21st Century Business Development: Firms Must Draw Clients in Through Savvy Internet Marketing
BY Chris Wilkerson
A successful 21st century law firm needs to be savvy at ecommerce. Firms will always get some business the old fashioned way, but how much business a firm will get will depend on how committed the firm is to getting it through the Internet.
More people are shopping for a greater variety of services online than ever and finding a lawyer is no different. Potential clients who need legal representation are likely to go to their computer, laptop and increasingly their smartphone or tablet to shop for a firm.
In order to take advantage of the masses looking for legal services by searching online, the first and most critical thing to do is maximize the number of people who find and visit a firm’s website.
There are three primary online marketing strategies that will help increase visibility and bring in more traffic that can be converted into clients: Local Search, Mobile Web and Organic Listings.
A recent survey of where people get information about local businesses shows that almost half the time people go to the Internet and more than a third of the time they use search engines.
People use the Internet to tell them about local businesses more than twice as often as they rely on word-of-mouth advice. Further, they use the web more than five times as often as they use television and radio.
These numbers will only grow as society becomes more technology savvy. Every local web search site will be important to a law firm’s marketing strategy. Law practices will need to be on Yelp, Google Places, City Search and even the online Yellow Pages. Other regional online guides will help too depending on the market.
Three websites publish useful listings for business services online: Localeze, Acxiom and InfoUSA. Each of these sites offers listing services that will help a law firm get recognized in a specific community.
It is important that the information shared on these sites is optimized for the specific service. Consistency in the information across all platforms is critical. Inconsistent information may look like multiple businesses to a search engine. It might not rank a firm as high in search results as it would have if the data had been the same on each listing.
On the business services listings, firms should fill out as many categories as are relevant to the practice. Certainly the company name, address and phone contact are important, but there will be other opportunities to share information about the business that the search will recognize. There will be an opportunity to post map directions, coupons, rich media, reviews, social sharing and more. All of this information needs to match perfectly across the various sites.
In the next couple of years, more people will access the Internet on mobile devices and tablets than through traditional desktop computers or even laptops. There are already more than 300 million smartphones in the United States.
The market is beginning to take off for online shopping through tablet computers and smartphones. Retailers are setting up online shops to move products from clothing and flowers to groceries and cars. Business services will not be far behind.
It will be easier to set up a mobile-ready site for law firms than it was for retailers because legal services are more focused information than a shipped product. Law firms will not need the same technology for monetary transfer that can make mobile sites expensive to set up.
Right now, the landscape for mobile-friendly law firm sites is sparse. This is an opportunity for market-savvy law firms to get on a mobile platform and own the medium in their community while their competition plays catch-up down the road.
The most critical strategy for guiding potential clients to a company’s website is the practice of optimizing for organic listings. Clients will find law firms who have optimized their site so that it appears when they do a search.
Clients will compare one law firm with another on their computers, laptops or smartphones. They will compare one firm’s attorney bios and practice areas with another firm. The only firms that will even make it into this contest are the ones that come up in the client’s search.
Thus, it is important for firms that have multiple offices in a city or throughout a state or region to create and optimize local landing pages for each distinct office. This will help attract Google and other search engine's bots to rank each office separately and aid clients in finding the right office in their preferred location.
Also, a firm’s website must be optimized page by page with Local Title tags, Keyword Meta tags and Local Description tags. From there, the site must locally optimize content with local keyword anchor text, breadcrumbs (or showing a user where he or she is relative to the structure of the website) and headline tags. Even the ALT tags on images need to be locally optimized.
Firms can use schema.org to leverage html tags that will markup a firm’s page for greater recognition in searches. This markup provides search engines the structured data that they need to understand what the firm does and bring it to a relevant client in a search.
Optimizing a firm’s website and mobile site for map marketing will help bring in local clients who shop for services using online mapping. This customer segment could include elderly or special needs clients who need to find a law firm close to home or near public transportation options.
A commitment to these three strategies will put a law firm at a competitive advantage as potential clients search for the best firm for their legal needs. Effective implementation of these strategies on a high-quality website will turn visitors into firm clients.
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