Before proceeding much further it's worth figuring out whether online marketing to attract non-referral clients even matters for a law firm. In the last decade we've learned there are three broad criteria that will let a firm know if online marketing is for them.
Type of client: If the firm's target clients are just regular people, online marketing is probably a good strategy because these clients won't have as many referral sources and are more likely to turn to the internet or other advertising resources to find what they need. If the firm is targeting people that are more affluent, business owners, or connected in the community, then those people are more likely to have access to and rely on referral sources, so online marketing efforts may yield a less substantial return for the firm.
Type of legal issue: If the firm helps people with sudden, personal, embarrassing, isolating, or highly specialized problems then online marketing can be advantageous because such clients are more likely to do research online rather than talk to others to get referrals. If the firm helps people with issues that are transactional, business-like, non-urgent or easy to talk about, online marketing is not as advantageous because people with these issues will find it easier to get referrals or put off making a decision.
Practice areas like family law, probate, employment law and immigration are almost always a great fit for online marketing. Other consumer areas like personal injury, criminal defense and bankruptcy can also be good, but have much higher competition. Estate planning can also work well but has challenges such as clients putting off decisions and increased competition from nationwide services like LegalZoom.
Market conditions: Attorneys need to have an honest look at their competition. Is the target market saturated with big spenders or is it pretty wide open? Online marketing strategies are more likely to get a site to the top of search rankings in less competitive markets. In saturated markets, many firms are competing for the same keywords and getting ahead in the rankings is challenging.