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    Essential Online Marketing Advice for Small and Startup Law Firms

    Small law firms face different marketing challenges than larger law firms. This is not a groundbreaking concept: Small businesses of any type tend to have smaller budgets than their larger counterparts, naturally making marketing and advertising more of a challenge.

    This doesn’t change the fact that the ability to generate new clients for your law firm consistently is the code you must to crack to built a successful, sustainable law firm.

    In this article, we will talk about surefire, slow, and steady marketing methods you execute to build the reputation of your small law firm and sign cases consistently through online marketing.

    Note: This article is about marketing, and in it we make a major assumption about you: That you are dedicated to and passionate about your work and provide a great service to your clients. Great marketing can make up for a lot, but it alone will not ensure your ultimate success as a business. Only providing high-quality service can do that.

    Here are a few of the ways you can market your small law firm without a huge budget

    Here are a few topics we will be covering in this article.

    1. Start by ensuring you can track your ROI with every marketing effort.
    2. Focus and niche in as far as you can.
    3. Focus online and offline
    4. Don’t put all of your marketing eggs in one basket.
    5. Build an amazing (and fast) website
    6. Don’t ignore your Law Firm’s SEO Strategy (it’s free)

    What are the benefits of marketing your law firm vs. not?

    Marketing for law firms can bring numerous benefits, including increased visibility and brand awareness, more qualified leads and potential clients, and improved overall business performance.

    One of the primary benefits of marketing for law firms is increased visibility and brand awareness. By implementing a comprehensive marketing strategy, law firms can reach a wider audience and make their services more visible to potential clients. This can be especially important in a competitive legal market, where many firms are vying for the attention of the same pool of clients. By effectively promoting their services, law firms can differentiate themselves from the competition and stand out in the minds of potential clients.

    Another benefit of marketing for law firms is the ability to generate more qualified leads and potential clients. Effective marketing campaigns can help law firms target specific audiences and attract individuals who are most likely to be interested in their services. This can help firms save time and resources by focusing their efforts on individuals who are more likely to become paying clients.

    In addition, marketing for law firms can also improve overall business performance. By attracting more qualified leads and potential clients, law firms can increase their revenue and grow their businesses. In addition, effective marketing can help law firms build their reputations and establish themselves as thought leaders in their fields, which can further enhance their credibility and attract even more clients.

    Overall, marketing is a crucial component of success for law firms. By implementing effective marketing strategies and campaigns, law firms can increase their visibility, generate more qualified leads, and improve their overall performance.

    Marketing a small law firm requires a strong focus if you want to stand out

    The firms that are most successful marketing their firms online have focus. Nobody wants to hire someone who is an expert in everything, as that typically means they’re not an expert in anything. Google treats SEO the same way.

    In crowded and competitive online markets, Google rewards websites that are hyper-focused on a narrow topic. This narrow focus, beyond its benefits from a marketing and SEO standpoint, is also a necessity when resources are limited.

    Let’s say for example I wanted to show Google that my website deserved to rank for keywords related to Denver Personal Injury Lawyer. A few ways I could do that would be to:

    • Pick a domain name with the City and Practice Area in the domain name (not necessarily recommended)
    • Create supporting content around the main topics and subtopics
    • Earn links from Denver based organizations or Personal Injury Related websites

    When you hyper-focus your small law firms’s marketing efforts on a single practice area and geographic market, you will see results faster, because this approach enables you to establish yourself as a clear online authority in your field.

    When thinking about how to market your small law firm you should consider the following:

    • Anything worth doing is worth doing right. This is especially true when it comes to online marketing.
    • There are no easy shortcuts or silver bullets.
    • Buying leads through services like Martindale and FindLaw is notoriously risk and ineffective.

    Where to prioritize your marketing efforts

    Marketing a small law firm requires a strong understanding of where your clients are coming from.

    As a smaller firm you only have so many resources so you have to decide where it’s best to spend your time. Let’s take a look at a quick breakdown of some of the ways your firm can get new business.

    Offline Methods

    • Networking events
    • Referrals from lawyers
    • Referral partners (e.g. Doctors for PI)
    • Previous Happy Clients
    • Reputation
    • Billboards

    Online Marketing Methods

    According to a study, we conducted in 2017, 49% of people research their legal issue online before hiring a lawyer. This means that the law firms which are the most successful are ranking for searches for keywords that potential customers are looking for.

    Someone injured in a car accident, for example, might use voice search, or their mobile phone to find various answers on the fly. Some of the common questions that come to mind are:

    • I need to see a doctor but I can’t afford the medical bills, what should I do?
    • Who is the best personal injury lawyer in [Insert City Here]
    • Do I need to hire a lawyer after my car accident
    • Car Accident Lawyers Nearby
    • How long do I have to file a personal injury claim?

    Potential clients come from all walks of life and backgrounds. Making information available to them is a surefire way to get more clients through online marketing. If you want a shortcut for this ask your existing and former clients what their biggest pain points were. They probably turned online at some point during their research phase and types those words into Google. If your firm does not have the best answer to that question or resource or online it’s an opportunity for growth.

    If you’re interested in online marketing the biggest channel you should focus on is Google Organic and local search as this is where most of your traffic will come from.

    Online Marketing Plan for Small Law Firms

    Below I have put together a small marketing plan for law firms that you can use. By following these steps and tactics you can be sure that you’re moving your firm in the right direction and doing things the right way which is going to help your firm produce more leads in the future. Before we dive into the details it’s important that you know doing the work the right way is 100 times more important than taking shortcuts for quick wins. If you don’t start with a solid foundation a lot of this work will be for nothing.

    1. Start By Building The Best Website You Can

    One of the biggest mistakes I see often is people wanting to build a website quickly without any regard to SEO or thought given to conversions. If you take a shortcut on the foundation of your website you’re going to be re-doing it in the future.

    At a minimum, for effective online marketing, your website should meet the following MINIMUM standards:

    • WordPress or Webflow Based: It’s the most common website platform (CMS) out there. Avoid platforms like Squarespace or Scorpion / Findlaw CMS.
    • Lighting Fast: Test your website using Google Page Speed Insights. Does it get 80/100 or higher? Don’t use slow and cheap website hosting like GoDaddy.
    • Responsive: Visitors might find your website using their phone, computer, or tablet. Your site needs to be responsive. Over 50% of small law firms have a website, but only 25% of those are optimized for mobile devices.
    • Make every page on your website count. Many people make the mistake of designing one call to action and sticking it on all their pages. Instead, customize the messaging and calls to action for each practice area.
    • Be Secure: Your website should have an SSL Certificate (if not, potential clients might see a browser error in Chrome)
    • Yoast SEO Plugin: I hate having too many plugins, but Yoast SEO will get you started in the right direction. Rank Math is also a good plugin.
    • Google Analytics Installed w/ Goal Tracking Setup: You need to be able to track your traffic and conversions
    • Use Call Tracking: You can sign up for CallRail and track all calls from Google My Business, your website, billboards, etc.
    • Have Dedicated or Fast Hosting: Fast, dedicated website hosting.
    • No Bulky Framework or Themes: A big SEO killer I see is bulky slow-loading themes. They seem easy to edit but hurt you in the long run.
    • Proper Site Structure: Ensure you use a proper site and navigation structure.
    • Don’t over-optimize your website: Don’t over-optimize your website. No keyword stuffing, topical dilution, duplicate content, etc.
    • No Duplicate Content: Duplicate content is a major issue. Avoid it at all costs.
    • Use Structured Data: Addresses, Business Type, FAQ, and Reviews are all types of structured data your firm site should include.
    • Customer Testimonials: Add pictures to their reviews if you can. Let people know why you’re the best.
    • Make Your Site Error-Free: One of the biggest issues I see with new website launches is websites full of errors. Whether it’s internal 301 redirects or 404’s you should avoid these at all costs. You can crawl your website with a tool like Screaming Frog for free if your website is under 500 pages.

    Pro Tip: If you have an existing website, ensure your Design and SEO company knows about links to older URL’s. If they don’t implement the proper redirects, this is a great way to tank your site.

    Do not use Wix, Squarespace, or a bulky slow loading WordPress theme to power your website. You will lose out on organic rankings and more importantly the number of people contacting you will drop dramatically if the site load time is slow. Also, stay away from proprietary website platforms where you don’t own your website. Companies like Findlaw and Scorpion are notorious for this.

    2. Do Great Keyword Research

    Another crucial part of your foundation is keyword research. You want your website to rank for keywords that will actually drive new business to your website. It’s important to focus your efforts on optimizing content towards keywords that get traffic. Starting off with a proper keyword strategy is important to the success of your website and the structure.

    Great keyword research can be done using various tools like Ahrefs, Keyword Keg, SEMRush, and many others. Below is a screenshot from Keyword Keg.

    Keyword Research Ideas from Keyword Keg

    It’s typically best to start with a list of keywords you know you want to rank for. For example, a personal injury firm might want to rank for Car Accident Lawyer or Dog Bite Lawyer. Here are a few more tips you can use to generate more keyword ideas:

    • Ask your staff to write down questions callers have when they call in
    • Search Google for a keyword like “car accident lawyer” and see related searches
    • Check out Wikipedia articles and subtopics
    • Review what your main competitors have done

    Once you have a list of initial keywords (say 10-20), you can determine the proper site structure for your website. If you want to get an idea of what the search volume is for keywords as you search Google, make sure to download the free Chrome Plugin Keywords everywhere.

    3. Write Great Content That Answers User’s Questions

    After you know which content you will write (based on the keywords) it’s time to write great content on the topic. This is where I see attorneys struggle most. They’re experts on the subject, but writing about it can seem daunting.

    The easiest way to go about this if you have trouble writing is to think of a topic and brainstorm the most relevant sub-topics for it as well. Let’s take a practice area page for example, that might seem difficult, like “Dog Bite Lawyers”.

    • Dog Bite Statistics
    • Who is liable after a dog bite?
    • Who pays for my medical bills after a dog bite?
    • How to choose the best dog bite attorney
    • Dog Bite Laws

    Those were just a few I came up on the fly. If you were writing about this, you would probably have enough subtopics to easily create a 500-1,000-word article on the topic. Make sure to answer topics thoroughly and think about the user intent of the article. Someone typing in the keyword “Best Personal Injury Lawyer” want’s to read about either a list of great PI attorneys or why you are the best. Spend time thinking critically about the intent of all the content you write.

    Pro Tip: If writing still seems like a big issue for you, consider having your legal assistant ask these questions to you and record the answers. This can then be easily transcribed and edited for quick content.

    4. Setup & Optimize Your Google Business Profile

    Your Google business profile (formerly known as Google My Business listing) is a great way to get new market-qualified leads. If you rank well organically, your firm can also get a lot of business from the 3 pack and the local finder. Make sure you properly optimize your GMB listing to get maximum exposure.

    • Fill out your profile 100% (including photos)
    • Make sure you’re not using a virtual office and follow Google’s guidelines to the T
    • Assign the most appropriate category first and add additional categories only if they are relevant
    • Geo-Tag photos you upload
    • Represent your business accurately
    • Ensure you upload at least five photos to each category for pictures
    • If you’re a single-location business point the listing to your home page and optimize it
    • Optimize your GMB landing page with keywords in the title and content around the primary keywords
    • Post at least every two days with Google Posts
    • Add your services/ products to your GMB listing

    5. Get Listed and Complete Your Profile on Top Legal and Business Directories

    Over 80% of small law firms have a presence on at least one online directory or review site. One of the Google 3 Pack and Local Finder Ranking factors is having your business information accurately listed in the major business directories. This means your business name, address, phone number, business hours, website, description, and photos should be consistent and non-duplicative in places where people might be looking for a lawyer.

    A few of these are websites like:

    • Yelp
    • Findlaw
    • Hg.org
    • Avvo
    • Justia
    • Yellow Pages

    I have curated a whole list of these, which you can find here under the top legal and business directories.

    6. Enhance Your Online Reputation

    At the start of this article, I mentioned how potential clients might look for you in various places. This means you must be listed online with accurate profiles, up-to-date pictures, and positive client reviews and testimonials where available.

    As a starting point, check out my article on increasing your Avvo Score to understand how to build your reputation there.

    Here are the review websites you need to focus most on:

    • Google My Business
    • Yelp
    • Avvo
    • Google your law firm name or attorney name + reviews and see what ranks. Get reviews here!

    7. Setup Strong Goal Tracking

    One thing we do for our clients is create a dashboard where they can track calls, live chat, contact forms, and email submissions. Having access to this data is essential to know which marketing channels are working and which ones are not.

    Unfortunately, more often than not, people make marketing decisions based on emotional “feeling” instead of data. This is wrong and can create many long-term issues for your business.

    Here are some software tools I use to provide me with great business analytics data as to what is working.

    • Google Analytics: Free tool used to track all traffic, sources, and goal completions. You have a lot of configuration power here.
    • Call Rail: Use this to set up call tracking. Ideally, you can port your business number here and track everything.
    • Gravity Forms: WordPress Plugin we use to integrate into our form tracking through Google Analytics

    After Your Foundation Is Solid, You Can Build Your House

    Nobody wants to put much effort into building a house on sand. Online marketing is the same way. If you don’t focus on doing things the right way first, you will end up putting the cart before the horse and starting over somewhere along the line.

    Following my instructions above, you should have met the minimum requirements to start marketing your firm effectively online.

    Successful online marketing for small law firms will accomplish two things:

    • Help build your brand and reputation = This equals more referral partners
    • Help your firm generate more leads directly = This means you will sign more cases

    Once your foundation is built you can focus on the basics. Here are some of the things you should be doing.

    Since this guide is geared towards helping small firms succeed with their online marketing, the tactics are hyper-focused for organic and local SEO success.

    1. Organic and Local SEO: Increase The Number of Keywords Your Firm Ranks For

    Organic and Local SEO should be the main focus of your marketing efforts because they represent the free clicks.

    Below is a simplified roadmap you can use to help plan your law firm marketing strategy for 2018.

    Content Creation

    Creating great content that is relevant to your audience and engaging is essential to your long-term success. Using the keyword research you did earlier, you can create an editorial calendar for the year.

    Try to stick with it and be consistent, even if it’s only one article a week or one a month. Do a good job and produce great content. Here are some tips you can use to figure out what content to create and where.

    • Create an editorial calendar for the year with publishing dates
    • Create evergreen content for your firm
    • Share the content with relevant audiences on Social Media

    Link Earning

    Expand the link profile of your law firm (other authoritative website’s linking back to your firm) by using these tactics to build your link profile over time. A variety of efforts are going to have the strongest effect. Focus on links that are relevant to your firm by niche (E.G. Legal) or Local links (e.g.: local news stations).

    Here are some ideas you can use today

    • Scholarship link building: Offer a scholarship and conduct outreach to schools to post your scholarship.
    • Free Cab Ride Campaign: Offer free cab rides on holidays
    • Legal Directory Links: Get the most important legal directory links
    • Community Links: Get listed on the most popular websites in your community
    • Sponsorship Links: Reach out to events or organizations you sponsor and ask them to link back to your website
    • Law firm link building tactics

    Citation Building

    Continue to boost your citation profile over time. Set a small goal, such as 10 per month. These are places where you can list your business Name, Address, and Phone Number.

    Get Reviews

    A ranking factor and major reputation trust factor comes from reviews on Google My Business. You should strive to get these regularly from previous happy clients. You should also set up a system for getting these as cases finish in the future. This needs to be a cornerstone of your marketing.

    Use Google Posts

    Google allows you to post regularly in the search results using their new platform, Google Posts. You should post here at least once a week to showcase awards, results, or social proof to improve your conversions.

    2. Social Marketing: Get In Front of Relevant Audiences

    If you read our guide on Evergreen content marketing, you may have some ideas of how you can use paid social to promote your firm. Let’s say that you published a post, “Most Dangerous Intersections in [City Name]” that was based on actual accident data.

    You could do a pretty sweet write-up on this and integrate a free Google Map. But if you create content and nobody see’s it, what good does it do? None.

    To get some eyeballs on the article you wrote, build your brand, and create awareness in the community, you could take advantage of Facebook or Instagram advertising and promote this to people of legal driving age who live within your city.

    This is a great and low-cost way to get your content to a relevant audience.

    3. Email Marketing

    Another staple of any small firm marketing should be email marketing. Most law firm partners I speak with oppose it for one reason or another, but I assure you’re leaving money on the table if you’re not doing this. At a minimum, you should send out a monthly newsletter and consistently work on growing your list.

    Small Firm Marketing Expanded

    Smaller firms typically have lower marketing budgets. If my budget was less than $25,000 per year, the areas mentioned above are where I would put most of that budget. If the budget was expanded, however, there are other avenues you should consider as well.

    Pay Per Click

    Pay-per-click is a great way to get immediate traffic to your website. However for some lawyers, it can be cost prohibitive to get involved with. Remember that advertisers who rank organically and locally will see better results than those who only rank in the paid sections.

    Legal Directories

    I love to hate legal directories. By themselves, I see them as a big waste, but as a supplementary marketing method, I see where they benefit a firm, especially if they have a lot of search share (AKA: They already rank for keywords you want to rank for). Sign up for these with caution and measure your results. You also have to remember these typically rank for important keywords too. So if it ranks, you should be listed there. It’s another opportunity for your get in front of another client.

    What Channels Have Been Most Effective For Your Small Law Firm?

    Over the years I have gotten to speak with a lot of different attorneys that have different opinions on what works and what doesn’t. I have heard most of the horror stories, but I want to know the good stories. Are you doing something that I didn’t mention which you find successful at generating new clients?

    If so, let me know in the comments below!

    Casey Meraz Casey Meraz is an entrepreneur, SEO expert, investor, creator, husband, father, friend, and CEO of Juris Digital. Casey is a frequent speaker at industry events and the author of two books on digital marketing, including "Local Marketing for Personal Injury Lawyers" and “How to Perform the Ultimate Local SEO Audit”
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