Law Firm SEO Trends and Predictions
With the saturation of social media marketing, the days of free reach are over. To stay ahead of your competition, clients need to be able to find you before they find them. Using sponsorship opportunities, syndication services, and paid content placement will keep you steadily in the public eye.
Over 1.2 billion people now access the web from their mobile devices, so clients will need to be able to access your website from a smartphone or tablet. Otherwise, you’re missing out on huge law firm marketing opportunities, and sending potential clients directly to competitors who are mobile-friendly.
The unexpected success of smartwatches means that getting a mobile-friendly version of your law firm’s website may have been just a temporary move, which will become increasingly obsolete during 2016. Google vows to bring back Google Glass this year, and the success of voice-activated hands-free gadgets means that those bluetooth headsets for cell phones may very well end up being the entire phone – and that could happen during 2016. Voice-activated devices will eliminate both the keyboard and the screen. Before long, audio will be your only channel of communication.
Mobile traffic now exceeds desktop traffic, so to get your firm found and keep it found, focus a large percentage of your 2015 marketing strategies around mobile marketing. Provide content and contact information that is quickly and easily accessible via a mobile platform.
According to market research company eMarketer, mobile ad spend is looking up in 2016 as more people turn to smartphones to handle their everyday needs. The organization’s research concludes that companies are particularly investing in display advertising such as banner ads, rich media, and sponsorships in the hopes of reaching clients.
One thing to add on the subject: as digital ad spend increases and consumers see an increasing number of advertisements, more may turn to ad blocking technology to shut out the noise. This does not necessarily mean that your attorney marketing is worthless; rather, that your firm will need to be more targeted and sincere in its advertising approach in order to speak directly to the core audience that will resonate with your message.
Emotional branding is a key lawyer marketing strategy now, and will continue to be in 2015. Emotional branding refers to building a brand so that it appeals to a client’s emotions and needs. Reaching your clients on an emotional level can drive business leads like nothing else.
Micro-target Your Audience
Broad, generalized legal marketing doesn’t work anymore, especially in a niche practice area such as slip and fall accidents, underage DUI defense, etc. Using long-tailed keyword phrases for attorney SEO, and building your social media pages around a specific audience will be important to building both your brand, and your business.
2013 was a big year for search engine algorithm updates, and this fad doesn’t appear to be changing for 2014. The key to keeping your rankings safe and maintaining a healthy position on the SERP’s is to provide fresh, valuable, and engaging content daily on your website, blog, and social media pages.
Diversification of content is also important for legal marketing success. eNewsletters, email campaigns, podcasts, videos, and webinars will help market your firm to the masses, and build community around your brand.
Provide content in the form of storytelling; e.g. engaging content that makes a connection between you and your audience, not dry blurbs about the legal services you provide. Tell case stories (omitting personal information, of course) that potential clients can relate to, and gives them hope in their own legal situation. Storytelling is one of the most powerful marketing tools available.
Clickbaiting is sure to get you blacklisted by many potential clients and followers—a present truth that is certain to remain true in the future. Producing fluffy content may do just as much harm to your brand in 2016.
With consumers in front of screens more often, whether that be on computers, smartphones, or tablets, they have more access than ever to news, infographics, videos, social media posts, and blogs. They are inundated every second of every minute of every day. The bottom line is: if your attorney marketing fails to provide valuable content that helps readers learn something new, solve a problem, or add value to their lives, they won’t keep coming back.
As the number of advertisements continue to skyrocket on TV, social media, even traditional print, image-based content that’s quick and easy to digest is key. The overnight success of Pinterest is a testament to the power of simple, image-centric content, and the viral potential it brings.
Infographics are powerful, image-based marketing tools. Their ability to condense complex information into a concise and visually appealing format is already delivering wide-spread success to firms that use infographics on their website, blog, and social media networks.
Select Social Networks
Social media is no longer limited to the Top 4: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn—Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, and Instagram have surged in recent popularity, and are providing law firms new ways to share multi-media content than ever before.
Law firms will need to branch out with multiple social networks to connect with more potential clients in 2014. In addition, the benefits of paid social advertising is likely to increase, particularly on Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
For the coming year, focus on 2 or 3 social media networks only; spending quality time on each fostering relationships with your readers. Stretching limited time between a multitude of social networks is non-productive at best, and can alienate your followers as they grow bored with your lackluster approach to consistent, quality content, and meaningful engagement.
As discussed above, speaking directly and sincerely to your core audience will be one of the best ways to build a strong following and drive revenue. Building relationships with audience members in order to communicate with them instead of at them is the name of the game.
These attorney marketing actions don’t have to be giant; in fact, smaller relationship-building touchpoints can be the most effective ones, since they can slip through the noise. Try focusing on promoting likes, shares, comments, and followers on your law firm’s social media pages, and consistently providing helpful legal information to your audience.
Market To the Tech Friendly
Even if the majority of your clients are older; e.g. Elder Law or Estate Planning, don’t underestimate their digital knowledge, or those close to them. Build out your website, mobile website, social pages, etc., to cater to a tech-savvy audience. Providing technologically-advanced options will satisfy clients who are in-the-know, and appeal to those looking for a firm that implements modern processes.
First impressions are everything, and never more so than in 2016. Customer experience research concludes that an unresolved negative experience is nearly insurmountable. For instance, if your website loads too slowly, is difficult to navigate, or contains broken links, it’s nearly impossible to get a visitor to return. Don’t wait to:
- Assess the quality of your law firm website
- Start surveying your current and past clients about how your client service can improve
- Consider adding live chat to your client experience arsenal
Schema markup and rich snippets will give your law firm ranking advantages over rivals, so you really need to focus on mastering these two technical issues. A year ago, any legal SEO consultant would have started her pitch for your business by telling you that your law firm had to appear on page 1 of search engine results. During the course of spring 2015 that advice would have changed to telling you the local pack was key, because that appears at the top of results. By mid-2015 you would have heard that you better get into the top 3, because mobile searchers are impatient. When people start to rely on a text-to-speech voice to read out search results, they are unlikely to put up with the irritating voice for longer than the readout of the first entry. Rich snippets get you the chance of being picked up by Knowledge Graph, which Google now places at the top of all its results pages.
Make sure you have a click-to-call button on your home page. These buttons are also voice activated. Once you work to get the advantage of the top spot in search results, don’t lose it by making it difficult for potential clients to connect directly to your law firm. Google will put that button on your search results entry, so your rich snippets and click-to-call button may mean the searcher doesn’t even need to access your website to contact your firm.
Many members of the general public enter natural language questions into search engines when accessing from a PC or a laptop. This fact makes “longtail” keywords viable. Longtail doesn’t mean “long sentence,” but refers to the many variations that longer sentences open up, as opposed to the precise meaning of a specific word. So a longtail legal search might be “child custody in divorce cases” or “what circumstances get fathers custody of children.” Writing many variations on a specific topic to catch longtail queries used to be a good idea. However, users of smartphones cannot touch type. They have to press each letter individually, so mobile search queries tend to be limited to a few words, such as “child custody,” “divorce custody,” or just “divorce.”
The move to mobile access during 2015 killed off longtail keyword advantages. The trend towards Internet access over watches can only be accomplished through the advancement of voice search. Research shows that users of voice search go back to the older trend of asking natural questions, so longtail keywords will become worth a bet in 2016.
Search Engine Changes
Voice activated services began with the Apple Siri “personal assistant.” This was soon matched by Cortana, which is fully bundled with Windows 10 and Google OK. Google has expanded its voice search capabilities and now offers them with the regular search, Google maps and YouTube search. These developments all point to seismic changes in SEO techniques because the keyboard is becoming less and less important. Speech recognition and synthetic voice read outs point to new methods for law firm marketing and the death of established text-based strategies.
Google’s development of “nearby” search technology will come online this year. This makes local search even more immediate. The search engine can now detect the precise location of a searcher and so rather than specifying a location, the smartphone user simply has to say a keyword, or ask a question in voice search and Google returns results for businesses that are nearest to the location of the questioner. This not only has consequences for SEO, but also for the siting for offices of law firms.
Google’s move to nearby search results will replace the local search concept. In the nearby world, being physically located close to the site of a search will become more important that any text you put on your website. You will get to the top of search results simply by being closer to those searching for legal services than your rivals are. This means that the tendency of law firms to cluster around the court house will damage their ability to attract customers. Small firms in strip malls close to residential areas will score higher than those occupying office suites in the legal district. Few wait until they get to the courthouse to search for a lawyer, so firms based in town center offices are unlikely to gain any clients through search engines. Firms that cluster together in prestige office buildings are also going to be disadvantaged by nearby searches. Anyone performing a search on a mobile device on the sidewalk outside the building will get all of the firms in that location returned, and battling for the top spot on that results page will be cut-throat.
The advent of text-to-speech delivery of search results will make the traditional search engine obsolete very quickly. Imagine a typical Google results page read out in a robot voice and you will soon realize that a page of ten results is not going to be bearable. Links used to be useful as a ranking factor, but they are now going to become a prime source of traffic to your law firm’s website, because you will no longer be able to rely on traffic from search engines.
Links from review sites and comparison websites are of vital importance, because these types of services are rapidly becoming the average consumer’s first port of call when looking for legal services. The move away from search engines also means that display adverts will rise in importance against paid search results. Remember to place click to call buttons wherever possible – they are links through to your office phone system placed on the telephones and hands-free devices of every potential customer in the country.
Adjust Your Law Firm’s Marketing in Response to Summer Internet Trends
With the summer months come sunnier days and outdoor picnics, two things that Americans look forward to all year. These seasonal cornerstones also mean that your prospects and clients will probably spend less time in front of the computer and in the office, and less time interacting with your online content.
But wait—all hope is not lost. Here’s what to expect regarding summer Internet usage, and how to respond fluidly to these trends so your law firm’s marketing does not lose traction during the sunny months.
Expect Less Internet Traffic
Online retailers consistently report a summer slump and other industries experience it as well. Even those tried and true Internet users tend to engage online in a different way from June through August; according to Marketing Land, many choose to surf via mobile during the summer because it enables them to stay connected while enjoying the sunshine.
Overall, you’ll most likely see a change—quite possibly, a significant drop—in your online traffic during the summer, requiring you to employ the following tips and tricks.
Change Your Content Calendar
Although you may be tempted to produce less content due to decreased readership, don’t fall into that trap. Continue producing interesting and relevant content at the same rate, but consider altering your law firm’s online marketing calendar to cater to changing audience schedules.
For instance, a family and divorce law firm’s audience may consist largely of 30- to 40-year old parents with children out on summer break from June to August. These prospective clients will probably be taking summer vacations or using their evenings and weekends to spend time outdoors with their kids. The firm could try switching to morning posts during the summer, when more prospects may be checking email.
The overall lesson here: don’t be afraid to experiment with promoting content at different times during the day and week, and then using analytics to determine optimum times for your law firm’s marketing.
Explore Other Avenues
Even if email marketing normally works for your practice, it may not achieve the same success as usual during the summer, when people tend to lag on checking their inboxes. Explore other avenues of legal marketing that you normally wouldn’t in order to reach your audience via a different path. Get involved in community associations and events, for example, in order to interact with potential clients in person.
Spend on Seasonal Promotional Items
Promotional items can go a long way toward keeping your brand in front of prospects and clients even when they’re distracted or out of the office. Here are a few seasonal ideas to pursue: mini sunscreen bottles branded with your logo, plastic sunglasses with your firm’s name on the frames, or reusable water bottles stamped with your firm’s name and mission statement.
The items don’t have to be expensive, they just have to be useful enough for prospects and clients to keep them around!
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SEO Trends: Digital Marketing Tools
If your law firm is just you, or you and a receptionist, or just you, a receptionist and a partner, then you are probably trying to manage all of your digital marketing yourself. If you can’t afford to pay someone else to analyze the market, build a website, and manipulate your rankings, then you may find the task of digital marketing takes up more time than your case load.
Fortunately, the SEO news sites are full of tips on where you can get resources to help you design and build your website and use all of the various communication channels out there to get the public’s attention. What’s even better, a lot of the tools they recommend are free.
You will always be able to get advice on tools over at the Moz Blog, because Moz produces its own line of digital marketing tools. Articles from their site won’t be appearing in this week’s SEO Trends report. Instead, we have tips on tools from Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch, and Search Engine Journal.
This Search Engine Journal article really is the mother lode of free digital marketing tools. You will probably need to bookmark the page and keep returning to it because if you are looking for free tools, you will need to go off and test those that seem to meet your needs. The list includes Google Analytics, which you are probably already using. You can also read about Open Site Explorer and Moz Pro (from Moz) which are very widely used in the SEO industry and have very accessible user interfaces. The list is just too long to comment on, so our best recommendation is to simply scroll through all of the tools and see which sound like they are the kind of thing you think your law firm’s digital marketing effort is missing.
It might be stretching the definition of “tools” out a bit to include training courses, but if you’re struggling to sort out a strategy and you really don’t have time to read around the subject, a digital marketing course is probably the best piece of kit you can invest in. Many of them even include proprietary tools that you can use on an ongoing basis as you chart your law firm’s digital marketing strategy.
This article itself is a sort of planning guide for SEO. It lays out four tools that will help you plan your content, and it explains them in the order you would need to use them. Just following the article and trying out each of the tools in sequence will be a great help to you if you have no idea what path to follow in order to create content for your law firm’s website. The tools the article recommends are Google’s Keyword Planner, Google Trends, Answer The Public and Buzz Sumo.
If you built your own website for your law firm and want to find images for new posts to the site, this article offers a great list of sources. There are also sources for GIFs and sound files, which may not be all that useful for a general site. However, those sound file sources might come in handy if you decide to post a video on your site.
This final tool tip seems like a no-brainer, and as you probably spent a lot of money and time getting your law firm’s website mobile-friendly last April, you probably don’t think it’s worth bothering with. However, you should try it.
Google have revamped their mobile-friendliness testing tool, and it is worth running your site through it just to make sure they haven’t tweaked the delivery of mobile sites and thrown your site’s presentation out of kilter.