Law firm marketing involves a wide variety of online and offline activities but – these days – its mainly online and its mainly about generating traffic. But is that endless pursuit of more traffic to your law firm site the way forward?
LexBlog’s Cara McDonald has written in a piece on AbovetheLaw about online marketing and the quest for traffic to law firm sites by making a highly controversial but pertinent statement:
“Stop driving traffic to your website”. Can that be correct?
Cara McDonald – Lexblog – Total heresy, right? This is marketing 101; you spend lots of money to drive people to your website. We want more traffic! If there were a marketing camp (and I totally wish there was), this would be one of our fight songs.
But, depending on what you’re selling, driving traffic to your website might not be a very good goal. It’s so easy to get caught up in the numbers game of continually increasing those traffic numbers. You must be doing something right if those numbers are going up and up. Right?
What Are You Really After?
But let’s stop and think for a moment. What are you really after? More traffic? More leads? More clients? My personal vote is for more clients. Even better, more of the right type of clients (see my post on how to get more of those, here). So my question to you is, what is so incredibly awesome on your website that you want everyone to go there so desperately?
These are the things I hear most often—more information about your products and services, more information about your lawyers, your contact information so they can call you, your amazing blog, products and services they can trial and/or buy on the spot with e-commerce options.
If you’re selling a product like software, cookies, widgets or basketballs and people can buy that product from your website or at least get a free trial, then yep, you have a good reason to get people to your website—it’s a sales channel for you. Go forth and drive people there.
However, if you’re in professional services, like law, what are you selling? Your people. What’s on your website that really sells them? If you’re thinking it’s your blog(s), you’re right. That’s the one place where your experts demonstrate their skills week in and week out. Their expertise is on display and their voice is clear. It’s fresh and compelling.
So if this blog is the best selling tool you have, why are you burying it inside of a boring digital brochure? Your website, while I’m sure is beautiful and you spend countless hours making sure the branding, copy and pictures are spot on, is nonetheless, a marketing property.
If you want your blog to be not considered marketing, you would be better off keeping it separate from your website. You can link to your website so that those who want to learn more about you (I’m sure there’s a nice page on your site that says where you went to school and other important tidbits) can do that.
And maybe they can fill out a contact form so they can get in touch while they’re there. Or you can just put that stuff on your blog and save them the extra step.
State Bars of California Decrees that Blogs in Websites are “Advertising”
In fact, the State Bar of California recently released an opinion that when a lawyer’s blog is inside the lawyer’s website, it is subject to the rules of advertising. When the blog is outside the website it is not. So California agrees that the blog looks more like advertising when it’s in the firm website. Here’s the exact legalese:
Under what circumstances is “blogging” by an attorney subject to the requirements and restrictions of the Rules of Professional Conduct and related provisions of the State Bar Act regulating attorney advertising?
DIGEST: 1. Blogging by an attorney is subject to the requirements and restrictions of the Rules of Professional Conduct and the State Bar Act relating to lawyer advertising if the blog expresses the attorney’s availability for professional employment directly through words of invitation or offer to provide legal services, or implicitly through its description of the type and character of legal services offered by the attorney, detailed descriptions of case results, or both.
2. A blog that is a part of an attorney’s or law firm’s professional website will be subject to the rules regulating attorney advertising to the same extent as the website of which it is a part.
3. A stand-alone blog by an attorney that does not relate to the practice of law or otherwise express the attorney’s availability for professional employment will not become subject to the rules regulating attorney advertising simply because the blog contains a link to the attorney or law firm’s professional website.
92.4% of the Top 200 U.S. Law Firms Maintain Blogs Separately from their Websites
We’ve done some research lately into the top 200 law firms in the country. Am Law 200 firms host a whopping 960 blogs. These firms with big marketing teams and tons of lawyers to promote have figured out the key to elevating the online presence of their lawyers, and 92.4% keep their blogs separate from their websites.
What matters most for these top firms is that the content is good and viewed in an environment that is editorial by nature. We humans are skeptical creatures, especially when it comes to marketing. When the blog is inside the website, it just feels more like marketing and might not pass the authenticity sniff test.
Marketing isn’t a Straight Line
It’s easy to get lulled into thinking that marketing is strictly an equation—cause equals effect. In fact, as businesspeople we get sold this particular equation quite often. Advertise here and you’ll get 200 leads, put these keywords on your site and your traffic will increase by 200%. It’s a tantalizing story—it all sounds so easy. If it were that easy, we wouldn’t struggle so much with it.
Part of this tempting story is the idea that potential clients are engaging in a one-step buyer’s journey. They have a need, they hit up Google and voila, your website delivers them a lawyer perfectly match to their need. Problem solved, your website delivered. This does actually happen occasionally, which makes us all delusional that it could be the norm, if only we had more people coming to our website.
The real story is that marketing and building demand for your products and services is a long-term proposition. You have to build relationships and maintain those relationships over the long term. This is particularly true for those seeking legal services. The need for legal services ebbs and flows. Marketing teams at law firms have the distinct challenge of maintaining relationships with those who have no current need for their services.
This is where the blog comes in. It can build rapport and relationship with your potential client long before the “have need” stage. Then when the actual need arises, the attorney or firm is top of mind. The buyer has already gotten to know the lawyer as an expert in the space. This relationship building just doesn’t happen with the firm website.
The most important takeaway from this is to think about what your end goal is—do you want more traffic to your website? Or do you want more clients? If you’re blogging, getting your experts’ words, opinions and smarts out there in their own publication is the best way to drive business. Don’t hide all that greatness in a glossy digital brochure.
Cara McDonald (@caramcdonald24) is the Director of Marketing of LexBlog, which empowers lawyers to increase their visibility and accelerate business relationships online. With LexBlog’s help, legal professionals use their subject matter expertise to drive powerful business development through blogging and social media. Visit LexBlog.com.
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