Good law firm marketing plans, like good movies, use a variety of devices to connect with the intended audience. Lawyers often think they’ve covered all of the bases with a website, a couple of social media accounts, some print advertising in legal directories and periodicals, and various types of networking. Although often an afterthought, digital marketing can be an extremely impactful marketing tool when used effectively. But don’t be fooled into thinking if you build it, they will come. Even the best tool makes a difference only when used the right way. In digital marketing, law firm SEO can help make your marketing plan a blockbuster.
How Law Firm SEO Can Make Your Legal Marketing Plan a Hit
Digital marketing offers businesses like law firms the widest reach for potential clients. It also provides credible feedback on its effectiveness, especially compared to print, radio, and television advertising. Lawyers can be on the big screen (or the little screen) through law firm websites, social media accounts, blogs, and digital newsletters without breaking the bank. The key is learning how to speak the language of your potential clients.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is exactly that: learning “client speak” and using it to draw clients through your online marketing efforts. Law firm SEO also allows attorneys access to analytics to help gauge the effectiveness of their online marketing through website pages and blog posts. Confused or curious? Keep reading.
Snap Out of It! Effective Legal Marketing in the 21st Century Means Going Organic
Marketing legal services is relatively new in the world of advertising. Legalized by the US Supreme Court in the 1977 case Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, lawyer advertising has seen a world of changes in the last four decades. While print advertising, billboards, and over-the-air broadcast ads continue to have benefits, the 21st century has put consumers in the director’s chair.
The Internet lets users choose the information they want to read (with more help from search engines than they realize). This is organic search—unpaid search results listed based on a search engine’s determination that the pages it suggests are most relevant to the words or phrases in the user’s query. Did you know that 60 percent of marketers say that SEO efforts provide the highest quality of leads but more than 90 percent of web pages get no traffic? This means that users who find you through digital marketing are your strongest potential clients, but they’re only finding those who know how to speak their language.
What is SEO? Elementary, my dear Watson. SEO efforts help you identify the language your potential clients are using in their online searches. When you do it well, search engines give you top billing. But to understand why this is important, you first need to understand how search engines work.
Who Is Coming to Your Show? SEO Is the Language of Your Clients
Including digital marketing in your law firm marketing plan is smart, but how do you get the audience through the doors (of your website)? How do you help them find and then follow your social media account? Or read your blogs and digital newsletters? Getting the attention of digital users requires understanding and working with search engines, the producers of the Internet who organize things behind the scenes.
Search engines crawl the Internet 24/7, cataloging the websites they find and indexing them. (By search engines we generally mean Google, which has 86.86 percent market share over all other search engines.) Based on the words and terms used on the page and behind the scenes, Google indexes (catalogs) the pages found by subject matter. In other words, when a user types in a search query, Google rates the pages in its index and returns a list of the web pages it deems most relevant to the search query.
If you have a great website but no traffic, what you’ve got there is a failure to communicate with the search engine and, therefore, with your potential clients. Google may not have crawled your page, or your website may not cover the subject matter using the terms and phrases your potential client does. Both of these can be addressed by including SEO as part of your online marketing approach.
Basic law firm SEO involves only five steps:
- Learn your client’s language and use these keyword words or phrases in your web page copy;
- Use one keyword or phrase as the focus of your piece in subject matter and frequency of use;
- Include synonym or related keywords or phrases on the page;
- Weave the keywords into your writing naturally; and
- Identify the keywords for Google when loading the copy into your content management system, the software that houses and manages your website content.
If you give Google a helping hand by identifying what’s important about your copy and you also speak in terms your potential clients use and understand, you’re well on your way to jumping to the front of the line: the coveted first-page ranking. And, if you’re really good at it, you can snag a SERP feature like getting your firm listed in that local pack, the box listing two or three law firms—free marquee advertising!
How Do You Know If It’s a Box Office Smash? Law Firm SEO Lets You Track ROI
One of the leading aspects of using SEO in your online law firm marketing is the ability to track its effectiveness. Getting feedback on traditional marketing efforts like print, radio, and television ads means surveying any new or potential clients who call the office. Many digital marketing channels have the capacity for tracking built-in.
For example, Google tracks and gives you access to data regarding the traffic on your website, including how you get website traffic, what users do on your site, and how users convert on your site. Following are some examples of the kind of data tracked and reported:
- Keywords or phrases used to reach each page;
- The level of traffic on each page over time;
- How long users were on each page;
- How many users clicked on a page; and
- The average length of time users spent on a page.
To have access to this data, you need only create a free Google Analytics account and link it to Google Search Console. After that, it’s just a matter of checking the data regarding your website’s performance.
Law Firm SEO Is Not Just “Wax on. Wax off.”
Another great feature of using SEO to enhance your digital marketing is its dynamic nature. With objective data from Google Analytics and Search Console regarding the effectiveness of your keyword choices and other features on your digital format, you can edit your content in response to changing or new terminology or the ways Google appears to rank results. And the analytics features let you test the impact of those changes. Think of it as the website version of Rotten Tomatoes, reviews by your organic audience.
In the end, law firm SEO can be an extremely effective part of your law firm marketing plan. With a little research upfront and reliable data on the back end, SEO can set the stage for a sold-out show.
Indiana attorney Heather B. Kane is Production Chief at TOPDOG Legal Marketing, LLC, an attorney-led, data-driven legal marketing provider offering web design and online legal marketing services to law firms nationwide. In addition to her work for TOPDOG, Heather has worked in private practice, held local and state appellate clerkships, and taught legal research and writing to first-year law students.