In today’s post, we cover the 10 hottest digital marketing trends for attorneys for 2018 and beyond. Sit back, grab a cup of Joe and enjoy!
The digital revolution has made the entire marketplace more competitive, and the legal world is not immune. Today, there are more law offices commanding places on the web, trying to find their footing on the top page of search results. In order to keep up with (or, better yet, get ahead of) the pack, law offices must use every tool available to strengthen their online presence.
Optimizing your online content for search is one of the most powerful allies in your marketing toolbox. With a fully optimized website, potential clients will be able to connect with your services and see what makes your firm unique. While most people are familiar with the basics of search engine optimization, the guidelines and best practices change from year to year (even month to month). Your approach will also vary widely depending on discipline: for example, a doctor’s office isn’t going to frame its content the same way a traditional business does.
In this way, law offices are also unique. Your goal is not to sell a product, but to convince a potential client that your services and expertise make you the best candidate to serve their legal needs. This requires a thoughtful approach to your website optimization and marketing efforts in general.
WHY FOCUS ONLINE?
Perhaps you’re wondering why you should be focusing so much on your website in the first place. Law offices are one of the few professions left that still rely on word of mouth, but your web presence is your cyber front door. In today’s virtual world, it’s often a client’s first impression of you. Imagine you need a gutter cleanout, and you click on the first two hits on Google. The first is full of photos, worker bios, and client testimonials. The second is a geocities-era link with a couple pieces of clip art and a phone number. Which would you choose?
Your website and its content, when executed well, communicate both compassion and professionalism. It also helps your firm land on the first page of those coveted search engine results pages. Let’s explore the current best practices for gaining and attracting clients in 2017.
1. MAKE YOUR CONTENT LONGER
The perfect length for a content piece has been the matter of some debate. Some people lean toward shorter pieces, citing the average user’s shorter attention span. After all, what’s the point in creating content, if no one’s going to read it?
On the other hand, current research shows that longer-form pieces help you move up in search results. A recent study found that the top 10 search results contained content that averaged 2,000 words. This makes long-form content a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal. There are a couple caveats to this claim, however:
- Your long-form content should still be easy to digest and scan. Think of it this way: Would you rather listen to interesting sound bites regarding a recent verdict, or hunker down and read the entire ruling? You should design content with ease of reading in mind – even when it’s long (and the subject matter dense).
- Don’t write for content’s sake. Your pieces should be engaging and full of useful information. “Fluff” and low-quality writing will only hurt your SEO efforts in the long run.
There are a couple of ways you can make your current content longer or create newer long-form pieces for your blog or inner pages. Some examples include:
- Adding a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section. In your initial consultations, you likely run into similar questions again and again. A FAQ section is a perfect place to assemble answers to all common queries. It will add excellent content to your site and have the added benefit of decreasing questioning phone calls.
- Write a case study. Part of your ultimate goal is building enough trust for potential clients to choose you for their legal needs. Your clients are frequently coming from a place of vulnerability, so it’s essential you ease their concerns. You might choose to describe a recent success or case study about how you helped a client and what the process looked like.
2. MAKE YOUR WEBSITE VISUALLY APPEALING
You might think your website has enough visual appeal, but there are a few things you can do to improve your visual web presence. In a law setting, visual appeal is particularly important, as you want your site to convey trust, compassion, and professionalism. That’s a lofty order for a URL. But you can do it by following some simple tips:
- Add artistic photos. Instead of traditional headshots, hire a photographer and do a professional shoot. This will go a long way toward improving your perceived credibility and encourage visitors to take the next step.
- Get rid of stock photos. At the same time, rid your site of anything that’s stock quality. These can appear low quality and fake – certainly not adjectives you want associated with your firm.
- Remove flash. Flash technology doesn’t work on most updated browsers or on mobile devices, so when people open your page, a white, empty hole will greet them – not exactly a great first impression.
- Keep it simple and clean. It’s just as easy to overdesign as it is to under design. Include simple, professional calls to action throughout your site – but don’t bog it down with borders or background gradients.
A recent study found that 70% of law firms generate new cases through their website. Taking the time to make sure yours stands out will help you reap the benefits.
3. ALWAYS CREATE AND DESIGN WITH THE USER IN MIND
One of the biggest trends we’re seeing in SEO right now is an increase in machine learning. Google’s artificial intelligence algorithm is called RankBrain, and it’s been named the third-most important ranking factor. RankBrain essentially teaches itself and improves based on a user’s behavior. The prospect is terrifying for anyone familiar with George Orwell, but interesting all the same.
Here’s the gist of it: RankBrain makes it harder for anyone to “game” Google. The search engine, itself, is constantly learning how to produce the most relevant and trustworthy results on the web. That means your focus should be curating and generating high-quality content designed with your target user in mind.
The ultimate goal of your website will be to encourage prospects to journey into the next stage of that funnel – filling out a form or calling for a free initial consultation. This requires some research on your part. Align your thought-leading content with your target user’s pain points. That will make you both authoritative and trustworthy – a slam-dunk for SEO.
4. CREATE A CONTENT MIX
We’ve already discussed the importance of longer-form content, but what about the mix of it in general? To rev up your content, break up your blocks of text with infographics and videos. According to a recent report by Cisco, 69% of all internet traffic will be video in 2017. Here are some suggested best practices from the American Bar Association to get your creative juices flowing:
- Create solo profiles. There might be many firms in your area that practice the same type of law and have the same solid reputation. Video gives you a chance to differentiate by highlighting individual lawyers, not the firm. Present your attorneys in their best light (literally and figuratively) by capturing their persuasive powers on video. Video provides the opportunity to present ideas and positions with added authority and impact.
- Use videos to explain complex legal scenarios. Sometimes, it’s much easier to explain a legal concept through discussion than it is chunks of text. For example, a personal injury attorney might choose to narrate a video explaining how comparative negligence will affect a settlement. And since videos are short – only two to five minutes on average – attorneys will have to explain the issues succinctly, and in a way that’s both more attractive to clients and easier for them to digest.
- Take advantage of free platforms. YouTube makes it easy to create and distribute videos. Consider posting content to your website and social media outlets so that it’s “shareable.” This will increase your reach and your credibility, and establish your firm’s thought leadership.
5. OPTIMIZE FOR MOBILE
By now, most small and medium-sized businesses, including law firms, have a mobile website. But have you taken steps to optimize your website for mobile search? According to research from Hitwise, up to 60% of all Google searches are via a mobile device. In response to this demand, Google announced a project in 2016 called “Accelerated Mobile Pages” (AMP). AMPs load faster and perform better. Consider having your web developer add AMP code to your mobile site. This would put you ahead of the competition, as only 23% of search engine optimizers are currently implementing AMPs.
If you don’t have a web developer, or don’t want to go through adding AMP coding to your site, there are still a few things you can do to enhance your mobile user experience:
- Test your load times. Google uses your mobile speed and usability as a ranking factor, so it makes sense to spend time improving it. Slow loading speeds are correlated with lower user engagement: according to a recent study, 40% of visitors leave a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
- See how mobile-friendly your current site is by using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. This will give you a list of issues that might be affecting your site’s mobile performance.
- Compress your high resolution images. Law firm websites often rely on high-res, professional photos. Compressing these will go a long way toward improving your mobile user experience.
Only 1/3rd of law firms had a mobile-optimized site in 2015. Don’t let yours be one of them!