Answers to Your Attorney Marketing Questions from Great Legal Marketing
Ben Glass and his team at Great Legal Marketing work with an elite mix of attorneys from virtually every practice area from personal injury to bankruptcy and beyond. We are definitely not for everyone, in fact, while we attract many who "want" to get better we know that only about 20% of any population will actually do the work necessary. The difference in results has nothing to do with where your law practice is located or how much experience you have. This is all about the choices that YOU make.
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I sank nearly all of my ad budget into my legal website, but I’m planning to name-drop my site on as many free websites as possible to increase my reach. Will this work?
Even if you have built the most beautiful and keyword-rich site ever, you’ve got all of your eggs in one basket, which is not a very good idea when it comes to attracting different people. It’s true, you do need to get your name out there—but how you do that will directly affect that name’s reputation.
There are millions of sites that allow you to comment or add content freely, and links to and from these sites can be useful. However, you must be careful which sites you choose—and of course, what you say.
Here are a few common pitfalls when posting online to:
- Blogs and websites. Posting on your own site is very low-risk, since you have control of what your viewers read—but a response on a public site is not easy to erase or withdraw.
- Social media. Legal marketing with social networks can be very effective, but many attorneys have been unfriended due to posting too often or posting irrelevant content.
- Forums and wiki sites. Some attorneys believe that offering free advice via forums and information-sharing sites will impress their clients; but many have gained a bad reputation by participating in a “flame war” when the conversation doesn’t go their way.
Remember: your advertising strategy is an investment—and just as with investing money, it helps to diversify your portfolio. Having a finger in every pie will ensure that readers find you wherever they look, not just in the place they hoped to find you.
I already have a hard copy of my law firm’s free guide. Do I really need to offer an e-book version?
If they are done well, informational guides are one of the most effective marketing tools for law firms. They establish you as an expert, and offer a constant reminder that you (and only you) can help the customer with his legal problem. Wouldn’t you want to get that message out in as many formats as possible?
If not, you’re taking a huge gamble with your firm’s future. Even if your legal marketing is otherwise sound, a lack of downloadable material presents several ways potential customers can fall through the cracks. By not offering an e-book, you run the risk of:
- Losing attention. Unlike your paper guide, e-books can be delivered immediately, keeping your name at the forefront of the customer’s mind and preventing him from continuing his search elsewhere.
- Looking unprofessional. Paper books may not signify that your law firm is out-of-date, but the lack of an electronic option will make it look like you are not technologically inclined...a big turn-off for younger customers.
- Being passed over. Thanks to search engine updates, people are increasingly able to find exactly what they want with minimum effort. If you only offer a paper copy of a book, it will take a customer less than a minute to find a competitor who can deliver it instantly. You may have written a better book, but to a frightened consumer needing legal advice, right now is better than the right information.
We launched our law firm's new website a couple of weeks ago, and we're showing up on the tenth page of Google search results for our primary search term. What are we doing wrong?
Probably nothing—and if you are doing something wrong, it'll probably take you at least a few months to figure out what! The fact is that, in today's intensely competitive marketplace, it's virtually impossible to launch a new site and have it dominate search results within a few days, a few weeks, or even a few months. Why?
- You have plenty of competition, and they have had a substantial head start (that law firm down the block may have had a web presence for 10 years!)
- Google wants to wait and see how you perform according to its “quality” algorithms, and how “sticky” your site is when visitors land on it. That takes weeks to establish.
- You may have targeted an extremely competitive search term (say, “New York personal injury lawyer”), and you'll have to lower your sights to something more reasonable.
- Adding new content on a regular basis is one way to improve your site's rank, and that's a process that takes a lot of time and effort.
Of course, it's possible that you did do something wrong when launching your site—so there's no harm in checking and re-checking your SEO practices (did you “overstuff” key phrases on each page? Is each page of your site distinctive and original, or did you use the “cookie-cutter” approach whereby each article is substantially the same, but targeted to a different geographic area or key phrase?)
There Is An Argument Going On In The Comments Section Of My Legal Blog. Should I Delete The Posts That Don’t Agree With My Position?
The whole goal of your blog is to attract lots of traffic to your site, and with traffic comes negative comments. But just because you’ve gotten negative feedback doesn’t mean your reputation is in jeopardy; in fact, it is a great opportunity to change someone’s mind about you.
If you delete a negative comment, you’re telling your readers that you don’t have an answer to that question, or worse, that you don’t think the comment is worth your response. This is hardly an impressive attitude for someone who is supposed to offer help to those in need (and expects to make a living at it).
There are only three kinds of comments that should be deleted from your legal website:
- Obscenities. If someone uses obscene language or makes threats, his comments may be deleted and he can be blocked from commenting further.
- Defamatory remarks. You should not permit any slander in your comments section. However, it is best to warn the commenter on first offense that his remarks will be deleted if he continues.
- Spam. Spam is not necessarily inflammatory, but it will quickly flood any available areas on your website and is distracting for human readers.
Other than those types of comments, you should welcome all other feedback on your site. After all, people who stay on your site are improving your law firm’s Google ranking just by being there, and prolonging the conversation will get you even more hits. You must allow others to be critical of your positions, but how you say something is just as important as what you say. Stand your ground politely and encourage the debate!
We Just Relaunched Our Website, And Our Webmaster Tools Are Showing Such Sparse Traffic That It's Nearly Impossible To Identify Any Trends Or Tweak The Website In Response To The Traffic. What Can We Do?
This is a common problem encountered by new or relaunched websites: how can you infer any larger trends from traffic numbers that can be counted on two hands? You've put your content out there, and done your best with the SEO; now you have to sit back and be patient as potential clients find their way to your site. You website may weeks or months to climb back up the Google rankings, so be patient.
As a rule, you don't want to make too many changes to your site, too quickly, based on limited data. If you've done due diligence while building your site, adhering to all the best-practices SEO guidelines and writing clear and comprehensible copy, then you need to sit back for a few weeks and see what happens—after all, you don't want to fix something that isn't broken!
Your best strategy is to create new content and distribute that content on your social media sites. You can learn a lot about your audience by the articles they are clicking on from Facebook. Using that data, you can predict what content your target audience is most likely to respond to.
This is also a good time to work on your website's organization. Build a structure for your website, and work on your internal link structure as well. Create categories and tags that group your content together, and revisit some old content and find out how it can be improved. This is something that is easier to do when a website is young, so seize the opportunity!
Do some keyword research and learn what you can about search trends around your particular practice area. Focus on long-tail search phrases as well as short-tail keywords. View the content that your competitors are creating and write something that is better, longer, and more comprehensive.
If you do the work while your website is young, it will help your website "boom" later. Remember, SEO is a long-term strategy, and nothing ever happens overnight. Put in the ground work now, and watch your website trends, and you can reap the benefits later.
Are pictures more effective than words on a website?
It depends on what you consider effective. Your law firm’s online customers are definitely going to be affected by the look and feel of your website first, and that includes the images you put on your pages.
However, search engine robots can’t see the graphics on your website. If you have little copy and tons of images, you’re not going to be ranked very highly—meaning your site won’t be “effective” at all.
Here are a few things to consider about the non-text content on your legal website:
- Animations. Scrolling or animated text (such as flash graphics) will get your human readers’ attention, but robots won’t see it at all.
- Graphics. Even if you have text written over the image on your site, the text is not searchable by web engines.
- Video. Videos appeal greatly to your legal customers, but only the written portion of the video content (titles and description) will be searchable.
While you may think that you can either use graphics to appeal to a human reader or copy for a search robot, there is a way to appeal to both. Every piece of multimedia content on your site has a description, such as an image file name or a text tag. You can edit these filenames and descriptions to include keywords, giving your robots something to read—and your readers something to look at.
I'm too busy with my practice to sit down and design my own Yellow Pages display ad. Why can't I let the phone company deal with this and concentrate on what I do best?
Maybe you should ask this question instead: Does the phone company know your law practice as well as you do? Unless Ma Bell has been eavesdropping on your conversations, the answer is a definite “no”—which means it's up to you, and not the person who sold you the ad, to communicate what your firm does best.
Your advertisement defines your legal practice in the minds of consumers who still use the Yellow Pages to research businesses. Those consumers don’t give their trust easily. If you anticipate your ad bringing in even one client over the course of the year, you owe it to yourself to promote your legal practice in a way that will attract the clients you most want to serve.
The good news is that designing your own Yellow Pages ad isn't nearly as burdensome a task as you think it is. You probably already have a basic marketing “pitch” that you use on your website, so you don't have to write the copy from scratch. Word-processing programs are so intuitive that you can probably design your ad in half an hour (maybe an hour, if you haven't yet explored the capabilities of your Word software). If you have staff members, they would probably be delighted to take the file you give them and turn it into a bright, distinctive, attention-getting ad.
What will happen if you do, allow the Yellow Pages publisher to design your ad? Well, you may wind up with a lot of “white space” and a minimum of copy—often just the name of your firm, your slogan, and your phone number. The fact is that your ad rep has better things to do than worry about the layout of your display ad, and he/she won't be motivated to hit the ball out of the park, since she has probably already received her commission and has gone on to the next prospective customer.
How can I tell if people are actually reading my website?
After you’ve spent so much time redesigning your law firm’s website, it’s natural to wonder if it has made a difference. There are many ways you can tell if someone has visited your site, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg for your marketing campaign.
Your web administrator can help you make use of the following tools to track your website:
- Tracking software. Many free website providers include ways of tracking your visitors, such as hit counts and geographic information. All of this is valuable marketing information—and not taking advantage of it is one of the biggest legal marketing mistakes you can make.
- Comments and Forms. You don’t want to seem unreachable to your readers, so give them plenty of opportunity to respond. Every page of your website should be focused on getting your target audience to interact with you—and if you require an email address to leave a comment, you will have gained another contact.
Once you get the data, you should understand how to interpret it. There are many types of web traffic, and some visitors mean more to your bottom line than others. If you are looking at your website data, you should be looking at two metrics to determine if you are getting good traffic or meaningless traffic:
- Bounce rate. Are people visiting your website, and leaving without clicking a link? If that is the case, you could have an issue. You should want people to visit many pages on your website, fill out contact forms, and interact with your content. If your bounce rate is high, this is an indication your web traffic is mostly junk.
- Average Visit Duration. Visit duration measures the time people are spending on your website. This is measured by calculating the time between actions, like link clicks or page visits. If your average visit duration is between 1 and 3 minutes, most of your visitors are reading your content.
If you have a problem with "junk" web traffic, it is time to talk to your web developer. There could be an issue with the coding of your website that is preventing it from being indexed correctly for the right audiences. For example, not having the right target language that is causing people from other countries to land on your website.
More likely, your content needs some work. Focus on writing longer articles, with links to related content and your practice area pages. You should also have call to actions on your web pages encouraging users to take the next step with your law firm.
I prefer to sign up clients the old-fashioned way, by treating them to a nice lunch or dinner. Now I'm finding that this doesn't work as well as it used to. What can I do?
It's true that, back in the '70s and '80s, successful lawyers had much more time to devote to the art of schmoozing, taking current and prospective clients out for fancy meals and cultivating their business. Except for some white-collar law firms, that way of life has disappeared in our modern economy.
Lawyers don't have time to court new clients in person, and potential clients aren't interested in spending a lot of time with their lawyer before signing. They are researching several, sometimes dozens, of lawyers at a time. Typically, they make their choice before they come into your office.
If you prefer the old approach to signing clients, you may find clients are resistant. Most of them don't expect to be "wined and dined," when they interview lawyers. Few other industries use this method of retaining new clients, and you may be setting yourself up for an awkward interaction.
The prospect of a free meal may not be enough to get a potential client to spare two or three hours out of his day, especially if he's about to face some steep legal bills. Also, in today's Internet-saturated world, an increasing number of people prefer to keep their face-to-face interactions to a bare minimum, and would much rather conduct business via email or instant message.
Plus, if you give your potential clients so much attention before signing them, they will expect that level of attention after you sign them. Imagine taking your client to dinner each time you have to update them about your case! Ideally, with good marketing your list of potential clients will rise to levels where this kind of networking is unsustainable.
So what can you do? There's nothing wrong with splurging occasionally and treating a willing client to lunch. But, given the circumstances obtaining in the modern economy, you should also invest in an automated client-retention system that can follow up on prospective leads and spare you the time, money and effort needed to schedule a meal.
Since I'm the newest junior associate at my medium-sized law firm, I'm constantly being given all the “little” cases, like fixing speeding tickets. How can I get out of this rut and graduate to more lucrative clients?
It's possible you're being too hard on yourself—after all, you're not a sole practitioner who can pick or choose what kind of clients you choose to represent. Since you're currently the “low man on the totem pole” at your firm, it's only natural that senior partners will throw you cases they don't want to handle themselves—and you'll probably continue to receive these cases until a new junior associate is hired on.
Still, there are some things you can do to increase your prospects of being assigned to a big (or, at least, medium-sized) case. Rather than complain about the small cases your partners give you, handle them quickly and expeditiously, and then make it clear that you're after bigger game. The senior associates at your law firm need to be convinced that you're a competent attorney, and they will hopefully be so impressed by your efficiency (and your positive results) that they throw more challenging cases your way.
There's also nothing wrong with showing a little bit of initiative, and going out on your own to recruit high-paying clients with interesting cases. If you proactively recruit new clients, your senior partners will be more likely to assign you to their cases—though not necessarily as lead counsel, which is only fair given your junior position.
Recruiting more lucrative clients serves two purposes, of course. It gets you noticed by the senior partners as an attorney hungry for bigger challenges. And following through on these cases to a successful conclusion becomes a way to help promote your law firm, while establishing yourself as a good team player.
The one thing you don't want to do in this situation is to uncomplainingly, and invisibly, take on every low-level case in your firm; if you get too good at this, your senior partners may typecast you in this role and you'll never be assigned an interesting case.