Insider Digital Marketing News: How To Keep Your Law Firm Relevant On The Internet

The Firmidable team in Las Vegas: We went deep into a major digital marketing conference gathering intelligence on how lawyers can succeed online.

Experts at a leading digital marketing conference recently explained at least four current developments on the internet that impact how law firms attract clients online.

Few lawyers were in attendance. But Firmidable was there.

We take extraordinary measures to stay on top of the ever-changing web and apply what we learn to help law firms grow. This includes sending everyone from our accounts, digital and creative departments—11 people in all—to the international marketing technology conference Pubcon in Las Vegas in October.

The Firmidable team heard directly from leaders of Google and many other top digital companies about what works right now in digital marketing—allowing us to share with you what it means for legal marketing.

Consider these four points:

No. 1: Google My Business Is Your Law Firm’s New Homepage

This is how fast the internet moves: Prospects don’t even have to reach your website anymore before they find enough information to decide whether to call your firm.

Or at least, Google now provides a way for attorneys to reach clients that fast—if you take advantage of it.

You do this by making sure your listing is complete in Google My Business (GMB).

A Google My Business listing is like a mini website that appears alongside search results. It’s the first thing people will see on a smartphone, even before they scroll down to the link for your website. On a desktop screen, it appears to the right of your website link.

This box features your firm name, contact information, business hours, photos and questions from clients. And very prominently, it shows the average star rating you’re getting in Google reviews.

Greg Gifford, vice president of search at the Wikimotive automotive marketing firm, told a Pubcon audience that this has become the place where lawyers (and everyone) can make their first impression online.

People don’t even have to leave a page of search results before contacting you. Gifford called GMB a “zero-click search.”

But if clients see less than four stars next to your firm name, Gifford said, you’re in trouble. They’ll go to the firm down the street. (More on managing your reviews in the next section.)

A key insight from Pubcon was that Google keeps expanding what’s included in GMB listings and putting more emphasis on them. So Gifford said, “If users aren’t going to visit your site, you should use everything you can,” to grab their attention with GMB.

Having a solid GMB profile is also a factor Google uses to decide which websites to show people who are searching for lawyers more broadly, not by name, in a local area.

From 2017 to 2018, Gifford said, GMB increased by 32% as a ranking factor in local search results.

No. 2: Your Law Firm Needs a Reputation Management Program

Online reviews have been around a long time. The difference today is that you must have a strategy to manage them, otherwise you could lose more than just a star or two your rating.

If your reviews are plentiful and strong, Google is more likely to show your website to people searching for attorneys in the first place.

Once those prospects find you, they are much more likely in recent years to pay attention to your reviews and be persuaded to call your firm—or to move on to the next firm.

So the time has come to get a sophisticated reputation management program for your law firm.

You can’t completely control what people say about you on the internet. But you can cultivate good reviews and calibrate your responses, shaping the impression future clients get when they see your ratings from past clients.

“Reputation management is really a modern-day extension of successful branding in the new online world,” said Matt Craine, a digital marketing consultant, at Pubcon.

The tone you use when you respond to reviews matters to clients, Craine said. Like your brand itself, it tells them who you are.

Never, ever, ever “call out” a reviewer or plant fake reviews, said Erin Jones, founder of RepBright, an online reputation management consulting firm. Doing this will only give you more problems.

Damon Gochneaur, founder of the Aspiro digital marketing agency, suggested you get someone not tied to your revenue stream to handle responding to reviews.

This is because you need to keep your calm. You have to realize these reviews are not personal.

“If you wrestle the pig,” Gochneaur said, “everyone gets muddy.”

No. 3: Using Schema Gives Your Law Firm a Competitive Advantage

You might be asking, “What is schema?”

Schema is code embedded in your website that explains to search engines what your site is about—so they can do a better job sending the right people to you.

This code itself isn’t a new invention. The thing is, as we gathered at Pubcon, many websites fail to take advantage of schema. This gives you an opportunity to outmaneuver your competitors right now.

According to Schema.org, a group that promotes the use of schema across the internet, millions of websites use it—but that’s still a tiny portion of all sites.

So if you tend to your schema, but a competing law firm ignores it, you could be more successful getting new clients onto your site and into your firm.

Having the right schema, for example, can prompt Google to feature an answer from your website at the top of a page of search results, according to a Pubcon presentation from William Slawski, director of search engine optimization (SEO) research at the Go Fish Digital marketing firm.

And as technologies like voice search (think Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant) take greater hold, schema code stands to play a growing role.

SEO guru Eric Enge, general manager of the Perficient Digital marketing company, explained at Pubcon that schema code from websites (potentially your website) is starting to drive the answers that smart speakers give to users.

No. 4: Having a “Mobile-First” Law Firm Website Now Impacts Whether Clients Will Find You at All

You probably don’t need to be told how important it is for your website to work seamlessly on mobile devices. Mobile has been steadily growing its share of web searches for years.

By 2019, 60 percent of all Google searches are coming from mobile devices, according to a rundown from the online advertising firm WordStream. And 65 percent of paid search advertising clicks, in Google Ads, happen on mobile.

Here’s the part that is news: If your new website is optimized for mobile, Google will officially rank it higher in search results than a competitor with a site still tethered to a desktop screen.

Google kept saying this switch was coming. Now, it’s officially here.

Pubcon speaker Brian McDowell, principal digital strategist at the software company BloomReach, Inc., noted the momentous occasion by quoting a seemingly non-descript line tucked into a blog post for Google webmasters in May 2019:

“Mobile-first indexing will be enabled by default for all new, previously unknown to Google Search, websites starting July 1, 2019.”

The Google expert who wrote that announcement went on to say, “We’re happy to see how the web has evolved from being focused on desktop to becoming mobile-friendly,” so Google can now place top priority on crawling mobile sites.

The web has evolved indeed.

If your law firm evolves with it, you’ll get an edge over competitors and maximize your effectiveness at bringing in new clients.

An entire support team, one that stays on top of all the digital trends, is available to help you: Firmidable. We’re a law firm marketing agency that combines digital marketing and legal marketing like nobody else.

If you want to make sure your digital legal marketing is running at peak performance and generating revenue, talk to us today.

Firmidable has been a national expert in legal marketing for almost 30 years. It brings law firms customized, data-driven marketing strategies and services, including online and traditional media for a wide range of legal practices. From Maine to Hawaii, it has transformed the lives of attorneys—and their clients.

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About the Author: Mark Waller

Mark WallerMark Waller is Writer/Editor at Firmidable.

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