As most marketers know, search and social are the primary ways to drive traffic to your law firm’s website. But deciding whether search engine marketing (SEM) or social media marketing (SMM) is going to work better for marketing your law practice can be a difficult proposition.
Should your marketing budget be split evenly? Should you put more effort behind one option? What about putting the entire marketing budget into just one channel?
Let’s first take a look at the unique aspects of search engine marketing, and how it compares with social media marketing as a digital marketing strategy for law firms.
People Use Search to Find Businesses
What’s the first thing you do when you need something or hire someone for a service? You go to your favorite search engine, enter a query or question and check a few of the web pages listed in the results.
If your law firm has a well-optimized site and ranks well for relevant search terms, you stand a very good chance of being discovered when people are looking to hire a lawyer.
You Can See What People Search For
While the search engines go to great lengths to keep their result ranking algorithms a secret, they are very open about what exactly people are searching for to reach those results.
Whenever you like, you can go to Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool and research current search terms. Within just a few minutes you’ll be able to see which search terms draw more traffic and use that information to your advantage.
You Can Buy Ads Above the Search Results
If you’re having trouble ranking high in the search engine results page, you have the option of purchasing advertising through programs like Google AdWords. A benefit of buying advertising is that you can customize what users see and point them directly to the pages on your site you want them to go to. You don’t get that opportunity with organic search result listings.
Advantages of Social Over Search
Now let’s turn to social media marketing and examine the differences and advantages over search engine marketing as a digital marketing strategy for law firms.
Social Recommendations Are Instant
Examine your own personal social media feeds for a moment. You’ll quickly be able to determine what all your connections like and recommend. Word travels extremely fast on social media.
Each time someone clicks a “like” on your law firm Facebook page or tags your law firm’s name in a tweet, everyone in their network can see it. Social media allows your clients and prospective clients to promote you without even realizing it. The potential reach goes far beyond what you can do on your own, and it’s one reason why social media is an amazing method to greatly enhance your ability to connect with clients and prospects.
Social media is a platform that relies on two-way communication. It gives you the opportunity to communicate with your audience and exchange messages and ideas. This, of course, doesn’t happen with search engine results.
This two-way communication can make a tremendous difference when it comes to negative mentions of your law firm. When something unflattering pops up in the search results, it becomes impossible to remove unless you use reputation management services. On the other hand, when something negative shows up on social media, you get the chance to answer directly. If handled correctly, you can turn a bad situation into a gleaming example of just how good you are at what you do and how you deal with your clients.
Unique Advertising Opportunities
Social media also provides advertising opportunities, this is known as paid social and although not as well-known as Google AdWords, paid social gives your firm access to unbelievably specific targeting capabilities. The very nature of social media platforms gives them access to all kinds of geographic and demographic information that just can’t be found anywhere else. With paid social, your law firm will be able to target advertising to the exact audience you want to capture.
Why Your Law Firm Should Use Both
The main reason you should always invest your marketing efforts in both search and social channels is, as the adage says, you don’t want all your eggs in one basket. No matter how well any one source of traffic performs for your law firm, you should always be looking for more. If you are too dependent on just one source, and that source is cut off for some reason, your legal marketing efforts may become stagnant.
How Search and Social Complement Each Other
In addition to diversifying your investment in website traffic, some concepts that are common in SEO can be used to enhance your social media presence and vice versa.
If you look at your social media profiles as regular web pages, you can apply some SEO techniques to give them a boost in search engines, just as you would do for your own firm’s website.
Think of the name or title on the social profile as the title tag of a regular page. The “about” or “biography” section becomes the meta description. Then, you can also place links back to relevant pages on your own site to tie them together. And finally, all throughout the text of your profiles you should use keywords that are relevant to your law practice.
Looking at things from the other perspective, what you do on social media can help SEO results too.
By optimizing your social profiles with keywords and links, you give your practice the opportunity to claim more places in search results. This not only gives you more links in result pages, but it can help to keep any negative reviews or comments on other sites from appearing near the top of results.
How your firm handles relationships with clients and leads on social media can also help more Internet-savvy users confirm what they find in search results. If a potential client finds your firm through a search but hasn’t made up their mind yet, what they find when looking over your social profiles could tip things in your favor.
The Final Decision
Undoubtedly, one marketing channel is going to work better than the other for your law practice, and this is something that you should take advantage of. Just remember those eggs and that basket. If, for example, you’re getting good results from search and then an algorithm change drops your site 10 or 20 spots down the list, that traffic is going to dry up and you’ll need another source.
The right place to put the most time and money is going to depend on your firm’s marketing goals. The key though, like financial investments, is to diversify your efforts, making sure that if one source of incoming traffic doesn’t perform, there is another source available to cover the gaps.
Updated and republished January 12, 2018.