A Law Firm Marketing Blog Series: Edition #13
Welcome back to our blog series, in which we talk legal marketing with real law professionals. In this edition, we talk with Douglas Bradley, founder and managing partner of Everest Legal Marketing.
We hope hearing the thoughts and ideas shared by the people in these blog posts, will inspire you to make positive changes to your marketing strategies. We also know that marketing legal services these days is more complex and challenging now than ever before, and hope that some of our readers may identify with some of the marketing struggles presented here, and perhaps be able to offer solutions.
The biggest goal of this blog series is to get the conversation going, so let’s dive in.
Our Marketing Conversation With Douglas Bradley
Two years ago, Douglas Bradley launched Everest Legal Marketing, a California based company determined to help law firms get to the first page of search engine results. His legal marketing agency focuses on website design, SEO, and getting measurable online results for law firms and solo attorneys. Few legal marketers have a better understanding of how the modern legal consumer thinks and operates than Bradley, and we knew we had to have him as a featured guest for our first “Let’s Talk Legal Marketing” blog post of 2019.
In our below chat with Bradley, we discuss building a successful website in the digital age, proper tactics for responding to negative online reviews, and the importance of diversifying your lead sources.
Answering Legal: How has marketing a law firm changed over the last decade?
Douglas: Compared to 10 years ago, consumers and are more tech savvy and tend to expect more engagement from law firms or individual attorneys (for consumer practices). People want to know more about the person they’re going to hire, they expect more information from their website, and they demand good communication and service. If they don’t get these things, they consult online reviews to either make decisions, or wield negative reviews to report their experience to others. 10 years ago this was non-issue, but now it’s something every consumer lawyer needs to be conscious of.
Answering Legal: What are some of the biggest things a prospective client is looking for when visiting an attorney’s website?
Douglas: I work with numerous attorneys and consistently the top pages visited by users are:
- Home Page
- Attorney Profile/About
It’s critical that you meet expectations on these pages with compelling content. It’s still very common to see firms that have very basic information on their website with no compelling calls to action, and offering no real reason to hire them other than the fact that they exist.
I’d recommend crafting content on A) What you do, B) Who you are, C) What you can do for someone. The data shows that this is essentially what people are looking for, if you don’t disappoint them when they get there, you’re halfway home.
Answering Legal: What do lawyers need to do to get on the first page of search results?
Douglas: My firm primarily handles getting lawyers to page one of relevant Google searches organically and locally, so I could go on for hours about this. Everyone knows that Google constantly changes the recipe on how to accomplish this, but the primary factors to get on page one are still largely the same as they always have been. Create good unique content, organized URL structure, quality on-page technical data (Title tags, H1/H2, etc), and backlinks from credible & authoritative sources.
Answering Legal: What can firms do to build a stronger presence in their local area?
Douglas: There’s a lot solo and small firms can do to build a stronger presence locally. One of my clients hosts a happy hour every few months and invites numerous law firms, and the guests are encouraged to invite other attorneys. This helps her network and build relationships with neighboring attorneys and grow some potential referral partnerships. Additionally there are a number of firms who support their local bar association through sponsorships and presentations on specific topics.
Answering Legal: What is the best way for lawyers to respond to receiving negative reviews? In which situations should lawyers make the effort to reach out with a disgruntled client and in which should they not engage?
Douglas: Responding to negative reviews is something I talk a lot about to new clients and during panel discussions. I’ve written an in-depth article on the topic that gets a lot of feedback. In a nutshell, I think the first thing an attorney should do is change the way they think about a negative review. As professionals we all take criticism personally, but replying to a negative review with disdain will only fan the flames and hurt you in the long run. Bad reviews are a unique marketing opportunity. Prospective clients expect businesses to have some bad reviews, but often they’re looking at the way you respond or ignore the matter.
Answering Legal: Is paying to get listed on legal directories an effective marketing strategy?
Douglas: Paying to be listed on a legal directory can be a very effective form of advertising, IF it has good visibility or offers a significant SEO benefit. When examining the phrases you would want to appear for you may find that FindLaw, Avvo, Justia and often Yelp are usually some of the top options. A budget within these directories can pay for itself many times over because they’re usually highly visible when people are looking for a lawyer and the “User Intent” is very high for people visiting a legal directory. Often, a paid ad is the only way you’ll appear on the directory (like FindLaw or Lawyers.com), but sometimes a well crafted free profile can appear prominently below the paid ads (like Justia or Yelp). Either way, measure your results to validate that the juice is worth the squeeze.
Answering Legal: Do you believe blogging is still a worthwhile practice for lawyers? Why or why not?
Douglas: Blogging is definitely a beneficial activity for lawyers. It helps from an SEO perspective and helps to be found for long-tail searches, or Q&A searches that your practice pages might not be found for. For instance if you’re a workers’ compensation lawyer it’s obvious that you want to be found locally for “workers’ comp lawyer” searches. However, you can craft a killer blog about “How to File for Workers’ Compensation in _______ County” and get traffic from a lot of people who think they can do it themselves (until they learn from your blog that it’s a bureaucratic nightmare). If you’re a lawyer who’s not doing any blogging, you’re missing out on a lot of business. Additionally, an interesting and well written blog may get linked-to by other websites, which generally improves your overall rankings.
Answering Legal: Is there a danger in only depending on your website for new leads?
Douglas: Depending on any one source for leads & new business is a terrible idea. You should try to cultivate leads from a wide variety of sources just as a way to insure yourself. At one time the yellow pages were the #1 source of leads for a lot of lawyers. Then in 2008 I watched firsthand the industry disintegrate within a couple years while working for a large YP publisher. The lawyers that had solely relied on their phone book ads had to scramble to build a web presence. The lessons here are 1) nothing is too big to fail and 2) things change. You should develop at least 4 sources of leads, here’s some options:
- Website – Organic & local visibility
- Social Media – This is your personal network to tell how and what you’re doing. Remind them often and when someone asks for a referral you’ll be top of mind.
- Online Advertising – Legal Directories, Yelp, PPC, Etc.
- Referrals – You may or may not get most of your business from referrals, but you’ll probably have a 100% close rate.
- Traditional Advertising – Radio, TV and local publications can still be very effective depending on the market.
Answering Legal: What’s your top piece of marketing advice for an attorney just starting out in 2019?
Douglas: If I could give some advice to brand new attorneys for 2019 I would say the following:
- Network as much as possible. As great as digital marketing is, you’ll probably get business from an attorney referral faster than a new website. Go to Bar events & presentations, sponsor an event, ask other lawyers to lunch or happy hour. Get people comfortable with your name & face and they’ll be comfortable referring you.
- Don’t spend a lot of money on a website & advertising immediately. Many new attorneys assume that the only way they’ll be found & hired is if they have an awesome website and tons of advertising. This may be true to some degree, but unfortunately there’s a longer line of unethical advertising companies who’ll promise you riches than there are of people ready to hire you. Stay lean and flexible for the first few years and do as much as you can yourself until you have some budget to advertise.
- Take control of your digital footprint. If you have a website, make sure you’ve claimed your profile on the major directories and that you’ve set up the social media accounts you plan on using (Facebook and LinkedIn at least). If you take my advice from above you will get some clients simply by being present. Make a spreadsheet of the logins so that when you can afford to bring on a marketing partner they can jump right in.