While some people might say that you need a website to get started with web marketing for your law firm, I’m going to suggest some alternative approaches. If you stop reading here and taking nothing else away from this post, what you really need to get started is a place to publish web content and a couple ways to distribute that content to your audiences.
A Place To Publish Content
First, you need a place to publish content. Traditionally, this might have been a website. The problem with many of the older websites is that they are difficult to use, require the help of developers (yuck), and are designed more like storefronts than publishing platforms.
Blogs entered the scene as a much more effective way to publish content. They are built for publishing, engagement, and conversation. With some simple modifications, blogs can look and feel much more like an online newspaper or magazine displaying your expertise in a much more digestible manner for your visitors.
While blogs are great, you may not even need a blog! Some sites that offer profiles to attorneys can be used as quasi-publishing platforms. For example, you might sign-up for a profile with LawFirms.com (ExpertHub) or HG.org. These sites allow you to customize a profile and then publish content there. Since these platforms already have great visibility within search results, publishing there can be one of the most efficient ways to “get search results” in a very short amount of time. However, it’s important to keep in mind that using these sites as your sole means of publishing is not without limitation. There are definitely limitations in terms of design, look, and feel for your profile and your content. Further, there are questions of ownership. Good content development takes a great deal of time and effort. That’s time and effort that you should invest in content that you own.
Usually, the best advice is to do both. Set up a WordPress.org blog on a domain that is registered in your name. Spend the majority of time developing content for that blog. Feel free to syndicate content on other sites (of course being mindful that you aren’t creating duplicate content). Once you have a place to publish content, then next step is getting that content in front of your audiences.
Distributing (Sharing) Your Content
As you might have noticed, the web and search are getting much more social. It has become a vast sea of publishers. Some good, many bad. Which is why your primary focus should be on content development. However, how you distribute and share your content, will also have a large impact on its effectiveness.
When some people here the word “distribute” they think of exposure. They want to get their message in front of the largest audience they can. This is how we have been trained from traditional advertising models. Companies pay the most money for Super Bowl commercials because they have the largest audience. On the web (and even in some offline contexts) this exposure strategy is simply misplaced.
Instead of trying to get in front of the most people, think instead of getting in front of the right people. What does this mean? It means think about your audiences. Who is interested in what you have to say? What are those people talking about? You really have to listen to the voices of others in order to find out who the people are that will engage your content.
While everyone’s marketing goal includes generating new business, there are many smaller pieces of the puzzle that need to be placed before that goal can be realized.
I’m big on football analogies, so here’s one. Winning football games, like generating new business, is an outcome. It’s an outcome that depends on the culmination of many steps. It requires that your players commit to weight training, speed training, and understanding the fundamentals of their position. It requires good coaching and good strategy. The same is true for web marketing.
Web marketing requires providing information that is helpful, useful, or entertaining to your visitors. It requires forming online relationships with people that share your same interests and passion for similar topics. It requires sharing ideas and having a discourse. It is not just about getting exposure.
So how do you do this? Start by listening. Here are some places to listen:
- LinkedIn updates and group discussions.
- Twitter, your feed, as well as, search.
- Your Google Reader.
- If you have an ipad, Zite.
- Your facebook feed.
- Online & offline industry publications.
- Offline networking events.
- Your clients.
By listening to what people are talking about, you will not only have a better concept of what to write about, you will also start to find people that may be interested in consuming your content. Connecting, sharing, and discussing with those people is the most effective way to distribute your content online.
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot more to effective law firm web marketing than just these two concepts (although they may make up about 80% of the equation). However, if you follow these tips, you’ll be off to a great start. Be yourself. Be honest.
(Photo credit Publish Identity: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wakingtiger/3157621212/ Carlson Distributors: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pixeljones/1190378350/)