Last week, I shared some insights on factoring a volatile economy into your 2019 marketing plans. For most elective, fee-for-service-based practices (plastic surgery, cosmetic dentistry, LASIK, etc.) a declining economy historically translated into a drop in consumer search activity and lead generation, and an increasing need to effectively compete for more market share.
This week, I want to paint a different picture for firms in the legal industry.
Having marketed law firms for over 25 years (long before Google), some of our team members have been through multiple swings in the economy over that time. Generally speaking, we saw the majority our attorney firm clients (primarily in personal injury) experience an increase in consumer interest and generate more leads and cases during declining economic times.
Contrary to service providers that offer expensive, elective services that may be viewed more as “luxury purchases,” law firms of all types can benefit from an increase in consumer interest in legal services during tight economic times.
For example, the following Google Trends charts show the volume of Google search activity for “accident attorney” and “car accident attorney” during the 2008 recession:
From 2008 through 2009, consumer search activity for many personal injury-related keywords and phrases steadily increased and created greater opportunities for plaintiff firms. This trend may not come as a complete surprise. However, what may surprise you is the overall increase that occurred for many other legal-related services.
Of course, search activity and leads for finance-related services, like bankruptcy, increased after 2007, as the economy decline rather quickly and caught many consumers and even businesses ill-prepared. But there were similar growth patterns for other consumer-driven legal services, such as criminal defense and DUI. Even divorce law had a steady increase in Google search activity.
The take away is this; unlike most other professional consumer services, many areas in the legal industry may find increased SEO opportunity to attract high-quality exposure, build a credible brand, and generate more traffic, leads and new clients when other sectors may decline and struggle.
Although a recession is not imminent, the key for your firm is to plan and prepare for growth opportunities; position your firm online to leverage increases in consumer interest and demand.
Here is a list of SEO tips and strategies you should start implementing in order to out-maneuver your competition and be in better position when opportunity knocks. The good news is this list of “to-do” items will help your firm regardless of changes in the economy.
Maximize Your Google My Business Listing
Most firms recognize the value of showing up in the Google map listings for important, highly-searched keyword phrases. Yet, most don’t realize that these results are largely driven by Google My Business Listing (GMB). Here are some fundamental recommendations to boost your GMB profile.
- Multiple Profiles – Check to see if you have multiple GMB profiles and clean up/consolidate any duplicate listings and remove profiles that are inaccurate, incomplete, and/or unclaimed.
- Business Information – Enter or update your profile with complete practice information, including accurate operating hours (does not include answering service). Make sure your listing communicates what your business does, what you specialize in and how visitors can secure your services. The more detail you can provide, the better.
- Keywords – Make sure part of your descriptions, information and Include relevant keywords for both search engines for scanning-mode consumers
- Visual Assets - Add and update your profile with relevant photos, images and VIDEOS! Surprisingly, many firms have useful optimized videos on their website and video platforms like YouTube and Vimeo, but nothing on their GMB.
- Virtual Tour – In more competitive situations and markets, you should consider investing in a Virtual Tour by a Google Certified Photographer. By using a certified Google photographer, your virtual tour is another Google affiliate resource that can enhance the validation of your business and GMB listing.
- Reviews – We all recognize it is important to get local clients to post reviews on your GMB profile. Since reviews are posted by Google users, Google recognizes the reviewing person as local to your firm and as another validation to the credibility of your business and listing. In addition, Google announced last August it started notifying reviewers when a business owner responds to their review and includes a link to the response. Engaging with your review customers is important for Google Local map listings, but also to solidify rapport and stimulate referrals from your satisfied clients.
Hyper-Optimize Your Website
- Site Speed – It is important to check on how quickly your website and pages load, particularly on smartphones. Discuss steps with your webmaster to ensure short load times and high user experience.
- Update Optimization – It is not unusual to see websites and pages that were written and optimized many years ago (even after updating the design) still contain the same content, meta tags, titles, descriptions, headings, etc. Consumers and search engines change over time and your website content and optimization should adapt appropriately. Don’t just change to change; change with a purpose.
- Focus on Users – User engagement on both desktop and smartphones is essential to generate conversions, but also project credibility to Google. In addition to Google Analytics data, use heat-mapping software to track how visitors are engaging and interacting with your high priority pages. Only then can you accurately make insightful updates to improve visitor sessions.
- Develop Authoritative Pages – Years ago, many websites were built to have lots of niche pages about a given topic so that each page can be optimized for a specific keyword search variation. Unfortunately, many of these pages have not had any visitors in a long time,
- Structured Data (SD) – In addition to updating the more familiar optimization-related elements listed above, your website should also have more custom structured data mark up, ideally customized for each target page (I only mention this because I notice exact duplicate SD on many websites). SD is not what we would describe as a “ranking factor” by Google, but it helps identify what the page is about and offers the benefit of enhanced listings and improved targeting. Here is a link to Google’s Structure Data Tool.
- Engaging Custom Photography and Optimization – The days of relying on stock photography for law firm websites are over. Visitors immediately recognize and “connect” with websites that have a more custom look and feel; and that starts with custom photography. The Internet has become a relationship-focused medium and your firm’s website, even more than social media, needs to instantly create a sense of “likeability” to start developing longer user sessions. In addition, the more custom photos you have, the more relevant assets you can optimize for services your firm offers. Lastly, optimizing images can enhance the optimization for informational as well as image searches.
- Integrate Social Media – Potential clients definitely want to “get to know you” quickly and more deeply before they contact your firm. Heat mapping software has shown visitors do click on social media icon links with the intent to learn about the personality of a business and its people. Make sure you effectively manage your social media with personalized images, graphics, videos etc. and promote links to them. Also, developing new and useful content for visitors is important, but if no one ever sees it, the impact on your results is minimal. Making sure users find it is equally important. Building a solid social media community and following is not only important to build relationship, rapport and engagement (and even leads), it is also a key to promoting your best content.
These are only a small handful of ways you can boost your organic Google results. By investing in securing more credible search listings, your firm can expand your timely exposure and increase leads during prosperous, as well as tight financial times. The key is to start taking more aggressive steps as soon as you can so your results have an opportunity to percolate to the top.