The Stars Show What’s Ahead for Legal Marketing in 2015
I see big changes in law firm marketing coming in 2015. There have been several tipping points — such as cell phones have been outselling PCs for two years now and in 2015 tablets will start to outsell PCs. Google rolled out Pigeon, Panda and Panda updates in 2014 to change local search results and downgrade spam content. At least a dozen more Google updates are coming in 2015.
The upcoming changes in the way people get information means that smart lawyers will adapt to get new clients and files.
★ The firm website becomes the sine qua non of legal marketing.
A law firm website is now the essential element of a firm’s marketing.
- Hinge research showed that 77% of professional firms generate new business leads online.
- This nearly matches another survey where 70 percent of law firms said their website generated new matters, according to Alyn-Weiss research.
The firm website is no longer an extra add-on — it is the center of law firm marketing. Hinge found that firms that generate leads online are positioned to become two times more profitable than those that don’t.
Since 2012 it has been established that 3 out of 4 consumers seeking an attorney over the prior year used online resources to find a lawyer, according to LexisNexis research. Legal marketers will prepare an online welcome for clients who visit.
★ Law firms will redesign and optimize websites for mobile.
Law firm websites are typically redesigned once every three years. But because half of website visits are now made on a mobile device — a smartphone or tablet — lawyers will start the redesign process by seeing how their site looks on a cell phone
58% of American adults have a smartphone and 42% of American adults own a tablet computer, according to Pew Research. The best way to reach these mobile clients is with a responsive web design, which will resize and reorganize to fit a client’s mobile screen size.
Mobile prospects are much more action-oriented than PC visitors. To smooth their path, key elements of a mobile site are big buttons, click-to-call links and local maps. Mobile apps become passe, but mobile advertising starts to look interesting.
★ The rise of the review sites.
Because so many consumers habitually look to review sites before making a purchase, lawyers will have to pay close attention to reviews about them on Avvo, Personalinjury.com, Yelp, Merchant Circle and Google.
A Hubspot customer survey reported:
- 76% of consumers regularly or occasionally use online reviews to determine which local business to use.
- Even more encouraging for businesses, 52% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations.
According to Software Advice research. 43% of clients use online reviews to research lawyers. Further, Google’s ranking factors include positive testimonials and reviews — and favorable reviews increase a law firm search engine visibility.
This means it is important to ask happy clients to and friendly lawyers to write online testimonials — for placement on a review site and the firm website.
★ Content marketing dominates.
Google has moved away from keyword searches (for example, “Santa Barbara DUI lawyer”) and so have clients. The click rate and contact rate (that is, a web visitor contacts the firm) on keyword terms are very low, according to Thomson Reuters research. Instead, law firms should work to be found by “long tail searches,” which are searches containing a larger number of words that suggest an intent to hire an attorney. An example is “drunk driving lawyer in Santa Barbara that handles cases with motorcycles.”
To be found via long-tail searches:
- A law firm website should be updated two to three times per week. (We update PersonalInjury.com several times a day.)
- The content must be 100% original and not thinly-rewritten text from some other site.
- A blog post or article should run 300-400 words long.
- Focus not just on increasing leads, but also on converting visitors to your website into clients.
- Hook visitors with storytelling.
★ Law Firms convert with free content downloads or a newsletter sign-up.
A “conversion” is getting a potential client to interact with a law firm website. Potential clients will need more than one visit or “touch” to prompt them to contact your law firm. Marketers continue to rate email the most effective digital marketing tactic. The best way to get a visitor’s email address is to provide an opt-in form. On Law Practice Advisor, as a reader scrolls down a page, the opt-in form appears, offering free updates.
A highly effective method to get an email address is to offer the download of Ebooks, guides and checklists. They have a high perceived value, and it feels like a fair trade to request an email address. This positions your law firm to start a long-term, follow-up campaign via email. Webinars are also an effective method to create email lists — composed of attendees and subsequent visitors who can download the slides or listen to a recording of the webinar.
★ Bring visitors back with an automatic newsletter.
Lawyers should send an automatic newsletter to contacts on the firm mailing list and to visitors who opt-in. Mailchimp has a plugin for WordPress that will automatically compose, illustrate and send the newsletter on a specified schedule. For example, sign up for the Law Practice Advisor newsletter at http://bit.ly/LPASubscribe. It goes out beautifully every week without any manual input.
Newsletters engage readers and build relationships and loyalty. Accordingly, a newsletter should be educational, with synopses of your best-read articles and practical advice. It should also tell potential clients what you want them to do with well-crafted calls to action. Most email distribution platforms will track whether the newsletter was viewed and which links were clicked on — so lawyers can tell which content is working for them.
★ Social proof is necessary to generate leads.
Potential clients spend 16 minutes of every hour on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
Social proof confirms to consumers that they have made the right choice because many others are also doing so. Consumers look to social media to participate in online networks, and will get a positive impression when they see a lawyer who is active on social media. Absence on social media demonstrates that a lawyer is out-of-it.
Clients want to see updates, news and information from a lawyer. The National Trial Lawyers posts updates daily on all four platforms. Social media is also useful to send out notices about blog posts, downloadable content, opt-in pages and webinar dates.
To see what’s ahead in Legal marketing in 2015, a lawyer needs only to look at the stars above. Signs are favorable for time invested on the mobile web, review sites and content marketing. Your future portends great success both in the business world and society.