No matter how they hear about you, there’s a pretty good chance that, at some point, people will search for your law practice online. What will they find when they perform these searches? What can you do, if anything, to influence what they see?
Who “They” Are
Before we get to what they might find and what you might be able to do about it, let’s talk about who they are.
Obviously, the universe of people who might look you up online is large. From long-lost childhood friends, to jurors, to employers, to someone you met five minutes ago, anyone who wants to know more about you is likely to turn to the web for answers.
With regard to growing your practice, we’re going to focus on two key groups:
- People who can refer business to you (referral sources)
- People who can become business (potential clients).
Among many others, referral sources might include clients, lawyers, friends and family. These people might search for you to:
- Find your contact information.
- See what you’re up to.
- Get a better idea about what you do.
- Get a sense of whether you’re “the right person” for a job.
Among many others, potential clients might include former clients, current clients, friends, family and a bunch of people who you don’t yet know.
While these people might search for you for many of the same reasons that referral sources do, these folks might also want to know:
- Whether you seem trustworthy.
- Whether you seem competent.
- What other people have to say about you.
- Whether they think they can work with you.
- Or merely, whether they think they’ll like you.
The more you know about who these people are, and how they make decisions about choosing lawyers like you, the better your chances are of earning their business.
What They Want to See
Next, you have to figure out what they want to see. While it makes sense to brainstorm what you think they want to see, there’s no substitute for hearing it from the horse’s mouth. So ask them. Here are just a few ideas:
- Prior clients with whom you’ve worked.
- Specific cases you’ve worked on.
- Your resources (i.e., your partners, associate lawyers and support staff).
- What other clients have had to say about you.
- What other lawyers say about you.
- Answers to their questions.
- How much it will cost them to hire you.
- What the process of working with you will be like.
Once you know what they want, give that to them.
Sure, many of these things begin with creating good client experiences. But many of them go beyond that. They require being active in the community you serve. Not necessarily just your local community, but perhaps also the communities of people who make up your target client demographic.
Giving Them What They Want
If you do only one thing online, you should register a domain for your name:
Perhaps you add something like attorney or attorney at law (especially helpful if you have a common name or share a name with a celebrity).
Purchase a hosting account, install WordPress (optimize it) and add some information that your referral sources and potential clients want. Also, be sure to add Google Analytics tracking to your site. That way, you can see for yourself how many people are actually searching for you online.
Again, don’t deliver what you want them to know. Give them what they actually want, or at least, what you would want if you were them. Hint: It’s not advertising.
Of course, you should be mindful of your obligations to clients. You should also be mindful of your state’s rules of professional responsibility (even the ones that are dumb).
This is one very simple and affordable thing you can do to take control of what people find when they search for you online.
If you’re really not into setting up a website, you can achieve similar results with social profiles or an About.me page.
Once you have this home base or core web presence, it’s time to continue to supply your target audience’s demand for information. Maybe that means participating in online commentary. Whatever you do, remember to be authentic. The hard work you put into earning meaningful attention that attracts new clients is completely wasted if people sense that you’re being artificial.
Gyi Tsakalakis helps lawyers put their best foot forward online because clients are looking for them there. He is a co-founder of AttorneySync, a digital marketing agency for law firms. Gyi writes Attorney at Work’s Optimize! column. You can find more of his writing at Lawyerist and Avvo’s Lawyernomics blog. You can ask him a question (or just say hi) at LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.
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