The 10 Hottest Law Firm Marketing Trends For 2017
The digital revolution has made the entire marketplace more competitive, and the legal world is not immune. Today, there are more law offices commanding places on the web, trying to find their footing on the top page of search results. In order to keep up with (or, better yet, get ahead of) the pack, law offices must use every tool available to strengthen their online presence.
Optimizing your online content for search is one of the most powerful allies in your marketing toolbox. With a fully optimized website, potential clients will be able to connect with your services and see what makes your firm unique. While most people are familiar with the basics of search engine optimization, the guidelines and best practices change from year to year (even month to month). Your approach will also vary widely depending on discipline: for example, a doctor’s office isn’t going to frame its content the same way a traditional business does.
In this way, law offices are also unique. Your goal is not to sell a product, but to convince a potential client that your services and expertise make you the best candidate to serve their legal needs. This requires a thoughtful approach to your website optimization and marketing efforts in general.
Why Focus Online?
Perhaps you’re wondering why you should be focusing so much on your website in the first place. Law offices are one of the few professions left that still rely on word of mouth, but your web presence is your cyber front door. In today’s virtual world, it’s often a client’s first impression of you. Imagine you need a gutter cleanout, and you click on the first two hits on Google. The first is full of photos, worker bios, and client testimonials. The second is a geocities-era link with a couple pieces of clip art and a phone number. Which would you choose?
Your website and its content, when executed well, communicate both compassion and professionalism. It also helps your firm land on the first page of those coveted search engine results pages. Let’s explore the current best practices for gaining and attracting clients in 2017.
Make Your Content Longer
The perfect length for a content piece has been the matter of some debate. Some people lean toward shorter pieces, citing the average user’s shorter attention span. After all, what’s the point in creating content, if no one’s going to read it?
On the other hand, current research shows that longer-form pieces help you move up in search results. A recent study found that the top 10 search results contained content that averaged 2,000 words. This makes long-form content a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal. There are a couple caveats to this claim, however:
- Your long-form content should still be easy to digest and scan. Think of it this way: Would you rather listen to interesting sound bites regarding a recent verdict, or hunker down and read the entire ruling? You should design content with ease of reading in mind – even when it’s long (and the subject matter dense).
- Don’t write for content’s sake. Your pieces should be engaging and full of useful information. “Fluff” and low-quality writing will only hurt your SEO efforts in the long run.
There are a couple of ways you can make your current content longer or create newer long-form pieces for your blog or inner pages. Some examples include:
- Adding a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section. In your initial consultations, you likely run into similar questions again and again. A FAQ section is a perfect place to assemble answers to all common queries. It will add excellent content to your site and have the added benefit of decreasing questioning phone calls.
- Write a case study. Part of your ultimate goal is building enough trust for potential clients to choose you for their legal needs. Your clients are frequently coming from a place of vulnerability, so it’s essential you ease their concerns. You might choose to describe a recent success or case study about how you helped a client and what the process looked like.
Make Your Website Visually Appealing
You might think your website has enough visual appeal, but there are a few things you can do to improve your visual web presence. In a law setting, visual appeal is particularly important, as you want your site to convey trust, compassion, and professionalism. That’s a lofty order for a URL. But you can do it by following some simple tips:
- Add artistic photos. Instead of traditional headshots, hire a photographer and do a professional shoot. This will go a long way toward improving your perceived credibility and encourage visitors to take the next step.
- Get rid of stock photos. At the same time, rid your site of anything that’s stock quality. These can appear low quality and fake – certainly not adjectives you want associated with your firm.
- Remove flash. Flash technology doesn’t work on most updated browsers or on mobile devices, so when people open your page, a white, empty hole will greet them – not exactly a great first impression.
- Keep it simple and clean. It’s just as easy to overdesign as it is to under design. Include simple, professional calls to action throughout your site – but don’t bog it down with borders or background gradients.
A recent study found that 70% of law firms generate new cases through their website. Taking the time to make sure yours stands out will help you reap the benefits.
Always Create and Design with the User in Mind
One of the biggest trends we’re seeing in SEO right now is an increase in machine learning. Google’s artificial intelligence algorithm is called RankBrain, and it’s been named the third-most important ranking factor. RankBrain essentially teaches itself and improves based on a user’s behavior. The prospect is terrifying for anyone familiar with George Orwell, but interesting all the same.
Here’s the gist of it: RankBrain makes it harder for anyone to “game” Google. The search engine, itself, is constantly learning how to produce the most relevant and trustworthy results on the web. That means your focus should be curating and generating high-quality content designed with your target user in mind.
The ultimate goal of your website will be to encourage prospects to journey into the next stage of that funnel – filling out a form or calling for a free initial consultation. This requires some research on your part. Align your thought-leading content with your target user’s pain points. That will make you both authoritative and trustworthy – a slam-dunk for SEO.
Create a Content Mix
We’ve already discussed the importance of longer-form content, but what about the mix of it in general? To rev up your content, break up your blocks of text with infographics and videos. According to a recent report by Cisco, 69% of all internet traffic will be video in 2017. Here are some suggested best practices from the American Bar Association to get your creative juices flowing:
- Create solo profiles. There might be many firms in your area that practice the same type of law and have the same solid reputation. Video gives you a chance to differentiate by highlighting individual lawyers, not the firm. Present your attorneys in their best light (literally and figuratively) by capturing their persuasive powers on video. Video provides the opportunity to present ideas and positions with added authority and impact.
- Use videos to explain complex legal scenarios. Sometimes, it’s much easier to explain a legal concept through discussion than it is chunks of text. For example, a personal injury attorney might choose to narrate a video explaining how comparative negligence will affect a settlement. And since videos are short – only two to five minutes on average – attorneys will have to explain the issues succinctly, and in a way that’s both more attractive to clients and easier for them to digest.
- Take advantage of free platforms. YouTube makes it easy to create and distribute videos. Consider posting content to your website and social media outlets so that it’s “shareable.” This will increase your reach and your credibility, and establish your firm’s thought leadership.
Optimize for Mobile
By now, most small and medium-sized businesses, including law firms, have a mobile website. But have you taken steps to optimize your website for mobile search? According to research from Hitwise, up to 60% of all Google searches are via a mobile device. In response to this demand, Google announced a project in 2016 called “Accelerated Mobile Pages” (AMP). AMPs load faster and perform better. Consider having your web developer add AMP code to your mobile site. This would put you ahead of the competition, as only 23% of search engine optimizers are currently implementing AMPs.
If you don’t have a web developer, or don’t want to go through adding AMP coding to your site, there are still a few things you can do to enhance your mobile user experience:
- Test your load times. Google uses your mobile speed and usability as a ranking factor, so it makes sense to spend time improving it. Slow loading speeds are correlated with lower user engagement: according to a recent study, 40% of visitors leave a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
- See how mobile-friendly your current site is by using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. This will give you a list of issues that might be affecting your site’s mobile performance.
- Compress your high resolution images. Law firm websites often rely on high-res, professional photos. Compressing these will go a long way toward improving your mobile user experience.
Only 1/3rd of law firms had a mobile-optimized site in 2015. Don’t let yours be one of them!
Solidify Your (Online) Reputation
Word of mouth is, and always will be, important to law firms. But fostering your online reputation is just as important. Enhancing your reputation online will go a long way toward expanding your client base. In fact, 68% of users in one study report that seeing a positive online review will increase their chances of using a service.
This presents a solid opportunity for both solo and group law firms to gain more clientele, as long as you have the right approach. Here’s how to handle your online reviews:
- Claim your Yelp listing. This is simple, takes little time, and allows you to respond to other users.
- Encourage others to post reviews. The more reviews you have, the more legitimate you seem. Ideally, you’ll have at least 5 positive, recent reviews through Google, Facebook, and Yelp.
- Negative reviews can, and do, happen. Your clients may be angry because they didn’t get the outcome they wished for, or perhaps you declined to take their case in the first place. It’s important to acknowledge both positive and negative reviews. When responding to a negative review, respond with grace, not emotion. If possible, offer a solution. Unfortunately, this can be difficult to do if a client was disappointed with the outcome of their case. But acknowledge and be empathetic just the same.
- Track your reviews with a tool. There are plenty of apps that can help you with online reputation management. Don’t settle for sporadically checking Facebook or Google for new reviews. With a tool like ReviewTrackers, you can keep tabs on your online presence and make sure you never miss a comment.
Give Social Media Some Love
Do your social media profiles only get the occasional update? Worse yet, do you not have a Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter at all? You might be inadvertently hurting your marketing efforts. Consider these statistics:
- Your prospective clients spend 16 minutes of every hour browsing social media channels.
- In a recent survey of 101 law firms, over half grew their client base due to increased social media engagement.
Google uses social signaling to index and present search engine results to a given user. Having a strong presence on social media will help drive more traffic to your site. But more importantly, social media presents an unrivaled opportunity to have genuine conversations with clients across digital channels. This will increase your level of trust and thought leadership, provide you with more followers, and ultimately drive more word of mouth referrals to your firm.
One of the biggest mistakes we see is law firms simply using their social media platforms to drive more traffic to their blog. Social media is for much more than following links. Let your followers know you’re available to answer questions. Share information from other, high authority sources, such as the American Bar Association.
A note of caution: law firm social media presents unique ethical concerns. When posting about specific legal matters, be sure to follow the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, especially as they pertain to solicitation and advertising.
Think About Your Firm as a Brand
Law firms are a little different than your average small to medium-sized business. At the same time, you still have a brand. The reality is, with the rise of internet marketing, there are more firms that can reach more people. Competition is stiffer than ever. Developing your firm’s “brand” can help you get ahead and stay on top.
When we talk about branding, we’re referring to what your identity is about, and what distinguishes you from other firms in your area that practice the same branch of law. Having a fleshed-out brand often informs your marketing efforts, creating targeted and consistent messaging. That’s why it’s important to consider what makes you unique.
Your brand is more than just a logo or a color scheme. It’s what you’re putting out into the world. What message do you want to convey? Work on your branding with these tips:
- Brainstorm how people think about your services. We spend so much time thinking about what makes us different from the competition, we don’t think about if our prospects perceive it that way. You might tout yourself as the best motorcycle injury attorney in your area because you hit the pavement on your own hog – but does that make you a good lawyer? If, on the other hand, you left a career in medicine to help protect people from medical negligence, this would be a compelling story that establishes trust.
- Document everything. When it comes to marketing, it’s essential that everyone, from your firm’s partners to your support staff, be on the same page. Include information on your target prospective clients, the type of attitude you want to exude, and other technical things like your color scheme and logo.
Optimizing your website for conversions may sound like a fairly obvious thing to do, yet many firms gloss right over this. Conversion optimization is an ongoing process that can prove frustrating to many. At the outset, optimization for higher conversions seems simple, right? Change a headline or two here or there – maybe even modify a font color or swap out a video.
Unfortunately, knowing what elements to change and how often can be a dizzying process. Here are some tips to point you in the right direction:
- Track all your changes. Google Docs/Sheets makes keeping all your changes in one place easy and based in the cloud, so your team can all share/access it in one convenient place.
- Set milestones from which you will base your change schedule upon. That means, decide in advance how often you will make changes to each element. An easy number to shoot for (that’s also realistic) is to give each element, fifty clicks before making a final decision on its effectiveness.
Consider assessing the following elements in your overall conversion optimization efforts:
– Background color
– Sub headlines
– Page CTA (call to action)
– Opt in form fields collected
– Body text
– Body text headings
Focus On Maximum ROI Activities such as SEO and PPC:
Today, there are many digital marketing activities your firm could be doing, but the more important question you should be asking is “what activity will produce the greatest return on investment?”
We decided to leave the two highest ROI generating activities for last. Call it a reward for those who finished reading (smart reader you are!). Both marketing strategies are proven workhorses and absolute winners (when executed correctly) for law firms large or small.
SEO – Search Engine Optimization
While most if not all attorneys have heard of SEO, it’s not always in the forefront of their thinking. SEO is one of the simplest marketing strategies to understand, yet by far the most complex. In its simplest form, SEO for a website means that website naturally rises high in the search results for their desired terms when someone is searching for those terms. This offers many benefits such as:
- 30% Boost to lead flow
- Greater market penetration
- Increased brand awareness (multiple positions on page)
- Demonstrates to community/potential clients that YOU are the market leader and obvious choice
PPC – Pay Per Click
We believe the core of every successful digital campaign should be SEO, however there are times when a strategic pay per click campaign can boost an already robust organic campaign.
The advantage of a well built PPC campaign is that it can deliver immediate exposure online and a quicker source of traffic and leads. With some law campaigns producing as many as 350 calls per month, law firms who neglect PPC are leaving a considerable amount of cases on the table for their competitors to snatch up. Aside from the obvious, here are some of the benefits of a properly executed PPC campaign:
- 70%+ Boost to lead flow
- Near immediate traction and lead flow
- Market takeover – Google, Yahoo and Bing
- Greater conversion on cold traffic (Landing page vs. Home page)
- Extremely trackable, measurable results
- Instantly measurable results from split testing
The Bottom Line
Law firms are not immune to the competitive hustle and bustle of the online marketplace. Though this may be a discipline that still works through “old-school” channels, working on your digital presence will help attract new clients and convert leads into clients. Each law office in your area is trying to command their place on the web, solidifying their spot at the top of search results.
You don’t need to rush to apply all of these optimization tricks at once. Even applying one or two will lead to positive results. Remember, SEO is a slow-burn: it will take time to see the results of your efforts, but it will be worth it, while PPC is more of a quick lead generation solution while your SEO simmers and builds momentum.
Ready to grow your law practice to new heights? Schedule a free consultation with us, and we’ll give you a comprehensive analysis of your current marketing strategies helping you identify opportunities for improvement to help your firm become the dominant leader in your locale and bring in more cases than ever.
Give us a call now at 1(888) 793-0388 to schedule your complimentary digital marketing analysis!