I have talked about blogging in the past as a tool that all law firms should take advantage of and last Friday, I shifted the topic a bit by discussing how you can make your firm paperless by using Evernote, but one thing that I haven’t touched on yet is how easy it is to fall victim to some pretty significant mistakes. The way that you write your blog, post each update, and even the additional content that you include, can speak volumes to your potential clients about how you view them. Are you sending information out that will go right over their heads without a second thought for their level of education? Are you including high resolution graphics that might not load on their mobile devices? These are all things that you need to take into consideration when you build and manage your blog.
It isn’t always the content that can affect your clientele when it comes to blogging; sometimes frequency or infrequency can also be a problem. Although I don’t have any one particular tip that can keep you on track in terms of your blogging skills, there are a few things I tell my clients that help lead them in the right direction when it comes to interacting online.
Not Keeping It Simple
Of course, you want your clients to know that you are smart, qualified, and ready to win their case or fight for their rights, but in order to send this message to them they must be able to understand you. Legal jargon has a place but your blog is not this place. Reputation Ink says:
For most of you, your audience is clients and potential clients. No matter how sophisticated you think your clients are, if they’re not attorneys they aren’t going to understand legalese. In fact, even if they are attorneys, if they don’t practice in your area they likely still won’t understand you.
This doesn’t mean that you have to dumb it down or make yourself sound less educated, it simply means that the terminology that you used will either have to be explained or simplified to plain old English. You can still tell potential clients what you can do for them, what field you specialize in, and why they should use your services in comparison to your competition; you just don’t need to reference all of those lovely document types, legal terms, or law related phrases to do so.
Footnotes Are Not For Blogs
Similarly, law school sets you up to write some of the very best and brightest law documents that your professors ever saw. Unfortunately, your clients aren’t likely to do a background check on where your information came from or whether or not you have set a precedent for a point that you made. Footnotes need to be left out of your blog, not only because readers may not understand or care what they are for, but because they litter the page and can make the read seem choppy and unorganized. Kristi Dosh at LinkedIn writes:
Save footnotes for legal journal articles. I know – I went to law school too – it’s second nature to footnote every fact. However, footnotes have no place in blogs. Instead, the best practice for blogging is to use hyperlinks within your blog to credit other sources.
A link for any quote, image, or other information or data that you use from another source is usually just fine by blog standards. If you gather facts from a previous case, you can set a link and explain to readers that this is where you have seen this type of action take place before, rather than breaking it down into legal jargon and quoting a case.
Forgetting To Post
One of the top sins of blogging, not just for law firms, but for any business or individual is forgetting to update. When you make a blog you are also making a commitment to stay on top of the materials that you are posting. Whether you have readers popping in every single week to check up on what’s new, or the traffic is sporadic every day, it’s still important to set a timeline by which you will post and stick to it. Law Marketing supplies:
You do not need to post new content on your law firm blog every single day. Once a week is great. Twice a week is even better. What you want to avoid is blogging when you ‘have time’ for it.
One thing that I often suggest to my clients in terms of their blog skills is to make a list of possible subjects that you want to touch on throughout the month. If you post once a week, this means a list of four, and break these down into points. This way when the time comes to post you can still use up-to-date information, but you will have an outline of what you are writing about. This can make the process easier, and save you time in the long run.
Not Giving Clients Easy Access
Finally, this is a subject that I have touched on a few times before in regards to online marketing, your website, and your blog. If your clients can’t view the materials that you post then there is almost no point in having posted it in the first place. My Case reports:
Most people today look at websites on their mobile devices. Without the technology to engage this group, small law firms are missing out on key clients.
Most blog platforms are user-friendly, so your work is half done for you; all you need to do is be certain that all of the content that you post can be viewed on most iOS and Android systems. Keep images small, video files short or hidden behind tags, and don’t use too much coding in your blog that might go amiss on a smart phone or tablet. Most mobile tools can handle just about anything that you throw at them these days, but if would be awful to lose a potential client because you weren’t aware of this.
Lately, I have been discussing the importance of making your site work for you in terms of link building, client awareness, and ways that you can help potential clients learn about your firm’s existence. Now, I want to touch on another subject that can help in this regard. With the rise of internet awareness in all industries, including law, having a website that your clients and potential clients can find is extremely important. To get better rankings on search engines like Google there are various ways to impact your placement and listing, among which is your domain name. Believe it or not, a simple .com or .net is no longer enough to assure you a place among the leaders in your profession, especially if you’re in the legal field. Domains like .lawyer and .attorney may still be slowly making their way onto the map, but as time goes on it looks like these names may actually be the next big thing in online searching and website verification.
Trusting Your Website
Something that can greatly impact your ranking with Google is whether or not they feel that your content and website is trustworthy. And one thing that makes this easier for them is if you have a .attorney or .lawyer domain. These domains are only being sold to verified lawyers and law firms, which means that Google doesn’t have to do as much guess work in verifying this information for themselves. The Law Insider says:
These new domains, being verified as belonging to attorneys, now give Google a way to trust that a site actually belongs to a lawyer. Over time, the need of people to actually know who they’re dealing with will factor into search and these new domains will be part of how Google will determine that someone is actually dealing with an attorney.
If these changes in domains continue and other law firms begin snatching up the available sites before you get a chance to change yours you may be out of luck and find yourself at the bottom of the listing once again. Unfortunately, this is no easy step to take as domains are costly, and Google isn’t fond of empty space floating around the internet.
Breaking Into The Business
Okay, so now you know why I think the .lawyer and .attorney domains are helpful for law firms in regards to assisting Google in verifying you as a firm. In addition, they also help clients place you into a specific industry category. The Business Insider advises:
Domain names are now an integral part of any business. Whether the use is primarily for email, a company website, or part of a marketing campaign anyone starting a business must secure a domain name. The difference between a domain name and other marketing expenses however is you are acquiring a presence which help future customers define you, not leasing one.
Law firms aren’t the only field getting new domains, .photography is now available, as well as .pizza, and a multitude of other endings that help categorize businesses across the world. This can help get you listed more quickly on sites that specialize in listings for local businesses as well as other online resources for your profession.
Marketing Your Firm
These new domains can also help with your marketing by giving new visual awareness of what your site supplies. This helps firms with names like “Marcus & Bloom,” for example, attract business as the ending .lawyers makes it very clear as to exactly what Marcus and Bloom do. This helps clients, other businesses, and Google understand what you do before they click the link that takes them to your web page. Now, as I mentioned above, you can’t just create a website with this style of domain and leave it sitting around for a time when you might need it. You have to get involved in transforming the site as soon as possible because blank space will leave your ranking lacking and it might be difficult to rectify once you begin to use the domain later. We Do Web Content suggests:
A word of caution, though. Google doesn’t favor domain squatters and domains with little or no quality content. So if you’re going to buy a domain name, be prepared to do something of value with it.
Having two websites up and running isn’t really a viable option for many businesses, especially if you operate a small firm, so if you purchase the domain, be ready to use it. Switch over whatever you can and close down your alternative site, or leave a link for customers to follow to the new site for a time. You can also directly link the sites for the first month or two until your existing customers know where you are, and new customers find a way to access your information.
Whether you have a large firm, a small firm, or you work independently, the .lawyer and .attorney domains can make a difference to your business. It certainly isn’t for everyone, and at the moment, the .com and .net domains haven’t quite reached a level where they’re being phased out, but these endings are no longer the future, and as the current trends begin to downsize and drift away you could find yourself in the back of the race wishing that you had thought ahead before that fateful moment.
This might be a good time to come together with other members of your firm, form a strategy as far as online business goes and discuss the pros and cons of the domain changes. You are a team of lawyers after all; somebody is bound to have a sound argument on whether or not the change will be beneficial, or if you should wait before you take the plunge. There are no set rules in this sort of online mechanics, meaning that sometimes you have to take a chance, or take a stand against change, at least for now, and continue in the traditional manner of marketing that you’ve been using thus far. The key here is to not get left behind the competition, so keep a keen eye on competitors in your area and see what they are doing as far as domain changes go.
When you begin building your practice, gaining a positive reputation is the key to success, and I’ve talked about this in previous posts, but here I really want to focus on how you can keep the attention positive, and what it means to your firm. Sure, SEO and web marketing involves getting potential clients to come visit your site, just like I discussed last time on how to motivate people to choose your firm, but first and foremost the best marketing tactic is providing the best possible service to the consumer. There are always things that you can do to help further the positive impact of your practice’s online presence, and nurture that presence to help it grow. Attorney Sync suggests:
Will marketing yourself on the internet make you rich all by itself? Of course not. In fact, doing it poorly is likely to do you more harm than good. Nonetheless, there’s no question that what people find out about you online matters to some people. And that seems to be enough reason alone to take control of your presence on the web.
There isn’t any one web marketing solution that custom fits every single firm, but there are several ways that you can make yourself known, and increase the positive image that your company plays on the Internet. Take a look at a few of the different suggestions that I sometimes make with my clients to bring their web content to a new level.
Review The Rules
If there is one thing that a lawyer knows better than anybody else it is that there are very specific rules of engagement in all things, and this is true for advertising and communications in terms of legal services as well. Take a look at the Rules of Professional Responsibility in regards to law in your state and make sure that your site is up to the standards required of you. The thing about publishing your own content online is that you’re always going to get more than just potential clients viewing what you post. You’ll also have other legal minds, such as judges, jurors and other lawyers perusing what is available on the web, so be wary that everything you’re writing can and will be seen by others. I always like to think about the content that is posted online as being permanent, because even after it is removed, it can be retrieved by those who know how.
Learn To Search
This might seem like an odd tip because typing a phrase into a search field is pretty simple, but sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to make your content more accessible for those online. Consider how those who might seek you out would search for legal services; what key words and phrases might they use, what type of content are they looking for, how can your website better inform them about your services? These are all things to keep in mind. You can also spend some time briefing yourself and your team on how search engines rank businesses. Read the Webmaster tools offered by Google or their SEO starter guide. There are various online sources for SEO help, including professional web marketing services like mine. John P. David from The Huffington Post says:
Law firm and attorney marketing continues to evolve, but one thing is clear: Attorneys need to continually work on their marketing efforts if they hope to grow and prosper.
Law firms certainly need to be more cautious than other businesses jumping into the online marketing kingdom, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make your message clear and easy to access. Don’t hide behind the competition or you’ll fall behind; it is quickly becoming a web operated world, and if you want your firm to be successful, you have to know the rules and structure your site accordingly.
I’ve written a lot about how to get your website ranked higher on Google and other search engines, as well as what types of alternative web marketing law firms should be getting involved with including the use of blogging, which I discussed last week. But today I really want to touch on how you can motivate new clients simply by having a user-friendly website. By “user-friendly,” I mean a lot of things, and this is where some people might get confused, but bear with me. Of course, you want your website to rank well and so there are certain rules and regulations that you must stick with for the sake of all the search engines out there, but outside of building links appropriately and keeping content genuine to appease Google, you also have to think about what viewers want.
Keep It Interesting
Spend some time getting organized and creating a concise strategy that includes scheduled updates of articles, interactive media, photos, videos, and interesting subjects that potential clients will be eager to converse about. One thing that I like to suggest to my own clients is that they really take some time to create a call to action that will urge visitors to contact their firm rather than just viewing the site and bookmarking it for later. Studies have shown that consumers who speak directly to a law firm are far more likely to follow through with their business, while those who skim with plans of calling later may never get around to it. You have to really motivate your visitors with inviting phrases and inspiring suggestions that make them want to email or call. Law Practice Today writes,
A new study by Touchpoint Metrics of San Rafael, CA, proved that law firms are getting new business from their Web sites. The report found that articles and white papers written by the firms’ lawyers generate visitors who become new clients.
To take this contact availability to the next level you can add web forms and other convenient ways for visitors to send messages, chat live, or leave feedback to your practice about the site, possible services they may be interested in, or anything else that they want to ask or say. This isn’t to say that you should be offering free legal advice via web form, but you could certainly take each question in turn and advise potential clients that you would be more than happy to help them and ask when they could come in for a consultation.
Make It Visually Appealing
So you have some unique and interesting content, you’re planning a strategy as far as when to post that content goes, but the site is still looking kind of bland. People seeking a great law firm are looking for the most professional materials available. They want somebody who can represent them in court, or assist them with legal paperwork, or any number of other specialized services, and they want an expert. To make yourself look more professional sometimes you have to hire a professional. If you have the funds available, I suggest that law firms utilize the services of a photographer or a photography service to take photographs of real lawyers and other staff at your firm for the website. You want to give the appearance that your practice is personal but still professional enough to handle any issue. Don’t mess around with cheap shots with a digital camera unless you absolutely have to. Olmstead and Associates recommends:
In a large firms a marketing director and a team of marketing professionals are typically employed. In small firms appoint a focal person such as the administrator or office manager, or a responsible attorney or secretary.
It can also really pay off to seek professionals in other areas of online web marketing as well, and this doesn’t just mean using services like mine, but contacting professional writers to build you some appropriate articles, blog updates, and even landing page content. The more organized and expert your site appears, the more likely clients are to choose you to represent them.
Keep It New And Imaginative
It can be tempting to stick to old legal images like the scales of justice or animated gavels, but these are not funny or inviting, they are cheesy, and have well outlived their shelf life for use by any modern legal team. To bring in new clients you have to show them that you’re part of this century, and that means getting inventing with your images, videos, and even the articles that you post. You need to have a new spin on things to outwit your competition, and also to impress viewers of the website. You also want to steer away from images or terms that seem like a form of advertising; internet users are smart, and they know when they’re being lulled into a possible marketing ploy. Lawyernomics explains:
Do you like advertisements? Do you fast-forward through your favorite DVR’d shows in eager anticipation of hearing about the side effects of cholesterol-lowering drugs? Do you click the next button on Pandora to prompt another ad? Do you click refresh on your browser to stare in awe of the creativity of banner ads? Neither do your potential clients.
I usually suggest that you not only try to think like a potential client, but also think about what you would look for in a law firm, and what you might appreciate on a website from an outside point of view. If you’re sitting back staring at your webpage and thinking that the phrasing, images, or calls to action are fake, cheesy, or too much, then you’re probably right and you should consider changing them.
While it’s true that mistakes happen when you’re building the content for your webpage, and most of them are easily fixed, if you can avoid them in the first place you can also avoid the possibility of turning away potential business. Remember that every flaw in your marketing plan could lead to the loss of a customer, so dig deep and motivate new clientele to contact your firm.
In my previous post, I talked about link building as part of the SEO strategy of a law firm, and offered some helpful tips to make this happen. Now, I’m going to touch base on something that many of my clients overlook as a serious method of increasing their clientele; a well-written blog can actually be a big motivator for website traffic and this is what will attract new consumers to your firm. Of course, not all of your readers will be converts, but if you can interest even a few people to read your firm updates, and you have something worthwhile to say, it can make a big impact on who those readers will hire when they need a lawyer in their area.
Staying Local and Narrow
Of course, every law firm wants to grow to their maximum potential and be considered the best firm in the state, or maybe even the country, but before you can reach these heights you have to take each step on the ladder rungs on the way up. The first step in terms of setting up a successful legal blog is to focus on your niche market, and this is going to be local clients who are looking for legal aid in your field of expertise. If you specialize in family law then make sure that your writing reflects not only this area of law, but also the particulars that you focus on. Go Black Fin explains:
For example, instead of writing a blog about the grounds for divorce in your state, write about how a person who is suddenly unemployed might be able to get a judge to modify a child support order. Chances are your blog will attract the attention of people in need of your services to help them to modify a support order.
Sure, staying narrow in your subject matter might mean that you’re pulling in fewer potential consumers at first, but if these potential consumers turn into clients then you’ve been successful in your endeavor.
Make Yourself Into an Expert
Focusing on a niche area of law not only brings in more serious clientele who actually require your expertise, but it also helps to make a firm name for your brand. Writing about one area of law with confidence and insight can make your firm’s name synonymous with being an expert in that particular field. Try to keep your posts regulated to a particular day each week so that the blog has a more professional feel to it. Make sure that the content you write about is always relevant to your city, field of practice, and particular case types that you have covered before and are confident in pursuing again. If there are many different practices of law in your firm, you must be careful in labeling so that you don’t confuse potential clients.
Use Your Blog to Your Advantage
Marketing can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but let’s face it a law firm is in need of a little advertising because word of mouth isn’t always going to cut it. This is where I think a blog makes an excellent tool because not only is it a form of marketing, but it’s a measurable form of marketing, which means you get feedback from these efforts that tell you how many people have viewed, rated or commented on your posts. Larry Bodine says:
What I would suggest you do is pursue the techniques that you can measure. That would include blogs. You can publish up a blog and see how many people visited. On a blog, you can also see how many people commented.
Thus, blogging is one tool that every law firm can reap benefits from. Even if you don’t find a huge response from readers, the fact that you have a blog on your website shows clients that you are up-to-date and advancing with the times. Nobody wants a lawyer who seems unknowledgeable or out of touch with the times.
I know that the term “social media” would likely fill your mind with thoughts of Facebook games and Tweets, and this isn’t always cohesive to a professional reputation, but with more and more companies turning to these online profiles, they are becoming more business-oriented. Passle.net explains:
Unfortunately for lawyers, building an online presence isn’t as simple as uploading a few pictures to Pinterest. But the industry is changing, and in a world gone digital, law firms need to keep up to avoid being left behind.
Creating an online presence is an extremely important part of modern business, and this includes law firms. No longer is spreading your reputation as a lawyer through word of mouth alone enough to keep a firm alive with clients. Law is a highly competitive industry, and with that competition looms the knowledge that in order to stay on top, you have got to think ahead.
Advance Your Reputation With LinkedIn
For law firms, I usually recommend LinkedIn as the best form of social media to start out with. I encourage using LinkedIn because it is more geared towards the business-minded user, and this can give you a far more professional appearance on the Internet. This isn’t just about marketing yourself and your firm, it’s about representing yourself to possible clients, and other lawyers, and how you want them to see you will come out in the profile that you create. This is all part of your SEO plan to increase traffic to your firm’s website, and to encourage new clients to contact you personally. It also lets you network in ways that might not be available to you otherwise; Dee Schiavelli of Results Market states:
In-person networking is local. LI networking is global. LI allows you to participate in Groups that you don’t have time to attend; to make connections that are not only in your geographic area but beyond.
As a lawyer you may not have the time to surf the net on a regular basis, or attend every function that you are invited to. Think about LinkedIn as you would a business card, except that this card is going out to millions of people across the Internet, and the information is always available, while still giving you the privacy that other social media platforms may not extend. Using social media gives you the opportunity to get your name out there and create your own network, which you can communicate with, promote, and be linked to new contacts in this way.
I usually suggest that my clients take advantage of their ability to post advice and articles of their own on their LinkedIn account. You can also upload videos to market yourself and your firm, and give clients and other account users a better understanding of what your firm covers, and why they should choose you to represent them.
Linking Your Social Media Account To Your Firm’s Website
Whichever form of social media you choose, you would be able to better serve your clients by including your firm’s website on the profile of your social media account, and vice versa. This gives your profile viewers the ability to see all of the information that you’re sharing online, and it also offers more traffic between your links. Something else that you should consider when attempting to connect your LinkedIn users with your firm’s site, is that many Internet users now search the web via mobile phone. This can make it difficult for new clients to view your information if it has not yet been made mobile-friendly. The Orange County Attorney Journal states:
While this may seem like a foregone conclusion, most law firm websites are still difficult to view on smart phones and tablets. Many firms are creating an entirely new version of their website for mobile viewers, which can get expensive and time consuming to update unless you’re using a CMS which populates both the regular site and the mobile site with the same content.
If you have the money to spend on a separate site and you’re willing to do so then that might be a good route to take, but if you don’t want to spend more than you have to, I suggest that you optimize your site for tablet and mobile viewing rather than attempting to build an entirely new one. There are many ways to make your site more accessible to mobile users, and some of these methods include making images smaller or reducing them all together, and removing java code that isn’t necessary to the navigation of your pages.
Use Facebook In Your Own Way
While I can understand why many legal practices choose to avoid the more fun-based social networking sites like Facebook, it is also important to note that there are also some benefits to creating an account in Facebook as well. Facebook gives your firm the option to create a business page on a website with 1.23 billion monthly active users. The advantage here is that many law firms avoid Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram because of the reputation that they have that they are unrelated to serious business. What this means is that by creating an account for your practice on a social media site like Facebook, you can beat some of the competition simply by making yourself accessible to would-be clients that others aren’t actively seeking. Facebook also allows you to customize your content and privacy settings, so that you can still make it as respectable and professional as possible. Photos of lawyers at your practice, videos advertising your firm to users on the site, and links back to your practice’s website can all be added for a more personalized feel.
The main point that I’m trying to portray here is that social networking isn’t just for the younger crowd or for less professional businesses; they can help in a big way to grow your law firm and bring in new clientele. Remember to keep the vision of your practice in mind when creating profiles and adding details, and you should have no problem creating better traffic flow to your website, and attracting new clients who are actively seeking legal aid.
Enter any landing page or website URL.