Marketing Your Law Firm via the Internet
With the economy in the dumpster what are law firms to do? The smart attorneys will get tough and market stronger than ever. The good news is that the Internet is helping users win the marketing wars. The year 2008 saw a 10 percent increase in people who research online.
Focus on your website and Internet marketing strategies in 2009. Does your website feature stale news and static content? How can you better serve your existing, and potential clientele via this avenue? Your options are many.
- Add Fresh Content to Your Website on a Regular Basis
This is achieved via multiple options.
- Start a Blog. A blog is an online journal of regular commentary on your particular practice area. The information that you write about can be short or lengthy. The text can reference a breaking news story or promote one of your firm’s recent successes.
Blog posts syndicate through RSS feeds, which differ from the content on your websites.
The content from the blog syndicates automatically. People can also subscribe to your feed in order to receive updates regularly. In nontechnical language, the RSS feed sends out the content you write via the syndication network used by major online publications such as USAToday.com, MSNBC.com, and CNN.com. When someone is searching on a topic that you commented on recently, or gathering information for a story on a recently discussed topic, your post is apt to be noted via the syndication of the text.
An alternative to blogs is the text on your website, which is written in html. People read this text when they go to your site. The search engines send crawlers to your website to check for new and viable content in order to give them credence and list them on the directory. The text on your website requires a visit to your website in order to be read. Text on a blog is sent out via the network.
The regularly posted information not only serves your target audience with timely and viable news, but it also pushes your website to the top of the natural/organic listings on Google, Yahoo!, and the other major search engines. The catch is that it must be updated constantly. Enter new posts at least twice a week. Starting the project and then slacking relegates you to the end of the Internet marketing gravy train.
Blogs are interactive. People can respond to your comments, and this starts a string. This additional content is also valuable to search engine placement. Be careful and use a viable blog company in order to maintain control of your blog content. Attorneys Online, Inc., requires comments to be approved by the law firm moderator prior to being posted on the site. This prevents spam and bogus comments, which helps to protect law firms. A negative response is not always a bad thing. Conflict can be compelling, so do not be afraid to post something that can draw more traffic to your website and assist you in highlighting your knowledge and authority.
The domain name of your blog can be unique, or the blog can be a section of your main website. Research is divided as to which is more effective. Multiple domains that have viable websites on them that link to your main website help increase the popularity of the main site, which is a factor in search engine placement. With the launch of the Google Blog search engine and the viability of blog.com domain names, I believe setting up a separate domain will have more value in the end.
- Add more content to your website. Add more practice area information, new categories, local legal news, firm news, and enewsletter content to your website regularly.
- You can subscribe to a legal enewsletter service through companies such as Next Client or Findlaw. Attorneys Online, Inc., has an enewsletter strategy that features article titles and teasers on client homepages. These give readers a reason to drill down further into the site if a topic interests them. They also give the law firm brownie points with Google, because people spend more time on the websites. This added feature also rotates titles and descriptions on the law firm’s homepage, and on the enewsletter page. Next Client also provides enewsletters, which rotate weekly.
- The eNewsletter feeds should brand to the law firm’s website, content provided on shared feeds, and exclusive content written for the law firm. Be careful about sharing any content with other websites since this can count against you with Google rankings.
- Practice area content should be multiple pages. These pages contain main practice area information, including overviews that break down into several niche practice topics within the main categories. All should appear on the navigation bar for ease of use. Using multiple drop-down menus gives the site a high-tech appearance and makes information easy to find.
- Keep your website current with breaking firm news, verdicts, staff additions, and headline news. You must keep your site from looking stale. If dates shown are old, then potential clients view the firm as dated. In this case Google will give your placement less credence, because it is not timely and up to date.
- Create Niche Practice Websites
The creation of multiple niche practice–specific websites is an invaluable marketing tool. These sites show your strength in one particular practice area. If you practice in the area of family law, you might have a website devoted to adoption issues or surrogacy.
- Multiple websites help with the optimization game, because the sites link to your main website and to one another. This helps show the site is popular in the eyes of Google search rankings. This can take time since the inbound links to your website from your niche practice sites first need to establish with the search engine gods that they are credible sites that offer viable and fresh information.
- Niche practice websites are great sources for keyword– rich domain names. A family law main practice site may have a name such as SmithLaw.com, and the niche sites would be www.orlandchildcustody.com or floridasurrogacylaw.com. The keywords in the domain name also help with the optimization process. The registration of a domain is inexpensive and can have value in the future.
- Create Information Portals
A website that focuses on information instead of the law firm is the foundation of this concept. Use the concept of WebMD and build from there. General practice area information, questions and answers, breaking news, and searchable articles are pieces of this type of marketing.
- These legal information portals are constantly updated and can become a source for news for the major search engines. This is a more expensive strategy to set up and maintain due to the constant updating, but these portals can be invaluable in the end. Remember that Google gives better rankings to sites that are established and offer updated, viable, and timely content.
- The law firm can sponsor the website. No firm information will be provided concerning attorney bios or firm history. These sites are strictly for informational purposes.
- Pay-Per-Click Marketing Is Necessary in Order to Maintain First-Page Placement on Google, Yahoo! and the Rest
This avenue guarantees your law firm will be on the first search page for an unlimited number of pertinent keywords to your practice and geographic location. You cannot beat this placement with any other avenue.
- The downside is the expense of paying per hit. The upside is that the campaign is controllable, budgets are capped as well as manageable, and you are only charged a fee when someone clicks on your sponsored listing. This avenue wins over other types of advertising because it is changeable. If titles and descriptions do not get results, we can change them at any time and continue to tweak campaigns in order to achieve optimal results.
- Be careful about setting up and managing a campaign such as this yourself. I have seen law firms spend thousands of dollars by adding a feature that seemed simple but ran up a large tab with Google. Hire a professional. We promise not to file our own lawsuits.
- A pay-per-click campaign is great for taking advantage of breaking news. Your law firm could appear on the first search page almost instantly when a newsworthy event occurs, such as a natural disaster or a recall of a defective drug.
- Many fail-safes have been instigated by the major search engines in order to prevent click fraud, such as blocking an IP address if it clicks on your ad more than once. Google sets a daily budget that cannot be exceeded automatically in order to help insure the controllability of the account.
- Pay-per-click campaigns are geographic specific. If you want people in Philadelphia to see your ads, then the campaigns are targeted to IP addresses that log onto the Internet from that location only. These campaigns are very controllable.
- Link Exchanges
Link exchanges occur when you place an outbound link to another website on your site in exchange for a link back to your site. The theory behind this marketing is that Google ranks your website’s popularity by how many viable websites link to yours.
- Link exchanges can hurt your credibility and placement. For starters, you are promoting another website or law firm. If you choose to pursue this avenue, make sure you are dealing with a credible firm that you wish to endorse.
- Too many outbound links, links to other sites from your website, can hurt your rankings.
- Be leery of link farms, companies that promise to get your law firm sites on many websites. You might just wind up on a porno site.
We will discuss social networks such as Facebook and Twitter when next we speak. The bottom line is that you must keep marketing your practice in order to stay in the game. The Internet is controllable, as opposed to print options. The Internet is the only way that your law firm can be found worldwide. The Internet is the future. Stick with it. The longer you use it to your benefit, the more it will benefit you.
Cheney Winslow is the CEO of Attorneys Online, Inc. and Askthelawyers.Com.
© Copyright 2009, American Bar Association.