mobile devices.
  • Reviews: Put your best testimonial upfront

The call extension is crucial to professional, local practices. That puts you a mere thumb away from a lead right there. And speaking of phones…

#7 Optimize for Mobile

We’re now at the point where some 50+% of web traffic is on mobile. Indeed, that percentage would have climbed higher by now but the prevailing theory has it that COVID-19 makes people work at home and remote-learn more, hence more laptop traffic.

Google has moved to boosting mobile-friendly sites above the alternative. Google’s PR is quick to point out that it doesn’t penalize websites that aren’t mobile-friendly, heaven forbid. They just don’t get the “boost,” which is a roundabout way of saying “if your site isn’t mobile-friendly we penalize it by not giving it a boost.”

Both your PPC campaign and your landing page, as well as your website, need to think “mobile-first.” Google itself supplies tools to help you check your site for mobile optimization:

You will mostly be concerned with the landing page your PPC campaign links to. But in any case, your whole website and all public-facing digital marketing should be mobile-friendly. All modern Internet technology builds with mobile in mind now right out of the box, so there’s no excuse.

 

Final Thoughts

We have learned a lot today about PPC optimization for law firms. We’ve tried to explain not just the “how” but “why” of PPC ad practices to plan a keyword strategy, craft ad copy with a call to action, use Google’s features, and set up a landing page that reels in the leads once they click through. With all this knowledge and a little luck, we hope your practice blazes ahead of the competition!

 

 

 

Easy Link Building Strategies for Law Firms

Today we’d like to talk to you legal eagles about backlinks. A backlink is simply a link back to your website—the digital front door of your business. Backlinks are a good thing to have for several reasons:

Links (technically “hyperlinks”) are the very backbone of the World Wide Web as originally envisioned by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, which is a massive influence in how Google judges the quality of a web page.

A good backlink is a vote of confidence from other websites, a kind of peer-approval process. Before you ask, yes, there is such a thing as a bad backlink and we’ll deal with that further down. Good backlinks build your page authority and help your website rank higher in searches. Later on, I’ll share several ideas on how to build the high-quality backlinks your law firm needs.

As for anchor text, what we mean by that is the visible text you click/tap to visit a blue hyperlink. Those words matter just a bit because what text other web pages use to link to your page helps Google assess what about your page is valuable to users.

 

The Medieval Mechanics of Backlinks

Let’s say your site is www.theholygrail.com, and King Arthur and the cast of Monty Python and the Holy Grail are searching for it.

It’s not enough to have an index.html page on your Holy Grail site. Google doesn’t know yet whether you’re the real Holy Grail that King Arthur is searching for. However, if ten other nobles link to your Holy Grail site, that’s ten signposts to Google telling it that there’s something important at your site, but it still doesn’t know what is important.

So, it helps that those ten noble websites link to your site with the exact text “Holy Grail” — allowing for variations, e.g., “the Holy Grail over here,” or “this is the way to the Holy Grail.” Now, Google has backlinks to follow and also an indicator of what it should look for when it gets to you. Subsequently, when King Arthur asks for directions to the Holy Grail, he gets pointed to you.

But we specified “noble” sites. What about some random peasant? Peasants can point to your site too, but King Arthur is likely to value their word less, as compared to the word of a squire or duke. A peasant has less “domain authority.” Google takes into account the authority ranking of a site linking to you. The more authoritative the site, the more weight its recommendation carries.

A whole mob of peasants can point out the Holy Grail, but King Arthur is a busy king who would like to speak directly to the closest peer. Otherwise, he wastes all day squabbling with muddy inhabitants of the communes.

There is one more thing affecting link authority that relates to legal firms. Law firms want local traffic, at least as far as potential clients go. So, let’s imagine Castle Anthrax with the Holy Grail visible on top. Well, obviously that’s an easy tell. If the peasants live close to Castle Anthrax, it’s not so much trouble to listen to them. It’s right there! You don’t need to be a duke to see it. So when it comes to local referrals, authority doesn’t count as much as proximity. Even a serf within boundaries of Anthrax township should know what’s going on at Castle Anthrax.

That being said, we still like the highest authority possible even at the locals’ level. The word of a servant who works at the castle, or the town crier or publisher of the local gazette, still carries the best weight. We want to avoid “fake news” from the roustabouts at the tavern.

Backlink Philosophy in a Nutshell

Here’s where we are so far:

  • You want backlinks
  • You want high quality, authoritative backlinks
  • You want specific backlinks that indicate what at your site is worthy of attention
  • You also want localized backlinks (still from trustworthy sources though)

A few examples of websites with better domain authority might include:

  • Government and university domains that end in “.gov” or “.edu”
  • Wikipedia or other encyclopedic sources
  • Trusted news sources like CNN, WSJ
  • Well-established commercial organizations like Google, Yahoo, or Forbes
  • Older domains that have been around forever, like IBM.com (founded 1986)

We say “might” because over time, webmasters heard that a link from a high authority website is solid gold, so high-authority sites get link-spammed all the time. Ask any webmaster with a high-ranking site that regularly gets prime snippet position; your inbox will be crammed with people begging for links every day!

As Google engineer John Mueller is quoted in this SEJ article, .edu and .gov domains don’t automatically carry high rank, only the quality ones do. Any site may loosen its standards over time, and as a result, their authority diminishes.

Yes, there are toxic backlinks too. These are spam and scam websites that link to any random site for whatever reason. Toxic sites linking to you are believed to be a source of negative page rank, enough that Google offers a disavow tool where you tell it “don’t associate me with those bad sites!” However, Google engineers assure us that this isn’t a huge issue unless you initiated the toxic activity yourself, e.g., via a shady link-trading scheme.

At the end of the day, the canonical sites with higher authority still rank higher than, say, your aunt’s Facebook page. It’s just that Google is careful not to consider link juice as potent as it once did. Other ranking factors come into play more now, such as how carefully a website follows Google’s webmaster quality guidelines. Another factor is how many other websites link to the site in question. Just by coincidence, websites like the ones we listed just happen to exhibit these two factors anyway.

Did We Get to the Holy Grail Yet?

But wait up here: what if Castle Anthrax has a fake Holy Grail? We haven’t considered that possibility yet.

There are all kinds of frauds out there on the web, after all. They might even have fooled the locals a time or two. What we want then is not just directions to the nearest Holy Grail, but an authority on the subject of legendary artifacts, who knows to point us to the one, true Holy Grail.

Wait, he wasn’t in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Oh well, enough with the movie metaphors, let’s get to the specifics.

 

Citations Matter

The modern web, being the egalitarian platform that it is, is rife with deception. Spammers, scammers, and flim-flam artists can put up any webpage claiming all kinds of outrageous things, which is why Google works so hard at being suspicious and skeptical. When it comes to a professional service like the legal field, Google is even more careful to verify a business’s credibility.

Since a legal firm has to have an address, one of the ways that Google verifies businesses is with a Google My Business (GMB) listing. It is one form of nailing down a NAP citation.

A NAP is a listing of a business’s “name, address, and phone number.” Along with Google’s efforts with its My Business feature, which is connected to Google Maps listings, it also considers NAP citations from Bing Maps (Microsoft’s version), Facebook or LinkedIn profiles, Yelp, and other directory services.

Within the legal industry, you want to get your NAP citation listed with legal directory services as well. At the minimum, there are the essential legal service directories:

Together with a listing in Google My Business, listing with these three directories is a step towards a solid citation portfolio. If you don’t have a Google My Business profile set up yet, we urge you to do that first, because it’s a whole free mini-website hosted by Google itself and it’s the most rockin’ thing since ice cream.

 

How To Get Those Backlinks?

Getting back to the practical nut of the matter, these are some of the tried and true backlink methods open to lawyers and law firms:

Alumni Associations

If you’re a lawyer, you have access to your alma mater’s alumni association. Higher education loves to link to your business just as much as you like being linked from a .edu domain, because they get to brag about their student’s success, so don’t be shy about reaching out to them. If the university has a blog where you may contribute articles, this is one case where guest posting still works.

Professional Organizations

Don’t be a loner! Hang out with your peers and stay active in associations related to the legal field. There’s a lot of them, including some specialized interests sure to fit your practice area. There’s also a sub-category of bar associations for minority groups. Presenting at conferences, participating in committees, and submitting articles to their publications are all ways to keep your firm’s name on the top charts. Not only is it good for backlink opportunities, but it’s a boost to your reputation in general.

Non-profits and Charities

Tossing a little pro bono work to a good cause, or even a vouch of support from your site, is a great way to pick up some exposure from another source with decent site authority. Perhaps you can sponsor a scholarship for locals in your area. Donate to activist projects that align with your firm’s areas of specialty or mission or ally with them in partnership for local initiatives. This is great PR for you, a possible tax write-off, and a source of backlinks all in one.

Local Events

This is the wild card slot that can take the form of anything from setting up a vendor booth at a convention to giving a speech at your rotary club. Keep an eye on your local paper and be an enthusiastic community member, and you’re bound to at least have some fame in your town. Be extra, extra nice to any journalist offering to do a feature on your firm. Keep an eye for when your neighborhood association might be handing out “best in town awards” that you can apply for. These awards are frequently published by local papers and magazines, who also publish a digital article that contains a link.

 

Better Backlinks Through Print Media

Linked in with the network of alumni organizations and bar associations is the print media sphere, completing the trifecta of legal professional culture. Any periodical that you read professionally or even for pleasure is a publishing opportunity, which can build your authority and exposure. Print media does help backlinks as well, because most publishers have an electronic presence, and because exposure in a magazine attracts its own links from readers’ websites.

HARO is one way to easily find your way into print. The acronym stands for “help a reporter out,” with a service connecting reporters to expert sources. The free version lets you sign up as a source, and receive a daily list of queries from reporters researching specific questions for stories they’re composing. If you have the right answer for the journalist writing a story in your field, you can answer them, and get cited as an expert interviewee in print.

Another kind of print promotion is press releases. You submit a press release telling news of your firm, such as winning an award, partnering with an organization for a new initiative, or opening a new location. Reporters sometimes pick these up as filler material or for use in a local news spot. Take press releases with a grain of salt, however, because they’re just not the magic Google juice they used to be.

Let’s not forget the content on your own website! Of course, you have WordPress installed on your site, so you can publish your own nifty content ideas there to attract backlinks.

“Hey, I’m A Lawyer, Not An Author!”

Don’t your fingers just get sore thinking about it? We digital marketing media people toss around this writing thing like it’s something everybody does. But your law firm may not have a talented Isaac Asimov sitting around waiting for something to write. You may not have the time and resources to compose all this content to boost your SEO.

You can easily leap this hurdle by hiring a freelancer. Remember that in a specialized field like the legal industry, you want to provide the outline for the material and then let the freelance writer/editor polish it into a full-fledged article. There are also writers who specialize in the legal niche.

Your best bet for finding a competent freelancer, by every poll we can find, is UpWork. We asked, “Are you sure there isn’t any other site?” We got back “forget it!” The nature of the gig economy just naturally drives everyone towards one well-moderated online marketplace. For the sake of fairness, here are some second-place alternatives:

  • Craigslist: You might get cosmically lucky
  • LinkedIn: More geared towards permanent positions, but it’s becoming a good general-purpose staffing network
  • ProBlogger job boards: Desperate freelancers check this maybe once a month
  • Fiverr: You just may find that third-world hack who is miraculously good at English
  • Guru: Actually a well-established freelance marketplace older than UpWork, but tough to find any talent on there because they all gravitated to – wait for it – UpWork
  • PeoplePerHour: Another perfectly viable competitor, also drained of talent by Guess Who?

The gig economy is just like this. A freelance marketplace tends to be a utility that everyone only wants one of, with the competitors staffed by the dregs who got kicked off the top platform. If you are looking for writing talent and don’t want to outsource through any third party, start a page for hiring on your own website. Title it “write for us.” Offer compensation. Make it like a help-wanted ad. Put in some editorial guidelines. This will magically attract freelancers through drive-by Googling.

 

Why Is Getting Backlinks So Hard?

It’s hard because bad people broke the old backlinks system, so now we can’t have nice things. Times were when you could just offer to exchange links with a colleague, submit a guest post to a blog, leave a comment on a bulletin board with a link, or even edit a Wikipedia article. All those avenues have closed shut, and the ones still open are rigorously discarded and frowned upon by Google.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t attract users anyway. If you run across a question where you can provide a helpful answer, like on Quora or Reddit, go ahead and post a few paragraphs worth of advice, then close with a link. It isn’t worth much as far as Google page ranking goes, but if the present audience loves you and awards you points, it will still get enough exposure so that another user may come along and deem your site worthy of linking.

It would be a better world if we could all trust each other. On the other hand, there would also be less work for lawyers.

If you’re trying to build better backlinks, but can’t find the time to get started, Atlantic Digital Marketing Company can help. We are a team of SEO and PPC marketing experts dedicated to helping law firms thrive through integrated digital marketing strategies. Put your SEO strategy in our hands, and we’ll develop an effective link building campaign that gets your law firm’s website ranking at the top of Google in no time!

 

How Podcasts Can Benefit Your Law Firm

We have to say it again: we miss Marshall McLuhan. His insights into how media, culture, and society all shape each other were intrinsic for navigating the dawn of 24/7 TV broadcasting in the mid-20th century. Marshall McLuhan would have had a field day with the Internet as it stands today.

We have no replacement, so we all have to be our own Marshall McLuhans and try to sort out the impact of digital media on our modern lives. Modern media leveled the playing field for everyone and cut the barrier to entry into the global conversation down to zero. We can plug into channels anywhere in the world and hear voices from the farthest reaches of Earth, at such convenience that the effort is trivial.

Do you know what was happening 100 years ago in the media? “Talkies,” by which we mean, sound in motion picture film. Blending audio into video to make a blended multimedia experience was new technology in the early 1920s, something which the industry took time to adopt. The first British “talkie” was the 1929 film Blackmail, where the technology was still new enough that they had to re-shoot part of the movie with sound, which had just become available to the studio. The director had to isolate the camera in a soundproof booth because it made too much noise.

That director’s name, by the way, was Alfred Hitchcock.

So, we’ve had a century to come from that to this. We have no “Alfred Hitchcock of podcasts” yet, at least not on a universally recognized level. We’re still grappling with what all these new media means to the development of human culture. In the same way that YouTube has made us all potential TV stars and blogs have made us all potential journalists and authors, podcasting has made us all potential radio talk show hosts.

 

Podcasting is Still a Frontier Medium

Podcasts came out at about the same time as blogs, in the early 2000s. Like blogs, podcasts were first popularized via RSS (really simple syndication) technology, on the crest of the first social media wave. Despite this, podcasts have taken a far longer time than blogs to catch on with the general population. This is likely because of several factors, namely that it takes a bit more technical know-how to both produce and access podcasts, and because they make for a greater time commitment than skimming a one-minute blog post.

Of course, podcasts were named after the Apple iPod, itself recent technology at the time, which just so happened to be the right-size device to deliver the emerging podcast medium to a whole generation of listeners. The iPod became the essential accessory for commuters, bikers, joggers, and anybody consuming media on the go. Later, mobile phones broadened the podcast audience to just about everyone.

The appeal of podcasts is that they don’t require as much engagement as reading a book or watching a documentary. You can easily play an episode or two while multitasking over cooking dinner or trimming the hedges. Podcasts have a tempo somewhere between an informal morning talk radio format and an overheard conversation between a couple of charismatic coworkers in the next cubicle. If you need an introduction to podcasts, TV Tropes, one of the Internet’s biggest rabbit holes, has an inviting selection of notable podcasts organized by genre.

You may be asking, “What’s the difference between a podcast and a YouTube channel?” The answer is: not that much! Podcasts are mainly focused on audio; some add video imagery as an afterthought, most are happy to display a static banner of the podcast over the video part. You can see podcasts as a “video optional” YouTube channel, more likely to play on Spotify than YouTube.

Four in ten Americans report tuning into a podcast, so it’s a medium that’s here to stay. But at the same time, podcasts are a more select media channel, with plenty of room to stake a claim. There are currently 850K active podcasts, which sounds like a lot, but isn’t when you compare it to 31 million YouTube channels or (deep breath…) over 600 million blogs in the world.

The vast number of blogs speak to their marketing potential, as a content strategy to attract new customers through search. Podcasts are now set up to grow for the same purpose because Google has begun indexing podcasts to make them as searchable as any text. That is a feat made possible by speech recognition technology, though the roll-out has been slow so far.

 

What Can Podcasting Do For Your Law Firm?

Podcasting works like any other piece of content on the Internet. Like blogging and social media, podcasts get your word out on the street, building your brand awareness, and reaching new prospective clients. Content marketing increases your credibility and builds trust with your audience. Produce enough content and you become a thought leader in your industry. Like all digital marketing tactics, podcasts are relatively cheap to produce and distribute.

But in addition to the benefits of the usual content marketing channels, podcasting also gives your law firm a voice. The podcast format is a cozy little talk show with just your firm partners or you and a guest, or even a solo host covering topics of the day. It goes great with a morning cup of joe or as entertainment for the commute into work. A podcast helps to make your firm personable and accessible to your audience.

It bears pointing out: the legal profession has an accessibility problem. Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the law. They’d rather avoid the subject because the law carries negative feelings when you find yourself on the wrong side of it. Nobody likes to be dragged into court. Even if you’re the plaintiff, having to attend a trial proceeding is an inconvenience at best. As a result of this stigma, the average citizen is shockingly under-informed about the law.

A podcast can be a friendly introduction to this “scary” subject. There are huge voids to fill in raising awareness of legal issues, even in the business-to-business sphere. This represents a great opportunity for legal podcasts.

If you want to launch a podcast, you can follow these simple steps:

  • Identify your marketing goals and how podcasting will support them
  • Develop a content marketing strategy, identifying your audience and the legal topics you’ll discuss
  • Designate a podcast production team
  • Work out a recording and publication schedule
  • Secure means for the recording, editing, and uploading of content
  • Produce your podcast show with personality, making it engaging and inviting

Lawyers do possess some public speaking skills, after all, at least within a courtroom context. You should also have a body of experience to draw from in consulting with clients, so you understand the “FAQs” that clients always ask. Putting this together with a friendly “fireside chat” format is a great way to educate the public and extend your brand’s reach.

One more unique benefit for law firms breaking into the podcast market: perhaps you’ve noticed, as a whole, that the legal industry doesn’t seem to contain many tech-savvy folks. There, we said it. You firms that still have a FAX machine buzzing in the corner know who you are. Podcasting gives you a leg up over your less technologically progressive competitors.

 

Podcasting: The Other Blogging

Podcasts are good for a lot more than just dumping onto a Spotify account. You can also transcribe them into textual content. We’ll have a “technical stuff” section below to tell you how. Since Google is going to be indexing podcasts, you can insert keywords just like you would any other SEO content. When you post a podcast episode, you can also optimize it with a summary, hitting those keywords again to make sure you rank for them.

Also like other content media, you can use it as part of your online promotional package. Podcast episodes give you something to hoot about on Twitter and Instagram. Be the hippest law firm on your block and share a snippet of your podcast on TikTok. Finally, “guest podcasting” is also a thing, so once you get into this medium’s subculture, you’re open to swap guest seats around with non-competing elements in your industry. This just means more exposure for you—and potential backlinks that help with SEO.

So, what should you do for content in a legal podcast? The above chart gives you some idea of the podcast market. Note that “legal” doesn’t even appear as a genre, unless it’s wrapped into the “business” category. Still, you can spot three things that saturate the podcast market: comedy, politics, and social issues. Maybe you want to stand out from the crowd by avoiding those three topic spaces, except for casting them in a legal context.

By all means, be warm and personable. Have some personality. The legal field could certainly stand to loosen up, but at large, the podcast world has enough clowns. Don’t let us discourage you if you can make the law funny though.

Another thing to decide is what format to go with. All of the above are available to you, and you can probably guess several legal topics that fit into each format:

  • A monologue about the top mistakes accident victims make in personal injury cases.
  • An interview with a human rights lawyer about things employees should know about workplace rights.
  • A narrative of a landmark court case that set a new precedent in legal history.
  • A multi-host show for legal news of the month.
  • A round table discussion about what needs to change in the patent system.
  • A documentary of a famous, news-grabbing court case.

As we mentioned before, there’s a huge knowledge gap in the public’s mind when it comes to legal issues. Think about the kinds of things that you find yourself explaining to clients over and over again. Those are the kinds of topics you can drive into the public mind on your podcast. Maybe next time a client has the same question, you can tell them “I made a podcast episode that answers that!”

Lawyerist has a list of recommended legal podcasts you can use for inspiration. They humbly put their own podcast at the top of the list, of course.

Here are a few brainstorm topic ideas you might be able to use, depending on your niche:

  • Why did the judge rule that? Take a legal news story from today, such as a Supreme Court ruling, and break it down for laymen.
  • Equality in the eyes of the law: Talk about civil rights, equal rights, and anti-discrimination policies in the workplace.
  • Medicine and the law: Discuss medical malpractice and what claimants always need to know.
  • Right law / wrong application: Explain why the First Amendment doesn’t mean that Facebook has to honor every piece of fake news posted there. Explain why the Second Amendment doesn’t give you the right to brandish a weapon at passing pedestrians. Be a legal Mythbusters team.
  • Technology and the law: New tech is coming out all the time; how does it impact the legal profession? How will laws have to adapt to this new technology? How does this medium impact copyright law?
  • Should have got a lawyer: Just for fun, take a popular TV show and insert a lawyer’s eye view into the proceedings. Did Tyrion Lannister have a sound defense in court on Game of Thrones? Aren’t some of these tech companies on Black Mirror liable for damages? Say you’re an unmasked villain on Scooby-Doo; how long can you expect to be put away? Use the familiarity of popular culture as a teaching moment for legal lessons.

 

Technical Stuff About Podcasting

You can technically dictate a podcast episode into your phone. But you really, really do not want to do that. To get an enjoyable episode that’s just like all the snazzy professional shows you hear out there, you’ll need a few tools:

Equipment

  • Microphone: The one that comes with your phone, tablet, or laptop is poor quality, which is why you think you don’t like how your voice sounds. Good microphones start around ~$100. You won’t believe how good you actually sound!
  • Pop filter: This is the little plate you see professional recorders have in front of the microphone. It smooths out the rough consonants in human speech.
  • Headphones: You want to be able to hear what you’re saying without mike interference, and hear other hosts or guests as applicable.
  • A studio: Not much is needed here, but one quiet room free of passing police sirens and rumbling air conditioners is the minimum necessary.

Software

  • Teleconferencing: If you’re having virtual guests and interviews. Skype is the industry standard here.
  • Recording and editing software: There’s Adobe Audition, Apple GarageBand, and the free and open-source Audacity for starters. You may need to study up on some sound engineer basics. It gets technical, but at the most basic level you’ll most often just be cutting and splicing recorded snippets.
  • A platform to host your episodes: We’ve mentioned YouTube and Spotify so far. There’s also SoundCloud and BuzzSprout. You can also just FTP files over to your law firm’s website, or post them on your WordPress blog using a plugin such as Blubrry
  • Transcription: Can be outsourced at Rev.com, cloud-sourced at Podcast.co, or you-sourced at SpeechNotes or Google’s speech-to-text. If you’re using an automated resource, give the text a once-over to clear up mistakes.
  • As for software platforms: Any modern laptop system should be capable of doing everything you need to do, but multimedia recording artists tend to be attached to the Apple / Mac platform.

Outsourcing Resources

Do you have to do all this yourself? Really? No, you don’t!

UpWork is the premier marketplace to find remote talent online. We would recommend a secondary labor source, but UpWork is pretty much the only one worth mentioning. You can outsource part or all of the process of producing a podcast. In particular, it’s a great place to find audio techies who will help with the editing.

It is also possible to work with a freelancer to develop scripts or outlines for episode topics. Other parts of podcasting you might consider outsourcing are graphic design for your podcast logo and other visual elements to promote it, and audio effects or music if you want your podcast to have a nice jingle + special effects for atmospheric elements. These last details are a matter of taste, depending on how much of a hammy show you want to make of it.

 

Conclusion

You’ll note back there that legal podcasts are a field almost devoid of competition. That’s a shame, because many lawyers we’ve met are some of the most stimulating people to talk to. A lawyer with years experience in courtrooms has enough war stories to make for hours of entertainment. There’s bound to be some untapped talent out there.

Podcasts are an excellent way to build your brand reputation, support your SEO strategy, demonstrate your legal savvy, and most importantly, connect with potential clients. So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your first podcast, today.

If you are interested in attracting more clients, contact us about how our digital marketing experts can implement SEO and PPC stategies to help your firm grow.

 

How to Use Local SEO to Attract More Legal Clients

Up until just recently, the place you would look to find a local business is the phone book. Phone companies fought hard at the beginning of the 21st century to keep publishing a big yellow phone book, as the Internet basically replaced that function. As recently as the 2010s, phone companies are just beginning to shut off the automatic delivery of a printed phone book.

Wave bye-bye, they’re going away! The Internet has replaced them. To put a finer point on it, Google has replaced them with a technology infrastructure of interwoven services that work together to become much more effective as a business locating resource. This is going to be the big focus of this article: Google is now much more than a search company that just takes in a text query and spits out a list of website links. In recent years, Google has piled on new services into their SERPs (search engine results page) with Maps, My Business listings, and search features that pick up on user intent to provide a ready, relevant answer.

You can see some examples of these advanced Search Features within Google’s course material. You may have noticed lately that you can type in “weather” and if you have location tracking turned on, there’s your local forecast. If you don’t have locations turned on or want an answer for another location, just specify a location as part of your search query: “time in Singapore,” “pharmacies in Los Angeles,” “weather in Paris France.”

 

Law Firms Want To Attract Local Business

Many businesses advertising on the web care a great deal about location. It doesn’t do much good to advertise your New York health clinic to people in Bangladesh. For businesses where customers can reasonably be expected to have to drive to that location, you want the web to shift gears and start acting more like that outdated phone book. Except it’s way better than a phone book: a local search result for a business has much more information, live updated customer reviews, driving instructions from where you are, photos of the business, and more.

For searches involving a local business, Google has introduced the “Map Pack.” Try searching for a business now and you get something like this:

What is this witchcraft? This block is not formed from mere websites and blogs where they’d have to scrape the data and fill in the boxes. It’s pulled from Google My Business (GMB), the digital answer to Yellow Pages.

A GMB listing is great for business. It’s better than billboards, searchlights, even better than those guys you see stores hire to stand out on a street corner in a goofy costume with a sign. Even if customers are not in line-of-sight with your business, your local listing shows up at the top of SERPs. A GMB is like an extra member of your sales staff pulling business in from the street—only you don’t have to pay them or launder a sweaty costume. Talk about great digital marketing!

 

Using Your Google My Business Listing

The catch is that Google can’t parse all of this information about your business by itself. You have to go tell Google to set this up. Google has a whole help section for GMB, showing you step-by-step how to set up a GMB listing. This runs concurrently with Google Maps, which we will cover in this article when we explain how they work together.

The most important steps to optimize a GMB listing for any business include:

  • Your address – Exactly as it’s listed on your mail
  • Verify with Google that this is really you
  • Specify your service region (do you take cases in adjacent county courts?)
  • Check your service categories (specialized for your firm’s practice scope)
  • Fill in the introduction
  • Add photos
  • Share schedule, hours, and special announcements such as reduced hours per quarantine
  • Answer frequently asked questions

Aside from our metaphor about guys in Liberty costumes, a GMB is actually like a free website. Fill in every bit of information you can. You can even upload a virtual tour video of your offices, or you can add links for customers to visit your podcast, all on Google’s dime. It doesn’t cost you a cent, and it’s there forever.

Let’s zoom in on some of these steps we mentioned above:

Introduction and Information:

Google’s own Small Business YouTube channel explains this very clearly:

The “Introduction” section will show up on Google Maps to the left of the map display. This is a free space to put in your business’ pitch, mission statement, what you do, anything you want to say to customers. Many of the fields are self-explanatory, no more difficult than filling in a Facebook profile.

GMB also has many custom widgets to add in depending on the type of business. For example, restaurants have an option to add a menu, specify whether they have dine-in, curbside pick-up, etc. For law firms, we see a link space provided for a website, and sometimes one for a booking link. Service categories work similar to tags on Twitter, so you can select things like “settlement,” “workman’s comp,” “divorce,” etc.

Photos and Videos:

You can upload several kinds of photos and designate their purpose to Google: a logo, a cover photo that may appear on top, and as many photos as you’d like to show off your business. You can add group photos of your office team, awards, your swanky waiting room, and reception area, what have you.

Google has a help section on photo and video specs and business-specific photos.

Videos can only be up to 30 seconds long and up to 100 MB, but remember this is just for a Google My Business listing. Your longer, bigger videos can go on your YouTube account and be linked from your GMB or website.

There is also the option of the new Google Tour Creator feature. This is a virtual tour creation tool that Google is launching concurrently with their VR app called “Cardboard.” We checked twice, and this isn’t one of their April Fools’ jokes, you really get a cardboard viewer and turn your tablet sideways. Bam, cheap VR. Anyway, we’re guessing most law firms won’t go in too heavily for the tour feature (“just look at our wall of file cabinets!”), but a 30-second video for your firm can be a nice way to give prospective clients an idea of what it’s like to work with you.

 

Localized Pages For Multi-Location Firms

We’re going to veer away from GMB and talk about your website now.

All of the above we’ve gone over so far is great for single-location sole proprietor businesses. But what about when your firm expands to multiple locations? The answer here is that you need region-specific landing pages.

This is easy to do. You have the same website you always had, then add specific pages named within that website for individual locations. Some of that is duplicate information, some of it is specific to the region.

Notice our Tampa page throws in sentences like “Tampa, Florida, is a city that blends the beauty of the old with the greatness of the new. Historical districts like Ybor City, Forest Hills, and Davis Island wonderfully co-exist with its modern side: cruise ships and the Wikipedia server farm.” Pure Google bait there.

Location pages must:

  • Give your name, address, and phone (NAP) consistently.
  • Use the location in the URL (name the web page after that location)
  • Have at least 500 words on each page – this is the threshold because Google doesn’t pay attention to less text than that on a single page
  • Drop the link to Google Maps in a “get directions” link
  • Include a mobile link for click-to-call
  • Have relevant integration of customer service features—set up a consultation, use a virtual assistant, etc.

Zooming in on that NAP: Google doesn’t always take just your word for it about your name, address, and phone. It sometimes aggregates that information from other directories on the web. What can you do if there’s a bunch of incorrect third-party information out there? There’s a tool called Yext that is made to keep your information consistent. It also has a question-and-answer format so customers can get a formal answer from you, the source, about your law firm.

Optimized local content for a landing page needs a minimum of 500 words of content, or Google won’t notice it. It also needs several regional keywords so that Google will anchor that page firmly into that location. As we pointed out with our “Google bait” sentences on the Tampa page, chatter about regional cities, features, and points of interest help Google’s algorithms figure out that this is a page specific to a region and not just mentioning places out of the blue.

Gun-shy webmasters may ask “But wait, isn’t that keyword stuffing?” No, it isn’t. Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, chapter 2, verse 2: “Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it.” It’s reasonable for a user in Anaheim, California, to type in “law firm near Disneyland” or “Mighty Ducks’ stadium, 57 freeway, Orange Crush.” It’s fine to say your office has a view of these points.

Location-supporting content you can add to a localized page can include:

  • FAQs that are specific to the local area or the region you serve
  • Local events section
  • News and press releases from your region
  • Content specific to local specials or offers
  • Community involvement with local charities
  • Cheering support for local sports teams
  • Bios for your team, with regional details

Including enough localized content to help you rank for Google’s location-aware indexing also helps your firm put a human face on your business. This way you aren’t some cold, impersonal corporate presence, but an upstanding member of the community who cares about the agricultural scene, celebrates achievers at the high school science fair, and supports their local library.

 

Link Building For Localized Content

Link building is a touchy subject. The era of indiscriminate links is dead. Google’s Matt Cutts makes it sound like guest blogging is poison, but later clarifies that to “low quality, spammy guest blogs.” The reality is that websites link to each other all the time, and the number one way to get a link is to produce awesome quality content that people will refer to.

The keyword is “organic.” Organic links are OK. Paid links, linking schemes, link exchanges, and all the dirty tricks black hat webmasters do are evil. Organic links are the path of the one true Google Way.

So, how do you get organic localized backlinks for your business? It is tough but possible.

The point with a lot of these is that you shouldn’t be doing most of this just for the link. But if you were involved in your local community, got quoted as an expert in the paper, or supported a local charity, and then you did not get a backlink for it, it does not hurt to ask for one.

If you won a community award, got invited to speak at a local function, or were named on a list of donations to the new wing of the nearby children’s hospital, these can all be cashed in for link points. Very few of us manage to live such a hermit life that nobody in our community knows who we are.

So, here’s a full list of brainstorming for backlink opportunities:

  • Alumni associations: Good for at least one link each per firm member.
  • Any local news story about your business: Write in and offer your link for that reporter who didn’t have the time to find out.
  • Seek out local experts for an interview: If you specialize in law related to an industry, invite a member of that industry to an interview on your site—perhaps somebody who is a little hungry for recognition themselves—then they link to you because that’s their famous moment on your site.
  • Directories: Oops, we forgot sites like FindLaw‘s lawyer directory or Attorneys.com.
  • Offering local discounts: An easy way to get listed on coupon-code type sites.
  • Host a local event: Raise awareness, conduct a workshop, offer a seminar. Moz.com has a great post about local event hosting.
  • Outsource talent: Did a local photographer provide photos for your website or GMB? By all means, encourage them to link to you as an example of their portfolio.
  • Provide testimonials to other businesses: Surely the caterer at your office Christmas party deserves a shout-out? They might feel so good about it that they link back to you.

Positive ways of interacting with the local community pay off. It works just like good karma!

 

Final Thoughts

By default, we assume all business website owners know about this, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat:

  • Your website should be optimized to load as fast as possible
  • Your website should be mobile-friendly
  • You should use structured data where applicable
  • Your site should have an easily navigated structure
  • You should keep your site up to date for security practices

We cover all of the common website optimization techniques in our expansive library of articles, such as “9 SEO Factors That Boost Your Search Engine Rankings Quickly.”

What if you do all this and still don’t rank well? There could be many reasons. You might be based in a very competitive area. Or you might be in a town so small that there’s barely enough activity to give you inbound links. Sometimes you need to broaden your scope, perhaps extend your service area to “the tri-state area” for whichever state border you’re closest to or widen your focus from city to county. Some law firms have an issue with reputation management after that one bad apple (we all get them) writes something negative about them.

On the whole, everything we’ve documented here is sourced from the top minds in the industry for best web SEO practices. If you follow all this advice, you should at least rise to be the equal match of your local stars!

If you are interested in attracting more clients, contact us to learn how our digital marketing experts can implement SEO and PPC strategies that will help your law firm grow.

 

 

Legal Advertising: Traditional versus Digital Strategies

Whenever a marketing blog begins to talk about marketing for the legal industry, a clock begins to tick. That clock is counting down the minutes until it is inevitable that we will have to meet Captain Kirk.

You can’t go near a TV set without encountering legendary actor and entertainment personality William Shatner, lending his famous dramatic voice to the business of Hupy and Abraham, S.C., a personal injury law firm. You have to hand it to Mr. Shatner; he gives it his all. He makes the query “Do people really get more when they call Hupy and Abraham?” sound like the most intriguing question in the world, as if he had an entire starship crew behind him ready to explore the galaxy for the answer.

William Shatner is no stranger to celebrity endorsement advertising. Here he is in an ad for Commodore computers way back in the ’80s:

Advertising a computer using the star of a legendary science fiction show such as Star Trek makes a lot more sense for a computer company. There’s a whole generation of STEM (science, engineering, technology, math) career professionals who cited Star Trek as a childhood influence. Maybe it doesn’t make so much sense for an accident attorney law firm, but there is also Mr. Shatner’s turn in the TV cop show drama T.J. Hooker, not so readily remembered these days.

Obviously, paying a top-billed celebrity to be your pitchman costs a lot of money. Is it worth it? Within this limited context, it appears to be a popular strategy. If your think using Captain Kirk in your ad is cheeky, wait until you see Lindsay Lohan advertising for legal referral firm Lawyer.com. Mrs. Lohan is more famous for getting into the kind of trouble for which you need a lawyer, so her endorsement is an on-target, if gutsy, move.

Accident attorneys are one of the few branches of law that are 100% consumer-facing. The point of this marketing is simply to get your attention, using every trick in the marketing book. Accident attorney firm commercials saturate not just TV, but radio, Internet, and print media too. On television, they’ll frequently air during office hours on daytime TV, in-between segments of The Price is Right or a soap opera. The implication here is that an accident victim is laid up in the hospital watching TV, ruminating on how they’re going to recoup these damages.

Hang onto your hat, because we’re going to explore the wild and wacky world of personal injury lawyer advertising. First, we’ll explore some of the traditional legal advertising methods that law firms have employed—then we’ll dive into the world of digital advertising.

Let’s dig in.

How Does Your Law Firm Compete with a Celebrity?

It hardly seems fair that smaller law firms have to compete with such a huge enterprise. However, there are signs that celebrity endorsements aren’t all they’re cracked up to be when it comes to actually attracting clients.

In the first place, the public is always aware that famous actors, even off the B-list, add a hefty price tag to the company’s operating expenses. That actor’s paycheck is doubtless going to show up in the firm’s billing, passed on to the customer. Logically, consumers may turn to a competing company that does not go to such expense, reasoning that they’re just as good but will cost them less.

An Adweek / Harris consumer poll has shown that 77% of consumers claim that a celebrity endorsement has no bearing on their purchase decisions. Worse yet, those who are influenced say they’re less likely (14%) rather than more likely (4%) to buy the product the celebrity is endorsing.

There are some caveats to the raw polling data. Subconsciously, we retain an impression of a product imprinted by a famous face even if we don’t jump to act on it right that second. Also, some celebrity endorsement scenarios are more effective than others. A glamorous fashion model lends clout to cosmetic products or an all-star athlete to a brand of sports footwear. There’s some inherent trust deposited with the consumer when the celebrity is invested in the same industry as the product. We may not care where Tiger Woods eats lunch, but we’ll listen to his advice about golf clubs all day.

But for the most part, law firms don’t get as much mileage per dollar out of paid famous pitchmen. The value is solely in attracting attention. Now, if you want to attract attention, there’s more than one way to do it. This brings us to the other half of the high-profile personal injury law firm marketing world: The stunt commercial.

Replace the Celebrity with the Attorney

Why hire a media personality when you can make yourself the star of the show? Imaginative marketing works just as well to get your attention. In fact, the personal injury practice market is so competitive that it inspires some of the most truly memorable advertising out there. It’s just that sometimes the advertising is memorable for the wrong reasons when the creativity gets a little overboard.

Hey, we promised you “wild and wacky,” did we deliver? We see here several lawyers billed as “hammers” and “heavy hitters,” a car wreck transforming into a fire-breathing robot, CGI animations set to rap music, a squirrel in a treehouse, and a CGI tiger barfing money. This is just a small sampling of the outrageous stunts a personal injury law firm will go to.

The video back there presents the theory that injury and accident law firms are playing off the public perception that a lawyer has to be aggressive, dare we say “macho,” to win the best settlement in court. That seems apparent, but there’s also another factor at play, which is sheer attention. Advertising wants to embed itself in the consumer’s mind. It doesn’t matter if it’s through a catchy jingle, an adorable animated lizard, or a commercial that imitates the campaign for a WWF wrestler.

We can’t blame the public for having little practical concept of what goes on inside a courtroom. Most of us consider ourselves fortunate to have never crossed the threshold of a court building. Being involved in a lawsuit is perceived in the public mind as an unpleasant business, regardless of which end of the table you’re sitting at, so we psychologically push that aspect of society to the back of our minds and hope never to deal with it. When it becomes necessary to deal with the court system, logically we want a savvy, tactical professional, but emotionally we want that gorilla in boxing gloves to blast this case through the system as fast as possible.

Odds are that every law firm is familiar with the stress and anxiety the public feels when faced with a court date, even if they’re just a witness. Calming the jittery client is an art in itself. The client anxiety factor does at last show that the flashy advertisers have some method to their madness. When a personal injury lawyer equates himself with a shark, bulldog, or gorilla, he’s sending the message “I understand that a court is a scary place for you, but I’m big and strong so I will protect you.”

The tone is also intentionally humorous. We can see the smirk on the face of some of these lawyers as they interact with computer animations or make fun of their own lack of hair. They’re using humor to ease potential clients into this whole business. Don’t be scared, courtrooms can be fun! You might see this as the “Patch Adams” school of advertising a service that most people wish they’d never needed.

 

Aggressive Personal Injury Advertising Considered Harmful

There is a dreaded reputation that you don’t want the public to consider when looking at your business: the “ambulance chaser.” This is the derogatory perception that attorneys are advantageous, opportunistic parasites who prey upon the legal system with frivolous lawsuits and outrageous greed.

People still remember the famous case of the woman who sued McDonald’s restaurant chain when she was scalded by a cup of hot coffee at the drive-through take-out. Justified or not, the media spun this case into the narrative of frivolous litigation enabled by predatory attorneys. The McDonald’s coffee lawsuit has since been cast as one example of the growing perception of “compensation culture,” where literally every inconvenience, no matter how trivial, is accompanied by a lawyer appearing on the scene with a business card in hand, urging the “victim” to sue for damages.

Recently, a new controversy has arisen over digital mobile ads geographically targeted at hospital emergency rooms, marketing personal injury law firms over another channel besides the waiting room TV.

This is using a technology called “geofencing,” where your mobile phone’s location data is broadcast and then advertisers know to target you based on your physical presence. If you’re ever gone out to dinner only to have your phone chirpily ask you to rate your experience at the restaurant as soon as you’re getting back into your car, you’ve been “geofenced”!

The practice of geofencing ads in hospitals for injury lawyers has drawn some legal fire, with a few activists challenging the practice on consumer protection grounds. No doubt, if this issue made it to the evening news, the public’s sympathies would not lie with the lawyers. It is an example of over-aggressive marketing in an industry perhaps affected by a touch more ambition than the average profession.

So, we also have to remember that our advertising and branding should be tasteful, and respectful of its audience. While it’s OK to have a light and humorous touch, and it’s clearly advantageous to flex your litigation muscles, we can do that and still not sink to the silly cartoon tactics we see in the examples above.

 

Reach Your Ideal Client Through Targeted Digital Advertisements

There’s a catch with show-off marketing when we turn to online media: nobody searches Google for “James T. Kirk accident lawyer.” Nobody searches the Internet for “hammer,” “gorilla,” or “shark” when they want a lawyer. They turn to Google to ask questions. Often, the queries are very specific. The only way you’ll appear on the search engine results page is if your website provides answers to their queries. That means you either can appear organically (e.g., using well-optimized content) or you can run a Google or Bing ad campaign for the specific keywords your prospective clients are using.

Attracting Clients Organically with SEO

This is the beauty of online digital marketing because the Internet is structured to level the playing field a bit between the biggest and smallest budgets. A bit of well-structured search engine optimization (SEO) content marketing puts you ahead of the silly marketing stunts, including the rapping lawyers, the bald-pride lawyers, and the lawyers with explosions and fire in the background.

Structuring your website content so that your potential clients can find you is all about the substance over the style.

This shines another light on why traditional media advertising isn’t the best use of your budget: you can’t explain the intricacies of injury settlement cases in a 30 second TV spot. You’re talking to people who treat the law the way they treated algebra class back in school: deal with it when you must, then hope you never encounter it again. The alternative is to make a commercial that tries to cut through the public’s natural anxiety about legal matters without bothering them with the details.

But the web has no such handicap. You can make a website as big as you want it. You can host whole books online for nearly the same out-of-pocket cost as a Twitter tweet. You can take all the time in the world to pay attention to substance, instead of trying to conform to traditional media restraints. Your website is responsible for pulling in the audience through Google searches, one keyword at a time.

Google and Bing Ads

Outside your website, you can use targeted advertisements to reach people who are searching for legal assistance. I’m sure you’ve noticed ads displayed on search engine result pages (SERP). Those are from Google and Bing’s pay-per-click (PPC) online advertising platform, which allows advertisers to display ads based on associated keywords. Like its namesake, PPC is a marketing channel where you pay for each ad click or impression. These small, text-based ads appear at the top and bottom of the page—effectively sandwiching organic search results.

In our post on PPC ad targeting, we bring up the concept of addressing user intent. This is actually the most important aspect of legal marketing. People are very intentional in their searches. They have problems that they’re trying to solve, and they’re trying to determine the best path forward. When you have a strong understanding of your target client, the services they seek, and their decision-making process, you can identify the keywords they’re most likely to use on Google. The keywords that you use for SEO, are very much the same that you’ll use within your PPC ad campaign. While SEO is an effective way to get to the top of Google, it does take time to climb to the top. If you need leads immediately, PPC advertising might be a better option.

Read this article to learn the basics of how Google Ads work, and in this article, we share how Google Ads can help you stand out in a competitive marketplace.

Social Media Advertising

On the Internet, you can advertise your law firm through a variety of channels. You have Google and Bing Ads like we just mentioned, but you can also run ad campaigns on social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

What channel you use will depend on your law firm. We recommend that you conduct research to better understand your ideal customer’s behavioral habits. With that information, you can create detailed buyer personas to guide your marketing efforts. Through your research, identify where they spend their time online. What websites do they visit? How frequently do they log into social media platforms? Mobile or desktop users?

If you’re an employment law firm, LinkedIn is likely a solid option to reach HR professionals and other white-collar professionals. On the other hand, if you’re a personal injury lawyer, you may want to look at Facebook. With 2.6 billion monthly active users, it seems like almost everyone is on Facebook. Because of that, it’s a great channel to build brand awareness. Facebook has robust targeting features that allow you to hone in on the exact type of people most likely to respond to your ads. You can refine your targeting using features like location, profile details, demographic information, behavior, etc.

Read our article “Beginner’s Guide to Facebook Advertising” to learn how to launch your first Facebook ad campaign.

Programmatic Display Advertising

Another option at your disposal is programmatic display advertising, which is when you run ads on other websites. I’m sure you’ve seen ads along the sides or tops of webpages—those are programmatic ads. But how do marketers get them there? Instead of being placed manually by an ad specialist, programmatic advertising relies on sophisticated software to make the decision.

Adweek defines it as “Programmatic is a catchall term that many people are using to categorize everything from behavioral and intent-based targeting to real-time bidding and exchange-based buying of inventory.”

It allows marketers to use automated systems to make media buying decisions. Instead of manually submitting ad placement orders to website publishers, it all happens automatically within seconds. Another reason digital marketers love it, is that it allows you to precisely target your ad campaign so that it reaches the right audience.

If you’re new to programmatic advertising, you’ll want to read our article “Beginner’s Guide to Programmatic Display Advertising – Everything You Need to Know.” It’s a whopper, jammed packed with information.

Digital Advertising Best Practices

Still, does this mean that we can totally dismiss those celebrity endorsements and weird CGI animations common to the rest of the personal injury marketing field? These weird commercials persist year after year, so they must work for some consumers. Exploring why that is can help us tune our online marketing efforts.

Here’s a recap of many points we’ve made elsewhere, legal content digital marketing works best using these methods:

  • A text-rich, informative website that answers prospective clients’ questions
  • Sectioned, detailed information on the firm’s areas of practice and expertise
  • Good reviews and testimonials from satisfied clients
  • An ad campaign targeting potential clients with practical keywords
  • Rich multimedia such as YouTube channels or podcasts

The practice of digital marketing for law firms is similar to marketing any other service on the Internet. We just have to address the fact that the law is a specialized area, and that personal injury claims clients are likely to have very little experience with legal matters beforehand.

 

Personal Injury Law: What Digital Online Marketing Can Learn from Other Media

We’ve covered above some of the points where the flashy, aggressive advertising can be effective. Personal injury clients tend to not know much about the law, be under-informed about their legal rights, and be nervous about dealing with the legal system in the first place. In lieu of projecting the more on-target message of legal competence and shrewd jurisprudence, these ads opt for the emotional message of a strong, paternal, protective figure.

We can translate that same energy into online content marketing and digital advertising but substitute addressing the root of the matter. People inherently fear what they don’t understand. So, establishing an educational profile by making yourself a trusted, wise authority on the Internet goes a long way in instilling consumer confidence in your firm. By building a useful, informative website with helpful content, you establish your firm as a capable practice that has all the answers.

We’re guessing that the flashy circus of personal injury lawyer advertising doesn’t preserve much of that style once there’s an actual trial. The marketing is there to draw attention and reach out to reluctant clients, but obviously the attorney isn’t putting on a gorilla suit to go before a judge (we sure hope not, anyway). All the macho posturing and laser-shooting robots are a metaphor for expert legal representation.

We pointed out back there that advertising can also stand to be more respectful of its target audience. Pandering to the public by talking down to them with these weird macho metaphors can also be seen as condescending to the audience. The tacky commercials, while getting attention, also appeal to the lowest common denominator. We have no statistics to back this up but feel confident in guessing that the CGI tiger barfing money probably attracts a lot of “slip and fall” cases at Dollar Tree.

On the web, we don’t have to use those metaphors. We can respect our customer base by enlightening them, rather than indulging in crude dog-whistle tactics. We can showcase our true strengths, calmly discussing our knowledge of our professions and passions for our work.

If you want to learn more about Google Ads, read our Google Ads beginner’s guide. Or if you want to talk about developing a digital marketing strategy for your law firm, feel free to reach out to us. We’re happy to help.

 

How to Define Your Law Firm’s Brand

In our legal marketing section, we’ve talked a great deal about the mechanics and logistics of marketing for legal firms. We’ve gone over technology, talked about how Google indexes websites, brought up things like directory listings, and the importance of getting good reviews.

But we hardly ever get to talk about how to shape a marketing campaign in the first place. It’s well and good to know how to deliver a message once you have one. But the question of what message to deliver in the first place is not such a cut-and-dried proposition. Obviously, your goal is to present your firm as an attractive company to do business with and put that in front of customers.

There’s more to this than just baiting a mousetrap and waiting for a mouse, though. The law is a huge field, covering functions that unite to how nations deal with their citizens, how businesses deal with other businesses, and even how nations deal with each other, plus every other permutation of those relationships.

Most law firms are starting to get the idea that just advertising yourself as a general practitioner doesn’t help anymore. What counts is having a practice area defined so the public knows your specialty. Directories like Avvo, which we talk about in-depth here, start off with practice areas right upfront. Naturally, practice areas aren’t so rigid that you can’t have more than one, or even swap them in and out depending on the needs of the market.

Now the branding and packaging for a child custody law firm should be different from that of a trucking accident law firm. You have different skills there, different areas of the law to know. Estate planning as a legal specialty should be different from the practice area of criminal defense when it comes to packaging and branding, but not so different from being a social security lawyer. Social security and estate planning both have to deal with individual funds and their role in the future, so the two practice areas can be associated. Likewise, mesothelioma and asbestos is a practice area that can be considered a subset of personal injury work.

 

Constructing Your Package

Overall, your branding should communicate your firm’s promise. Your website content and your outreach help bring in potential clients. Once they get to your virtual office door on the web, your company’s brand helps convince them to do business with your firm. So to speak, it represents your business personality, helping to set you apart from the competition.

A strong brand helps build client trust, loyalty, and security. Consistent branding targets a certain demographic, the people or businesses you want to attract as clients. You might be targeting younger entrepreneurs and so you present yourself as hip and casual. You might be practicing in military law as a veteran’s rights advocate, so your branding includes a military motif. You might be practicing family law in the divorce, custody, or adoption field, so your branding communicates a caring touch, with nurturing empathy in your packaging.

In determining your law firm’s branding, ask these questions about your company’s image:

  • What is your firm’s mission statement? What difference do you make in the world?
  • Who is your firm’s ideal client or clients? Who do you want to see the most?
  • What are your firm’s values? What is different about your practice that sets you apart?
  • What is your unique value proposition? How do you communicate it?
  • What is your brand’s voice? How should your clients perceive you?

For example, say you’re a personal injury attorney, something you see commonly advertised on TV and radio. You might answer the above questions:

  • To help injured people get the compensation they’re entitled to
  • An accident victim with clearly documented injuries that are not their fault
  • We believe negligent drivers, businesses, and practitioners should be held accountable for the damage they cause
  • We don’t pawn off your case to some referral, we see it through until the end, no-win / no-pay, etc.
  • We’re the heavyweights who fight for you

Seriously, you’ve seen the above commercial on TV for a hundred different personal injury firms. Many of them get quite silly, with boxers and gorillas and other power motifs. Say what you will about them, but they have this branding thing down to a “T.” You don’t have to put on the same circus show, but at least put as much thought into your packaging message as they do.

Often, we’ll see an empathy ploy in small law firm branding. This is the motorcycle accident attorney who also rides a motorcycle and hangs his helmet and jacket in his office, visible in his photo. Or the elder’s rights social security representative who is himself a senior and does not hide their age. The previously mentioned veteran’s rights lawyer will be sure to let you know if they themselves served in the armed forces. The message is the same: “We understand your unique needs and struggles because we’re just like you.”

There’s nothing wrong with the empathy ploy, but be sure that it’s genuine and authentic. When it’s all said and done, your clients will usually care more about your legal expertise and track record in court. You do see more targeted empathy messaging in niche industries that are otherwise under-served. We’ve seen attorneys who specialize in agricultural law for farmers and veterinarians in the corn belt, with a website that looks like it came straight out of Green Acres. It may look silly to us, but it’s a huge hit with the locals.

One final option is location-based branding. This is easy to forget on the great World Wide Web, but it matters if an attorney is local to your area. So, adding your state outline to your logo, your state flag to your website, or other location-based branding isn’t out of the question. Usually, you see this in a law firm that specializes in a practice area tied to certain regions, like agriculture.

 

The Big Tent vs. the Narrow Specialty

Why not partner with and hire more attorneys, paralegals, and other professionals until you’re the Wal-Mart of law firms? There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the big tent approach, where you get to be an all-in-one shop. The problem with the big tent is that it’s expensive to maintain a huge firm, and clients are aware of the overhead and its effect on their bill. It’s also harder to attract business from prospective clients looking for a specific niche if you don’t mention it on your site. Just as in the medical field, sometimes you want a specialist.

You could go with the boutique approach, and have a focused practice just on that specialty. You can specialize in tax accounting cases for flea circuses, more power to you. The downside on that approach is that you risk sending too much business away because it doesn’t fit your narrow specialty.

Wait, we can compromise here! What we’re getting at is that you can section off your marketing plan into discrete chunks, targeting each of your practice areas with a separate page within your website, a separate specialist profile on directories, a separate category on your content marketing blog, and so on.

Even within a focused area like “taxes,” there are cases applying to individuals, businesses, estates, 501 (c)’s, and so on. Does your business seek first to attract more individuals with tax resolution problems, or are you more interested in working for Fortune 500 corporations? Because those are two kinds of clients, and when they get to your website, they will be looking for two different kinds of professionals. You can address one or the other, or present all of that rolled together and say you take all comers. Realize that when you generalize and try to appeal to everyone, you typically weaken your messaging. Whatever approach you take, you should still have sub-sections that detail your practice areas.

Getting back into digital marketing mechanics for a minute, being more specific helps search engines find you for that specific niche. When you share exhaustive details and cover an area in-depth, it helps you boost your web page to the top of the search engine results page (SERP). Listen to Google Guru Matt Cutts explain how SEO works, as only he can.

The technical stuff is over, we promise. Let’s get back to that branding, specifically, image branding.

 

Can We Talk About Your Law Firm’s Graphics?

One of the reasons we marketers talk about packaging and branding is because at some point we’re going to have to bring in a graphics artist to compose the visual aspect. On that subject, there are two iconic motifs associated with the legal field which make graphics artists cringe, along with the rest of us.

This is Gavel & Scales, attorneys at law! Gavel hits things, Scales weighs things, together they fight crime! Or they help those wrongly convicted of a crime prove their innocence.

The gavel and scales motif is well-established to mean “legal practice” by now, but they’re heavily cliched. One or both of these might be part of your logo. 99Designs calls these “generic logos.” For some reason, many law firms we find have very plain, generic logos that look like they were tossed together from clip-art in Windows Paint around 1998. We might guess that many law firms hang up their virtual shingle, slap their name around a gavel or scale, and then they’re too busy working to update their website logo… for about twenty years.

The problem with generic logos is that they don’t say anything different or unique about your business. Now we get it, you still have to use a recognizable symbol to efficiently represent an idea, and the legal profession doesn’t have many symbols to choose from for such an abstract field. We understand that some symbols are the only choice, which is why computer apps still use a floppy disk for a save icon (such icon usage is called a “skeuomorph“).

But when it comes to branding a legal practice website, we might recommend either (a) cleverly integrating the gavel or scales with something else about your practice, or (b) just doing without the legal emojis altogether and use your firm’s name in a tasteful font, which is becoming the more common style now.

Legal websites tend not to rely heavily on graphics in the first place. The most successful legal firms we see focus more on a sharply professional tone. It’s all about the content and substance, with the best style being minimalist. However, we do see a few successful firms that also stand out with some flashier branding and more updated websites.

 

Website Theming for Legal Practices

Theming is the unifying ideas, motifs, and styles that visually establish a brand. We see theming everywhere in business branding: restaurants visually represent the national origin of their ethnic cuisine, daycare centers decorate their signs with stuffed animals and crayons, and real estate agencies have lots of peaked rooftops in their logo.

The individual components of your brand identity will include both physical and digital assets. You can extend this theming across both electronic and printed material. Your brand image can be reflected in your website’s color scheme, font choices, typography, website layout, and your logo—the capstone to your branding strategy.

Law firms, being a prestigious white collar profession, tend to be more conservative in their themes, which is fine. You don’t want to be too goofy when you’re dealing with legal issues that can gravely impact people’s lives. WordPress themes for lawyers exemplify some common template choices, although we see our old friend Gavel & Scales there along with another visual cliché, the columns from the courthouse exterior. By default, we find the most prestigious legal websites have plain colors, spare graphics, and a small, stylish logo with just the firm’s name.

But there are exceptions. Pot Brothers at Law advertises legal help in the emerging cannabis industry, and their website breaks every rule for a legal website we’ve ever heard of. It’s hard to take them seriously, in fact, we’re not sure if this is a parody or for real. But still, branding! Remember when we mentioned the “empathy ploy” above? These guys’ website has videos which show them attending cannabis festivals and hanging out with the crowd.

Advertising to an extreme niche market may call for wild and experimental themes, but that’s a far-out exception. You’ll notice they still incorporate that gavel into the design?

Common sense will tell you that some background images are a sound choice for certain areas of practice. Think about your target audience: green makes sense for agricultural legal practices, while you may want to use blue or purple for the healthcare industry. You have to walk a fine line where you want to fit into the industry, but also stand out. When you’re developing your brand identity, it’s important to look at what your competitors are doing. If you look like every firm out there, you’ll be virtually invisible.

Most importantly, just keep it tasteful and simple. For most case scenarios, a simple WordPress theme with minimal graphics does the trick.

 

Deploying Your Branding: A Checklist

This is where you want to give some thought to your logo and theming. If you plan well in the beginning, you’ll have an easier time applying your brand identity to your website, digital channels, templates, stationery, signage, etc. You need to carefully design it so that it looks good on all media and at all sizes. Here are the places where your logo and general motif appear include:

  • Business cards
  • Stationery
  • Brochures, leaflets
  • Social media channels (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter)
  • Legal directories
  • Online review sites
  • Your website
  • Physical signs and placards
  • Email / newsletters
  • Advertising media

The rules for logo design favor simple one-color or two-color designs that scale well. The logo should look consistent whether it’s blown up on a billboard or printed on a business card.

 

In Conclusion

The legal industry isn’t exactly the flashiest sector when it comes to brand identity and packaging. This is because the public sector still views the legal trade as a stuffy, conservative lot. By all means, law firm digital marketing could use a breath of fresh air.

We’d like to encourage law firms to let a little more of their personality show. Modern client bases can identify with a firm that has put a little more thought into its individuality. There’s no need to go overboard, but at some point, you have to look at professionals in the same pay scale in other industries who can take greater design liberties and still be taken seriously.

The legal trade is at its most competitive in this economy, which makes effective branding and strong brand messaging more important. This helps you stand out above the competition, and keep a strong digital marketing signal going out to the public. Take some inspiration from other brands you see for any product in any industry because that’s where the creative lightning sometimes strikes.

If you want to discuss your digital marketing strategy and how to refine your brand identity, feel free to reach out to us. We’re here to help.

 

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