I got a call today from a lawyer practicing personal injury law in San Diego. While he has been a practicing lawyer for several years, he recently opened his own personal injury law firm. At this point he knows he won’t be able to go head to head, in terms of marketing/advertising budget, with the other injury law firms in the area. He has a website setup and has been talking to various marketing companies about what solutions might be available to him.
He’d been offered SEO packages with pricing ranging all over the map. He had been told that Google Adwords was a poor fit because his budget wasn’t big enough to make an impact. By the time we spoke, it seemed to me that his head was spinning with all the advice and “noise” that was thrown his way. This type of call is not uncommon so I thought I would share with our readers the same advice that I gave him.
Demonstrate Your Expertise
In my opinion, the key building block to marketing his firm online is for him to authentically, demonstrate his expertise. This does not mean he should pay someone to try to game Google for high rankings, talk about all the awards he has won, discuss how “hard” he is going to fight for his clients, tweet that he offers free consultations, post on Facebook that he offers free consultations, etc.
What this means is he should be focusing on the following:
Writing – This is key to demonstrating his expertise. He needs to be able to demonstrate to people looking for his services that he knows what he is talking about. This isn’t achieved simply by attaining a high ranking or talking about how great of a lawyer he is on his website. This is demonstrated by way of example. Being able to distill the complicated legal issues down into a format that a lay person can understand is important. So is writing about something relevant but interesting. I suggested he consider blogging and set a goal of 1-2 posts a week. I told him to setup Google Reader, subscribe to a few industry related blogs, and get a feel for what the community related to his niche/geography writes and discusses. The point is to start posting articles that are useful in addressing the needs, concerns, questions, issues, and problems people who need his service are looking for. I told him to stay away from posting about local car accidents, that’s internet garbage. People are researching for information online….he needs to start thinking about his firm’s site as a place that will provide them with the information they are looking for.
Leverage Legal Q & A Platforms – Legal question and answer sites can be beneficial in demonstrating knowledge and getting visibility, although as Gyi discusses in this Lawyerist post on the subject, lawyers should be conscientious about how they participate in these online communities. Here are a small sampling of legal Q & A sites I told him to check out:
- Justia Legal Answers
- FindLaw Answers
- Law Guru Answers
- Law QA
- Free Advice
- Just Answer
- Lawyers.com Ask A Lawyer
Gyi does a nice job in article of explaining the benefits and drawbacks of legal Q & A sites:
Prospective clients (particularly those using the web as a legal information resource tool) expect to be able to find things out about you online. And this expectation includes finding information about your knowledge, skill and experience.
Providing good answers on legal Q & A sites is one way that you can demonstrate your expertise and experience on a particular subject.
On the other hand, providing thoughtless answers or just trying to use these forums as advertising opportunities can be a pretty efficient way to harm your reputation. Failing to exercise good professional judgment and comply with your state’s ethics rules can also subject you to sanctions.
Thoughtful Commenting – I told him to consider participating in the community by commenting on other people’s blogs and articles. The key is to add value to the conversation. This doesn’t mean he should leave generic comments with a user name of “San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer” pointed back to his website. I’m talking about reading an article and offering additional value to the piece. He should leave his real name on the comment. Remember this is about being authentic and adding value.
I think an important point with many of these activities is to setup a schedule to execute on it. Demonstrating your expertise and building a reputation online takes time. I made the analogy that it is like a weight loss plan. You eat right and exercise day after day, week after week, month after month and you will hit your goals. Doing it once in awhile when you feel like it doesn’t work. Set goals for a specific number of articles, comments, questions answered each week and stick to it.
I can say with confidence that this stuff works. We are a service business ourselves. There are a lot of SEO companies out there vying for attention of law firms. I’m sure as a lawyer, you get solicited weekly if not daily to sign up for SEO services. To cut through the noise, we chose to market ourselves by way of demonstrating our expertise. We write about our thoughts on SEO strategy, we are generally helpful and answer people’s questions, we leave comments on industry blogs and contribute. I can assure you that it builds trust in your potential clientele and is a sound marketing strategy online. Try it out for yourself.