Law firm internet marketing is a popular topic, and for good reason. A strong digital marketing strategy is one of the biggest levers you can pull to grow your law firm and get more clients.
Online marketing is becoming more and more important for lawyers. In 2019, spend on digital marketing eclipsed traditional marketing channels for the first time, according to eMarketer. This trend will only continue in 2020 and beyond, as 50% of clients now say they’re more comfortable with technology now than before the pandemic, per the Legal Trends Report.
But, what does it take for your law firm to stand out and get clients in the online crowd? And how will you know you’re getting a good return on investment for your law firm marketing dollars? To be successful, you’ll need to focus on your target clients, communicate that you’re offering what they’re looking for, and build trust and credibility quickly.
Online marketing: lawyers vs law practices
Your online marketing practices will differ depending on whether you’re marketing yourself as an individual lawyer, or your law practice as a whole.
When marketing yourself as an individual, you’ll want to focus on what experts call your personal brand. You want to show that you’re credible and trustworthy to both clients and firms that may potentially hire you (if you don’t want to start your own practice). Make sure your LinkedIn profile, bio on your law firm’s website, and other online profiles all feature professional photos and clearly show your philosophy and what you’re able to achieve for clients. Secure positive reviews from clients.
When marketing your law practice, personal brand is still important. As law firm branding expert Katy Goshtasbi says, a law firm’s brand is highly dependent on the personal brands of all the lawyers within it, so helping lawyers market themselves will go a long way toward building trust and credibility among clients. And of course, law firm internet marketing is all about making it easy for clients to find you, see how your services connect with what they need, and hire you.
Whether yourself as a lawyer or your law firm as a whole online, follow ethics rules in your jurisdiction. Don’t label yourself as an “expert” unless you have the qualifications needed to do so in your jurisdiction, and be mindful of inadvertently creating lawyer-client relationships.
Creating a digital strategy for your law firm
It can be tough for lawyers to know where to start with digital marketing strategy. There are many different tactics to pursue within digital marketing including website optimization, social media marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and paid digital ads. The most successful law firms invest in a few areas that make the most sense for their practice areas, their firm, and their clients.
1. Research your target client
Before you know where to invest, you need to know where your target clients are looking for you online, and what types of messaging they’re looking for. Interview past clients, read up on industry research, and look at any digital marketing data you currently have to see where your clients are coming from. For example, clients looking for help with a DUI case likely want to find a lawyer quickly, so investing in search engine marketing (SEM) to appear at the top of Google may be worth it.
Know your client, their circumstances, and what they’re looking for. Your online marketing messaging won’t convince your client unless you’ve walked a mile in their shoes (you can read more about this in Jack Newton’s The Client-Centered Law Firm).
2. Determine your digital marketing goals
The effectiveness of online marketing for lawyers can be measured in many ways. Examples include:
- Increased traffic to your website
- Increased number of positive online reviews
- Number of law firm mentions in the media or on other websites
- Number of initial consultations scheduled
- Increased website conversion rate (number of site visitors vs number of consultations scheduled)
Your goal should always be to retain clients and solidify your law firm’s brand—otherwise your online marketing dollars are wasted—but focusing on one or a few stages of the client’s online journey to hiring you is what will get you there. This is also called the lawyer’s online marketing funnel.
Take stock of your online marketing efforts, and decide on your goals from there. If your law firm’s website doesn’t have many visitors, increasing traffic should be your goal. If you’ve got lots of traffic but not many clients, improving your conversion rate should be top priority.
3. PPC, SEM, paid directories?
Knowing where your clients are likely to look for you online, and where you need to improve in the lawyer’s online marketing funnel, will help you choose where to invest your time and money in internet marketing. You have plenty of options to drive clients to your website, such as:
- Paid online lawyer directories
- Pay-per-click (PPC) ads
- Search engine marketing (SEM) ads
- Email marketing
- Social media marketing (paid or organic)
- Website search engine optimization (SEO)
There are also less direct tools you can use for marketing your law firm online, including tools like Podium that help drive positive reviews.
However, lawyer online marketing is a competitive industry, so costs can add up quickly. You’ll need to be selective and strategic.
Choose where you invest based on your goals, where your target clients often find you, and what they’re looking for. And don’t forget to claim free online profiles such as Google My Business and listings in your state bar directory.
4. Create an SEO-focused law firm website that converts visitors to clients
For many law firms, your website will be the cornerstone of your digital marketing efforts. Unlike directory listings or social media profiles, your website is a piece of property you own, and it’s key for credibility—a client who searches for you online and finds a state bar listing but no website might just keep on looking.
Almost every other channel will need to drive potential clients through your website before they become paying clients, so this piece of your strategy needs to be effective.
SEO is key to being found in search results and driving organic (free) traffic to your law firm. This is a thriving, competitive field within law firm digital marketing, with entire agencies focusing solely on SEO for law firms. Start by following the basics, and you’ll be halfway there:
- Make sure your site is clear, simple to navigate, and easy to read.
- Include target keywords you want to be found for throughout your site (for example “personal injury lawyer”).
- Write informative content such as blog posts that show your expertise to clients.
Learn more about SEO for lawyers here. If you’re not appearing in search results key to your business, consider hiring help.
In addition to bringing in website visitors, you need to convert them to paying clients. Convince clients to hire you by featuring reviews, professional images and writing, and a clear idea of what to expect in terms of services and price. Make it easy for clients to hire you by featuring your contact information and clear calls to action (CTAs) throughout your website (think “contact us” or “schedule a consultation”).
5. Measure the ROI of your web marketing efforts
Once you’ve written down key information about your target clients, your goals, metrics for success, and channels to invest in, and areas of improvement for your website, check back on a regular basis to make sure everything’s working. Various online tools, such as Clio Grow, will tell you where new clients are coming from so you can determine which channels you should invest more in, and which ones you should drop from your strategy.
Your law firm’s digital marketing strategy should be a living, breathing document. Change your strategy as needed to make sure you’re getting a good return on investment for your marketing spend.
Online marketing and the law: internet privacy and data retention
Even before the age of the GDPR and other similar legislation, lawyers were held to a high standard when it came to digital marketing. They have a clear duty to keep client information confidential at all times, and to swiftly disclose an error if a breach occurs. More generally, anti-spam legislation such as the CAN-SPAM act protects individuals from unsolicited emails, and spells out penalties for organizations that don’t comply.
As a lawyer, it is your duty to ensure that any provider you work with is compliant with any internet privacy and data retention laws in your jurisdiction, whether a website designer or an online marketing tool. Most reputable providers will satisfy the necessary requirements, but you’ll need to ask to make sure. At the very least, make sure that with your website and any providers you use:
- Any client or potential client marketing data (including names, email addresses, phone numbers) is stored securely.
- Any individual can see their data and/or have their data deleted, if requested.
- Any individual can easily opt-out of any digital marketing communications.
Ask the questions on this Cloud Computing Due Diligence Checklist before signing on with any digital marketing tools or providers.
Read more about digital marketing for lawyers
What is law firm internet marketing?
Law firm internet marketing is the practice of increasing your law firm’s presence online and making it easier for clients to find and hire you. This is also about building your law firm’s brand, credibility and trust by sharing educational content and positive online reviews for your services.
Can I do my own legal digital marketing or do I need an agency?
Whether you do your own law firm digital marketing or hire help depends on your level and interest and comfort with digital marketing tactics. If you’d prefer to focus on lawyering, it likely makes sense to hire an agency. However, it’s still worth educating yourself on the basics so that you know which questions to ask and what to look for in a law firm marketing agency.
If you’re able to and interested in investing several hours per week in law firm digital marketing, you might find some success marketing your law firm online on your own. However, some channels, such as SEM and PPC, require more expertise and consistent management to avoid cost overruns, so you should still consider outsourcing this component of your marketing strategy in whole or in part.
Be pragmatic about how much time you can spend on digital marketing, and about the level of investment you’ll need to reach your goals.
How can I build an online marketing presence as a lawyer?
There are many ways to build your presence online. Some examples are below: Choose what’s best for you. And to stay compliant with ethics rules, never share specific or sensitive case or client information, and never provide legal advice unless you’re deliberately creating a lawyer-client relationship and doing so over a secure channel.
- Social media. Depending on where your target audience (clients, or potential employers) spends their time, it may be worth cultivating a presence on social media. Share helpful posts related to your practice area, areas of the law, or the business of law that you’re passionate about. Be professional, but be yourself, and cultivate a growing follower base.
- Online groups. Post in online forums where potential clients might spend time (e.g., if you’re a divorce lawyer you can look for a Facebook group for recently separated parents looking for advice in your area). Don’t provide legal advice, but make it known that you’re a lawyer and you’re there to help—potential clients will know who to call when they need you.
- PR.Make yourself available to the press for commentary on relevant issues to increase your profile and that of your firm. Sites like Help a Reporter Out (HARO) will help you find opportunities in your area.
- Online profiles. Claim any and all online profiles (especially free ones). Google My Business and Yelp are obvious, but you can also claim listings on Apple Maps, Bing Places, and more.
What is a good ROI on attorney internet marketing?
A revenue:cost ratio of 5:1 is generally thought to be acceptable for marketing spend, including law firm internet marketing. In other words, your average cost per acquisition (CPA), or the cost to acquire each case, should be about ⅕ of the average value of each case. This includes pay-per-click costs, web design costs, your own time, and anything else,
Your cost per acquisition (CPA) may be high since law firm online marketing can be so competitive, but if your case value is high, it may still be a good ROI. As an extreme example, some of the most expensive search engine marketing terms are those around mesothelioma lawsuits, with firms paying hundreds of dollars per ad click (for reference, costs are often a few dollars or cents). This investment provides a good ROI, however, as just one settlement will average over $1 million and cases are often handled by personal injury lawyers who bill on a contingency basis.
The important thing is to have a marketing tool that helps you track your CPA accurately, and a practice management software where you can track the average value of a case, so you can always have insight into your ROI.