Over the last several months, I have seen many Google+ posts, blogs and a few Google Hangout discussions by Michael Ehline and other members of The Circle of Legal Trust dealing with how to improve your results “post Penguin”. Clearly, Penguin (and Panda before it) impacted a number of legitimate law firm websites that had attempted to play by the rules. While this remains a very important issue, I believe it is worthwhile to take a step back and concentrate on some basics. I have tried to identify a few simple things that you can control, which will help you generate more leads and more cases. Consequently, my focus today is on the fundamentals.
- Online Chat – We have found that this is the single best lead generation and conversion tool for our clients. Not only do we see a higher percentage of conversions from website visitors to leads with clients who use online chat, our clients report that their chat leads are of higher quality and generate more high-value cases than webform and phone leads alone. Many attorneys use NGage for online chat. NGage offers a great service and charges $35 per lead. Page 1’s online chat costs only $12 per lead. If you are spending a lot on chat, you might want to consider cutting that cost by 66%.
- Tracking Phone Numbers – One of the best things about the web is that almost everything is “track-able”. You should be spending time digging into your Google Analytics data to see where your visitors are coming from and what they are doing once they get on your website. If you are not doing that, you are surely missing many opportunities. Beyond that, you should be tracking leads separately from each individual online lead source. It is easy to see which site a webform email or online chat lead came from. Unfortunately, many law firms use the same phone number for all their online marketing (and sometimes all of the firm’s marketing). The problem with this is that you have no way of knowing which online asset generated the lead. If you are running organic and paid search campaigns, you need to know the ROI of each. If you use multiple websites, you need to know which ones are generating your phone leads. If you have listings in directories, you need to know which investment is paying off. Unless you have tracking phone numbers, you are missing out on that information.
- Multiple Website Strategy – I can’t stress enough how important this one is. Start with your primary site as your foundation. It is the hub. Then start developing niche satellite websites. You should have a specialty site for each practice area and each distinct geographic area. Ideally, you use keyword-rich exact-match domains (preferably without hyphens). Think of your leads as a river. If all of your leads are coming from a single source, you have a narrow river. But if you have leads coming from lots of little streams and creeks that all flow into the river, pretty soon the river overflows its banks and becomes the Mighty Mississippi. In addition, you have the ability to link to your primary website from each minisite.
- Keyword-Specific Domains – While Google has made an effort to reduce the impact of Exact-Match Keyword-Specific domains on the search results, all of their efforts have been directed towards exact-match domains that lack meaningful content. Our data continues to show exceptional results for exact-match keyword-specific domains that contain original content that adds value to consumers who are looking for information. Assuming that you provide content with real value to your prospective clients, exact-match domains actually get a boost in Google’s search results because they tell Google and the consumer what the website is all about.
- Reoptimization Strategy – We all get fixated on writing more blog posts and adding more pages to our websites. There are many good reasons to do that, but don’t forget your existing content. The pages that have been online for one or two or three years or more already have equity. Check to see if those pages are ranking for their target search phrases. If one of your internal pages is on page 3 of Google’s search results for your target search phrase, read the page and check the meta data. See if you can figure out why Google doesn’t rank it higher. It is true that it could be an external linking issue, but it might also be that by a slight reworking of the content on that page – making it more empathetic, adding in a couple of extra instances of the target search phrase might move that listing from page 3 of the SERPS to page 1. You can do the same exercise to improve a page that is ranking at the bottom of page 1 and push it into one of the top listings where you are more likely to get more click throughs.
- Database Marketing – We all talk about search and social media, but think about it, email is still the number one thing that people do online and on their smart phones. How often during the day do you check your email? Guess what, your clients may not be as neurotic as you are (or at least as I am…), but they probably check email a lot. Everybody who has contacted your law firm should be in your email database. Clients, prospects, referring attorneys. Everybody! Then, set up a regular system to communicate with them. Think TOMA: Top of Mind Awareness. Your clients may not realize that you handle defective drug lawsuits, but if you let them know that you are investigating a dangerous drug or defective medical device through an email newsletter, they will know and they will go directly to you before doing an online search because they know you and they trust you. Many Page 1 clients get repeat business from enewsletters. Beyond that, many of your clients have friends and family members who have potential claims. If you stay Top of Mind, they are more likely to mention you when one of their friends or family members mentions his or her problems. It is simple. To start, all you need to do is collect email addresses from everyone. You can do it yourself with ConstantContact or ResultsMail or you can use a template system like http://www.letamericaknow.com/.
- Customize Your Thankyou Page – This is really simple, but very effective. Add a personal heart-felt video on your Thanks page. Use the video or content on the Thanks page to encourage people to visit other areas of your website. Your goal should be to create a personal connection. I see many people visit multiple sites and send multiple attorneys the same inquiry. You want to stop them in their tracks once they send you an inquiry. A Thankyou page video could do just that.
- Autoresponder – Don’t stop with a customized Thanks page. Send an autoresponder. Make sure it is empathetic. Assure your prospective client that you will be following up with a phone call as soon as possible. Make her feel that she has been heard and that she is your number one priority.
- Content –The best attorney marketers focus on their clients’ needs and goals rather than their own. This means that you need to look at your website – content, graphics, videos, everything from the perspective of your client. If you were a prospective client and you were going through a traumatic experience such as a serious accident or the death of a spouse, how would you perceive your law firm’s website. How many times have you visited an attorney’s website and seen the same thing: Experience. Results. Resources. Multimillion dollar verdicts and settlements. SuperLawyers. Best Lawyers in America… etc. Think about this from your own perspective when you are looking to buy something. Almost every law firm is beating their chest to prove how great they are. What’s missing? The client…. Obviously, you want experienced lawyers who get results. And I do believe that you should highlight your experience and your results and credentials, but it should always be in the context of how you help your clients. Read through the copy of your website. How frequently do you say “I” or “we” instead of “you”. To a prospective client, your credentials, experience and results are features (and it is hard for a lay person to evaluate those things). Your goal should be to find ways to set yourself apart by emphasizing your focus and commitment to each client. Think value and benefits from the perspective of your prospective client reading your website. Prospective clients are also interested in empathy and convenience. Video is a great way to communicate those things and, ideally, you should have your clients singing your praises in video testimonials rather than you staring into the camera while you proudly tick off your credentials. Communicate empathy by having an existing happy client tell how you listen and how well you communicated with them throughout the entire case. Tell your prospective client that you will come to her house or her hospital room because you know that she is going through a lot right now.