For a practice as old as time, using online marketing to get newer client files might seem a little sacrilegious. However, with the saturation of internet into every walk of our life, it’s hard to deny the need for internet marketing to find newer clientele. This is especially true in the context of a service-oriented business such as a law firm.
Even though the Law School Admissions Council indicates a steadfast need for lawyers in the upcoming decade, several disciplines of law have faced significant stagnation due to the advancement of technology. Areas of practice such as compliance, due diligence, and legal research have been affected radically and are predicted to become obsolete in the approaching years, replaced by an interactive, precise and brisk AI-based technology.
In this world of fast-changing work and shifting legal needs, it can become increasingly difficult for law firms to obtain secure client files without the use of internet marketing. But, the question is how? Most legal professionals wonder as to the utility of online marketing to get viable clients. Hence, frequently raise questions such as: ‘Do people really look for lawyers online?’, ‘Is it really possible to establish credibility for one’s law practice with the use of social media?’, ‘Do people recognize my area of practice?’
I’ll let Google answer this questions for me – Search frequency for terms such as ‘lawyer’ and ‘legal advice’ measures up to 10,000 clicks per month with hundreds of people also searching for queries such as ‘find a lawyer’ and ‘legal services’ every month in Canada. Statistics from Google Consumer Survey, Nov 2013 also reflect that over 96% of individuals use the internet to look for legal advice.
These figures are a clear reflection of the fact that online marketing is crucial for law firms to expand their practice. With a smart and resourceful internet marketing strategy lawyers can not only get viable leads for their practice but also build an advantageous reputation among their target audiences.
To get you started, let’s take a closer look at the process of online marketing and how it helps your law firm actually find better leads:
After evaluating the above-mentioned statistics, one thing is quite evident. People are increasingly relying on search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo while seeking consultation for their legal problems. This implies that a large section of potential customers who need legal help are relying on the internet to find it.
Google Legal Services Study Sept 2013 also ascertained that up to 74% individuals visit a law firm’s website prior to taking action. Hence, your practice’s official website has a direct impact on how potential clients perceive your services and the ease with which they can contact your firm. Hence, to find viable client files on the internet, your legal practice not only needs to have an online presence but this presence needs to be an influential and credible one. This is where internet marketing steps in.
Similar to traditional marketing, online marketing aims to promote your services but exclusively through the medium of internet. An effective internet marketing strategy does utilize the corresponding 4 Ps of traditional marketing, namely, Product, Price, Place and Promotion. However, since the Place of execution for this strategy is the internet, the communication is much more transient, opportune and conscientious. An online marketing strategy uses a combination of different tools such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), social media marketing (SMM) and content marketing to target potential customers and distinguishes your business’s identity on the internet which in turn helps you get viable client files.
Online marketing is essentially imperative for service-based businesses such as law firms and healthcare institutions. This is because businesses like retail have an inherent capacity to attract customers due to the tangible nature of their product. A customer may stumble upon a grocery store while passing it by on the street or might consider purchasing an item of clothing predisposed to it due to a massive billboard. However, people seldom request legal consultation unless they absolutely need it. Hence, instead of customers finding their services, law firms need to reach the customers where they are and at the opportune time in which they need them.
Internet marketing enables your business to exactly do that. With the execution of a targeted and effective SEO strategy, digital marketers can help your law firm attain a higher ranking on Google. Additionally, the use of superior content collaterals for your social media platforms, blogs and website can add credibility to your brand and ensure that the potential leads perceive your services as trustworthy and efficient.
So, what are these components of an online marketing strategy? How can law firms promote their services without harming their reputation? Read on to find more:
Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization or SEO is an enigma to most business owners. This is why despite having some idea as to its importance and relevance, they don’t prioritize it as a marketing objective. But, the right SEO strategy is where it all starts. Why? The answer lies in the name itself. As the name suggests, search engine optimization is the process of optimizing your business’s website for the search engines, most prominently – Google, to find it more easily. The presence of your business online is demarcated by your website, your blogs and your social media platforms. A good SEO strategy aims to optimize or apply solutions to these portals that upgrade their positions with the search engines.
Here’s how it works:
Search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo are similar to extensive departmental stores such as Walmart. They stock up on every piece of ready-to-use products known to mankind. Among this vast surfeit of products, every manufacturer including you wants to make sure their product, which in your case might be a box of premium quality chocolate, is known to every customer who would consider purchasing it. So, what do you do to stand out?
You pay the supermarket an additional price to place your product in front of other premium chocolates to ensure that anyone interested in purchasing chocolates can access your product at a single glance. This process of purchasing advertising space to advance your ranking with the search engines is known as Search Engine Marketing or SEM and it is usually executed with the aid of Pay-Per-Click Ads, Google AdWords Ads and Cost per Click (CPC) Ads. SEM strategies deliver results more rapidly and help your website gain greater visibility.
The search engine results listed with a small disclaimer of Ad in the corner are paid advertisements that optimize your ranking with Google.
However, these ads don’t essentially upgrade your ranking on search engines for the long term. This is because a single time purchase doesn’t inevitably ensure a loyal customer. Why? Let’s continue with our aisle placement example. Priority placement for your chocolate does maximize its probability of purchase, however, doesn’t necessarily guarantee a sale. The customer might still opt for a brand that he usually buys or he might have doubts as to the credibility of the new item and skip buying it. And, even after he buys the chocolates, the quality of the product is the only factor that will assure a repurchase.
Search engines similar to Wal-mart aim to ensure a quality experience for all their users. A crucial step towards ensuring this experience is the correct placement of each product in every aisle. They involuntarily prioritize products that all customers prefer and most frequently search for. Hence, if your product is popular among customers and delivers quality results every time, then it is routinely placed in an aisle which is easy to access. This is precisely what an effective SEO strategy does.
An SEO strategy utilizes tools and tactics that help your website differentiate itself from its competitors organically. With the use of SEO responsive content, backlinks from reliable sources, accurate keyword selection and optimization and SEO plugins, a digital marketing expert can help your website advance its search engine ranking and become effortlessly accessible to potential clients.
Superior search engine optimization is vital for law firms as service-oriented organizations have an inherent need to find customers. And, if your website is not visible on the first few pages of Google, your practice’s probability of finding new client files drops dramatically. This is why it is often said that the best place to hide a dead body lies on the fifth page of a Google search.
To get your law firm’s website on the first page of Google and ensure its extended presence on the search engine lists, it is essential for lawyers to opt for a superior SEO approach – especially in terms of their local SEO. Law is a highly specific endeavor and legislation applicable to a region in Canada might not be valid for another. Consulting an experienced digital marketing expert can help you ensure that your online marketing plan is specific to the region of your practice.
The idea or thought behind any type of marketing strategy is fundamentally the same. However, the persona of the audience, the platform of execution and the language of communication completely differentiates one strategy from another and creates a distinct identity for your brand. Hence, a content marketing strategy is in fact a marketing plan but one which uses content as its medium of execution. Content marketing utilizes channels such as blogs, emails, social media, videos, podcasts, white papers, case studies etc. to convey your brand’s message to the audience.
Law firms can gain multiple client files with the use of content marketing. This is because credibility is an issue of major concern among audiences while choosing a law firm. Legal cases tend to extend for unmitigated periods of time and the cost incurred during this process is quite significant. Hence, it is crucial for law firms to create an organic credibility among their potential audiences through interaction and engagement. Content marketing can enable law firms to accomplish that.
Social media platforms such as LinkedIn allow lawyers to be a part of legal discussions and provide consultative engagement which is usually unwieldy to execute through other channels of communication. Superior content collaterals which provide genuine and practical information to your audiences help in establishing your practice’s credibility and legitimacy. Frequent communication regarding topical issues of concern such as taxation laws, intellectual property litigation helps your practice convert potential leads into viable client files.
Other content marketing collaterals such as thought leadership content executed in attractive formats such as a video or a podcast can also maximize your acclaim among your audiences. Posting case studies on your website is also a nifty way to enhance the validity of your services among potential leads as nothing fosters confidence better than a remarkable track record. Publishing white papers and opinion pieces on topical issues, sending out regular newsletters are different formats of a content marketing strategy that make audiences identify with your services and highlight your core competencies in a more virtuous light.
With a clever and reflective online marketing strategy, a digital marketing expert can ensure greater online visibility for your law firm and establish a stalwart reputation for your practice. This enables potential clients to reach out to your practice when they need it and helps your firm get newer client files directly. Still not convinced about the utility of online marketing for your law firm, leave your queries in the comment section below and I’ll answer them directly.
Marcus Tullius Cicero, a famous orator and lawyer himself who believed in the good of the people had said that, “The safety of the people shall be the highest law.”
People like him may have inspired many others to enter the field of law and order to work towards the betterment of the people and build a safe society. With large number of lawyers in Canada who provide similar legal services, the Canadian legal profession is a highly competitive one. This increase in competition, has created a need for legal firms to find a source of promotion to stand out to their target audience.
Digital marketing is an option that legal firms can use to promote their work online. There are different methods of marketing within the concept of digital marketing. These include content marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, search engine marketing, etc. For law firms in Canada, there are certain constraints when it comes to advertising and marketing. We will talk about the same in detail shortly. However, with marketing constraints over law firms, content marketing is one type of digital marketing that law firms can use without a worry.
The limitations to market a legal service is common throughout the world. Every country has its own set of rules and regulations for law firms that plan to market their services. Before we start with content marketing for law firms, it is essential that we first understand what we are allowed to do and what we are not allowed to do. To begin with, we will like to put more focus on the legal marketing rules for the province of Alberta. As per the Rule 3.02(1) of the Law Society of Albert’s Code of Conduct, a lawyer is allowed to market their professional services if:
The information is accurate, verifiable, and demonstrably true.
The information is in the best interest of the masses and drafted with high standards of professionalism.
The information is not misleading, deceptive, and confusing.
The Law Society of Alberta’s Code of Conduct also has a commentary section that further adds pointers related to the Rule 3.02(1). These include:
You are not allowed to designate persons that are not entitled to practice law in Alberta on your marketing or official materials such as letterheads and envelopes.
You are not allowed to use words that showcase you are superior to other lawyers practicing in Alberta
Lawyers that have a sole practice cannot use the words ‘company’ and ‘associates’ in their name as it can be misleading.
You are not allowed to raise unjustifiable expectations for your clients.
You cannot use misleading terms in your company name that are not applicable on legal services.
You cannot in any form of communication, imply that you are aggressive in your approach.
You cannot use the words ‘expert’ or ‘specialist’ unless the Law Society of Alberta designates it to you.
You cannot use any form of communication to demean other people or organizations.
You cannot use emotional marketing messages such as testimonials with emotional appeal.
Now let’s figure out how you can do content marketing for your legal firm.
Content Marketing Strategy for Law Firms
Content marketing is a process of subtly promoting your business to the target audience with the help of content. The word itself has two concepts within it. Content stands for the message or information that you will convey and marketing stands for the method or the delivery mechanism that you will use to distribute your message to the target audience. Now to make both the concepts work well together, you need to have a strategic plan.
No strategy can happen without knowing what end result you are expecting out of it. If you know what you want to achieve, then planning a strategy becomes easier. So the first step in building a content marketing strategy for your law firm is to define goals. When defining goals, make sure you set SMART goals. S – Specific, M – Measurable, A – Attainable, R – Relevant, and T – Timely. You need to have goals that are specific and relevant to your law firm marketing needs. These goals should be measurable in quantitative terms. Also, you need to be realistic of what you will be achieving and in what time span. Some basic goals can to acquire more leads for a given period, increase the website, get more people to subscribe to your email newsletters, etc.
Identify the Audience
With a goal in mind, you now need to focus on your audience. For a law firm, you will have a wide variety of people who will be needing your services. However, you still need to figure out more specifically who these people are. To begin with, you already know that anyone with a legal problem will need you. This means that they could be a retired person, a working professional, etc. So your target audience is quite broad. Therefore, you need to first identify all the types of people who will need your help and then accordingly create content for them. Segmenting your audience is a good idea as it will help you plan a different set of content for different types of audience. First, take a look at your existing audience and make a note of the audience type that are already your clients. Make a note of their demographics, location, etc. Based on the data you collect, create audience persona types and accordingly decide what kind of content you want to create for each persona type.
The next step will help you a lot with consistent blog creation. In this step, we will work on devising a plan or schedule on how the whole workflow of the content marketing will work. This workflow will include the people involved in the whole process, along with the steps each person will manage. Therefore, identify who will create, edit, and publish the content. Figure out a method to maintain a list of content that has to be created, published or scheduled. Also, prepare a schedule when you will be publishing the content.
Set up a Blog Page
You now need to take the next big step of setting up a blog page for your legal firm website. This is where a majority of your content will be published. If your website already hosts a blog section, then you don’t need to worry. If not, you need to set one up. WordPress is a widely used platform by businesses to publish blogs on their website. It supports multiple plugins options that make it easy for you to not only publish your blogs but also edit it and make customized changes to the website as and when required. Once your blog page is set up, do not make the mistake of directly writing through the platform. Always create your blogs and review it thoroughly before uploading it to the website.
Review Existing Content
For law firms that have already been publishing content but have not been able to get the desirable results out of it, you need to add one more step in your strategy. Start reviewing your existing content. It is possible that when you started your research, you may have not followed all the above-mentioned steps. So when you start reviewing your existing content that is not performing well, check if the content is aligning to the goals that you have set. Check if the tone matches with the audience persona and the information is accurate. Also, take a look at the frequency at which you were publishing content. All of this will give you an idea of your shortcomings. To make the process of content reviewing easy, you can create a spreadsheet of the content and note down the issues in each content type.
Once you have created a plan and worked on your weakness, you can finally start creating content for your law firm blog. To create good and relevant content, identify popular keywords to use in your topics and content. The use of keywords is essential to rank your content on the SERPs. You need to use three types of keywords in your content. Short tail keywords like ‘Wills’, Medium keywords like ‘Wills Lawyer’ and long tail keywords like ‘Wills Lawyer in Edmonton’. Based on the keywords, you can come up with topics. When creating content, try different ideas to write blogs. You could create ‘How to’ guides, listicles, checklists, and expert advice blogs for more variety within your content type.
With your SEO-friendly content ready, you will receive some website traffic. However, is it going to be enough for you? Not really. What you need is the maximum attention you can get for your blog. This can only be done when more and more people become aware of your blog. To maximise awareness, you should promote the content you publish. You could start promoting your content through your social media profiles. Simply post the link of your newly published blog on your Facebook or LinkedIn profile to let people know about it. You could also use email marketing to inform your subscribers about an upcoming blog to create a buzz. Apart from this, reposting these blogs on third-party blog websites will also be beneficial as it will give you an opportunity to get more backlinks.
We just discussed the most basic strategy you can create for the content marketing of law firms. Based on your needs, you can add more steps in this strategy.
Content Marketing Best Practices and Ideas for Law Firms
Law firms are already restricted when it comes to advertising and marketing. With content marketing, abiding by the rules we discussed earlier, will be much simpler than other forms of marketing as with content marketing you can create content that does not openly promote your services. So here are some content marketing best practices and ideas that you should be aware of.
When we talk about SEO-friendly content, we are talking about creating keyword-rich well-planned content that ranks well on the SERPs. But if you simply keep creating just SEO-friendly content, your content may not be liked by your target audience. Though SEO-friendly content works for the search engines, your aim should be to appeal to the audience. Sometimes in the process of creating SEO-friendly content, we end up compromising on the information. When a person reads such content, they may not find it appealing or interesting to read. As a result, they may move out of your website without taking any suitable course of action like getting in touch with you, filling your Contact Us form, subscribing to your email newsletters, etc. So whenever you create content, always create it with the audience in mind first and then focus on the SEO elements.
The target audience for the law firm are not people who are looking for content to read in leisure. They are people with real legal problems and expect a quick solution. So when creating content for such an audience, do not beat around the bush or try to simply increase your word count by giving baseless information. Always stick to the point and provide proper and useful information. Keep in mind that someone may use your information for their legal matters simply because it’s on your legal website and if the information is incorrect, they could get into trouble. Apart from being an information center, you should use your content to inform the audience about the new changes and current happenings in the legal field. Legal matters require one to be updated at all times. If you keep the audience updated with information they will rely more on your content.
To create an impact, consistency is the key. If you are just starting content marketing for the sake of doing it, then don’t do it. Whatever marketing efforts you take for your business should be done with a purpose and with the mindset to keep it going. Content marketing is a process where you build trust in the minds of your audience by consistently providing good content. So if you stop publishing blogs, not only will your website rank poorly on the SERPs but the people who follow your blog will also decrease. To avoid this, plan ahead. Keep an editorial calendar to plan the content for the coming months in advance. This way, you will not have to think of topics at the last minute. In your editorial calendar, include the blog topics, keywords, timelines for writing blogs, blog publish date, and so on. You could even add a promotion plan in the editorial calendar to keep your complete content marketing process in one place.
Utilise Blog Potential
Organizations that do not opt for content marketing are often not aware of the benefits of blogging. Blogging is not just about creating articles and posting them on your website. There is so much more you can do with your blogs. To begin with, you should not use blogs only for general legal topics but also as a platform to inform the audience about the happenings in the field of Alberta law. This will feature your blog as a platform that also covers current news. Use your blog as a medium to get the audience on the website and keep them on your website for a longer duration by directing them to your other website pages for more information. Also, having a CTA in your blog gives you the opportunity to make the readers contact you or provide you with their contact details for further assistance. This way, you can generate leads.
Are you aware about thought leadership content? Thought leadership content refers to the blogs and other content types that are created and written by experts from the field to provide accurate information to the audience. When you use thought leadership content, your goal will not be to gain more leads, but to showcase your business brand as an expert in the field of law. As a law firm, using thought leadership content is a must. To make your content even more trustworthy, you should use the bylines of the heads and experts within your company to create an impact. Also, thought leadership content should not be restricted to your website blog only. You should consider publishing it on third-party blog platforms. You could also write thought leadership guest blogs for other law firms to grab more attention to your own practice.
Schedule Your Content
We have so far discussed how there are various aspects of a content marketing strategy. To sum it up, you need to work on research, content creation, content management, and content distribution. These are big responsibilities to be performed in a timely manner. However, you need not worry as there are many automation options available that you can use to cut down your task list by half. We will discuss these tools in detail in the next section. But before you choose an automotive tool to streamline your content marketing, keep in mind that these tools are only to assist you in the main tasks and that you still need to assign people to look after the process in order to keep every process running smooth.
Simple Tools for Content Marketing
Today, technology has taken over a lot of human tasks and made life much easier for humans. Work wise, we have so many tools and software to make our tasks easier. Digital marketing, for instance, has hundreds of tools alone to automate the processes. We have selected a few of these tools that are easy to use and really helpful for content marketing.
Let us first start with the tool that you will need at the beginning of your blog planning sessions. Consistently creating blog topics that are a hit with your target audience is a big task for every business. If you are a legal firm that is just starting content marketing, you can easily create topics around your services and the immediate pain points of your target audience. However, what will you do once everything has been covered? Coming up with new creative topics can become difficult after a point. In such situations, you can use Question DB tool. It is a simple tool where you simply need to put in a topic or keyword idea, and it scouts for questions people have around the keywords you entered. It gives you numerous questions which can easily be used as ideas for your next blog. This tool will cost you around 10$ a month. You can also opt for the free version, to begin with.
For content marketing, BuzzSumo is one tool that almost every other marketer will recommend. It is a comprehensive tool that takes care of almost every need of your content marketing efforts except for content writing. From finding topic ideas to analyzing how your legal business is performing on the search engines, you can do everything with the help of BuzzSumo. In fact, many marketers recommend BuzzSumo majorly for content idea research as it provides good ideas quickly. The cost of using BuzzSumo is anywhere between 80$ to 500$ based on the package you choose. However, with the advanced options that it provides, it is a complete value for money.
SimilarWeb is a tool that will not directly help you in content planning but will give you insights that will make the process of content ideation much easier for you. Often it happens that other law firms perform much better than you on the SERPs even though you both offer the same services. This is because they are doing something different. With the help of this tool, you can find out exactly how much traffic your competitors are receiving every month and which keywords are helping them rank on Google SERPs. The plus point is that the tool also informs you the source from where your competitors are receiving most of their website traffic from. SimilarWeb is a tool you can use for free. However, for advanced insights, you need to opt for the enterprise pricing.
Content is not just blogs. Images, videos, and infographics are also content types. Now if you just post text-based blogs always, your audience may find your content boring. Every now and then it’s a good idea to instead post an infographic to your blog page or add more images to your blogs. Now if you plan to create these images, you need not hire a graphic designer. With the help of Canva, you can easily design simple visual content that you can use to create infographics and images to enhance the quality of information on your blog. In this tool, you have free and paid templates that can be used to create different types of visual content. The paid version will cost you just about 12.95$ per month. It’s a good deal for the graphics it provides you with.
To create good content, you need writing flair. Creating quality content is not easy, and not everyone has the perfect writing flair. For such marketers and businesses, Hemmingway Editor is the perfect tool. This tool is like an English coach that reviews your content for you and gives you suggestions to improve it. It also tells you how you can reframe your sentences to make them easy to read. The tool is free to use, and if you want to opt for the premium desktop version, you just need to make a one-time payment of $19.99.
Wordable is a pretty nifty tool that every content marketer who uses WordPress and Google Docs will be happy to have. If you have ever used WordPress, you will know that adding content from Google Docs to WordPress can be a time-consuming task. This task can be reduced considerably with the help of Wordable. With this tool, you can publish your Google Doc file directly on WordPress with just a single button click. For lawyers who are really short on time, this can be a blessing. The cost of the tool is $19 per month.
There are many more content marketing tools available on the internet. All you need to do is search for one that fits your needs.
Content marketing for law firms is a strategic approach. It needs to aim at not just informing the audience about what you can do but also compelling them to approach you to do it for them. This is only possible if you use the right techniques to convince them about your authority and make them to contact you. If you want a comprehensive plan of content marketing with digital marketing analysis, reach out to Rapid Boost Marketing.
Ali Salman is an online marketing strategist who have worked with Coca-Cola, Extreme Pita, Mucho Burrito, KIA, Honda and other Fortune 500 companies. Ali Salman now heads Rapid Boost Marketing - Canada's fastest growing search marketing agency. RBM clients include Fortune 500's and medium size businesses across North America. Ali as RBM CMO leads his team in building and managing quality, high-performing and cost-effective interactive campaigns and programs for our company's customers and partners. In his career, he has significantly improved campaign performance for large brands such as Government of Alberta, Liberal Party, Workopolis, Cathay Pacific, as well as medium to large retailers and high-tech B2B-enterprise niches.
Ali and his team develop online promotional concepts that spark viral growth through search and social media for RBM clients, devising strategies that use search engines and more to reach key demographic segments in the ways they're most likely to be receptive. Ali Salman also oversees corporate marketing initiatives for Rapid Boost Marketing, including strategic communications counsel, public and analyst relations and client education programming.