If you feel like your business is shooting in the dark when it comes to content marketing for lawyers, you aren’t alone; it turns out that overall, attorneys are not doing a great job at producing high-quality content that appeals to their audiences and results in more client business coming through the door.
In one study comparing the content marketing efforts of the 100 largest US law firms and the largest US accounting firms (as determined by American Lawyer Media and Inside Public Accounting, respectively), BuzzSumo and Infinite Global determined that the accounting powerhouses significantly outperformed law firms—even if you removed “the Big Four” accounting firms (PwC, Deloitte, EY, and KPMG) from the comparison.
To compare just one metric of content marketing success—the number of shares per blog article—accounting firms achieved an average of 131 content shares, versus an average of 27 on the legal marketing side. While the top 100 law firms were more successful on LinkedIn compared to the other social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Google+) they still only experienced 20 LinkedIn shares on average compared to 52 shares per piece of content for the accounting giants.
It is time to face the facts: content marketing for lawyers has to improve if they want to achieve a significant return on investment (ROI) in the form of increased brand strength and recognition, and most importantly, more clients. In this guide, we will be highlighting how attorneys can create better legal marketing content based on data, research, and James Attorney Marketing & Attorney Marketing’s decades of industry experience.
How to Define Success: A Brief Word About Content Marketing For Lawyers & Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Before we launch into the best content marketing strategies for law firms, it is important to mention how to define success in the context of “successful content marketing for lawyers,” and how your law firm can assess the effectiveness of your current content marketing strategy as well as the effectiveness of future efforts.
There are many ways to determine the success of a single piece of content and of a comprehensive content marketing strategy—these are called key performance indicators, or KPIs. A few KPIs include:
- The number of shares on social media and via email
- The number of reviews and citations from reputable sites
- The number of comments on a piece of content
- Website visitors (new and/or returning)
- Time spent on a webpage
- Conversion rate: the percentage of visitors who provide their contact information to download a piece of content, or who opt into your email list
In the study conducted by BuzzSumo, content marketing success was determined by assessing a single KPI—shares on social media—among law firms and accounting firms in order to easily compare apples to apples, so to speak. However, content marketing success for attorneys oftentimes encompasses a combination of several KPIs. For example, a personal injury law firm may consider a blog article successful if it receives hundreds of shares on social media, attracts 1,000 website visitors, and leads to 10 new leads and 2 new clients.
Tip: Learn more about marketing vanity metrics to beware of (and 3 to focus on instead).
It is up to each law firm to determine their short-term and long-term content marketing goals, and then track the KPIs that will enable them to assess progress toward these objectives at specified time intervals. A criminal defense law practice striving for increased brand recognition may want to keep an eye on social media shares, while a similar practice aiming for lead generation could track the number of leads generated by their latest white paper every month, for instance.
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Once you have determined your law firm’s content marketing goals, use the following strategies to develop great content that achieves those objectives.
Strategy #1 of Content Marketing for Lawyers: Don’t Give Everything Away for Free
Unlike blog articles, which are often provided for free to all website visitors, informational guides are perfect for storing behind a wall and requiring visitors to provide their contact information for access (these are called lead magnets because they generate leads for your law firm). The key is to make the content so appealing that most visitors don’t think twice about exchanging their name and email address for your lead magnets.
For Main Line Family Law Center, which specializes in divorce and family law, this meant returning to basics: doing keyword research to determine which topics their target market was searching for. According to a case study provided by HubSpot, the legal practice found that a significant number of search engine users in their area were searching for “legal separation in PA,” yet no law firm in their area had produced online content specifically tailored to that keyword phrase.
The marketing team produced a blog article centered on their newfound keyword phrase, which drove hefty traffic to their website. However, their website conversion rate remained low until they created a legal separation planning guide and placed it behind a wall that required visitors to provide their contact information.
Since featuring this lead magnet on their website (more specifically, on a landing page dedicated to convincing visitors to download the guide), Main Line Family Law Center now receives several qualified leads per day and has experienced a massive uptick in the number of leads converting into clients.
The secret to Main Line Family Center’s content marketing success is simple:
- They identified a need within their niche;
- Produced targeted content addressing that need;
- Spread the word about the available content online;
- Offered the content in exchange for prospects’ contact information;
- And followed up with every qualified lead coming into their client relationship management system (CRM)
This demonstrates that if you give prospects the information they need to educate themselves about their problem (in this case, marital issues) and learn about a possible solution (legal separation), and you are perfectly positioned to convert them from a prospect to client at the right moment.
With tools like the James Legal CRM, which contains a library of specialty-specific marketing materials, including a 100-page e-book that can be branded for your law firm, you won’t even have to dedicate resources to producing high-quality attorney marketing materials. The James Legal CRM also enables your legal practice to automate prospect follow-up, saving you time and money while ensuring that every prospect is engaged and cultivated along the sales pipeline until decision-ready.
Strategy #2 Of Content Marketing For Lawyers: Add Length
Throughout the past few years you may have heard more buzz surrounding long-form content, which generally refers to content that is longer than 1,200 words—or more recently in the content marketing world, anywhere from 2,000 or 3,000 words and up.
You may be thinking “3,000 words? There is no way that my prospective clients would read something of that length!” Yet, research demonstrates that this first instinct may be wrong. Long-form content has become increasingly popular in recent years precisely because more marketers across all industries are seeing success in the form of greater readership, increased brand recognition, and more client conversions.
Buffer, for instance, conducted an internal audit of nearly 600 blog posts and determined that their articles containing at least 2,500 words performed far better than shorter articles of varying lengths, when comparing the number of shares on social media. Articles containing more than 2,500 words received an average of 6,600 social shares while articles between 2,001 and 2,500 words received 3,200 shares. Posts of up to 500 words performed the poorest, at just a few hundred social shares.
Marketing guru Neil Patel came to a similar conclusion—he abides by a 4,000-word threshold for his website content and regularly sees more than 100,000 visitors every month. While your law firm may not have the audience or pull that Neil Patel does, you can still experience the many benefits of long form content, such as:
- Increased value to readers: A 1,500-word article tends to deliver more value to readers than a 500-word post because it simply provides greater depth and/or breadth of information (unless your law firm adds 1,000 words of fluff in order to reach a specific word count—a tactic that will only serve to alienate readers).
- Longer time spent on page: Most visitors spend just seconds on a page, so if readers are spending minutes on your website to read a lengthy blog article, you have a much better opportunity to engage them and build a relationship. Plus, when prospects are poking around on your website, they aren’t straying to your competitors’ sites.
- Greater brand strength and reach: Prospects are much more likely to remember your law firm’s name after reading several high-quality blog articles produced by your practice, and are more willing to share valuable content to their networks.
- Stronger SEO: Content marketers believe that, all other factors being equal, Google will value a longer blog article on field sobriety tests over a shorter blog article on the same topic. This is most likely because of the three factors mentioned above—increased value to readers, longer time spent on the page, and a greater amount of traffic and shares.
The bottom line here: 2,000 words per post should be your new threshold for attorney marketing content while still prioritizing quality. It is better to produce one well-written, 2,000-word post per month that drives targeted traffic to your website than four 500-word posts that receive no engagement whatsoever.
Just remember that each piece of content should focus on a topic of significant value to your audience and be highly-researched, well-written, and optimized with keyword phrases about the topic at hand. Regarding topics, capitalizing on trends can be great for short-term success but evergreen articles—lasting pieces of content that remain relevant for years—result in greater payoff in the long run.
Strategy #3 Of Content Marketing For Lawyers: Invest in High-Quality Video Content
By 2020, video will make up 82% of all consumer internet traffic, according to Cisco. If that is not enough to convince you to pick up a camera, consider this statistic from Hit Search: video marketing can grow a law firm’s organic search traffic by more than 150%!
Video is here to stay and content marketing for lawyers that exclude videos are missing out on massive benefits—not to mention falling further behind competitors. Here is the catch, though: you must invest in first-rate videos. Hit Search has determined that 62% of potential clients are likely to form a negative opinion of law firms that publish poor quality videos.
Invest time and resources into purchasing high-quality video equipment if you plan to produce videos in-house, or work with a video production partner that has built a reputation for crafting superior videos. Video marketing can be a significant financial investment depending on the length and complexity of your videos but it can pay for itself multiple times over in the form of website traffic, brand recognition, and client conversions.
For instance, take this law firm overview video from The Decker Law Firm. As of July 2017, it has received 32,000 views! Not bad for a simple 30-second video that can easily be recreated by your law firm.
When featuring your videos on YouTube, just be sure to completely fill in the video description and include a link to your law firm’s website. A few additional best practices include:
- Responding to comments in order to engage your audience and encourage more comments (videos with a greater number of comments tend to rank more highly)
- Filming your videos in high-definition; HD videos dominate 68.2% of the videos on the first page of YouTube, according to Backlinko
Strategy #4 Of Content Marketing For Lawyers: Let Clients Do Some Marketing For You
In the form of reviews and testimonials, that is. Not only is this type of marketing free for your law firm, but it is also a great way to generate social proof and convince prospects to reach out to your legal practice. After all, nearly every person researching your law firm online will search through reviews; according to BrightLocal, only 9% of consumers don’t browse online reviews, and a whopping 90% of people read fewer than 10 reviews before judging the quality of the reviewed firm.
Put simply, this means that 9 out of every 10 potential clients will form an opinion about your law firm after reading just a handful of online reviews. Are you confident that what they see online will convince them to pick up the phone?
Don’t leave it to chance. At James Attorney Marketing & Attorney Marketing, our online reputation management (ORM) tool helps you automatically build a cache of positive online reviews (without ever having to hassle clients!) and “park” the negative reviews that alienate business. Additionally, the James ORM aggregates your reviews from popular online review sites into one user-friendly platform, where you can view what clients are saying about your law firm and respond in real time. No more guesswork, no more poor reviews that turn off potential clients.
This year, take control of your online reputation and employ the other three strategies above in order to build a strong content marketing plan that drives business through the door. If you need assistance, James Attorney Marketing & Attorney Marketing specializes in content marketing for lawyers. Contact us to discuss the James Legal CRM and its built-in library of specialty-specific attorney marketing materials, which can save your law firm hundreds or even thousands of dollars!