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Marketing for Small Law Firms: A Little Guide for Big Decisions

updated
July 25, 2022
16 min
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If you manage a small law firm, you face different challenges than your larger competitors. This dichotomy is especially clear when it comes to marketing your law firm. You are probably working with a smaller law firm marketing budget than larger firms, and you most certainly have a smaller marketing team, if you have one at all. 

Despite this, you still have to achieve the same thing that larger firms do. You must figure out how to create and implement a marketing plan that allows you to attract new clients to your law firm and solidify your reputation.

In this guide, we will review several key strategies that are designed for small law firms like yours. We'll also cover online and offline marketing techniques, including social media marketing for law firms. Finally, we present a list of common mistakes to avoid in law firm marketing strategy.

10 Key Marketing Strategies for Small Law Firms

Successful marketing for small law firms starts with a plan of action. This plan is what the ten strategies provided below will help you create. If you work diligently to implement these strategies, you will be on your way to achieving increased visibility, more website traffic, greater engagement, and smoother client acquisition.

Keep in mind that there are no worthwhile tricks or shortcuts when it comes to establishing your marketing strategy. Instead, your firm's long-term success depends on you putting in the effort to take steps to build a solid, multi-channel marketing plan. Fortunately, these steps are all very doable and will create the foundation for your ongoing marketing efforts.

1. Make a Clear Plan to Start with

The first strategy you must implement as you learn how to market your law firm is simply to establish a plan in the first place. While many lawyers understand that they probably need a marketing plan, they never really get around to making one.

Instead, their marketing strategy consists of doing whatever seems as if it might work at any given time. When you take the time to write down a clear plan, then you can identify the techniques, platforms, and tools you will need to achieve your goals.

Speaking of goals, this is where your plan should start. What do you want to achieve? Is it improved search engine optimization (SEO) for your law firm, more leads, or some other metric?

2. Create a Website for Your Law Firm

Create a Website for Your Law Firm

Many smaller law firms make the mistake of creating and launching a website too quickly. They don't take enough time to consider user experience, SEO, or future growth. It's better to do things right the first time than it is to deal with a full redesign.

Your website should meet some standards for performance, aesthetics, and user experience (UX):

  • Fast Page Loading Times: Try using Google Page Speed Tool to ensure your site loads quickly to avoid frustrating users.
  • AMP Integration: Your web pages should be AMP-enabled as this will also improve page speed.
  • The YOAST Plugin: Too many plugins can have a negative impact on performance and SEO. However, a comprehensive tool like YOAST is worthwhile as the SEO benefits exceed the drawbacks.
  • Call Tracking: A call tracking tool will allow you to track calls that come into your law firm from various sources, such as Google My Business.
  • No Frameworks or Themes: These types of third-party dependencies cause performance issues and may become a maintenance nightmare in the future.
  • No Over-Optimization Tricks: Avoid things like keyword stuffing and using duplicate content. Outdated black hat techniques could lead to SEO penalties for your law firm.
  • Inclusion of Structured Data: When web page content is structured in a certain way, Google is better able to understand and parse its information. Web designers can use Schema.org to understand how to do this. Reviews and FAQs are two examples of structured data. When it's used correctly, structured data may be turned into "rich snippets" in search results.
  • 100% Error-Free: Your law firm's website should not contain broken links, redirects, missing pages, or other errors.
  • Use of WordPress: Of all of the website building and content management systems available, WordPress is probably the most robust. This open-source platform is the best alternative to a professionally designed web page.
  • Mobile-Friendliness: Google now takes a mobile-first approach to ranking web pages.
  • Adequate Security: Ensure your website has an up-to-date SSL certificate to avoid browser error messages.
  • Google Analytics Integration: This tool will help you track website traffic and other metrics to show how your marketing efforts are working.
  • Dedicated Website Hosting: The host you select should guarantee that your website is available and high-performing 24/7.
  • Well-Organized Site Structure: A structured website is easier to navigate, and Google is able to index it more accurately.
  • No Duplicate Content: Avoid search engine penalties by ensuring that there isn't duplicate content published on your website
  • Social Proof: Customer testimonials and other social proof provide evidence that you have plenty of satisfied clients

If you are undergoing a website redesign, ensure that your old URLs are handled with appropriate redirects. Otherwise, there will be significant issues with your new website.

Finally, avoid using the fast and free website builders that promise to have your website up and running in only an hour or so. These tend to create poor-performing sites that have loads of SEO issues. You may experience similar issues with bulkier WordPress themes.

Likewise, avoid using platforms like FindLaw, where you don't actually retain ownership of your own website.

3. Get in Touch with Local Legal Directories

When Google determines which pages will land in the "local three-pack" results or "local finder" listings, it considers major business and legal directories. If your business is accurately and consistently listed in these directories, your pages will rank higher for local search.

This reality means you must verify that your law firm name, location, contact data, website URL, and hours of operation are up to date.

You should be listed on sites such as Findlaw, Avvo, Justia, Yelp, HG.org, and the Yellow Pages. Make a note to correct these entries if your law firm data changes.

You can also check our Justia lawyer directory guide and Avvo lawyer marketing guide.

4. Perform a Proper Keyword Research

perform a proper keyword research

Small law firms can gain a significant edge when their websites are designed to rank for the right keywords. What are the right keywords? These are the words and phrases that will help attract new clients to your law firm.

They are also the terms that users are most likely to use when searching. Work on creating high-quality, relevant content that is optimized for the keywords that you have identified as being most valuable for achieving your SEO goals.

You will need to conduct adequate keyword research to do this. Fortunately, there are tools such as SEMRush and Ahrefs that will help make this process easier for you.

It may help to start with a brainstormed list of keywords based on the type of law you practice as well as your target clients. For example, a family law attorney might want to rank for "Divorce Lawyer" or "Child Custody Lawyer."

Here are some other tips for bootstrapping your own keyword research:

  • Search relevant keywords, then review other related searches
  • Optimize for search intent by considering common questions from clients
  • Review articles and publications for popular keyword phrases
  • Conduct a competitive keyword analysis
  • Look for opportunities to turn keywords into longtail keywords

Put together a preliminary list of 10 or more keywords that you have properly vetted through research. Use this list to determine how you want to structure your law firm's website.

5. Manage Your Content Marketing Process

Your law firm content marketing process will demonstrate exactly how important keyword research is. The same keywords that you identified as being important for ranking your law firm should be used to determine the topics that your content focuses on. This content is what your potential clients will search for. 

Of course, this can be challenging. Many lawyers struggle with the process of writing, even when they are subject matter experts. It can help to divide keywords into main topic areas. Then, think of various subtopics that you can also write about. For example, "Divorce Law" could include:

  • Filing for divorce
  • What to do if I receive divorce papers?
  • How to find a good divorce lawyer
  • Who lives in the house during a divorce?

If family law is your area of expertise, you could probably come up with several other subtopics. Remember that you will want to be able to write between 500 and 1,500 words on the topics you choose. 

Also, there's something called search intent. Google uses this to determine which law firms will be ranked highest for a particular keyword. This metric reflects whether your content actually answers the question that people want answered by their searches. Google only wants to rank the most relevant content. So keep that in mind for your content marketing strategy.

Finally, give yourself time to write. If you struggle, focus on being clear and writing in a conversational tone that potential clients can relate to. It may help to record yourself speaking on a topic and then transcribe it.

6. Consider Paid Ads

consider paid ads

Small law firms often add paid advertising to their digital marketing efforts. While you can get great results from the organic traffic you earn from social media and Google searches, that can take months.

If you want to start hitting your marketing goals sooner, you will have to invest in Pay-per-click services for law firms. This approach will help you attract prospective clients sooner until your organic efforts take effect.

Even if you plan to focus on organic content marketing in the long term, don't avoid investing in paid ads right now. Your search engine marketing campaign will take time. Make room in your marketing budget now to achieve some short-term goals. PPC ad budgeting is very flexible. Later, you can make adjustments as your other campaigns bear fruit.

7. Start an Email Marketing Campaign

Not every person you reach will need the services of your small law firm immediately. Most will be interested in using your firm at some point in the future. Because of this, you want to keep your potential clients engaged. One of the most effective ways to do this is with an email newsletter.

Your newsletter can be based largely on the content you are already creating for SEO purposes. Add a few relevant, newsworthy pieces, maybe something that's a bit entertaining. Then, distribute your newsletter on a monthly basis.

By doing this, you will establish a bond with your target audience and increase your reputation as a thought leader. You'll also drive more traffic to your law firm's website.

8. Take Time to Measure Progress

take time to measure results

It's important that your law firm has access to tools that allow you to track your results so that you can be confident that your marketing strategies are working.

There are analytics tools that you can use to track traffic to your page from search and your Google My Business account. You can even use analytics to ensure you are getting the most out of your marketing dollars for your email campaigns.

It is important that your law firm uses marketing tools, so you know what is truly effective. Otherwise, you will base your decisions on emotion and assumptions. Neither is good for your ongoing business development goals.

Google Analytics is one of the most popular tools there is for this purpose. If you plan to market your law firm on social media, platforms like Facebook and Instagram have built-in analytics tools to better understand the impact of your social media activity.

9. Build a Google My Business Listing

Build a Google My Business Listing

Create a law firm Google My Business account to attract potential clients and optimize for local SEO. You need to set up this account if you want your small law firm to rank in Google's "local three-pack" and "local finder" results. Optimize your profile to ensure you get the local visibility you want. Consider these tips:

  • Always complete your profile and add pictures
  • Choose the best business category for your law firm
  • Describe your business accurately
  • Add geo tags to your photos
  • Use keywords to optimize your Google My Business Page
  • Include products and services in your listing
  • Add posts to your listing to give more details about your services
  • Include your URL in your GMB listing

Don't let your Google My Business profile go dormant. This profile is something you should keep regularly updated. Add new content and photos. Also, ensure that your hours and contact information are always accurate.

10. Find a Team

You don't need a large law firm to use the team you have to make the most of your marketing dollars and attract potential clients — provided you can get a few attorneys or other team members to step up and help work on building your law firm's presence online.

What you want to do is train your team members, so they understand your marketing strategy. Then, they can use their own professional online presences and networks to promote your law firm. The associates on your team can do this by sharing and engaging with your content marketing posts or creating branded content of their own.

Expand Your Small Law Firm Marketing Online

Expand Your Small Law Firm Marketing Online

If you take the techniques here and apply them correctly, you will have a strong marketing foundation for your law firm. As you acquire new clients, you will begin to achieve your growth objectives.

This achievement will be largely because you have established a solid reputation, earned greater name recognition, and turned your online presence into a lead-building machine.

But the work isn't done just yet. You also have to take that momentum and keep working to achieve new marketing goals. Think of this as scaling up your marketing strategy to continue to grow your law firm's brand.

Now you want to accomplish more with your digital marketing. New goals include:

  • Increasing your lead generation capabilities
  • Strengthening your reputation to earn referrals and client testimonials
  • Shifting marketing your small law firm to local SEO and organic search

You can think of these next tips as phase two of online marketing for small law firms.

Enlarge Your SEO Expertise

Why are organic and local SEO so important at this stage? That's easy. Unlike PPC, these represent your path to earning free traffic and engagement. Think of the following steps as the plan you need for your law firm to continue to grow.

Provide More Content

The work of creating content for small law firms is ongoing. This content is the key to keeping the momentum that you've started going. Build on the keyword research you've done. Now is the perfect time to plan out your content for the next year by building an editorial calendar. You'll get planning out of the way, giving you more time to focus on potential clients.

Stick to this calendar as much as possible. It will allow you to stay disciplined with your efforts to use content to reach your audience.

Small law firms need a competitive edge, and content marketing truly provides that. It's your tool to show that there is just as much knowledge and competence in your small law firm as there is in any large firm. The best way to accomplish this is to publish great content consistently.

Start a Link-Building Campaign

Law firms rely on reputation to earn the trust of potential clients. This online reputation management for lawyers is also how your small law firm earns better search engine results rankings.

Online, the way to earn authority is to earn backlinks. These are links to your law firm's website from other high-authority pages. You want to focus on earning links that are relevant to your legal practice or local search.

Use these ideas to start earning quality backlinks to your law practice:

  • Offer and promote a community giveaway — for example, a school supplies giveaway
  • Look for opportunities to be listed or become a supporter of popular local websites
  • Offer a scholarship and work with local schools to promote it on their websites
  • Contact organizations that you sponsor to list your firm on their website
  • Get listed in reputable legal directories

Internal linking — links between different pages on your own website — will help your firm earn better results rankings as well.

Collect Reviews and Trust Badges

Customer testimonials and reviews that are published on Google My Business are very important to building your reputation and earning better search rankings. Ask your satisfied clients to leave positive reviews for your firm or provide testimonials.

Trust badges provide proof that new clients can feel confident hiring you. They may show that you are a member of respected legal associations or community groups. Many offer a badge that small law firms can display online.

Connect with Your Relevant Audience

connect with your relevant audience

Suppose that you are creating relevant content using keywords to attract potential clients. You've also expanded your efforts to publish more evergreen content with engaging visuals. That includes pieces that truly provide useful legal information to your audience.

This work is great, but all of this engaging content is wasted if nobody sees it. You have to get your content in front of potential clients. For most small law firms, that means using the power of social media.

In many ways, social media marketing is like search marketing. Organic reach and engagement are best. It's also free. However, it takes time. You need results now. So you may need to invest in social media advertising through platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

For example, you could use promoted posts to get your content out to a highly targeted local audience. This approach would increase your social media reach and might attract more clients.

Online and Offline Marketing Methods

Successful marketing for small law firms means that you must have a strong understanding of your audience. Additionally, you have limited resources to dedicate to marketing. You have to choose where your efforts will get the best results. Take a look at these on and offline methods you can use to earn new business.

Offline marketing ideas include:

  • Ask lawyers in other practice areas for referrals
  • Seek word-of-mouth recommendations from previous clients
  • Use Billboards and print ads
  • Attend networking events
  • Form referral partnerships with bankers, realtors, CPAs, and other professionals

Online marketing ideas include:

  • Generate keyword-optimized content for organic SEO
  • Use law firm PPC advertising
  • Seek listings in reputable legal directories
  • Optimize your site and GMB profile for local search
  • Launch an email newsletter
  • Earn positive reviews on popular consumer websites

It may not be something you associate with marketing law firms, but website design is one of the most important elements in your outreach strategy.

Word of mouth is a powerful tool, but people who want to hire an attorney often rely on the internet to conduct research. This approach is why small law firms must reach potential customers with relevant content. To do this, you must know what keywords potential clients use to search and understand their search intent.

For example, a person launching a business may have all sorts of questions and concerns about the legal steps they must take. They might head to Google and ask:

  • How much workers' compensation insurance do I need?
  • Will I need employment contracts?
  • How do I stop competitors from stealing my ideas?
  • Do I need an attorney to review my vendor contracts?
  • Should I incorporate now?

Your clients may come from a variety of different backgrounds. It's up to you to communicate with them in ways they understand and ensure your content reaches them in local and organic search results.

Lead Managing

Your legal marketing efforts will eventually start to pay off with more calls and completed lead capture forms. If you want sustainable law firm growth, you will need to create a reliable sales process to turn those leads into paying clients.

Here's what the sales process for small law firms might look like: 

  • Initial contact through a call or online
  • Following up with the lead
  • Gathering information on the prospect's needs
  • Holding the first appointment or legal consultation
  • Working out fees and other requirements
  • Closing the deal with a hiring agreement or other client/attorney relationship

You will want the first three steps to happen as quickly as possible. Your team will be in a much better position once you have landed that initial consultation.

One thing to keep in mind is availability. If prospects can't get information from you in a timely manner, they may turn to your competitors. Consider using an answering service and online chat support to help push clients further through the process.

Referrals Growth

Referral relationships are an important part of the business development efforts for many small law offices. There are some attorneys who gain the vast majority of new business through referral marketing and business development tactics.

The most common channels for these methods include referrals from other attorneys, client recommendations, and connections made through personal and professional networks. Any attorney who wants to expand their practice and earn new business should make it a priority to engage in networking and referral marketing.

However, this practice is especially helpful for startups, smaller law offices, and individual attorneys who may have a limited marketing budget. Networking is an effective marketing strategy that generally costs more time than money.

The key here is to focus on relationship building. Create and maintain connections with other attorneys, professionals in related fields, and past clients. All of these could be sources to tap for referrals, reviews, and recommendations.

Social Media Marketing for Smaller Law Firms

Social media is a perfect marketing tool for local engagement. It's also a great way to ensure you remain on the radar of those who may need your services in the future by sharing engaging content.

When you create an active social media presence, you positively impact your branding and reach. There's such a large variety of content that you can post on social media to get people to engage with your law firm.

However, keep in mind that you won't get many clients directly through Facebook and other platforms. Instead, when you incorporate social into your content strategy, you will boost your reputation as a thought leader and resource. You'll also increase your name recognition.

Your area of practice will also impact how well social media marketing works for your firm. For example, personal injury and criminal defense attorneys may have better results than corporate law attorneys. Still, having a positive, professional presence on LinkedIn and Facebook will probably have a positive return for your law office.

Common Small Law Firm Marketing Mistakes

common small law firm marketing mistakes

There may be an abundance of legal expertise in your firm, but you probably lack some marketing tips for small law firms required to earn new business through marketing. That's understandable as you have focused your skill set on assisting your clients. However, the gaps in your understanding could lead to these common mistakes.

Lack of Patience

Optimizing for local search and other law firm SEO services may take a few months to generate results. When law firms expect things to happen too quickly, they may turn to tactics that promise immediate results but could harm their online presence in the future.

Doing Everything Yourself

It's rare that a lawyer would have the knowledge to engage in successful online marketing without any outside help. And it's even more unlikely that they would have time to do so effectively without it impacting the quality of services they deliver to their clients.

Choosing the Easiest Path

When faced with the task of determining how and where to engage in marketing, many attorneys will choose the options that are easiest and most familiar to them. Intuitive heuristics often cause us to see the easiest solution as the best one when we are presented with a complex problem.

For example, you might convince yourself that lawyer Facebook ads are ideal for marketing your law office because it's familiar to you when you should really be focusing on LinkedIn attorney marketing.

Final Thoughts: Legal Marketing for Small Firms

The difference between a struggling law firm and one that grows to be highly successful is often marketing. If your approach to promoting your firm includes setting goals, following best practices, and making decisions that allow you to get the best possible results while working within your limited budget, you will be off to a great start.

The most successful strategies tend to balance keyword-based SEO for long-term results with PPC to make an immediate impact. However, you can't dismiss the importance of professionally performed law firm website services to optimize the user experience. Once you have optimized for SEO and local search, you can expand your efforts to include social media.

Finally, it's important to track your progress using the appropriate analytics tools.

If all of this seems like a lot to tackle, you may decide to work with a firm that specializes in marketing for law firms. This approach can be worthwhile as long as you know how to pick the ideal law firm marketing company for your practice.

At Grow Law Firm, we are a digital marketing agency focused on helping law firms achieve their growth objectives. Our team would be happy to work with you to create and implement a marketing plan for your law office. Don't struggle with marketing while your competitors continue to grow — contact us today.

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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
December, 9th
10 am CST60 minutes
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    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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