The Most Successful Legal Marketing Strategies of 2017

What’s the Best New Thing in Online Marketing? New Data.

Online marketing is a fast-paced and dynamic profession. Everyone here at LaFleur can rattle off a cavalcade of marketing information sources (as well as influencers) they are following in order to stay abreast of major trends and learn about new strategies that we can implement. In the interest of full disclosure, this blog post is an important part of one such strategy (more on that later). 

While there are always new ideas, new tools, and new strategies in the world of digital marketing, one of the most important parts of successfully marketing a law firm is easily forgotten: new data. At LaFleur, we keep a close eye on our individual clients’ data and the data from all our clients in the legal sector (and within specific practice areas) so we can draw informed conclusions about the success of particular strategies, tools, and ideas instead of chasing after the next bright and shiny thing simply because it’s new.

At LaFleur, we know what works for law firms, we have the data to prove it, and we’re happy to share that information with you. Below are the most successful online marketing strategies we have implemented on behalf of our clients in the past year with helpful links to free resources that can help you put them in place for your own firm.

SEO-Minded Website Builds: Success Starts with a Good Foundation

We’re the first to admit that building a website isn’t difficult. In fact, I built my first simple website on a Saturday afternoon and shared it with my friends that evening. Today, it’s even easier for do-it-yourselfers to roll up their sleeves and get a website up and running in a few hours.

However, building a good website — one that faithfully represents your brand, functionally aligns with your business goals, and ranks well in search engines — is a much more difficult process. It requires having a nuanced eye for design, understanding how users engage with online content, knowing how search engines crawl and rank web pages, and much more.

Many attorneys fall into the trap of thinking that their website is a separate entity, but your website is your law firm. The internet is the #1 way that potential clients find attorneys, plain and simple. If you are neglecting your website (or don’t even have one) and you’re waiting for the phones to ring or emails to come to your inbox, you’ll be waiting a long time.

Proper Website Planning Pays Long-Term Dividends

We have built and migrated numerous law firm websites, and an important part of those services is performing a comprehensive SEO analysis taking into account everything from site structure and mobile friendliness to on-page meta data and written content. And we’ve seen some impressive results.

According to Ahrefs, the average page-one Google result is over 2 years old, and the pages that rank #1 in Google are almost 3 years old on average. Looking at that data from a different angle, a mere 5.7% of all pages rank on the first page of Google within 1 year.

After a 3-month build process, we launched a client’s site in July of 2016. Within 4 months, pages on their site were ranking for 3 targeted page-one keywords, and their home page was ranking in the #1 spot in Google for one of their highly-sought-after head terms. Six months after that, the site was ranking on the first page of Google for 7 of their targeted keywords.

Below is a graph showing the growth of this client’s ranking keywords on the first and second page of Google along with trend lines:

Obviously, no one can guarantee results or rankings in Google, but by applying best-practices, working with our in-house, certified SEO specialist, and leveraging our unique insights into the legal industry, we were able to achieve and maintain outstanding results for this client.

We have also achieved similar consistent results for all of our other clients as well as ourselves. Even though we always prioritize client work above marketing for ourselves, here’s a peek at the history of our own organic keyword growth since the launch of our site:

There’s a lot more to having a successful website than just ranking on the first page of Google, but it doesn’t hurt to be at the top of search engine results for strategically valuable keywords in the first few months of your website launch — especially since that puts you in the elite 5.7% of pages that rank in Google’s top ten within a year.

Free Resources to Help You Assess and Improve Your Law Firm’s Website

Want to replicate these results for yourself? Here are some resources to help you get started:

Once your website is established with comprehensive, optimized core content and you have conversion mechanisms in place, you will want to build on that foundation with the next successful strategy: content marketing.

Blog Content Marketing: Growing Your Organic Audience

Content marketing has become exponentially more sophisticated over the last decade, and changes to net neutrality (as well as increasing competition) could pose even greater challenges to small- and medium-sized law firms trying to compete online.

As with websites, there are a lot of ways to get some content on your site. But it’s important to realize that yours is one of over one billion websites on the internet; if you type any query into a search engine like Google, you’ll see how many results your content is directly competing against at any given moment. A search for “law firm marketing agency,” for example, returns over 6,000,000 results.

It’s also important to realize that no one is clicking through those 6,000,000 results, and precious few are even navigating past the first page. Instead, 71% (or more) of clicks occur on the first page of a Google search, and the top 5 results on the first page account for 67% of all clicks.

In short, one piece of high-quality content that is optimized for search is infinitely more valuable than having an enormous repository of low-quality, non-ranking content that never makes it in the top 10 pages, let alone the top 10 results on the first page. And even if a lackluster piece of content happens to make it to page one for a valuable keyword, competitors will be able to write better articles and dominate with ease.

Blog Content Marketing (Done Right) Will Increase Your Website Traffic Dramatically

We’ve written before about the content marketing success we’ve achieved and why maintaining a blog is a particularly effective strategy. If you’re curious, our clients have seen a 159.61% increase in organic traffic to their websites on average as a result of the content marketing strategies we have implemented on their behalf.

Here are some of the important things to remember about that value of blogging:

1. Each Blog Post Expands Your Keyword Horizons

One of the fundamental strategies behind regularly posting new content on your website’s blog is that each new piece will expand the keywords you can potentially rank for. A lot of attorneys (and even marketers) get fixated on “head terms” – broad terms or phrases that get a lot of searches every month. Examples might include “personal injury lawyer” or “car accident attorney”; these terms are searched thousands of times every month.

However, 70% (or more) of Google searches are actually for “long-tail keywords.” These are longer phrases that are much less predictable. Examples might include “What should I do after being hit by a semi truck?” or “shoulder pain increasing after being in a car crash.” Based on the data, for every one broad head term search, there are two or more long-tail searches occurring, and ranking for those long-tail keyword phrases often requires having lots of content on your site where those phrases come up naturally in the course of a discussion about a given topic.

2. Blog Posts Link to Each Other, Driving Engagement

Adding to your repository of blog articles also provides you with more opportunities to link to other posts and drive highly engaged traffic to other pages. When people land on a high-quality blog post that captures their attention and helps them learn about or resolve their issue, they will invest trust in your brand, they will visit other content on your site (especially if it is also related to their issue), and every page they visit can encourage them to reach out to you in some way: subscribing to your blog, asking a question, or scheduling a consultation.

3. Regularly Adding New Content to Your Site Is a Positive Signal to Search Engines

If you had to choose a company to invest in, would you choose a company who puts out new and updated products regularly each month, or would you choose a company who hasn’t put out a new or updated product in several years? For most people, that choice isn’t difficult, but they fail to translate that same thinking to their websites.

Put simply, regularly posting new content to your website acts as an indirect sign of many different factors suggesting you are a trustworthy presence online. Regularly posting content means you have the staff to create that content, staff with the knowledge and skill to post it online, the resources to pay said staff, the financial stability to maintain a regular posting schedule, etc. Search engines like Google care about that information and so do your potential clients.

4. Creating Blog Content Provides You with a Repository of Assets to Refresh, Expand Upon, and Repurpose

A blog post is not just a one-time investment that may or may not pan out. Highly successful pieces on your blog can be repurposed into downloadable resources that you offer to site visitors in exchange for their contact information. A strong blog post can fuel new topics to expand upon from different angles or in different directions. Struggling articles can be refreshed with new, relevant content to improve their performance. In short, blogging is not simply a set-it-and-forget-it marketing strategy.

Free Resources to Help You Create a Better Blog (or Improve Your Existing Blog)

If you want to launch a new blog (or get your current blog back on track) to start seeing results from your content marketing efforts, here are some free resources to help you get started:

With an efficient system in place for generating new topics, writing and editing content, publishing your articles on your site, and regularly reviewing your blog’s performance, you will start seeing more (and more qualified) traffic to your site. You might consider content marketing services to help you stay focused on your legal practice and not get bogged down in the work of creating, publishing, and monitoring your content.

When you’re feeling confident in your blog, it will be time to start sharing your content more widely using another outstanding marketing strategy: sending email newsletters.

Email Newsletters: Keeping Your Brand Strong and Demonstrating Thought Leadership

I have subscribed to my fair share of truly terrible email newsletters, and I suspect you have too. Major offenses in the world of email newsletters include the following:

  • Sending too frequently — no one needs to hear from a brand every single day (or even every week in most cases), and there’s no better way to end up marked as spam than bombarding your contacts with emails.
  • Spammy content — even your most devoted subscribers will get bored by hearing similar messaging over and over again. It’s okay to pitch a product or service occasionally, but your email newsletter content should always put your audience’s needs first.
  • Self-aggrandizing content — generally, people on your email list already think you’re pretty great; you don’t need to tell them about it in every email. It’s fine to share noteworthy accomplishments and awards when they come up naturally, but content that is all about you will almost always fall flat and turn people off.
  • Poor design — you can have the best content on the web, but if your email newsletter looks shabby, you are asking for unsubscribes. Professional design is the new normal, and your email newsletter should be a positive reflection of your brand as a whole.
  • Sending impersonal or irrelevant content — sending an email blast to your entire list of contacts inevitably means that some of them are getting content that means nothing to them, and the copy in that email will, by its very nature, be vague and impersonal to try and relate to as many people on the list as possible. Your recipients will sense this; they will feel like just another contact on your list, they will know you are not trying to foster an individual relationship with them, and they will stop engaging with your emails.

By avoiding some of these major email marketing mistakes, you can provide targeted, personalized, and professional email content to people who will want to read it.

Email Newsletters Help Maintain Brand Awareness and Increase Referrals

With a contact list that is properly managed and segmented, email newsletters can reach specific audiences and keep your law firm’s name on their minds or even encourage them to take specific actions.

Here at LaFleur, our clients have seen a great deal of success with their email newsletters. Across all of our clients, the average open rate for newsletters is over 21.38%, the average click-to-open rate is 10.66%, and the average click-to-delivery rate is 2.23%.

More importantly, our clients consistently report receiving referrals from former clients, subscribers, and/or their peers as a direct result of those individuals receiving their newsletter.

Sending an email newsletter can also boost the results of your blog marketing because your contacts will share your content with their networks by forwarding your newsletter, sharing a piece they like on social media, or spreading your content in other ways. As your audience grows, so will the compounding effects of content sharing.

Free Resources to Start Email Marketing Today

It can seem intimidating to get started with email marketing, but newsletters are a great way to get your feet wet with email marketing and see direct results and high returns on your investment. Here are some free resources to help you get your email marketing off the ground:

It’s still possible to do basic email marketing with an Excel spreadsheet and manually-built email lists, but to make email marketing much easier and help you reach a limitless number of people, you may want to consider investing in marketing automation services.

If you have successfully implemented all the foundational well-oiled machinery listed above, you should have the following marketing mechanisms in place:

  1. A well-designed and functional website that can capture the contact information of visitors and notify you to follow up with them if that is necessary.
  2. A well-maintained blog with new, high-quality content being posted at regular intervals.
  3. An email newsletter that can be updated and sent to targeted lists quarterly, monthly, or even biweekly and that will highlight new content published on your site and any other noteworthy news related to your law firm

You should also have some email marketing automation in place. For example, you could have a simple email that immediately sends when someone completes a contact form on your website. That email could thank them for contacting you and let them know someone from your firm will be in touch very soon.

With that foundation in place, you can supercharge your marketing efforts with another scalable and successful strategy: paid advertising.

Paid Search: Responsible Spend. Exponential Growth. 

Paid search in the form of Google AdWords and Bing Ads is an excellent way to increase your client roster and convert curious leads into great clients, but if you’re not careful, it could also result in wasted spend and misallocated resources.

If there’s one thing to know about paid search campaigns, it’s that creating your campaigns, while an important first step, is hardly the last leg in the process. This is especially true in the legal sphere, as nearly 80 of the 100 most expensive keywords are related to law firms, which means that exhaustive and consistent keyword research combined with creative bidding strategies should be an ongoing effort.

By sticking to just a few best practices, you can leverage a minimal spend into a healthy return.

  • Utilize Match Types: For those of you with some experience, this might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s an important principle to remember for even the most seasoned PPC pros. Broad Match is the default match type when you enter a keyword, but by its very nature, this can be an overly vague, non-targeted approach that can lead to errant traffic and wasted spend. Exact match will result in highly targeted clicks but could limit your exposure. In general, we recommend phrase match to engage interested users while casting a sizable, practical net. Be deliberate in your keyword selection and match types by focusing only on your ideal clients and eliminating the potential for any irrelevant clicks.
  • Negative Keywords Are Your Friend: Negative keywords are those that seek to eliminate irrelevant clicks on your paid ads, which is especially important if you’re not using Exact Match for your keywords. For example, if your firm is based in Nashville, practices family law, and exclusively represents fathers and husbands in child custody cases, you might have chosen the dull and obvious firm name, Nashville Custody Advocate Attorneys. Of course, the acronym for this firm is the same as a rather prominent amateur athletics league, the NCAA. And if you don’t have that term listed as a negative keyword, you are going to receive an abundance of irrelevant traffic related to college football rather than father’s rights.
  • Create and Update Dedicated Landing Pages: Dedicated landing pages are individual webpages owned by your firm that are separate from those on your primary website. While the general aesthetic of the page should be indiscernible from your firm’s site (aligning closely with your brand guidelines and design layout), the content of the page should consist of a direct and engaging headline, sparse copy that mirrors your keyword list wherever possible (preferably in a bulleted list), testimonials from satisfied clients, and quality video offering useful information about the legal topic being researched. Above all, the page should have a simple conversion form with a direct call-to-action that is featured prominently above the fold. Last, but not least, there should be little to no navigation on the page. Remember, the main point here is to generate conversions, so don’t complicate the issue by directing them anywhere away from the page.

Paid Search Leads to Prime Clients

We put these practices to work every day for all our clients, and we’ve seen some pretty amazing results — for many of them, in a rather short timeframe. We use long-tail keywords to capitalize on highly relevant traffic with affordable costs-per-click and geotarget local placements on the display network to ensure that your ideal clients are finding you when they need you most. Not only that, but we track keywords from their initial click through the conversion or phone call and eventually to paying clients and resolved cases. This way, we distinguish between a keyword that is costing your firm a lot of money versus a keyword that is generating a lot of money for your firm.

We find that our best results are achieved when our clients give us the resources to create dedicated landing pages. This piece of the puzzle cannot be overstated. Once we have a full understanding of how our clients operate their firms and how they prioritize their leads, we are able to create strict alignment from the keyword level to ad copy and then landing pages (which, as stated above, increases Quality Score and makes optimum Ad Rank easier and more affordable to achieve). With legal keywords being as expensive as they are, having complete control from start to finish allows us to keep budget to a minimum while we create and optimize the campaign. Once conversions begin turning into revenue for the firm, we turn on the faucet on high-performing keywords and dominate the competition!

Free Resources to Start Your Paid Advertising Strategy

If you are considering adding paid search to your marketing plan or reconsidering your existing PPC strategy, here are a few great resources to jumpstart your efforts:

Review the above media to assess whether your current strategies align with our suggestions. If not, that’s okay: there are many different ways to approach this dynamic marketing medium. Still, we stand by the best practices above and would love the chance to put them to work on your behalf.

Still not convinced? Check out our paid search service area page to learn a bit more about our PPC philosophy! Sound legal marketing strategies include a paid search component — every day you hesitate is another day your competitors land clients that could and should be represented by your firm.

Struggling to Simultaneously Manage Your Law Firm’s Marketing and Your Case Load? Contact LaFleur Today!

We work with law firms across the country, so we know how valuable your time is as an attorney. In fact, our greatest successes have been achieved with clients who trust us to effectively manage their marketing strategies for them — and that trust comes from our track record of proven successes as well as our transparent reporting, project management, and billing procedures.

Complete our simple contact form or call our offices at 888-222-1512. We can answer your questions and provide you with candid, thorough advice about your digital marketing.

If you’re not comfortable reaching out just yet, that’s fine. You can still take advantage of our expertise and advice our legal marketing professionals have to offer with the resources available on our website.

Here Are Some More Free Resources to Help You Manage Your Online Marketing:

References

Fishkin, R. (2009, November 24). Illustrating the long tail. Moz. Retrieved from https://moz.com/blog/illustrating-the-long-tail

Petrescu, P. (2014, October 1). Google organic click-through rates in 2014. Moz. Retrieved from https://moz.com/blog/google-organic-click-through-rates-in-2014

Soulo, T. (2017, February 6). How long does it take to rank in Google? (A study by Ahrefs). Ahrefs. Retrieved from https://ahrefs.com/blog/how-long-does-it-take-to-rank/