Why Content Marketing and SEO Has Become as Important to Law Firms as Getting Referrals [Book Introduction]
*This is the introduction to my upcoming book Content Marketing and SEO for Law Firms:
When I started selling websites in 1995, I had no idea I would still be building them and marketing them 25 years later.
My father owned the sixth-largest ad agency in New England, and so I was lucky enough to be tasked with switching from being a media planner to selling digital marketing.
I got mocked by more than one company that thought I was the latest version of a snake oil salesman when I pulled out my laptop and dialed up over AOL in their office. Yet here we are, with digital marketing accounting for about half of marketing budgets and much more than that for businesses with sales revenues under $25 million.
Because of the vast amount of helpful information on the internet, prospective customers are now nearly 75% of the way through their decision-making process before they ever engage with a sales representative.
- “57% of the purchase decision is complete before a customer even calls a supplier.” (CEB)
- “67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.” (SiriusDecisions)
- “B2B customers are more than 70% of the way through the decision-making process before ever engaging a sales representative.” Demand Gen 7th Annual B2B Buyer’s Survey
That means people and businesses know what they want, and they know the handful of law firms that they might consider working with. They have read those law firms’ blogs, bought their books, downloaded their white papers, and are receiving their automated email sales messages with intriguing content and occasional offers.
If you are focused solely on sales tactics and are not getting in front of prospects with a steady diet of your content, you lose to other lawyers, some of whom may even give new meaning to the phrase “criminal lawyers.”
For example, one law firm showed me a network of sites built by an attorney who had a criminal record and yet was great at SEO. He was eating his competitor’s lunch despite his own infamy.
When I was working on a mesothelioma law SEO and Google ad project, a client shared how one meso marketer made fake veterans hospital websites to get leads. It doesn’t get any more unethical than that. Sadly, though, Google can’t always sort the good from the bad law firms and sometimes rewards great content, regardless of who created it (or how legitimate it is or isn’t).
Let’s look at Google for how people can find legal counsel and advice.
Search Google for “How to file a patent” and Nolo, Legal Zoom, Forbes, Inc., and ipwatchdog.com all come up as sources of information on that topic.
Search Google for “What to do if I get pulled over for drunk driving,” and the search results will include lawyer videos, law firm websites, and the Huffington Post site.
Search Google for “Is an LLC or trust better to protect my business?” and LLC Wizard, Legal Zoom, Investopedia, and a couple of law firm websites show up in the search results.
The experts who are doing the writing and thinking like publishers are winning the business these days, not those with the largest Yellow Pages ad or the most TV commercials. Very often, you will see legal directories, big media sites like Forbes, and then niche sites like LLC Wizard or Birth Injury Guide that have a lot of content on niche topics.
If you let others own the searches for what makes you money, you and your firm lose.
People are so bombarded by marketing messages, and even now by content, that you really need to get in front of them with just the right message that solves their pain right when they are ready to pull the trigger.
So you need to have content available and visible when they are researching, when they are considering what company to choose, and finally when they are ready to buy — at all stages of the marketing funnel, or what people refer to now as the buyer’s journey.
Sadly, many attorneys think everyone is always ready for a free consultation and that they are mostly searching for things like “hire Boston business lawyer right now.”
While I have a few unkind words to say about some of FindLaw’s older practices, I remember seeing a great talk they did about how most law leads actually come from long tail searches, where customers are seeking to solve their problems, not just hire an attorney in xyz city and state.
Some of the most expensive Google ads are legal related and can cost over $900 per click! So long-term, “owning” thousands of non-paid organic Google search terms is critical. You also need to take improving your website to another level. If you only turn 100 website visitors into leads at a 1% conversion rate, it could potentially cost you $90,000 per lead, and that’s hardly sustainable.
It must be nice to own Google… If they can get nearly $1,000 per click in extreme cases and it just takes a second to click, they could theoretically make $60,000 per minute.
Just to help illustrate this further, here’s how much it would cost advertisers, on average, to buy Google ads for the 10 most expensive Google keyword concepts:
|Cost per click*
*To get this data, WordStream examined the top keywords between June 1, 2016, and June 12, 2017, and categorized them by core intent.
As mentioned, there are individual keywords with much higher costs than these, but WordStream’s research was specifically looking at related keywords with extremely high costs per click on average. This data gives you the broad sense of hot and expensive topics online.
Now let’s look at a few more fun examples to freak out you and your wallet completely.
If you use SEMrush to search for the single word “lawyer” and filter keywords by the highest estimated cost per click in Google ads, you get the
Accident and Injury
Indianapolis Semi Truck Accident Lawyer: $905
Car Accident Lawyer Elite: $872
Mesothelioma Lawsuit Lawyers: $756
Albany Ga Personal Injury Lawyer: $750
Los Angeles Uber Accident Lawyer: $733
Car accident lawyers Colorado Springs CO: $732
Iron Horse Motorcycle Lawyers Greenville SC: $728
Offshore Lawyers In Louisiana: $680
Birth Injury Lawyer Pittsburgh: $666
Car Accident Lawyer Decatur GA: $665
Stage 4 Peritoneal Mesothelioma Life Expectancy: $889
Mesothelioma Lawsuit Lawyers: $756
Mesothelioma Attorney Pittsburgh: $740
Best Mesothelioma Attorneys: $648
Mesothelioma Lawyers In Michigan: $625
New York Mesothelioma Lawyer: $566
Mesothelioma Lawyer Near Me:$561
Cases of mesothelioma: $534
Mesothelioma Attorney Seattle: $523
Mesothelioma Net: $503
DUI and Criminal Defense
DUI Lawyers in San Antonio: $348
Cheap DUI Lawyers Los Angeles: $344
Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Fort Myers FL: $237
Jewish Criminal Defense Lawyers: $155
Business Tax Lawyer: $87
Small Business Lawyer Maryland: $73
Business Tax Lawyer Near Me: $69
Business Partnership Dispute Lawyers: $64
Business Lawyers In Cincinnati Ohio: $56
Medical Marijuana Business Lawyers LLC: $55
Business Mediation Lawyer: $54
Home And Business Lawyer Software Download: $52
Business Lawyer Colorado: $50
Business Lawyer For Small Business: $47
Real Estate Litigation Lawyers Near Me $141
Real Estate Lawyer Fairfax VA $54
Intellectual Property Lawyer Long Island: $35
Intellectual Property Lawyer San Diego: $26
Estate Planning Lawyer: $20
Estate Planning Lawyers Near Me: $18
Immigration Lawyer NYC: $19
Immigration Attorney: $12
Family Lawyer Near Me: $19
NY Whistleblower Lawyer: $77
Whistleblower Lawyers: $41
Digital marketing works. Otherwise, people would not have spent years bidding up the cost of these ads. Therefore, showing up in the search results without paying for Google ads has a tangible value.
For example, FindLaw has 2,527,699 keywords that rank organically in Google. Based on Google’s estimated costs per click, those keyword ranking positions would have cost $25.6 million per month, if they had to buy them as Google ads!
And how many people are searching?
Here is the monthly volume for some top terms that come up when you search SEMrush for just the word “lawyer.”
|Cost per click*
Here is just one example of customers searching on their pain points, who may appreciate an attorney’s thought leadership content on this immigration law-related topic:
How To Get A Green Card
So there is immense potential to getting leads from organic SEO that could otherwise cost a fortune if a firm tried to get the same visibility through buying Google ads. Despite that, so many law firms half-bake their SEO and blogging efforts. Then they change digital marketing agencies like the wind, and wonder why they are frustrated with their content marketing efforts.
Because you’re reading this book, that should not happen to you. That’s because you will gain much greater confidence that you are strategically on the right path and are using a time-tested roadmap, instead of notes on a napkin, to maximize your digital marketing efforts.
You will learn what you might do yourself, what you would be better off outsourcing (like technical SEO), and how to think about marketing as a team effort.
Hiring Versus Outsourcing
I recently made a list of the things you might do in order to embrace digital marketing fully. Wait, let me rephrase that: Here is a list of things we (as a digital marketing agency) actually do with our in-house team and extended team of highly specialized subcontractors.
This list may help you realize the importance of having your own team versus having a “webmaster” or even one or two people at your firm to handle all the various tactics and software tools needed.
“Before You Start” Tactics
Strategy Development (Business, Digital, Traditional)
Market / Target Audience Research
Buyer’s Journey Mapping
Positioning / Messaging / UVP Development
Mission Statement Writing
Assigning Roles, Timing and Project Management System
Budget Setting (5% to maintain, 10% to grow, 7% is the average according to cmosurvey.org)
Business and Marketing Goals / KPIs Documentation
Logo, Font and Color Guideline Documentation
Off-Page SEO (Links and PR)
Topic Cluster Strategy
Voice Search Strategy
Social Media Policy
Google My Business
Analytics / ROI Tracking
Setting Up Goal Conversions
Thank-You Page Development
Book and E-book Cover Design
E-book Kindle / Digital Formatting
Web Design — Front End
Design to HTML Conversion
Web Development — Back End
Updating Server Platform
Handling 301 Redirects
Conversion Rate Optimization
Principles of Influence
Web Page Text
Landing Page Copy
Social Profile Updates
Editorial Calendar Development
Topic Cluster Writing
Email List Development
Email List Segmentation and CRM
Email Marketing Design
Email Marketing Text
Marketing Automation Workflows
Outreach to Buy Sponsored Email Placement
Book Concept for Sales and Positioning
Writing, Editing, Proofreading
Cover Design, Layout, Digital Version
Book Promotion, PR, Backlinks, Awards
Sales and Marketing Alignment
Content For Sales Outreach
CRM Setup and Training
Booking Speaking Gigs
Recording and Repurposing
Affiliate Program Management
Make a Page / Program for Referrals
Handling Negative Online Reviews and Press
Building Personal and Business Brands via Content
Did you know that magazines have full-time headline writers? That is because they know that writing effective headlines is a skill that can make the difference between someone walking past the magazine and being engaged enough to pick it up.
I am not saying you need a different person for each of the different tasks listed above, but in my experience having your marketing staff wear too many hats can cost you years of wasted time.
It’s not just the number of skills and tasks involved — there’s also a crazy number of tools that go with these skills.
Have you heard of chiefmartec.com? This year’s graphic, where they show all the tools you can use for digital marketing, has 6,829 marketing technology solutions from 6,242 unique marketing technology vendors.
The good news is that finding the right resources is half the battle.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Google Analytics
- HotJar, Crazy Egg, or Clicktale
- Google Optimize, Optimizely, or VWO
- Buzz Sumo
Later on, in the tools section of this guide, I will describe a little bit of what each resource does.
Marketing has made great progress in the past 20 years in terms of generating customers and has improved beyond such methods as cold calling. It will get even better as artificial intelligence gives us tools to deeply understand and interact with potential customers.
Grammarly, the world’s best spelling and grammar software, just got $110 million in venture capital, in part to make a writing assistant to guide your writing that uses huge amounts of data from the social media profiles of your ideal customer, massaged by artificial intelligence.
Imagine you want to reach young female technology entrepreneurs, and the words they are known to share and like are highlighted for you to use! So much better than guessing when trying to enter the conversation in their heads.
Who says robots can’t write? Well, not so fast, but they will be helping smart marketers radically improve their conversion rates and therefore the volume of leads they get from the web.
If you still think you can make your website drive leads consistently with just your gut instincts, think again.
Marketing technology, fused with people who know how to use it and can dovetail it with your internal team’s efforts, is where it’s at, in my opinion.
SEO without techies who keep your site loading fast and error-free, bloggers who are just writing weekly because someone told them to, web designers who rely merely on the highest-paid person’s opinion of what will matter to a customer, and people running paid ads who have no clue about marketing psychology — all of these will produce neither hot nor cold results.
Back in 1995, 2000, or even 2010, maybe you could have gotten away with such indifferent tactics, but not now, when law firms are all blogging, using social media, and running digital ads. Not when someone referred to your firm searches for your brand name, looks at your site to gauge your level of thought leadership, and pores over your online reviews.
To get consistent and high-quality leads, you can’t let referrals slip away unnoticed, rely on one channel, ignore how channels work together, or just dip your big toe in the water. Not when clicks from law-related Google ads cost more than they do for almost any other industry (and can cost $1,000 each). Not when doing content marketing and SEO could supercharge your business development outreach efforts.
If you want to jump in headfirst and learn how to avoid the failures of so many other legal marketing projects, then this book is for you.
If you want to learn to use a roadmap that will help you to get more leads and still let you get home in time for dinner, then read on, my new friends. For you are the true heroes, and I am merely a guy who has a bit of information to guide you on your journey to many successful projects.