The following is adapted from The Game Changing Attorney by Michael Mogill.
I’ll always remember a networking event I went to with one of our clients a couple of years ago. I walked in and saw at least three hundred solo and small-firm attorneys in the room. Looking at the crowd, I couldn’t help but notice that everyone was dressed the same. I don’t know how else to put it other than to say they all looked like lawyers. Still waiting for my client to arrive, I ordered a drink at the bar, and continued to survey the crowd. Suddenly it hit me: I was looking at the human embodiment of Google.
The room was absolutely full of options if I was in the market for an attorney. However, if you asked me to pick the best attorney to represent me and my family, I wouldn’t know who to pick. How could I tell one apart from the other when everyone was wearing the same suit and tie, with the same basic haircut, and using all the same selling points? Perhaps if an attorney walked into the room sporting a purple suit, I could start there just because that person would look interesting. But there wasn’t a purple suit to be found.
This is the same predicament so many consumers find themselves in every single day.
Let’s be honest. Law schools do a fine job of teaching lawyers and making sure they’re prepared to practice law. They’re great at molding and churning out more attorneys, but they don’t offer much in the way of how to run a business, market a law firm, and acquire cases. As a result, many lawyers graduate from law school, pass the Bar, lease their office space, and get eaten alive. They could be great lawyers, but if their market doesn’t know that, then it’s a moot point.
But what does your market know about you? How do you stand out in the right way? How do you become the obvious choice for potential clients?
The first step to making sure you’re marketing to the best of your abilities is to get outside yourself and gain a new perspective.
STEP #1: GOOGLE YOURSELF
Let’s try an experiment. Get onto Google and enter the following information: your city, your practice area, and “attorney” (“Houston criminal defense attorney” for example). Where do you show up? Page one? Page five? Page twenty? You may be happy to see your name show up at all, but the fact is, if you haven’t found some way to crack the top ten search results, that Google search isn’t doing you much good.
So what does it take to get in those first ten results? For one, you have to crush it at search engine optimization (SEO), which can be costly and very time-consuming. If you’ve just begun practicing, and you’re competing against an attorney who’s been cranking out content like blog posts, articles, and video interviews, they’re going to rank way ahead of you.
Most likely, you’re somewhere further down the results, like page eight.
The top ten organic search results are getting up to 92 percent of the clicks, which leaves you and the other thousand-plus firms to fight it out for that remaining 8 percent. And do you think that 8 percent is going to be made up of ideal clients?
Some people might not like me saying this, but honestly, putting all of your eggs in the SEO basket probably isn’t the best growth strategy when it comes to your law firm marketing.
SEO is a long game that demands time and financial resources to make a dent, especially in a highly competitive market. If you’re willing to commit to six months, a year, or more going by before you start to see a meaningful uptick in your organic traffic, then go for it. But know this: no matter what anyone tells you, there’s no way you’re going to get on page one in thirty days.
STEP #2: MAKE SIMPLE CHANGES FOR SEARCH ENGINE’S SAKE
Navigating the search engine world can be tricky. A relatively easy method to make some serious progress is to stake out your own keyword territory.
If you use the same keywords that your competition uses, then that’s just another area where you’re directly competing with them, and one less option to stand out.
For instance, the keywords “Houston attorney” will put you in competition with every other attorney in the city, but “Houston medical malpractice attorney” will secure you a much more specific audience.
Beyond keywords, you need to think about all the subject matter relating to your practice area and how you can demonstrate how knowledgeable you are.
Discerning clients aren’t really just seeking out a lawyer, but rather an answer to a legal question. Research what kinds of questions your ideal prospective client is asking, and then answer those questions through a series of blog posts, informational videos, or responses to legal Q&As.
Finally, online reviews for your firm can make a huge difference in the eyes of potential clients.
Yelp is good, Avvo is good, and Google specifically mentions reviews from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) as a trusted review source. Google My Business reviews are my personal favorite. If you ever search for a local business, you’ll see what’s called a three-pack or four-pack — that list of businesses in a box segmented from the search results that provides information like a star rating and the location.
Keep in mind that the more reviews you have (even if they aren’t all perfect 5-stars), not only boosts your credibility with social proof but also increases the chance that Google will list you among the local businesses on the first page three-pack.
How do you get reviews? Well, all you have to do is ask. This may sound obvious, but many attorneys don’t bother to do this. Remember, when you ask, timing is everything. A great time to ask is when you’re handing your client a settlement check. If your client just got raked over the coals in a divorce settlement, maybe you should wait a bit.
STEP #3: PUT YOURSELF IN YOUR CLIENTS’ SHOES
Now that you have a sense of where your firm stands in a technical sense in the world of Google search, you’re going to have to face some hard truths. First, thinking like a potential client, ask yourself how you compare to other firms—and be honest with yourself:
- What are your respective search rankings?
- Whose sites have the best presentation?
- Keeping your competitors in mind, would you hire yourself? Would you pick up the phone to learn more about your own firm?
The idea of presentation is key. If you’re just using your website as a glorified business card, you’re wasting a valuable resource and instantly falling behind other attorneys who took the extra step to present themselves in memorable, eye-catching ways like Charles McAleer, a personal injury attorney from Atlanta, GA:
This level of presentation isn’t just for personal injury attorneys, either. Here’s Jonny Kousa, who practices family law in Coconut Creek, FL:
Not very long ago, it was impossible to put out something like the above. Now it’s simple, affordable, massively beneficial, and necessary if you want to compete and break out from the noise. Which attorney do you think will get more attention online, Jonny Kousa or the attorney with just his phone number and a picture of his office on his website?
As to search ranking, it isn’t the end game. It’s just visibility and not the main reason people hire you. Making it to page one is awesome, but if your messaging is sub-par and your presentation is poor, prospective clients are always going to go with the better page-one option. Algorithms won’t be calling your firm looking for legal counsel; living, breathing, regular human beings will. If you’ve got a sleek, professional-looking site but then your client intake is ineffective, then it’s not going to help you all that much more. Make sure the effort you would give to get yourself on page one also extends into the rest of your client experience:
- You’re immediately responsive to inquiries.
- You have a live chat.
- You have an after-hours phone service.
- You’ve trained your whole staff on proper intake and client experience.
- You have amazing case studies.
At the end of the day, the answer to the question, “Why should anybody hire you?” is that you’ve given them a reason to by proving your trustworthiness every step of the way.
Michael Mogill is Founder and CEO of Crisp Video Group (www.crispvideo.com), the nation’s fastest-growing legal video marketing company and the author of the “The Game Changing Attorney” (available on Amazon). He’s helped thousands of attorneys — from solo and small firms to large practices — differentiate themselves from competitors and earn millions in new revenue. Crisp has been named to the Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest-growing companies and has been awarded Best Places to Work. A sought-after speaker, Michael often presents at national conferences on innovative ways to create exponential business growth. His advice has been featured in publications such as Forbes, Inc., Avvo, ABA Journal, The Trial Lawyer, Huffington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.