A Complete Overview of Digital Marketing for Lawyers, Just for Junior Associates
In law firms of almost any size, a young / new associate’s desk tends to sit downstream, where only the cases that no one else fetched from the water end up.
And then there are the non-cases… all those menial housekeeping tasks that don’t quite require a J.D. for completion. Meetings with sales guys, consultations with a client nobody wants, putting in volunteer hours on the firm’s behalf — this is the workload of the newly hired.
Law firm marketing tends to end up in that detritus too. This means you might suddenly be responsible for what you assumed was an MBA’s purview.
If you’ve found yourself in that situation — tasked with researching / hiring a digital marketing agency for your law firm (or at least researching the options that are out there) — we’ve got you covered.
This article serves as a sort of Attorney Digital Marketing 101, useful for anyone in the legal services industry but designed especially for the junior associate juggling marketing management alongside all their other tasks.
There’s a lot to know, but with a quick education, you’ll be primed and ready to report with a plan.
What Is Digital Marketing?
Digital marketing refers to any mode of advertising or marketing that uses the internet for distribution or execution. In many ways, it operates on the same logic that drives traditional, analog marketing. But because the internet is a different beast, digital marketing must be too.
In terms of law firm marketing, the most common modes of digital marketing include:
- Copywriting for the web (webpages, blog articles, guest posts, press releases, etc.)
- Website Design (creating a website that is fast, content-rich, mobile-responsive, attractive to prospective clients, and designed on the backend to give Google’s algorithms what they’re looking for)
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO: the practice of optimizing your web copy so as to rank well in search engine results)
- Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC: a form of paid ad placement that allows your law firm to target highly specific demographics, including local clients, paying for ad views only when someone takes action on them)
- Retargeting (A specific type of PPC advertising in which someone who visits your law firm website — and then leaves — will continue to see ads for your firm while they browse other websites in the weeks ahead, thus creating powerful reminders and brand awareness)
- In-App Advertising (Another type of PPC, increasingly popular for its ability to capture a user’s entire focus while they’re busy playing games or using their favorite smartphone app)
- Local Search Marketing (Because Google’s algorithms now direct users to local results first, it’s crucial that your web content be oriented toward those local results. Through Google Maps Marketing, Google My Business Listings, and Local Search SEO, your law firm can work toward dominating the local search listings for your specific market.)
- Social Media Marketing (Making the most of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other platforms to establish authority and credibility for your law firm brand while also engaging directly with prospective clients and driving new traffic to your web content)
- YouTube Videos (While traditional TV advertising is extremely expensive and are not usually part of an attorney digital marketing plan, YouTube videos are much more cost-effective and should really be a part of any law firm’s online strategy. YouTube is the world’s second-biggest search engine, after all, and visual content has been shown to significantly increase the effectiveness of written web content.)
- Graphic Design (Infographics, law firm logos, and more… graphic design is a crucial part of a compelling web presence.)
- Email Marketing (Did you know that, despite popular myth, the average web user reports that they enjoy receiving commercial emails from law firms? The information just needs to be useful, and the formatting and distribution must comply with best-practice standards.)
What Are the Challenges Law Firms Face on the Digital Marketing Front?
The attorneys who assigned you this task will expect you to be conversant in legal marketing. In this section, we summarize several of the most pressing issues for attorneys as they try to dominate digital marketing within their regions.
The world is short on many things. Law firms aren’t among them. Your job search might have left you feeling like there aren’t enough practices out there, but the partners will tell you otherwise.
Even though a law firm’s competition is primarily limited to its local market (and entirely to the jurisdictions in which its lawyers are licensed), those markets are still extremely crowded.
There are only so many spots on the first page of Google search results — and user studies (and traffic data) consistently show that almost no one clicks beyond Page 1. This race to the top is perhaps the single greatest challenge in digital marketing for attorneys.
Cost Per Click
PPC ad campaigns are based on bids. You vie for your ad to appear within a given keyword’s search results. Your competitors attempt to outbid you for the same.
All of this happens virtually and instantaneously, but the principle is the same as in an old-fashioned auction: the prices skyrocket in the blink of an eye.
Unfortunately, keywords in the legal services industry are some of the most expensive to bid on, fetching higher prices per click than many other keywords on the web. This means that attorneys must be very smart in their approach to PPC advertising.
You don’t want your competitors to win the game, but you don’t want to break the bank — or allocate funds away from your other, just-as-important marketing efforts — in the process. An experienced, strategic approach is key.
Most prospective clients are deeply suspicious of attorneys — even if they know they need one. Blame it on a century’s worth of lawyer jokes.
The view of attorneys as duplicitous, money-grubbing, truth-flubbing sharks is pervasive. In many cases, the law firm that most effectively overcomes that presumption is the one that will land the case.
This is where content marketing and copywriting become very important. Your web copy must relate to the client’s experience first and foremost. Connecting with their needs is vastly more important than touting your own credentials. This is a lesson law firms still struggle to learn.
The right tone is one of personable authority. Be real, be honest, be straightforward and be organic. Set the reader’s mind at ease. Credibility is everything.
Social media marketing goes a long way toward overcoming skepticism too, as can YouTube videos. The prospective client needs to feel reassured that your law firm is “with it,” that you’ll give their case true passion and valuable time, and that — for those reasons — you’re a better, wiser choice than all the others.
Marketing a business online takes time. A lot of time, if you want real results. And if there’s one thing lawyers don’t have, it’s time — especially those who are higher up in the practice. That’s why they passed the job on to you.
Even as a newly hired junior associate, you have your own growing caseload (or will soon). And for that reason, marketing consistently falls to the bottom of the stack. At too many firms, it’s the folder that never gets opened.
Sadly, the business pays a price for that, because those transformative cases (the ones everyone wants to land) end up going to the firms that are investing in marketing.
This struggle to find time for law firm marketing — and to resist the temptation to try handling everything in-house — is something that practices wrestle with all the time.
Pressed for time, attorneys turn to professional copywriters to handle most of their blogging, guest post, and web content needs. That’s a good thing. We strongly advise that attorneys should not do their own web writing (no matter how handy they might be with a pen). But you have to be careful about who you work with.
Most copywriters do not have the requisite experience in law to capably write about matters of legal importance. In over their heads, they turn hastily to questionable resources on the web. Too often, the result is a sloppy, inaccurate, and jurisdictionally nonspecific article that sounds like what it is — a piece written by someone who has no idea what they’re talking about.
Even worse, copywriters have been known to lift their work directly (or very lightly paraphrased) from other law firms’ websites. When your firm gets this unfairly lifted work, you have no idea it’s infringement… until it goes live on your site and the hammer comes down.
This is embarrassing for law firms, exposes them to liability to their competitors, and could mean trouble with the state bar’s ethics board too.
For those reasons, attorneys are well advised to thoroughly vet their copywriters and trust only those with a legal background and a proven record of excellence — even if it means paying more than mere pennies per word. You get what you pay for.
Finding a Law Firm Marketing Agency
Just as it’s hard to find an experienced and trustworthy legal copywriter, finding the right digital marketing agency for your law firm can be a real challenge too.
At Black Fin, most of our clients had worked with a different agency (or numerous agencies) before finding us. Again and again, they tell us of their struggles — shady agencies that used black hat SEO tactics, confusing pricing models, poor communication methods, and still failed to deliver demonstrable results.
The right legal marketing agency is one that gets rid of your headaches instead of triggering new ones. Before hiring an agency, you should:
- Ask them to explain their strategies in laymen’s terms (not “marketingspeak”). Does their approach make sense to you?
- Ask to see clear results from real accounts they’ve handled in the past. If they don’t have proof to show you, ask why.
- Refuse to sign long-term contracts. Those benefit the marketing agency, but they do nothing for your firm. If the agency’s services work, you’ll want to hire them again and again. You won’t need a contractual obligation to incentivize you.
A Results-Oriented Solution for Your Law Firm Marketing Needs
By now, you should have a working knowledge of digital marketing for lawyers. Now it’s time to report back to the partners with a proposed solution. We believe the best solution is Black Fin.
We are a team of legal marketing experts who are entirely dedicated to just one thing: marketing law firms online.
Here at Black Fin, we are obsessed with Google and getting our clients to its top spots. We understand that when you hire us, it’s not just so we can make your website look pretty. It’s about the bottom line. You invest in our services because you expect a return, and we’re determined to deliver it.
We judge our own success by this standard: did we get you bigger cases and better clients?
If not, we won’t expect you to hire us again. We don’t require any contracts because we know our process works. (We have proof, by the way. Just ask to look at our results.)
That said, we like to work with law firms that are interested in long-term, ongoing success. Because that’s how the web is won: over time.
We’ve helped some of this country’s most successful law firms take their marketing efforts to new heights. We’re also responsible for our fair share of Cinderella stories — law firms that went from a negligible web presence to powerhouse results.
The process requires the right attitude, and it takes time, but we know how to make it happen. Learn more about partnering with Black Fin on everything from legal copywriting to PPC, SEO, social media and beyond. Read our hire us page and make it a part of your pitch to the firm.