3. Establish a Local Online Presence
A Brief Introduction: What’s going on, yellow pages?
The yellow pages. The go-to place for lawyer ads. Have you seen the “Attorney” section lately? It’s still huge! Year after year, attorneys increase the size of their advertisements to biblical proportions until the cost hits the ceiling. Some yellow pages even have magnets and other inserts pouring out of the binding. Unfortunately for lawyers on a strict yellow pages marketing regimen, it probably not enough (like a vitamin deficiency, you may not notice it right away, but over time it takes its toll) The age of hard-copy directories is becoming obsolete.
On one hand, advertising in the yellow pages may be effective if you are targeting an older generation or a particular niche that refuses to migrate online (senior citizens, for example). On the other hand, placing an ad in the yellow pages is financially exhausting and highly competitive (not just for attorneys, but for the whole directory). And for what? An obsolete book where over 70% of American adults are opting out of even getting a hard-copy?
Google Searches and Your Name
Your name is known in your area of law. You get plenty of word-of-mouth referrals because past clients know what you do and like your work. You’ve done a great job with your practice, your traditional legal marketing, and your ethos as a lawyer. Perfect–except in this day and age that may not be enough. You need an online presence where people can find you by name or by your practice areas.
- Navigational Search: Your name is a brand. People will search for you specifically. Let’s say that your name is “John Wilkins”. A prospective client who types “John Wilkins” into Google should find your law firm’s site as the top ranking site. Think search terms like “Geico”, “YouTube” or “Virgin Atlantic”. Large brands target their search efforts with optimization (SEO), which includes content writing, social media use, blogs, press releases, etc. If you don’t have these components as part of your online local marketing strategy, you run the risk of other John Wilkinses usurping your position at the top of the search queue. We’ll cover this more in the section “Strengthen Your Credibility and Reputation.”
- Search: When your name is not known, a prospective clients may be online searching for “Personal Injury Lawyer” or “What is a felony?” Google’s search algorithms look at the location of the search and show relevant local results and services near the top of the page. For example, a prospective client in your area types “Divorce Attorney” into Google and your site is the first result (including the location of your office with full contact information)! And if you’re really leveraging online marketing tools and social media platforms, your Yelp reviews, LinkedIn account, blogs and whatever else you’ve optimized, may show on page one or subsequent pages.
While there are other types of search queries (Relevant, Irrelevant, Transactional, Connectivity), for now just focus on which category you or your law firm falls under: navigational or informational. Which one (or both) need your attention?
Types of Online Profiles
You already know that there are million-and-one online profile platforms out there. Some of the popular ones include Yelp, CitySearch, Google+ Local, Facebook, Twitter, and a slew of lawyer-centric directories. Do you really need them all? Not necessarily.
There’s no rock-solid equation that guarantees an extreme bump in your firm’s ROI through online profiles, but there are some best practices worth following. The more relevant platforms you choose to use to create profiles and interweave your online strategies, the better your local online presence will be. This can transform your law firm from an antiquated yellow pages firm into an online, internet savvy go-to firm.
Legal Directories: Worth it?
There are online directories specifically designed for lawyers. You may already be involved with one or more. While some look pretty with their statistics and pie charts and “lawyer ratings”, they may not be particularly accurate. How does a software program know you are “superb” or “average”? Most legal directories appear to be of limited use, although paid upgrades can give you preferred placement or a perceived greater status. It may not hurt to expand your presence online through the use of legal directories, but ask yourself why you’re doing it and what you hope to accomplish first.
Since there are more social media sites than days in the year, you might not know where to begin. Some websites make a business out of creating online profiles for you. Visit KnowEm.com to see just how deep this can go (their service is fee-based and we are not an affiliate or sponsor). If a robust online identity will differentiate you from the sea of other attorneys, it might be worthwhile.