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Secrets of Online Legal Marketing: The Basics

By Andrew Cabasso

If your law firm has ever tinkered with online marketing, whether it’s advertising, search optimization, social media or email marketing, you may have decided: “This can’t work for my practice.” Sometimes that’s the right call. Sometimes it doesn’t work. Other times, that conclusion is based on bad data.

Not every law firm that runs an advertising campaign is doing it right, even if a Google rep sets up your campaign. Not every email marketing campaign will produce results, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. And, not every SEO campaign will produce results if you don’t have the right strategy.

So, let’s dispel some myths and explain the basics of effective online marketing campaigns, starting with advertising.

Online Advertising

Advertising is one of those areas where you can waste a ton of money — in particular, Google AdWords. For a lot of lawyers who are just getting started, there are a lot of common mistakes.

First, recognize that when Google’s team calls you up to “help” build an advertising campaign, they want you to spend as much money as possible. They aren’t going to be limiting keywords or negative keywords.

Even with a well-optimized campaign, you might find that it costs a lot to get clicks, calls and clients. So what can you do?

The Best Practice Areas for Online Advertising

Not every practice area can “kill it” in online advertising. In our experience, the best-performing ad campaigns are for more consumer-oriented practice areas:

  • Family law
  • Personal injury
  • Criminal defense/DUI
  • Estate planning
  • Employee-side employment law
  • Immigration
  • Patent law
  • Residential real estate

That’s not to say that you can’t have a business law or commercial real estate practice and get some business via an advertising campaign. However, there tends to be less search volume for those areas, comparatively.

Speaking My Language

One secret to share is that there is a much less competitive way to advertise online. I’m talking about non-English-language campaigns. AdWords in Spanish for practice areas like auto accident lawyer is much less expensive than its English-language counterpart.

The catch is, the person answering your phone must be fluent in the language for which you are advertising.

Advertising Platforms

Google AdWords gets a ton of traffic, but it’s not the only option out there. Here are a few other great alternatives:

  • Bing Ads. With Bing, you can instantly copy over an existing Google AdWords campaign and reach an expanded audience. All you have to do is click the prominent “Import Campaign” button, connect your AdWords account, and Bing does the work for you. The beauty is that it can require relatively little additional work if you already advertise on Google. And you get more clicks — often for a deep discount. Because Bing’s search engine gets much less traffic than Google, it’s not as competitive for advertisers. However, you could still do well by dominating the space.
  • Facebook ads. Facebook has a lot of specific data on its users. It’s scary. But with that data, you can target a very specific profile of the type of person to whom you want to advertise. Reaching people on Facebook is less expensive than advertising on AdWords, so for many firms, it’s an appealing option.
  • AdRoll. AdRoll is a retargeting service, meaning you can show ads to people who have already visited your website. The cost per view (AdRoll doesn’t have a cost-per-click model like AdWords does) is relatively low. A retargeting strategy can help you ensure that if someone visited your website and didn’t reach out to you, they would see your ads all over the internet, enticing them to come back.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Targeting your local geographic area is king now when it comes to SEO. Google’s algorithm promotes local-oriented search results. Of course, when people search for a lawyer, they generally want to see those in their local area.

For law firms, this means optimizing your search presence to show up more visibly on Google Maps. When people search for “local divorce lawyer,” for example, Google Maps will show results based on the area they’re searching from.

Directory listings are important if you want better visibility in Google Maps. Get profiles for your firm in every local online directory you can, from Yellow to Manta, Super Pages, Avvo, Yelp and more. The single most important one? Google My Business, formerly known as Google Places. (See “Top 10 Attorney Directories.”)

Create and verify your Google My Business profile before you do anything else. Then, create as many directory profiles as you can. Simply go to Google and type in, “Google My Business” to get started and create your Google business profile.

Important caveat: Make sure that your name, address and phone number (NAP) are 100 percent consistent.  (See “Keeping Your Business Listings Up to Date.”)

Once your Google Business profile is set up, ask happy clients to give you positive reviews. I recommend that you screen clients after an engagement ends. Ask them how satisfied they were with your representation and to fill out a brief survey. If their responses are positive, give them a link to your Google business page to leave a review.

Blogging and Content Creation

A common mistake we see with law firms’ SEO strategy is blogging too infrequently, or not blogging about the right things. Blogging about esoteric areas of law when your target audience is laypeople who don’t necessarily care about the Supreme Court is not the way to go.

Here are a few recommendations for blog topic ideation:

  • Research what your competitors are doing. See which topics are covered often and add them to your list. Identify their FAQ pages and other popular posts, and then write better content than them.
  • Consider what fresh perspective you can add. Rework the topic from another angle and answer in a way that best reflects your audience. FAQ posts are great:  The questions your clients ask you during intake interviews are the same things people search for online.
  • Try alternatives to blogging that may allow your content to reach a broader audience. For example, you might invest in a well-designed educational infographic.
  • Think about how far a single piece of content can go. In addition to publishing it on your own site or blog, your content may do well on social media. It may be a great guest post to offer to relevant blogs or a local community website.
  • Instead of just focusing on answering client questions, create a Google Alert on your phone for issues related to your industry. For example, if you’re a family lawyer, set up alerts for topics such as child education, child nutrition, and co-parenting solutions and see how much traffic you’ll drive from your target audience. Go to to create your first alert.

The key here is attracting leads at various stages, so while they might not have a need for your services now, you’ll be the first lawyer they think of when they do. Moreover, quality content will signal to Google that your site is relevant, and you’ll see your rank and domain authority increase over time.

(See “Content Under Pressure: Top Writing Tips for Busy Lawyers.”)

Social Media

Let’s keep “social media advertising” out of the equation here and focus on the unpaid aspect of social media.

Social media can be dangerous. With the latest algorithm updates, chances are that your firm’s recent posts probably won’t be seen by your audience. It can be a big time-suck for little return. And return can be hard to measure. After all, how many tweets, Facebook posts, comments or likes does it take to get a new client?

Why bother? What’s the strategy with social media? I recommend focusing on social media as a referral-building endeavor. Don’t publish content to get readers to become clients — get them to refer clients to you. Most of the people following your firm are probably not your ideal client anyway. They’re probably friends, family and colleagues — the exact type of people who can and will refer business. Besides, you’ve probably seen the types of posts that scream “buy my service.” It comes across desperate, and there’s little reason for other people to engage with that content.

So, share your latest successes. Share your recent news. Share your blog posts. But come at it from a perspective of “I want to stay top-of-mind so that when they have a case to refer in my practice area, they immediately think of me.”

With that strategy in mind for posting, commenting and engaging with others, you’ll reduce wasted effort.

Email Marketing

Similar to social media, email marketing can be effective in keeping you top-of-mind with potential referral sources. Email is great because it’s inexpensive, it’s likely to be received and read, and it has a high return on investment

If you have a growing email list and send newsletters that share recent news and analysis of developments in your practice area, as well as your achievements, it reminds people that you are a skilled lawyer — and should they ever encounter someone who needs your services, they’d be in good hands with you.

Email marketing tends to be more effective than social media because emails get delivered 99 percent of the time. So your recipient will, at the very least, see your email in their inbox. With social media, there’s only a 2 percent chance any given audience member sees your post. Pound for pound, email marketing is king.

In addition to regular newsletters, “drip campaigns” can also help you get some wins. Drip campaigns are a burst of several sequential emails related to a topic. Typically, you get drip emails when you sign up for a new online service.

You probably know the cadence:

  • Email 1: You have signed up, congratulations.
  • Email 2: Thank you for signing up; let us know if you have any questions.
  • Email 3: Here are some cool features of our software.
  • Email 4: Here are more cool features of our software.
  • Email 5: Here’s a small case study of someone who loves our software.
  • Email 6: Your free trial is ending; pay us for our software to keep using it.
  • Email 7: Seriously, your free trial is over. Pay us or lose access.

Law firms can actually get new business with the help of a drip campaign combined with a downloadable offer, such an ebook, guide or checklist.

If someone downloads your ebook on “Child Custody Issues in Divorce,” chances are they need a lawyer and could probably use some more education. Once the potential client clicks the download button, they should, over the next few days or weeks, get a series of emails that help educate them and encourage them to reach out to your firm for a consultation.

The cadence can look like this:

  • Email 1: Your email address is confirmed; download your ebook here.
  • Email 2: Let us know if you have any questions about the ebook.
  • Email 3: Let me educate you a little more about the topic.
  • Email 4: Let me educate you even more about this topic, still for free.
  • Email 5: Let me tell you about our firm, and our work that’s related to the ebook topic.
  • Email 6: Do you need help? Do you want to schedule a consultation?

You get the idea.

Managing Your Online Marketing

Unfortunately, you can do all the right things to generate ideal potential clients and still fail to get them to sign a retainer. We see it all the time: Often the biggest stumbling block is the way a firm manages its leads and intake process.

In Part Two, I’ll address six things that are key to effectively managing your marketing:

  • Processes
  • Call tracking
  • Intake
  • CRM
  • Follow-up
  • Engagement

Book Cover Secrets to Marketing & Automating Your Law Practice Adapted from “The Secrets to Marketing and Automating Your Law Practice: A Lawyer’s Guide to Creating Systems, Getting Clients, and Becoming a Legal Rainmaker” by David M. Bitton (Practice Panther, 2018). Download the PDF version of the book here or buy the soft-cover or Kindle version of the book on Amazon (at cost).

Illustration ©

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Andrew Cabasso Andrew Cabasso

Andrew Cabasso is a practicing attorney and co-founder of Offsprout. Previously, he co-founded JurisPage, an Internet marketing agency focusing on helping law firms create a professional Internet presence and get better visibility online. JurisPage was acquired by Uptime Legal in 2016. Andy writes and speaks frequently on website marketing and SEO. Follow him on Twitter @andycabasso.

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