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The Legal Marketers Dilemma: Content for Robots or People?

by Guy Alvarez • March 31st, 2017 • Content Marketing, SEO | Blog

legal marketing and seoWith content marketing reaching near-ubiquity, the success pendulum will swing toward boosting consumption of content. That will put a new focus on math, testing and optimization as content production and content distribution become equally important.” – Jay Baer, Author, Youtility

We often tell our clients that in order to be successful with their digital and social media marketing strategies they need to focus on the content they are producing. If the content they are producing is focused on themselves or their firm, then there is a small likelihood that clients will find that content valuable and share it with their network. If that content is not shared, then the return on investment is likely to be rather low.

Law firms and legal marketers need to develop strategies and create content focused on the issues and problems that their clients or prospects are facing. They need to spend time researching the industry or business of their clients and prospects in order to craft content to educate and inform their target audience. As we have previously written, when it comes to social media, most law firms are dropping the ball because they overlook the all important step of thinking like their clients.

Balancing SEO with Content Marketing – The Challenge for Law Firms

There are many law firms out there that have decided to invest heavily in SEO (Search Engine Optimization). For the most part these are law firms that specialize in consumer oriented practice areas, such as personal injury or family law.  It’s not uncommon for these firms to pay tens of thousand of dollars a month to SEO vendors in the hopes of achieving a first page ranking on Google. A first page ranking on Google has become nirvana for many law firms hoping to attract clients online since the search engines represent such a powerful source of lead generation.

Being so focused on the importance of search engine ranking, these law firms have tended to outsource their content marketing to SEO vendors who develop content that maximizes the ability for search engine robots to crawl their websites. The content these vendors create is chock full of key words, key phrases, meta tags and meta descriptions that help law firms achieve first page results on the Google search engine.

Depending on the key words and phrases being targeted and how much competition there is, a good SEO vendor can achieve a first page ranking on Google if they are consistently producing properly structured and tagged content on behalf of a law firm. There are other factors that are considered by Google in addition to what is commonly referred to as “on page SEO.”  A law firm’s website must be technically structured in the proper way with no broken links and a site map that is easily crawled by the search engines. In addition, Google and other search engines will also look at the number of external links that link back to the law firm website.

Recently, we were contacted by two law firms that were unhappy with the return on investment they were receiving from their SEO strategy. They had been paying tens of thousands of dollars a month to SEO vendors and achieved a number one page ranking for their selected key words. However, that number one page ranking was not equating to more leads. The number of leads they were receiving had gone down month after month and in the case of one law firm, a law firm focused on divorce law, the quality of leads was very poor.

They asked us to perform a digital audit of their website and social media properties to find out why they were not achieving their desired return on investment. We first took a look at the content on their website. The SEO vendor was posting content on a bi-weekly basis that looked really good from an SEO perspective. The content was tagged properly and included the client’s primary key words. However, from a reading perspective, the content was bland, lacked any real value or analysis and read like it was written by a high school graduate, not a seasoned attorney.

We then looked at the firm’s website Google Analytics and discovered that while the website was receiving a large amount of traffic from search engines, the bounce rate (the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page) was extremely high. That meant that while people were finding the content on search engines and clicking on it, they were not spending any time on the site or looking at other pages or content on the site. This is what we call low engagement and it is something that most law firm websites suffer from. As we have previously written, in order for website visitors to read your content and share it with their networks, the content must be client centric and educational in nature.

Finally, we looked at the firm’s social media properties. Here again we saw a tremendous lack of quality in the posts that were being written. The posts were not engaging or interesting and they lacked the use of hashtags. The posts were posted rather infrequently and in many cases the format of the posts was incorrect, lacking in visual elements and going over the allotted character limit. When we looked at the engagement that these posts were receiving (shares, re-tweets, mentions, likes, comments) we were not surprised at all that there was little to no engagement. The flawed methods of posting bland content to social media generated no return on investment at all.

The takeaway for law firms and legal marketers is to insure that you don’t over rely on search engine rankings as a way to indicate a successful digital and social media strategy. Legal marketers need to balance the value of good SEO with the needs and interests of the clients or prospects they are trying to reach. Law firms need to start by developing value-added content for their target audience and then see how that content can be optimized to also provide SEO value. At the end of the day, you are trying to reach humans not robots.

Updated and republished March 31, 2017.

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