These days, effective legal marketing requires a strategic and well-executed online presence. Most attorneys, however, are not experts in marketing law firms. The minutiae of web design and search engine optimization (SEO) are often outside of a law firm staff’s wheelhouse, even for those who employ a marketing director or team. Some common myths about legal marketing can further complicate efforts to build an effective online presence for your law firm.
“I Just Got a New Website” and Other Myths about Legal Marketing
Until the 1970’s, attorney advertising was prohibited in the United States. In Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that laws barring attorney marketing violated constitutional rights to free speech.
Since that time, marketing law firms and legal services has become common, but many attorneys remain hesitant, due in part to the stigma created by historical bans. Myths about legal marketing add to the concern and confusion, leading some lawyers to opt out of digital marketing altogether or take a limited approach that provides minimal return on investment.
Even for those attorneys and law firms that embrace online marketing strategies, the digital marketing myths discussed here can have significant negative impact on the success of law firm marketing efforts.
Myth #1: “I Just Got a New Website, So I’m All Set”
You just paid a web design company or marketing firm to create your new online brand. The site looks good and you assume the design firm used current best practices for web design and search engine optimization (SEO). Unfortunately, that can be a costly assumption.
A law firm’s website can be a powerful digital marketing tool, according to the most recent American Bar Association TECHREPORT. However, a poorly designed or maintained website can do more harm than good for your image. And even a site that looks attractive can have technical problems that result in poor performance online. Common website technical issues that impact SEO and online presence include the following:
- The site is not secured by HTTPS or another accepted security protocol;
- The site is not mobile-ready or responsive;
- Page size is too large;
- Loading speed is too slow;
- Title and header fields are not used appropriately to convey subject matter to search engines;
- Text does not contain appropriate keywords to alert search engines to subject matter;
- Metadata and alt-text fields are incomplete or not used correctly;
- Broken links or links to pages with low authority are present; and
- The site does not include a sitemap.
These and other technical issues can cause your website to perform poorly with users, search engines, or both. If your web design company is unfamiliar with these issues, you might want to seek a second opinion for evaluation of the technical details of your site.
Myth #2: More Inbound Links Are Always Better
Hyperlinks to your site from authoritative and respected entities in your field are an important signal to search engines that your site is legitimate and relevant. Likewise, links on your site that support your content with relevant and respected sources have a positive impact on search engine rankings.
However, links to and from spammy websites or low-quality sources can damage your site’s authority. When building your site’s reputation with links, use the following as a guide:
- Do: Establish links by creating quality content that is useful to others in your field or with interest in the topics you discuss. This will increase the likelihood that your content is shared organically or that other websites will use your content as a reference;
- Do: Allow other reputable sites in your industry to publish content by your law firm or attorneys;
- Do: Develop relationships with organizations and associations in your practice areas that can lead to quality inbound links;
- Don’t: Purchase links from questionable sources;
- Don’t: Trade or exchange links, especially with disreputable entities;
- Don’t: Publish useless press releases to generate links; and
- Don’t: Publish content on low-quality sites.
Some law firm marketing companies offer link-building services. While this product can result in links from sites with high domain authority (sites owned by the company), the benefits can be fleeting. If you discontinue your relationship with these companies, the links typically come down and you are back to square one.
The best way to obtain quality links to your website might actually sound a little old-fashioned. It’s more about building relationships and providing useful content and services. It takes some technical skills, but it also requires an investment of time and effort.
Myth #3: Law Firms Should Use Specialized Hosting Sites
Platforms that offer specialized hosting of websites for law firms can be appealing. They promise ease of use and industry-tailored environments. However, there have been disputes, even lawsuits, regarding the ownership of content published on these sites.
Law firms and attorneys who enter into contracts with specialized hosting services should thoroughly review the terms of agreement and address or clarify these points in advance:
- Content and domain name ownership;
- Access to administer and update the website;
- If updates must be performed by the design company, anticipated timeframes for completion of those services;
- Additional costs that might be required to include or maintain the desired functions and features of the website;
- Frequency of platform updates;
- Length of contract and options to discontinued services; and
- Transfer all content and functionality if service is discontinued.
Myth #4: Attorneys Should Be Listed in All Online Legal Directories
Listings in legal directories can be a great way to target your specific audience. However, this is another aspect of marketing law firms in which lawyers or marketing staff must be cautious.
The reliability and security of the directory are important. Listings in reputable legal directories can be very effective, but associations with disreputable companies with questionable ethics can hurt your firm’s authority and general reputation. Here are our recommendations of safe, important legal directories as of Spring 2018.
Myth #5: SEO Requires an Initial Investment, Then It’s Good to Go
It would be terrific if you could optimize your law firm’s website and then just sit back and let the search engines direct traffic your way. But that’s not the nature of modern technology.
Search engines constantly refine the methods and algorithms used to determine what pages to present to Internet users in the search engine results page (SERP). And, most likely, your best competition will be tweaking their digital marketing approach accordingly.
Law firms and attorneys who make an initial investment in SEO but fail to follow through with ongoing analysis and responsive adjustments and additions will inevitably see a lower return on investment in SEO than those who are persistent and flexible in their efforts.
Let Myths about Legal Marketing Inform Your Approach
Some legal marketing firms might see a benefit in attorneys believing digital marketing myths. After all, keeping clients in the dark about technical details could potentially prevent the questioning of methods, and even results.
TOPDOG Legal Marketing takes a different approach. We work to keep our clients informed—of myths about legal marketing, our strategies, and more—so they know the real benefits and results of our services and collaborative efforts. Contact us today to learn how we can help bring your law firm out of the digital darkness: (844) HEY-TDOG or (480) 744-7331.