How to Select a Digital Marketing Campaign for Your Law Firm

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In my conversations with attorneys, I often have to break down the different marketing opportunities available to them and the impact they make. Not every approach works for all law firms, and, unfortunately, funds are often wasted on the wrong campaign or a poorly trained agency. Accordingly, this article explains the options and offers the pros and cons of each of the major types of campaigns.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

What It Is:

Search engine optimization (SEO) is about ranking higher on search engine results pages – i.e., Google, and Bing. Thus, the goal is to reach potential clients who are doing a general search for attorneys in your area. These individuals are typing in phrases such as “personal injury lawyer near me” or “boca raton divorce lawyer.”

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How It Works:

There are three main components needed for a strong SEO campaign: technical work, content, and link building.

In short, technical work involves adjusting the performance of your site, especially when it comes to speed and other related criteria. Content involves creating and optimizing unique material that will display your practice areas to both your potential clients and the search engines, in the form of evergreen and blogging content. Link building is the “off-site” portion that requires you to get backlinks to your law firm from quality sites with a high domain authority.

The Pros:

  • The benefits of SEO are easily tangible. Though agencies will provide you with the metrics concerning your site’s performance, you can essentially check your own rankings with incognito searches and Google Analytics.
  • Similarly, the value of SEO is proven. Statistically, clients only peruse the options on the first page of the search engine results – especially the top 3-5 spots.
  • You can directly target the claims and locations you want to pursue.

The Cons:

  • SEO is complex. Attorneys need to master all three areas of an SEO campaign in order to see the best results.
  • SEO takes time. Google and other search engines typically take around six months to truly see the fruits of your effort.
  • A strong SEO campaign often requires the help of an agency or an in-house SEO professional, as the process is quite time-consuming to execute and should be ongoing.
  • SEO does require honing in on some particular claims/practice areas. Firms that are equally interested in a multitude of claims may find it difficult to pick the ones to pursue.

The Verdict:

In truth, SEO is arguably the most valuable marketing effort as the benefits and results are the least in dispute. Thus, if a law firm has the funds to invest in SEO, this is the marketing campaign of choice.

The only firms I don’t recommend SEO to – aside from those who lack the funds – are the firms that are truly only marketing to major corporations or businesses. Realistically, those clients are not going to turn to Google to pick a lawyer. It’s possible but not probable.

Paid Ads/Pay-Per-Click

What It Is:

For most law firms, a paid advertising or pay-per-click campaign (PPC) centers primarily around Google Ads. Law firms can select their target practice areas and audience and pay for their ads to appear at the very top of the results when a person searches for a related claim or keyword phrase. There are other paid options, such as Local Service Ads, which are another form of Google ad, as well as social media ads, but this article will just look at the juggernaut that is Google Ads.

How It Works

Google ads work as simply as I described above: you pay for your ads to show. Realistically, however, a large amount of analytics is involved. Google Ads Manager will outline to you how much you need to spend each month, but ask any PPC manager, and they’ll tell you that more analysis is needed than that to get the true calculation. Further, an ongoing campaign will examine which ads are performing and which aren’t. Aspects such as a custom landing page or a dedicated page of your website for traffic from these ads is also required.

The Pros:

  • Appearing at the top of a Google page is among the top ways to gain clients, plain and simple.
  • Google ads are among the most precise forms of advertising for your law firm as you can narrow down your audience criteria to demographics including gender, age, location, etc.
  • The effects of a PPC campaign have an immediacy that no other marketing option can match. Your ads can appear within 24 hours of account setup.

The Cons:

  • For a large number of law firms, the cost is simply going to weed this option out as a potential marketing strategy. Tens of thousands of dollars may be needed for these ads to be shown with enough frequency to be effective.
  • Though potential clients still click on these ads, a fair number of people are becoming more wary of these types of ads and simply skimming over these options without clicking to visit your site.

The Verdict:

Are Google Ads effective? Absolutely. Appearing at the very top of Google’s search results is as prime an advertising spot as any billboard or TV ad.

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That said, it’s simply an out-of-reach option for most personal injury law firms and other smaller firms located in big cities. Competition is sky-high, and the prices can easily run $20k a month.

Overall, if your market isn’t too competitive and you have the budget, it’s definitely an option that’s worth attempting to see the potential ROI.

Social Media Marketing

What It Is:

Social media marketing is one of the easiest forms of marketing to understand. As the name suggests, social media marketing involves promoting your law firm on key social media channels. Typically, most law firms utilize Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for their campaigns, though Instagram’s popularity is growing, and some firms have even attempted TikTok and SnapChat.

How It Works:

Social media marketing is all about drawing attention to your law firm. Frequent posts on the various channels are required with the goals of standing out, gaining followers, and achieving brand recognition.

Social media posts are often short and image-focused, and frequently link back to the firm’s site. You can use social media to showcase your blogs, videos, and other media. Paid ads are available but not often needed/recommended for law firms.

The Pros:

  • Many marketing channels often require the use of funds to be successful. Social media allows for smaller firms to compete with larger ones, as a good post doesn’t necessarily cost any money.
  • An informative or witty post can get enough shares to reach a large audience quickly.
  • A well-done social media campaign helps your law firm achieve name recognition, and memorable posts can help potential clients visit your firm directly and allow for word-of-mouth recommendations. “Memorable” could be funny, creative or particularly informative.

The Cons:

  • Though there is the potential for fraudulent marketing agencies everywhere, I truthfully see the highest amount of attorneys being scammed in this area of marketing. Everyone claims to be a social media guru, but do they really know how to promote a law firm? Credentials and work samples are vital, in particular, when selecting your outside help.
  • Social media’s main goal is branding. That’s not necessarily a con, but if client acquisition is your primary goal for your marketing, you may need to supplement your social media efforts with another type of marketing to actually secure your new clients.
  • Social media requires thinking outside the box with your posts and often requires knowledge of graphic design, photography and/or videography.

The Verdict:

For some areas of law, social media is a natural choice. For others, however, the chances of a firm crafting unique content that would gain followers is slim. For example, how many Facebook users are going to follow a corporate law firm or share a video about trust creation?

Further, social media arguably requires the most creativity as posts often require elements such as photography, humor, and/or a connection to powerful human interest pieces. If your firm doesn’t have the manpower to create these kinds of posts, your social media campaign isn’t likely to gain the followers you need to get a high ROI for this kind of marketing.

You can certainly use it to support your efforts, such as sharing your blogs, and for informational purposes, such as closings, but we’re not yet seeing massive returns for high numbers of law firms with social media unless they truly invest in the time and are willing to think outside the box.

Content Marketing

What It Is:

Content marketing involves crafting content to achieve particular goals: Some of the goals include:

  • Earning backlinks
  • Ranking highly
  • Going viral
  • Branding/Demonstrating Expertise

Just as the goals of content marketing can differ, a campaign of this variety involves time and effort to produce copy in various formats. Some examples are:

  • Blog posts
  • Practice area content
  • Attorney biographies
  • Press releases
  • Guest posts
  • Legal articles such as treatises or guides
  • Newsletters
  • Marketing materials such as brochures

The strongest content marketing campaign will include combinations of the above formats and strategies.

How It Works:

Like social media marketing, content marketing is about drawing attention to your law firm. Properly crafted content will get noticed for being informative and useful; thus earning your firm name recognition and establishing your expertise.

Additionally, content marketing involves perfecting the copy on your website itself – be it the attorney bios, practice area content, or the blog. When these aspects of your website are clear and helpful to potential clients, a site visitor will quickly schedule a consultation.

The Pros:

  • Content marketing is among the easiest to plan for. A content calendar helps attorneys stay on track, and you have an easy visual guide to what tasks need to be completed.
  • Content marketing is perhaps the most effective strategy for firms that rely on word-of-mouth referrals to gain visitors to their site as the material is on your website itself.
  • A strong piece of content will stand the test of time. For example, a resource guide for common topics like family law or drunk driving accidents can continue to have marketing power for several years.
  • Content marketing is often the most cost-effective as you don’t necessarily need to spend any funds to write a great biography or practice area pages.

The Cons:

  • Though strong content can earn backlinks and rank highly, it’s perhaps the least likely to draw clients to your site, as a strong majority of this content will be the copy on your website itself.
  • Too often, lawyers believe that content marketing requires legalese or discussions of complex topics. This type of confusing content could actually turn away potential clients as opposed to securing them. A high bounce rate – meaning the visitors leaving after viewing the content – can also cause your rankings to drop.
  • Content marketing can be tougher for multi-practice firms. For example, a high-performing real estate law guide won’t necessarily attract medical malpractice clients. Thus, you’ll need strong content for every practice area you offer.

The Verdict

In truth, there is really no downside to a content marketing campaign. It’s less time-consuming than other options, as a strong piece of content can promote your firm for years to come. That said, crafting the perfect piece of content is not given in terms of guides, blog posts, etc. Something you may think is well written still may not encourage conversion. Similarly, without other marketing efforts, a great piece of content may simply not reach your target audience. Thus, content marketing is a wonderful option, provided you have either a word-of-mouth reputation or other marketing efforts in place to sustain the efforts.

The Others

The marketing strategies above are the Big 4 in that firms often require at least one of those campaigns in place to be successful.

The below are by no means ineffective but should be considered supplements to the above:

  • Video Marketing – Videos are wonderful for allowing potential clients to get to know you. You can also answer important FAQs and allow clients to see your expertise. In order to be the most successful, however, you’ll need an effective SEO or social media campaign in order to be sure that your videos are reaching your target audience.
  • Email Marketing – Fantastic for keeping a relationship with your previous clients, email marketing is a great way to keep subscribers aware of your successes, claim availability and more. That said, even the best of information can easily be deleted as the open rate is often quite low for email marketing campaigns.  
  • Podcasts – Great for attorneys with niche practice areas, podcasts are wonderful for attorneys comfortable with public speaking. To be successful, however, a strong social media presence is needed in order to be sure that you gain followers for your show.
  • Print Marketing – Far from dead, print materials such as descriptive and/or informative brochures are wonderful marketing materials. Be sure to display them prominently at events and in your office, and perhaps consider mass mailings. Turn print materials into digital PDFs or virtual brochures for cost-effective marketing.

Conclusion

Perhaps because I devoted so much time and effort to SEO for many years prior to becoming more of a consultant, I feel as though SEO is often the best bang for a law firm’s buck since it’s an all-encompassing marketing effort with work done on your website and off.

That said, I recommend that law firms budget for two active marketing campaigns per year. I say that because not all of your bases are covered with just one option. For example, SEO is not as effective at targeting past clients as perhaps a newsletter option. Similarly, content marketing is often required in connection with another marketing option as you need to lure potential clients to your site AND create a website that engages and informs.

Thus, I recommend firms test the water with the options that best match their needs and just remember to be patient. Don’t spend your budget all at once, as refinements may be needed, and many campaigns take time to fully develop. Just hang in there and know that hiring an agency or consultant is often the easiest way to ensure that your campaigns are performing the way you need them to.

Nancy Rapp

Nancy Rapp has a law degree and works as the Client Relations Manager for PaperStreet Web Design. Her unique background allows her to view a law firm’s marketing campaign from the eyes of both an attorney and a digital marketing professional.

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