Nothing has transformed the marketing of law firms in the last ten years more than the Internet. I was recently speaking at a bar association event when a gentleman asked, “Do people really look for lawyers online? I’m not sure people look for my kind of practice area on the Internet.” Although there’s no guarantee that someone Googles your exact practice area every day, there are more than 2 million Internet searches for the words “lawyer” or “attorney” every month.
Lawyers across the country are finding a steady drop in return on investment for their mass advertising efforts such as the Yellow Pages, television, and newspaper. A growing number of law firms are turning to the Internet with hopes of boosting their revenues and increasing their leads. For some this has become a reality, but most are still in the experimental stage. This article will give readers several of the best practices in becoming a rainmaker on the Internet.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the ongoing process of optimizing your website to be found on the search engines (Google, Yahoo!, and Bing are the big three) for the keywords and phrases with which you want people to find you. The goal of SEO is to drive qualified traffic to your website. It does not include pay-per-click (PPC) or paid search. There are more than 30 different components commonly used by SEO experts to help your website rank well. Below are strategies to get you started.
1. Know the keywords people use to search for your services. There are many tools you can use to find out exactly which keywords and phrases people use. I recommend you start with http://www.wordtracker.com and Google’s Keyword Tool, which can be found at https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal. In most searches, there are three parts used: geographical location, practice area, and the word “lawyer” or “attorney.” For example, someone looking for a personal injury lawyer in southern California may use “Los Angeles personal injury lawyer,” whereas someone in Chicago looking to file for bankruptcy may search for “Chicago bankruptcy attorney.” However, people are starting to use more and more words to describe what they are looking for: “I was injured in a car accident in Miami and need an attorney.” This is known as long tail search.
Key Action Points:
• Talk to your prospects and clients and find out what words and phrases they use to look for a lawyer in your practice area.
• Research those keywords and find out how many other people use them.
• Make a list of 20 to 30 words and phrases to use in your website.
2. Use keywords in your domain name. When possible, use the actual words with which you want prospects to find you. For example, Kevin Von Tungeln is a board-certified estate planning specialist in the state of California. His website address is www.estateplanningspecialists.com. Many law firms are still using the traditional method of naming their website the same as their law firm name, which can make it difficult to spell, harder to find, and does not assist their SEO efforts. However, be sure to check your state’s ethical requirements before settling on a new website name; some states do not allow lawyers to use any other domain name than their law firm’s name.
Key Action Points:
• It’s okay to have multiple domain names.
• Register your own name first, then register domain names with your keywords in it.
• Use http://www.godaddy.com to register multiple variations. Even if you are not going to use them now, you may want them later.
3. Create compelling copy. I strongly recommend you consider hiring a professional copywriter to write the copy on your website. Yes, I know, every lawyer out there writes for a living. However, the gulf between writing a great legal brief and creating compelling copy can be like the Grand Canyon. The number-one purpose of your website is to compel visitors to pick up the phone and call you. A great copywriter can create credible copy that will get your phone ringing.
Another purpose of your website copy is to help you rank well in the search engines. One way to do this is by using the exact same words and phrases you researched in step one in the copy of your website. Each page should focus on four to six phrases. For example, one page may focus on four phrases such as “Orange County California personal injury lawyers,” “Orange County California personal injury attorneys,” “Los Angeles California personal injury lawyers,” and “Los Angeles County California personal injury attorneys.”
Key Action Points:
• Consider hiring a professional copywriter to write your website copy.
• Be sure to include on each page the keywords for which you want to rank high.
• Include a call to action on every page. Tell people what you want them to do: call you, register, sign up, etc.
4. Add fresh content regularly. Perhaps the top strategy used by high-ranking lawyers today is to add new, relevant content to their websites on a consistent basis. This is one of the major reasons for the explosion in blogs in recent years. A blog is a type of website that is regularly updated, and the entries are often displayed in reverse-chronological order with the newest entry at the top. Although some law firms are selecting blogs instead of websites, I believe there is a place for each in online legal marketing. If, for economic reasons, you are forced to select between one or the other, I recommend starting out with a blog. Why? Because they are very low cost (or free) as compared to websites and, if done properly, will help you rank faster than a traditional website.
Anyone can start a blog at no cost using sites such as www.wordpress.com andwww.blogger.com. At a minimum, we recommend updating your blog weekly. For any serious traffic, you need to be updating three to five times per week. Lawyers who want to be at the top of the search engines update their blog three to five times per day. Google loves fresh content. The more relevant content your blog gives Google, the more it will love your blog by ranking it higher.
Key Action Points:
• Search engines love fresh content.
• The more fresh, relevant content you post on your website or blog, the higher you will rank on the search engines.
• Blogs are a great place to get started, but in order to be effective they must be updated frequently.
• Update your blog at least three to five times per week.
5. Use video to keep visitors’ attention. Now here’s a truly depressing statistic: On average, 85 percent of your website’s visitors will stay for less than 30 seconds and will never return. Seriously? Yes. If you don’t believe me, check for yourself. Look at your website’s statistics log and see how many unique visitors you have and how long they stay on average. (Virtually every website has at least a basic statistics package; just ask your website tech or hosting company how to access it. If you are not already using Google Analytics, have your tech install it. It’s much better than most. And it’s free.)
The bottom line is that you literally have less than 30 seconds to impress your website visitors. I believe all of us would agree that the longer visitors stay on your website, the more likely they are to connect with you.
One of the best ways to increase the length of time a visitor stays is by using videos. Anecdotally, our clients have seen a four- to fivefold increase in length of stay after implementing videos on their websites. These videos should be one to three minutes long and focus on educating prospects and website visitors about who you are, who you help, and why you are different. These videos do not need to be professionally produced, but you may want to have someone add a short introduction including your website and phone number. Once you have your video ready, upload it to your website—and to www.youtube.com for additional exposure. Visitors are more concerned with content than production quality. If allowed in your jurisdiction, use video testimonials from your clients as well.
Key Action Points:
• The longer someone stays on your website, the greater likelihood they will connect with you.
• Use videos to quickly capture their attention.
• Your videos should educate prospects about who you are, who you help, and why you are different.
6. Develop educational tools and promote them on your website. Education-based marketing is one of the most powerful tools at the disposal of lawyers. There is a great amount of basic information you know about your practice area that prospects want and need to know. Think about some of the questions your clients have about child custody and divorce or how to avoid getting sued by employees or ways to protect their intellectual property. Identify their frequently asked questions or biggest challenges and put together a short report (three to six pages long), a PowerPoint presentation, or even an audio CD, and offer a free copy to website visitors who give you their contact information. (Remember, if you cannot get visitors to call you directly, the second-best alternative is to persuade them to give you their contact information with permission to contact them.) Give your education material a creative title such as “7 Questions You Must Ask before You Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer,” or “The 10 Deadly Mistakes People Make with Their Estate Plan,” or even “5 Strategies Inventors Can Use to Protect and Monetize Their Inventions.”
This kind of free educational information is a great tool you can use to start building relationships with many people who need your help but aren’t ready to walk in your door. It is not enough simply to offer people a free consultation. Almost every lawyer does that. Take it one step further and give them some great information that will help them think through the issues and challenges they are facing. Once you have created these educational tools, find every way you can to give them away to as many people as possible.
Key Action Points:
• Use an educational report, white paper, or audio CD to inform prospects, clients, and referral sources.
• Every prospect has questions and challenges. Identify them and give them some information that indicates you can resolve their challenges and answer their questions.
7. Submit your articles online. Submitting short educational articles on the Internet is one of the easiest, fastest, and cheapest ways to increase your visibility and the traffic to your website. There are literally thousands of directories on the Internet that will republish your article on their websites at no cost. Simply Google “article directories” for a list.
Key Action Points:
• Keep your articles short—between 400 and 700 words. Remember, people don’t read online, they scan. Use plenty of bullet points, clearly differentiate sections, and keep your paragraphs short.
• Write for a specific audience. Keep in mind your ideal clients, and write the article for them—not for other lawyers. Tell a case study. Use an example. Make it practical, interesting, and personal, as if you were speaking directly to the reader. Never use legal jargon unless you explain it.
• Grab their attention with the title. Make sure your title is less than ten words, has a number in it when possible, and tells them how to solve a problem. The title must grab the reader’s attention from the start. For example: “5 Mistakes,” “7 Pitfalls,” “3 Steps,” etc.
• Tell, don’t sell. Focus your article on informing and educating your reader about a specific topic. Don’t focus on “selling” your services. The goal is to get readers to visit your website.
• Don’t be generic. Give your opinion or state your perspective. People are looking for answers, not just questions.
• Determine if your article is a good fit for the site. Some sites target business professionals, others target individual consumers. Some have sections for each group. If they give you the choice, make sure you select the category that is most appropriate for your article and that best represents your target market.
• Only submit to websites that allow you to include your contact information with a live link back to your website. If they are not willing to give you a live link back to your website, go somewhere else.
• Give people a reason to contact you. Offer them a special report at your website or something else that will give them an incentive to contact you.
• Create a Google Alert at www.google.com/alerts to help you track where your articles are posted to and when they come out (set either your name or the title of your article as the Alert).
• Manage your expectations. Writing and submitting articles to various websites will rarely result in a new client. There are three major reasons why you should use this technique: (1) It will increase your visibility on the Internet. The search engines love free information (which is what your article is). (2) It will increase the number of visitors to your website through the direct links at the bottom of each article and by increasing the position of your website on the search engines. (3) It will increase your credibility. When an important prospect searches for your name on the Internet and comes up blank, that doesn’t look good. Having several websites with your articles posted on them immediately increases your credibility to prospects investigating which lawyer they want to hire.
8. Take action fast. One of the hallmarks of a top rainmaker is the ability to take action fast. It’s easy to put things off. It’s easier still to stay a cynic. The real challenge is acting on what you have learned. Here’s my challenge to you: Write down three to five specific strategies you will start implementing in the next 30 days. Give yourself realistic time frames and find someone to hold you accountable. Then go out and take action.