Table of Contents of this Article:
Online Legal Marketing – 11 Reasons Why Content Is King
By Jay Fleischman
Online legal marketing efforts typically consist of a thin website or a blog that collects dust. You’re all fired up about “getting online,” that you forget one critical point – if you’re using your website as a brochure filled with platitudes and hollow verbiage then why would someone ever consider hiring you?
Answer – they wouldn’t.
Consider the text of this website, created by an excellent law firm with high hopes for a killer online legal marketing effort:
<name of firm> is a full-service <location> bankruptcy law firm providing legal assistance to individuals and families in <area of practice>. As a <location> Board Certified Bankruptcy Attorney, <name of lawyer> has the legal knowledge, experience and resources to help you, just as he and his legal team have helped thousands of clients.
Your may now proceed to enter your name and location in that paragraph. Once you’ve done that, substitute the name of your closest competitor.
Can you tell the difference? I didn’t think so.
It’s boring and doesn’t provide any useful information. Online legal marketing at the lowest possible level, indeed.
The rest of this lawyer’s site is filled with similarly empty-sounding paragraphs, providing zero substance and consisting of the online legal marketing equivalent of a brochure.
There’s no meat on those bones. Nothing’s there but something for the dog to gnaw on.
Online legal marketing, if it’s going to be effective, must be formed around a content-based strategy. That’s anathema to most lawyers because there’s still that annoying voice in their head that says:
If you give prospective clients a ton of information for free, why would they pay you for it?
It’s a point I used to brush off, dismissing the concerns as those of dinosaurs who refused to embrace the “new rules”of online legal marketing as it progressed from a one-dimensional brochureware approach to an interactive and content-based strategy. But as with the stock market and the world of business, the old rules are exactly the same as the new ones. The only difference is that the new rules wear more stylish clothing.
My law practice has engaged in online legal marketing using a content strategy for 5 years, and it’s paid off in myriad ways: people come to me with more information under their belt, a sense of confidence in my abilities and, to a large extent, a level of preparation I’d never seen before I started marketing my law firm with content.
More to the point, they’re pre-sold on my services – I don’t need to quibble over legal fees or convince them that I’m the right choice. They’ve already gotten to the point where they have made the decision on their own, which is far more effective than trying to sell them.
This isn’t a “new rule” of marketing your law firm. None of this stuff is particularly new, in fact. It’s easier to get a client when you’ve had the opportunity to educate and convince that person about the need for, and value of, your services.
Online legal marketing strategies consist of nothing more than a using a new platform. The Internet enables you to get it done more effectively and on a larger scale than pressing the flesh or direct mail. All we’re doing here is using a new delivery mechanism for reaching out and educating people.
Here are my top 11 reasons why online legal marketing efforts must be centered around the creation of real content instead of marketing fluff:
- Content informs people about the basics before they pick up the phone to call you for an initial meeting;
- Your online legal marketing efforts need to be designed to prove that your law firm is well-educated in solving client needs, and can communicate those solutions effectively;
- When you show how much you know, you don’t need to tell your prospective clients about your competence – the proof is in the pudding;
- Informative content gets passed along from one person to the next, providing exposure to more people than would otherwise be possible using other marketing techniques;
- When your law firm creates useful content – not fluff – it helps you learn more about it even if you’ve been practicing law for years;
- Valuable content allows your online legal marketing efforts to weed out those people who do not need your help – someone reads your stuff, they realize the solution you offer isn’t for them, and they move on without wasting your time or theirs;
- Providing information as the basis of your marketing efforts gives people the ability to do some of the “grunt work” that you’d like them to do before meeting with you. Stuff like writing a letter to a debt collector to stop contacting them, initiating an effective credit reporting reinvestigation request, or putting together all of the documents they’ll need to start a bankruptcy case. Why would you not want them to do this legwork before coming to you in the first place?
- While you’re marketing your law firm by providing valuable information, others are marketing with the bland and forgettable 30 second TV spot (and people are skipping it to hit the bathroom or grab a snack);
- Creating a blog post, article or other form of content takes time but no money;
- You can re-purpose your content by taking blog posts and turning them into an ebook or informational package to provide to clients, so you can create it once and spin it out to use over and over again;
- More content marketing = more search engine saturation = higher placement on the search engines = more traffic to your website or blog = more clients = more money.
So here’s my question for you: if you’re not using a content market strategy, why not? What’s getting in your way? And how can we break down those roadblocks to make you more successful?.
When marketing your law firm online it’s important to remember that originality is key. And I’m not just talking about the design of your law firm’s website or your point of view – it should be obvious that you need to be different so as not to blend in.
What I’m talking about is the originality of your online content. The words you use, the way you put your thoughts together, and the way it all reads. It’s all got to be original or your online legal marketing efforts will fail. And not because they won’t resonate, but because they won’t be seen.
Case in point, with names changed to protect the innocent. A colleague of mine is a bankruptcy lawyer who relies almost solely on his online legal marketing efforts to keep his doors open. He’s a good lawyer, a good guy, and smart. But he got a little careless when he built his current website.
His law firm’s website is gorgeous, filled with video and lots of pages of content. He’s got his picture up on the site, his contact information, and all the bells and whistles that we want to have in place when marketing online. Reads well, designed well … but all was not well.
His site was placed at the top of every single relevant search term for quite some time. Until one day he noticed it wasn’t there anymore. Like, at all. Gone from Local Search, gone from the index … poof. Even his Google Profile was deactivated and blocked.
So he did what I would have done. He freaked out. Sent emails, called his web host, tried in vain to contact Google’s search team. He got back cryptic emails, all essentially telling him that his law firm’s website was somehow a bad apple.
Finally, his SEO people started digging around and were told of the problem. His website was filled with content found elsewhere online, on sites for his law firm as well as on sites for other lawyers.
In other words, his site was unoriginal. And that was a problem for two reasons:
First, Google has been clear that duplicate content isn’t the best way to go. Duplicate content is defined as:
substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar.
In fact, the Google Webmaster Blog says:
Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results. If your site suffers from duplicate content issues, and you don’t follow the advice listed above, we do a good job of choosing a version of the content to show in our search results.
What does it mean to be deceptive and manipulative? Well, that’s tough to say. But if your site is so clearly filled with content that’s found elsewhere, the chances are good that Google’s going to find that your intentions are less than honorable.
Why does Google hate duplicate content? Because Google’s primary business is to delivery the best possible search results; in doing so, it ensures that people will come back to Google again and again when they want to find something. If the search engine lists a ton of different sites with the exact same information, where’s the value add for the searcher? It isn’t there at all, which is why the search engine will cull out the duplicates and show only a single instance of the content – and that single instance will be on the domain that has the highest PageRank, relevance and trust scores overall.
Second, duplicate content isn’t worth your reader’s efforts and time. Let’s say I can pick up the exact same book in a bunch of different libraries. Why would I look to one as a better library than the others? I wouldn’t – unless one particular library has a bunch of different books on the same subject. In that case, one is better than the others.
So, too, with your web content. Your law firm website needs to have something relevant and unique to say, something that sets it apart in the eyes of the visitor in order to spur that person to take action.
How do you avoid the duplicate content problem in your online legal marketing efforts? Speak in your own words, as if you were talking with a client or prospect. Be genuine, be honest, and be yourself. If you’ve got any passion for what you do, this will come through easily. That’s it. No magic potion.
And if you’ve hired someone to develop your website copy, take the time and a few bucks to run it through Copyscape. That’s a service that will go through a web page’s content and ensure that it’s not a duplicate of another site. Well worth the money.
7 Reasons Why Content Matters
Lawyers face a tremendous challenge when trying to market their practices online. Sure, there are millions of consumers looking for information to help them find solutions to their debt problems… but there are also many more attorneys looking for a piece of the action online than there were even six months ago. If you want to have any chance of setting yourself apart from the competition, you’re going to have to provide better, more relevant content than then next guy looking for clients online.
Here are seven reasons why exceptional content is crucial to a successful internet marketing strategy:
- Consumers want to “get” before they “give”. Even the most desperate consumer knows that there is no shortage of bankruptcy lawyers to choose from. Yes, some will choose an attorney based on price… but many more are frightened that they’ll hire an attorney who cares more about making money than about helping them obtain relief from their financial woes. Providing useful information gives website visitors the impression that you sincerely care about helping them.
- Being seen as an expert carries a lot of weight. The last thing a debt-ridden consumer wants is to be saddled with an attorney who doesn’t know how to navigate the bankruptcy process. When you offer valuable online content, you show potential clients that you can be trusted to get them what they want – financial peace of mind.
- Good content is viewed favorably by search engines. Yes, keywords are important, but search engines today are very sophisticated animals… they know the difference between reader-friendly content and keyword-laden garbage.
- If your content is valuable, blog owners and webmasters will link to your pages. This not only helps you obtain traffic by “referral”; it also improves your site’s visibility in search engine rankings.
- The more useful your content is, the more likely it is that your pages will be submitted to social bookmarking sites. These sites are like popularity polls – superior content is rewarded with more “votes”, which means that more visitors will find and view your site.
- News of a great blog post or web page travels fast on the internet. When you provide valuable content, people talk… and build interest for your site. Any marketer will tell you that the best advertising is free advertising.
- Great content keeps readers coming back. Getting traffic is good… but keeping traffic is even better. Visitors who return again and again to partake of your knowledge are the ones who will be most likely to become your clients down the road.
Done right, content marketing makes all marketing options make more sense. It lets you see the opportunities as, “What can I give to prospects and clients, and how can I make it work for me?” It’s not easy, and it’s not quick – creating and repurposing content is simple once you know how to do it right, but the learning curve is a steep one. On the plus side, it allows for a comprehensive “set it and forget it” marketing plan that pays dividends for years to come.