Marketing: making the most of SEO
Richie Billing considers how maximising SEO utilisation can enhance a firm’s marketing strategy
Law firms need to take an efficient approach to pretty much every aspect of their business nowadays, especially given the impact of governmental reforms to the law. One area that’s come under particular scrutiny is marketing and lead generation. Long gone are the days when firms could afford to pay hundreds or even thousands of pounds for a single claim. The expansion of fixed costs means solicitors need to think hard about their profit margins.
It has caused some firms to seek more innovative ways of generating work, while prompting firms to invest more in search engine optimisation (SEO).
This technical field of digital marketing has the potential to help law firms generate cost-effective and regular leads from clients who find them organically through search engines.
Essentially, search engine optimisation (SEO) is the practice of optimising your online content in a way that makes it more likely to appear at the top of search engines when people search for a particular keyword or phrase.
SEO involves a variety of techniques, such as keyword research, on-page optimisation (like choosing page titles people will click on), off-page optimisation (such as building links from other well-respected websites) and technical optimisation (which involves making your website fast and stable on mobile devices and computer desktops).
The goal of SEO is to increase organic traffic to a website. Once a website receives traffic, you can look to convert it into leads.
Utilising SEO for new work
To help illustrate how a law firm could utilise SEO to generate new work, let’s take a look at a case study.
Legal Expert is a website devoted to offering advice on legal matters, predominantly in the field of personal injury, but also in medical negligence, criminal injuries and data breach law.
The content they produce on their website is detailed, well-researched and presented, and designed to answer the questions commonly asked by prospective claimants.
These questions can range from the simplest ones, like ‘Can I claim compensation after an accident at work?’ to more technical ones relating to the machinations of No Win No Fee agreements.
Over the years, it’s garnered a reputation as one of the key players in the digital sphere within the legal marketing sector. But they’re not alone. A host of other firms, like National Accident Helpline, Irwin Mitchell and Leigh Day invest much time, effort and resources into their online presence.
No longer do clients have to settle for their local high street firms. The new high street is a search engine, where prospective clients can check out reviews and testimonials and shop around for the best service.
When you think of it like this, investing in digital strategies makes sense. Who doesn’t want thousands of people visiting your virtual office every day? And once there, you can help them with their problems and advertise your services. It could be the difference between generating a few hundred leads a year to potentially thousands. And the more work you can generate, the more profit you can ultimately make.
Getting to this stage requires work and investment, however. And that leads us to our next section—important things to keep in mind if you decide to go down the SEO route.
There’s a lot that goes into an effective SEO strategy. Get it right and you could see leads and profits grow significantly. However, it’s wise to be mindful of potential obstacles.
Importance of customer service
Unlike physical offices, a website doesn’t close come 5:30pm. In fact, potential clients may only start browsing the web for legal help when they get home from work in the evening time.
If those clients can’t speak with you when they want to make a claim, they have the ability to find another firm within a few clicks or taps of their finger. Competition in the digital arena is fierce, so it’s vital to have in place effective customer service systems.
This could come in the form of a call-back contact form where clients can submit their details for you to call them back when the office opens. Firms could also extend their opening hours for customer queries, or utilise technologies such as live chat boxes.
One of the biggest things to bear in mind with SEO is that it takes time. The costs involved can also be significant.
Search engines take into account around two-hundred factors when it comes to determining the rank of a website or webpage. If adopting an in-house SEO strategy, you’ll require specialist staff who understand these things, and they can be few and far between. That means salaries could potentially be quite high.
Producing quality content at volume is also a costly exercise, again due to staffing. An individual writer can only write so many words a day. You may also need an editor to check the content to ensure it’s legally compliant and factually accurate.
And once an article is published, it’ll take time (two to six months, perhaps longer) for search engines to index and rank it. If that doesn’t happen, more technical work may be required, such as building links to the page or website to boost its credibility in the eyes of search engines (which can also be expensive).
While digital marketing agencies may promise results that give you butterflies of excitement, just remember that it could take longer than they say. Also, there are no guarantees it could work at all, which we’ll discuss next.
Even after investing time and money into a digital marketing strategy, there’s no guarantee that it’ll succeed.
SEO is a technical field and many factors can influence the success of a strategy, such as how well-respected a website is to the competition for a particular niche or field of work. The more knowledge of SEO and skills your firm has (or that of the digital marketing agency you choose to work with), the greater the chance of success.
Caution over AI
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has fundamentally changed the digital marketing landscape. Whether that’s for the better or worse, it’s too soon to say.
A lot of digital marketing agencies have turned to AI as a means of producing written content in half the time it usually takes them. This way they can flood websites with articles and blog posts that may discuss all different aspects of the law at a lower cost.
Without any editing or proofreading, though, law firms could get in trouble with the likes of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) if there are errors or inaccuracies.
A big question mark also remains as to whether or not search engines will respect content generated by AI. If the likes of Google decide to prioritise human-generated content in the future, then websites with articles written by AI could be penalised by search engines, effectively rendering their investment redundant.
It’s therefore important to be mindful of the offers of cheap SEO marketing made by some agencies. Google, for example, has always maintained that content produced by humans will be preferred provided it meets its quality control systems.
And as a law firm, it’s important to present yourself in the right way to prospective clients, not as a monotonous droid.
Richie Billing is a writer and digital marketer at Absolute Media AbsoluteMedia.uk. He previously worked as industrial disease and serious injury lawyer for a trade union firm in Liverpool before transitioning into legal marketing