For lawyers in practice today, it feels as if we are in a world full of lawyers, all pursuing the same sought-after clients. However, by taking five critical steps online, attorneys can break through the marketing clutter and stand out from the pack:
- Focusing where clients look when they are searching for a lawyer;
- Capitalizing on three technology trends;
- Dominating the first page of Google by putting the right content online;
- Abandoning search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising gambits;
- Automating follow-up so that new leads come in while you sleep.
1. Being Where Clients Look
There has been a sea change in the way clients search for a lawyer. Society has changed – it used to be that clients would ask friends, neighbors, or coworkers to find a good lawyer – but that entails making a private problem public.
Instead, clients will open up their laptop and search for an attorney confidentially. According to Hinge research, when potential clients check out an attorney, 80.9 percent will look at the firm's website.
In the old days, lawyers could focus on the Yellow Pages, but if they're not dead they're quickly dying. Online searches dominate anything today. If people don't have a computer, they'll have a cell phone to get online.
Use this tip: Take the language from TV commercials by lawyers and use them as keywords on your website. If you don't have $10,000 a week to pay for TV advertising, you can capitalize on your competitor's promotions by studying the exact words used in the commercial. Those words will form the lexicon that consumers use when they go online and search for an attorney. The rule of thumb is that a person will see a relevant attorney ad at least 12 times before they act on their claim – and they will search with the words they heard in the TV commercial.
Make sure that your website is worth a visit from a potential client. People don't care about lawyers and why they went to school – they care only about how a lawyer can solve their problems. The more you talk about yourself, the more you will turn people off. The more you talk about your clients, the more you will engage them.
2. Making the Most of Three Technology Trends
Differentiating with a speedy response. Attorneys should strike like lightning when a person fills out an online form on their website, or clicks on an online chat button.
The speed of the response matters more than anything else. People are genuinely impressed when they engage on a website and someone responds within minutes.
Also, bear in mind that if a person is filling out a form on your website, they are also filling out forms on other law firm websites. Of course, no attorney has time to monitor website responses so closely. That's why it's smart to build auto-response functions into your website so that a visitor gets an immediate email reply after watching a video, for example. It also makes sense to retain an outside vendor to answer these contacts.
These services will call everyone who contacts your firm so that consumers will hear a live person. This way a consumer thinks, “I can stop my search because I'm in the right hands right now.”
Anticipate mobile visits. 64 percent of American adults now own a smartphone, according to Pew Internet research, and a majority of people spend more time on their cell phone than their computer desktop, according to Smart Insights.
I am shocked that mobile-unfriendly lawyer websites are still easy to find. You must take a look at what your website looks like on a cell phone. Google is now favoring mobile-friendly sites in cell phone searches. There should be big buttons, tap-to-call or tap-to-email functions. What you don't want to display is a shrunken version of your website where a visitor can't read the text or see the telephone number. You want people to use the device they are holding in their hands to call you.
People expect to get something for free online. Attorneys should add value online for consumers because it is an excellent way to get visitors to do what you want.
Your website needs to give away something useful in exchange for a visitor disclosing his or her contact information. It can be registering for a free program, attending a webinar, signing up for your newsletter or downloading a white paper.
Let people subscribe to your blog, so that every time there is an update, subscribers will get an email notification about it. For instance, if you are going to give a speech – plan ahead to record it and put it online so that it can be viewed by completing a web form.
Lawyers can offer a toll-free hotline message, where you answer all the questions they have about hiring a lawyer. The more you engage people online, the more likely they are to contact you when they or a friend needs a lawyer.
3. Dominate the First Page of Google in Your Local Market
This, of course, is what every lawyer wants – and there is a silver bullet. The “killer app” that will generate more traffic and more leads is blogging.
The more you blog, the more leads, and clients you will get, according to Hubspot. If you post one or two blog posts per month, you'll get a minimum amount of responses.
But if you increase this to 11 to 15 blog posts per month, you will double the number of leads and triple the amount of traffic you get, also according to Hubspot. This is because Google loves fresh, original, new content that doesn't appear on any other website. This is the easiest way to get on page one of Google.
I've been blogging since 2003 and have a sizeable amount of content online. Today, lawyers don't have to write their own material. Simply go to your nearest law school and pay students $14 per hour to write original blog posts for you.
Ask them to write 30 news pieces of material per month – this way you will add 350 new blog posts per year and will be crushing the competition.
Blog imaginatively and creatively about what's happening in your local market – perhaps a business has been cited by the state for violations, or perhaps there is a newly-released safety report. If you write about local events, you will get local calls.
Blog posts do not need to be static, written text. Google also likes:
Video: It is the moving experience that will put you on the first page of Google. Video is 50 times more likely to appear in search results in Google than plain text results, according to Forrester Research. 62 percent of Google searches result include video, according to Marketingland. And, people stay two minutes longer on your site if you have video, according to Comscore.
Infographics: The law firm d'Oliveira & Associates has created a library of more than 100 infographics. The idea is to take a few data points, have a graphic illustrator turn them into a picture, and to put the graphic into the public domain. Lawyers can encourage news writers and bloggers to use the graphic. The graphic itself should display the firm name and telephone number.
Podcasts: This is great way to use the spoken word to create new content. Recording services are easy to find with Google, and topics are limited by your creativity. Once you create a podcast you can share on your website, iTunes, and social media.
Create a public service website. Consumers do not do research about their problems on law firm websites. Instead, they go to public interest sites like WebMD. Lawyers can similarly create non-promotional, informational sites like Drugwatch.com – where consumers can look up dangerous drugs, FDA recalls and feature articles. It looks like an online encyclopedia, but the site is actually sponsored by the Petersen law firm in Washington, DC.
If you call the number or complete the online web form, someone from their intake department will respond. The idea is to publish useful information on a site where people are actually going to search.
In another example, BrainandSpinalcord.Org is actually sponsored by the Newsome Melton law firm in Orlando, FL. It is a collection of information for brain and spinal injury victims, the top ten rehab hospitals, physicians who specialize in spinal surgery, statistics, treatment options and a video library about Medicare and Medicaid. This website is so successful that the law firm must refer out malpractice cases to law firms in other states.
4. Disregard the False Promise of PPC and SEO
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is offered by Google, Bing and other search engines to create online ads that generate traffic to websites. Yet the only time I hear lawyers talking about PPC is because it is not working, and I agree — it's a great way to throw away a lot of money. In my opinion, for PPC to be successful, a lawyer needs to spend $10,000 per week. It only works when it's working and then it wears off.
A common mistake is for lawyers to spend money on PPC and drive a torrent of traffic to a website that doesn't contain useful information and has no calls to action – it's just the lawyers talking about themselves. Investing in blogging is so much smarter.
You don't need to pay a continuing fee for SEO. Off-site SEO, which is typically done by building links to your website, can generate a negative reaction from Google.
I recommend that lawyers steer clear of companies that say they will do link-building and submit your site to directories. There are a lot of snake oil salesmen out there and they often create inbound links from link farms and bogus sites. Law sites that neglect Google Search API should not expect swathes of online traffic.
A better option is Facebook advertising. Lawyers can use it to send a message to only their targeted clients and no one else. Facebook ads are not displayed to the entire universe. Attorneys can send a distinct message solely to the people they want to see it. Facebook will provide metrics every day – and lawyers can see which ads are working and which ones don't.
5. Automate Your Follow Up
Nowadays it is essential to gather better intelligence about your website visitors. To turn a website into a business development machine, there are marketing automation systems that:
- Identify website visitors by name;
- Know which pages each person visits;
- Compile data into a personal profile in your contact database;
- Generate a hotlist of high-value prospects;
- Automatically send targeted follow-up messages.
Popular choices are Marketo, Salesforce, and Infusionsoft. They employ the two ways to get the names of people who visit your website:
Send a consumer an email with a link to a page on your site. When a person clicks on it, they are connected to the existing record in your contact database.
Offer something for free that consumers must complete a web form to get. When a person completes the form, the software records that information and sends follow-up messages that are relevant to their visit.
The approach I've described means ceasing to treat your website like the firm directory. This is like putting up a billboard in a cornfield reading “Buy Legal Services Here.” The modern technique is to put information online that engages visitors, holds their interest, and makes them want to return for more.
Yes, it does cost money – it may be inexpensive to hire content writers but marketing automation is not cheap. However, both are worth the investment. So pull your cell phone and visit your own website. If it makes you eager to click a button or register for free information – then you are on the right track.