Understanding Internet Marketing for Lawyers
Your law office probably has a website. Merely having a website is not Internet marketing. Internet marketing is understanding the web well enough that your legal practice generates revenue and positive Return On Investment (ROI) via the web. There are several ways the web generates new sources of revenue for lawyers, which include:
- Finding new clients.
- Answering questions, and so finding new clients.
- Acting as a reference supporting word-of-mouth.
- Showing up in search results on important keywords.
- Reminding existing clients of other services of the firm’s practice.
- Providing a place a reference can link to.
- Creating an interactive environment where existing clients can share experiences.
Today’s “Internet Marketing for Lawyers” post will be followed by a white paper (follow @Atlanticbt to know when). Lawyers who want to win online should understand three Internet marketing concepts: content marketing and keywords, social media marketing and User Generated Content (UGC), and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Branding for Lawyers
People searching for lawyers have problems. Potential legal customers are searching for answers and looking for stress relief. Author Jim Stengel believes the most successful brands align with “brand ideals”. His Brand Ideals, as defined in his book Grow, are:
- Eliciting Joy:
Activating experiences of happiness, wonder, and limitless possibility.
- Enabling Connection:
Enhancing the ability of people to connect with each other and the world in meaningful ways.
- Inspiring Exploration:
Helping people explore new horizons and new experiences.
- Evoking Pride:
Giving people increased confidence, strength, security, and vitality.
- Impacting Society:
Affecting society broadly, including by challenging the status quo and redefining categories.
Which “brand ideal” should a law office focus on?
Evoking Pride is where banks and lawyers need to market. Customers want strength, confidence and security. Other brand ideals such as Inspiring Exploration and Impacting Society are important too, but pride is where lawyers need to make sure their Internet marketing hits home.
Tell Stories with Keywords
If you’ve never used Google Adwords‘s free keyword tool, you may want to go there now. We are about to enter the art and science of Internet marketing. Today’s post is NOT an Adwords primer, but any law office manager who wants to mine the web for new sources of clients and revenue will need to understand keyword basics.
Google’s infinite archive of keyword searches is categorized into Global Monthly and Local Monthly demand. Keywords are further categorized by match. Exact match is the most constraining. When you type “ScentTrail Marketing” into Google, the use of the quotes creates an exact match.
Today we are NOT using Google’s PPC (pay per click) engine to buy ads. We are using Google’s PPC engine to understand how customers search for legal services. We need to know how potential customers search in order to write content to match legal services to the search intent of potential customers.
Here is a quick export from Google Adwords’ Keyword Tool:
Ad Group = Google defined ad group, Keyword = phrase being searched, Content Type = my definition of content type, Comp = Competition with higher = more competition, G Monthly = Global Monthly Searchers, L Monthly = Local Monthly Searches, CPC = Cost Per Click
I put the phrase “divorce lawyers raleigh” at the top because it is a highly competitive, exact match term with 16 local searches a month. Don’t spend your time and money competing for terms that are already gone and that have limited value such as “divorce lawyers Raleigh”.
Note the high search demand and “Q&A Evergreen” definition of searches at the top of the list. Evergreen content is great content to have on your site for a long time, thus the use of the phrase “evergreen”. All divorce is local, but many questions pertaining to divorce are universal. Creating “evergreen” content answers universal questions, builds local credibility and develops search engine authority (an important concept that needs more explanation at another time).
When you see values the same for “nc divorce” and “divorce in nc”, it means the phrases are interchangeable to Google. When you write content, you can use both or either phrase and Google will treat it the same. Since you don’t want to “stuff” your copy with keywords, I like to pick one of interchangeable terms and stick with it. Stuffing keywords is when your web copy doesn’t sound natural.
If you wrote, “Divorcing in North Carolina requires divorce lawyers such as divorce firms like Our Firm from North Carolina because only divorce lawyers who’ve passed the divorce law piece of the North Carolina bar can assist in court,” Google might penalize your page as “spam” or an attempt to game listings for divorce lawyers in North Carolina. Plus, it is unreadable, so you lose customer engagement: a double hit.
There are differences between writing on a web page and writing briefs or even fiction. This post can’t go into all the details of “SEO writing”, but keep in mind your online writing is read by people AND search engine spiders. Spiders can’t understand inexact phrases such as “they”, “us”, or “we”. Search engine spiders need specifics. Instead of “us” use your firm’s name if you haven’t already used it too many times on the page.
What is keyword “spam”? There is no single answer to this question. Google sets their expectation by page, so if you want to see who is NOT considered spam (for the moment) look at who is winning the search phrase you want. Even looking for who is winning is tricky thanks to Google’s float.
You can’t see the absolute winners of terms without using a tool such as Mike’s Keyword Ranking Tool. What you see in Google, especially if you are logged into your Google account, is influenced by your search history and even similar websites your friends like. Google’s float means we can type the same keyword at the same time and see different results.
Google’s float also means the only way to understand how your website is performing is via analytics. Analytics is also beyond the scope of today’s post. The key take away for lawyers is there is art and science in creating content strategy. If you can’t dedicate 1,000 hours or so of billable time to learn the basics of content marketing, keyword and SEO hire someone as a guide.
Telling Legal Stories
Any law office needs to tell three kinds of stories online:
- Foundation or Creation Story (About Us).
- Values and Defining Philosophy.
- Services & Expert Knowledge Transfer (Q&A).
Every law office also needs other stories such as:
- Testimonials (we were stressed, we found X firm and now we confident).
- Reviews (better if these are on YOUR site).
Tell the stories you can (foundation, values, services). Curate the stories you need to illustrate your brand’s ideas. Let’s return to Stengel’s brand ideals. If you are a Raleigh law firm specializing in divorce law your About Us page should tell the story of why your firm decided to focus on divorce law.
Your about page needs to convey passion, the passion that created your office and impresses your clients. Your About Page needs to have an emotional impact. Many websites create boring About Us pages. They think this page is a chore and don’t give it the attention and strategic focus it deserves.
Don’t make the mistake of making your About Us page anything other than GREAT. Find 3 to 5 themes and repeat those themes over and over in some way on almost every page. If your About Us story is you decided on divorce law to help people then make sure some of your testimonials and reviews discuss how you helped.
This is why I like to write or film testimonials for customers, with their permission, and then ask for edits. People are intimidated by articulating their feelings and you need specific reference points that support your brand alignment to the Stengel ideal of evoking pride and creating security. You don’t want the same testimonial over and over.
The difference between a review and a testimonial is scope. Testimonials are related to and support your foundation and About Us page. Reviews speak to specific services and business processes. Work with your most important clients to create testimonials. Reviews and/or comments should come in via a Do-It-Yourself tool.
Comments can function as “reviews”. Use Facebook comments or something similar where visitors can’t leave comments or reviews without being signed in and identified. Don’t fear reviews. Most reviews are positive and an occasional bad review helps make all reviews believable.
“Other law offices don’t have reviews or comments on their services pages,” you might be thinking. Reviews HAPPEN whether you want them to or not. You WANT reviews on your website. When a bad reviews happens on your site you know about them and can respond or, and this is better, your advocates respond.
Including reviews or comments on key pages lifts your website’s credibility and tunes your website better for search engines. Google likes fresh content. Since you are running your law practice, let comments and reviews generate the User Generated Content (UGC) needed to keep your pages fresh for search engine spiders. Be sure someone in your office is in charge of curating reviews since you will be spammed (when someone uses your comments to post a link to their services).
Social Media Marketing For Lawyers
Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are critical to your content and website success. If you write the greatest page about divorce in North Carolina ever written and no one LIKES, SHARES or links into the page then your content is a tree falling in the forest and no one hears or cares.
Social signals are how search engines know your content and website matters. Not all social signals are the same. If your law school links to you or some of your content it is worth a lot. If your mom’s blog links in and your mother is a Supreme Court justice then that link means a lot too. Create content Supreme Court justices want to link to and all will be good.
Include social share widgets on critical pages such as:
- About Us.
- Testimonials and Reviews.
Someone in your office will need to be active on social media. Let me amend that. Everyone in your office should be active on social media. The more people generating content the better Google will love your website. I’m talking to lawyers and know you will be worried about being sued over a tweet. Create guidelines that define appropriate use of social media in support of your online efforts. Define clear lines of escalation and try not to worry so much that you crush spontaneity out of your social media efforts. Remember the Stengel brand ideal. Your goal is to inspire confidence. One way you do that in this Thank You Economy world is share and listen more than you talk.
Crazy talk for lawyers I realize, but don’t get wound up about the wrong things. Social media doesn’t define a brand it supports brands and branding. Practice and create social media marketing with a creative, patient and kind hand and it will create support for your website, content and practice.
Summary: How Lawyers Can Really Win Online
I’m an Internet marketer and you are a lawyer. I didn’t attempt to learn enough law to process my divorce. The “law school” I attend is never ending because Internet marketing changes all the time (much like the law I bet).
There are two Internet marketing plays for law offices:
- Simple support other marketing efforts.
- Winning business online.
Don’t hire an Internet marketer to create a 10 page “closed loop” website (closed loop because it is not social, not dominating keywords and not creating new content at an ever increasing pace). You hire Internet marketers who’ve made millions online because you want to WIN online.
It is not that my friends and I can’t draw out a simple closed loop strategy because we can. The difference in investment between support and winning is around $10,000, so Internet marketers create strategies to win and we get bored fast with mere support.
This is not to say you shouldn’t hire Atlantic BT or other Raleigh web designers for a simple brochure-like 20 page closed loop website. Atlantic BT keeps me away from a project like that because they know I will want to trim this and tweak that to WIN. I’ve been an Internet marketer more than 12 years, and I know an important truth – mere support doesn’t scale.
If you limit your website to support of your other marketing efforts someone you compete with will not and then, and this shift may take years, your core business will be in trouble. I’ve seen the “pay me now or pay me later” dynamic so many times it is truth.
The truth is change is relentless and every business vertical is being transformed by mobile ubiquitous connection. I’ve heard, “But we are different,” so many times and lived long enough to see the web’s disruptive marketing truth haunt such statements.
Law isn’t different. Look at mass torts. They took to the web like fish to water understanding immediately that online scale and arbitrage would rule their future. You may be thinking, “We don’t practice that kind of law,” and you are right, but you do practice Internet marketing and the bedrock principles of Internet marketing, despite violent gyrations, don’t change:
- Create awesome products or services others advocate.
- Advocacy happens in ever increasing numbers.
- Create and curate content.
- Support that content with social media marketing and a growing tribe of “followers”, fans and advocates.
- Become an “authority” and win big.
Eventually every law office (and business) will b ons thisfive step path. Those who leave on the journey today are ahead of lawyers and law offices who leave tomorrow. Find and hire a great guide and begin your website’s journey today.
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