While there are infinite ways to spend money marketing your law firm, only some will deliver the right return on investment. In my experience, especially in today’s digital marketing environment, working with the right search engine optimization (SEO) provider is still one of the best investments a small firm can make.
When I opened my law firm in 2008, I did so with exactly zero clients. Since then, thanks in large part to my SEO and search engine marketing (SEM) efforts, I’ve represented more than 4,000 clients. Here are five tips to give you a head start choosing the right people to help you, too.
How to NOT Blow Your Search Marketing Budget
By following these guidelines, you’ll avoid many of the most costly, yet common, search marketing pitfalls.
1. Work with the right size provider for your practice. As the owner of a boutique (i.e., small) law firm, I’ve found that working with a boutique (i.e., small) SEO firm is best. The first one I hired was a large Silicon Valley firm. Even though our $30,000 annual budget was (and still is!) a lot of money for me, it quickly became clear that we were not a priority for them. The next provider I hired — one with less than 10 employees— found my business much more valuable.
Are there downsides to hiring a small SEO firm? Certainly. They simply don’t have the same resources as larger firms. That said, really good lawyers who practice in boutique firms are true experts in their field and sought out by clients — and the same goes for a good boutique SEO firm.
2. Set clear campaign goals (and be patient). As Google’s algorithm has gotten smarter, ranking well for competitive keywords in organic search has required a lot more work. It is so hard that many SEO firms refuse to commit to trying to rank your business for specific keywords. Hard, however, doesn’t mean impossible — and the payoff is worth the effort. A true SEO pro understands that organic search rankings are a huge part of any well-rounded SEO strategy, and knows how to identify and optimize site keywords to improve your rank, driving targeted traffic to your site and generating a much greater ROI for your SEO budget. If a provider won’t discuss its plan for helping your firm rank well for a specific keyword set, find another provider.
Do not be lured in, though, by SEO firms with “too good to be true” offers that promise to boost your site to the top of organic search results in a few days, weeks or months. To do this would require manipulating the search engine rankings in a way that is likely to get your site blacklisted. A good SEO campaign easily takes 12 to 24 months to develop before you begin seeing any real ROI. Patience is important.
3. Determine their deliverables and your approval process. Once you’ve determined your campaign’s goals, work with your SEO team to identify deliverables. There are typically three types:
- On-site — working on your website to improve code and internal linking
- On-site — developing content for your website
- Off-site — obtaining links from other reputable websites back to your site
You want to know how much time the SEO firm will spend on each task, and understand the amount of work that will be accomplished, so you can ensure you’re getting enough value for what you’re spending. For example, how much content will be developed? How many links will be obtained, and from where? (See No. 5.)
Watch out for an SEO firm that tells you “content is king,” claiming that if you produce good content, people will naturally link to your site. They’re really saying there’s no need for them to actively go out and get you links. If you hear that, consider it an “alternative fact.” In reality, it is rare for someone else to link to a lawyer’s site simply because the content is so good. Most law firm SEO campaigns need effective link-building efforts on top of producing on-site content. Link building is hard work, and only truly professional SEO firms will commit to delivering quality external links to your site.
4. Set up proper tracking. One of my business mentors always tells me, “You only get what you inspect, not what you expect.” Make sure tracking software is installed on your website so you can track the calls and contact forms that are generated from your SEO campaigns. And if you don’t already have a Google Analytics account, make sure your SEO firm helps you set it up. Google Analytics is the gold standard when it comes to viewing and analyzing traffic to your website. Understanding how to read the data it provides will ensure you can keep a careful eye on the value you are getting out of your SEO investment.
5. Keep legal marketing ethics in mind. Most SEO firms are run by people who work in the cutthroat world of internet marketing. They won’t necessarily be aware of all the fine lines a lawyer must walk when advertising a law firm’s services. It’s up to you to keep on top of the ethics rules and guidelines that govern legal marketing.
- Educate your SEO firm on the importance of ethical considerations in legal marketing.
- Always review the content produced by the SEO firm before it goes live on your website.
- Make sure your SEO firm knows it must have your approval before embarking on any new initiative.
When done well, search engine marketing can be a huge boost to your lead generation efforts and your firm’s bottom line. Choose a provider that’s the right size and fit for your law practice, then lay out clear goals and deliverables. Get your software in place to gather data, and always make sure your SEO team is aware of the ethics rules surrounding legal marketing.
Josh Gerben is the founder of the Gerben Law Firm, PLLC. He is a U.S. trademark attorney who has represented clients in more than 5,000 trademark filings. Featured in a variety of national news outlets including FOX News, NPR and The Wall Street Journal, Gerben Law Firm was named one of 2016’s Top 10 trademark filers in the U.S. by World Trademark Review. Follow him @JoshGerben.
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