Originally published by our sister company, Black Fin. Our experts give you a look into SEO trends in 2017.
We still haven’t found that crystal ball…
But we do live and breath this stuff, paying constant attention year-round to what’s happening in a rapidly changing digital marketing space. Along the way, we’ve developed new tools and strategies – and retired old ones – to deliver a solid return on investment for our clients, and we’d like to share some insights on what we believe will move the needle in 2017.
As we see it, there are three big themes that will come into focus in 2017.
- User-focused content, which was also a big theme in 2016 but will take on new layers and nuances in 2017.
- Changing technology, which will impact how we use and search the internet for information.
- Increased competition, which will urge many law firms to find new ways of taking a bite out of the competition by bolstering their internet presence.
From the significance of online reviews to incorporating video content and launching social media charity campaigns, this increased competition accounts for many of the stronger trends we’ve included for 2017.
The internet marketing space is quickly becoming crowded, as more and more law firms are becoming aware of the return potential of internet marketing done well. While that might not be news to you, there is every indication that this will become more clear and pronounced in 2017.
In other words, 2017 will be the year to ask, “Am I keeping up?” more than ever.
After all, it’s no longer enough to have a website, to be active on social media, or even to write loads of content.
Lots of firms are doing these things now, upping the ante and forcing each other to take their marketing more seriously – at least, if they plan on it helping them build their brands, grow their firms, and get real results.
We’re here to let you know that if you’re interested in getting real results for your firm in 2017, it’s time to get to work. Starting now.
Here are 17 marketing trends we believe will take center stage this year, and we strongly encourage you to consider ways to include them in your firm’s marketing efforts.
1. Smaller Firms Will Take a DIY Approach to Their Internet Marketing Efforts
While technical SEO is by no means dead, and there are a number of other things related to internet marketing that take a good deal of know-how, we believe that, with all of the tools and resources openly available, more attorneys will look into handling their internet marketing efforts in-house. Of course, it’s ideal to have an agency, and we do recommend hiring a marketing and intake specialist for in-house work, but it’s possible for pretty much anyone – especially intelligent, capable solo attorneys – to do the majority of what they need to do to see results online.
Three quick tips for DIY-ing your firm’s internet marketing
- Find a solid training program – Try out Internet Marketing Geeks. While we’ve been aware of this emerging trend for the past year or so, we’ve come to realize that few training programs actually focus on the how-to, choosing instead to center their curriculum around the principles. But to get things done with SEO, you don’t really need to know how everything works; you just need to know what to do to see results. To help firms with this problem, Black Fin is launching a sister brand, Internet Marketing Geeks (IMG) in January of 2017 to provide training and resources to law firms who are looking to handle Internet marketing/SEO tasks in-house. You can sign-up for early bird access and get a discount by visiting InternetMarketingGeeks.com today. Seriously, we really think this could be a game-changer.
- Determine marketing responsibilities within your office. Whether you, a paralegal, or someone else is the chosen one, it’s important that you not only have processes in place for evaluating the effectiveness of your marketing and intake efforts, but also people who are directly responsible for those evaluations and subsequent follow-up. Of course, there’s nothing that beats having a dedicated staff member for marketing, but we understand that most firms don’t have that option. If you’re in that boat, then just make sure that you and/or your staff are equipped with the appropriate training and guidance. If you need some help with that, see previous point.
- Get help if you need it. Even with a solid training program and/or dedicated marketing staff, DIY marketing doesn’t mean “never get help.” Sometimes you need a second (or third) opinion, especially when it comes to developing your brand and nailing down technical things like setting up cost-effective hosting or acquiring high-end backlinks. But in today’s digital climate, it’s easy to find reliable freelance help with pretty much whatever you might need, whether it’s purely consulting or some sort of technical assistance. That’s not a problem; we even occasionally get outside consultations to give us a fresh perspective on some of our marketing efforts, and often hire virtual assistants to help with simple stuff when we get overloaded.
(Helpful Training on Live Chat from Gerrid)
2. Individual Pieces of Content Will Be Longer
This is something we’ve been thinking about a lot this year after seeing some original data indicating that updating and extending content over time leads to some pretty great SEO love from Google. It correlated with a lot of other studies that have shown positive relationships between length and SERP rank, leading us to believe that longer just might in fact be better. Hence, we’ve been recommending that many of our partners not only extend the content of existing pages, but also start with lengthier pages in the first place.
You can read all of our thoughts on this here. The short of it: Lengthier content is better because people prefer lengthier content for many types of subject matters. Unless of course it’s not well-written or formatted with scanning in mind. All else equal, though, long-form gets the bump, regardless of what some deep thinkers might have told you about how nobody reads long-form content online.
Interestingly enough, we also think this will lead to less pieces of content being produced, too. As the threshold for exposure and awareness becomes higher and higher, it may not be as important to write a lot of pieces of content, compared to writing fewer highest-quality, lengthier posts. Of course, you can’t miss with doing both. But we recommend the latter, if you – like most content producers – will have to be picky with how you allocate time.
Three quick tips for making your content longer
- This gets into a later point about voice search, but it’s worth mentioning here as well. FAQs are a fantastic, flexible type of content that can be applied pretty much anywhere. If you’re struggling to write lengthier content, they’re a go-to, and *spoiler alert* are getting the serious attention of our SEO team.
- Make sure your content is legitimately good. I alluded to this a minute ago, but let me hammer it home. Length without depth is not going to get you anywhere. 10,000 words of gibberish will not get you results. Nor will 10,000 words of your competitor’s content. It’s important that your content is unique, valuable, and responding to the needs and expectations of your prospects. Content marketing is all about making a legitimate connection with your prospective clients, the very individuals your firm exists to serve. It can be easy to lose track of that in all of the marketing jargon and talk of things like “cost per lead,” but at the end of the day it is about making a genuine connection with your audience, speaking to their problems and helping them see a positive path forward while dealing with difficult legal matters. *Quietly steps down from soapbox*
- Don’t just inform – build trust and make yourself obviously available. You should absolutely describe your practice areas, including how your firm uniquely handles them, but don’t stop there. Every page should have at least one call-to-action, giving clients multiple, convenient options for getting in touch with your firm.
More Firms Will Create Social Media Charity Campaigns
This has been building up steam over the past couple years, but we haven’t seen it as it being immensely relevant for most law firms, until recently. As firms become increasingly open to using social media to reach out to their local communities, creating brand awareness and making a legitimately positive impact on causes members of their communities care about, we see social media charity campaigns as a natural strategy for many.
How they work is simple: You pick a cause, create a social media post (most commonly on Facebook) saying that you’ll give X amount (usually $1) for each like you get, and then set a time limit.
As it’s becoming increasingly common for prospects to research your social media before giving you a call, having your profiles filled with positive, community-focused events and information can really bolster your web presence.
That being said, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Three quick tips for creating social media charity campaigns
- Choose a cause you truly care about, preferably something that correlates with work that you’ve done in the past or, even better, are currently doing. If it looks like you picked a charity out of a hat, it will seem more gimmicky, and it’s not going to be as rewarding of an experience for you. What we want to focus on is how social media platforms like Facebook can help extend your charity and other community efforts to an increasingly digital audience.
- Go local. It may be tempting to pick a big charity organization to create a campaign for, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Nevertheless, investing in your local community is something that will be seen by many of your prospects and clients as much more relevant.
- Steer clear of tragedy. Paying attention to how social media is evolving, it might seem that everyone should weigh in – or at least change their profile picture – following a tragedy. Our advice? In general, be careful, and reserve most of your reactions to tragedies (and other emotionally charged issues, like anything having to do with 2016 politics) to your personal social media accounts.
4. More Firms Will Invest in Community Outreach
You know that whole thing about two birds and one stone? That’s the general principle behind community outreach, as it can help accomplish two big goals for law firms:
- Brand development
The former is pretty intuitive: getting involved in community outreach is a great way to build a lasting brand within a local community. But the SEO side of things is a relatively new development, since businesses have become increasingly aware of how associating themselves with good organizations, including universities and nonprofits, can help bolster their web presence, as well.
The reason being that most of these types of sites – especially .edus – have a tremendous amount of authority in Google (considered “top level” domains). When you participate in their efforts, whether that be offering a scholarship or sponsoring a community event, you will receive a backlink to your site from their site, giving you some of that top-level authority pointing back to your site. Win and win.
Three quick tips for launching community outreach efforts
- Promote! Your blog and your social media profiles should both be updated with information about your efforts. Here’s a basic plan:
- When you launch a campaign, create a blog post detailing your involvement. Link to this post via your social media. You could also create unique banners and photos about your participation.
- If it’s an event, add pictures of the gathering to your social media profiles.
- At the conclusion of the event – or when a winner is selected – create a follow-up blog post.
- Don’t focus on the SEO side of things — but don’t forget about it, either. When you think about the opportunity to get some high-quality backlinks, that can easily become the focus. But don’t neglect the most important part of the campaign, which is the community involvement. Make sure that side of things is 100% thought-out and planned, and then focus on making sure you get that nice backlink.
- Choose a recurring event, or make your scholarship recurring. If you sponsor a single event or offer a scholarship as a one-time deal, then there’s a very good chance that your backlink will, at some point, be removed. Which takes away all of that top-level authority that came with it. So, when choosing events to get involved in, do your best to find at least annual events; and, if you’re offering a scholarship, make sure that it’s clearly recurring.
5. Content Will Become More Visual
This ties in really closely to our earlier point about lengthier content. Part 3 is on its way in the form of the trend of practice area pages looking more like home pages. Consider this the antidote to the notion that longer content is always better. It’s not. Not if it isn’t valuable and especially if it’s not visually appealing.
If you’re presenting your readers with massive blocks of content, without anything to break it up and help them do a bit of skimming, it doesn’t matter how good it is. And because users are bouncing, your SEO will be ailing as well. Google’s increasingly putting more and more weight into how users behave on a page, and making your content more visual will do a lot to improve metrics like time on page, bounce rate, and views, not to mention lead to more actual conversions.
Three quick tips for making your content more visual
- Use creative headers and emphasize key points. Just accept the fact that many users, as soon as they land on your page, will scroll down to see what kind of time and effort they’re going to have to invest if they stay on this page. If they can tell pretty quickly that the information they want is there, they’re going to stay. By breaking up your content with interesting, accurate headlines, you’ll give them a quick sense of what the page is like, and help them organize the page mentally and know where to direct their attention.
- Include things you know move the needle, like testimonials and case results. It’s becoming more and more common for content to be displayed in rather large panels with fewer words and more visual aids. So, while your interior pages, especially your practice area pages, should include plenty of relevant information about those areas, don’t be afraid to experiment with breaking up the content sectionally, formatting text differently in some places to emphasize key points.
- Include visual aids, such as screenshots, videos, graphs, etc. This is especially relevant for less formal content, such as blog posts. The point of blog posts is to increase awareness of – and engagement with – your firm, so it’s a great place to create content that is, well, engaging. People process things visually much, much faster than when reading text, so it’s a great way to get people quickly engaged with your post and drive home your points.
Here’s part of a report we designed for a client:
6. More Firms Will Acquire High-End Domains
The importance of obtaining quality backlinks for your website has not dwindled since the beginning of SEO. These indicators of relevance and authority are what the search engines attribute to your website being an authority on the subject you have chosen to represent online. This is true for all niches, categories, and verticals.
It is, however, becoming increasingly more expensive to obtain quality backlinks, and still oftentimes subject to the whims and moods of other sites’ webmaster. Due to this, there has been a lot of ways in which webmasters try to gain control of their backlinks, at least solidifying it with a consistent backbone.
The most legitimate method for doing so is acquiring a high-end domain, turning it into a relevant informational site, and then linking back to a relevant web page on your firm’s website, boosting its authority in Google.
Ultimately, controlling when and where your links are added places you in a much better position than relying on the discretion of a third party.
Three quick tips for acquiring and managing high-end domains
- When acquiring a high-end domain, do your due diligence. There are a lot of spammers and hacks out there ready and willing to sell off spammy, fraudulent domains or services that, to a layperson, might look completely legitimate. Don’t fall for it. Here are a few things to pay attention to:
- Prioritize topic relevance. You don’t necessarily have to find a domain that relates perfectly to your legal niche, but it’s definitely ideal.
- Review domain history. As the cliche goes, the internet never forgets. Even if a domain hasn’t been used for awhile, it’s still important to use a tool like the Wayback Machine to review what the domain previously housed.
- Review existing links to the domain, including anchor text and linking domains. What may seem like high-quality links at the onset may prove to be finicky and unreliable over time. Depending on the domain and the quality of the backlinks, you can even consider emailing webmasters that currently link to the domain and suggest they link to your firm’s website instead.
- Maintain and add content to the website consistently. This strategy doesn’t work if you think you can simply buy a high-end domain, add a link or two, and then let it sit. Authority in search engines isn’t something that’s built overnight, but it can fall off pretty quickly if your site seems to be losing its activity and relevance. Make sure your site – and its content – is something you will willingly plaster your name and brand all over. After all, another great reason for this strategy is it helps establish you as a thought leader within your legal niche.
- Get help if you need it. Even taking the time (and money) to hire a reliable SEO consultant to review and approve of a domain before purchasing it and spending your time and resources developing its content could save you a ton of headache. It’s fairly complicated to analyze the various factors of your specific niche and determine the usefulness of specific domains. We do believe the strategy is worth it, if you’re serious about bolstering your firm’s authority (and well as your brand’s); but it’s important to get it right. The last thing you want is for your high-end domain links to end up hurting your firm’s site.
GoDaddy Auctions can be a great place to find high-end domains.)
7. Video Content Will Become Commonplace for Most Firms
Similar to social media charity campaigns, the importance of video content is anything but new. But everything indicates that it will only continue to gain in significance (69% of all consumer internet traffic by 2017 will be video, according to Cisco), and 2017 will be the year that many SMBs – law firms included – won’t think twice about whipping out their smartphones to create a short, informative, unscripted video for their social media, or to ask someone to take plenty of pictures at office parties and community events.
Altogether, video content is a great medium for building trust, connecting on an emotional level with your audience, and dispensing authoritative advice to prospects.
Three quick tips for maximizing your firm’s video marketing efforts
- Repurpose video content across platforms. In law firm internet marketing, it’s not just about using the right platforms for your audience; it’s about using as many of them as you can to try to drive traffic to your site, provided your target market is active and engaged on the platform. So when you’re creating video content for a social media platform, most commonly Facebook and YouTube, upload the video to other profiles you have as well, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, or even your own blog. Distributing your content across all of the online platforms you use for outreach increases the chances of it being found.
- Try out live streaming. As the dominance of video content has become increasingly apparent, we’ve seen a lot of social media platforms invest further in tools for creating and distributing content, most notably as of late with live streaming. Still in its early stages, live streaming can be a great way to connect with an audience that’s increasingly spending their time on social media. If you’re concerned about it losing its relevance, fear not! Your videos will still be published as videos on your profile, and visitors to your page will be able to see them on your firm’s wall. If you’re still uncertain, consider the fact that, even if you don’t get a lot of people viewing your live streams and asking questions on the fly, the very fact that you’re engaging with new and exciting types of content signals a lot to prospects about you and your firm – especially to millennials.
- Don’t overthink it. While quality, branded video productions are really great – and might warrant some level of overthinking – the majority of the video content that we recommend law firms produce shouldn’t be very complicated. Presuming you’re an expert in your area of law, with information that would be useful to potential clients out there searching for reliable, sound information and advice (when and where permitted), making short, candid videos and uploading them should become a breeze. With smartphones having such high-quality cameras and connection to the internet from pretty much anywhere, it’s as simple as 1, 2, 3.
8. More Attorneys Will Invest in Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
We’ve been tooting the CRO horn for about five years, but we truly believe 2017 will be the year CRO becomes mainstream for attorneys. The field of CRO has been experiencing a boon as of late, with more businesses taking the dive into the nitty-gritty of what it takes to turn website visitors into actual clients. Entire marketing publications devoted to CRO have become commonplace (e.g. ConversionXL), and plenty of digital marketers make a living solely from studying and implementing sound CRO principles.
All of that can make it seem pretty intimidating, requiring the mental fortitude of a neurophysicist to truly understand. But truth be told, CRO can be – and usually is – relatively straightforward. Sure, you can spend a lot of time and effort on every single pixel of your website, and for some businesses it might be worthwhile to do so.
For 99% of law firms, however, making some simple changes to your site can have a huge, positive impact on your conversion rate. As an example, we recently made three simple changes to a client’s site, taking less than a day’s worth of work, and the website’s conversion rate jumped 128% over the next three months and their actual conversions doubled. Doubled! For some simple changes to their homepage banner, changing their navigation, and improving their calls-to-action.
So even if it seems like CRO can be overwhelming and technical, just focus on the fact that small changes can have big results.
Three quick tips for improving your site’s conversion rate
- Get your numbers. The only way to make CRO work for you is if you know what your existing conversion rate is, along with a system for ongoing tracking. If you’re not certain about how to do that, read our article Keys to Increasing Law Firm Website Conversion Rates. Once you get your numbers and process figured out, then you can have a clear understanding of how changes to your site influence the percentage of visitors who turn into clients. We use primarily Google Analytics for data gathering, but there are other tools, such as Zarget, that come packaged with a number of optimization tools.
- Improve your unique selling proposition (USP). Having a USP prominently displayed on your homepage is key to communicating what separates you from the competition. However, don’t get lost in gimmicky turns of phrase. It’s not about having the wittiest, most clever USP, it’s about having the most accurate, authentic USP. The two most important things to consider:
- What your firm is all about
- What your target audience is all about
- Make key pages prominent in the navigation. On the point of being targeted, it can also be useful to make your firm’s primary focus more prominent on your site. If what you’re best at – and maybe even where you get most of your revenue from – is buried along with 99 other practice areas, the chance of getting those cases is severely diminished. Pick your top one to three areas of focus and, if they’re listed under a general “Practice Areas” tab in the navigation, pull them out to be their own separate navigation items.
9. Websites Will Be Faster than a Speeding bullet
Site speed has been an important factor – for both users and SEO (imagine that) – for quite some time. But in 2016, things got real. Really real. Especially as it pertains to mobile (which we’ll talk more about later). For example, back in 2009 Amazon learned that every 100 milliseconds of latency on their website resulted in a 1% loss in sales. Which means every second of latency will cost Amazon approximately 10% of revenue! But in 2009, having a slow site didn’t result in a loss of rankings in Google, so it didn’t receive the press coverage it deserved. But now days, everyone knows having a slow site kills both rankings and conversions. Let’s go ahead and get into a little DIY site speed work, with our checklist on making your site faster than a speeding bullet.
Three quick tips for making your site superfast
- Disable unnecessary plugins. There are a lot of different plug-ins that promise great features and improvements to your site. And while there certainly are some must-haves, you should make sure that you don’t have unused – or unimportant – plug-ins installed in the backend of WordPress (or whatever CMS you’re using). At that point, they’re doing little other than slowing down your load speed, sometimes substantially.
- Compress your Images. Compressing your images is especially relevant to your mobile speed. You don’t need a full resolution version of your images displaying on mobile; it’s not practical, and it just takes longer to load. To compress your images, use a tool like tinypng.com, which is as simple as drag, drop, and upload.
- Use a cache plugin. Using a cache plugin, such as W3 Total Cache, can dramatically increase the speed and overall performance of your site. Essentially, instead of having to reach your site’s servers, users will be shown a recently cached, quickly accessible version of your site. Good for your mobile-friendly SEO factors, as well.
To check the site speed of your website, try out this cool tool: https://gtmetrix.com/
Here’s an example of a site we recently built as tested on the GT Metrix tool.
Reviews Will Be Made a Priority
We’re sure you’ve heard of the importance of online reviews, and have probably made some effort to gather and manage them. But with the extent of their impact being made more clear as of late, with 68% of users saying that positive online reviews increase the likelihood of using a local service, law firms will look for new ways to streamline and improve their review gathering and management processes.
Some tools, like GetFiveStars, even allow webmasters to create review widgets that live on your site, apart from any third-party platform, giving you the ability to review and approve reviews before they’re posted.
Three quick tips for prioritizing your online reviews
- Don’t stop gathering reviews. While we encourage firms to have at least 5 reviews in Google and other important platforms (most notably Facebook and Yelp), you should never stop trying to get more positive reviews. Even if you have a lot, volume isn’t the only important metric to go by. Recency is also important. A long gap before your most recent review can be especially disconcerting for someone checking out your online presence before making the call. Two tools we love and use are Podium and Reputation Stacker. Podium specifically allows users to receive a text message from your firm which encourages them to leave a review. One of our clients just tested out Podium 30 days ago and already has more than 30 new Google reviews!!
- Respond graciously to negative reviews. Negative reviews suck, but they won’t just go away (it’s not worth trying). The best way to handle them is to respond graciously and timely, doing your best to mitigate any concerns that the negative review could have on future customers. And if you’re worried about this scarring your digital presence forever, see previous point.
- Use a review tool. The best way to keep track of what’s being said about your firm online is not to sporadically or inconsistently Google yourself to see what you can find. Tools like ReviewTrackers or ReviewPush will monitor reviews of your firm across many sites and platforms, sending you a notification when new reviews are published. Some review tools are also integrating outreach features and analytics capabilities, offering more opportunity to fine-tune your review efforts and streamline the gathering process.
Who’s most likely to get the call from these map listings?
11. Voice Search Will Continue To Impact SEO in a Significant Way
Have you bought an Echo yet? Or maybe just the Dot or Google Home? We have a few on our Christmas lists (and some of us are crossing our fingers that we’re on such a list!). Surely you have some intelligent personal assistant (IPA) already that you use to search for information. Apple just added Siri to their newest desktop OS, macOS Sierra, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in May of 2016 that voice search accounted for 20 percent of search queries, a number that might already be closer to 30 percent, if you ask us. As voice recognition software has become increasingly sophisticated, it’s rollout to the mainstream is having some significant effects on search.
The reason being that it turns out people phrase things differently when they’re typing into a search engine, as opposed to when speaking with their mouths. We speak to IPAs like people, and search engines – and accordingly SEOs – are changing their approach to cater to the ways that people are searching for information.
Three quick tips for making your content voice search friendly
- Write more FAQs and make them conversational. When it comes to returning search results for voice searches, most virtual assistants, when you ask a question, will only provide you with a few results. It’s not easy to get in those results for common searches, but make sure that you’re at least nabbing ones related to your locale (if you’re not in a huge market), most readily accomplished by adding common FAQs to your content, and possibly even building out unique FAQ sections and/or pages on your website.
- Google FAQs you can think of and look at the related searches along the bottom of the SERPS to get more ideas. If you find yourself uncertain about what, exactly, people are searching for related to your area of law, type in things that you know are commonly asked and then check out the related searches area at the bottom of Google’s search engine results pages, as it can be a surprisingly great source for inspiration. Tools like Buzzsumo also prove to be useful when searching for trending content related to a specific topic, such as business law.
- Consider the possibility that a search engine other than Google might start to matter. How is it possible?? Is Google slipping?? Are users finding just as much – or more! – value using Bing, Yahoo, and the like?? Not exactly. It just happens that both Siri and Cortana use Bing, as well as Amazon’s virtual assistant devices, effectively making it the most popular search engine no one realized they were actually using. Regardless, the sense over the last few years that nothing other than Google has been very relevant to 95% of SEO work may be undergoing a massive shift.
12. There Will Be a Revival of Email Marketing
Email marketing might not be the sexiest internet marketing strategy, but it does work and has for a long time. What we love about email marketing is that it gives you the ability to do a lot of great things at once. You can send traffic back to your site, you can stay top-of-mind with past clients and boost referrals, and you can nurture leads and build trust with readers. All in one fell swoop.
Three quick tips on email marketing
- Keep it engaging and consistent. Pay attention to your analytics. How often are your emails being opened? How often do people visit your site via an email? How is your subscriber rate, and do you have many recent unsubscribes?
- Send traffic back to your site. Your email marketing doesn’t have to function in a vacuum, requiring fresh content for every letter. If you want to make the most of your content, repurpose blog and practice are page content, sending people back to useful and interesting posts and pages on your site. This can also help your SEO efforts by getting more traffic to key pieces of content.
- Build an email list. To get the most out of your email marketing, you need to be intentional with building your email list. This can be especially useful if you’re in a practice area such as business law, where people are considering multiple options and especially particular about evaluating those options. To build your list, you can simply have an opt-in box on your website, asking people to enter their email to receive your newsletter. However, the best option is to create a lead magnet, oftentime in the form of a long-form piece of content (such as an ebook or whitepaper) which is “gated,” that is, requires an email, and sometimes additional information, to access. Just make sure that your gated content is worthy of being gated, and actually is what it’s presented to be. For more information, consider looking at a tool like GetResponse.com for your firm.
(Image from NeilPatel.com)
13. Practice Area Pages Will Look More Like Homepages
As the web has evolved, with technology and development leading to a more robust, interactive style of website, users’ expectations have evolved, as well. Soon-to-be-gone are the days that interior pages – most notably practice area pages for law firms – are pretty much text-only. Homepages have been unique and engaging for some time, but not nearly as much attention has been paid to these less significant pages. We see 2017 as the year this begins to change for the majority of sites out there.
Three quick tips for making your practice area pages look more like homepages
- Include relevant images. In the conversion rate optimization example we used earlier, where we doubled a client’s conversion rate through some simple changes, one of those changes was laying out their primary practice area pages more like their homepage. The first thing we jumped on was including more visual elements that related to their practice areas, making it much easier for a user to navigate, while making the page more visually appealing at the same time.
- Include trust badges, testimonials, etc. While there’s no be-all-end-all way to include these kinds of elements within practice area pages, including them in some capacity is hard to mess up. Put them in a sidebar, along the primary content of the page, or break up the content with banners that include some great testimonials, case results, or relevant taglines that speak to your audience’s immediate concerns.
- Leave whitespace. Few things make a page more visually accessible than leaving white space — that is, blank space. It allows users to focus their attention and makes it easier to guide them to your call-to-action. So, when we say to include more elements, we don’t mean stuff your pages. Quite the contrary, you should use these elements to make it easier to focus on what matters the most for converting your leads. For more design tips, check out our post 10 Fundamental Components of Effective Law Firm Web Design.
14. The Significance of Mobile Will Be Taken to a Whole New Level
Since early 2015, when mobile search overtook desktop, it’s been abundantly clear that Google and other search engines aim to treat mobile indexing and presentation seriously.
But 2016 saw Google take a huge step in this direction – creating an entirely new index for mobile sites – that will have direct ramifications on how marketers plan for their digital and internet marketing efforts to prioritize mobile above all.
Three quick tips for taking mobile seriously
- Check your mobile speed. Use a tool like Google’s mobile-friendly site tester to see how well your site is performing on mobile. They show you how well it’s performing compared to other sites, including its overall functionality.
- Mobile-first design. When designing a new website for your firm, you should be concerned from the word go about how the site is going to display on mobile devices. That being said, this doesn’t necessarily mean to oversimplify or trim down the content that displays on your site’s responsive variations. Part of Google’s motivation for creating a new mobile index is because they want to have the ability to analyze and understand the value of mobile sites, regardless of how they may function on desktop.
- Keep a skeptical eye on AMP. Few things have the immediate attention of the web development community as much as AMP, short for the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project. This newly-developed extension to regular HTML was developed by Google and makes pages crazy fast. While there’s no denying the legitimacy of the speed claims, and lots of publishers are jumping on board, we have some pretty big reservations at this point, insofar as how useful AMP will be for law firms and other SMBs. It works great for giant publishers who don’t need to work very hard for backlinks, but it doesn’t seem very practical for your average local business. Who knows, this could somehow change in 2017 – if, for example, Google made AMP integration a mobile ranking factor – but we see it as something not gaining too much relevance for law firm marketing for the time being.
15. More Firms Will Spruce Up Their Bio Pages
Across the board, when you look at law firm website analytics, bio pages are some of the most visited pages. Users don’t often start there, but they very frequently click on these pages. Of course, this is pretty intuitive. With a services industry like the legal field, people are more concerned about who they’re working with than the overall brand that they represent.
While this has been true for some time, this is another of those “over-the-top” strategies that could really help your firm – and, more importantly, the attorneys who work at your firm – make a connection with users and push you over the competition.
Three quick tips for improving your firm’s bio pages
- Humanize your bio. I wish I didn’t have to say it, but I do: Your website’s bio page is not where your resume goes. While there’s nothing wrong with including your education, awards, recognitions, etc. (in fact, we think you should include these things) it’s not the primary reason that the majority of your prospects are visiting these pages on your site. They want to evaluate whether or not you’re someone they want to work with. Sure, a part of that has to do with your credentials, particularly if you have a technical practice area where you’re servicing other professionals, but it shouldn’t be the focus. Instead, be authentic on your bio page, focusing on who you are, why you do what you do, and how you can help clients.
- Include a video, or at least real pictures. By “real” I mean the non-mugshot variety. Too many attorneys rely on old, grainy, and generally awful photos for their bio pages, and that just doesn’t cut it. Find interesting, engaging photos that show you in real contexts, working in the office, interacting with your community, or even spending time with your family if you’re looking for a personal touch. Of course, you can never go wrong with video (well, not entirely true), which gives you a greater opportunity to showcase how wickedly charming you are. After all, the majority of communication is nonverbal, which is impossible to work with using only text.
- Get creative. There are a lot of different things you can do with bio pages. Regardless of which direction you go, or what exactly you choose to include, you should make these pages a primary focus, getting creative with new ways to help clients engage with your content and see the human side of your firm’s attorneys.
Take a look at how we made our own bio page more personal and friendly:
16. Lawyers Will Be Able to Tell You Their Website’s ROI off the Tops of Their Heads
One of the biggest roadblocks we’ve experienced over the years when trying to take an honest account of the ROI we produce for clients has always been the fact that very few law firms take their side of things very seriously. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s just that it can be a lot of work.
Now you can track, compile, and analyze so much data related to your law firm’s leads and intakes that you’ll really never run out of possibilities for improving, even incrementally, upon your marketing success. Of course, it does require some know-how and work, but, if handled with care and patience, getting serious about your ROI can help ensure that your marketing efforts aren’t wasted on self-sabotage.
Three quick tips for getting a handle on your ROI
- Figure out how clients are finding you. While setting up proper analytics is imperative to understanding your ROI, having checks on the physical end of things – that is, when leads are actually signing on with you as clients – can make things 100% clear. We recommend asking each and every intake how they found you and why they decided to choose you over your competition.
- Create estimates for lifetime value. Depending on your area of law, a client might be worth more than just a single case, if you can expect more of their business over time.
- Do the math! At the end of the day, it’s really just about knowing which numbers to gather, how to gather them, and then what to do with them. Check out our post Mission Impossible: How to Calculate Your Website’s ROI for a thorough rundown on calculating your firm’s website’s ROI.
17. More Firms Will Get Real with Brand Development
As mentioned in the introduction, some of these trends have to do with the simple fact that the internet marketing space is becoming crowded for law firms, urging many to ask what more they can do to stay on top. We’ve been getting that question a lot lately. And while we urge law firms to be cautious when it comes to developing a brand – since it can quickly move away from the practical – we still believe that it’s useful to have a fleshed out brand identity and message, since it typically leads to more targeted and consistent marketing across the board.
Three quick tips for developing your firm’s brand
- Think it through. Google has said for years that “brands are how you sort out the cesspool” (referring to the enormous number of websites trying to compete online). Thinking about what your brand represents is so important to the future success of your firm. A brand is more than just a logo or a color scheme, it’s the essence of who you are and how you are presented to others.
- Create a brand book. When it comes to creating marketing messaging, it’s important to document as much as you can. Especially if you have a staff working under you, you want everyone to be on the same page with your marketing efforts. Of course, you don’t need to worry about rivaling Cisco’ s brand book, but if you include some basic stuff, such as your USP, your logo, your firm’s color pallette, and information about your target audience, you’ll be thanking yourself later. Trust us. We made one for Black Fin earlier in 2016, and it’s been a huge help.
- Think about how people think about your services. Above and beyond what you think separates you from your competitors, it’s important to consider if your prospects would see it this way. Sure, maybe there aren’t any other attorneys out there who juggle chainsaws on the weekend… but that doesn’t make you a better attorney. On the other hand, leaving a career as an insurance adjuster because you wanted to fight for the everyman could be a really interesting point that signals your devotion to your work – and, more importantly, to your clients.
Will 2017 Be Your Year?
We hope that this has brought some clarity to your 2017 marketing plans, and that you will achieve a greater ROI, higher conversion rates, and a more successful marketing campaign altogether. If you’d like some help, don’t hesitate to get in touch (or get in touch with Internet Marketing Geeks if you’re looking into a DIY or in-house option). We’d love to give you the assistance you need to get your internet marketing efforts up to par for a brilliant 2017.
Black Fin & IMG’s Law Firm Digital Marketing Experts