Content marketing is a highly effective way to reach potential clients without wasting time or money.

Good content marketing focuses on the needs of your potential clients. Good content also provides the search engines (specifically, Google) with a necessary component of their business model: high-quality, educational information.

(If Google couldn’t provide good search results to its users, people would stop using it.)

When content marketing is done well, you can increase your online visibility and build a connection with potential clients before they’ve even picked up the phone to call your firm.

If your online marketing didn’t produce the results you wanted in 2017, it’s not too late to start thinking about creating a content marketing plan for the new year. Good content marketing keeps attorneys from wasting time or money and helps them connect with more (and better) potential clients.

But to do content marketing the right way, attorneys must understand the online law firm marketing landscape, as well as the motivations of two major players involved: your potential clients, and the search engine they use to connect with lawyers.

Here’s what you need to know about why content marketing works well for small law firms.

Content is a cost-effective form of law firm marketing.

In the past, firms with bigger budgets might have had a marketing advantage. They could take out a full-page ad in the phonebook. They could put up a billboards on busy streets, or pay for the 30-second television spot. At one time, more money may have meant better visibility. And that may have left smaller firms (with smaller budgets) unable to compete.

But the internet has leveled the playing field.

It’s changed the way that potential clients consume information and find attorneys. It has also given attorneys a new way to communicate with those potential clients.

Consumers of legal services are now likely to search for answers to the questions that they have about their case or problem, and they’ll use search engines to do that. They need to be educated. They need details. And they need to know what to do next.

That’s where content marketing comes in.

Online law firm marketing is now a meritocracy, and the attorneys who provide the best (and most) content have a significant advantage in this regard. Money is no longer a barrier to entry. Firms with small budgets can create content just as well as a large firm can.

And no matter where you are in the business life cycle of your law firm, content marketing works: If you have a small budget, you can create the content yourself. If you have a larger budget (and perhaps less time to write), you may choose to pay someone to create that content.

(If you decide to do that, here are some things you should know about hiring a ghostwriter.)

But, the end result, when that content is created with the user in mind, is an experience that provides a high level of value for the consumer. That value builds trust, and encourages potential clients to engage your firm.

Law firm website content has long-term value for your firm

The quality content that you publish on your law firm’s website has value. It has value in the moment it’s created, and it also has value that goes beyond its initial creation, because it’s likely to be found in search results for relevant queries and read again and again.

The investment that you have to put in comes in the form of the time that you spend to create that content, or the money that you spend to have a ghostwriter create that content.

But once you make that investment, that practice area page or blog post continues to have value.

When that content is detailed, educational, and directly addresses the kinds of questions your potential clients ask, it’s likely to be returned in search results when someone conducts a related search. It’s likely to be consumed by readers soon after it’s created, and it will be consumed by readers months from now, too.

The initial work that’s put in — or that you pay for someone to do for you —  is an investment in something that potential clients will find and continue to engage with over time.

Law firm website content builds trust with search engines and potential clients.

When it’s done well, content marketing meets the shared needs of potential clients and search engines. 

They’re both looking for quality information. Potential clients want answers about their case or matter; search engines want to provide the most useful answers for those questions. Good content can address both of those needs.

Building trust with search engines

From Google’s perspective, quality information is especially important for law firm websites. According to Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines, law firm websites are held to a higher page quality standard by the search engine. That’s because these websites fall under the category of “Your Money or Your Life” pages. These are pages that can have a serious impact on the person who finds them.

(For more on how Google views law firm websites, see “What Google’s Search Quality Guidelines Can Reveal To Attorneys”)

The information on law firm websites can affect the health, happiness, or finances of the person who reads and trusts that information. As a result, Google wants to return the most useful information to users.

If Google were to return useless or untrustworthy information for user queries, that could negatively impact its users. That would probably make users less likely to use that search engine. And that’s bad for Google’s business. The needs of Google’s users are very important to Google.

There is a reason that the company is often quoted as saying: “Make pages for users, not for search engines.”

It’s also why Google engineers have spent so much time perfecting its algorithms to stop low-quality websites (and/or those that violate Google’s guidelines) from appearing in the top organic listings.

Building trust with Google comes down to avoiding practices that violate its guidelines and providing useful, educational content on a regular basis.

Building trust with your potential clients

Choosing an attorney is not a decision that potential clients take lightly. The choice that they make can have real consequences. Before they even pick up a phone to call your law firm, they want to know that you’re someone they can trust. They need to know more about what to do next. (In some cases, they may not even realize they need an attorney yet. But they’re likely doing Google searches about their case.)

They need to know that you care about them, that you care about their problem, and that you care about your practice.

Quality content can achieve all of those things because it’s an educational tool that addresses the specific needs of your potential clients. 

Good content marketing can create an experience that’s like the one you might have when you meet a potential client in your office. When you have a face-to-face interaction with a potential client, you’re likely having a conversation that educates them and builds trust and confidence in your work. 

Your content should do that, too. It should answer questions in a way potential clients understand. It can showcase your personality and how invested you are in providing the best possible outcome for your potential clients. And it can cause potential clients who read it to build a bond of trust with your law firm.

Content marketing is the most effective form of SEO for law firms.

We hear from a lot of attorneys who are worried about search engine optimization. They want to become more visible in search engine results, but they don’t know how to do it.

Some believe the process is too complex for them to understand. Some think they don’t have time to learn, and need to pay someone to handle their SEO for them. Some of them are focused on tactics that don’t make a difference, or worse, may damage their online visibility.

Often, the problem is that these attorneys don’t understand the way that content and SEO fit together. When they understand the relationship between these two things, they’re able to focus their efforts in the right direction, and stop wasting time and/or money.

The relationship between SEO and content

Sometimes, attorneys assume that SEO and content are unrelated to one another. But good content plays a large role in better online visibility for attorneys.

SEO, at its core, is about online visibility. Content marketing is about providing educational value to your potential clients and referral sources.

Google has an interest in providing value to its users. The most visible organic listings for a given search query are often those that provide a great deal of valuable, relevant content (and don’t violate Google’s guidelines). Good content is what search users need, and therefore, also what Google needs.

For attorneys who are worried about their online visibility, the solution comes down to two major things:

a) Providing useful, relevant content to your potential clients, which is also what search engines are looking for.

b) Avoiding practices that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

What happens when attorneys focus on content marketing?

When you’re focused on client-centric content marketing, you’re doing a few things all at once:

a) You’re offering search engines the high-quality content that they need to provide to users. That high-quality content builds trust over time.

b) You’re giving web visitors detailed information that explains what they need to know about their case or problem. The reader gets their questions answered, and they feel confident in your abilities. When web visitors see that you produce content on a regular basis, the web visitor trusts that you’re invested in your clients and your practice. As that bond of trust forms, the potential client becomes motivated to contact your firm.

c) You’re improving your online visibility naturally. Instead of being too focused on things like keywords, you’re writing directly to your audience and answering their questions in language that they can understand. When you write content that focuses on the needs of your clients, keywords have a tendency to occur naturally within the text.

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