Before we talk about the best ways to market your law firm or the top SEO strategies to rank in the legal niche, let’s make one thing abundantly clear: Legal Marketing is HARD! While a successful digital marketing campaign can be hugely profitable, the unfortunate reality is that most campaigns are not successful and end up losing the law firms’ money. There are thousands of firms that “do” legal marketing, each claiming to be the best and greatest. As you may have guessed, they are not.
Some of these firms are big digital marketing agencies that will take clients from basically any industry. Others are smaller firms with a more narrow client base but they still work on multiple verticals. Then there are the marketing firms that only do legal marketing (that’s where GoEngine falls).
If you, a lawyer, were seeking legal services, let’s just say you need an attorney for a divorce, would you be more likely to hire the firm that handles all types of cases, personal injury, bankruptcy, business law, etc, or would you be more inclined to hire the firm that only does family law?
The most common answer is that you would hire the firm that only does what you need, in this case, family law as they specialize in the field, giving them more in-depth knowledge than a law office that spreads themselves across multiple industries.
At GoEngine, by sticking to our niche, legal marketing, we allow ourselves to be fully immersed in everything that goes on in the realm of law firm advertising. Because of this, we are uniquely suited to provide you with an in-depth look at what it takes to run a truly successful marketing campaign for your law firm.
We believe in results, not false promises
So, now, without further ado, we are happy to present our Ultimate Guide to Law Firm Marketing for 2021 and beyond.
What Makes a Legal Marketing Campaign Successful?
Let’s begin by laying out the parameters. At the core of every marketing strategy, the goal is the same: Get more, and better, leads. Full stop, the end. How you go about doing so can vary dramatically, but the end goal will always be for your law firm to see an increase in leads from when you began.
Now, let’s say you hired a firm to start a marketing campaign, and it costs you $5,000 a month (we are assuming $0 start-up cost for this example, which is often not the reality), and you get 1 additional lead per month, with an average value of $5,000 per case.
You got more leads than you started with, but was your strategy successful? Hell NO! Having a 1:1 Return on Investment, breaking even, means that if you spent even 1 minute of your time working on your marketing campaign, you ended up actually losing money. Your goal should be to see an ROI of at least 4:1, preferably even higher. At this rate of return, we believe that you can comfortably call your strategy a success.
So, what goes into making the campaign successful? Next, we will layout the 5 major components of a successful strategy.
Invest in SEO
Now that we have established the end goal is more cases, how do you get there? In today’s world, over 90% of people who are looking for local services begin their search online. To get in front of these potential customers, you MUST appear on the first page of search results.
There is an old SEO maxim that says
“The best place to hide a dead body is on page 2 of the search results”.
While this saying is a bit dark, it is also true. No matter how extraordinary your law firm is, how much success you have had, if no one can find your website, it does not matter.
By investing in Law Firm SEO, preferably with the help of an expert, you are building a never-ending pipeline of potential clients to your firm, via your website. Because the web is a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week marketplace, you allow your business to be available to potential clients whenever they need you.
What makes up a good website?
We firmly believe that your website should be your #1 marketing tool, with all other marketing efforts flowing through it.
Your website must be fast, as studies have shown that if a webpage takes longer than 3 seconds to load, the bounce rate increases dramatically. A slow website creates a poor user experience, making people who do stay less likely to look around and less likely to end up choosing your firm when it comes time to make a buying decision.
With all of the tools available to web developers nowadays, CDN’s, lazy loading, caching, the list goes on, there is simply no excuse for leaving users waiting because, in the end, they won’t. You will miss out on good leads and as your bounce rate rises, your rankings will fall, having a compounding negative effect. In 2021, there is no excuse for having a slow website.
Back on July 1, 2019, Google switched to mobile-first indexing for all new sites (new to the web or new to Google). Starting in September of 2021, mobile indexing will be applied to the entire web, meaning that even if your site was indexed by Google before July 2019, meaning you were immune to the initial change, your website’s days of ranking highly are over if your site is not mobile-friendly.
Luckily, if your site is built on WordPress, it is likely already mobile-friendly and the impact should be minimal. But, this is not true of all sites. If you have ever been to a site and seen images or text cut off in the middle or that require you to scroll side to side, you know what a site that is not mobile-friendly looks like – don’t be that site.
The way your content is written is also relevant to being mobile-friendly, but this time from a user experience perspective. While on a desktop, a long paragraph may take up half the screen and be perfectly ok to read, when this text is displayed on a mobile device, the user will encounter a wall of text that can often feel insurmountable, usually prompting a user to either skim through and spend less time on the page or bounce off of it altogether.
When content is being added to a site, you should ALWAYS think about how it will be presented to a user on a mobile device and determine whether it should be broken up into smaller sentences and paragraphs to make for better user experience.
A lawyer’s website should be professional, yet also attractive to the eye. Now, that doesn’t mean it has to be an art show or involve some crazy graphic designs. It does mean that when any user lands on your site, they should be drawn in by the website design, images, and colors used on the site.
While your law firm may have a strong, memorable logo that is vibrantly colored, using the same color scheme on an entire website can be off-putting and hard on the eyes. Let’s say that your law firm logo is base red with some yellow and black elements. If your website uses this same color scheme, it is very likely to cause users to leave the site almost immediately, as no one wants to sit and try to read content with a red background and yellow or black type.
If you look at a website and your first thought is yikes, it’s not visually appealing. Tone down the colors, use more neutral backgrounds and always think about it from the user perspective, what they like matters exponentially more than what you like.
Content is (STILL) King
For years now, Google has repeatedly asserted that high quality, unique content can make or break an otherwise flawless site. Every time a new algorithm update occurs, large swaths of websites see dramatic losses in traffic and rankings, prompting SEO professionals and webmasters to ask the question of what should I do to fix this for my site(s).
Aside from referring people back to their webmaster guidelines, the recurring theme from Google is to re-evaluate your content, specifically considering the intent of the user. If you have thin content on your site or if the content you have provides no unique value to users, your rankings and traffic are going to reflect it.
Content – Through Google’s Eyes
When developing content, it helps to consider a couple of things. One is that Google’s end goal is to provide the highest quality search result to users based on the query they input. They attempt to do this by understanding the intent of the query. Here is an example: If a user searches for “best injury lawyers in Atlanta”, they are likely searching for a list, from a reputable source, of the best injury attorneys.
Now, if the word best is removed from this query, the intent of the user changes as well. Now, instead of returning results that are formatted as lists, Google will provide results mostly consisting of individual attorney websites as that is what it perceives the user to be looking for. Google is constantly developing new ways of having their AI understand human language, with the most recent major addition being BERT in the November 2019 core update.
BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations for Transformers, and without getting into the nerd stuff, it is designed to help the search engine better understand human language and the search queries that result from it. The end goal is to improve the relevance of the results for the search.
We bring all of this up to provide a deeper breadth of understanding of just how crucial content is for your firm’s website. If your content does not answer the search query, you won’t show up, plain and simple.
Therefore, creating rich, engaging content that not only holds the user’s attention but also answers the questions they may have should be your number 1 priority. Now that you understand why content is so important, what is good content?
Want to Rank for a Term? You Better Have a Page for It!
Let’s start out with an example. Say you are a business lawyer in Chicago. You handle all types of business law from contract disputes to antitrust litigation. You have a great page dedicated to business law, mentioning the different subcategories and you rank highly for the term Chicago business lawyer (great job!).
But, when it comes to all of the subcategories of business law, you are nowhere to be found in the search results. Why is that? Because you don’t have a page that specifically addresses those topics and your competitors do. The most surefire way to not show up in the search for a particular term is to not dedicate content to it.
If you are a personal injury lawyer in Houston, and you want to rank for a wide variety of practice areas like car accidents, slip & fall, wrongful death, medical malpractice, the list goes on and on, you have to have a page that is specifically dedicated to that keyword.
Understanding User Intent
One of the most important factors to consider when developing content is user intent. Having great content is nice and will help you rank for the targeted keywords, but if your piece of content doesn’t actually address what the user is looking for, it will be reflected in your conversions and bounce rate, eventually causing you to drop in rankings. As you develop content, your first question should always be, “what is the user I am targeting wanting to know?”.
In the legal space, most users originally begin their research by asking questions related to their specific circumstances. By creating content that addresses all of these questions, you not only increase your chances to rank for a long tail search, but you also begin to get clients into your sales funnel. By answering a user’s question, you not only provide them with something of value, but you also introduce yourself to them when you may not have otherwise been able to. Always, always, always, consider user intent when developing content.
How Much Content Do I Need?
The amount of content that you need to provide on any given page is not a set number, although there are some guidelines. The first step should be reviewing your competitors’ pages for the keywords you are wanting to rank for. If your competition is not addressing some relevant topic on the subject matter, make note of it as making sure you do address it will give you a small advantage. Also, take note of the word count and how the information in each section is conveyed.
Generally speaking, you do want to have more content than your competition, but it is not a hard and fast rule. Studies have shown that content between 2,500 and 3,000 words ranks the best, and once you go past the 4,000-word mark, you may begin to see diminishing returns. Having long content, assuming that it is comprehensive and not just redundant material designed solely for word count, will allow your page to rank for more long-tail keywords than short (1,000 words or less) content, helping you generate more traffic. Content planning should never be done in a vacuum and the end goal should be to always provide useful, unique content that addresses user intent.
Service Area Pages
There are two ways to go about marketing: know your target audience, and focus almost exclusively on them, or cast as wide of a net as possible. In the legal industry, because your target audience is not clearly defined, often needing your services after a major incident, focusing exclusively on a target is nearly impossible. As a result, the most effective strategy is to cast as wide of a net as possible, and the best way to do this is via Service Area Pages.
Every law firm has its main location, so let’s say you are based in Atlanta. We will assume you have the main bases covered, with location-based practice area pages (Atlanta Divorce Lawyer, Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer, etc) for all of the services you provide. But, you don’t limit the cases you take to just Atlanta proper right? With 50ish suburbs around Atlanta, you could be missing out on hundreds of cases a year by not having location-specific content for all of these suburbs. Give yourself the best chance of getting as many cases as possible by creating these pages. As you can see, the results speak for themselves!
Build Your Brand Via Social Media
We all have seen attorney ads on TV, plastered on billboards around town, and heard the memorable (cheesy?) radio jingles. While there is some merit to each of these methods of marketing, the reality is that unless you have an established brand that people remember when something happens to you, this type of mass media marketing is not cost-effective.
Where people sat at home 10 years ago and watched TV as a family, nowadays, you are more likely to find everyone sitting around looking at their own phone. As a result, the most cost-effective way to build your brand in 2021 is via social media marketing.
Not only is it less expensive, but the results can be incredibly impressive and multi-faceted. What we mean by that is that not only does social media advertising build your brand and attract new cases, but it also leads to increased traffic to your website. Google and other search engines will see this increase in traffic, and over time, your search engine rankings will rise as well. So how do you go about developing an effective social media campaign?
In order to build a successful social media campaign, you need to post on a regular basis. This does not mean that you need to be putting out content every single day; figure out what works best for you, how often you can produce quality content, set a schedule, and stick with it.
The key point to remember here is that you need to be putting out quality content, not just a lot of content. If you overextend yourself and attempt to put out too much content, you will likely see your followers drop as people don’t want to be bombarded with a constant wave of hastily thrown together content.
Provide Value – Quickly!
People have incredibly short attention spans, so in order for them to remember you when the time comes to hire an attorney, you need to have provided something of value within a matter of seconds. By utilizing short video content or providing concise answers to frequently asked questions, you provide potential customers with something of value quickly, making them far more likely to hire you when it comes time.
Another way to provide value quickly is by creating content that relates to customers on a personal level. When people are dealing with a personal matter, feeling like they know and can relate to an attorney can be a significant contributing factor in their decision making.
On social media, don’t expect users to wait around for you to get to the information they value, give it to them quickly, and make sure that your firm is at the top of their mind when it comes time to hire representation.
Post About Current Events
One of the best ways to build a strong social media campaign is to make your content relevant to what is going on in people’s everyday lives. If you are able to not only discuss current events but make them relevant to what you do and how you can help people, potential clients see you as a resource and more importantly, a real person who is dealing with the same things that everyone else is.
As we discussed previously, setting a schedule is the best way to ensure that your content is of high quality, but current events can warrant some flexibility in said schedule. If a major event happens, it is important to address it as soon as possible so that anyone who may be affected knows that you are aware of what is happening and are here to help. This often happens for mass tort lawyers, and getting content out quickly is of high importance. But, the best way to do this is with a short post that you will continue to add to, or in the same thread, as more information becomes available.
While adhering to a content schedule is vitally important, if something big happens, make sure you address it and try to make it as relatable as possible.
Use PPC for a Quick Win
PPC or Pay-Per-Click advertising is a tried and true method of getting in front of prospective clients and generating leads. The most well-known example of PPC marketing is GoogleAds, but it is far from the only option as most social media platforms also offer pay-per-click advertising in one capacity or another.
As the name indicates, you are charged for a PPC ad when a user clicks on it, and there is a system for determining which ads get shown to which users and how much the marketer is charged per click. PPC can be used to targeted branded terms, i.e. your law firms name, individual attorney’s names, or your competitor’s names, but it can also target non-branded terms that focus on the intent of the user.
For someone with no experience in PPC marketing, trying to handle it on your own can become overwhelming very quickly and result in a lot of wasted money and time. Unless you are willing to put in some significant hours studying, learning ad design, A/B testing, and perfecting your campaigns, we recommend this process be left to an expert who can make the most of your budget and get leads. But, if you are looking to stick your toe into the deep end of PPC, some of the things you will need to understand are broken down next.
Search vs Display
In general, there are two types of campaigns that can be run: search and display. Search ads are displayed at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) and have the word ad displayed beside them. Search ads can be done by targeting keywords or branded searches. While some people think they can, or should, only target branded terms for their firm’s brand, that is not true and in some cases, targeting competitors branded terms can be an effective technique, especially if your business names are similar.
Display ads are exactly what they sound like, displayed on pages that allow advertisements. Anytime you are online, you will likely encounter a page or two that has numerous ads running on the page. These ads can be displayed at the top of a page, in the sidebar, mixed throughout the content, or at the bottom of the page and are displayed as images rather than the text that is displayed in search ads.
Both types of ads can provide results, but you need to have an understanding of what type of user you are targeting and what will be the most effective way to deliver your ad to them.
Understanding and Developing Audiences
When building a PPC campaign, one of the very first steps is understanding what types of users your ad(s) is targeting. Traditionally, users break out into 3 categories: Transactional, Informational, and Navigational.
Transactional users are doing exactly what it sounds like, looking to make a purchase. Informational users are seeking information on a specific topic and will often become transactional once they find the information they are looking for. Navigational users are looking to get to a specific page or resource on the web; think of an attorney needing to look up a specific law online.
For attorneys, the most effective audience to target is normally informational. This is because, in general, people who are seeking the services of a lawyer often begin the process by trying to learn more about the situation they have found themselves in and if an attorney can help them reach a positive resolution. This is not to say that targeting transactional users can not be effective.
If a major manufacturing facility near you had a large explosion, causing extensive damage to the nearby population, focusing on transactional users is likely the correct option because, in this instance, people know they need the help of an attorney and want to obtain help as soon as possible.
Developing your audience information is the next step once you understand who should be targeted. There are numerous methods of building PPC audiences that can vary based on the specific type of ad you are running. If you only want to target people who have previously visited your site, known as retargeting, your audience essentially builds itself. But, if you want to target users who have searched for terms relevant to your firm, or have visited your competitor’s websites, developing an appropriate list of keywords and competitors will be the first step towards building an audience for your ads.
Other methods can include users who have experienced a specific life event, are members of groups on Facebook, or live in a designated area. By understanding which users you want to target you can develop an audience that will not only generate leads but also help your campaign to be as efficient and cost-effective as possible.
Ad and Landing Page Design
PPC can be done in several ways, but understanding what users want to see and optimizing what is shown to the user is fundamental to a successful campaign. You can overspend and always have your ads shown first, but if your ad is poorly designed or does not address the users’ needs/concerns it will all be for naught. Once you have the user’s attention and got them to click on your ad, the design of your landing page comes into play.
PPC landing pages should grab the user’s attention with the use of strong subheadings and prominent calls to action. Don’t give the user a ton of text, if they wanted that they would have gone to your practice area page. Address their concerns, how you can help, and give them multiple ways to contact you. By keeping your landing pages focused and concise, you reduce the likelihood that users can’t quickly find answers to their questions and end up clicking off of your page.
Conversions and Tracking
Anyone can claim to know how to run a successful, profitable, PPC campaign. But can they prove it? In order to measure the success of your pay-per-click strategy, you need to be able to fully track conversions. There is a multitude of methods that can be used to provide thorough tracking; tags, pixels, thank you pages, and dynamic number insertion, just to name a few.
The average conversion rate for search in the legal industry is approximately 7%, while the number is below 2% for display. These are the benchmarks that a successful PPC campaign should strive to hit at a minimum, but remember, these are just the averages. With the cost per click for the legal industry consistently being one of the highest of all industries, comprehensive tracking of ad performance is crucial to understanding what you are doing right, and what you can improve upon.
Dominate Local Search
For the vast majority of law firms, the bulk of their clients come from the city they are located in and the surrounding area. Because of this, excelling at local search, also known as Google Maps, can make up for shortcomings in numerous other areas of your marketing campaign. If your firm can show up in the Google Maps 3 pack, your likelihood of generating traffic increases greatly. In large cities, ranking locally can be a long, arduous process that involves numerous factors as local search is specific to the location a user searches from.
To better understand how local search functions, think about when you have been out with family and friends and searched for somewhere to get dinner. If you searched for restaurants near me, your local search results will be made up almost exclusively of the closest eateries. Now, if you did a search for restaurants in “city name”, your results would change and not necessarily reflect the closest establishments, but rather the ones that Google views as the best results for your search. While you obviously can not control where a user searches from, you can increase the strength of your site locally, and this is where local search can be won. Some of the most important factors are listed below.
Google My Business
One of the very first steps a business should take when they begin a digital marketing campaign is to create or obtain ownership of their Google My Business listing. If you are opening a new business, you will almost certainly have to create the listing for your business with Google. When doing so, you should always be as comprehensive as possible – if Google provides a field, you should do everything in your power to make sure it is filled in.
By providing as much information as possible, you show Google that not only is this a real business but that your business should be viewed as a valuable resource for a user’s query. Once you complete the listing, Google will require you to verify it. While there are a couple of ways to do so, the most common method is by mailing a postcard to the address you listed with a code that is then added to your Google listing, at which point your listing will go live.
If your business has been open for some time, the listing may already exist as Google does allow users to create an unverified listing or suggest updates to an existing listing. In order to obtain ownership of this listing, you will need to complete the verification process mentioned above. Once that process is completed, you will obtain ownership of the listing, which can be found in the My Business section. After you claim the listing, you will be able to make modifications (also subject to review) and personalize the listing to fit the specifics of your business.
Owning and maintaining your GMB listing is a must, even if you do everything else wrong, get this part right because without it, ranking locally is nearly impossible.
Local Content and Local Links
In order to rank locally, you need content that is specific to your area. What this means is that if you are a car accident lawyer in Tampa, you need content that utilizes your location in the H1 and throughout the text of the content, i.e. Tampa Car Accident Lawyer. While Google knows where searchers are located, mentioning the location in your headings and throughout the text shows Google where you want to rank and begins to generate location authority.
Additionally, your content should address any laws or regulations that are specific to your area. One final factor to consider when developing local content is to try and implement local news into your content that is posted to your Google My Business listing.
To put your location authority into overdrive, utilize links from the most local, relevant, websites. If you reference a law that is specific to your city and cite the local courthouse’s website, you show Google that yes, you are in the location you say you are. While a bigger, national organization may have information on the same topic and have a more authoritative site, using the local link will pay far more dividends for your local search than the national site.
Directories & Citations
A major factor in ranking locally is having consistent NAP across the web. NAP stands for name address phone number, so pick the exact verbiage you want to use for your business name and never deviate. The same is true for the formatting of your address. Finally, while many businesses have multiple phone numbers, you should try to be consistent with the number that is displayed so that it matches your Google My Business listing. When there are discrepancies across the web, Google has no way to know what is right and is far less likely to display your listing in the map pack.
In order to build out citations for your business, get listed with sites like your local chamber of commerce, better business bureau, and any other local organization that provides local business listings. When considering where to get business citations, you should always consider two things: Geographical Relevance, and Topical Relevance. The strongest citations are both geographically and topically relevant, but having one or the other is still a plus. What should be avoided is simply trying to flood the web with citations, getting your business listed on a cooking website in another country will simply be a waste of time.
As a law firm, you are also likely already aware of the multitude of law firm directories that are out there. While these sites are all topically relevant, you should be aware of the nature and authority of the site before you seek to have your business listed on it. If Google does not view the site as trustworthy, you are far more likely to see a citation that has a negative impact than a positive one. Start with the big dogs, Lawyers.com, Avvo.com, SuperLawyers.com, sites of that ilk, and work your way down, reviewing the site itself prior to obtaining a listing.
The final factor to address with local search is the importance of reviews. While reviews do play a role in local rankings, remember, Google’s goal is to provide the absolute best result possible to a searcher, they are also a major tool for conversions. If, for instance, you rank 1st in local search and have 25 reviews with an average star rating of 4, and the firm that ranks 2nd has 100 reviews with an average star rating of 4.5, who do you think is more likely to get the conversion. If your answer is #2, you are right. People trust their peers, so work within your firm to generate reviews.
Make it as easy as possible for users to leave you a review. This can be done in several ways, including having links to review in all correspondence, links on your website to leave a review, or by simply asking. Remember, people respond to incentives, no matter how small they are, so if you can offer something as simple as a $5 gift card for a review, you will see your reviews skyrocket, and in turn, your conversions as well.
Trust the Experts at GoEngine for all of Your Law Firm Marketing Needs
As you can see, law firm marketing requires a complex, multi-faceted approach to get optimal results, the same as trying a case before a judge or jury. You can’t learn just one part of the puzzle and think you will have success. If you have spent the time to become a lawyer, your time and energy are best spent being a lawyer, not trying to learn everything you can about the ever-changing world of law firm marketing.
Let the experts at GoEngine put their experience to work for you TODAY! We will work with you, as a partner, not a client, to build a comprehensive digital marketing campaign that best exemplifies what your law firm is all about, with a razor focus on the thing that matters most: RESULTS! Don’t be fooled by a big box SEO company that uses a one size fits all approach and will treat you like just another number, trust a marketing company that specializes in getting results exclusively for law firms.
Reach out to us today to receive a risk-free evaluation. We will take the time to review all of your existing digital marketing strategies, provide clear, honest feedback on what you are doing right and how we can help, and work with you to develop a strategy for long term success. Contact GoEngine today and get the results you have always been looking for!