Content marketing is a wildly popular strategy and one that won’t be going away anytime soon. According to a 2020 study by HubSpot, a marketing software company, 70% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing.
There are several reasons why content marketing is a smart strategy for law firms:
- Blog writing is something that lawyers can schedule around billable hours.
- Most lawyers are competent writers, and some are excellent writers.
- Search engines love good content and blogging is an effective means for bolstering website SEO.
- 96% of people seeking legal advice use a search engine (Google Consumer Survey, Nov 2013). Often these searchers land on blog posts.
- Compelling content fuels social media engagement.
Content marketing can be an excellent source of relevant traffic and warm leads for your law firm.
Ideally, this is how it works:
- You write an informative, easy-to-read blog post that answers a common question, sheds light on a new regulation, or otherwise helps a reader to understand a legal issue/development and navigate a process and/or protect their interests.
- Prospective clients are using Google (or other search engines) to learn more about this topic. Because of your law firm’s stellar search engine optimization (SEO), they find your blog post on the first page of Google; a good thing too, because the 1st page of Google captures between 70% to 90% of search traffic. Many people click through to your article.
- Visitors find your blog post helpful and accessible. Now they’ve realized that they might need legal counsel or at least a consultation with a lawyer. Thankfully, you have included your contact info. Several readers email or call your firm and some become new clients.
This is the best-case scenario. Often blog posts struggle to rank on page one of Google for their target keywords due to a high level of competition from other websites and/or SEO issues. Or a blog post might not match the searcher’s intent, in which case they are likely to continue looking for answers somewhere else.
Content marketing certainly has the potential to directly increase inbound leads for your firm. But it is no cakewalk. It’s more of a competitive bake-off against all the other law firms in your market.
Here are some of the most common content marketing problems that law firms face and some solutions we’ve seen work.
1. Problem: Too Darn Busy
This is the most common hurdle. Lawyers are often too preoccupied with legal work to spend hours researching, writing, and editing blog posts.
It can be tempting to hire a ghostwriter to spin up content, but we wouldn’t recommend relying solely on outsourcing. External writers are best used as strategic support for your firm, not a crutch. And you should be careful about only sharing accurate, professional content. Sharing incorrect information on your website or social media could damage your brand.
To be an authoritative source of information on a topic, you need experts (i.e., your lawyers) weighing in. Google has unequivocally stated that “financial advice, legal advice, tax advice, etc., should come from trustworthy sources and be maintained and updated regularly”. This is part of Google’s expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness principles (E-A-T), a philosophy that Google uses to update and tweak its search algorithms. It’s best to listen to Google if you want your content to be found online.
Every firm is different, but we’ve seen many overcome this obstacle by:
- Enlisting the help of an experienced legal marketing agency: While we wouldn’t recommend completely outsourcing your firm’s content production, your firm can still benefit from collaborating with content marketing experts with experience in the legal industry. A skilled writer can help your firm craft content that is engaging and accessible to your target audience, easy to read on the web and mobile, and optimized for search engines. A writer can also interview your lawyers for their thoughts on significant developments and issues, thereby gaining the benefit of their legal expertise. This collaborative approach can be wonderfully productive.
- An agency partner can also shoulder much of the organizational overhead by helping to plan your content, providing editorial services, refining your content for your audience, optimizing content for SEO, promoting your content in relevant channels, and repackaging content into different channels (e.g., social media posts, infographics, video, etc.). An agency with expertise in legal marketing can also help you to align your content with firm business goals.
- Getting law students to draft articles: With partners being so darn busy, it’s often a good idea to involve law students and junior associates in writing first drafts. More experienced lawyers can review and provide guidance and approval.
- Creating incentives for lawyers to create content: Firms that allow lawyers to block off time for blog writing will invariably produce more content.
2. Problem: Not Producing Content Consistently
HubSpot, an influential marketing tech company, recommends that smaller entities should aim to blog about 1-3x a week and larger entities about 3-5x times a week. This recommendation is based on HubSpot’s analysis of blogging data from over 13,500 companies, both B2C and B2B.
While HubSpot’s recommendations on blogging frequency are supported by data, it will be tough for smaller firms to hit these benchmarks.
Blogging frequently is the surest way to turn your content into a reliable traffic driver. In one study, HubSpot discovered that the more blog posts a company publishes per month, the more traffic it sees on its website, and the more inbound leads the company receives. In the same study, HubSpot found that companies that published 16 blog posts or more a month received 3.5 times more traffic than companies that blogged less than four times a month.
That level of frequency might work, but that is a lot of content to produce and marshal through the, often arduous, editing and approval process.
Most law firms struggle to maintain a consistent blogging schedule. Instead, they engage in “random acts of content”—a blog here and there when time allows. While even occasional blogging is better than nothing at all, smatterings of content are unlikely to define your website as a superlative source of information or help you cultivate an audience. Consistency is key.
We’ve seen law firms improve the frequency of their blogging and content publication by adopting these tactics:
- Create a mixture of content, long and short: In-depth, comprehensive articles tend to perform better in search engine rankings. But for news bulletins, you can be brief and, ideally, return to the subject to offer a more in-depth analysis.
- Use an editorial calendar: Where possible, give lawyers deadlines, months in advance and set up calendar reminders to ping them. Set realistic goals based on your firm’s previous performance while also demanding accountability. Use this calendar to plan content around core topics, but also allow lawyers the flexibility to pivot to address important court decisions or legislation.
- Refresh popular existing articles: Do you have a great blog post from three years ago? Update it and keep it relevant. This can help to prevent traffic drops as your content ages.
- Repurpose your best content: Have a great whitepaper? Consider turning it into a series of blog posts. Or it could provide the raw material for a webinar or an infographic or a video. Repurposing content improves ROI, making the initial time/effort investment required to produce high-quality resources a lot more palatable.
3. Problem Disjointed Content
This is a common issue for generalist firms. The problem with writing about everything is that Google is unlikely to consider you an expert in anything.
Tie your content planning to your firm’s business goals.
- Is your firm prioritizing growth in any particular practice areas? Are you looking to expand into a new industry or bolster a fledgling practice area? You might even consider diving into the firm financials to see which practice areas are experiencing slumps or growth.
- Your content can serve as a bridge between where you are as a firm and where you want to be.
4. Problem: Writing for Your Peers Instead of Your Clients
People naturally want to write about the topics they find interesting. The problem is that there is often a disconnect between what lawyers find interesting and what their clients find useful.
Lawyers tend to enjoy unpacking the subtleties of a court’s decision or exploring the implications of a legal argument. This is fine if you are writing to in-house counsel or other lawyers. But if your intended audience is business owners or the man on the street, you may want to rethink your approach.
Define your target audiences at the start of the process. This will help you to keep their interests in mind.
- Most visitors are looking for a brief background and the key takeaways. Write like a New York Times reporter by making the focus of your article clear and not “burying the lede”. Start with the key points and a summary of the takeaways, a structure that journalists call the inverted pyramid.
- Break your content into different sections to make things easier for time-strapped and distractable readers. Clearly label each sub-section.
- Use bullets and numbering to make your content more scannable. You can expand on points in paragraphs, but avoid dense blocks of text, as these can be difficult to read on mobile.
- Make life easier for your readers by using images and illustrations to provide context and clarification. In some cases, a glossary of terms can be helpful.
- Include links in your article to your firm’s related articles so that readers can keep learning and engaging with your firm.
5. Not Having a Strategy to Promote Content
Creating great content takes a lot of time. This is all the more reason to ensure that you are reaching a large number of people in your target audience.
Publishing to your firm’s website is only the first step. You need a plan, and possibly a budget, to promote your content.
Establish a promotion strategy (and budget) from the outset. Posting a blog to your firm’s website should be the start, not the finale, of your promotion.
To increase the size of your potential audience, consider the following questions:
- Which platforms would be a good fit for this post?
- What hashtags should we use?
- What groups can I share this content with?
- Have I notified firm lawyers/staff about this content? (When your colleagues share content, they help it to reach new audiences).
- Have I tagged the authors?
- Do we have an engaging image for this post?
- Should we increase the size of our audience through paid promotion?
Paid Social Media Promotion:
Both Facebook and LinkedIn have changed their algorithms in recent years to prioritize posts from close connections over posts from companies. Unfortunately, this means that your law firm’s posts are reaching fewer people than they used to.
There are a few ways to overcome this barrier. The first is to have your lawyers and staff share content from their accounts. The second is to sponsor your posts on social media.
For corporate law firms, LinkedIn is the platform of choice for paid promotion. Plaintiff firms and firms that work with smaller businesses and entrepreneurs may also find success on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Average Cost Per Click Across all Industries (Source: Falcon.IO 2019 Overview)
Sponsoring your content on social media is a cost-effective way to dramatically increase the size of your audience beyond your firm’s followers. Moreover, these platforms offer unparalleled audience targeting options.
On LinkedIn, for example, it is possible to target by occupation, company, region, interests, education, and many other criteria. It is possible, for example, to promote a post about mining law to an audience of mining executives in California.
Consider Other Distribution Channels:
- Would this post be a good fit for our Firm Newsletter?
- Could this post be reworked as a video/infographic/podcast, etc.?
- Have we explored guest blogging opportunities?
- Have we explored syndication platforms such as LexBlog, Mondaq, etc.?
Content Marketing is a Long-Term Strategy
Follow these content marketing strategies and you’ll improve your website’s SEO, improve your firm’s market awareness, and begin getting leads from new audiences.
This (probably) won’t happen overnight. It takes time to build a critical mass of great content. It also takes time for Google to index changes to the link matrix, so blog posts might not rank right away.
But with patience, a content game-plan and calendar, and consistent effort you can turn content marketing into a steady source of visitors and new clients for your firm.
Interested in making content marketing work for your law firm? Get in touch with our experienced team of legal marketing experts and designers.