Search engine optimization (SEO) can be a particularly effective way to earn new clients. However, there is a lot of misinformation about how law firm SEO and online legal marketing, more generally, actually work.
The best way to protect yourself from inexperienced and unscrupulous legal web marketing vendors, is to learn a little about how this stuff works. Armed with the right knowledge and questions, you will avoid many of the most costly mistakes.
Before we dive into how it works, it's important to understand that SEO won't solve all of your client development issues. As we like to say, "You can't SEO your way out of lousy client service."
In fact, traditional notions of client development, like reputation and relationships, are useful for ranking and essential to an effective web presence.
Ultimately, any marketing, including SEO, should be measured by its ability to achieve a specific goal. With respect to legal marketing, this usually means earning more of the right type of clients.
If you haven't noticed, smartphones have fundamentally changed the way we access media and information. When we have a question or need, we tend to seemingly sub-consciously reach for our smartphones to find an answer.
The overwhelming majority of these journeys will, at some point, go through a search engine, most likely Google.
Whether they search for you directly by name, or enter a legal question they have, your next clients expect to be able to find information about how you can help them solve their legal problem online.
Lawyers who are the most effective at supplying peoples' relevant demand for information will be the ones who win.
Communicating the value of a lawyer's services is not the same as selling shoes. The ways that legal services consumers will search for information and lawyers is vastly different from they way they are likely to look for information about buying consumer electronics. Therefore, conventional marketing wisdom from other industries is often inapplicable to legal marketing.
On the other hand, there are some things that can be learned from products businesses.
If you're considering hiring help with your web marketing, you should spend a lot of time doing research and asking questions. Here are some questions you should ask your prospective web vendor:
Who owns my domain, content and content management system (CMS)?
Some legal web marketing companies will retain ownership interests in one or more of them. Essentially, you are renting (licensing) your website from them. If you ever decide to go in a different direction, you may find yourself having to start from scratch. Don't rent any key component of your web marketing.
How will I measure the effectiveness of your SEO strategies?
The effectiveness of online legal marketing, including SEO, can be tracked from click all of the way to client. You can't pay your bills with likes, followers and tweets. Vendors that are selling you on these metrics are trying to divert your attention from meaningful business metrics. Instead, measure legal fees generated from organic search traffic. Track inquiries from potential clients attributable to SEO campaigns. Measure directional trends in relevant organic search traffic in the locations you in which you practice.
Avoid any legal web marketing vendor who claims their strategies are proprietary.
Are you performing online legal marketing services for any of my competitors?
For any given search query, there is only one number one position. Web marketing vendors who work with multiple firms in the same practice area(s) in the same location(s) have an inherent conflict of interest. There's simply no way around this. Don't work with web marketers who are helping your competitors beat you.
What is your experience working with law firms like mine?
As previously noted, marketing a law practice presents unique challenges and considerations. Don't work with vendors who have little or no experience marketing law firms like yours.