The legal competitive landscape has changed. Small law firms with a great web presence are now in direct competition with the bigger, legacy firms. Web sites and social media have overtaken “word-of-mouth” or yellow page ads as the best ways to generate leads for attorneys and law firms.
Law firms do understand the importance of having a web site. What some lawyers and law firms don’t understand is the importance of doing an online marketing campaign. Using such essential strategies as search engine optimization, search engine marketing, social media marketing, pay per click ads, blogging and geo-targeting, attorneys are discovering the value a solid online marketing campaign can have on their bottom line.
SEO Impact on Attorneys
Lawyers working in the same practice areas need to differentiate themselves from the pack. For example, personal injury lawyers cover a wide spectrum of cases. When a prospective client is online searching for an attorney, they will probably not search for a “Personal Injury Lawyer” but for a “San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm” or a “Dog Bite Attorney in San Diego. “ At that time when a prospective client finds you, the value of having great searchable content and relevant Meta data becomes evident.
Stories of defective products or dangerous medicines are in the media daily. Attorneys need to react quickly to potential liability claims. As with any profession, being in the forefront of a high-profile case has its advantages. Revising the content and the SEO of a law firm’s web site to reflect the changing environment can increase rankings, traffic and leads.
Specific Rules and Regulations
Attorneys are strictly limited to what they can and cannot include in their advertisements and frequently face new rules and regulations for online marketing. As the internet has evolved, so have the laws regarding attorney electronic adverting.
In California, the rules governing attorney advertising, including internet advertising, are set forth by the California Business & Professions Code §6157-6159.2 and the State Bar of California Rules of Professional Conduct. Some of the prohibitive rules include:
- Using guarantees, warranties or predictions regarding the result of representation;
- Using testimonials or dramatizations unless there is an express disclaimer that the result portrayed was dependent on the facts of that case and that the results of a different case will be based on different facts;
- Using false or deceptive language to mislead the public, including any symbols or images;
- State that a lawyer is a “certified specialist’ unless they hold a current certificate issued by the Board of Legal Specialization;
- Using intentionally misleading META tags to divert a prospective client to their web site;
- Communicating an unwarranted expertise in a particular field of law.
Any violation of the rules set out in the California Business & Professions Code or in the State Bar of California Rules of Professional Conduct may result in discipline by the State Bar or in a civil case where the plaintiff can recover up to $5,000 per violation.
The Future of Law Firm SEO
Law firms are slowly embracing mobile technology for their web sites. A large firm with hundreds of pages may not want to reduce all their pertinent information and images down to the size required in a mobile site. Yet, as people use their smartphones for everything from checking in at the grocery store to finding out the wait times for rides at Disneyland, people will begin using their smartphones to look for a lawyer. If an attorney’s site is too big and cumbersome to read on an iPhone, the potential client will go to a web site they can easily read and navigate.
The changes in SEO for a mobile site include using mobile search phrases and fewer keywords, adjusting site formats for different devices, using transcending code, having a mobile XML site map, using compliant markup language, submitting your mobile site to search engines and using a mobile domain.
The law firm website is becoming more central to the firm’s marketing strategy. The amount of content will increase as more pages are added. Attorneys are moving into having their own personalized page to build their personal brand – which is more than where they went to law school: blogs, videos and social media links. Which is why attorneys and law firms should partner with a legal internet marketing firm that has been providing internet marketing solutions to the legal communities.
SEO, just like other marketing strategies, takes time and commitment. Law firms looking for a quick return on investment will end up being discouraged. More attorneys need to get in the habit of updating blogs and posting on social media. Fortunately, new law school graduates are more tech savvy and understand the benefit of being found online. As technology changes, law firms will need to embrace the new channels available to them because their competition is already on-board.