We don't believe in a one-size-fits all solution for online marketing. The location, practice areas and goals for all firms are different, hence each firm requires a unique strategy. We can mix and match our marketing services into a custom combination that will be effective for any firm.
Here are some common scenarios and strategies that have proven effective for many of our clients.
Business firms generate almost all of their work from referrals, networking, speaking and publishing. It's unlikely that an established business owner or government agent doesn't know how to get a referral. The most important thing is that online searches for the law firm, or its attorneys, quickly show the firm website and other accurate, positive information about the firm.
Most of the time, a firm with business clients simply needs a well constructed website. New law firms will need to build a solid base of NAP address citations to spread their contact information around. This is a all included in our Modern Firm Marketing Partnership service.
The exception in this field is for niche practice areas within business law. If the firm has a specialty in cloud software licensing agreements, yoga studio liability waivers, startup biotech companies, or some other niche that is commonly researched online, then SEO content writing and online advertising are worth a look. The firm's goals and competitors always dictate the exact mix of services and cost for promoting a niche practice; typically it starts with online advertising to test the waters and expands to targeted SEO copywriting if it makes financial sense.
If a law firm has practice areas that traditionally work well with advertising (i.e. Family Law, Bankruptcy, Immigration, Criminal, Personal Injury, Estate Planning, Probate) in a town with fewer than 50,000 people, all of our marketing services offer value. A typical marketing plan may involve some initial SEO content writing, NAP citations for local searches, as well as content that focuses on the firm's main services.
The benefit of being in a small town is that with relatively little content, and minimal continued content growth, a firm can achieve decent search rankings by just having the site built properly and the initial pages optimized. In fact, just a few weeks after we finish websites for small-town clients, they are often experience pretty positive results.
The downside of being in a small town is that it may not have enough business to meet the ambitions of the practice. Unfortunately, search engines make it difficult for law firms to get local search visibility in towns where they don't have a physical address. Depending on the situation, we can try multiple strategies. If neighboring towns are very small, adding pages to the website to target that town or county will often make the firm show up there. The most reliable solution, however, is creating a Online Advertising campaign that targets the desired geographic and practice areas.
In summary, small town consumer firms use their main website content and local business directory listings to cover their home town. They will then employ a mix of Online Advertising and SEO Copywriting to expand their reach into neighboring communities. Because competition is relatively light, advertising expenses and copywriting demands are fairly low.
Law firms in suburbs of a large metropolitan areas are in one of the toughest situations from an online marketing perspective. They are wisely located where their clients live, and often have better value and easier access/parking than firms in the big city. Unfortunately, client convenience doesn't translate into high search rankings.
On the organic front, these firms are assaulted from all angles. It is likely that some firms with bigger budgets in the neighboring big city have enough local business directory listings or satellite offices that will show up as local businesses in the suburbs. The big city is also so competitive that trying to get a suburban firm to show up there is a near impossibility.
The marketing strategy that suburban firms typically follow starts with a saturating SEO presence in their local suburb. Then, guided by advertising campaign data, they move strategically into other suburban communities, skirting around the edges of the big city.
Using suburban Detroit as an example, a firm might be located in Novi, Michigan (about 20 miles from Detroit, population 56,000) and start off by seeking presence in all Novi searches related to their practice. At the same time, we'll help them fire up an advertising campaign that covers Novi and nearby suburbs like Plymouth, Northville and Farmington Hills. Having good organic and advertising presence in Novi and solid advertising presence in the desired neighboring suburbs is probably a winning strategy. If the firm wants even more business, we can help them tweak budgets, expand into more towns or use the advertising data to guide SEO Copywriting and raise organic rankings in those other towns and suburbs.
In larger cities, those with over 150,000 residents, the game changes again. Now there are more attorneys competing for the same number of spots on page one. Budget and creative strategies are more important than ever, because one wrong step can mean thousands of dollars wasted.
Clearly defining and prioritizing the practice areas to be promoted is critical, as the initial budget may limit what a firm can pursue. For instance, a criminal defense firm in Detroit may not initially have the budget to show up citywide for all of the desired search terms. From an SEO perspective, we would start building local presence with local business listings and optimizing content for a few keywords we know have long term value (e.g. Detroit Criminal Attorney, Wayne County DUI Attorney). On the advertising front, we would start with a targeted PPC campaign to gain instant visibility, and work from there. In the early going, budget may limit what we can target. We might only be able to target certain parts of the city, reach into the less expensive suburbs, or limit our practice area choices. DUI is very expensive for criminal law, but perhaps going after drug possession, assault, and domestic disputes will yield quality traffic for less cost.
With any campaign, no matter the scenario, the goal is to reach a suitable return on investment (ROI = profit divided by expenses) as quickly as possible, and then maximize it. A big-city firm may initially have a marketing budget of $1200 per month, but if a PPC and online advertising campaign yields $8,500 in work then we've established a pretty good ROI of 608%. Raising the budget to $2000/month may allow us to target more of the city, or go after the more competitive practice areas yielding $18,000 in work, with a ROI of 800%.
As the campaign is building momentum, we are also collecting valuable data on what practice areas and spots in the city are the most lucrative. That data can be used to do SEO content writing to try and gain visibility organically, so that there is no need to pay for every click to the website.
For instance, we may discover in this scenario that there's a hotbed of Minor In Possession of Alcohol work around the Wayne State college campus. One of our writers could begin drafting blog entries related to MIPs at a rate of 2 per month to achieve better organic placement for that topic. The beauty of building a campaign this way is that a firm can start with a budget that is more conservative, but is high enough to make an impact, and then learn and grow from there.
Firms that have a specialized niche practice area that they want to market across a wide geographic area have many options and strategies available.
On the paid front, a niche advertising campaign can be created that laser focuses on a group of keywords and phrases that are specific to the practice. The firms will encounter different levels of competition depending on the parts of the country the advertisements are displaying. By default most firms will simply run a nationwide or state-wide campaign that treats all areas equally. However, depending on budget, a more strategic approach might be to custom tailor the campaign to avoid certain highly competitive cities. For instance, a North Carolina based immigration firm that wants to advertise nationwide may know that they have better luck attracting clients who live in more rural areas where access to experienced counsel is a problem. Here we can tailor the campaign to blanket the country, but avoid highly competitive areas like Chicago, New York and San Francisco, where their potential client is more likely to work with a local attorney.
On the organic optimization front there are real opportunities for firms that can produce content that again is laser focused on the practice area. Continuing the previous example, immigration law is filled with super specific acronyms and names for visas and procedures. The odds of showing up nationwide for "immigration attorney" are pretty slim, but "H1B Visa immigration attorney" stands a better chance. Further, since the firm works with clients nationwide they could look for opportunities to create content that focuses on both local and nationwide goals. By blogging about client success stories the firm could create entries that mention their keywords and states or cities. For instance, a client success blog entry titled "Our Attorneys Obtain H-1B Visa for University of Iowa Scientist" would be positive for "H-1B Visa" searches nationwide, in Iowa and at the University of Iowa.
What I want to emphasize here is that having a nationwide presence for a niche topic is a real and affordable possibility. However, it will take even more creativity, vigilance and time to implement because there are so many variables in play.