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Digital Marketing for Lawyers: A Beginners Guide

updated
June 9, 2022
23 min
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Marketing

Digital marketing refers to marketing through digital avenues: websites, search engines, social media (ads, posts, and stories), and videos. For lawyers marketing their practices, law firm digital marketing simply means marketing to consumers through digital means.

One of the best ways to learn how to be successful at law firm internet marketing is to learn from your competition. In this legal guide, our marketing team lays out specifically how digital marketing for law firms can help your business grow substantially while being more cost-effective than traditional “old school” marketing methods.

At Grow Law Firm, when developing a law firm marketing plan, we draw upon what’s worked for our diverse array of law firm clients, including aggressive content production, increasing brand awareness through social media law firm accounts, and obtaining glowing reviews from satisfied clients.  

Our team creates law firm growth strategies that work for any sized practice, from solo practitioners to large law firms. With years of experience in all sized law markets, we know what works and what doesn’t. Being able to avoid growing pains and not make common mistakes means our clients can see marketing results faster.

What Is Digital Marketing for Lawyers?

The majority of lawyers that aren’t in-house counsel or prosecutors need to have a steady stream of new business in order to be successful. Legal services markets,  whether transactional or litigation, are often saturated. In other words, lawyers have stiff competition with numerous attorneys and law firms providing the same service. 

Especially in big cities, people needing a personal injury lawyer, divorce attorney, or bankruptcy law firm have hundreds of choices of qualified lawyers to represent them. Lawyers can set themselves apart from their competition and get more business with effective digital marketing solutions. 

Essentially, digital marketing is online advertising. For lawyers, law firm web marketing consists of advertising legal services on websites, on social media, and on search engines

Publishing quality content often on websites, legal directories, and social media channels can establish attorneys as subject matter experts while simultaneously building brand awareness and brand recognition. Effective digital marketing offers website visibility, more website visitors, and at the end of the day - more clients.

How Can Digital Marketing Benefit Law Firms?

The internet and marketing technology allows law firms to reach large audiences and very targeted sections of audiences - specifically potential clients needing specific legal services in a specific state or city. Digital marketing provides many benefits to all types of law firms, from personal injury law to divorce and family law, immigration law, and bankruptcy law.

#1:  Digital Marketing Provides a New Platform for Promoting Your Law Firm. 

Lawyers often come to us believing that SEO is the key to their success on the internet. While SEO is one essential ingredient, successful law firms do far more than just have an optimized website. Digital marketing provides numerous unique ways lawyer can market their law firm: 

  • Being listed in online legal directories like Avvo and Lawyers.com
  • Publishing articles on legal information websites like HG.org
  • Obtaining reviews on online business directories like Yelp
  • Using organic search engine optimization to channel traffic to a law firm’s website
  • Generating more leads from local search engine optimization
  • Being listed on local neighborhood directories like Patch
  • Publishing press releases highlighting attorney achievements and awards
  • Posting Social media feed posts and paid ads
  • Using pay-per-click ads  to target specific potential clients
  • Offering resources like E-books and white papers.

#2:  Internet Marketing for Attorneys Brings New Clients by Offering Precise Audience Targeting. 

Audience targeting in legal marketing is exactly what it sounds like - segmenting marketing to a specific group of consumers who are a law firm’s target clients. To understand this in the most general way, consider marketing specifically to specific areas - cities, counties, or zip codes. 

Example: Audience Targeting by Location 

digital marketing for lawyers benefits

For a criminal defense attorney in Seattle, Washington, there is no benefit in marketing their law firm to people in any other state than Washington. An expensive, nationwide search marketing campaign may bring in a lot of traffic to a website. Still, if the attorney only represents clients in Washington, the website visitors in the 49 other states are unlikely to contact the Washington attorney. Even if website traffic is impressive, the visitors will not continue down the sales funnel. 

If the Washington attorney allocated their law firm marketing budget to only show ads in Seattle and surrounding neighborhoods, they would save money, and their conversion rate will likely be much higher. This is, in essence, the magic of audience targeting. 

Targeting geographic locations is an excellent way to understand audience targeting - but it is not limited to location. Lawyers marketing their legal services can show ads only to age groups, genders ("Female," "Male," and "Unknown"), and parental status. Demographic targeting works better for some attorneys than others. For example, a family law attorney that specializes in child custody cases may only want their ads to show to people who are actually parents. On the other hand, a law firm specializing in fathers’ rights issues may choose only to show their PPC ads to men. 

#3:  Internet Marketing for Law Firms Enhances Customer Experience. 

Internet marketing - and client-centered websites allow for a seamless transition from initial website visitor to retained client. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, it became common - and very comfortable- to hold meetings over Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype. Even when pandemic concerns are low, the world has adjusted to meeting professionals over the internet. Documents are often sent via email for electronic signature, reducing the need to meet in person. 

Even before the pandemic, law practices were increasingly using internet technology to enhance the client experience. The traditional ways that businesses have utilized IT resources have shifted. With much of computing now being cloud-based, internet marketing gives attorneys access to technology and innovation that bolster client experience and save time. Many law firms are almost, if not entirely, paperless. 

#4:  Digital Marketing for Lawyers Is More Cost-Effective than More Traditional Marketing

Traditional marketing methods include billboard ads, bus bench ads,  radio ads, television ads, direct mail campaigns, print ads in newspapers and directories, and even cold calls. These methods are expensive but do allow lawyers visibility and prominence. 

#5:  Digital Marketing Helps to Build Trust for Your Law Firm

Lawyers who engage themselves in legal content creation regularly can establish themselves as subject matter experts and thought leaders. When you discuss recent events and relevant legal topics on your website, lawyer blog, or a third-party forum, people researching their own legal matters will come to trust you as a knowledgeable authority. This gives you an advantage when prospective clients reach out to you; they will have some sense of trust or confidence in your capabilities to handle their legal matters before they even speak with you. 

#6:  Attorney Internet Marketing Promotes Awareness 

All aspects of attorney internet marketing promote awareness of your brand and the legal services you offer. This applies whether you are showing Google Ads or social media ads or your clients are organically finding your articles and blog posts discussing legal issues. 

#7:  Digital Marketing for Law Firms Makes It Easier to Get Clients’ Reviews.

digital marketing client reviews

The attitude of “I don’t care what anyone says about me” can be hazardous for small business owners. Your law firm's reputation management is a part of your online marketing strategy, reviews cannot be overlooked as well. Your reputation online is directly linked to the reviews your clients leave. For example, when a law firm already has numerous existing online reviews, clients are comfortable leaving their own reviews. 

How Much Should Lawyers Spend on Digital Marketing? 

Most businesses spend between 1% and 40% of gross revenue on marketing and advertising. A generally accepted good “target point” is to spend between 7-8% of gross revenue on advertising. This can vary widely depending on what kind of law you practice and where you practice. A lawyer in rural Montana will likely spend less on advertising than a lawyer in Manhattan.

Newly established “start-up” law firms are likely to spend more on marketing than law firms that have been in business for 20 years or more. 

With a multi-pronged digital marketing approach that is measurable, you will be able to see where you can get your best “bang for your buck.” 

Sometimes, the results are not what you would expect - and inexpensive “one-off” content can be significant. For example, you may be listed in an established legal directory that ranks high in search engines for a common search term. Or, a law firm video you published answering a frequently asked question in your local area may go viral. 

Many of our attorney clients that publish legal content regularly are asked to comment on news stories. For example, a cycling accident lawyer who periodically blogs about cycling laws may be asked to be on the news to discuss an uptick in cycling accidents in their city. These opportunities are free publicity garnered from digital marketing efforts. 

What Is a Good ROI on Attorney Internet Marketing? 

The cost of acquiring a client can vary wildly, depending on where and what type of law your practice. 

If your client found you via a targeted PPC ad or a paid social media ad, you may be able to pinpoint precisely the cost of that single click that introduced them. First, however, you should consider the total cost of the PPC campaign and measure that sum against the number of clients you actually onboard. Tracking your ROI is the measurable aspect of SMART goals. 

One of the benefits of having a digital marketing team working for you is tracking your cost per acquisition (CPA). However, you should not just track your CPA but exactly where your clients are coming from (paid ads, organic, social media, referrals, etc). 

Best Law Firm Digital Marketing Tips and Tactics

#1:   Define Your Goals

Online marketing is ineffective without law firm marketing goals. At Grow Law Firm, we help our digital marketing clients establish SMART goals, including long-term, intermediate, and short-term goals. Begin with creating goals that are: 

  • S: Specific 
  • M: Measurable
  • A: Attainable
  • R: Relevant
  • T: Time-Bound.  

Your goals related to marketing could be obtaining ten client reviews each month, receiving 25 case evaluation requests through your website each month, or getting 100 unique visitors from organic search to your website each day. Tracking your goals is as important as setting them.  Ultimately, your goals will determine the steps you need to take between your current and your ultimate goals for your law firm and legal career. 

#2:   Research Your Audience 

digital marketing for lawyers audience research

Before considering the channels you will publish content and advertise, you need to understand where you are getting your law firm clients - and where you should be marketing.  For example: 

  • A personal injury lawyer may get the majority of their clients from local organic searches that lead visitors to the law firm’s frequently-updated accident blog.
  • A divorce lawyer may receive many case requests through Facebook because they answer questions on several divorce community support groups. 
  • An employment lawyer may receive some case evaluation requests through their LinkedIn page. 

Tip: Whenever you sign up a new client, ask them, “How did you hear about us?.” You may already know your client came through your website if their initial contact was through a form on your website. Regardless of how they initially contacted you, asking this popular open-ended question can give you insight into how your client came to discover your law practice and if you should pursue this medium in the future. 

#3:  Build A High-Performance Website

The goal of most of your marketing efforts, including offline “traditional” marketing - is to drive potential clients to your website. Your law firm website design can deliver a powerful first impression that will keep visitors on your website, or cause them to leave and visit your competitor’s website. Your website should be clean, current and load quickly. Websites with dated fonts and graphics, slow load times, and too much content can cause your website visitors to leave within seconds. 

Why Is a Professional Mobile-Friendly Website Crucial for Successful Digital Marketing for Law Firms?

More than half of your website visitors are accessing your law firm website on their smartphones. In response to the growing use of smartphones over desktop and laptop computers, Google has shifted to a “mobile-first” index.

While you should do your own testing of your website on mobile simulators, Google also provides tools to give website owners feedback about mobile usability. The Google Search Console tool can alert you to issues about your search performance.

#4: Focus on SEO

digital marketing for lawyers focus on SEO

Search engine optimization is a basic need for law firms marketing and advertising online. Your prospective clients need to be able to find you, whether they are searching for attorneys that work at your firm, your law firm name, or perhaps most importantly, researching their legal issues and looking for an attorney to represent them. If you apply to an SEO agency for law firms and be consistent with your SEO efforts, the work you do can pay off for years to come. 

Why SEO Is Crucial for Digital Marketing for Attorneys?

SEO is so important because it allows prospective clients to find you. Lawyers should remember that SEO is not just what they do on their website (on-page SEO), but also what they do on other websites and social media (off-site SEO).  

Tips for SEO Success

Our primary tip for SEO success is understanding the big picture of what you need to do for SEO - and then consistently doing it. Many lawyers who do their own SEO are good at big picture elements, like content. Their shortcomings with SEO may be in neglecting to do certain things, like fixing broken links or including keywords in their title tags. 

We recommend lawyers start off with a marketing audit to understand how they can boost ROI with SEO - especially in the long term. 

#5: Utilize Pay per Click (PPC) Advertising 

digital marketing for lawyers ppc advertising

If there is such a thing as a “firehose” in law firm lead generation, it is PPC and paid ad campaigns. PPC ads for lawyers can help to generate leads much faster than organic content that has earned its place at the top of search engines. Overnight, your website can be in front of thousands of potential clients. 

The biggest downside of PPC advertising is that once you turn off your funding, the leads go away. Paid ads can be quite expensive, depending on the types of cases you are targeting. Back in 2014, ‘mesothelioma attorneys tx’ was the highest-priced PPC keyword on the internet - averaging $319.34 per click. These leads cost significantly more than the cost per click, as many people click on ads and do not contact a law firm or ultimately retain the law firm’s legal services. Depending on how well the ads perform, a lawyer may sign up only a handful of cases from many clicks. 

Why Is PPC Important for Law Firm Internet Marketing?

PPC ads are valuable in reaching new clients quickly. Relevant and informative evergreen content, such as a practice area page,  takes time to get to the top of Google search results. And if you are a new attorney, getting your content to the top of search engine results pages can take years.

PPC can supplement your organic content marketing efforts, especially in the short term while you are building your content out on your website and strengthening your organic SEO efforts. 

Tips for PPC Success 

The ancient phrase “there’s more than one way to skin a cat” - odd as it is - means there are multiple ways to accomplish something. This concept can be applied to PPC advertising. For example, two competing law firms in the same city can get five new cases from PPC advertising, and one law firm could pay ten times more than the other law firm. This could be due to lower conversion rates due to poor quality law firm landing pages, or it could be simply due to one firm chasing much more expensive keywords. 

It is very easy to set up an ads campaign, but it is less easy to run one efficiently. To stretch your dollar in your PPC campaigns, you need to focus on getting the most efficient conversions. If you establish a PPC campaign yourself, don’t forget to define your goals, and track your cost per acquisition (CPA) and other key performance metrics (KPIs). Many law firms who have dabbled in PPC ad campaigns have determined that contracting with a lawyer PPC agency is the most cost-effective route, even after paying an agency to run the campaign. 

#5: Leverage Content Marketing

lawyers digital marketing content

Why Does Content Marketing Matter for Law Firm Web Marketing?

Every piece of content that you publish on your website, blog, and third-party websites is an opportunity to drive new traffic to your website and bring in new leads to your law firm. Content marketing is directly linked to search engine optimization. 

You can strengthen your content for SEO by upping your word count. Publish informative content that covers a topic fully. If your competitor law firms are writing 3,000-word pages on a topic, Google will notice and very likely place your content lower in Google results. 

Organization of your attorney website content is also important. Using headers, paragraph breaks, bullets, and images can make your content more readable. This helps with search engines, as well as your website user experience (UX). 

Tips for Success 

With your goals and budget established, execution with content publishing comes down to consistency, time, and having the right team of writers in place. If you produce your content in-house, hire writers who:

  • Fully understand your scope of work and can explain it simply to people without a legal background (your website visitors) 
  • Are able to meet deadlines 
  • Produce high-quality content that requires minimal editing.

Some lawyers decide to produce content themselves - after all, they have beyond adequate writing skills and the knowledge to do so. While this works for one-off blog posts and articles here and there, it is unlikely any lawyer has the time to dedicate to producing enough content to meet their SEO content marketing needs while simultaneously representing clients. 

One issue we see is lawyers hiring writers to write drafts, and then those drafts sit in email inboxes for weeks and even months. Some attorneys get caught in “analysis paralysis” and getting content published becomes exceedingly time-consuming. 

Working with a digital marketing agency can remove the burden of sourcing writers and editing content. If you are trying to aggressively grow your law firm’s online presence, a team of experienced and knowledgeable writers contracted through your agency can accelerate your content marketing. 

#6: Pay Attention to Social Media

digital marketing for lawyers social media

Many lawyers are familiar with social media but fail to fully realize the potential of their business. Social media is one of the newer elements of digital marketing, but it is not going anywhere. If you are not active on social media, visit some of your competitors’ social media channels and observe what they are doing, and how they are interacting with their audiences, on social media channels. 

Why does social media marketing matter for lawyers' marketing?

Seven in ten Americans are on social media, and usage by older adults is on the rise. Popular social media channels include: 

Lawyers can use social media in different ways, including sharing information, participating in groups, and engaging directly with members of the community. There are multiple benefits to using social media for lawyers: 

  • Having a dialogue with the community and prospective clients; 
  • Building brand awareness; 
  • Publishing unique content; 
  • Driving traffic to the law firm’s website; 
  • Sharing news and commentary; 
  • Promoting community involvement and charitable activities; 
  • Connecting with potential clients. 

Tips for Success in Social Media

Start with auditing your social media channels. Most law firms have social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Instagram. Law firms should implement social media best practices, including:

  • Publish regularly: If you haven’t published in a year, new visitors to your social media channel may wonder if you are still operating. Because all social media content is time-stamped, posting content regularly - at least several times a month is advisable. 
  • Interact with your social media audience: Engaging with your social media audience builds relationships and trust, and drives brand awareness. For example, if you acknowledge comments, answer questions, and positively interact with your audience, they will think of you when they, or people in their circles, need legal services. 
  • Create unique content that offers value: Whether you are creating videos or publishing blogs, focus on meaningful, educational, unique content that people want to share. Commentary and analysis of news events can be beneficial for all practice areas. For example, estate planning attorneys may discuss news stories of celebrities who have died without a will. Divorce attorneys may offer insight on celebrity divorces in the news. Whatever content you create, it should always relate back to your target audience and potential clients. 
  • Use humor only occasionally - and carefully: Remember your target audience is potential clients, not necessarily your colleagues or friends. Humor can be valuable from time to time but should be used sparingly, light-heartedly, and never at anyone’s expense. If you represent people facing life in prison or have recently lost a family member in a fatal accident, memes that you personally find amusing may not be well-received or even come off as tone-deaf. It may not be possible to “read the room” when publishing content online, but the concept should be considered. 

Common Lawyer Marketing Mistakes 

Lawyer Marketing Mistake #1: You Do Not Know What Your Prospective Clients Are Actually Looking For. 

Lawyers can have challenges converting clients if they fail to connect with them. Unfortunately, many lawyers do not understand that their clients are looking for someone who can HELP them get through a challenging and possibly the most complex legal situation of their lives. 

Solution

Video testimonials from a former client can be highly effective in establishing your track record of empathy about your clients’ legal matters and your ability to get results. Secondly, video FAQs can answer some of your prospects’ initial questions - making them a much “warmer” lead when they contact you for a case review. 

Lawyer Marketing Mistake #2: You Stick to Traditional Marketing Methods.

digital marketing for lawyers traditional marketing

Earlier in this post, we discussed some of the more old-school marketing methods, from catchy jingles and bus benches to yellow pages and billboards. But what worked well in the past does not work the same today. It can even be detrimental; being on every billboard and bus bench in town can have a negative connotation and leave attorneys vulnerable to defacing and graffiti. 

Years ago, phone book advertising worked because everyone had a phone book in their home, usually right next to their landline phone. Now, very few people have landline phones, and phonebooks are almost non-existent. As a result, Google is the go-to search engine and starting point for many people looking for legal services providers. 

Besides being more cost-effective, digital marketing can be more effective than traditional marketing in that it can build trust with clients even before an initial consultation. 

A prospective client who calls after seeing half a dozen billboards will have a different understanding of you than a prospective client who has spent 3 hours on your website, Facebook page, and Youtube channel. 

Solution

Many law firms can generate cases exclusively through digital channels. Depending on your area of the country and competition, you may choose to do some traditional marketing with digital marketing or exclusively advertise online. 

Lawyer Marketing Mistake #3: You Underestimate the Power of Online Reviews. 

Consider your own experiences reading reviews as a consumer. For example, have you ever looked up reviews for a movie, a restaurant, or even a product on Amazon? Even if you don’t write reviews often, you’ve likely read reviews and testimonials when considering buying a product, using a service, or visiting a business. 

An estimated 93% of customers will read online reviews before buying a product or contacting a business. Positive Google reviews will also help with your local organic SEO.

Solution

Authentic online attorney reviews from your real clients are extremely important to establishing trust. Like with blogging, recency is also paramount. On your website, your “testimonials” do not need to be dated and can be evergreen, but you should consistently request reviews on third-party websites like Google and Yelp

Lawyers should develop a system/process to ask clients for a review at the conclusion of their case. For example, when you sign up a new client, you can notify them that you will ask for a review after their legal matter. This can be instrumental in getting your clients to communicate concerns or issues with your law practice when they arise vs. telling the world in their eventual review. 

Tip: You should check review sites periodically and if necessary, respond to reviews. Clients who take the time to write a thoughtful review - positive or negative - should be acknowledged. If the review is negative, use caution in how you respond to the customer - as this response is a reflection of your business and brand. 

Lawyer Marketing Mistake #4: You Are Inconsistent in Your Digital Marketing Strategy. 

Digital marketing is not “one and done” - it is much more a marathon than a sprint. Consistency is key. Much of your digital marketing becomes immediately dated as soon as it is posted: 

Of course, you should update pages on your law firm website from time to time, especially as laws change and best practices evolve. 

Solution

As part of your digital marketing plan, create a content calendar to plan for consistent content publishing across your platforms each month. How much content you publish will depend on your writers and budget, but either way, you should have your content publishing planned out to ensure you do not neglect any of your digital marketing channels. You can always revise your content publishing plans if newsworthy events occur that you want to address in your blogs or social media.

Do Lawyers Need a Marketing Agency?

digital marketing for lawyers marketing agency

Lawyers have many options to “contract out” legal services, from paralegal services to private investigators. Many tasks are fully doable, but it makes sense to bring in someone who can do the job quickly, saving time and money. Usually, the decision is made to outsource a service when another professional can do it quicker, better, or cheaper. A good marketing agency is not cheap, but law firms must consider the value over time. 

Some of the firms that contact us initially are on the fence about hiring an agency at all. Key decision-makers may be on the fence as to whether hiring a marketing agency is (1) necessary and (2) worth it? 

Undoubtedly, law firms can achieve success on their own in the digital marketing space. It will just take time and money. At Grow Law Firm, many of our law firm clients have not just knowledgeable but brilliant lawyers making marketing decisions. Our clients understand that hiring an attorney internet marketing agency will involve a financial investment but will save them significant time.  

Time saved drumming up new business is exchanged for time to practice law. Oftentimes, a law firm web marketing agency can save time in execution vs doing marketing in-house. 

From building a website to getting ranked high in search engine results, mistakes along the way can delay reaching those important marketing milestones. By eliminating trial and error and having the most knowledgeable law firm experts working on your website, SEO, and law firm Google Ads / PPC campaigns, your law firm can grow exponentially. 

Roll Out Your Digital Marketing Efforts - And Grow Your Business

If you’re ready to get started with digital marketing or scale up your existing efforts, the professional team at Grow Law Firm can help you with competitive-grade law firm website design services, organic SEO, social media marketing, PPC ads, and everything else. 

Our law digital marketing company specializes in helping law firms with digital marketing and SEO strategies. We can help your law practice realize the full potential of online marketing for lawyers - as cost-effectively as possible. You can arrange a free marketing audit and talk to one of our knowledgeable legal marketing professionals.

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Top techniques for busy lawyers to bring in more clients in 2022
  • Easy steps you can take to bring in more clients and up this year’s revenue
  • The top website and marketing mistakes holding your law firm back
October, 31st
1 pm CT60 minutes
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    Sasha Berson is a legal marketing expert

    Sasha serves as Managing Partner for Grow Law Firm, a Chicago-based digital marketing agency focused solely on specialized growth strategies for attorneys and their practices.

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