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You’ve heard the news: internet marketing for law firms is essential for your success. You may have even decided that an internet marketing and consulting service would do wonders for your law firm search engine optimization (SEO), web design and content writing.

But as you commit to a law firm internet marketing plan, it is a good idea to know a thing or two about what you’re embarking upon. There is certainly no harm in finding SEO help, but you should still know what kind of questions to ask. You should still be equipped to involve yourself in the process. After all, not all internet marketing services are equal, and you’d be remiss to perform anything less than due diligence.

So what’s the difference between a successful internet marketing campaign and wasted dollars? Here’s a rundown of what you need to know.

1. Take Your Law Firm SEO Seriously

To the uninitiated, attorney and lawyer SEO may seem like hopelessly complex territory. You may feel excluded by the mention of things like meta-tags and Google algorithms. Even the smartest attorneys can be pardoned for lacking expertise in the tech department. To that end, some outside consulting may well be in order.

Here’s how John McDougall broke it down for Legal Marketing Review:

“Search engine optimization requires optimizing such things as the URLs, headings, sub headings, text, meta-tags, images, load time, interlinking structures, categorization of content and so much more. There are hundreds of items in the search engine algorithms and it is critical to have search engine optimization specialists who are following the latest techniques implemented your search engine marketing.”

Your bottom line, however, is ensuring that your website accrues traffic organically by capitalizing upon online search rankings – namely Google’s. While you’ll want to make sure your site is optimized on a technical level (something to discuss with a web designer), you can also better your odds simply by producing strong content. It’s much harder rank for competitive legal keywords these days, but you can improve your ranking by focusing on the kind of keywords or topics that your potential clients are searching for most frequently.

2. Produce useful, regularly-updated, high-quality content

Remember that many of your potential clients may discover your legal services before they even realize those services are needed. They may, for example, simply be looking to improve their legal knowledge through a little research. They may want some introductory advice concerning a particular legal issue or problem they’ve encountered. Even if such users aren’t immediately interested in your legal services, it’s still advantageous to increase your brand exposure with these users. You never know when they’ll become real customers.

To that end, it’s definitely in your interest to offer regularly-updated, useful content. This could—and often does—take the form of a blog. The information you provide should not replace someone’s need for legal counsel, so don’t look at such an endeavor as a barrier to business. To the contrary, your content should have the effect of stressing why the need for an attorney is so critical. It could in fact be the bridge to a growing customer base.

Invariably, though, you want your firm to reach as many potential clients as possible. And that means giving them a reason to discover your services—a way to hook them. Genuinely useful content has become a popular means of doing so, and it’s well worth the often modest cost of procuring or creating that content.

3. Use social media to promote your law firm

It’s a social world, especially on the internet. If your law firm hasn’t already, it’s absolutely time to build a presence using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and/or Google+. These kind of sites can become a useful way to promote your brand and any content that may be associated with it. Ideally, they allow you to build a community of users who are then regularly exposed to your messaging.

Yes, remaining in touch with the cyber world at large can become a bit time consuming, but it’s much less expensive than traditional means of online advertising.

4. Track your return on investment

Tools like Google Analytics can do wonders for your ability to objectively measure the success of your online endeavors. You can learn more about your site’s traffic and determine how long users remain on a page, whether they explore multiple pages on your site and so on.

This isn’t just about keeping tabs on things. It’s also about discerning whether your internet marketing efforts are working and potentially enabling yourself to make important strategic adjustments in the event things aren’t going so well. In general, building a robust online presence is more of a marathon than sprint. Some patience is in order.

But this is a pot you should definitely be watching, even if not especially long before it boils. If you pay close attention, you can get a much better sense of what’s working and what isn’t. Given the cost effective upside of these efforts, a little oversight is certainly in order.

5. Make sure your law firm website is optimized for mobile users

The internet has become the ultimate resource for people on the go—and those of us who are too lazy to pry open a laptop. Mobile devices like tablets and smart phones are two powerful mechanisms for reaching your target audience. There are SEO benefits, but most importantly, you don’t want your firm losing potential clients simply because your site didn’t show up optimally in their mobile web browser.

There are some simple guidelines to follow (e.g. shorter headlines and paragraphs), but you’ll also want to consult with a law firm website design specialist to ensure your website’s technical specifications are ideal. Things like page speed can be the difference in attracting and engaging users.

6. Treat the location of your practice as a keyword

Don’t forget to prominently mention in page titles, headlines, and text where you practice. Along those lines, always prefer specific and descriptive language wherever possible. Remember what your targeted traffic will be searching for: likely a legal need (“personal injury attorney”) in a specific area.

Chris Dreyer writes in Legal Ink Magazine that, “Lawyers should have at least one page on their site (but typically more) to target a practice area they specialize in (or more pages if they have more practice areas) and a page targeting location-based terms.”

Depending on the size of your firm, target geographic scope may vary. The important thing is that you’re attracting users who could conceivably become clients—not people on the other side of the world.

7. Add your firm to a directory

It’s easy and in many cases free. Dreyer offers the Seattle-based Avvo as one alternative.

HG.org explains that, “Legal directories are an excellent and targeted source of getting qualified leads. There are several ways by which a legal directory can help you promote your business. A legal directory drives traffic to your website, increases your page ranking, as well as indexes your web pages.”

Like a directory presence, many law firm internet marketing techniques are simple and affordable. They sometimes require some expert attention, but the potential return on investment is often quite high. Steps like these will make a difference, but there’s no substitute for a consistent and comprehensive strategy.

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