The Top 5 Questions Every Lawyer Asks About Marketing a Law Firm
Frank Olivo is the founder of Sagapixel. Frank is our resident authority on SEO and PPC advertising and is a frequent contributor to a number of blogs.
5 Questions Every Lawyer Asks About Marketing a Law Firm
You are an expert when it comes to the law, but law school didn’t prepare you for one of the most essential parts of running a successful practice: marketing. Over the last decade of helping law firms to grow their practices, we’ve heard the same questions over and over. This guide will answer all of the top questions that our attorney clients ask us regularly.
#1 How Much Should I Spend on Marketing My Law Firm?
First, consider whether your practice is b2c or b2b
Marketing a personal injury firm is very different from marketing a practice that provides services to health care providers. There are marketing mixes that are more effective for each of these target markets and varying costs associated with reaching them.
The 2018 Deloitte CMO Survey indicated that b2c businesses allocate the highest percentage of revenue to marketing, with 18% of gross revenue spent on marketing. According to this report, a personal injury, workers’ compensation, or family law attorney that wishes to reach the masses will likely have to spend in this range in order to achieve maximum results.
How much should you spend to market a small law firm?
On the other hand, the Small Business Administration recommends spending 7%-8% of gross revenue on marketing if your business generates less than $5 million dollars in gross revenue annually. Considering that most sole practitioners generate less than this number, the argument could be made that this is a more reasonable allocation for a marketing budget.
How much should you spend to market a new law firm vs. an established one?
It is important to consider the stage of your practice. If your practice does not have a brand, a name that everyone in your market recognizes, you should consider reinvesting 10%-18% of your gross revenue in marketing your firm. An established practice may be able to get away with a spend of 2%-5% to maintain its brand.
If your practice provides legal services to other businesses, your marketing will differ entirely from a practice that serves the general public.
According to the aforementioned 2018 survey by Deloitte, the “service consulting” industry reports allocating 12% of gross revenues to marketing. For a firm whose area of focus could be described as service consulting, it could be beneficial for that firm to allocate 5%-15% of gross revenue to marketing depending on its stage of growth.
Second, Consider Your Firm’s Growth Stage
Are you just hanging out a shingle in your local town? Do you have a practice that is well-known in a given market but wishes to expand? Are you considered an industry leader and aim to simply maintain that status?
If you are just starting out in a market, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve just graduated from law school or if you’ve already become an industry leader. In the eyes of your target, you are unknown and undifferentiated.
In order for you to achieve some level of brand awareness and differentiation, you’re going to have to dedicate resources. You are likely going to have to dedicate 8%-15% of your gross revenue if you wish to establish a brand with a unique value proposition.
#2 How Much Time Should A Lawyer Spend on Marketing vs. Practicing Law
If you haven’t read the previous section, read it and return to this section.
There is an opportunity cost for every hour that you spend on marketing vs. practicing law.
If you have an hourly rate of $175/hr and you spend 10 hours a month writing blogs, going to networking events, and hosting free informational sessions, bill yourself for your time. In essence, you’re spending $1,750/mo on marketing. If you were to hire someone write for you at $125/hr, you would still come $50/hr ahead if you spent that time practice law.
If you have free time and you are determined to DIY your marketing, dedicate as much of it as you can to grow the practice. If you are foregoing billable hours to handle marketing, you are likely losing out on revenue since few marketing agencies have hourly rates higher than yours.
#3 What Results Can a Law Firm Expect from SEO?
The results that a law firm can expect from search engine optimization (SEO) vary greatly depending on the consumer and the specific SEO practices that are followed.
Is Search a Part of Your Customer Journey?
No marketing channel is a panacea. Although it is unlikely, there always is a possibility that search is not part of your customer journey.
If your target clients are locals needing representation in workers’ compensation claims, SEO is likely to play a part in the process that they go through before getting representation. Whether they explicitly Google “workers’ comp lawyers near me” or search for “can I get workers’ comp for carpal tunnel,” SEO will present an opportunity for you to get in front of them and allow you to pitch your services.
If your target clients are large corporations needing representation in real estate transactions, search is likely to play a secondary or possibly no role in your customer journey. McKesson is not going to turn to Google to find an attorney to represent them when they buy land for their next facility. However, let’s say your firm creates a guide that answers all of the questions that a company may have about land use regulations in Ohio. You will have a valuable opportunity to create brand awareness in decision makers at companies as they research online and find your guide.
In other words, SEO may help to get your immediate results if you wish to reach individuals and it may help you to get long-term results if you wish to penetrate companies.
If search is not a part of your customer journey at all, you’ll never see results from SEO.
You’ve Determined that SEO Will Help Your Law Firm; How Long Will it Take to See Results?
The Local 3-Pack
If you operate in a market with just a few competitors, it shouldn’t take long for you to see results. After doing local citations for your law firm, you might start showing up in the local 3-pack in a matter of weeks. Just keep in mind that the local map results are greatly influenced by local links, so go after any opportunities to get links from local government websites, chambers of commerce, or the BBB. If you get these links, you’re going to see results in the local 3-pack more quickly.
The Organic Results
The time that it takes to establish established expertise, authority and trust will vary from market to market, but in our market, it takes around 6 months to 12 months to do so. This is what will lead results from SEO.
We are not in 2003 and SEO is not about “putting the right keywords on your page.” In 2018, SEO is about establishing expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (that is a link to the training guide Google gives to its search quality evaluators, just in case you have any doubts about the importance of E-A-T).
In order to establish E-A-T, you’ll probably need some sort of content strategy. Let’s take the example of the top-ranked divorce lawyers in NJ.
In the case of the search “divorce lawyers NJ,” we didn’t get a result for the front page of the law firm. Instead, we have a guide to getting started with divorce in the State of New Jersey. After millions of queries related to “divorce lawyers in _______,” Google has determined that people are more interested in obtaining information about divorce than they are interested in vetting lawyers.
Through natural language processing (NLP) and past user click data, Google has determined that this result best fills the needs of the searcher. As a result, this page receives anywhere from 1k-5k visitors a month. By creating a thorough guide to divorce in NJ and making it freely available through their website, this firm has likely generated hundreds of thousands—or potentially even millions—of dollars in revenue.
At the same time, the firm did not start nor stop with this guide. The site has written comprehensively about divorce, family law, and all of the topics that relate to it as it could identify. By thoroughly covering these topics and demonstrating user engagement through visitors that stayed on site, it successfully established expertise, authority, and trust. By doing this through dozens, or even hundreds of posts, your firm can send the signals to the search engine that you are able to better fill the needs of Google’s users than any other site.
#4 Why Do Law Firms Fail in Online Marketing and SEO?
The firm approaches SEO as a short-term strategy
SEO is like planting a fruit tree in your yard. Just like SEO, you may not get any fruit from the tree for six months to a couple years. If you need to feed your family now, you should get a professional to do PPC advertising on Google and Bing. Think of PPC like buying your fruit from the supermarket.
Many attorneys start SEO plans knowing that it may take 6-12 months before they see results, but still get cold feet after 4 months. They get nervous and stop everything before it gets a chance to get any momentum at all. This is the equivalent of stopping the watering of a tree before it bears any fruit, then believing that fruit can’t be grown in your yard.
The firm wastes time publishing blog content that no one needs or wants
One of the things that separate good SEOs from inexperienced SEOs is their approaches to content planning. A good SEO executes tactics to identify topics that the blog is likely to be able to rank for, while a bad one just writes content for content’s sake.
If no one is searching for a topic or if a topic has already been thoroughly covered by important publications, don’t waste your time. Adequate SEO research will help you to identify topics that you can potentially rank for and that people are actually interested in reading about. If you’re interested in seeing this process, we have a video showing how to find keywords for blog topics here.
#5 How Can Blog Posts Help Market My Law Firm?
Think of your blog posts as an infomercial on your services, an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and the benefits you can provide your clients. Blogging can be an extremely cost-effective way of getting your firm in front of prospective clients. It can also serve to establish you as an authority on the topics that most matter to your prospective clients and the engagement that you get on your blog posts can serve to send trust signals from your website to Google.
For example, a person researching criminal record expungement is demonstrating an implicit need for an attorney that is skilled in this area. By writing an engaging blog post that thoroughly explains the issue, your visitor will find your website and potentially reach out to you. Why perform a second search for “lawyer for expungement” if they’re already on the site of an attorney that can help them?
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