Marketing for Law Firms in 2019

Marketing your law firm in 2019 is all about being there when your potential clients are looking for services you offer.

I’ve updated this post every year for the past three years to bring you the most current strategies and tactics for marketing your law firm online – strategies you can use to sign more clients.

Before implementing any strategy, just be sure to:

Any strategy or tactic you spend time on should get you closer to a predetermined goal. If you don’t, you’ll wonder why you spent so much time on projects with so little to show for it.

How can you know if you’re successful? While rankings, traffic, and other organic success metrics are great, they’re a means to an end. Truly successful online marketing should result in:

  1. New clients
  2. Larger referral network
  3. Increased brand awareness and positive brand sentiment

If 2018 didn’t go the way you planned, you still turn things around! Let’s review how the digital marketing landscape has changed in the last year, and how you can capitalize on it to get more clients.

The State of Digital Marketing in 2019

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Google made a lot of changes to the search engine results pages (SERPs) last year. Real estate for traditional organic results shrunk and user behavior shifted with it.

Some of the recent changes include:

  1. More featured snippets in search results
    This year we saw the real estate at the top of the search results get even smaller. Because these snippets take up a lot of the space at the top of SERPs and push down traditional organic results, law firms that capture them get a majority of the clicks.
    Featured snippet result in Google
  2. Lots of algorithmic updates
    High volatility this year tanked the traffic of some law firms and increased the traffic of others. To be in the latter camp, focus on quality, comprehensiveness, relevance, and whatever else it takes to make the page valuable to your target audience.Losses in organic traffic: Graph from SEMRUsh
    An organic traffic graph from SEM Rush Showing Gains
  3. Consumer trust in local results went up
    Based on our internal lead tracking, we saw a significant increase in the number of leads generated from local results (people becoming clients by clicking on law firm results in the map section of search results). This was especially prevalent for law firms who had a lot of great reviews.An example of a 3 pack showing for a keyword search in San Jose

There were tons of other updates as well, including:

And so many more…

Although this article discusses online marketing, there are many other channels where a potential client can find your law firm. Some of these include:

And yet with all these changes, the goal really stays the same. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time when your potential customers are looking for your services. 

But are your potential clients even looking online?

Do people look for lawyers online?

The most successful law firms dive into how clients are making the decision to contact their firm. Was it based on reviews, a reference, a cool website, experience with a similar matter, or something else?

Suvery-Consumer-Legal-Research

According to a study we conducted in 2018, 49% of people research their legal issue before hiring a lawyer. Research may be even more prevalent now than it was in years prior due to the prevalence of smartphones and the ability to get your questions answered at a moment’s notice.

Each potential client’s journey is different, so analyzing your marketing data can reveal how consumers are finding and choosing their legal representation. Knowing this can help you make smarter marketing decisions, instead of shooting at initiatives in the dark.

 

 

Which search engines should law firms prioritize?

According to Net Market Share (as of January 2019) “the global marketing share percentage, in terms of the use of Search Engines, heavily favors Google,” with over 74% of all online searches starting there.

Search engine market share as of January 2019:

Wondering about DuckDuckGo? The search engine that feeds on people’s privacy concerns recently broke 1 billion monthly searches and is now at about 0.26% market share.

Search engine market share data can be a bit misleading when we look at the top visited websites overall though. While Google is the most popular search engine, plenty of people frequent other platforms to find their information.

Just look at the data from Alexa.com to see the top visited websites in the world:

alexa.com top visited websites

This data shows that the second most visited website in the world is YouTube.com, followed by Facebook.com.

Do you see the potential opportunity here?

When people are in research mode, they may use YouTube for a quick tutorial video. For example, someone might query “how to prepare for a tax audit.” Addressing this question with a video is a great opportunity for a tax attorney to get in front of a potential client.

youtube for lawyers

Also, similar to a word of mouth referral, a potential client could make a public Facebook post asking for a recommendation from their friends. People who have worked with or heard good things about a particular law firm could respond to a post like this with the name of the firm.

facebook recommend lawyer

Although Google sends a large share of potential new clients to your website, there are many other ways a potential client can find you as well.

At Juris Digital, we prioritize the following channels (although not necessarily in this order):

  1. Google
  2. YouTube
  3. Bing
  4. Facebook
  5. Legal Directories

Where to focus your legal marketing efforts?

Because we know Google tends to send a majority of the traffic to law firm websites, it’s a good idea to consider both ways you can capture that Google traffic: paid ads and organic ranking.

Paid Search vs. Organic Search: Which will bring your firm more cases?

In our experience, traffic to law firm websites from the organic and local organic results trump traffic sent by paid results.

To show this, let’s take a quick look a typical search for a personal injury lawyer in Oakland, California.

The first screenshot shows “above the fold” (what you see before having to scroll) results on a desktop computer. Notice how the ads take up most of the screen, yet they account for fewer than 5% of all the clicks.

Paid Results only represent 5% of clicks in Google according to a recent study

Below the paid ads, Yelp is in the #1 organic position. Right below Yelp sits Google’s 3-pack of relevant local business listings.

Organic and local results below the fold

Scrolling further down the page, you’ll see a legal directory and multiple law firm websites.

Organic Search Results Where Users Might Click

While ads take up most of the above-the-fold real estate for bottom-funnel (searcher is ready to commit/purchase) keywords, we know from the data that most people click on one of the other result options we just outlined.

Law firms can increase their chances of being chosen by potential clients by maximizing the number of places their website appears on Google’s first page. You can be in all four places:

Are you listed where you need to be to achieve your marketing goals? Or are you solely relying on PPC where you might only be chosen by 5% of your potential new clients?

Just remember, it takes a considerable amount of time and effort to earn those organic and local results – even more for law firms who just launched a new website or are just starting marketing for the first time. While you’re still working on earning organic rankings, it’s wise to run paid advertising. With PPC and SEO, it’s a matter of “both/and” rather than “either/or.”

We know that searchers click on PPC less than organic and law firms should ideally appear in both to maximize their chances of being chosen by their potential clients. However, plenty of searches don’t result in a click at all.

Rand Fishkin recently pointed this out in his study “Google CTR in 2018: Paid, Organic, & No-Click Searches.” In other words, there are plenty of instances when potential clients conduct a search but don’t click through to you or your competitors’ websites, even when they’re ranking on page 1. This tends to happen when the searcher gets all the information they need on the search result itself. They simply don’t need to click on a website to get what they were looking for.

What does that mean for law firms? They’ll likely have to dedicate more resources to brand building and creative thinking in order to capture more leads from search results.

What channels should law firms prioritize for getting new clients in 2019?

What channels (lead sources) should your law firm prioritize if you want more clients in 2019?

The answer will change based on your priorities, but we recommend focusing on these four.

1.     Referrals

This article discusses online marketing, but you should never forget to stop fostering any referral relationships you have. In the digital realm, this mostly includes personalized communication through email and social media. You can also expand your efforts with outreach on these channels.

2.     Organic

As we saw above, most clicks go to organic search. Having a powerful and properly optimized website that ranks for keywords at all stages of someone’s purchase journey, from research to decision, should be your primary source of new leads. In addition to quality content development, your website must load fast, be mobile friendly, and have clear calls to action.

3.     Paid Search

Bidding on legal keywords with Google Ads and paying for the clicks you get is an easy and quick way to drive traffic, although not always cheap. A single click on a high-competition keyword like “mesothelioma lawyer” will cost you over $200. Paying for ads in combination with organic ranking can increase your click-through rate (CTR) for both. Studies show that websites get more clicks when they’re featured in both PPC and organic than if they’re featured in either in isolation.

4.     Directories

From my research, few people go to a directory like Yelp or Avvo and search for an attorney. Rather, they Google “personal injury attorney near me” and click on a directory link that’s ranking in the search results.

denver legal directories

Your law firm should invest in showing up at the top of relevant category pages on directories that rank for your most important keywords, which you can accomplish through methods like directory paid advertising or a high quantity of positive reviews.

Related: Yelp Advertising: Good or Bad for Law firms

The directories I’m seeing more commonly in legal search results are:

Focus Your Law Firm Marketing Efforts

You’ve heard phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none,” well, the law firms I see struggling the most with digital marketing are the ones trying to target a multitude of disparate practice areas and/or locales.

For example, I recently spoke with a law firm in Southern California that wanted to do marketing for the following practice areas:

He wanted personal injury cases because of the high case values, but he knew good personal injury cases didn’t come along every day. He believed he would need to add family law, bankruptcy, immigration, and criminal defense to supply his cash flow while waiting for those big personal injury payouts.

While this might make sense initially, think about it from a potential client’s perspective. Can someone really be good at all those things? The scattered focus is off-putting. Additionally, Google has a tough time recognizing what this attorney specializes in since their topical authority is so fragmented.

When you focus on too many things you dilute your efforts and minimize the impact of each initiative. At the end of the day, it comes down to simple math. Would you rather focus on 10 areas and sign no cases or focus on one area and sign 100 cases?

This is not to say that you cannot focus on multiple practice areas, but you shouldn’t dilute your efforts too much. You just need to focus on the areas that are going to be best for meeting your unique business goals. 

We have had the most success with the client websites that focus on a single practice area in a single geographic area. We call this a “hyper-focused website,” and when done properly, it can drive impressive results quickly.

Use these tips to help your law firm focus on what’s most important.

Focus on every stage of the sales funnel

As someone who works a lot with personal injury lawyers, I have a lot of pride when my clients rank for keywords like “Car Accident Lawyer.” It captures the attention of people ready to hire an attorney and would cost a lot of money if my client were to have to bid on that term, so ranking organically for it makes me feel good.

However, a strategy based only on those bottom-funnel keywords is incomplete. Why? Because people research before they buy.

Your potential clients should be able to find you at any phase of their purchase journey, from research to evaluation to decision. While the people at the bottom of the funnel (“car accident lawyer” searchers) are ready to buy, you can use top and mid-funnel content to assist conversions (those visitors can result in clients later on down the line when they’re readier).

Consider the following examples:

What if your firm already established rapport by the time they need to make the decision to hire a lawyer? This is where marketing funnels, automation, and lead magnets come in.

Stages of the Average Law Firm Sales Funnel

The typical law firm funnel will have five stages.

  1. Awareness:This is the top of the funnel and it’s the point where someone is just starting to do initial research. This is where you should add value to potential customers. Think about e-books and helpful resources that can solve their pain points and answer their questions.
  2. Consideration:After the customer becomes more aware of what they need they start the consideration process where they’ll evaluate their options. They might do this by looking for different law firms and comparing their reviews.
  3. Conversion:This is where a potential client is ready to buy. For lead generation websites like the average law firm website, a conversion happens when they call or fill out a contact form. Focus on getting visibility for these bottom-funnel keywords and providing your website visitors with a frictionless path to contact you.
  4. Loyalty:After you have a customer you can keep them back for repeat engagements. Use customer loyalty to leverage reviews.
  5. Advocacy:Doing an excellent job for a client results in the possibility of creating brand advocates. These customers will rave about your brand and tell their friends who are in need.

Using tactics discussed later in this article, you will see how you can use your marketing efforts to focus on these funnels.

Law Firm Marketing Checklist

Now that you’ve read through my brain dump, it’s time for the meat of this article and tactical advice you can use.

The checklist below includes a lot of action items you can use today to help improve your firm’s marketing presence online in 2018. It will help you generate new leads, generate new clients, and grow your referral network.

1. Improve Your Law Firm’s Website

Your website is at the forefront of all your digital marketing efforts. Whether your clients find you through your website or visit it after finding your firm in a directory, your website’s performance needs to be front and center. Not to mention you should* (some scrappy marketing companies don’t let you own your own website) have complete control over what people see when it comes to your website.

All online marketing connects and interacts with your website at some point. The tips below focus on performing your website in terms of conversions and organic rankings. Therefore, your website should be your number one priority. It’s also where you have the most potential. Here are some things you can work on right away to improve your own website.

a. Your Website Needs to Be Mobile Friendly

A scary amount of law firm websites out there are not mobile friendly. In fact, if you’ve paid for a FindLaw website in the past, you need to check yours out. If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website (responsive design is Google’s preferred way to make websites mobile friendly) you’re creating a poor experience for half or more of your website visitors. If you’re not sure if your website is mobile friendly you can use Google’s free mobile-friendly website test here. Just enter your website address and select “run test.”

How to check if your website is mobile friendly according to Google

b. Ensure Your Website Is Secure Through SSL

If your website does not have an SSL certificate installed, you should move on this one right away. Google Chrome, which is now the most popular web browser in the U.S., now shows warnings in the address bar if your website is not secure (your website address starts with http:// rather than https://)

How to see if your website is secure

c. Make Your Website Load Fast

There are a lot of great website options out there depending on your needs. We prefer WordPress since that means our clients can own it. It’s open source, which means we can make any change we need to it at any time (better than platforms like Squarespace). Many law firms I spoke with in 2018 were disappointed to hear that they had just invested a ton of money in a new website, yet it didn’t load fast. In fact, some websites load painfully slow (example from Google PageSpeed Insights below). Having a slow website is a major problem that a lot of law firms overlook. Page speed is a ranking factor, and it can also make or break your conversions once visitors land on your website.

law firm page speed

Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool here.

d. Improve your content

Use a website crawler like Screaming Frog and link it with your Google Analytics to evaluate your web pages. In an ideal world, every page on your website will rank and perform, but that’s not a reality. Over time, you’ll need to rewrite, remove, or consolidate pages that are under-performing.

e. Check for crawl errors

Any time you move, delete, or rename a page on your website, the old version of the URL will return a 404 error unless it is 301 redirected. This tells search engine bots and human searchers where they can find the new version of the page – good for user experience and necessary for search engines to transfer your page’s authority to the new location! To find errors, use the image below to locate your crawl error report in Google Search Console. Create a 301 redirect for any valid URL listed in this report (note: Googlebot doesn’t always get it right! Sometimes pages are listed in the 404 report that never existed. You only need to create 301s for pages that used to exist but have since been moved).

Do you have search console errors in Google? Find out by logging into search console and checking here

f. Use Structured Data

Make it easier for Google and other search engines to understand what your pages are about by adding structured data markup! Some structured data markup can even qualify your pages for special “rich” features when they appear in the search results. For example, adding valid review schema can result in stars next to your organic listing in search results.

g. Call your website visitors to action

I see so many bad law firm websites out there. Just last week I saw a non-mobile friendly website where I had to pinch my fingers on my phone just to see the phone number. And then the phone number was an image that wasn’t even clickable. You need to make your firm easier to contact and appeal to the contact methods of your ideal clients. Although phone calls are highest converting for our clients, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use contact forms as well. Just make sure to be prompt on the response and even hire an answering service if you need more help handling your inbound leads.

2. Grow Your Law Firm’s Organic Visibility

The reason you want to grow your law firm’s organic visibility in the search results is that if you do it right you will generate loads of free traffic that will bring new business to your firm.

A graph showing positive SEO growth over time

Here are the areas you should focus on to improve your organic SEO presence.

a. Produce great content regularly (and promote it)

If you still think “freshness” is more important than quality, then you’re doing something wrong. Publishing content on a regular basis is only as good as the quality of each individual post.

That’s one of the reasons I always cringe a bit when I talk to a potential client and they tell me something like “well the other company told me they were going to produce 30 pieces of content a month.” Volume will get you absolutely no results if there’s not an appropriate strategy behind each piece.

Quality is about so much more than being error-free (although we encourage using a tool like Grammarly). Great content is built on the foundation of keyword research (understanding the words and phrases your audience is using to search for the service you offer). Great content exceeds the quality of all other content currently ranking for that keyword. Great content engages the reader with relevant images and formatting.

Great content takes a lot of time and effort to produce, but it yields the strongest return on your investment.

With content, there are several types of content a law firm might want to create. Here is a list of a few types of content we regularly create at Juris Digital:

You not only want to create that content, but you’ll need to promote it so people share it and link to it! You could share your posts on social media, for example, or include a link to your post in your newsletter.

Successful content is purposeful content. In other words, create every page with a goal in mind. Was it to earn links or viral lift? Find the right metric and measure its success.

b. Earn Great Links

Links from other websites pointing to your own (“backlinks” or “inbound links”) are still a major ranking factor. So how do you earn those links? With great content!

Let’s say, for example, you created the ultimate long form guide for “How Long Does the Average Personal Injury Lawsuit Take?” If you put in the work to create the content, you can take one of two approaches.

Approach #1: Sit back and wait for the links to roll in. It can happen with great content, but in the legal niche, it can be a bit harder. You would see better results if you took approach #2.

Approach #2: Conduct extensive research to figure out who else writes about the process of a personal injury case. You can figure out what keywords people are searching and see who they reference. You can then conduct outreach to them and see if they’re willing to link to you.

The second approach is a more proactive one, which is usually necessary for drawing attention to your piece. After all, people won’t link to your content if they don’t know about it! So don’t be afraid to promote to particular people with the goal of getting them to link to you.

There are plenty of ways lawyers can earn links. Check out this example of a community free cab ride program we ran for the holidays in Northern California and the linked coverage it got. Those are valuable websites linking to our client!

One example of how we earned links for a client

3. Audit your pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns

Thankfully, based on all the cool tools Google provides, we can evaluate our PPC campaign performance with relative ease.

Here are some things to check on:

4. Pay attention to Google My Business

Your Google My Business listing represents your business in Google’s map pack and local finder. Ensuring maximum visibility in local results is a sure-fire way to drum up new business. Assuming you’ve followed the basics, here are some other areas you can take advantage of to get a leg up on your competition.

a. Use Google Posts regularly

From Google My Business, your business can now publish Posts. These posts show up in search results like this:

An example of a Google Post in SERPS

There are two main types of Posts:

We’re still playing around with the effect these can have on Google Rankings with keywords, but we recommend posting at least once a week.

b. Utilize Google’s Q&A feature

Another new feature Google quietly rolled out to the search results pages is Q&A. Logged-in Google users can ask public questions that business owners should respond to. While this does open opportunities for spam, it’s a fantastic way to figure out what potential customers want to know about your business.

Pro Tip: If you get questions here, use them to write comprehensive answers and videos that answer the questions on your website.

Questions and answers through Google My Business

c. Encourage reviews

Legitimate reviews for your business are hard to get. However, reviews are worth the effort. If your business has zero reviews, you’re likely missing out on potential clients who value online reviews from third parties. It usually takes about 3 starts to start getting your business to show review stars in the local pack.

In addition to the click-through benefits reviews provide (people are more likely to click on businesses with a higher star rating), reviews from trusted sources and using relevant keywords can increase your overall rankings in Google’s local pack and local finder.

Every law firm should have an active review system to continually gain reviews from satisfied clients. GatherUp (formerly GetFiveStars) is a great automated software solution that can integrate into your current business practices.

Google displays reviews prominently in the local pack, for example:

Google Review Example

Also, pay attention and put together a plan to get reviews from third-party review sites as well including ones that appear most for your business. Some examples include:

d. Check for citation indexing

A frequent problem I see is people paying to get citations built or by using a service like Yext and then assuming all is well. But creating a citation for your business doesn’t mean it will necessarily be indexed (meaning even though they exist, Google hasn’t stored them in its index of pages that can be served up in search results). To check if your citation has been indexed, try adding “info:” to the beginning of the citation URL and seeing if Google returns any results. If not, work on posting, getting reviews, and getting links to those profiles to encourage indexing.

4. Grow Your Reputation & Increase Your Visibility

Just like some potential clients may find you through Bing or YouTube, they may also start their journey elsewhere. There are tons of legal directories out there that get massive amounts of traffic and rank for a variety of keywords. In fact, many of these directories even run their own PPC campaigns.

For most attorneys, the directories listed below will be a great starting point. Make sure you have strong visibility in each of them, but also conduct your own due diligence to see which directories tend to rank for keywords that are important to your law firm.

Here are the directories I suggest law firms start with:

Avvo Directory: They have a paid product which can rotate you at the top. Also, get your 10 Superb Rating by reading my guide.

5. Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing carries a lot of benefits that can help supplement your organic SEO results as well as reach an audience through paid promotion. Develop every social media campaign to target a certain goal and have a defined target audience. This allows you to promote your content in the most effective manner.

You can make social media management easier in general by using a tool like Buffer to schedule your posts.

a. Post & Engage on Twitter

Twitter is another platform to post content about your law firm and share it with relevant audiences. Some of our clients get great engagement posting to Twitter and growing their audiences.

You can also use Twitter to reach out to journalists and let them know about newsworthy events you’re running like free cab rides on holidays.

b. Utilize Facebook & Instagram (organic & paid!)

Facebook and Instagram aren’t going anywhere. Although their organic reach has dropped significantly, their pay to play model is great. Facebooks paid advertising allows you to reach your target audience based on a number of factors.

Here are just a few of the ways we use Facebook paid promotions.

Facebook Ad Tracking

There are a million and one ways you can use Facebook for marketing your law firm. Drawing out what these campaigns are along with defining specific campaign goals will help you measure the success of your campaigns.

6. Utilize Email Marketing For Your Firm

Email marketing benefits law firms. Recently we worked with an attorney who signed a multi-million-dollar case just because their quarterly email marketing campaign hit the right people at the right time. Most people dread email campaigns because they can seem like a lot of work. The reality is though you can’t afford to not build your email marketing list.

If you create great content people will want to subscribe to your list and opt-in. You can do this easily through tools like SumoMe.

Sending out emails has also never been easier. We use software that allows you to curate recent Facebook posts and send out email newsletters in a matter of minutes.

The software we use to send out emails that curate from client Facebook feeds

An example of the software we use to send out emails that curate from client Facebook feeds

7. Retargeting

Some law firms are eligible for retargeting. Have you ever visited a website and then you can’t stop seeing ads for that website? That’s retargeting.

Setting up retargeting is easy and cost-effective. It allows you to stay in front of your potential customers even while they’re doing research at the top of the funnel. You market to people who have already seen your brand and keep getting impressions in front of them.

This is another way to get a few more clients through the door at a low cost and still highly relevant in 2018. Keep in mind that some display networks are cracking down on retargeting ads for law firms.

Retargeting for law firms example ad

8. Set Up Tracking for Marketing Attribution

Setting up full tracking can be a complete pain in the butt. However, the effort is worth the work. You need to know where your leads are coming from and have a correct way to track them all.

At Juris Digital we typically recommend Call Rail for call tracking. But calls aren’t the only thing you should be tracking (although they typically are the highest converting for law firms).

Here are the primary contact methods we track on a day to day basis.

Below is an example of data pulled from Call Rail for a law firm’s call log.

An example of call tracking through CallRail

Don’t Let Your Marketing Efforts Be For Nothing: Also Evaluate Internal Processes

Comfort is the enemy of success. If you get too comfortable it’s easy to point fingers at the wrong person when something isn’t working. Here are a few common issues I have seen that affect a firm’s marketing success.

Marketing your law firm needs to be a priority if you want to grow. Good luck and I hope you found this article helpful. Please let me know how you plan to market your firm by leaving a comment 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.