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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

LegalEase: How to Market Your Law Firm Online (Indepth)

by Peter Boyd, Esq.

Having a web site will not drive clients to your firm. Odd that a web designer would write something that bold, but it is true. It is also true that simply advertising in an online legal directory is not enough. Neither is it enough to create a snazzy intro screen or plug in a few keywords into your web page, relax and wait for the clients to roll in. This article will detail how your firm can generate new clients from the Internet through a variety of techniques that compliment each other.

1. Search Engine Optimization

What is it?
Search engine optimization is using a variety of techniques to allow your web site to appear in the top search rankings.

Why is it important?
Studies have proven that web users do not look past three pages of results when trying to find a relevant site. If your web site is not within the top results, your firm will not be found. Search engine optimization allows your firm to be ranked in the top results for your practice areas, industries, geographic locations, etc. -- not just your firm name. Top rankings lead to more client inquiries.

What should you do about it?
Coding your web site so that it ranks above your competitors is tricky, even for experts. There are always changes in the search rankings and the process requires constant monitoring. However, there are some basic techniques to increasing your Google ranking, such as:

- Write short, concise Meta tags (title, description, keyword);
- Write normal copy text;
- Obtain links from relevant and quality web sites;
- Do not plug in odd keyword phrases into your web site;
- Do not stuff keywords on a page;
- Do not exchange links with irrelevant sites.

Right now, Google processes nearly 50 percent of all search requests because its content is syndicated to AOL, and, of course, its own web site. As you may have heard by now, Yahoo! has switched over to a new database of results provided by Inktomi. So at this time, we recommend that you code your web site so that it appears in the top search results for Google and the Inktomi database that power Yahoo! and MSN.


2. Create Newsletters

What is it?
A newsletter is an electronic mail message that deals with certain legal topics from time to time.

Why is it important?
This form of marketing is great for generating repeat traffic to your web site and introducing new clients to your firm. Newsletters also boost your image with other attorneys because they can establish your firm as a go-to place for up-to-date information.

What should you do about it?
Your law firm should publish a quarterly newsletter. Even better, publish a monthly newsletter. To publish a newsletter you need to consider the format, the content, and the distribution. Newsletters typically come in two formats: text only or html. A text only newsletter is easy to produce. If you are producing an html newsletter, you may want to consult a web designer because there are special requirements to making an html newsletter work; they can also make your newsletter look pretty. Note that your newsletter does not have to be in-depth. In fact, there are successful newsletters that simply link to recent news articles. Your articles should be to the point and urge the reader to contact your firm for more information, or link to more information on your web site. As for distribution of the newsletter, if your list is small, you can use Outlook or Outlook Express. If you have a larger list, then you may want to purchase a mass email sender or subscribe to an email service.


3. Sign up with Directories

What is it?
Directories are compiled lists of sites, categorized and organized by topic. They can either be compiled by human editors, automatically generated from user input, or pay-for-inclusion.

Why is it important?
Depending upon the legal directory, you can gain new clients and increase your overall web site presence. In fact, Google now relies on a lot of legal directories as its initial search results.

What should you do about it?
You can increase your web site ranking and overall Internet presence by signing up with multiple directories. Not all directories are created equal. Directories rely on different advertising methods to drive potential consumers to their site and then to your firm. Some directories advertise on television, some on the radio, some with pay-per-click Internet ads, and others rely on a top search engine ranking. To find a good legal directory, you need to simply type in a search phrase for your practice area and geographic area and see what pops up. If a directory consistently ranks high in the search results, then you may want to advertise your firm there.

4. Create Blogs

What is it?
A blog is a web page made up of usually short, frequently updated posts that are arranged chronologically, like a journal.

Why is it important?
Rankings. Ease of Use. Content. Blogs rank high in the search results and give your firm a great Internet presence. Worried about not having enough time to post comments? Don't. Blogs are easy to update and can be done from anywhere, so long as you have an Internet connection. Blogs keep you writing about your firm and practice areas. A well produced Blog can vault your firm to the position of an expert in the field.

What should you do about it?

Write about almost anything. In the legal field, you could promote your firmís services, cases, clients, and other notable news in the blog. If you are short on time post links to other news sites and quickly summarize the article. If you have more time, write a "how-to" article or a legal guideline. Try to keep topics relevant about your core practice areas. But most importantly, just write. To get the process started, you can sign up for a blog at a variety of free web sites. Some of the more popular sites are blogger.com or blog-city.com. The free sites will give you a simple template and free hosting. If you want total control and a unique design, you can splurge and hire a web designer. Custom Blogs will integrate better into your web site and give you a more professional look.


5. Advertise - Pay per Click

What is it?
Pay per click ads are an advertising method whereby your firm bids on keywords or phrases. Each time a user types in your keyword phrase into a search engine, your ad is shown.

Why is it important?
Pay-per-click ad campaigns give you instant access to the top search results on the Internet. Even if your firm is ranked in the "free" search results, you still should consider paying for placement. Some of the key reasons are:

- It will allow your firm to maintain control of its listing;
- Your firm will always be ranked in the top search results;
- Paid listings are listed first on web site results;
- Sometimes it is more cost effective to advertise, rather than optimize.

What should you do about it?
If your firm does not wish to optimize the web site for search engine placement, you can buy your way to the top. The top programs are Google Adwords and Overtures Pay for Performance. You set a specific cost per click for a specific keyword phrase. Every time a visitor clicks on your listing, your firm is charged a set fee based on your bid. While each program has a different list of content syndication partners, both programs have about the same market share and together cover 90% of the Internet. Sign up for both programs is easy. For Overture visit www.overture.com. For Google visit adwords.google.com.

6. Create Affiliations

What is it?
Affiliations are links with other web sites.

Why is it important?
Search engines rank web sites based on two criteria: your site's content and its link popularity. The basic idea behind link popularity is that high quality web sites tend to have more links pointing to them then low quality sites. If your web site has a large number of links to it from other sites, it is going to be considered popular and rank higher. Affiliates help your firm because it allows you to create a network of links to your web site.

What should you do about it?
Find web sites that have related industries and request links from their web designer. Most web designers will be happy to reciprocate links with your web site, thereby raising your web site and their web sites ranking.


7. Write Good Content

What is it?
Content is the words on your web site.

Why is it important?
To attract visitors to your web site, your firm needs to offer useful content. If your firm offers authoritative information about your practice areas, then you will notice a dramatic increase in web site traffic.

What should you do about it?
Content is king. Your web site needs to have a lot of pages. Simply placing 5, 6, or even 10 pages on the web is not going to give your firm the significant web presence you need to secure high search engine rankings. The more pages your web site has, the more web traffic your firm will see. Having an online firm brochure that lists your firm's credentials, practice areas, and attorney biographies is a start. However, serious web sites place articles, newsletters, bulletin alerts, links, statistics, and other information that educates a potential client.


8. Design a Good Site

What is it?
If you think that a cookie-cutter template with a marble background and flashing text are good design features, then please hire a web designer.

Why is it important?
Now that you have visitors to your web site, you need to convert them into clients. A bad image will scare away clients faster than you can say "contingency fee." A good design will urge the client to contact your firm. Better yet, a good design will give your firm a new image.

What should you do about it?
You need a professional image. Your firm needs an online identity ... a brand. The best way to do this is by designing a professional site. The worst way to do this is by buying a cookie-cutter template online.


9. Offer Innovative Features

What is it?
Innovative features distinguish your firm from your competitors.

Why is it important?
Every law firm has a web site and most law firms are on their second or third generation site. Imagine that you are a client looking for a law firm online. What distinguishes your firm from your competitors? If it is because you have a cool picture of a gavel or a tagline like "Justice for AllĒ, then you are not saying or doing anything unique.


About The Author

Peter Boyd, Esq. at PaperStreet Web Design. Located in Miami, FL, PaperStreet Web Design has extensive experience developing, redesigning and optimizing law-related web sites. Our expertise can save you time and money while increasing your firm's business traffic.Contact us and we can easily redesign your web site to impress clients and get profitable results. Feel free to contact Peter Boyd at PaperStreet Web Design, peteboyd@paperst.com or 954.523.2181.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.


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