At the start of each year, everyone is looking to plan for – and incorporate – the latest marketing trends. We help law firms who are searching for ways to increase their ROI quickly, and stay ahead of these trends to ensure long-term success. (Hence, our 2016 law firm trends report, ahem.)
But we are now over halfway through 2016, and things change and evolve in the digital marketing world on pretty much a daily basis. New technologies for website development, new algorithm updates from Google, the emergence of new modes and methods of search, and even user expectations.
But not all of it is actually useful and relevant for growing your firm.
For example, a month ago, we were trying out Blab, a unique video conferencing platform, to discuss the latest changes in SEO. We thought that it – and tools like it – might prove useful for some of our clients. Altogether, it was interesting and we gained some useful insights.
But now many companies – and, more importantly, users – are discovering Facebook Live, Periscope and Huzza, which fulfill a pretty similar market need; and, especially in the case of Facebook Live, have a lot more brand recognition.
That’s because some platforms just turn out to be fads, eventually swallowed up (or bought) by larger businesses in the space. The same can be said for some emerging strategies that are hot and promising for a time or are soon replaced.
So – clearly – one big trends report a year just won’t suffice.
Therefore, here you have it, our mid-year, updated report with the latest trends and updates for the digital marketing space for law firms in 2016.
Not only did we compile information from a handful of our key strategists, but we reached out to other leaders in the digital marketing space for their thoughts on emerging new trends for 2016 and, naturally, 2017.
After all, why wait another 6 months when there are new and useful things happening now that could tilt the scale in your favor?
SEO for the User Vs. the Search Engine
In June of this year, there was another Google ‘Panda’ update, which always has to do with high-quality vs. low-quality algorithm changes. The main takeaway from it was that “thin” – i.e. low word count – content will have an even harder time ranking.
“Cornerstone” pages (think your homepage, about page, etc.) in particular need to have at least 1,000 words of content – though 1,500+ is ideal. The same can be said when looking at your law firm’s blog. If the website has a homepage, two main pages and a contact page, all with 1,500+ words, that’s great. But if there are tens or even hundreds of blog posts with less than 500 words, then the overall average content length is diluted. On the other hand, if blogs average around 750-1,000 words you should be fine.
“We all need to rethink what SEO really is about in 2016 – and going forward. Yes, it’s search engine optimization, but SEO is increasingly more about the user and less about the Search Engine. You need to have a mobile website, content that’s written for users and not Search Engines, and content that answers questions. Google’s algorithms are constantly being worked on, but UX (User Experience) will always come first. Forget about what Google wants and focus on what your user needs. Also – Local. Local. Local.”Jarod Spiewak, Lead SEO Strategist
SEO Local Tips – How to Rank for X in Y
- Onsite content (title tags, headers, etc.) need to make clear what area you service (state, city, county, etc).
- You must use a consistent NAP (Name Address Phone). This includes info and format. If your website says X address Suite #301, then so should everything else you put your address on. If your phone number is (555) 555-5555, then that’s your number. Not 5555555555, 555-555-5555, 555-5555555, (555)5555555, (555)555-5555 etc. Attention to detail is vital.
- If you’re targeting multiple cities then we highly recommend having what we call “city pages.” These city pages can also have additional practice area pages siloed beneath them (e.g. /Dallas/personal-injury /Houston/personal-injury), giving you a greater chance of ranking for X area in X city, even if it isn’t where your office is located.
- Must have a Google My Business page that is verified, accurate, and kept up to date. Generate 5 reviews to allow users to see a star rating. Keep generating reviews, because that’s what users are looking for.
- Make sure all of your directories link to your website and don’t neglect to mention the area(s) you service in the info. This includes Avvo, Justia, and Findlaw.
- Your address on your website should have Schema so bots know that it’s an address.
- It’s very important to verify your Yelp listing. Users who review you on Yelp can add you if you’re not already there by your own volition, and if a user leaves a negative review you won’t be able to respond to that review until after you verify that you’re the business owner. Also, voice search apps such as Siri and Cortana favor Yelp, and try to display it as often as possible.
- Social media bio/about sections should mention the serviced area(s).
- Local citations are an important part of ranking locally. Make sure NAP is consistent and include serviced area(s).
- Having a backlink profile which shows geo-targeted anchor text will also help local SEO. Just not too much (though it’s hard to give an exact percent, since it’s based on total links).
Measuring and Tracking Results
We’ve seen a plethora of law firms try different marketing and SEO strategies without actually tracking and paying attention to what’s working, what needs re-worked and what needs scrapped. If you’re on this boat, 2016 is the time to jump ship.
How law firm marketing will be tracked:
- Google Analytics
- Using Google Analytics to track the most important aspects of a law firm website is very useful for understanding your website’s traffic. Key details like most visited pages, traffic sources, devices used, demographic insights and much much more will be paid close attention to.
- Call Tracking
- A software like CallRail, which tracks calls, records them, and provides analytics, is an invaluable tool for law firms. There are also available metrics for PPC, SEO, and offline ad campaigns, giving you greater ability to determine the overall success of campaigns and what needs to be tweaked.
Measuring Social Media Data
70% of companies are still not collecting data from social media channels. That means that 70% of the businesses that are posting to social media, spending time and resources, have no idea of the success of particular campaigns or posts. What is the point of using social media platforms if you don’t know what’s working well for you?
How Law Firms can Measure Their Social Media Results
Luckily, social media platforms have improved and focused a lot of effort into creating better analytics for marketers – after all, it’s how they make their money!
- Using Facebook Insights gives marketers important information like demographics, when their audience is online, and what posts have the highest engagement. Law firms can use this information to improve marketing campaigns, engagement and overall effectiveness of their social media use.
- Twitter also offers some key insights into your posts and audience. You can see your top tweets, followers, monthly impressions, and even profile visits.
Live Video Streaming
Live streaming has taken the world by storm. The first live streaming platform, Meerkat, has stepped aside for other platforms, including Periscope, Facebook Live and YouTube Live.
Why do attorneys need to keep live streaming on their list of possible marketing strategies? Brand awareness, connecting with potential clients and building a community.
Just like live video streaming has been enormously popular, people will watch more videos in general – more than ever. Video consumption will continue to explode this year, with Cisco predicting that it will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic by 2017.
There is a huge opportunity for law firms to create relevant, high quality video content and use the likes of YouTube, Facebook and Instagram to get it out there. Not only can you use videos in social media marketing, but also in other marketing efforts, such as email newsletters. Videos integrated into emails can lead to a 200-300% increase in click through rate.
Keep in mind the specific platform you are posting videos to. When posting videos to YouTube, make sure that you’re using proper keywords and SEO for the videos – it matters there, too.
Facebook works best when videos are uploaded natively as opposed to posting a link and driving traffic back to YouTube.
Short, attention-grabbing videos are best suited for Instagram and Twitter.
Videos are no longer about creating a picture-perfect scene, but about including valuable information that either educates and/or entertains your audience. Using only your phone and a simple editing program will suffice.
Changing the Way You Think About Links
There are many unexperienced SEO companies who still believe that quantity is better than quality. But buying hundred of links is useless if they don’t have any value.
How to Create High-Quality Links for Your Law Firm
- Offer a scholarship based on an essay contest. This is an interesting and different way to connect with the community and have a positive effect on a few deserving students – and pick up some link juice, to boot! Make sure to choose a theme that fits your firm best and then approach local colleges and universities with a press release and with social media. These allow you to accomplish two goals at once: to be a positive force in your local community, and to get some valuable, authoritative links back to your website, including news outlet links and .edu links.
- Choose a local community cause and sponsor it. 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. Working with local non-profits not only helps build and grow the community where you live, it also helps both your online and offline marketing efforts.
Social media can be a little bit daunting with the multitude of options available to your law firm. But the main platforms for attorneys continue to be Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. What’s more important is being consistent and providing some interest for your audience.
Keys to Social Media Success
- Be consistent with your social media marketing.
- Provide value to your audience.
- Educate and/or entertain your audience with interesting posts and videos, value-packed blog posts and behind-the-scenes images.
- Although Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn will continue to be the most important social media outlets for businesses, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. For example, some have been finding success with newer platforms like Instagram, Periscope and even Snapchat. These sites offer different ways to market your legal services and many of your competitors aren’t utilizing them yet.
One valuable resource on social media are Facebook groups. Many business professionals have used LinkedIn groups, but Facebook groups tend to be a bit more active.
Join a Facebook group that aligns with either your specific law firm, or a locally based business group. This is basically an online networking opportunity, and oftentimes, an online mastermind. Collaborate on projects, get input or ask questions to gain valuable insights and information.
Social Media advertising
Traditional advertising with newspaper, television and billboards has evolved and been adapted to online advertising, including social media ads.
Hubspot reported that companies increased their social media marketing spend from $17.7 billion in 2014 to $23.6 billion in 2015, a 33.5% jump.
Setting up ads on Facebook can have a lot of added value for your law firm; to reach a larger audience, to make sure more of your followers are actually viewing your posts, to target the right people to view your law firm. Adding a Facebook Pixel to your website can start the process for creating a custom audience to target warm leads.
“FACEBOOK IS TAKING OVER. Seriously they are. Media, not just social media, has undergone a drastic shift.This year so far, Facebook ad revenue is at +63% and New York Times ad revenue is at -12%.
Facebook ads are BOOMING, and the trend doesn’t show any signs of stopping. With advanced targeting and a wide array of ad options, more and more marketers and businesses are turning to Facebook to run their ads.
Facebook has also shown itself to be a leader in the world of live video and video content. More and more businesses are turning to video as their main source of content. Facebook Live has proven itself to be the easiest way for people to view live content and cemented itself to be the number one source of live video for businesses and consumers alike. For users who primarily use Twitter, Periscope is the go-to for accessing (and producing) live video. Regardless of the platform, live video is growing and is on the fast track to becoming the number one source of video content.”
Anthony Gaut, Social Media Manager
Maximizing Online Reviews
Collecting positive online reviews is incredibly important, since reading reviews is one of the most popular ways that people find and evaluate law firms. However, having a few ‘ok’ reviews is not going to cut it. You need to have high-quality reviews, and lots of them. Ask your clients to provide them if they are happy with your service, and also make sure to promote the great reviews (think branded postcards, adding to your website, sharing on social media, etc.)
Online review statistics to take note of:
- 40% of consumers form an opinion by reading just one to three reviews vs. 29% in 2014
- 92% of consumers now read online reviews vs. 88% in 2014
- 43% of consumers search a business by reviews at least one time per month vs. 38% in 2014
Online reviews are not only a way to find ideal clients, but they are also a place where current customers might be reading up on you and your services.
When focusing on gaining more online reviews, make sure to include these top review sites:
You need to not only be aware of the quantity of the online reviews you obtain, but the frequency and how recent the reviews are. 44% say a review must be written within one month to be relevant.
Law Firm Web Design
We all know that your website is the hub of your online activity, and a place where your clients can gain useful information about your law firm and what sets you apart. More importantly nowadays is the ease of use of your website.
User experience design (UXD or UED) is the process of enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty by improving the usability, ease of use and pleasure provided in the interaction between the customer and the product. Basically, it’s great to have a website, but unless it is user friendly and easy to navigate, you still have work to do.
How do you understand the usability of your website?
- Use Google Analytics to check bounce rate, mobile usage and how long people have spent viewing specific pages.
- Run A/B tests via a platform such as Hotjar or Adwords (the latter requiring a PPC ad through Google).
- Get feedback from real users, especially past and current clients.
Client Relationship Management
It is no longer good enough to just be ‘good enough’. You need to not only be knowledgeable but also go above and beyond to provide your clients with an exceptional experience.
“Clients judge you on what they’re able to judge you on: how you treat them, how you respond to them, how you run the customer-facing parts of your office. They’re not necessarily qualified to determine what a good outcome is in a particular case, but they sure as heck can tell whether you treated them like a human being whose business is valued.”Micah Solomon, customer service consultant and author.
One of the most effective ways to create and foster a strong client relationship is through email marketing. There are a variety of different software options to use, but regardless of the platform, this consistent form of communication allows you to connect with clients and potential clients and further your relationship.
“Email marketing is the most cost effective way to stay in communication with clients and prospects to ensure that they call you the next time a legal need arises.If an attorney is spending any money at all on marketing and advertising but doesn’t have a simple, systematic process for communicating with those clients, they are certainly missing out on revenue opportunities.”
Michael J Kowal, President, Email Simply
Creating a closer community with new platforms
While Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the most common social media platforms for attorneys, we all know how quickly online marketing changes and new digital trends emerge.
People want to work with someone who they know, like and trust. What better way to do that than to use social media to ‘humanize’ your law firm, and allow people to get to know you? Now, this is often done through face-to-face meetings, but with new (and not-so-new) platforms emerging like Snapchat, Facebook Live and Periscope, this can be achieved (or at least begun) online.
You might be thinking ‘Why would I use Snapchat for my business’? Snapchat predominantly attracts younger users, with the majority of Snapchat users under 34, so it only makes sense to use if your target audience is within this user demographic. You might also be wondering. ‘What would I share on Snapchat’? Some examples to get you going include quick tips, behind-the-scenes, Ask Me Anything sessions or employee introductions.
In addition, Instagram just introduced their new Stories feature, which has many of the same characteristics as Snapchat, but on the Instagram platform, which means you can use your current audience on Instagram to speak to in a more behind-the-scenes way. Many users have noticed an increase in engagement on their regular posts, because you can use the Stories feature to bring attention to your other regular posts.
Speedy Mobile Users
Making sure that your website is optimised for mobile is not a new trend, but the speed in which information needs to be available is changing.
Over 87% of internet users now own a smartphone, and they use them for everything. Some people are even using their phone altogether, eschewing entirely a desktop or laptop.
Mobile users are also extremely goal-oriented and expect their information quickly and displayed in an easy-to-navigate fashion.
Offering Your Clients What They Need
Once a potential client lands on your website, they are hopefully converting – meaning they are completing a contact form or booking a free consultation. But unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
Remarketing, which is the targeting of specific prospects across multiple platforms, is being used more to target prospects that have already shown an interest in your services.
With remarketing, prospects can be targeted by their email address, phone number and mobile device IDs, and it’s being used more and more to find potential clients and offer them other services that they might not even know you offer.
Facebook Custom Audiences and Twitter Tailored Audiences are similar options to remarketing. Remarketing is an efficient and cost-effective way of keeping warm leads in your sales funnel, versus starting from scratch with new, cold leads each time you market.
Ready to Grow Your Firm? Get in Touch with Black Fin
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.