The Big Dog Authority Marketing Checklist for Lawyers

The Big Dog Authority Marketing Checklist

Position yourself and your law firm as experts and thought leaders and you will be seen as the big dogs. 

started selling websites in the dark ages of 1995 at McDougall Associates Advertising. I drove around with a laptop and a phone jack and dialed up AOL in people’s offices. One guy called me a snake oil salesman and said, “This internet thing isn’t going anywhere, kid,” and threw me out of his office. At times, I felt like a Chihuahua.

In spite of that, I quickly fell in love with the internet and search engine optimization.

I’ve built a multi-million dollar agency through hard work and long hours but knew there had to be a more streamlined way.

So I decided to write a book.

I hired an editor who told me to write a short first book but instead, I took three years to write a 420-page college textbook on the ever-changing world of digital marketing!

And yet I discovered a book is not nearly enough.

It got me many new customers, but I made a lot of mistakes along the way that I want to help other people avoid, so I created the Authority Marketing Roadmap.

The 6 essential steps to becoming a visible expert are:

  1. Pick a target market or practice area niche to narrow your focus.
  2. Write yourself into existence.
  3. Turn your blog into e-books and a short book.
  4. Blog your way to lasting SEO, social media, PR, and link-building success.
  5. Do regular public speaking.
  6. Build an email marketing list.

Authority Marketing is the systematic process of building your personal brand in a way that positions you and your law firm as the big dogs for Google and your customers.

If you are feeling like a Chihuahua and you’d rather be seen in your industry as a Great Dane, then this checklist gives you a quick overview of the most important things you need to do build your thought leadership and authority.

You can also take the Big Dog Authority Marketing Quiz, but it’s important to keep this checklist handy as a reference.

Before we get started, let’s expand the six essential steps into the 12 most important tactics.

  1. Brand via specialization: Pick a niche practice area to call your own.
  2. One of the biggest mistakes people make in marketing is assuming that narrowing your focus will limit your results. It’s usually the opposite. When you narrow your focus by selecting a niche or by targeting a specific industry, people want to work with you more, not less.

  3. Blog regularly.
  4. These days most thought leaders have a blog. If you want good search engine optimization success, a blog is in most cases a requirement. If you’re not blogging regularly, how else will you regularly add fresh content to your website?

    You can certainly add resource pages (which are fantastic) and an FAQ section, but having a popular blog can help skyrocket your website’s traffic and the perception in your industry of you being an authority figure.

  5. Write a book, even if it is very short.
  6. Nothing says that you are an expert better than being an author of a book. In addition, being a best-selling author of a book or even an e-book in a specific Amazon category makes you famous in your space.

    The big mistake I made here in 2010 was not blogging my book first and then after three years of writing practically in a cave, expecting it to sell without a systematic book marketing process and platform.

  7. Practice PR for media mentions.
  8. If you are seen on TV, interviewed on the radio, and featured in publications, people trust you and your firm more. Few people would argue with this and yet many experts don’t put in the effort required to get regular media mentions.

    Tools like and, along with submitting meaningful press releases, can help you get started quickly.

  9. Do public speaking and host events and seminars that show you are a dedicated thought leader.
  10. Some people fear public speaking more than death itself. If you are seen regularly as a prominent public speaker, people will line up to do business with you. If you study this tactic and prepare for your speaking engagements and webinars, you have a great chance of overcoming your anxieties and performing well.

  11. Use SEO — “own” the keywords that are part of your positioning statement.
  12. If you’re not popping up in organic search results for keywords relating to your topic, you are missing out on the largest media platform in the world. Google became much more complicated in 2011 with the Google Panda algorithm update that requires high-quality content, and in 2012 with the Google Penguin update that requires high-quality backlinks.

    Now, you need to build engagement and show that people love your brand. Google now judges your website based on their EAT acronym. This stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Numerous Google patents elaborate on their ability to judge who your authors are and if your company is trustworthy. Having regular content is no longer good enough. It needs to be tied to specific people that they trust, and not just your company name.

  13. Use social media — be deeply involved in online relationships, not just sharing content.
  14. Social media influence is no longer an optional part of becoming a persuasive attorney. If you want your writing and blog content to get a lot of attention from Google, then other people need to be sharing that content.

    One of the biggest mistakes people make when doing modern search engine optimization is to assume that merely selecting long tail keywords for each piece of content is enough to drive traffic.

    Today, your content needs to be highly shareable. Sharing photos of your company Christmas party and charitable events is certainly nice for your Facebook page, but if you want social media to work at a higher level, you need to tie it to your content promotion strategies.

    This works best if you have a list of influencers that you regularly quote and for whom you regularly comment on their blog posts. If you do not build relationships and engagement with important influencers and people in your topical area, your social media efforts will be built on shifting sands.

  15. Practice link building with influencers via relationships. 
  16. Getting people to link to you is one of the hardest things to do in digital marketing. It becomes so much easier when you create relationships with journalists and influencers. Interviewing others in your space in a podcast and turning that into a survey with an infographic is a great way to build links.

    If you don’t have various types of link assets, you won’t get the right type of links. And if you engage in low-level link building such as article submission sites or weak directories, you will trigger a Penguin manual penalty or algorithm problem that you will live to regret for years. Trust me, it’s happened to me and you don’t want to be in this situation.

  17. Seek sales influence — use the power of being a niche expert with content to persuade. 
  18. Cold calling isn’t dead but it’s not what it used to be. When you tie sales and marketing together — “smarketing” — you will have much better results. For example, having great content on your website that you can share with your prospects is a much better way to open a conversation than simply asking them to buy from you or meet with you.

    The various factors in this checklist will help you to appear larger than life and increase the likelihood that people will want to work with you one-hundred fold. Your salespeople will love this, especially if they take part in the content development.

  19. Practice conversion optimization — have e-books, content offers, media mentions, and various trust signals. 
  20. If you do not have clear calls to action on your website, you will miss out on a large volume of leads. Many people simply expect customers to call them or fill out a long form after the first visit to their website.

    Google has developed a highly sophisticated system of analyzing what they call the buyer’s journey. In the early stage of the buyer’s journey, customers are at the top of the sales funnel and will respond well to something along the lines of an e-book or a white paper download rather than a request to buy from or work with you. As they move down the funnel, they might download a case study or a comparison chart. Finally, at the bottom of the funnel, you can offer them a free consultation if they fill out a form or ask them to call you directly.

    Improving the usability and quality of your website and having offers appropriate to the various stages of the marketing funnel will deeply improve your conversion rate.

    Being an authority and visibly featuring the faces of your legal thought leaders on your website is also a great way to improve conversions. Videos, podcasts, and blog posts from your attorneys are a better way to get people to engage with you than just giving them sales material.

  21. Build a platform and email marketing list. 
  22. Top experts have large email marketing lists. When you have a large email list, you have an incredible amount of power, regardless of whether you get any traffic from Google or social media.

    Building your email list should be one of your top priorities and it gets a lot easier when you have a substantial amount of “gated” content (content that prospects must provide a name and email in order to download). For example, HubSpot says that you get a massive increase in leads when you have 30 or more e-books. (Remember, e-books don’t have to be long to be valuable.)

  23. Use tracking and analytics to determine your new levels of influence. 

Recently I met with a company that said they want to go from making a couple hundred thousand dollars a year to $1 million a year in sales on their website. They not only did not have conversion tracking set up, but they also were not aware of what setting up goals in Google Analytics meant.

Examples of goal conversions and key things to set up for analytics tracking

  • Email Subscribers
  • E-book / Whitepaper Downloads
  • Form Submissions
  • Shopping Cart Orders
  • Live Chat
  • Phone Calls
  • Event Tracking
  • Attribution Tracking (HubSpot)

Not only do you need to get serious about tracking conversions, but you will also want to look at the various factors that relate to building your authority and then track them in your website analytics.

The following are just a few of those factors authorities should track beyond the standard goals:

  • Unique Visitors
  • Blog Visits
  • Referrals
  • Social Media Visits
  • Domain / Link Authority
  • Conversions from Content
  • Bounce Rate
  • Time on Site
  • Conversion Paths
  • Brand Mentions and Mentions of Team Member Names

Bringing it all together

While it is possible that you could succeed in life and in your business just fine using only a few of the tactics above, if you work on each of them, it will save you a lot of time because there are many interdependencies among them.

Never give up

One of the most common reasons people fail when building authority and blogging is to give up too soon. If you follow this roadmap and work on each of these categories, you will feel like a king and get the lion’s share of the business in your niche practice area.

Passing the test

Judging authority is not an exact science. Google’s PageRank, for example, can’t tell if you are an authority offline, and even the best social authority tools like Klout are questionable.

That said, this checklist at the link below will give you a rough idea if you are a visible or invisible expert.

We welcome your feedback. Feel free to email me at (John D. McDougall) or connect on Twitter @mcdougalljohnd

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