You went to law school to practice law, not to be a salesperson or a marketer. Yet, your firm is a business. Marketing and sales are necessary parts of any business.
Many attorneys who find themselves with needs in marketing or sales fall in one of these three categories:
- Established firms that experience year-over-year revenue declines due to outdated marketing.
- New firms/solo practitioners at the beginning stages of building a practice.
- Established firms with revenue growth goals due to expanding payroll/headcount.
No matter the reason that you wish to grow firm revenue, you will want to do it efficiently.
Using the information in this comprehensive guide, you can make digital marketing work for your firm, attracting more and better clients.
IN THIS GUIDE
Potential clients are going to search for information about your firm. These measures establish with the user that your firm exists, the location of your office, website address and phone number.
Google is the 800-pound gorilla of search. Approximately nine out of every ten internet searches are made on Google. For that reason, and more, it is extremely important that you claim your Google My Business listing.
1. Google My Business
Google My Business is a free tool that you can use to manage your firm’s online presence on the Google platform, which includes Google Maps and Search.
You have, no doubt, seen Google My Business information when searching for a local business. The results usually include business name, location, phone number, website link, hours, reviews, maps, and photos.
Here's an example. When you're logged in to Google, you have the added advantage of seeing a "Your business on Google" toolbox.
The first step in establishing your firm’s credibility on Google is to add your new business listing or claim an existing listing.
Once you have established or claimed your listing, you will have to verify the listing.
This happens in one of the following ways:
Google will mail a postcard to your business address. On the postcard, you will find a five digit code and instructions on how to use that code to verify your listing. As soon as you receive the postcard, follow the steps as directed.
Some businesses will be eligible to verify by phone. If your business is eligible, you will see the option to verify by phone in your Google My Business account. Using this option, Google will call your business number. Upon answering, an automated system will dictate a code that you will enter into your Google My Business account.
Most businesses will not eligible to verify by email. If this option is available to your business, it will appear on your Google My Business account.
If you have already verified your firm website with Google Search Console, then you may be able to instantly verify your business listing.
Once your Google My Business account is established and location is verified, it is time to optimize the listing. The rule of thumb is to provide as much as information as possible in your Google My Business listing.
Every business in GMB is sorted into various categories. You can apply as many as ten categories to your firm’s listing. There are more than twenty categories from which attorneys and law firms can choose. It is important to include as many categories as could be considered accurate; this will ensure that your firm can be found for every applicable specialty.
Businesses with photos receive 42% more requests
for driving directions and 35% more click-thrus to the business website.
The most important photo is the cover photo. It is the photo that appears in the most high-profile placement when your listing appears. Your cover photo should be the most positively representative photo of your firm. This is usually a professional headshot of the attorney(s). Sometimes more candid photos of the attorneys can be effective, if they communicate trust and competence in the area of law in which they practice.
Some other kinds of photos to include:
- Exterior photos that allow the potential client to recognize your business from the street or sidewalk.
- Interior photos of your firm’s office, with a focus on an inviting ambience.
- Additional photos of your attorneys and support staff.
You can also add videos to your GMB account. They must be 30 seconds or shorter, less than 100 MB in size, and at least 720p definition. If you don’t have a well-produced video that positively represents your firm, it is best to exclude video. Photos are fine in this situation.
Once your listing is established, you may want to download the Google My Business app for your smartphone. It will allow you to stay up-to-date with activity on your GMB account. You will receive monthly reports on metrics such as number of photo views and how many times your business appeared in search results. It will also alert you when a user suggests changes to your listing (yep, random people can suggest changes to the info in your listing).
2. NAP Citations
While managing Google My Business will cover your firm for approximately 90% of web searches, NAP citations account for the remaining 10%.
NAP is an acronym meaning name, address, phone. There are more than one hundred websites, besides the Google platform, where your firm’s name, address and phone number may be listed. These include:
- and at least one hundred more
It is important that your firm’s NAP information is accurate and consistent across all of these websites and search platforms. Incomplete and inaccurate data can lead a potential client away from your firm.
The less consistent and accurate that your firm’s contact information appears across the web and to your GMB listing, the less likely you are to rank for desirable searches.
Additionally, consistent NAP citations are important for search engine ranking. This happens because Google scans the web looking for mentions of your business name, address, phone, and other data. It compares all of the instances it finds with the information in your Google My Business listing.
Social Media Accounts
Once you have your Google My Business listing claimed and optimized and your NAP citations are accurate and consistent, turn your attention to establishing your social media accounts.
While few potential clients will use social media platforms for an initial search, they WILL use them in secondary searches to find more information about you and your firm if they are considering hiring you.
This section covers the basic credibility portion of social media for your law firm. We will go into more advanced uses of social media in a later section.
1. your law firm's Facebook page
If you haven’t done so already, you should make a website business page for your firm. Keep in mind that business pages are not the same as personal accounts. Here are instructions on how to make a Facebook page.
According to Nielsen and ComScore, the average person spends 35 minutes per day on Facebook across an average of eight daily sessions.
Once the page is created, simply apply the same basic principles that you used to make your Google My Business listing. Provide as much information as possible. Those photos that you put on your GMB listing? Put those on your Facebook account, too.
The two most important images for your firm’s Facebook page are the profile photo and the cover photo.
The Facebook profile photo should be 320x320 (although it is usually rendered at half-sized 160x160). You can also opt for a Facebook video of not longer than seven seconds.
The Facebook cover photos ideally should be 820x312. On mobile it will render at 640x360. You can also make a 360-degree photo your cover photo, or even make it a slideshow of up to five images.
2. your law practice's LinkedIn page
If you practice a specialty that intersects with business, LinkedIn can be an important tool to establish basic credibility. LinkedIn has 500 million members— this is a great way to meet the people where they already are (source).
People use LinkedIn as a source for business intelligence on firms and people with whom they are considering doing business. If your clients are business people, agency principals and prominent associates/of-counsels should have robust personal LinkedIn profiles and your firm should have a company page.
Each attorney’s LinkedIn personal profile page should include the following:
- Professional headshot (like you are using in GMB and Facebook)
- A relevant, compelling headline
- A concise summary
- Experience descriptions that focus on client outcomes
Like Facebook, LinkedIn company pages are different than your personal LinkedIn account and profile. Setting up your firm’s LinkedIn company page is simple.
Here is a step-by-step guide.
3. Google Plus (Google+ or G+)
The main value of the Google Plus social media platform is that it is Google. Information and content shared to G+ is almost immediately indexed and can be found via Google search.
Unfortunately for us, G+ and Google My Business aren’t the same thing. GMB is primarily a directory service that helps your firm to be found when searched for. G+ is Google’s answer to Facebook, with the capability of forging connections to other people and brands (via Google Circles) and share content.
Here is how you create a Google Plus Business Page for your law firm.
There are 330 million active monthly users on Twitter (source). Law firms can make particularly good use of social media monitoring on Twitter.
How it works: you monitor Twitter for specific tweets related to your practice area, and insert yourself into the conversation with helpful tips, advice, or even by linking to an article on your website.
For some law firms, other social media platforms make sense. For example, intellectual property firms that work with artists and other creative professionals may want to consider platforms that their potential clients use, such as Pinterest and/or Instagram.
The new WhatsApp functionality for businesses makes sense for firms that serve a predominantly Spanish-speaking clientele in the United States.
There are many lawyer directories on the internet. Many are free for a basic listing. Just like with NAP citations, it is important that your contact information is accurate and consistent.
Here is a list of top attorney directories which offers some form of free listing:
- Best Lawyers
- Lead Counsel
- Law Guru
- Lawyer Central
- More Law
Your Law Firm's Website
The purpose of your firm website’s is to generate new leads and clients for you. That should be the most important criteria when you judge the value of your website.
All too often, attorneys and business people alike get caught up in the details of how they want their firm/company website to look like. The web development process resembles interior design, comparing and choosing different colors, layouts and imagery in order to suit our own sense of aesthetics.
If that is the way that you are having your website developed, then you need stop it. Now.
Your firm website is not a space that should be designed so that you like to look at it. It is a business process that is designed to generate qualified leads for your firm.
So how do you make that happen? Read on, counselor.
1. Assess your Current webSite
The first step in making your firm website a lead machine is to borrow a maxim from another traditional profession:
First, do no harm.
Just because your current site may not be delivering leads doesn’t mean that you should blow the thing up entirely.
If your firm has some history and your current website has been live and active for at least a few years, you should assess the value of the current site before you do anything.
Is It Already Getting Traffic? If So, Tread Carefully. Add A CTA.
There is a good chance that your site is getting traffic that you can turn into leads with some small tweaks to your current site.
How to Find Out Your Current Sites's Traffic
The most common tool used on the internet to measure website analytics (like how many people visited your website) is Google Analytics. This free tool requires that you put a short piece of code on every page of your website. Many website content management systems (CMSs) like Wordpress and HubSpot make it easy to install.
In fact, your site probably already has it installed.
Here is how you can find out your site’s traffic if you have Google Analytics installed:
Access Google Analytics at ANALYTICS.GOOGLE.COM.
At this point, you may need to login to your Google or G-Suite account.
Once you are logged in to Google Analytics, you should be seeing something like this:
The metric that we care about right now is the one titled Users (which we will also refer to as visitors). If your site has User metrics like that one above—almost 200 users per week (which is almost 900 per month)— you should NOT ditch your current site and put up a different one. While 900 visitors to your site may not seem like much, it’s actually a good place to start.
The key to understanding the value of 900 visitors (or users) is in the visitors-to-leads ratio.
The general rule of thumb is that at least 2% of the users who visit your site should turn into some kind of lead. They could be a hot lead— someone that is interested in talking to you about your services at that moment.
They could also be someone who wants to better understand how they can overcome a pending legal matter. This often happens in the form of an inbound offer or gated content.
They could simply be someone that is interested in the area of law that you practice; they are signing up to get updates when you publish new information on a blog or video blog.
What does this mean for our small law firm website that gets 900 monthly visitors? This firm should be getting an average of 18 new leads per month.
When you examine your own website analytics, if your site isn’t turning at least 2% of visitors into leads, then you need to stop and focus on the next section: a good call-to-action.
2. ADD A Good Call-to-Action
A law firm website, or any business website for that matter, should make it clear to the user what step they should take next. The user should understand, intuitively, what they are supposed to do on the page in order to move the process forward.
The on-page marketing device that makes this happen is called the call-to-action, or CTA.
A great CTA has three main features:
- It stands out visually from the other elements on the page.
- The language is client-centric.
- It requires minimal effort (or minimal hassle) from the user to complete
Stands out visually
The CTA should be the element on the page that naturally “pops” for the user. It is usually (but not always) at the top of the page. The color and design should contrast from the rest of page. Often, the CTA’s is a unique color.
The language on the call-to-action should focus on the benefit to the user. Some examples include:
- Schedule your free consultation
- Learn more about protecting your estate
- Find out if you are eligible for a pardon or expungement
Have you ever visited a website to try to accomplish something like placing an order or getting customer service, only to be confronted by a form that asks many “mandatory” questions? It is frustrating, right? You might even be tempted to click away from the site just to avoid the hassle.
It is the same with CTAs. Your CTAs shouldn’t look like a hassle to complete. The amount of information required on the form should be commensurate with the value of the information offered.
If your CTA is a simple blog subscription, then just asking for email address is usually appropriate. However, if your CTA is an interactive tool (which we talk about later) that will return a personalized bit of information, such as eligibility for immigration programs or which kind of probate (summary or traditional) is appropriate for their situation, then it is not only acceptable to ask the user many detailed questions, but it is necessary to complete the interactive tool.
Not surprisingly, tech companies are great at generating effective CTAs. Here are a few examples of great CTAs from tech companies.
Evernote’s CTA requires minimal hassle with only two fields on the form and one-click. The language is client-centric using the headline Remember Everything. The CTA button stands out with a bright green color that tempts users to click it.
Dating site OKCupid uses a CTA similar to the Evernote in that there are only two fields and one click to submit. However, the information that they request allows the site to serve up a page after submission that is relevant to the user.
Note also that the language is customer-centric and the CTA stands up visually.
We help law firms take these CTA techniques that tech companies have optimized and use them to drive new clients to their firms. Here are two examples
Port Legal is a firm in Columbus, Ohio that specializes in probate and estate planning, among other things.
The CTA on this website stands out with the light colored form on a dark background. The verbiage is customer-centric and requires little hassle in order to complete.
Clean Slate Lawyers
Clean Slate Lawyers is a legal referral service that helps people manage a past criminal indiscretion with expungements and pardons.
The main CTA for this site is an interactive tool which determines, based on the answers to a series of questions, if and when the user may be eligible for an expungement or pardon under current state law.
This CTA is a simple button that uses the color yellow to stand out on the page. The language is customer-centric with verbiage like:
- Find out if you are eligible for an expungement
- Get started on your clean slate today
3. WORK ON Technical SEO
Technical SEO is a group of measures that you should take so that search engines such as Google can easily crawl, understand and parse the content on your site.
Elements of Technical SEO include:
- Speed with which the site loads
- How well the site renders on the small screen of a smartphone
- Utilization of certain elements such as Page Titles, Meta Descriptions, Headings and a Sitemap to make it easy for Google and other search engine crawlers to understand the content on your site
- SSL certificate, which adds an added level of security and trust to your site and the data that is passed between it and the user.
4. embrace Consistent & Trustworthy Design
The legal profession is a high-trust business. Due to the sensitive nature and/or high value of many legal matters, potential clients look for a high-degree of consistency and trustworthiness in the attorneys that they hire.
It is important that all design and imagery in the entire online presence of your firm remain consistent among elements. Sloppy design will drive away good clients.
5. develop great Content
Content Topic Clusters
Topic clusters are the most effective structure for making website content that helps potential clients find your firm on the internet. This is how topic clusters work:
Each topic cluster has one pillar page and multiple cluster pages. The pillar page contains a broad overview of a large topic. This page that you are reading right now is a pillar page. It tackles a large subject and paints with broad strokes. The cluster pages linked to and from the pillar page fill in the details of subtopics related to the main topic covered in the pillar page.
The topic cluster model is so effective because:
- Users like it because it provides high-level, overview content on the pillar page, while providing the option for the user to get deeper into the weeds on subtopics that they choose, on the cluster pages.
- When one of the cluster pages starts performing well, it will elevate the entire topic cluster on search engine results pages.
Personalized Interactive content
The content with the highest value and maximum efficacy that we develop for law firms is personalized, interactive content.
This kind of content can take many forms such as an online assessment, quiz, or chatbot. The defining feature of an interactive tool is that it takes personal input from the user and returns a personalized result.
One example is the aforementioned expungement and pardon eligibility assessment and the Summary/Traditional Probate assessment.
This content is effective in driving new clients for the following reasons:
- The perceived value of the content is higher than a simple blog because of the interactive nature.
- The information provided by the user on the firm’s website gives the attorneys and staff the information necessary to qualify the potential client.
Once your basic credibility is established, your website’s CTAs are generating a minimum 2% visitors-to-leads ratio, you have solid, topical blog content, and maybe you even have a good personalized, interactive content tool, it’s time to drive more users to your site.
1. Drive more traffic with SEM
Over the long term, your topical blog content will drive more users to your site in the form of organic traffic. Your content pages will begin to rise on the search engine results pages (SERPs) for user queries that your content answers.
However, that takes time. So, what do you do in the meantime?
You buy that traffic.
Search Engine Marketing (or SEM) allows businesses to purchase ads on search engines. When a potential clients searches for estate planning attorney in [your town], you can pay to have your site appear on the SERP, usually above the organic results.
Here is an example of four SEM ads on Google for probate attorneys in Denver, Colorado.
The most popular and well known SEM platform is Google Ads, previously known as Google Adwords. However, there are others, such as Microsoft’s Bing and Yahoo’s Gemini.
SEM platforms work on a pay-per-click (PPC) basis. The advertiser only pays when someone clicks on an ad.
The Ad Rank (or position) of the SEM ads is determined by three factors:
- The amount that the advertiser is willing to pay for each clicks (known as a bid)
- The relevance of the content to which the ad links in relation to the search query. Google calls this a quality score.
- Other factors such as the context of the person’s search, like user location and device.
Higher bids and higher quality scores will result in better Ad Rank and higher SERP positions and better performance.
SEM best practices
1. Do your keyword research
Figure out what phrases your potential clients are using in the search engine in order to find answers to their questions. Google provides a tool called the Keyword Planner to help with this process.
2. Use All Available Ad Extensions
Ad extensions provide additional information to your ad, which gives users more reasons to click on your ad. Ad extensions that are relevant to a law firm include:
- Sitelink Extensions - links to additional content pages on your site
- Location Extensions - your firm address with link to map
- Call Extensions - your firm phone number, clickable on smartphones
- Review Extensions - review from previous firm clients
- Callout Extensions - non-clickable line of ad text to highlight benefits to potential clients
- Structured Snippet Extension - additional lines of ad space that feature a structured list of data. This can be, for example, a list of your firm’s practice areas.
- Image Extension - on Bing Ads only - a small image, such as a headshot or logo, that appears next to the ad
3. Use Compelling Ad Copy
It is worthless to pay for a search ad if the ad text (also known as copy) doesn’t make sense or isn’t compelling.
- Address the challenge or problem that the user is articulating in the search query.
- Highlight how you can help the user overcome the problem or challenge.
- Make sure that the copy of your ad is relevant to the search query.
- The ad should point to a relevant landing page on your site.
2. DRIVE MORE TRAFFIC WITH Retargeting
In practice areas that have a longer consideration stage, when the need may be important but not necessarily urgent, retargeting can be an effective element to your marketing strategy.
Retargeting is the practice of serving paid ad placements to users that have either visited your website recently or are already a contact in your database.
You have probably already experienced this as a user, particularly with ecommerce sites. Maybe you are shopping around for a new road bicycle. You visit a few websites, check out the features and prices on the latest models, and file away that information for further consideration.
Three days later, you are back on the computer, surfing the lastest news; lo and behold, you see multiple ads for road bicycles.
You have been retargeted.
Retargeting works because it allows us to put a laser-focus on internet users that have taken some kind of action— usually visiting a page (or pages) on our website— that indicate interest in a legal area that we service.
While there are many kinds of retargeting, we will focus on two:
- Site-based - this allows us to retarget anonymous users to the firm website. A short piece of code is added to the firm website and a cookie is added to the users browser.
- Contact-based - this allows us to target users that are already in our marketing database.
Retargeting Best Practices for Law Firms
Effective retargeting is not always simple. Observing best practices will ensure that your digital advertising investment is efficient.
Unchecked retargeting will work against you. Imagine, in our above bicycle-shopping scenario, if every page that you visited for three months showed the same ad for road bicycles. That would be annoying, right?
One tool that we can use to avoid alienating potential clients with an incessant, repetitive message, is to cap the number of times a single user will see the ad. This is called capping the frequency. A good rule-of-thumb to start with is to limit the frequency to a range of 15 to 20 impressions per month, per user.
One of the greatest advantages of digital marketing versus traditional marketing is the detailed and immediate feedback.
One of the great advantages of digital marketing versus traditional marketing is the detailed and immediate feedback. We can test, iterate, and reiterate variables, like creative.
We recommend starting a new campaign with multiple creative options, including images, text, and landing page on the site. Don’t be afraid to start with many ad variations.
Exclude Converted Users
Your website will have visitors who fill out a form to request a consultation and others who are simply browsing. You'll want to be sure to segment your retargeting appropriately.
Segment Your Audience
Your law firm likely has a handful of areas of expertise. For example, you may handle criminal law and expungements, or you may handle estate planning and probate cases. In either case, you have different kinds of website visitors.
In the first case, someone looking for a criminal defense lawyer has different needs and a very different timeline compared to someone looking for an expungement. Your retargeted ads should account for this with proper segmentation.
Add geographic, demographic and/or contextual filters
Enable View Through Conversions for accurate attribution
Reputation Management for Law Firms
Word-of-mouth and referrals will always be the most effective form of new client acquisition. Happy clients lead to more clients. Maintaining a positive reputation is critical to a growing law practice.
The three prongs of managing a firm’s online reputation are:
- Enhance positive reviews from happy clients
- Avoid negative reviews from unhappy clients via timely interdiction
- Respectfully respond to unavoidable negative reviews
These three activities can be most easily accomplished using marketing automation.
Marketing automation is the process of automating repetitive marketing tasks such as sending emails and social media.
Here’s a quick rundown on how your firm can use marketing automation to manage online reputation:
When you mark a matter as closed in your practice management or case management software, an automated email is sent to the client. The email is a simple one-click survey.
If the client indicates that they are happy with the firm, they receive an immediate automated email asking them to give a positive review (with a link to the review site).
If the client indicates that they are not happy, the appropriate manager at the law firm receives an immediate notification that there is an unhappy client. Now, they can address the issue with the client before any negative online reviews are written.
Unfortunately, it is sometimes difficult to avoid a negative online review—especially in legal practice. In this case, automated notification services such as Yext are helpful; they will quickly notify you when your firm has received a negative review.
When you do get a negative review, it is vital that you respond as soon as you see it. Remember, you aren’t responding to the review solely to benefit the user that left the negative review; your response is also for the prospective clients who will encounter the review online at a later date.
Here are the steps to take when responding to a negative review:
1. Assess if the review is in violation of the platform’s content guidelines and/or community standards.
If the review is abusive and/or irrelevant you may be able to get it removed by reporting the review via the platform’s content reporting feature. Negative reviews can come from all kinds of inappropriate parties, such as competing attorneys, angry parties on the other side of a matter, and people that are mad that you wouldn’t take their case. These reviews may be eligible to be removed.
2. If the negative review appears to be legitimate, reach out to the unhappy client offline in order to address their concerns.
Attempt to come to an accommodation to remove the review.
3. If the review doesn’t appear to violate platform guidelines and the client won’t work with you to remove the review, then you need to respond to the negative review on the platform.
- Acknowledge the user’s complaint, no matter how unreasonable or flatout untrue it may be. It can be something as simple as, “We are sorry to learn that you are unhappy,” or, “We can only imagine how frustrated you must feel.”
- Do not, under any circumstances, respond with any privileged information. Just because a client has publicly complained, you still must maintain your professional ethics. (Remember, current and future clients will be able to see how you respond.)
- Express to the reviewer that you are open to having an in-person conversation in order to address the issue.
- If the reviewer never actually hired your firm, or never paid their bill, find a way to work that into the response.
Online video is an increasingly powerful medium for marketing law firms. In the past five years, smartphone and tablet technology has made video consumption as easy and convenient as the written word.
Evidence suggests that:
- More than half of people watch video online everyday.
- When confronted with the choice to consume content in written form, or video form, most choose video.
- Including video on a landing page usually increases conversion rates.
Facebook gets 8 billion average daily video views from 500 million users. As you consider using Facebook as a video marketing platform for your firm, here are some things to consider:
85% of Facebook video is consumed with no sound and people are five times more likely to watch Facebook video on their smartphone than traditional computer.
Most users scroll down their timeline until something catches their interest. This means that your video needs to grab the user’s interest immediately without using sound.
For example, let’s say that you are doing a Facebook retargeting campaign for your probate practice. You are targeting people who visited pages on your website that indicate the user has just lost a parent or other loved one. The first few seconds of the video will need to pop out at the user with a simple message that speaks to the user’s needs at the moment.— in this case, someone that just lost a loved one.
We recommend adding a short video to each specific practice page. The goal of the video is to explain the process involved and to allow the user to get comfortable with the attorney(s) with whom they would be working should they choose to hire your firm.
About the Author
Jake Fisher is partner at Bridges Strategies. He specializes in inbound marketing, B2B sales and multicultural communication. He enjoys good food and bad golf. You can follow him on Twitter at @jakefisher