Once upon a time, if you wanted to market your law firm, you put an ad in the yellow pages, maybe bought a few billboards, and waited for the phone to ring. Things are different today; consumers find their information online and unless you're running a well-established firm with no need for new clients (or keeping your existing ones), you need to make sure you're visible on the web.
In our experience with helping hundreds of businesses from small one-person law firms to large statewide and national organizations, every business needs to have three things as part of its digital strategy. While you can integrate additional tools and techniques along with them, these three form the core of any online visibility campaign.
Your website is the hub of the online wheel. It is the only place online that you actually own and control. With Facebook, Yelp, Google and the others, you're subject to ever-changing rules and algorithms that affect how your business is represented. Your website is your own little corner of cyberspace where you call the shots.
Your website needs to be clean, easy to navigate, and loaded with good content. We've all been told over and over again that content is king. That's certainly true on the Web. Google doesn't care about your site's fancy layout, the music that starts playing when the page loads (please no!), or the slick new logo that you just put together. What it does care about is substantive, well-written content that is useful to your readers. When you're writing content for your site, ask yourself what information you have that is valuable enough to make Google decide to put your page at the top of the list, above all the other thousands of websites. If you have a good answer to that question, then you're well on your way.
Another aspect you need to consider is how your website displays on mobile devices. The studies from 2015 aren't finalized yet, but the numbers from 2014 indicate that over 27 percent of all web traffic comes from mobile devices such as phones and small tablets. On our own clients' websites, that number is closer to 42 percent. If your website still requires readers to pinch and zoom or, even worse, scroll from side-to-side to read your content, it's time to consider a modern, responsive design for your site.
Your website is often your client's first impression of your firm. Whether they've found you through a search, been referred by a friend, or obtained the address from your businesses card, the website forms an immediate impression in the client's mind; make sure that impression is a good one.
2. Local Search
A small, local law office is not likely able to compete in the search engines at the national level, nor would you want to. Your target is likely to be the client who types in "San Joaquin County [insert specialty here] attorney." This type of localized search query triggers the map that you see on some Google search results pages, along with results from Yelp, Facebook and Avvo. All of these sites have listings for your business that you can—and should—take control of and pay close attention to. At a minimum, you MUST claim your Google My Business page and your Yelp page. Fill in as much of the information on these pages as you possibly can, and include pictures of your attorneys, staff and offices.
The most crucial element of the local search pages is having a number of positive reviews. Again, Google My Business and Yelp are the two most important places to cultivate your reviews. On Google, reaching five reviews activates the star rating on your maps listing, drawing additional attention to your link on the search results page and raising you higher in the rankings.
For attorneys, asking clients for reviews often can be difficult. If your type of business allows it, then by all means encourage your clients to leave positive reviews for you. If that's not feasible due to confidentiality or other concerns, one option is to ask other attorneys who you work with professionally to leave their impressions of you on your pages. A peer endorsement can carry a lot of weight in the eyes of a potential client.
Finally, pay close attention to the details of your name, address, and phone number (known in the industry as your "NAP"). All details of your NAP must be exactly identical across all platforms to achieve the best results. A listing for 20 N. Sutter Street is completely different from one for 20 North Sutter St. We recommend starting with your Google listing and see how it recommends that your address be formatted, then duplicate that exactly on all of your other search listings and your website.
3. Social Media
The third element of your online platform is the one that requires the most regular, ongoing attention, but can deliver a big payoff when you do it right. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn offer the opportunity to engage with your clients and leads alike.
A social media strategy looks different for every firm, but at the core you're trying to build relationships and establish expertise. You might accomplish this by sharing personal anecdotes from daily life in the office, blog articles on your website (custom written content only) and news articles from other sources. This content should humanize you and your firm, changing a client's view of you from XYZ Law Firm to Bob, David, and Laura—real people with real lives who also happen to be really good attorneys. When people connect with you in this way, they're much more likely to come back to you in the future and refer others.
Having clients interact with your content on Facebook, LinkedIn or other platforms creates an implied endorsement in the eyes of a new lead who is researching you. When they see a steady stream of good content, it shows that you care enough about your client to engage and communicate with them online. When your clients interact with your content, it sends the message that if they care enough about their relationship with you to like a post or leave a comment, there must be something here worth checking out.
There you have it. We've come a long way from the days when all you needed was a slick ad in the phone book. Marketing your business online takes a bit of work, but for those who take the time to do it right, it can generate outstanding results. Businesses can use thousands of different techniques for digital marketing, but in our experience these three techniques form a solid foundation for your digital presence that will position you for success.
Brent Critchfield is the founder and owner of Brentwood Visual, a Stockton-based Digital Marketing Agency. Contact Brent at .