“Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.”
That’s Google’s philosophy on how to make a great website, and you may have come across it before.
If you have, it may not come as a surprise to see a similar sentiment echoed in a recent blog post over at Moz. Author Mackenzie Fogelson writes:
“Let people, not technology, drive marketing efforts.”
In her article, “Why Content Strategy Isn’t Enough,” Fogelson writes that when it comes to web success, there are business owners who may not have their priorities straight in the digital age. Fogelson tackles various issues that lawyers may want to consider when thinking about law firm websites.
Problem: Content strategy alone isn’t enough.
“Unfortunately, the way many companies still view content strategy is generating a bunch of stuff that’s going to help them rank rather than as an altruistic gesture that builds credibility and serves a true need for their customers and community,” Fogelson writes.
Fogelson says a disconnect between audience needs and the brand that a company desires to be can be a problem. Is content important? Absolutely. But creating a large volume of content that doesn’t give your potential clients answers to their questions — or creating lots of fluffy content — is unlikely to help your firm achieve its goals.
Solution: Write regular, meaningful material for your law firm’s website.
Good content has several different features that make it “good.” It tends to be important information that’s unique and insightful, and readers should be able to trust that it’s accurate and useful. Authenticity and credibility matter to readers, and regularly providing correct information can help potential clients establish that you genuinely care about answering their questions. That could mean the difference between choosing your law firm over another.
It’s also valuable for lawyers to recognize that search engine users don’t just type in keywords to Google. Potential clients are likely to ask complex, specific questions to search engines using a variety of terms. Law firms can put out lots of content, but if none of that content is useful or relevant to potential clients, law firms are unlikely to see a high level of engagement.
It might sound surprising, but generally, the top 10,000 searched terms comprise less than a fifth of all traffic. This data comes from research at Moz, which suggests that nearly three-quarters of searches involve long-tail search. Here’s how beneficial long-tail search is to consider: Author Rand Fishkin writes that if you had a monopoly on the top one thousand search terms across all search engines, you’d still be missing out on nearly 90 percent of traffic.
Content strategy shouldn’t consist of throwing a bunch of content (or keywords) against the wall and hoping something sticks — it should comprise careful planning, production, and management of the content that potential clients want to read. Writing authentic, specific content will help attorneys establish themselves as thought leaders in their practice area, and that can help attract potential clients.
Lawyers who are already writing content for their website or blog may want to do an audit to see what pieces have been popular in the past. This can help attorneys determine what kinds of answers their potential clients are looking for so that they can continue to write content that resonates with readers.
Problem: Growth emphasis can make brands lose focus.
“For many of today’s companies, growth is emphasized at all costs,” Fogelson writes. She brings up “unicorn” companies — brands that have hit the billion dollar value mark in a surprisingly short time. This includes companies such as Google, Facebook, Snapchat and more. While these companies have done something impressive, Fogelson notes that their rate of growth can be unrealistic for most.
“Working to become the next unicorn pushes companies to value the wrong metrics and lose sight of what’s really important: putting in the time to earn the trust of their customers and building a business that’s worth being connected to,” she says.
It’s a similar idea when it comes to legal website content. Churning out a high volume of content like your brand is a machine could mean that the content isn’t as carefully crafted as it could be — which means attorneys may be putting a lot of energy and time into a strategy that does little to help their law firm.
Solution: Slow and steady wins the race.
Fogelson’s point has relevance for law firms.
There is no magic pill that law firms can take to increase their revenue. As search engines get smarter, blackhat SEO strategies are becoming harder to implement and are unlikely to succeed. One way that attorneys can positively impact their business is by building themselves a Content 401k. By writing high-quality content on a regular basis, attorneys build themselves an asset that builds upon itself over time.
Slow and steady may win the race, but writing blogs doesn’t have to slow attorneys down. Setting aside even 15 to 30 minutes daily to write a substantive post can make a significant difference for law firms in the long run. Recent data from Hubspot suggests that companies who add 16 or more blog posts monthly see three and a half times more traffic than those who posted four or fewer times in one month.
Problem: Failing to identify what makes your law firm unique.
One size fits all is a good strategy for some things — but not for online marketing.
“At the heart of every powerful brand and an effective marketing strategy is a company’s meaning beyond money,” Fogelson writes. Attorneys may want to increase the number of clients who seek out their firm and increase their revenue, but before that can happen, law firms may want to determine their purpose — and what makes them stand out in their area of practice.
If your law firm doesn’t distinguish itself from all the other law firms out there, you may not be doing marketing as efficiently as you could be. After all — if you’re not sure what makes your law firm different from others, it’s hard to explain to a potential client why they should trust you and hire you. Clarity is valuable.
Solution: Clarify your law firm’s purpose.
Part of clarifying your purpose is understanding your audience. What do they need from you? What is a key benefit that your law firm provides? How is your law firm different than what’s already available? Asking yourself these questions and identifying the answers will help you to ensure that you’re attracting actual potential clients, not just traffic for traffic’s sake. By being specific about your purpose, you can help attract potential clients in need of specifically what you offer.
Fogelson writes, “If there’s one word that describes your position statement, it’s ‘human.'”
This could speak to the idea that people won’t care about what you know until they know how much you care. Attorneys who clearly establish why they’ve decided to practice law and what their practice means to them may have an easier time connecting with potential clients because they’ll understand that you’re passionate about your practice and committed to doing great work — and that can help encourage positive feelings about your brand.
Fogelson mentions the idea of the “experience economy” — that it’s no longer enough to sell a service. People prefer that their brand interactions are memorable experiences. Usefulness, uniqueness, and authenticity are part of that experience, and with the way we use the internet today, that experience may well begin on your law firm’s website.
There are no quick fixes to get your law firm’s website “on the search engines.” But it’s worth knowing that there’s one thing that search engines, search engine users, and referral sources all have in common: they love high-quality content.
By detailing your law firm’s purpose, discovering what content your readership wants to see and producing quality materials that answer specific questions, attorneys can put themselves in a position to improve their credibility, reputation and ultimately, their business.