My Internet Marketing Strategy for Law Firms | 7 Pillars to Success

Seven Pillars of SEO SuccessWhether you have been marketing your law firm for years or whether you’re starting a new practice, getting clients is important for your business. Over time you can develop a strong network for offline advertising including referrals, word of mouth and repeat customers. But how do you market your law firm in today’s competitive market?

Should you market your law firm online?

If you follow technology news, you can see the scary downside of being involved in search engine optimization these days. If you do things or hire an unethical SEO Company that participates in activities that Google does not like, then your site can receive the dreadful manual penalty which can remove your site from Google altogether.

Your site was penalized by Google

 

Plan For The Worst, But Expect The Best

Knowing the risks, planning for the future, and setting up a solid internet marketing campaign is essential to your long term sustained success. This strategy is not meant to be full proof, but it’s meant to take advantage of many different areas of online marketing. If you’re being successful in each of these areas then your lead generation will be diverse enough that you’re not dependent on just one form of marketing. Basically, it’s important to do things this way to mitigate any potential issues with your website that you didn’t know were coming from hiring someone that was trying to take the easy way out.

If you’re serious about online marketing don’t consider taking the easy way out. Instead develop a long term strategy that encompasses these seven points.

Pillar #1: Organic SEO

What is it?
According to Wikipedia, SEO “is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s “natural” or un-paid (“organic”) search results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users.” In other words, these are the free listings that you see on search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. These results are not the ones that display office locations. A typical organic result looks like this:

A typical organic result from Google

 

How you can be successful with this approach
Great content backed by great links will allow you to get strong organic rankings. To have a successful organic SEO campaign you have to be good at content marketing. There are no longer any shortcuts that are advisable to take. If you are into taking shortcuts, you have to acknowledge that it will one day catch up to you and likely be catastrophic to your business when it happens. Although this plan helps diversify this, it’s important to remain ethical and above board. Typically, successful organic SEO campaigns are great at many things including:

  1. Creating great content – This deserves its entire own section, but creating content that is useful for your website visitors and educational. Many law firms make the mistake of driving a hard sales pitch. You have to remember that your client’s care much more about how you can help them, then how cool your law firm is. Some topics you might consider entertaining are FAQ pages. Many people who are in need of a lawyer have questions. Creating FAQ pages will allow you to answer these commonly asked questions. This will drive traffic and hopefully conversions.
  2. Creating Useful Content – Everyone talks about great content, but what is it? To me, great content is useful content. If a searcher has a specific intent and you answer their questions you’ve helped them and they’re more likely to be interested in your service. Plus, when you go out of your way to make great content that serves this purpose, others will link to it as well.
  3. Sharing The Content with The Appropriate Audience – This is probably the biggest misconception when it comes to creating content. Many people think that “If you write it they will come”. While this might be true in some cases you’re pretty much setting yourself up for failure with a set it and forget it attitude. You should spend just as much time sharing your content with the proper audience as you did writing it.

You must promote any content you write

 

Let’s say that you just finished a great piece about “10 Ways to Avoid Bankruptcy”. Who do you think might be interested in this audience? Headlines like this are things I see on CNN, Yahoo, and MSN all of the time. This type of content MIGHT have more of a social appeal. So what can you do once it’s written? I would spend $100 on Outbrain.com which will show your story on the major news sites like CNN based on costs per click that are pretty low. I might consider the same to a very targeted group of people on Facebook. If I didn’t want to spend the money and wanted a more organic approach, I would do a Google Search for “bankruptcy advice forum” and similar search terms where I can find places I can contribute to. On a resource like this you will find people that are already interested in the topic. Maybe I can share it with them. Do they have social media channels or groups? Maybe I can outreach to the owners and group managers and see if they’re willing to share my story.

 

If you are good at creating content, then you will drive links to your website which is something that the search engines still put a lot of weight into.

Pillar 2: Local SEO

What is it?
Local SEO is one of my favorite topics and my passion. I frequently write about local SEO topics such as building citations, reviews, and I love that smaller businesses can compete in this field. Local results use a different algorithm than the traditional organic SEO results. Local SEO results show up in the area you have an office location in. For example, if your office is in Los Angeles, you might see results like this below:

Local SEO Results

Local SEO Results will typically have the upside tear drops labeled A-F

How you can be successful with this approach
Being successful in Local SEO is different than organic results. Unlike typical organic results, local SEO requires that you have a physical presence within the city you are trying to compete in. This means you have a staffed office with actual business hours. If you have this then you can setup a Google Places account at www.google.com/places. Once your listings are properly setup and claimed, there are few things you can do to raise your visibility over time. The main factors are:

Note: If you want to learn more about local ranking factors, check out the 2013 Local ranking factors survey I participated in from Moz published here.

Pillar 3: Barnacle SEO

Will Scott from Searchinfluence originally wrote about this in 2011. According to Will, he defines Barnacle SEO as “attaching oneself to a large fixed object and waiting for the customers to float by in the current.”. I see this as a two prong approach. What if you were to rank for a keyword organically, locally, and on other 3rd party sites whom take up the top search results for that keyword. Or what if…

A good example of Barnacle SEO where every SERP is owned by one business

Using the example above, it’s easy to see how you could dominate your industry by not only having your own website rank, but also if you ranked within 3rd party websites that refer services to your law firm. In the example above if the attorney were to show up first on Justia.com, Youtube.com, and Lawyers.com, he would effectively own the search results for that keyword. Plus, third party recommendations are always a great thing.

How you can be successful with this approach
This is definitely a long term strategy.  It needs to be well thought out and built into the core of your business. Instead of just adopting the previous mindset of “how do I rank in Google” you now have to see what industry websites are ranking in your vertical. For attorney based searches I see a lot of weight now given to Justia.com, Lawyers.com, Yelp.com, Superlawyers.com, and Avvo.com. However, each of these websites use their own individual algorithm to rate their results. Now before you get too scared and decide to try to reverse engineer an algorithm that could change at any moment, you should take a step back. Instead of trying to do this, you can change your mindset to “How can I show people I’m the best in my industry”?  If you take this approach and come up with a solid review strategy to get actual customer reviews on each of these sites then you’ll be on the right track. Typically, if you have a complete profile, you participate in the network, and your customers are happy and leaving you reviews, your rankings will rise.  Just like humans, these 3rd party sites want to rank the BEST result. If you keep to best practices and are in fact doing a good job for your clients, the rest will come.

Bonus Tip: There’s another thing I want to mention regarding Barnacle SEO….

Not only can you rank within these sites, but you can also take traditional organic techniques and have your profile rank for that term. For example, let’s say that you already hold a local and organic listing to your website for the keyword you want to rank for. What if instead of Yelp.com ranking with a category relating to your industry category, your listing on Yelp.com showed instead? You can accomplish this too by building great content on your Yelp pages, getting reviews, and also building strong links to your profile page on Yelp or any other website you want to show up there.

Pillar 4: Pay Per Click

If you’re not familiar with Pay Per Click these are the paid ads that show up at the top and right hand side of the Google search result pages. Basically you can show up here if you pay for each and every click. For some industries, it’s cost effective, but unfortunately for many attorneys it is a very expensive option. Some of these clicks can range in the $100 to $200 price point for a Personal Injury Attorney. That being said there have been numerous studies done that show having an AD as well as showing up organically will increase the click through rate. While this does not have to be the primary leg of your campaign, understanding it is crucial. If anything ever happens to get you taken out of Google and you were solely dependent on organic results, then you would be screwed. I typically recommend clients invest a little into their PPC as well as all of the other efforts. Also by having an understanding of this product you can turn it on or off in a time of need. That being said it’s also important to not just set this and forget it. You need to have it actively managed by someone who knows what they’re doing. Otherwise, you will waste a lot of money.

Pay Per Click Advertising Example Google Adwords

How you can be successful with this approach
I had a great conversation recently with Athan Tsakalakis, the PPC manager at AttorneySync. While specifically talking about the Personal Injury field, he mentioned that he has typically seen head terms as the highest and fastest converting for his clients. We have also seen the same for much of our organic traffic. Although the prices for these clicks are higher than other industries, you will find that the face value price of $100 or higher will reduce drastically with a higher quality score. If you are able to get an AD up that can eventually get a quality score of 8, you will see your cost per clicks go down. In addition, if you are able to do this you are prepared for the future when and if you need to put more emphasis or a higher budget on that ad. By this point you will have already optimized your methods and be ready to up your spend and be successful in times of need.

 

Pillar 5: Retargeting

An example of remkarketingHave you ever visited a website looking at a product or service then later in the day or week noticed an ad for that product or service appearing on another website? That was no coincidence. That’s called retargeting. For attorneys you will probably hear mixed reviews of whether or not this is successful or even ethical in some cases. However if you have ever heard of the Rule of Seven it’s easy to see why this extra impression may help. The rule of seven indicates that a potential buyer needs to see your message at least 7 times before making a purchasing decision.

How to Be Successful
If you decide to join the retargeting group it’s important that your message is consistent. Like any marketing you dip your feet in, it’s important to be and stay consistent with your message. If you’re promoting the same message across these different mediums then that is where you’re going to see the biggest bang for your buck. Of course you also don’t want to start your retargeting campaign until you have relevant traffic already going to your site. I think Andrew Lolk said it best, “Remarketing efforts depend 100% on your other advertising. If you currently don’t have any traffic on your site, you will have no customers to remarket to.” (Source: Searchenginejournal.com).

Once you have the necessary traffic you can go about working with your designer to create the different display ads for your campaign.

 

Pillar 6: Email Marketing

Most people think that they won’t be effective with email marketing. Most of those same people are usually right because they never tried it or never tried to get good at it. Next to organic search, Email Marketing is typically the second highest converting marketing method.

Mailchimp Logo

How to Be Successful
Most people are too intimidated by email marketing to even give it a try. Thankfully it’s gotten pretty simple. If you’re new to email marketing I suggest signing up for MailChimp.com. Did I mention it’s free? With Mailchimp you can Send 12,000 emails to 2,000 subscribers for free. Once your list grows over that it’s still very cost effective. They also have templates you can use for your emails. In addition to their templates, they have a simple WordPress Widget that you can easily add to your website. But how do get you subscribers?

Getting subscribers is the the most important part of an email list. If you have nobody to send it to then you’re off to a bad start. The good news is that it’s easy to start growing your list. When you’re dealing with email you need permission from the subscriber before you add them to your list. This is a legal requirement from the CAN-SPAM Act. Start off small by asking previous clients, prospective clients, friends and families if they want to join your email list. Be very clear about your intentions and how often you’re going to send emails out. I typically suggest monthly emails to be sent from my clients. This will get you started. But how do you keep them interested?

Let’s face it. If you’re an attorney and you write your monthly email about something boring or something that won’t help them, they’re going to jump ship. It’s important that the message you send out in your email is important and has the possibility of being engaging. If you’re an injury attorney don’t send out an email covering news stories. This is boring and I don’t want to see this in my inbox. Instead, you can tie your content with your content marketing efforts on a social level. Find topics that might be useful to your friends. If its near a Holiday like New Years Eve you can write about “Have Fun & Stay Safe: Free Rides on New Year Eve” or maybe you even partnered with a hotel in the area and offer discounted room rates encouraging people not to drive (Hint: You can use a similar topic for any US Drinking Holiday).

Business Insurance recently did a topic “10 Ridiculously Frivolous Lawsuits Against Big Businesses”. That topic might engage your user and cause them to share it on social media.

If you keep it interesting your audience will grow with a little promotion. Ask everyone who calls if they want to join your list. It will keep you relevant and when the time comes when they need an attorney, they will know who to call. If you want to learn more about email marketing check this out and learn about 37 email marketing tips.

Pillar 7: Social Media

So you’ve heard of Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and so many others you don’t even know where to start. Social media sites can be very powerful as a supplemental resource to all of the great marketing you’re already doing. By itself it might be difficult to see the ROI as an attorney but as a part of our overall strategy you will see how it can help. Whether you’re a solo practice or a large firm, It’s important to commit to social media in some capacity that you can keep up with. Don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking you have to do it all. Instead quality is better than quantity.

How To Be Successful
As an attorney, the biggest benefit you’re going to get out of social media will likely be for promoting your own content. Creating great content is an awesome thing, but if nobody reads it, then it didn’t do you any good. If you have to prioritize your efforts I would say focus on Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. If you have more time I would recommend becoming a contributor on websites like Avvo.com where you can answer legal questions for people and increase your online visibility. Whatever you decide to commit to it’s important to stay consistent.

Google Plus
Your goal here is to grow your circles. The more circles you’re apart of and the more conversations you contribute to, the more people are going to recognize your name. Also since this is a Google product it may be more heavily tied into search in the future.

Twitter
Your goal with Twitter is to increase your follower count, scan daily for hashtags that apply to your business such as #attorney, and tweet the content you create. Getting a link from a tweet is not a bad thing and if you can get your message to a bigger audience you will want to do it.

Facebook
Facebook is a big player in social media but to be quite honest I have not seen a lot of engagement on here for my attorney clients. If you are writing social content, you can increase your likes and followers and spread your message further.

LinkedIn
If you’re a B2B attorney using linked in has some advantages. If you create content that might be good for a B2B audience you can join all of the Entrepreneur groups you can find and then post a link to that content. If you do this right, you’re going to increase readership and get more exposure for your content.

Although there are many other social networks out there, I typically will suggest staying away from them unless you have a specific goal for them. I work with some attorney’s that make attorney picture boards on Pinterest with some success, but if definitely requires a plan and consistency.

What does this all mean?

I’m going to be writing a more detailed follow up plan on each of these topics. My goal with this post was to provide a general roadmap for success so that you can get started. Don’t wait around. Don’t sit around. With the information above you can start marketing your law firm today. Put together a weekly schedule of your marketing goals and just stick to it. It doesn’t matter if you’re only taking one step at a time. Progress is progress. Work on building your brand everyday and in time you will see the fruits of your labor without the risk of being banned from Google or other search engines.

Below is a short list of things I have not had success with when marketing attorneys (but not saying others have not)
Facebook Ads for attorneys – I’m referring to their Pay Per Click options.
Yelp Pay Per Click – I tested this but didn’t see the conversions I wanted.
Avvo Ignite – I tested this and didn’t get a conversion. I was also way over promised.

Have questions or comments? Ask away below!


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Casey Meraz

Casey is the founder and president of Ethical SEO Consulting and Juris Digital based in Denver, CO. Casey's specialties are in organic and local SEO. He is a regular contributor to the Moz Blog and the author of How To Perform The Ultimate Local SEO Audit. If you have an SEO question or need advice please feel free to reach out by email: cmeraz@jurisdigital.com. Follow Casey on Twitter @CaseyMeraz.