Content Marketing for Law Firms: A Best Practices Guide (Part 1: The Basics)

divider

For thousands of years, humans have used the written word to tell stories, express ideas and communicate perspectives. It’s no wonder then that content plays a substantial role from a marketing standpoint. Nowadays, content marketing is the number one way that you can capture new clients and bring traffic to your website to increase awareness of your firm.

That’s why we’ve created this two-part guide — to help you ensure that you know what content is key, and how to build a strategy that ensures your firm’s success.

This is part 1 of the guide, in which we’ll go over the basics of what content marketing is and how to implement a successful strategy. In part 2 , we go into specifics of how to market specific types of content.

What does content marketing consist of?

Content marketing is a broad topic, so before getting too deeply involved in how to approach your marketing strategy, we’ll give an overview of what content marketing entails. The main aspects of online marketing are: websites, blogs, SEO, pay-per-click advertising, social media, and press releases. We explain these basics a bit more below.

Websites

At this stage, everyone knows what a website is and does. Your website is simply your internet presence for your firm.

Most websites include biographical data, practice areas, firm information, resources, and, of course, ways to contact the firm. Our standard site structure includes:

  • Home
  • About Us
  • Practice Areas
  • Attorneys
  • Resources
  • Contact

Of course, there are variations on all those. You could make the site friendlier with titles like “Our Firm,” “Our People,” or “Our Resources.” You could make the site more specific by not stating “Practice Areas,” but stating “Criminal Law” and then listing sub practices under that. In any event, a simple site goes over your firm’s basics.

Blogs

Most people know what a blog is, but for those that do not, a blog is a webpage made up of short, frequently updated posts that are arranged chronologically, like a journal. Blogs rank high in search engine results and give your firm a great internet presence.

In the law firm realm, blogs are typically focused on a specific legal topic such as real estate, construction law, zoning, medical malpractice, or even just on juries. Pick a topic and write only on that topic area. Provide insightful news, updates, case history, issues, and theory about that practice area. Have a voice, say something interesting and benefit from the increased reputation.The objective is to establish your expertise by offering useful information.

Search Engine Optimization

The goal of search engine optimization, or SEO, is to get your website or blog ranked on the first page ofGoogle’s search results. Google provides almost all search results (90% or more), so they are the 800-pound gorilla. Rank high in Google and you will see an increase in inquiries. Rank high for your specific practice areas and you will see an increase in your business.

SEO typically includes: keyword phrase research, analytics, competitor analysis, website checks, on-page optimization, off-page link building, and reporting. It also involves helping the client convert top rankings into actual clients through a better designed website.

PayPerClick Advertising

Pay-per-click, or PPC, also falls under the Search Engine Marketing umbrella and is tied closely to SEO. However, with PPC, you are specifically paying (or sponsoring) an advertisement on Google and other search engines. These days, you can sponsor a variety of ad types, from banner to text to even video!

Simply put, a basic PPC campaign includes writing a creative ad that draws attention, setting your spending limit, setting your geographic area limit, setting your budget, and inserting what keyword phrases you want to bid on. Easy!

Social Media Marketing

A solid social media presence on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram is increasingly important for content marketing success.

To get started, create accounts on these platforms, link up with known colleagues, friends and family. From there, you’ll p

ost interesting ideas and content to increase your following..

Press Releases / Newsletters / RSS

A good way of getting your name out is still through press releases. Basically, this entails creating a solid press release, syndicating it to PRWeb.com and other online providers, and seeing your name pop up in the search results and on other websites.

Key Considerations When Building Your Content Marketing Plan

Before you start developing and implementing your content marketing plan, there are some key questions you should ask yourself about what you want to achieve and how to do it effectively. We address those essential questions below.

How Should I Position My Law Firm?

The answer to this question is simple: find a niche and dominate it. Good marketing is exclusionary. Good marketing develops a central theme or message that you communicate in all media and platforms.

Are you the dominant intellectual property lawyer in your area? Better yet, are you the dominant patent attorney? Or even better, are you the go-to resource for biotech patents?

By another example, you are a plaintiff’s lawyer. But what do you really want to focus on? Do you want to focus on accidents? How about getting more specific with car accidents? Or even a super niche on vehicle rollovers?

Picking a niche and setting up your web presence based on that niche will allow you to build a strategy to gain online authority, relevance, and trust. Yes, you can do other things, but get known for one thing. The best types of online marketing are niche. The more focused, the better.

How do I get new clients?

Use your content to educate and provide information that helps answer people’s questions. Our most successful clients provide education to their clients via their web sites, blogs and social media. Some examples of information that these clients provide:

  • Practice Specifics
    • Quick Lists
    • How To Guides
    • General Practice Info(g.personal Injury)
    • Specific Practice Info(g.medical malpractice, dog bites, and even more specific areas)
    • News in that practice area
    • Videos
    • Newsletters
    • Testimonials & results in that practice area
  • Firm bios that tie in specifically to the practice – proof that you do what you say through your biography
  • Frequent blogs on the practice topic
  • Interactions on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media

Once you have built a solid foundation of useful content, make sure you remain accessible for follow-up questions and further interaction, whether it’s via email, tweets, or contact forms. Prompt follow-up is important. Getting clients to your website is not just a matter of “If you build it, they will come,” but rather, “If you build it, they will come – and that’s when you make sure to engage them and start a relationship.”

How much should I spend?

This is a tough one. We have seen clients build brands on boot-strap budgets of $1,000 or less. Typically, they focus on blogs, article writing, social media, and in-kind hosting/web sites from their clients who are techies.

They do all the work themselves and are basically their own web masters and internet marketers. They set up their websites, blogs, write all their own content, and interact with link building and social media. They trade their time for cost savings. Typically, these are our self-starter clients. (In fact, that is how PaperStreet built its business initially.)

On the other hand, I have seen clients spend $100,000 or more per year. For their money, they get slick, in-depth, professionally run campaigns. They take months to correctly set up and execute, hence the large price.

Typically, our clients spend around $10,000 a year starting out, and easily recoup those costs with more and more client inquiries.

How much time will this take?

For you do-it-yourselfers, you could end up spending a lot of time building your online presence. If you are doing it all by yourself (i.e. website, blog, hosting, social media, SEO and PPC) then you probably are going to devote many hours per week – perhaps 5 to 10 hours per week to manage everything.

If you are using a company, then you are trading time for money. Pick a company that fits your needs and budget, and that has experience in your area. Some companies can do it all; some companies focus on a specific category, such as optimization or pay-per-click.

When will I see results?

Most internet marketing is not instant. Usually, there is a ramp-up time of 30 to 60 days to build your platform and brand. Then, depending on the medium you choose, time can vary, depending on what you are focusing on.

For a new website’s SEO to become evolved,, it could take 60 to 180 days or more, depending on the practice area and competition. Niche areas are easier to obtain a top ranking for. More competitive areas could take longer. Bottom line, you really will not see a large increase in traffic until you are on the first page of search results and in the top of the rankings.

In terms of PPC, paid sponsorships are actually pretty instant. They are comparable to yellow page advertising, except that you can really track the leads and spending. A sponsored campaign should begin delivering leads almost immediately once it is set up properly (i.e. within days or the first week). There may be some testing involved to get the right mix of spending and ads, but usually that is worked out well within the first month, or typically the first week.

A solid social media presence takes time, but that amount of time really depends on the following and networks you already have on other platforms. First, listen to the community you are involved with. Once you have a vibe on the situation, including types of questions and responses, THEN begin communicating and commenting. Provide insightful advice. Build a following on a niche topic. Become the go-to resource that covers everything for that topic. The more you put into the communication, the better rewards you will have.

When it comes to your website and blog, you can see results within weeks.If you have enough resources on your site, you will begin to dominate in the search results and become a recommended link from other sites. The more resources you have, typically the quicker your ascent to the all important first page of search results.

Why should I do this now?

If you don’t start now, your competitors will and they will be ahead of the game. There is a definite learning curve to building a correct site, blog, social media, SEO, and PPC campaign.

How to Approach Content Strategy

Now that you understand the basics of what content marketing is and how to approach it, let’s get into the next step: actually building your content strategy.

Note: Slides are taken from a presentation that our Founder, Pete, gave at the UnProgram for the Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys. For the full presentation, click here. .

In our experience, we have learned that successful content marketing requires strategy, foresight, and organization.

If you do not have a content plan in place to publish regularly, then your site will become stagnant, especially when compared to the top firms in your field. This means that you are figuring out what content to create/reuse, how and when you will be publishing, who your audience is, and what your objectives are.

Importantly, you need evergreen content. Evergreen content is content that can be reused and does not expire. As mentioned earlier, your strategy should be to focus on your key practice area and become the resource on the topic.  Evergreen content examples can be:

  1. Articles that Provide Direction – Create “How To” articles that are maintained and don’t grow old (Ex: How to file/respond to patent claims)
  2. Studies – Studies on specific areas of law or changes in the law (e.g.: Timeline of changes to a specific law or case history).
  3. Lists – Resource lists for a particular practice area (ex: In-depth list of all product recalls)
  4. Tools – Utilize tools or calculators for specific practice areas (e.g.: Child Support Calculator)
  5. Artwork – Try creating infographics and timelines of events

Content Checklist

To help you ensure you have all the foundational content for successful online marketing, here’s a list of the content you should have for your website.

  • Home Page Copy: At the very least, your home page should have the following content:
    • Main Area
      1. Tagline
      2. Headline
      3. Key Benefits
      4. Call to Action
      5. Imagery that ties into your tagline, headline or key benefits
    • Content Area
      1. News / Blog
      2. Practice Areas
      3. Recent Cases
      4. Testimonials, if allowed
      5. Attorney List or Highlights
    • Practice Content: You should be updating your practice areas regularly. Turn each practice area into a portal of information.
      • Include links, resources, blog posts, announcements, etc.
    • Blog: A regularly updated blog is one of the most important facets of your website. Regardless of the approach, have a way of publishing.
      • Set up a Content Plan for regular blogging (daily, weekly, monthly).
      • Set up your blog by Practice Group.
      • Get social with your blog (more on social media below). Link up to a variety of blogs and follow them.
      • Post regularly. Set defined times when you will write and cover big ideas and news.
      • Note: The problem with traditional blogging is that good content gets buried. Sure, it can be found via search, but the casual browser of your site is not going to find the best pieces that you wrote several years ago.  Instead, you need to curate your content.
        1. Your best content should always be available. Your best content should be curated into topics, categories and sections, with a plan for each client to easily digest.

7

  • Press Releases
    • Create interesting content and publish a regular newsletter to your clients and other attorneys. You would be surprised at how often they are forwarded if you provide good quality info.
    • Syndicate your blog and web site content via RSS (Real Simple Syndication). This allows your content to be picked up in readers and even placed on other web sites with links back.
    • Create separate PR releases for SEO, journalists, syndication, and for your content. Do it regularly each month on your most pressing topics.
  • Firm Biographies
    • Contact Info
    • Photo
    • Education
    • Practice Areas / Industries
    • Key Awards
    • Personality – something that makes your bio interesting
  • About Us Pages
    • Tell your story. Better yet, tell your benefits.
  • Practice Pages / Industry Pages.
    • Tie in your content to your attorneys, blogs, and other pages.
  • Contact Info.
    • Every Page should have your contact info.

SEO

Once you have your content, you’ll then want to think about how to optimize it for SEO. Understanding and implementing a solid SEO strategy is one of the most cost-effective ways to obtain new clients — typical SEO plans can get you ranked high in as little as 90 days. To help you get your SEO plan in place, here’s a checklist you can follow. (For more on SEO, see our how-to guide.)

  • Keyword Research: Make sure you are targeting the correct phrases from the start.
  • On-Page Optimization
    • Site Structure Organization
    • Title Tags
    • Headlines
    • Meta Description
    • Footer Tags
    • Content
    • Internal Linking
  • Link Building Plan: Make sure you have a plan to be linked from as many possible sites.
  • Directory Purchase Plan: Consider purchasing high quality directories such as Yahoo.com, Business.com, BOTW.org, Avvo.com, Martindale, Findlaw.com, HG.org, Justia.com, and others.
  • Fast Loading Site: Google does factor in the load speed of your site. Make sure you have proper web site architecture.
  • Architecture: Make sure your web site is built on a solid platform that allows for title tags, page names, and ability to post content.
  • Analytics
  • Consider Conversion Rate Optimization to improve inquiries once they reach your web site.
  • Write, write, and write some more.
    • Write interesting articles that relate to your practice. Remember: the goal of SEO is to have the most and the best content in a specific area.

Pay-Per-Click

As discussed earlier on, PPC is a great way of boosting traffic to your website, especially when you are building out your online presence. To succeed on this front, you can try the following actions.

  • Start with Google AdWords, then set up:
    • Your campign
    • AdGroups
    • Keyword Phrases by AdGroup
    • Text Ads with Keyword Phrase contained within
  • Create specific landing pages for each of your keyword phrases. Track all the clicks and optimize your campaign on a daily basis for results.

Social Media

In addition to publishing your content directly on your website, you will also want to share it on social media. After you’ve set up your social media accounts, you’ll want to create a regular schedule for posting — whether it’s once every week, or every day, consistent posting will help you build your social media following and bring more traffic to your website.

And don’t forget to be social after posting — interacting with people’s comments will not only boost your posts’ visibility, but will help build online rapport with your followers and clients.

Email and Newsletters

Although email has been around for a while, it’s still a relevant and important facet content marketing strategy. It is the most direct line to clients, is voluntary (so you get more quality traffic), and typically brings higher ROI than other marketing channels.

Quality email marketing requires building a compliant list, making a schedule, writing engaging copy, and testing your results. For more on successful email marketing, see our best practices guide.

Implement The LAW HUB

4

Remember, your content needs to educate. It needs to inform users, set you apart, and provide information to potential clients. Once you are set out as an industry leader, people will seek you out long-term, either through referrals or search. It needs to be the portal about your practice. You need a LAW HUB of information.

6

Your site should be about your core practice area.  Stop writing about me, me and me.  Yes, you need to have information about your firm and biographies, but do not make that the feature.  Instead, focus on how your firm services a particular industry or practice area.

Dominate your area with all available information online.  Become the resource topic. Have multiple, competing groups?  Great, you can break your practice groups into various sections and have detailed information on each, but stop focusing the website on “Me” content.  Instead, focus on the client issues and how you can solve them.

Create a Publishing Plan

So, you’ve got your content, but do you have it organized? In order to make sure your content is succeeding, you need a set plan for yearly, quarterly, monthly and weekly articles. We suggest creating a calendar on a platform like Google Sheets to share amongst teams. That way, they can add their ideas and give their eye to any content created.

You need at least one yearly research project, four quarterly pieces to bolster your central topic, monthly articles that are planned out and weekly posts as needed.

Part of this plan can include repurposing content that you already have, making it more suitable for certain formats like Instagram or emails.

The Future of Marketing is Changing

8

The firms who simply put up a static website about their firm, practice, bios and a few blog posts will fail online from a content marketing standpoint. Content marketing is not just about you.  It is about resources the firm provides, for free, to the public.  You need to set yourself apart as an industry resource.  Firms that invest in publishing worthwhile information will succeed.

5 Common Content Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Your content needs to sell, otherwise, there’s no point. Yet, many firms make mistakes that lead to lower conversion rates. Below are 5 common content marketing mistakes and how to avoid them.

Beating Around the Bush

It can be tempting to elaborate. One of the toughest challenges writers face is taming the urge to be verbose. While a flowery, poetic style may work (to an extent) when drafting creative copy, it will almost certainly backfire when composing copy for marketing purposes.

If you take too long to relay your intended message, you will lose the reader’s attention. When it comes to content marketing, adopt a “less is more” approach. Avoid long-winded copy by focusing on one point instead of jamming too many ideas into one page. Be clear and concise to ensure you get the point across without resorting to generalities. Let the reader know why they should purchase the product or service and how exactly said product or service can help them.

Knowing and connecting with your audience are key to successful content marketing.

Failing to Connect With the Audience

Your content may be teeming with all the bells and whistles that glorify your product or service, but if it doesn’t speak to the reader, your efforts are in vain. Your copy needs to establish a real connection with the potential customer or client. Instead of making the advertiser or product the focus of the copy, spotlight the actual buyer. Create a relationship with your audience by identifying with their needs, goals and concerns, and providing real solutions they can relate to. Aim your message at the prospective customer and speak to them from their point of view.

Offering No Clear Benefit

The point of content marketing is to ultimately encourage a potential buyer or client to purchase a product or retain a service. Just as you wouldn’t buy a product based solely off of its “cool factor,” you wouldn’t hire someone just because they tell you to.

Your copy needs to convey a clear benefit, convincing readers that you understand their concerns, will address their needs and most importantly, will get them favorable results. The benefit acts as an incentive, informing the potential buyer or client of what you can do for them specifically and motivating them to purchase your product or retain your services. By highlighting the benefit off the bat, you’ll offer a reason to continue reading and ultimately, a reason to buy.

Poor Content Organization

We’ve all seen advertisements that are all over the place. The purpose of the copy is lost amid an endless sea of unintelligible jargon that bounces from one topic to another with no clear resolution. Those kinds of ads don’t lead to conversions. Why?

Copy should always have a logical order or flow. One of the most successful ways to ensure this is to break up copy into sections using headers. Headers serve as an intro or summary to the point you are about to convey and make the copy easier to read overall. Begin with headers that describe the product or service and its benefits, elaborate on those points with supporting details and finish with a strong closing argument.

No Call to Action

Because a copywriter is essentially a salesperson, it’s important to understand that the copy itself needs to sell – bottom line. The point of content marketing isn’t to be informative, it’s to generate sales. Even if you’ve created clear, compelling content that speaks to the reader and offers benefits, it won’t make a difference unless you make the sale. That’s where the call to action (CTA) comes into play. The CTA can vary, with examples like “call us” or “buy now.” However, it should always provide a reason to do so, such as saving money or time.

By creating copy with the actual prospect in mind, bringing their needs and concerns to the forefront and effectively explaining how your product or service can benefit them, you’ll make a solid claim and be on your way to securing the sale.

Establish a Solid Content Marketing Foundation

There’s a lot involved in building up a successful content strategy. From understanding what is needed, to planning your content and schedule, to publishing and building your following, there are lots of steps to get right.

While it’s certainly possible to do this internally if you have the right expertise, you may want to ensure you’re covering all your bases for long-term success. Here at PaperStreet, our team has the know-how and skills to create a relevant, effective, and sustainable content marketing plan for your firm. Contact us today to learn more.

For Part 2 of this guide, which covers specific management of content such as videos and publications, click here.

 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*