If you want to hit the ground running in 2020, the last days of 2019 are an excellent time to make assessments about the current state of your law firm’s web marketing.
Here are three things to focus on that will help you get ahead of your law firm’s competition in the new year.
Focus on content marketing and plan your law firm’s website content
If you want to do successful website marketing in 2020, focus on your website content. Content marketing keeps attorneys from wasting time or money on less effective marketing methods. It improves a law firm’s visibility on the web, and helps the firm build trust with potential new clients.
Just as in years past, developing good content will be key to succeeding in 2020. But content marketing is only going to work if you can continue to follow through and create new content on a regular basis.
Planning is generally a prerequisite of proper execution, which is one of the reasons that we stress the importance of content planning.
Once you’ve established basics such as your branding and your client persona, consider the kinds of questions that your potential clients and referral sources ask you.
What kinds of questions and concerns do your potential clients have? What types of words do they use to describe their problems?
Potential clients often think locally, not legally. This affects how they search. While something might be governed by state law, for example, your potential clients tend to think — and search — with a local focus. (This is especially true if they don’t have a legal background.)
Potential clients’ unfamiliarity with legal structure will likely influence the way that they conduct searches, and you’ll want to write your content accordingly.
When it comes to brainstorming ideas, we often recommend using a cascading or cluster technique. This method allows for a lot of future growth. As your site grows over time, your pages are likely to change and develop. A cluster technique lets you create more content without having to alter what you’ve written beforehand.
For example, an estate planning attorney might start with four basic pages:
- Advance Directives
- Frequently Asked Question
A page on living wills could provide information about:
- The purpose of a living will
- Situations in which a living will might be used
- How to create a living will
- How your firm can assist in creating a living will
- The advantages of choosing your firm to do so.
Over time, the original page may expand to include more in-depth coverage of each topic. Or, you may create new pages to cover additional topics. For example, the original “Wills” page that covered the topic broadly might become the main page for several new pages with narrower scopes:
- Probate Process
- Statutory Requirements
- Testamentary Capacity
- A FAQ page for Wills
Another example could be an immigration attorney who develops a few basic pages covering topics like citizenship, family immigration, visas, and a FAQ page.
The visas page may cover circumstances related to visas or why someone would need one, followed by the requirements to obtain a visa. Over time, this content volume should increase. As a result, the original visas page might expand to include several pages with more depth: B-1 visas, B-2 visas, J visas, F visas, and so on.
As you brainstorm ideas, move from broad to narrow topics. That way, you can keep a navigation structure that will make sense to both you and your potential clients.
Once you’ve established ideas and a roadmap for page development, assign responsibilities for this content. Whether you’re writing your content or you’ve hired someone else to help you, assigning responsibilities is critical. If you’re not holding yourself accountable for what does (or doesn’t) get published, it can become easy to put things off.
Regular check-ins can help you celebrate your successes and make sure that you — or anyone else involved in the content process — are sticking to the plan.
Plan to get more positive reviews from happy clients
Online reviews for law firms matter to potential clients. In 2019, many people look to online reviews as part of their decision to hire (or not hire) an attorney. This trend will continue in 2020 and beyond.
The confidence that a potential client has about your firm can change when they see good reviews, bad reviews, or no reviews. You can’t control what a client will say about their experience with your law firm, but you can be proactive about collecting reviews.
Why are reviews so important?
For starters, they’re third-party proof that you care about your potential clients. They can also show that you’re a competent attorney who handles cases or matters well and that clients have positive experiences with your firm.
Most potential clients look for this kind of information. They put themselves in the shoes of the person who has written that review. They want to know that other people had a good experience with you, especially because choosing an attorney is such an important and often expensive decision.
People look at online reviews for just about everything these days. Reviews can influence their purchasing behavior, both for consumer products and when they decide to put their future in the hands of an attorney.
Some attorneys think they don’t need to worry about online reputation management if they have no reviews at all.
But having no reviews can be as problematic as having negative reviews. Potential clients expect to see reviews about a law firm, and having no reviews may signal to them that they need to look to a firm that does have reviews, instead.
How do I get more positive reviews from happy clients?
For some attorneys, asking for reviews can feel awkward. In the past, it wasn’t something that attorneys had to spend time thinking about. Sometimes it can be hard to ask, and it can be a game that, for some, feels silly to play.
But attorneys need to jump through that hoop.
Attorneys who are regularly collecting reviews are going to benefit. Be proactive when you’re trying to build your online reviews. That doesn’t mean cheating or doing anything unethical or manipulative. But, it does mean asking for reviews and asking for them at the right time.
When is the right time to ask for reviews?
While it depends on your practice area, the gratitude of your client (assuming they got a good result) typically peaks at the culmination of representation.
For example, a criminal defense attorney might find that, after winning a trial in which the client has the odds stacked against them, the client is happiest just after receiving a good result.
But in some instances, there is an exponential decay that can occur. The client may start out thinking, “This attorney pulled a miracle out of his hat. I was facing certain jail time…” But days or weeks later, the client’s thinking may have shifted. They may think, “Well, the cops probably shouldn’t have arrested me… all that attorney had to do was show up and ask that police officer a few questions…” And later, the client’s thinking might shift even further: “The public defender could have achieved the same result,” or, “I could have done that myself.”
Certainly, not all clients feel this way. But, there’s never a better opportunity to ask for a review than when clients are happiest, and the excellent job you did is freshest in their minds.
A lot of attorneys that we work with bake in a reviews-seeking process right into their file-closing procedure.
For example, let’s say a criminal defense attorney concludes a case and gets a result that ultimately allows her client to walk out of the courtroom with her. At that point, the client is full of gratitude. That’s a great time for the attorney to ask for her review. You should make it easy on the client by texting or emailing a link directly to the reviews page that you’d like the client to use.
Review and revamp your attorney bio
Attorney bios are one of the most viewed pages on law firm websites. What does yours say about you?
When it comes to attorney bios, we often see a list of bullet points. Attorneys will note where they went to school, where they graduated with respect to the rest of their class, et cetera. What they’re missing is additional, important context that brings the attorney to life for the potential client.
There’s a hierarchy of client needs that, if you address correctly, really goes a long way toward developing a bond of trust with those clients. That hierarchy applies to your attorney bio. Potential clients want to know:
How much do you care about your work? That’s going to translate to how much you care about them as your client.
How enthusiastic are you? That’s going to translate to how passionate you are about their case or their matter.
Are you an expert? You want to be able to show your potential clients why you’re an expert. This is where we see some attorneys fall flat. They’ll list facts about where they went to school, what bars they’re admitted to, and so forth, and expect that to do the heavy lifting.
Your attorney bio is a huge opportunity for you to attract new clients. When it’s done right, it’s pretty easy to do. Below, we discuss what to consider including in your attorney bio to make sure it resonates with your potential clients.
What should I include in my attorney bio?
Your bio should include more than just the basic facts about your legal experience and skills.
To transform your bio from a list of facts into a compelling narrative, consider including the following in your attorney bio:
What was your journey to the law? What inspired you to choose this profession? Explaining this helps potential clients develop a personal connection to you. It can demonstrate that you care about your work and their problem.
What motivates you? The deeper you can dig for your motivations, the more you can make it about your potential client and your success being dependent on the valuable benefit you provide to clients. When you make it about more than simply winning or making money, the more relatable you become to a potential client.
Who are you outside of work? Are you involved in the community? Are you passionate about certain causes or issues? Including these interests and activities in your bio can help a potential client see that you care about more than just winning or making money.
Who do you help? Paint a picture of the kind of person you help and why you enjoy doing it. That way, a potential client can see that you’ve helped people like them in the past and that you can help them as well. Whether people come to you because they were arrested, injured, facing debt collectors…paint a picture of who you help and why you enjoy helping them.
What have you accomplished? Go beyond a list of awards and accolades. Provide context for those accomplishments. For example, if you won an award, why does it matter? What did it mean to you to receive the award? Talk about what you’ve accomplished in your law career and education. What qualifies you? This can be honors, case results, publications. But instead of just listing those, talk about what it meant to you. Many potential clients don’t understand the various terms of art that attorneys use to compare themselves to one another. So if you’re AV rated, for example, it’s good to explain what that means.
Before the year is over, take time to look at the current state of your attorney bio. Is it just a list of facts and figures? Is it engaging to the reader? Do an audit and see if there’s room to improve it and make it more inspiring. Remember, your attorney bio is often one of those pages that potential clients are going to want to look at. Imagine if it’s the first impression that they see. What is it going to tell them about you? Is it going to inspire them to pick up the phone or submit that consultation request form?
Learn more about content planning, reviews, and revamping your attorney bio
We have lots of resources to help you get started the right way in 2020. For more information on content planning, law firm reviews, and developing an inspiring attorney bio, see the following:
- Making Your Website Content Plan Work for Your Law Firm
- How to Create an Effective Content Plan for Your Law Firm
- Are You Getting Law Firm Reviews & Recommendations the Safe Way?
- Podcast: Law Firm Reviews & Recommendations That Attract New Clients
- Podcast: What Makes a Compelling Attorney Bio?
- 3 Ways to Revamp the Attorney Bio on Your Law Firm’s Website