We don’t have a crystal ball, but we do pay very close attention to everything that happens in the marketing world, especially law firm marketing. Below, we’ve listed the top 16 attorney marketing trends for 2016, from optimizing for voice search to paying closer attention to how your receptionist answers the phone. Make 2016 the year your law office rises above the competition, solidifies its brand, and finds more success than ever.
1.Diversify or Die – Attorneys Will Look Beyond SEO For Website Traffic
At some point in the past decade, SEO became synonymous with online marketing for law firms. But while search engine optimization is certainly a huge piece of the picture, it should not be the one and only focus of your marketing strategy. In fact, by putting all of your eggs in the SEO basket, you are giving the edge to the competition and taking a very big risk.
Why shouldn’t you focus 100 percent of your attention (or even 80 percent of your attention) on SEO and Google?
- Trying to appease Google (or any search engine) can backfire when they change their algorithm for ranking pages. And they change it often.
- Getting blacklisted by a search engine can mean losing a large chunk of your traffic, whether or not you deserve to be punished.
- Ignoring other sources of website traffic means ignoring a lot of great leads and a lot of great potential clients.
- Diversifying can strengthen your online brand and your online presence.
Three Quick Tips for Diversifying Your Web Traffic:
- Make some smart advertising moves. Many law firms still balk at spending money on online advertising, but it’s more than a great idea if it works! If pages like Yelp, FindLaw, SuperPages, and AVVO are ranking high in your market in Google, there is no reason not to try advertising on them. If you don’t see returns, you can stop, alter your ads, or try something new. Also, don’t disregard the targeted, paid advertising opportunities on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook.
- Be consistent with your social media marketing. Speaking of social media, it is entirely worth your time and effort to consistently post to your social media platforms. Although Facebook and Twitter will continue to be the two most important social media outlets for business in 2016, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. For example, businesses have been finding success with newer platforms like Instagram and Periscope. Not only do these sites offer different ways to market your legal services, many of your competitors aren’t utilizing them yet.
- Don’t forget offline marketing in your community. Not only are law firms too focused on SEO, they are also too focused on online marketing for their firm. Never forget the importance of local, offline law firm marketing. Not only does it help you connect with people face to face, it also promotes your online marketing in ways you might not realize. Start the New Year by offering a local scholarship, connecting with a local non-profit, educating your community, or offering local talks.
“If your entire attorney marketing strategy is centered on SEO, then you are giving the search engines all of the power – and you are ultimately at their mercy.”
2. More Effort Will Go Into Acquiring Online Reviews
There are two very important statistics you need to know in order to fully grasp the importance of collecting positive online reviews:
- The most popular way that people find an attorney today is through referrals. An estimated 46 percent of people ask a friend, family member, or lawyer acquaintance for suggestions when looking for legal help.
- A staggering 88 percent of people trust online reviews just as much as a personal referral from a friend or family member.
In short, online reviews are not only a true and trusted way to find ideal clients, they are something you need to assume your potential clients will read before they agree to work with you. Yet many law firms don’t actively make any organized effort to collect solid, heartfelt reviews or to manage the reviews they’ve already received. You should be focusing on your online reviews on:
Three Quick Tips for Online Reviews:
- Make personal requests to your core base of past clients. Chances are you have at least a few clients who think the world of you. These are the clients who wrote you personalized thank you notes and those who still send you Christmas cards. This is the time to call those clients personally and ask a favor. Could they take a few minutes of their time to tell the world what they’ve already told you? You will be surprised how many will enthusiastically say yes.
- Respond to all negative reviews. Although you might find them easier to ignore, it is imperative to respond to all negative online reviews – and without getting defensive or mean. Choose a time when you are feeling calm and magnanimous to patiently and warmly write personal responses that explain the poor review and make you look compassionate, understanding, and a true authority in your field. People understand that there are bad clients just like there are bad lawyers. If you write a measured response, it can completely cancel out the effect of the bad review.
- Set up a review page on your website. One key way to increase your number of reviews is to make the process of reviewing your firm as easy as possible for past clients. Set up a review page on your website that kindly asks for reviews and that links directly to the attorney review form on various sites (Yelp, AVVO, etc.). You can easily link to this page from other places, including blog posts, social media posts, emails, and newsletters.
“Ninety percent of consumers say that online reviews affect their purchasing decision.”
3. Firms Will Step Back And Reanalyze Their Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Here’s a wake-up call: We are far beyond the time when it was good enough just to have a nice-looking website and a Google Adwords budget. Every firm in town that matters has those things now. In this new era, you need to look at the big picture and spend time figuring out the answers to two very basic questions:
- Why should a client choose me instead of the guy next door?
- What really makes our firm special and different?
Before you do your next big website redesign. Before you launch that next campaign. Before you sit down and eat breakfast, you need to formulate and outline your firm’s unique selling proposition.
What is a unique selling proposition? Very simply, it’s the thing that makes your business stand out to potential clients from everyone else in the business. Maybe your services cost less. Maybe you have more experience than anyone else in the area. Maybe your customer service is off the charts. Whatever that one special thing is, you are the only one to do it or you absolutely do it best.
To succeed, especially in crowded fields, having a smart, clear USP will be key in 2016.
Three Quick Tips on Unique Selling Propositions:
- Interview a few past clients. Determining a great USP means stepping into your clients’ shoes and understanding their needs. Your USP should solve their problem, speak to their concerns, and offer them exactly what they are looking for. Read your online reviews or, even better, call up a few past clients and ask them why they thought their experience with your firm was so special.
- Focus on your passions. We have found time and time again that an attorney’s USP is intimately tied with their passions, their story, and why they do what they do. If you develop your USP around your passions and your mission, it will not only ring true to clients, it will be easy for you to endorse with enthusiasm.
- Make your USP clear and concise. You don’t want your USP to involve a lot of explanation. In fact, you only have a few seconds to convey it to people who are considering your law office. Think of ways that you can capture it in a few words, or, at most, a single sentence. Think of ways you can develop it into different types of media with the same theme: a tagline, a logo, or a single image.
“Convincing people that you are great will get you a few new clients. Convincing people that you are different and better than everyone else will get you your competition’s clients, too.”
4. SEO Changes Will Put User Experience Front And Center
Search engine optimization has gone through many phases throughout the last decade: a focus on single keywords, a focus on landing the #1 spot on Google, a focus on content. This year’s evolution is all about user experience; that is, giving the user exactly what they are looking for and as quickly as possible. Putting effort into a stellar user experience won’t just make your users happy, it will also improve your SEO, your click through rate, and your bounce rate.
What is user experience? Often called UX, user experience is simply the way that someone encounters your website (or any service or product). Users are looking for sites that are easy to navigate, pleasingly designed, and filled with the information they need.
Three Quick Tips on User Experience:
- Invest in some A/B Testing. A/B testing is a simple and cost-efficient way to determine what content and design combinations work best to encourage clicks or lengthen website visits. For example, simply changing a title, revising a call to action, or changing the color scheme on your homepage can improve UX and increase your conversion rate.
- Don’t skimp on design. At the heart of user experience is great design that allows your users to navigate your website quickly and confidently. Invest in high-quality design, test its success, and be sure to update your design every few years to keep up with the latest trends and innovations.
- Get to know your user! Do not just focus on content and design and forget to really try to understand your user in the first place. What are your ideal users like? How old are they? What do they want and need? Answer these questions by interviewing users, creating user personas, and asking yourself what kind of client you wish to attract.
“Every time you update your website, ask yourself if each change will make it easier for your users to solve their problem or accomplish their goal.”
5. Social Media Will Continue to Be Mandatory (And Continue to Evolve)
It’s safe to say that social media is no passing marketing trend. In fact, it should be a large and important aspect of both your online and your offline law marketing efforts. However, although social media marketing itself is nothing new, there are several trends within social media marketing that are important to know and understand in 2016.
Social Media is all about realizing trends and getting a head start on taking advantage of them before your competitors. No one knows when a post will become viral or who will have the next viral post, but you need to know how to respond quickly and intelligently when something relatable to your market or your specialty makes its way into the news and onto your feed.
Three Quick Tips on New Social Media Trends:
- A few new social media apps are picking up steam. There are major advantages to getting involved in new social media apps that will grow into the next big thing or that will expose you to new audiences in new ways. Just be sure to choose wisely. One app we’ve noticed recently is Periscope, a live streaming service that allows users to see the world through another person’s eyes. Law firms that want to take advantage of this app early can stream anything straight to their users – from an FAQ session to a company party.
- A few social media sites aren’t useful for attorneys. There are literally hundreds of social media platforms. Being involved in as many as possible is a poor way to invest your time, money, and effort. Even some of the biggest and most noteworthy sites don’t get great returns for law firms. For example, while LinkedIn is a popular choice for finding a new job or networking within your industry, depending on your niche, it may not be ideal for finding new legal clients. Likewise, Google+ is nowhere near as useful as its counterpart, Google MyBusiness.
- There are two social media platforms that are never going away. If you aren’t using Facebook and Twitter to promote your law firm, you are wasting opportunities and ignoring the research. Facebook is still by far the most important social media platform when it comes to law firms, but Twitter isn’t too far behind. Both sites spend considerable energy making their sites searchable for users and profitable for businesses that wish to advertise to target markets. While Facebook is great for paid advertising, expect Twitter to continue making jumps to expand its advertising capabilities in the next year.
“Social media is the best way to share your high-quality content, the best way to stay connected to former clients, and the best way to expand your audience.”
6. Law Firm Web Design Will Be Crowned Queen
You’ve probably heard the online marketing phrase, “Content is king.” Content, after all, is what users are looking for and what search engines use, in large part, to determine page rank.
But while content may continue to reign, 2016 will be all about how the king can’t reign alone. He needs a queen by his side, and that queen is design.
Here’s a quick history lesson: We used to expect high web traffic to immediately translate into more leads. But, in the face of increasing competition, it is no longer good enough for your law firm to simply rank well on search engines websites. What really generates leads in this new world is your conversion rate once visitors are already on your site. A large part of what determines your conversion rate is how well your content and design work together to deliver your sales pitch. King and Queen, side by side.
Making that sales pitch in person can seem pretty tough, but making that sales pitch through your website may be an even greater challenge. Here’s why:
- You’re being judged through a digital screen. You can’t portray confidence through a firm handshake or engaging eye contact, and you can’t express sympathy through your actions. Your means of communication has been boiled down to visually presenting words and pictures in the best way possible.
- You’re being regularly and directly compared to your competitors. Your prospective clients are smart enough to know that they should check out at least the top three lawyers or law firms that ranked with you in the search results. Very few people are simply picking the number one search result and then picking up the phone.
- You only have 20 seconds or less to make a first impression that counts. On average, studies show that your visitors will only be looking at your home page for 20 to 50 seconds. Considering that users can easily close your site and look at your competitor’s sites, our humble guess is that it is usually closer to 20. What are you going to show your visitors in just 20 seconds?
In short, your homepage content must be concise, captivating, and memorable. But no matter how effective your content is, your page can’t just be text only. This is why design is queen and this is where we expect to see a lot of progress across the board in the law firm website industry this year.
Three Quick Tips on Pairing Attorney Web Design and Content:
- Think long and hard about your content’s purpose. Content is not something that should simply fill in a hole. It’s also not something that can or should stand alone. Content should work hand-in-hand with the design, creating an optimal user experience. Each time you insert content into your design, or design around a piece of content, think about why your user needs this content and what its true function is.
- Prioritize your content in terms of where it should appear in the page. What content first catches your user’s eye? What content will appear “above the fold” – on the screen before the user needs to scroll down? Most importantly, what content will encourage your reader to click on a different page or reach out to your law office? Design can help you answer all of these questions.
- Use words sparingly. When it comes to content and design, quality always wins over quantity. Users do not want to read long, dense paragraphs of text. Make sure that your content is as clear and concise as possible and make sure your design only adds to the clarity of the content.
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” – Steve Jobs
7. Attorneys Will Discover the Importance of Past Client Relationship Management
For most of the law firms we work with, between 30 and 50 percent of their new clients come from referrals from old clients. This is an absolutely huge number, but many lawyers do not spend enough time tending to relationships with past clients. It’s a big, costly mistake.
Think of your past clients as your fan base and your free advertisers: they already know your name. They are familiar with what you do and how you do it. They have worked with you and gotten great results. Most importantly, their friends and family will trust them when they are asked if they know any attorneys. You want to keep in contact with them for four main reasons:
- You want them to continue to remember your name and your face.
- You want them to see you as a top authority in your field.
- You want them to feel like you are in their friend network.
- You want them to continue to feel like you are on their side.
In the past, client relationship management has been pretty bleak. Perhaps you send out a generic holiday card in December and maybe a quarterly newsletter if you really have your act together. In 2016, client relationship management is going to reach a new level that includes social media, community involvement, and maybe even a few handwritten thank you notes.
Three Quick Tips on Engaging With Past Clients:
- Pull your past clients into a community. While it is great to reach out to past clients individually, and while a thank you card will always be a kind gesture, it is also extremely effective to create a community of past clients. Consider creating a closed group on Facebook for your clients or having an annual party where everyone is invited and can mingle. Or add a client spotlight to your regular newsletter so that your clients can familiarize themselves with each other.
- Ask them for help and advice. Attorneys often have the misconception that they should not bother past clients for favors. However, just as in any relationship, many people enjoy lending a helping hand, and many people see it as a way to deepen a bond. Connect with your clients by asking them to leave reviews, take surveys about their experience, or give their opinion on your new website. The ones that help will feel closer to your firm than ever before.
- Harness the full power of social media. Becoming friends with past clients on social media means becoming part of their daily lives. Over half of all Facebook users log into their accounts at least once each day. Take advantage of this and make sure that your law firm is something that they can see online and interact with each day.
“Treat your customer relationships like any other relationship in your life: listen to them, take their criticism seriously, and give them the time and attention that they deserve.”
8. Law Firms Will Learn How To Answer Their Phones
Attorneys invest a very significant amount of money toward their online and offline marketing efforts. All of these marketing dollars have a singular goal: getting ideal clients to pick up their phone and call their office. However, far too many marketing plans stop there. They assume that once a person calls their office, everything will go smoothly, and the client will quickly and easily be in their office for a consultation. However, this is often very far from the case.
Too often, when a potential client calls your office, the receptionists or customer service agents who pick up the phone are untrained, poorly trained, or overstressed. A client with the perfect case for you might be faced with:
- A receptionist who sounds distracted, unfriendly, or bored.
- A receptionist who forgets the potential client’s name or why they called.
- A receptionist who doesn’t know how to connect the client with an attorney or set up a consultation.
- A receptionist who doesn’t follow up.
- A receptionist who takes too long to pick up the phone – or who doesn’t pick up at all.
When an ideal client gets all the way to the phone call but then gives up their interest in working with you, every marketing dollar that you’ve spent up to that point has been wasted. When someone has a bad experience calling your law office, it doesn’t just end in a lost client, it could also end in a bad review and a bad reputation.
In 2016, take a long hard look at what happens when a client calls your office. Who answers the phone? What do they say? How do they help? What happens after hours? Answering these questions will ensure that every time your marketing efforts result in a phone call, the phone call doesn’t result in a dead end.
Three Quick Tips for Answering the Phone:
- Write a script. Make sure that anyone who is answering your phone knows what they need to do, how they need to act, and what information should be collected. Having a script or manual for all of your receptionists and employees ensures that they know the protocol and that the potential client receives all of the information they need. Your manual can include everything from teaching your receptionists how to match your client’s tone to teaching them how to collect a potential client’s contact information.
- Always answer the phone. Here’s some hard news: if an ideal client gets an answering machine (or no answer at all) when he or she calls, they will probably hang up and try to call a competitor. Outside of office hours, consider having a service answer your calls, or direct office calls to your mobile phone (or the mobile phone of someone else in the office).
- Track and monitor your calls. Don’t assume that your system is working or that you don’t have issues with answering your office phone. Recording your calls can help you determine areas that need improvement and help you find problems with your current system. These recordings can also be invaluable learning tools that you can share with your receptionists.
“Don’t forget that you aren’t just marketing, you are reaching out to real, feeling humans. This is never more true than when the people pick up the phone, call your office, and ask for help.”
9. Lawyers Will Take Local Link Building Offline (Where It Belongs)
Organic links are one of the best-known ways to improve your SEO and increase website traffic. They are also the most difficult links to acquire, especially if you are seeking links from high-authority websites like news sources, non-profits, and educational organizations.
The secret to snagging these links might at first seem counterintuitive, but it works. You need to go offline and go local. While directory listings and guest posts will help, the very best links – and the very best exposure – will come from reaching out to your community offline.
Three Quick Tips on Building Local Links:
- Create a local scholarship. Offering a scholarship based on an essay contest is an excellent way to connect with the community and have a positive effect on a few deserving students. Pick a theme that fits your firm best (veterans, single moms, those with disabilities) and get the word out to all local colleges and universities. Not only will you be a positive force in your local community, you will also get lots of well-deserved links, including news outlet links and .edu links.
- Pick a great cause in your community. Working with local non-profits is not only helping build and grow the community where you live, it also helps both your online and offline law firm marketing efforts. Sponsoring or running charity events allows you to connect with others, grow your reputation, and get those tough local links. Be sure to pick a cause that is meaningful to you, and be sure to get the entire office involved, whether you are running a 5K, throwing a benefit, or collecting toys for needy kids.
- Create mini-communities. Forming groups within the larger community is a great idea, especially if your law offices are located in a big city. Consider forming a meet-up group for people who may be your ideal client or creating a group that educates the community about an issue related to one of your practice areas. For example, if you help small businesses, consider creating a group for local entrepreneurs. If you are a personal injury attorney, consider starting a group that fights against distracted driving.
“Your strongest and best online links will always come from real relationships that you nurture offline in your local community.”
10. Legal Content Will Veer Toward Specific, Targeted, And Geo-Focused Pages
Creating unique, high-quality, and educational content is one of the most important tasks on your list if you want to find success online as an attorney or law firm. But not all types of content are created equal. If you look around at the competition, you might notice that everyone has a lot of the same pages, and they are all very vague:
- Do I have a case?
- Do I need an attorney?
- Free consultation!
The real challenge to creating meaningful content is anticipating what your ideal user is going to type into a search engine when they are looking for your legal services. The next real challenge is creating legal content that includes those keywords while still offering concise, accurate, and easy-to-read information that gets the client exactly what he or she needs.
At the same time, attorneys should keep in mind that they are writing content for an audience that is limited in two different ways: they only want people in a specific area to contact them (whether a certain city, a certain state, a certain region, or a certain country) and they only want people with specific legal needs to contact them. In order to find these readers, each piece of content should be optimized keeping geography and practice area in mind.
Three Quick Tips for Creating Targeted Legal Web Content:
- Create city pages. Every attorney website should have a separate page of content for each geographic area that it is targeting. These pages of content could be a number of different cities, a number of different states, or a number of different neighborhoods within a big city. These pages keep in mind that almost everyone who searches for an attorney will also include their location in their search (for example, New York attorney, NYC lawyer, or Long Island City lawyer). Treat each of these geo-pages as a landing page: share what is most important about your law firm as well as what is most important about the city, state, or neighborhood you are focusing on.
- Create practice area pages. The more specific practice area pages you have, the more likely that potential clients will find your legal services when they search for an attorney on search engines like Google or Bing. Many attorneys make the mistake of only thinking in large, sweeping categories, like bankruptcy attorney. To truly optimize your site, you should have a number of sub practice area pages stemming from that major page, such as chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney, chapter 11 bankruptcy attorney, personal bankruptcy attorney, business bankruptcy attorney, and foreclosure attorney.
- Cover relevant local news. Covering local current events related to your practice areas in a news or blog section of your website is an excellent way to create targeted, local content. For example, if you are a workers’ compensation attorney, you should cover news items related to recent on-the-job accidents in your area, work safety regulations, and lawsuits involving worker injuries. These stories always contain lots of location-based keywords and practice-area related keywords. In addition, they make certain you are updating your website regularly with fresh content.
“Writing specifically targeted content not only attracts your ideal client, it also works against getting un-targeted web traffic that could harm your bounce rate.”
11. The New Yellow Pages: Attorneys Will Adopt Directory Listing Optimization
Directory listing optimization is not a glamorous task, but it is a necessary one for attorneys who are serious about a diverse, organic online marketing strategy. Not only do many people still seek businesses through online directories, the recent Google Penguin update has made directories like Yellow Pages, AVVO, FindLaw, Yelp, and Lawyers.com more visible and more important. In addition, the rising popularity of voice searches, such as Apple’s Siri, often use information from Yelp when suggesting businesses to users.
What are the major benefits to listing your law firm on online directories?
- It’s a free way to advertise your law firm.
- It often involves a good, organic link back to your website.
- It can help with your voice search optimization.
- It increases your web presence.
- It strengthens your brand.
It can be difficult to see the positive effects of listing your law office in directories online, especially because the process itself can be frustrating. However, not listing your business on these directories – and keeping the listings updated – will have a significant negative impact on your web presence, especially in 2016.
Three Quick Tips for Directory Listing Optimization:
- Target local and legal directories. After you hit the big directories, like Yellow Pages, SuperPages, and Yelp, make absolutely certain that you don’t forget the biggest directories in your industry and the biggest directories in your local community. Attorneys should focus on directories like FindLaw, Justia, Lawyers.com, Nolo, and AVVO. For local directories, start with your city’s chamber of commerce and work from there.
- Don’t worry about every directory. While online directories are important to your marketing strategy, it is a big mistake to spend your time getting on every directory that exists on the Internet. Many of these directories are not worth your time and some directories that require payment are little more than scams. The best strategy is to make a spreadsheet of a reasonable number of well-respected directories and focus only on those. Check to make sure your listings are updated and current once a year or whenever you make a big change at your office.
- Leave no field un-filled! In order to make your directory listings as useful as possible for users, and also in order to reap the full SEO benefits of your listings, make sure that you fill in all fields, from your office hours to your fax number. It is especially important to add images and a link to your website. Don’t hesitate to use an autofill function on your web browser in order to make completing these forms as fast and painless as possible.
“Appearing in online directories is not going to make a huge impact like partnering with a local charity or creating a Q&A series on YouTube, but ignoring online directories is costly.”
12. Lawyers Will Embrace Reputation Management – Before They Need It
In the past, attorneys and law firms have waited until something bad happens before they think about their reputation: a bad case, a terrible review, or a personal issue makes them think about how they appear online and in their community. Today, though, more lawyers will be taking a proactive approach to reputation management by making it a regular aspect of their online marketing plan.
The simple truth is that when it comes to reputation management, it could take thousands of dollars to fix a reputation problem that would have only taken hundreds of dollars to prevent in the first place.
Three Quick Tips for Proactive Reputation Management:
- Locate negative reviews and pages. Before you begin working on your future reputation, make certain that your current reputation doesn’t need bolstering. Even the best attorneys in the country are subject to negative, unfair, or just plain crazy negative reviews. When you find a negative review, first determine if it violates any rules of the review site and can be removed (for example, if the review was written by a competitor or someone who did not actually use your services). If the review is not in violation, it is time to swallow your pride and write a response that is calm, reasonable, and compassionate – even if you can’t tell the whole story and even if don’t really mean every word of it.
- Make sure your story dominates. Perhaps the best way to bury negative reviews and information on the web is to make sure that the story your brand tells shines more brightly (and takes up more slots in the search engine results). You can do this through creating and maintaining an awesome website, encouraging past clients to leave you reviews, staying active in your community, keeping your blog up to date, and establishing yourself as an authority in your field.
- Use discretion. Attorneys will always have their face and their name tied directly to their profession – in fact, it can often be difficult to separate yourself from your brand. For this reason, it is of the utmost importance to use discretion when you interact online as well as in your offline personal life. Even actions that are socially acceptable for a person who is not in the public spotlight can be problematic for an attorney. Be sure to keep your private social media accounts – and all other online activity – discrete.
“What would we find if we searched for your firm’s name + reviews in Google? It’s time to take control of those search results through smart, proactive reputation management strategies.”
13. It’s Here: Mobile Will Finally Overtake Desktop
In May of 2015, Google announced that more searches now take place on mobile devices than on desktops and laptops. It was a change that most marketing experts saw coming and it’s a change that isn’t over yet. This year, mobile optimization will become more important than desktop optimization – both when it comes to SEO and when it comes to conversion optimization.
Three Quick Tips for Mobile Optimization:
- Get on the responsive design bandwagon. If your website doesn’t have a responsive design, getting one should be the absolute number one priority in the coming year. Responsive design allows your website to look great whether it is being viewed on a full-sized screen, a tablet, or a smartphone. It also allows you to stop worrying about the upkeep of a separate mobile website. If you don’t have a responsive website, chances are that it already looks stale and outdated to anyone looking for a lawyer.
- Start thinking like a mobile user. Have you looked at your attorney website on a smartphone? Or tried to search for and call your office from a mobile device? If you haven’t, do it today. Finding your firm, navigating your website, and calling your office should be as easy as falling off a log. If it’s any harder, you need immediate help. Try gaining insight into testing your mobile website on users, experimenting with A/B testing, or creating a quick survey for mobile users.
- Remember that mobile optimization doesn’t end with your website. The huge increase in the popularity of smartphones doesn’t just mean that you need a responsive and mobile-friendly website. Smartphones have also created a ton of new marketing opportunities for attorneys, from creating useful apps for clients (and potential clients) to making it easy to schedule video meetings and consultations. When becoming mobile friendly, be sure to think outside the box.
“We are still learning about how mobile devices can connect us to new clients and evolve online marketing – think outside the box and let your imagination run wild.”
14. Paging Siri: This Will Be The Big Year For Voice Search
If you think mobile search is the cutting edge of technology, you are already one step behind. With the advent of the Apple Watch and other small, wearable devices, voice search is skyrocketing in popularity. And even those who don’t use Apple’s electronic personal assistant Siri are using voice search platforms developed by Google and Microsoft.
By embracing and optimizing for voice search, you are not only preparing for the future of SEO (which is coming up quickly), you are also taking a step that many of your competitors won’t catch on to quite yet.
How does voice search differ from traditional typed search?
- People speak differently than they type.
- People are often searching only for quick bits of information.
- People are often searching for telephone numbers, addresses, or directions.
- Voice search often provides direct answers instead of links to answers.
- Voice search often uses data from local listing websites and social media websites.
Three Quick Tips for Optimizing for Voice Search:
- Create content that contains direct answers. Siri is providing users with more and more “direct answers”: text that appears on the screen instead of a link that brings users to an outside website. You can write the content for direct answers simply by creating FAQ pages that answer common questions clearly and concisely. It’s a great way to get users to your website and a great way to boost your authority and web presence.
- Understand rich snippets and structured data. Rich snippets, also known as structured data, can help you make the most important information on your page stand out in search results – especially voice search results. The two most common types of rich data are titles and meta descriptions, but you can also use structured data to promote your address, telephone number, business hours, or upcoming events. You can add structured data to your pages using Google’s Markup Helper.
- Polish up your directory listings and social profiles. Siri doesn’t just pull data from traditional websites. It often relies on information in local directories like Yelp or social media profiles like Facebook. This fact is yet another reason that you should regularly update your profiles across the web, making sure to fill out all fields and provide the most current information.
“ In 2015, 41 percent of adults and 55 percent of teens used voice search at least once per day. That number is only going to grow.”
15. All Attorneys Will Be Watching Their Page Speed
When it comes to page speed, fractions of a second can influence user experience. In fact, one study found that almost half of all people online expected a website to load in two seconds or less. Loading in just three seconds was slow enough for many people to abandon the website altogether and try somewhere else.
Even if you are willing to risk losing a significant number of website viewers right off of the bat, a website that loads slowly has a number of other negative effects that you should consider before taking load speed off of your to-do list:
- Load speed is one of the many factors that search engines use to rank a page.
- Users who abandon your page hurt your bounce rate, which also hurts SEO.
- Having a slow-loading page can hurt your online authority.
- Having a slow-loading page can hurt your customer service reputation.
Three Quick Tips for Making Your Website Faster:
- Find out how fast your website loads right now. Before you rush into a solution, find out where your website currently stands. Google has an online resource, Page Speed Online, which analyzes your website and gives your page a Page Speed Score. Not only will you find out how fast (or slow) your website is, you will also get a list of fixes, organized by priority.
- Make your site faster, one fix at a time. In most cases, a slow load time isn’t due to one issue, it’s due to a lot of different smaller issues. To speed up your page, tackle problems like these one at a time: GZIP compression, bad code, unoptimized images, resized images, uncached pages, and redirects.
- Understand that every second counts. Even extremely large sites – including Google and Amazon – have tried to trade page speed for an extra feature or two. Both sites found that even a fraction of a second cost them dearly and that the “better” site was not worth the users and revenue they lost. More bells and whistles are not always better. Simple, clean, and lean websites come with higher conversion rates. It’s been proven time and time again.
“How many seconds it takes for your website to load seems like a little thing. But in fact, having a fast site can determine whether a person even sticks around to see your great design and content.”
16. Real-Time Google Penguin Will Land, Bringing Lots of Link Penalties
Google Penguin 4.0 is expected to drop at some point before 2016. This real-time algorithm update is designed to punish websites that use black hat marketing tactics to make it appear that web pages have more backlinks than they really do. The real-time aspect of this algorithm update will make it so that pages can recover from penalties quickly if they remove them and that pages will be penalized almost automatically at the moment bad links are discovered.
If that sounds like a lot of technical talk, we will boil it down for you. If you (or the SEO company you are using) creates bad links in order to improve your search results, 2016 will not be the year for you.
Three Quick Tips for Navigating Penguin 4.0:
- Know your SEO expert. In far too many cases, attorneys don’t practice black hat SEO and black hat marketing all on their own. More often than not, they put their trust into an “SEO expert” who doesn’t bother to tell the law office that they are engaging in sketchy linking practices in order to get results. Make sure that you develop a relationship with your marketers and that you know exactly what is taking place behind the curtain in order to get web traffic and conversions.
- Locate and destroy bad links. There are a number of ways to analyze your backlinks online. These tools allow you to see which websites are pointing to your website and whether any of the links are of low quality. Look for links that appear in blog comments, links that appear on pages irrelevant to your practice, links from low-quality directories, and links from a website that house spun content.
- Focus on the long game. All Google algorithm updates have one thing in common: they are all geared toward making it easier for users to find the information that they are looking for. If you spend your time, thought, and effort on making it easier for potential clients to find your website, you will be doing exactly what Google wants, and your website will likely not be effected by Google algorithm changes down the road. Instead of trying to play the Google SEO game, simply try to create the best website and online presence possible for your users. It’s as simple as that.
“It’s time to find every sketchy link associated with your website and eliminate it as soon as possible.”
Don’t Let 2016 Pass You By
If you have a question, if you want to learn more about one of the above trends, or if you need help with marketing for your law firm, we are here to help. Reach out to our team today to find out about the immediate steps that you can take today to boost your website traffic, improve your SEO, rev up your offline marketing, and ultimately grow your law firm.