How Lawyers Get Quality Clients With Internet Marketing
Can a lawyer get quality clients with internet marketing?
The answer is “yes.”
But not how some of the gurus would have you believe
There are underutilized strategies for using the internet to successfully attract quality clients.
Let’s be clear on what the internet does for you.
It creates visibility.
It helps you develop credibility.
It differentiates you from everyone else who does what you do.
If lawyers marketing their services on the internet focus on these three things they will attract quality clients.
Here’s what I mean:
Visibility is making sure people know who you are, what you do and how you can help them.
You should have your own blog and you should post an article on it at least once each week. But don’t stop there. Offer to write articles for other (preferably high traffic) on line publications. Also offer to write white papers and articles for industry trade publications. On your biography for all of these writing assignments make sure you include a link back to your blog.
Traffic from publishing your written work on the internet will build over time.
You should also record regular videos. Post these videos on your Youtube channel and to your blog. Review the transcript for these videos once it is published on Youtube. Make sure it is accurate. Youtube is the second most popular search engine today and your videos will increase your visibility.
Podcasting can also help you increase your visibility. People regularly search podcasts on iTunes and via Google play. Having your podcast available in those search venues will increase your visibility.
Credibility comes from the quality of your content. If you offer quality content to your readers, viewers and listeners, you will build credibility. Your body of work will be a testament to your knowledge.
Regularly creating quality content is not easy. You have to invest time and energy in the research and production of the content.
Differentiation is difficult to convey in an online setting. Again, the quality of your content will help in this area. If you educate your audience and provide them with excellent insight into your area of expertise, you will begin to differentiate yourself.
The volume and depth of information you share will, at minimum, provide a prospective client with the opportunity to compare you with other lawyers marketing themselves. High quality content is a differentiator.
The internet is a great place to showcase your talent and knowledge. Focus on visibility, credibility and differentiation and it will serve you well.
In Law Firm Marketing The Internet is a Seductive Mistress
There is a cunning and seductive mistress looking to captivate you and lure you into her lair. She will romance you and entice you to invest in her, financially and emotionally. And for a time things will be good. For a time you will be rewarded with a blissful relationship.
But she is a fickle mistress. And one day, without warning, it will all be over. No more romance. No more happiness. Just emptiness left where once a beautiful and productive relationship thrived.
In law firm marketing this cunning and seductive mistress is the Internet. Many lawyers are doing well, some very well, by sourcing clients exclusively through the Internet. They use Pay Per Click advertising (if they have a substantial budget) and Search Engine Optimization techniques. Both of these strategies are designed to deliver their webpage to the person who is searching for their services at exactly the right time. And they work… until…
Well let’s start at the beginning:
The Internet has replaced the Yellow Pages as the medium many people use when they need help resolving a legal issue. People looking for a lawyer go to a search engine (Google, Yahoo, Bing) and they type in what they are looking for. The phrase they type is called a Keyword. They may type in: Criminal Lawyer Chicago or Probate Attorney Memphis or Marijuana Possession Chicago or Lawyer Who Writes Wills Memphis.
After they hit enter on the search engine screen, millions of pages will pop up with content that matches the keyword phrase the prospective client typed in. The pages show up with 10 results on each page. The results appear in the order of the best match to the keyword phrase (as determined by a sophisticated formula that varies by search engine). Also appearing on each page (on the top and on the right side) are listings that are paid advertisements. These appear in order based upon the amount people have invested in an auction. The more the attorney bids, the more favorable the placement of the advertisement.
Search Engine Optimization is the process that people use to attempt to control the natural (also called organic) listings. Pay Per Click Advertising is the term used to describe the auction process.
Many attorneys have become hooked on this new, sophisticated, interactive version of the Yellow Pages. They spend huge amounts of money with consultants, advertising companies and engineers working on getting their website on to the first page of the search engine results for the most popular keywords used to describe their services.
This strategy works. Particularly for attorneys who work with consumers. Immigration attorneys, criminal attorneys, divorce attorneys, personal injury attorneys all love the Internet because it allows the anonymous searcher to find them and engage them in a nonthreatening way.
While I agree that Internet marketing should be a component in a law firm marketing plan, it should only be ONE component. Why? Simply because it is dynamic. It changes constantly. If used as a sole source of client attraction, it leaves your entire marketing plan dependent upon the whim of the search engines. If the search formula changes from one day to the next, your Internet presence can go from first page to third page and you go from getting 30 new clients in one month to zero the next month.
You must have diversity in your legal marketing plan. The rule I use with my clients is the rule of ten percent. This means that they should get no more than ten percent of their clients from any one form of media. Which means they need at least ten different ways to attract a client.
Are you having trouble thinking of ten ways to attract clients? Let me help you:
1). Search Engine Optimization and/or Pay Per Click Internet Advertising
2). Speaking at Local Events
3). Writing Articles in Local Publications
4). Networking in Organized Groups (BNI, Chamber of Commerce, Industry Organizations)
5). Publishing a Print and/or Email Newsletter
6). Being Quoted as an Expert in the Local Media
7). Taking a Leadership Role in a Charitable or Civic Organization
8). Starting a Mentor Group for Young Lawyers Who Will Potentially Refer Business to You
9). Sending Educational Direct Mail to your Target Market
10). Writing and Publishing Educational Advertorials in Local or Industry Trade Publications
Notice there are nine methods on this list that do not include the Internet. And this is just the beginning. There are literally dozens if not hundreds of other strategies that can be employed to attract clients.
My point on this issue is simple. If you have the budget, invest in the Internet BUT make sure it is only one portion of your overall marketing plan. If it is more than ten percent of your time, money and effort, you not only give up control of your potential client flow, you risk losing it all.
The Truth About Search Engine Marketing for Law Firms
Many of the self appointed watchdogs of law firm marketing have been screaming, yelling and jumping up and down about search engine marketing and its use by law firms. The issue many folks have with search engine marketing centers around the use of services that provide links to your website from related sites.
Search engines view inbound links as a measure of a website’s importance and relevance. These services (based primarily in India and the Philippines) control hundreds of sites with legal content and, for a fee, they will link back to your law firm website from those sites. Over time, these links will help boost your search engine ranking.
Search engine algorithms place a high value on inbound links because they should determine relevance and credibility. If someone likes your content and they link to it, this should indicate that it is valuable. Unfortunately, link building (paying for links) has become so prevalent that it is almost impossible to compete without purchasing links in one form or another. While good content may receive 20 or 30 “true” links over a one year time period, a link building service can generate that many links to your website in less than a month.
Search engines have added some safeguards to try and detect and ban sites that use these services. Google has been known to demote sites that add too many links quickly (using speed as a measure of suspicious activity). In addition, several links from the same site will devalue the power of those links in the algorithmic formula). These measures, while minimally effective will still make it difficult for individual websites to compete with those who subscribe to link building services.
Is it worth it?
Should you use a link building service to help with search engine marketing? There is no easy answer to this question. Link building will certainly help your website place better in search engine ranking but if you do not know how to leverage that traffic or how to qualify those inquiries, you may be wasting valuable resources. In addition, these services can often take one year or longer to have any significant impact on your website’s position.
You are better off using the money you would spend on link building to help you deepen your relationships within your community. Take a few hundred dollars each month and host a breakfast at your office for some of your key referral sources. Build your true local relationships and you will get at least as many good referrals as you would from the additional Internet traffic.
Search engine marketing is important. You can influence you position in the rankings by writing good content on your blog frequently. While this will be a slow process and you probably won’t be number one in the search engine ranking game, but you also won’t have any concerns about a change in algorithm or being banned for building links. And your budget won’t take a hit as a result of investing in something that may never pay off.
Marketing for Attorneys and The Magic Beans
Marketing for attorneys is just like Jack and the Beanstalk. Every attorney I meet wants to plant the magic beans, go to sleep and wake up with a beanstalk that will lead him to a beautiful place in the sky that contains untold riches. Of course there is a giant who guards this place and he enjoys eating attorneys who climb the beanstalk. Occasionally, one or two attorneys will make it down from the beanstalk with the hen that lays the golden eggs. But most of them spend a lot of time and money and in the end; they get devoured by the giant.
In marketing for attorneys, the magic beans are their website. The attorneys believe you plant the seeds, go to sleep and wake up with a vehicle that will lead the clients to your doorstep. In a few cases, this actually happens. But in most cases, fees, costs, and unforeseen expenses (the giant) beat you up pretty well before you even sniff any gold.
Don’t get me wrong, a website is a critically important tool in marketing for attorneys. You must include it in your arsenal but success doesn’t happen overnight. Here are four things you must do if you want your website to deliver qualified clients to your doorstep:
Post New Articles at Least Three Times per Week
Static web pages are as useless as brochures. (In case you didn’t know, I hate brochures. They provide no value and they only enrich the printers who sell them to you.) You must have dynamic content on your website and it must be updated a few times each week to drive your webpage to the top of search engine rankings. The articles you post do not need to be long but fresh content is critical.
Focus the Content on the Client
Don’t write about you and your firm. Someone who just arrived at your website is searching for help in solving a problem. Write about solutions to problems. You must enter the conversation that is going on in your client’s mind. Provide the information the client needs and he will check out your background once he sees what you can do for him. This doesn’t just apply to the Internet; it is a fundamental principle of marketing for attorneys.
Offer Information for Free in Return for Contact Info
The thing that separates your website from a brochure is the response device. This is a little section on the website where you offer information in return for the client’s contact information. It can be in the form of a little box at the top of the page that says: “Enter your first name and email address for my free report titled: ‘Five Things You Need to Know About Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer’” or whatever your practice area may be.
Follow-up, Follow-up, Follow-up
Marketing for attorneys is all about follow-up. The web is no different than any other media. Once you get a lead you need to call and email that person within 24 hours. After your initial contact, if they don’t ask to come into your office for a consultation, you should keep them on your mailing list forever. That’s right. I said forever. Your goal is to be the FIRST and ONLY attorney they think of when they have an issue in your area of expertise.
In marketing for attorneys there are no magic beans but your website can eventually help you live happily ever after.
Five Killer Mistakes Law Firms Make With Their Websites
In today’s technology driven world, every law firm needs to have a website.
If you have a small firm tucked away in a sparsely populated geographic area or a solo practice, you still need to have a website for your firm. Your law firm’s website can be a marketing tool or it can simply be a way for current clients to find you. Many people today use websites like digital business cards. They save websites to their favorites and refer to them when they need to contact their dentist, doctor or lawyer.
A good website gives your firm credibility. Not having one gives potential clients the impression that your firm is not established or that your firm is not keeping up with the trends in business and technology. Neither impression is a good one. Fortunately, more and more attorneys are realizing just how important it is to have a website for their firm. Unfortunately, many legal websites make mistakes that are easily avoidable.
Like it or not, your firm’s website will require more than minimal attention. A website that was haphazardly thrown together is easy to spot. Don’t give your clients the impression that your firm doesn’t care enough to do things well.
Following are the 5 killer mistakes made by attorneys on their law firm websites.
1.) Not having a plan. When you design a website you will be faced with a myriad of different choices regarding design and set up. In order to make the best choices for your firm, you need to know what you want and what is most important to you. Before setting up a website for your firm, decide if you want your website to attract new clients or if you would like it to provide a service to existing clients or both.
For many potential clients, your website will be the first interaction they have with your firm, so it should support your brand and your firm’s values. You will need to have a color scheme for your website that works in concert with all of your print materials including brochures and business cards. The website of a discount divorce attorney should look very different from that of a well established tax attorney.
2.) Using odd domain names. The most obvious selection for a domain name is the name of your firm. If your domain name is already taken, choose one that is simple and logical. If you have the names of several attorneys listed in the name of your firm, you will have to shorten the names, use an acronym, or come up with an original domain name that makes sense for your firm. Choosing a domain name is not the time to be humorous or overly creative, these types of domain names can be hard to remember and can come across as lacking professionalism.
Don’t sublet a domain by renting space from someone else. Buy your own domain and pay a small monthly fee for hosting. A web address that includes the name of the company who is doing your hosting is unprofessional.
3.) Having poor, disorganized content. Many visitors will only spend a minute or less trying to navigate a poorly designed website. Your content should be organized in a way that is inviting and easy to use. Avoid moving graphics, bright colors, and loud backgrounds. Make sure that every page has a menu that lets clients move from one page to another with ease.
Break up your content into easy to scan chunks of information. Clients will read more text if it is broken up with headers, bullets, numbered lists, or unobtrusive graphics. The text on your website must be free of typos, sentences that run on, and other grammatical errors. If writing is not your strength and you are designing your own website, then have someone read it over for you or pay to have a professional copywriter do the job.
4.) Pages that don’t go anywhere or that appear in duplicate. Any and all links on your website need to go to pages full of rich and useful content. If your site is under construction, don’t put it up until it is done. Remember that your website says something about your firm. Again, this is an aspect of web design that will reflect on the competence of your firm. It is better to have fewer pages, than empty unused ones.
5.) Leaving out critical information. Make sure that basic information about your firm is easy to find. Your firm’s phone number, street address, and a map or directions to the office should definitely be included. Make sure that your website makes it clear what your firm specializes in. Another piece of critical information for a legal website is a disclaimer about legal advice. Clients and potential clients alike need to know when they visit your site that it is not to be equated with a visit in the office. Your firm’s website may use a blog or a Frequently Asked Questions link to answer very common questions related to your specialty, however it needs to be crystal clear that these statements are generalizations and do not take the place actual legal advice.
Designing a comprehensive and well organized website may feel like too much to take on if your schedule is crammed with servicing clients and networking to get new ones. Keep in mind that a well designed site can actually make your life easier. You can direct people there to get basic questions answered and to learn more about your field of law. Remember that, in today’s information based society, a strong website is not an option; it is a requirement.
The Secrets of Search Engine Optimization for Law Firm Websites
Is your law firm’s website lost in cyberspace?
Sure you can still get there by typing in the exact web address, but would a person searching for an attorney in your city, who specializes in your area of law, be able to find you or your firm through a basic web search?
A simple Google search for an attorney in a midsize metropolitan city can generate 300,000 results over 45 pages. Unfortunately, most clients make selections from the first few pages of search results. If your website is listed on page 10, chances are that potential clients are not finding your law firm.
Search engines have created a set of criteria that they use to determine how your attorney website will be ranked. Websites are listed according to their ranking. Search engines rank websites because they want to keep customers coming back again and again by supplying them with the most useful and well-organized web sites. If your ranking for a particular set of key words is 356,500 then you may have a problem.
Thankfully, hope is not lost.
If your law firm’s website does not appear within the first few pages of search results, then it can be optimized to make it more appealing to search engines. This process is called search engine optimization or SEO.
The Basics of Law Firm Search Engine Optimization
Search engines use “web spiders” that essentially “crawl” across every website to determine how to rank them. A spider is a program that searches the Internet for pages on a specific topic and then feeds those pages to search engines.
While there are a handful of things that almost every search engine spider looks for, each search engine has its own set of criteria that they change on a regular basis. They try to keep their criteria a secret so that companies do not manipulate the system and create websites that are high in traffic and low on useful content.
Here are some of the things that search engine spiders look for as they index and rank content for attorney web sites:
The More Activity the Better
Web spiders are looking for websites that have frequent visitors and up to date information. Having a website that has activity and content that is regularly updated is lets web spiders know that your site is not stagnant. One way to do this is through blogging. Blogs are essentially web logs or online journals that individuals and organizations can use to post entries about whatever they would like to talk about. Some law firms post to their blogs daily, while others may limit postings to a few times per week.
Law firms can use blogs to position themselves as experts in a certain field of law. You can post about how changes in your community, the economy, and the law itself will affect potential and past clients. A great way for a larger law firm to use a blog is to have different attorneys post on a predetermined schedule. This gives the reader a chance to get to know each attorney, while only requiring each attorney to post maybe twice a month or so. Some very large law firms have even hired part time bloggers to write and manage their blogs.
Another great way to generate activity on your website is by using link backs. A link back is when another website contains a link to yours. Every time someone clicks the link and visits your site, you are getting closer to increasing your ranking. This is where being listed in an online legal directories may really pay off. While it is not common to get a large number of clients by being listed in directories, you may at least get visitors to your website. This will increase your activity, which will increase your ranking.
Quality Content is Key
While search engines are looking at your firm’s website activity, they are primarily interested in making sure that your website is going to satisfy the needs of their customers. Since a web spider cannot read all of your content to make sure that it is the best compared to your competitors, they rely on other methods to ensure that your content is useful.
One of the first things that web spiders look for is the key words that were originally entered into the search engine itself. A client looking for your firm might type, “divorce lawyer Baltimore”. Your firm’s website would need to have a recurrence of these key words if you want a high ranking.
Web spiders also want to determine if your website is well organized and easy to navigate. For example, spiders look to see if your website has a site map and whether or not your content is organized with the use of headers.
The Most Common Mistake
The most common mistake made by people who are trying to increase their website’s ranking is that they redesign their website to improve their ranking, but forget that the ultimate goal is to have a site that will encourage potential clients to choose your law firm over the competition. Your site needs to reflect your firm’s values, your strengths, and why you are uniquely qualified to fulfill the needs of potential clients.
Websites need to perform a balancing act of maintaining a strong enough technical presence to be attractive to web spiders while being human enough to gain the trust of potential clients.
When to Hire an SEO Expert
If you want to improve your firms ranking on search engines, there are some things you can do yourself like working with key words, adding a blog, and increasing your website’s activity through link backs and directory listings. However, unless you are in a very small town or have an uncommon legal specialty, getting to the first page of search results may require the help of a professional.
Before hiring an SEO expert, ask yourself how much traffic would you like to have on your website. A firm that is listed on the first page for a generic set of key words would be a high traffic website. You would probably be contacted by a large number of people who are really just doing research and who only want general questions answered. In that large mix of contacts, there will be potential clients, but you will need to have the time and the savvy to discern between the two.
There are several things you can do on your own to increase your ranking, while others may need to be done by a professional. For instance, how your web code is written can have an effect on your ranking. Certain types of code are easier for web spiders to navigate, and the easier it is for them to navigate through your website, the higher your ranking will be.
Whether you hire a professional or do it yourself, optimizing your firm’s website can be the difference between having a website that is lost in cyberspace and one that continually brings clients to your firm.
Law 2.0 - Oh please….
It seems as though there is a 2.0 slapped on everything these days.
The genesis of this phenomenon probably comes from the tech world where it is most commonly used to describe the interactivity on many websites. At one time it was hip and trendy. At one time it was actually “cool” to say that a website was very “web 2.0”.
That time is over.
In fact, one of the magazines that archeologists will one day point to as a symbol of the craze – Business 2.0 – actually shuttered its print edition last year.
This should have signaled the end of the era.
Actually, it should have been over when NBC television bastardized 2.0 with their version of it – NBCU 2.0. This was basically a slash and burn job that had them cutting costs and trying to put an evolutionary spin on it. .
So now that I’m working with attorneys here at RainmakerLawyer.com I figured my first order of business should be to get everyone straightened out on this whole 2.0 thing. I mean right off the bat, I’m hearing whispers about how this site is going to help advance the cause of Law 2.0.
God I hope not.
There’s a more valuable area of focus for attorneys and technology. In fact, it is something we should have been thinking about all along.
After 200,000 years we should have come up with something more advanced than version 2.0.
I think the Geico cavemen would tell us that we are probably at Fire “One Billion Point O”.
As a final remembrance I leave you with the last of the 2.0 series of business re-definitions caused by the Internet. And this is what attorneys should concerned about on the web:
The Internet lends whole new levels of meaning to the adage: believe none of what you read and half of what you see. The single largest concern about doing business on the Internet is the question of credibility.
How do you know who you are dealing with?
With the proliferation of cheap web development software, anyone can create and post a website within hours. In no time at all anyone can have a website online claiming they are the world’s greatest in any field.
The problem is how do you prove otherwise?
Have you ever searched for your name in Google? You can bet your prospective clients will. The Internet has become the ultimate research tool. It isn’t uncommon for those who are dating to research each other on Internet search engines.
Your credibility lies on the vast inter-connection of millions of computers around the world that we call the Internet. When someone performs a search of your name on the Internet, what will they find?
What if you’re looking to hire a new associate or intern?
Don’t you perform an Internet search about all job applicants? It’s a quick way to check up on someone. Why give an interview to an undesirable?
So what will people find when they perform a search on you?
Who are YOU online?
Are you somebody that shares a name with an escaped convict from Alaska?
Your online image is your new First Impression. Make sure it says something about you! Don’t let it be hijacked.
You must control your online profile if you wish to ensure your Credibility 2.0.