Website marketing for attorneys is a complicated topic that many attorneys do not fully understand. In the digital age, attorneys are expected to maintain an informative and professional website to market their legal services to the public. This obligation has beneficial effects on both clients and attorneys, as clients have easy access to legal solutions from their search engines and attorneys can solicit new clients through a new marketing medium. Unfortunately, website marketing for attorneys is more complicated than purchasing billboards and bus bench ads. Web marketing for attorneys such as online advertising and social media have so many different facets that it is difficult to understand how to effectively market your law firm’s brand.
In our law firm’s own journey learning about website marketing for attorneys, we have made plenty of mistakes. Not only have we learned what works for us, we have observed the online marketing practices and legal blogs of other law firms and learned what works and what fails. Each mistake was a learning experience for our law firm, and now we believe we are experts about legal web marketing for lawyers. Law firms just starting out and even historically established institutions have ever growing digital marketing needs, but mistakes are common. We have compiled a list of the most critical mistakes law firms make when creating their internet brand.
#1 A Marketing Strategy Should Be a Comprehensive Plan Created By the Managing Partners, Not an Afterthought:
One of the major problems with providing online content on a legal blog is that your law firm is competing with the entirety of the internet to provide quality content. This means that your content is measured against not only the content produced by other law firms, but also articles put out by paid bloggers and professional publishers. The only way to succeed in creating engaging and original content is to strategize and develop a content niche (or several niches). Think of your legal blog and marketing like your law firm. Your firm has different practice groups such as the personal injury group and the real estate group, but there are also sub-specialties within those groups such as medical malpractice and foreclosure litigation. Becoming an expert on a specialized topic will result in your website receiving more views.
However, this task is not just a throw-away project to hand off to second year associates. A law firm’s leadership must be continuously involved in the process. The firm’s managing group needs to answer fundamental questions such as “Who is our specific audience?” and “What should the focus of our blog be?” Consider both, content type and content form. Will your blog be better written, more entertaining, more targeted, or provide better information? If your goal is to improve your search engine rankings
, you should consider reading about the search engine optimization (SEO) process. As attorneys, our audiences are often busy, which means they will be picking and choosing which sources to read and follow. A law firm’s partners should be engaged in planning why readers should want to read the firm’s blog over other competitors, such as The Wall Street Journal, People magazine, Harry Potter, Facebook, Instagram, or actual work.
#2 Thinking You Don’t Need an Online Presence
Certainly, traditional advertising such as billboards are still an effective means of advertising; however, they lack two key advantages of online marketing: opportunity and targeting
. With traditional methods of advertising such as bus ads and newspaper ads, anyone could see the ad at any time. Additionally, without knowing what your potential client’s needs might be when they see the ad, traditional advertising is often generic and broad.
Online marketing is unique because you can customize (to an extent) who will see your website when and under what circumstances. The SEO process involves writing your online content in a specific way so that it shoots to the top of a search engine results page under certain circumstances. When people search the internet for a service, they are often looking for a specific type of service provider. For example, a potential client probably will not search for the phrase “personal injury attorney,” but will search for either “bit by dog need lawyer” or “how to find a dog bite lawyer.” In that example, a law firm can target their specific dog bite attorney practice to people who are currently in the market for that service. This results in a more ready market for clients that reaches a wider audience.
#3 Your Close Friend or Relative Set Up the Website for Free
Like the law, IT services are a profession. Real IT professionals are well versed in technical literature and know what makes websites truly tick. Creating a professional and engaging website is not a job that can be learned by a tech savvy friend overnight. Simply put, you would not call your cousin who has seen every single episode of Law and Order: SVU to represent you in a real criminal case.
If you want to impress clients with your web content, you should either hire a professional website developer or develop a relationship with a managed services provider. A website developer is the minimum level of IT services required to build and maintain a website. A managed services provider is a particular IT world niche that specializes in continuously maintaining a business’s IT needs including both the hardware and software. Many law firms have also begun to hire in-house IT professionals.
#4 Your Website Promises Only a “Free Consultation” or Does Not Make Any Offer of Services at All
There is a distinct difference between media businesses and law firms that provide legal content. Many online legal content providers such as or abovethelaw.com or the Wall Street Journal’s legal blog make money by producing content and then collecting either subscription fees or online ad revenue. To the contrary, law firms make money by bringing in clients. To actually bring in clients, however, your law firm must actually advertise its services. Admittedly, there is a fine line between making a call to action and being too “salesy,” but something more than a basic offer for a consultation is actually necessary to draw a potential client in.
#5 The Only Part of Your Website You Focused on Was the “Hero Image”
Law firms should be proud of their legal accomplishments, whatever they may be, and they should advertise their accolades. Potential clients would like to know that your law firm recovered a successful $12 million dollar verdict in a case very similar to theirs, but that cannot be the core of your online marketing strategy.
Your law firm’s website needs to have some real substantive content behind the image of competent attorneys. Professional and informative content will not only move your law firm up the search results ladder, but will also demonstrate to clients that you and your law firm are interested in providing them the information they are really searching for.
#6 Describing Yourself With Adjectives Such as “Aggressive” or “Trustworthy”
The words “aggressive” and “trustworthy” are not the problem (although they are incredibly generic and more like minimum qualifications for representing clients), the problems are adjectives themselves. Descriptions of a law firm’s attorneys do little to sell a firm’s bona fides because they are telling potential clients what they should expect. Telling is a fine way to quickly pass along a description about the firm, but attorneys should instead be focused on showing potential clients that they have experience and trustworthy attributes. Learning the difference between showing and telling in marketing is difficult to learn at first, but it creates powerful results. For example, rather than tell a potential client that you are experienced and knowledgeable about the law, you should show them that you know what you are talking about by actually explaining the law to them in your legal blog. Additionally, trustworthiness can be conveyed by the tone of an article and writing contrary to the attorney’s financial interests (for example, explain that not everyone might need a lawyer to resolve their dog bite disputes).
#7 You Are Not Using Google Analytics or Some Other Tracking.
Understanding what type of web content to write or how to write engaging web content is one thing, but knowing whether it is working to help you reach your target market is another. There is an old adage that if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
This saying is applicable to online marketing because the internet contains some truly fascinating content that no one ever reads or sees. For example, each Wikipedia page provide plenty of informative content that is well written, but if you have never thought to search for information on Stitchbirds or Veste Coburg, you would never have visited those pages.
Tracking services like Google Analytics
help you keep track of how many people are visiting your law firm’s various web pages. With tracking services, you can more easily determine which content is reaching viewers by directly tracking how your web page ranks on search engines and keeping track of views. Tracking services are a powerful tool to help make sure that your website gets views, because it gives you enough information to help determine what works and what fails to attract any views at all.
#8 Not Tracking Your Tracking Results
Having and using a web site tracking service is important, but it is important to also keep a record of how your tracking is progressing. By monitoring your website tracking over time, you can determine not only your website’s growth, but also how to provide better web content that reaches more people. From a cost perspective, it also makes sense to track results not just based on the results metric, but on a cost per client acquisition basis. For example, if you have an attorney spend thirty minutes writing a blog and over the course of the lifetime of the blog article, it generates two new clients, that time spent was massively successful. If on the other hand, your content is not actually generating clients, you should reevaluate your strategy.
#9 Blogging and Social Media Strategies Require Consistency to Make an Impact
Consistent and regular blogs and social media posts help build your law firm’s brand by providing a steady stream of content that clients come to expect. Blogging here and there is better than no blog at all, but in an ideal world, your law firm should schedule blog posts and keep to that schedule where possible. Commit to writing three blog posts per week written by different attorneys at the law firm. Ensure that your firm’s Facebook page is updated twice per day with current events. Showing regular activity creates a particular image for potential clients that your law firm is active and growing on a daily basis.
#10 You Do Not Create Your Own, Unique Content
Lawyers should know better than to plagiarize the work of others. However, on occasion, law firm websites thrown together as an afterthought often do take articles from other sources and repost them. This is not a good strategy for success for two reasons. First, if you think back to the first piece of advice, well-designed web content is compiled with a plan in mind. By taking someone else’s content, you are taking something written for the parameters of that other source’s plan, not your plan. As a result, your plagiarized content will often be more eclectic than presentable.
Second, if anyone realizes that you plagiarized someone else’s work, your credibility with that viewer is immediately torpedoed (it is not too difficult to determine something might be plagiarized, especially as each author writes in a different way — how often do you see the word “torpedoed” used in the marketing context?). One exception to this rule is Twitter. Most law firms with Twitter accounts should absolutely retweet articles relevant to their practice areas because of the short-burst nature of the Twitter platform.
#11 Your Web Platform Is Not Mobile Friendly
This article began with a mention of our society living in the digital age. More specifically, we are living in the iPhone age. More and more people are doing research from their smartphones, whether they are reading news headlines or browsing recipes on food blogs. Any self-respecting website should ensure that it has mobile friendly capabilities
This point is incredibly important for law firms marketing their services due to the often sudden nature of legal needs. Liability-creating incidents occur suddenly, and often during a panic. Take for example, a car accident. Your firm might have just published a brilliant article on the top five tips for what to do when you get into a car accident, but consider for a moment the circumstances that would motivate most people to read such an article: the reader was just in a car accident. Most car accident victims do not have ready access to a desktop computer terminal, and will instead be rapidly searching for helpful information from their smartphones. If your car accident-related article is not mobile friendly, no one will read it.
#12 You Fail to Write for Your Expected Audience
Referencing back to the first piece of advice, law firm online marketing strategies should be planned first before being executed. Part of planning a marketing strategy is knowing your expected audience. If you are trying to attract clients without formal legal training, your usage of legal jargon and technical language makes your content inaccessible to the majority of your clientele. On the other hand, if your legal blog is designed to be written and read by legal professionals, writing in basic language will turn off your readers. Most law firm websites are designed for consumption by potential clients who are in need of legal services. As a result, attorneys writing articles should assume no formal legal training and explain legal concepts in excruciating detail.
The form and construction of writing and sentences is also important. In general, writing to laypersons should not just avoid legal jargon, it should also avoid jargon and academic writing altogether. Considering that most people who need legal services are not advanced degree holders and are not necessarily literate at post-high school levels, certain adjustments to the prose used are necessary. As a general rule, an informational article for an online platform should contain simple rather than lengthy compound sentences (20 words or less) and should use vocabulary that is accessible to people at an 8th grade reading level. That said, your blog should still be written professionally and contain useful information.
#13 Outsourcing Your Content Generation Rather Than Creating It In-House
Writing online content for your website is a task that should be done by employees of your law firm. Keeping content generation in-house ensures that the content is relevant to your practice area and firm message. Additionally, having content produced in-house allows that content to be directly regulated and monitored so that it fits neatly into your law firm’s overall marketing plan. Quality content that is synchronised with other pre-existing content helps increase your law firm’s search engine rankings.
At the very least, if you are going to hire an outside content provider, you should develop a long term relationship with that content provider. You should also help a hired outside content provider better learn and understand your business so that he or she can produce effective content tailored to your business and online marketing plan. You will also need to commit to editing any content provided to ensure effective writing and accuracy.
#14 You Do Not Add Pictures to Make Your Blog Easier to Read
When writing content, it is also important to include pictures and images within your content. Walls of black and white text are incredibly boring to read and will turn off website visitors.
Aesthetically, photographs add color and differentiation to the text. This makes the text flow more smoothly. Remember, however, the focus of the article is not the pictures, and so they should not be too flashy.
#15 Not Obtaining Reviews on Google and Yelp From Clients
Online reviews such as Google and Yelp are critical in the modern economy because they provide information to consumers about their choices in the services market. While reviews provide merely anecdotal evidence about a firm’s performance in the legal field, no one can dispute that consumers trust them as a source of information.
Unfortunately, most reviews tend to be written by two types of people: those who are serial review writers and those who have had bad experiences. Serial review writers will write reviews regardless of their experience. In most cases, their reviews are good. People who have bad experiences, however, will write poor reviews. Most poor reviews of law firms are customer service related.
Because online reviews can be mixed, it is important to seek out positive reviews from satisfied customers. Do not pester clients to make positive reviews, but it is always acceptable to simply ask a client to make a review. However, keep in mind that websites like Yelp! actually dissuade businesses from asking for reviews. Many clients will provide reviews when they are satisfied with the work product and it can boost the positive profile of your law firm.
#16 Failing to Respond to Online Reviews or Turning Off the Opportunity to Leave Comments
When managing your online reviews, you should make sure to comment on reviews. Regardless of the content of the review, leaving a comment is good business ethics. It also demonstrates that your firm is responsive and communicative with clients. Leaving comments on reviews can also help foster a good relationship with former clients. Such interactions could result in future business.
#17 Ignoring Negative Reviews
A law firm’s focus should not lie entirely with positive reviews. All online review platforms will allow businesses to respond to any review, and law firms should take full advantage of this opportunity. The purpose of responding to negative reviews
is two-fold. First, you should apologize to any client who was unsatisfied with your service regardless of the actual validity of the review. This is simply good business ethics. Secondly, it gives you an opportunity to thank the reviewer for the time taken to post the review and provide an explanation of what actually occurred.
#18 Not Saying Thank You When Customers Leave Review
One final note with regard to online reviews, you should always thank reviewers whenever they leave reviews. Courtesy is the currency of businesses and it is important to keep good relationships with former customers. It is not difficult to pay attention to your firm’s online reviews and the results can help boost business.
#19 Not Having a Law Firm Newsletter
A newsletter is a good way to keep in contact with both former clients and colleagues. Not only does a newsletter serve as a good conduit to keep others updated on your law firm’s latest accomplishments, it can also serve as a way to introduce new business matters to clients.
Generally, a newsletter should be sent weekly via email and a copy should also be made available digitally on the law firm’s website.
#20 Not Including Video on Your Website
Finally, providing video content on your website can both increase web traffic and introduce potential clients to your firm in a friendly and relatable way. Video can quickly deliver your firm’s message by transmitting information in a format that is faster than the written word and engages your website’s visitors. Search engines also rank video content higher on search result pages, which can increase the number of views your articles receive. Video content should include attorneys who work for the law firm rather than support staff.
When learning how to do website marketing for a law firm it is important for the law firm’s leadership to keep an open mind about all possible aspects of online advertising. This includes providing professional and curated content on the law firm’s blog that includes both images and video content. Other non-blog avenues for internet advertising should also be embraced, including the use of social media and online reviews. Those with any questions about the content provided in this article as well as any other questions about website marketing for attorneys should contact our law firm.