The Truths and Lies of Internet Marketing for Lawyers: Part II

This is the second part of a two-part article covering Saam's webinar.  To read part one, click here.

Conrad SaamAccording to law firm marketing expert Conrad Saam, attorneys are getting "intimidated, overcharged, confused and downright lied to by marketing consultants and self-proclaimed search gurus" who see dollar signs but deliver "little (if any) value."

In a recent ElderLawAnswers webinar titled “Truths and Lies of Internet Marketing,” Saam spent an information-packed hour separating fact from fiction regarding what works and what doesn’t in online marketing.

Content Is No Longer King

A major myth about online marketing, said Saam, is that “content is king.”  In fact, content has been deposed, replaced by a concept called “content marketing.”

The value of content, any content, “is a misperception that has been perpetuated by my industry," Saam said.  “We have told you guys for the last three or four years that you need to write more content.” Clients were being advised to blog as much as possible, for example.   He referred to this as the “Field of Dreams fallacy”: if you post it, they will come, which turns out not to have been the case.  At this point, “the volume of content out there is absurd,” Saam said.  “So stop pouring money into vomiting out yesterday’s news story in your blog. It doesn’t work.” In fact, he noted that not all successful law firm websites even have a blog attached to them.

What firms should be focusing their efforts on is content marketing – getting really great content in front of people who really want it.  Content marketing, Saam said, involves developing outstanding “anchor content” and then finding the “raving fans” who deeply care about that content. You have to get creative in this effort and employ videos, infographics, polls and online petitions.  Saam gave the example of an employment law firm that wrote about a case involving a worker who was fired for being pregnant.  The firm put a petition up on its website calling for her reinstatement, and the petition proved popular.  “People will start pointing links back to that content and the links will drive up SEO and you’ll start hearing the phone ringing,” Saam said.

Saam advised using Google Analytics to determine which pages on your website have generated traffic over the last six months.  Pages that aren’t producing traffic are just taking up space.  If you are using a vendor to boost your SEO, ask them who they are getting your content in front of.   You want it directed to the raving fans, and if it isn’t turning into traffic or links, or both, it’s not worth it.  Links back to your website are the key to boosting a firm’s Web presence and search engine ranking, Saam said.  Good links are reputable local or national links from, for example, the legal industry and elder care sites.  “If you’re spending a lot of money with SEO,” Saam said, “this is where you want your guys putting most of their efforts.”  Make sure the vendor isn’t simply using an automated system to syndicate content out, Saam added.  You need a more customized approach.

Website speed is also a factor in ranking, so check that your site isn’t super slow.

Social Media and Online Reviews

Just as content is not an end in itself, Saam said that the value of social media has been “grossly overstated” and that it is hard for lawyers to make traditional social media marketing work for them. “It is very difficult to get people to like your law firm on Facebook and tweet about how great their experience was with your lawyer,” he said.  Moreover, social media does not help SEO; Google doesn’t even have access to a lot of the Facebook information that would make it a ranking factor, Saam said. 

Online reviews do matter for lawyers, however, and these reviews are increasingly showing up in local search engine results.  Saam advised his listeners to make it a practice to ask clients for reviews, which essentially are “nothing more than a very public referral.”  But don’t tell them where to write the review (Yelp! Avvo, etc.) because you want to make it as easy as possible for someone to leave you a review. 

Of course, inviting online reviews risks the occasional negative one, which Saam advises should not simply be ignored.  Leave a response, but don’t call the reviewer a liar, which will just turn you into a finger-pointer for everyone reading that review.   Saam offered some sample language as an alternative: ‘Dear reviewer: I am very sorry you had a bad experience with our firm.  I take customer service extremely seriously.  With respect to your specific issue, I want to make this right.  I’ve instructed my front desk to forward your call directly to me and please call because I want to make this right.”  

Know Your Cost-Per-Client

Another myth is that more domains translate into more business.  Not so, said Saam, who advised consolidating all content and links into a single domain, which will increase overall traffic.  The one exception is if you operate in two distinct areas of practice, such as elder law and divorce law.

As for pay-per-click advertising (PPC), Saam said it doesn’t have to be expensive, and he recommends Bing for most of his clients, as opposed to Adwords.  With Bing you can get more clicks because there is less competition, and the cost-per-click is lower. 

Wrapping up, Saam said it’s important to know your cost-per-client for each of your advertising channels, such as Avvo, Adwords, and Findlaw.  If you can do this, “you’ll be smarter than 99 percent of law firms,” Saam said.  When asked how they found you, clients typically simply say “the Internet.”  Call tracking is one way to go beyond this and measure whether you’re spending money wisely.  When a call comes in, the call-tracking software will rewrite the number based on which channel the call came from.  You can then look at the phone numbers and determine that a particular channel generated X number of calls, turning into X number of clients. 

That said, Saam reminded his listeners that according to an Avvo study done a few years ago, “responsiveness” was the top factor cited by consumers in hiring a lawyer.  It was rated “very important” by 92 percent, well ahead of track record (80 percent), respect in the legal community (67 percent) and cost (65 percent).   Leads convert 22 times more often when contact is made in five minutes or less, Saam said. 

Saam’s webinar is part of an ongoing series of webinars titled “The Elder Law Marketing Funnel.”  For more information about the funnel and upcoming webinars, click here

To view Saam’s webinar, click here.  You can follow Conrad Saam on Twitter @conradsaam