If you’ve visited an emergency room recently, you might have noticed an advertising trend that is upsetting some Internet users. Shortly after or even during the ER visit, you might get ads about personal injury lawyers while you’re surfing the Internet on your phone. This tactic, called geofencing, is being called out for being akin to “digital ambulance chasing.” And it’s the wrong way to go about getting leads for your law firm. When it comes to location-based digital marketing, there’s a right way and wrong way to find clients.
What Is Geofencing?
Geofencing uses location to target potential clients for advertisers. Applied to personal injury law firms, this means drawing a digital “fence” or perimeter around certain locations, such as ERs, and targeting ads to people who enter those fences with their phones on them.
This tactic has been used by retail stores seeking to share deals or coupons with customers. For instance, after you enter a sporting goods store—even if you don’t make a purchase there—you might start to see ads for that store or its products.
While geofencing has existed for some time, some privacy experts have begun to question the ethics of using this digital marketing tactic on injury victims in hospitals. That’s not to mention the fact that many consumers find the tactic invasive and even a little disturbing.
Although they may hire personal injury lawyers at a later date, people in emergency rooms are generally thinking about the pain they’re in—not the lawyer they’re going to choose to handle their injury lawsuit. When they pull up Facebook or an Internet browser on their phones, the fact that they already have an attorney advertising to them may be a turnoff.
Geotargeting Can Hurt Your Marketing Efforts
While geofencing may initially seem like a great way to gain exposure to potential clients, it can hurt your law firm. Many injured people feel that geotargeted ads are invasive, and geofencing might make them less likely to visit your site or seek out your services.
While marketing firms don’t yet have to conform to the federal health privacy guidelines laid out in HIPAA, consumers on the receiving end of geofence ads might feel that their privacy has been invaded. This tactic targets people who are injured or aiding an injured family member, and they might feel that someone is trying to take advantage of and capitalize on their unfortunate situation.
Put simply, you could pay a marketer handsomely for geofencing services only to hurt your firm’s image and be worse off than when you started.
Backlash Against Geofencing
Because geotargeting relies on what many see as a violation of privacy, some lawsuits have been filed against marketing companies using these tactics.
While geofencing doesn’t violate guidelines like HIPAA, some lawsuits have framed it as a violation of patients’ privacy—a form of digital harassment. They’re trying to heal, and they might not be looking for a lawyer at that moment. And they might not want law firms and marketers to know they’re ill or injured.
Even if geofencing hasn’t been challenged in your area, it can still hurt your chances for leads. It’s not hard to imagine feeling enraged after seeing an ad for a law firm while you’re in the ER waiting room worrying about your injured family member.
These location-based marketing tactics can be unreliable. Some areas have banned the use of geofencing around their hospitals. Attorneys in these areas—and everywhere else, for that matter—should focus on getting leads for their law firms the right way. But how do you do that?
Getting Leads Without Digital Ambulance Chasing
If geofencing is the wrong way to approach location-based digital marketing, what is the right way? Rather than shoving an ad for your firm in an injury victim’s face, you’ll want to be highly visible when that potential client begins searching for the right attorney.
The key to being visible in that search? A sound, long-term SEO strategy.
By focusing on your website rankings, traffic, and leads, you’ll position yourself to be the answer to your potential clients’ questions and needs, rather than an invasive digital ambulance chaser.
When someone searches a term related to your law firm, such as “Los Angeles car accident lawyer,” you want your site to appear on the first page of search results in Google. The closer you are to the top rankings, the more likely potential clients are to click on your pages and contact you about their cases.
Ranking for these search terms is vital when it comes to getting leads. But how do you do that? Google considers a multitude of factors in determining the rankings of websites for certain search phrases. You’ll want great content optimized for terms relevant to your location and practice area, a responsive and eye-catching website, and plenty of high-quality backlinks, among many other ranking factors.
Many SEO providers that serve law firms try to take easy routes that might get attention fast. Unfortunately, tactics like geofencing rarely attract viable clients, and they can present more problems than solutions. So don’t be a digital ambulance chaser—be the attorney who is there and ready to help when your future client decides it’s time to start searching for a trustworthy and experienced law firm. Tom Desmond