Articles Posted in Content Development

Legal websites have to strike a balance when it comes to the type of content that is featured on their site. Search engine visibility is at the heart of any good Internet marketing campaign, but the kind of content that search engines like Google, Yahoo & Bing rank favorably is not necessarily the type of content that compels potential clients to pick up the phone and contact your firm. This is best illustrated by using a theoretical case study:

A criminal defense law firm in Colorado wishes to launch a firm site that competes for keywords relating to their main areas of practice. They design a site that has relevant content relating to crimes like theft, DUI, assault, etc., creating unique pages for each of the crimes. After being indexed by Google, that content is thrown into the mix with all the others hundreds of thousands of pages by attorneys on Colorado criminal defense (778,000 according to Google).
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By now, most Web-savvy people in the legal world, or any industry for that matter, are familiar with the importance of social marketing. They understand that social marketing not only enhances the effectiveness of other legal Internet marketing strategies but far more importantly, it allows them to receive feedback from and interact with their site’s visitors and target audience. Social marketing provides a practical way to share information. However, the owners of sites and their Internet marketing consultant need to be very careful about how this information is dispensed. Web users are becoming increasingly sophisticated at discerning useful social marketing content provided for their benefit or entertainment from attempts to manipulate their purchasing decisions via social marketing methods. In order achieve its goals, social marketing strategies must have merit and something useful to contribute to the social networking communities that is serves.

To that end, here are some social networking ideas to keep in mind that will help you through the current economy and set you up for success when it recovers:

  • Keep it real! – As previously mentioned, Web users are quite astute at discerning genuine efforts to contribute to the community from fake attempts to manipulate them and can employ the power of social networking to ‘call out’ fakes. This is illustrated by a recent incident where some popular Twitterers were outed for taking cash in exchange for product recommendations in their tweets. This created an outrage among Twitter users, and the backlash sullied the reputations of the Twitterers and the products they were shilling for.
  • Create your own community and engage your readers – Blog posts rank well in search results, give readers a reason to check your site often, provide interesting and useful information and create a sense of community among your readers. Consider adding a blog to your site with posts written by you, your legal Internet marketing consultant or a mix or both.

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Many clients in a hurry to have their legal Web site up and running overlook the importance of the site’s infrastructure in terms of site performance, ease of use, navigation, ranking opportunities and other important considerations. They care a great deal about page layout, color scheme, cool Flash animations, how the site reflects the professionalism of their law firm and other cosmetic features of their site, but are less concerned about the actual ‘nuts and bolts’ aspect of their site.

In many ways, a Web site’s infrastructure in analogous to a house in that it can look great from the outside but, unless it has been built to withstand a wide range of different environmental pressures, it will not last or provide its intended benefits. From a legal Internet marketing standpoint, unless a site is designed and built to rank well and perform well from the very beginning of the project, it will never achieve its goals or provide the proper foundation for the success of any legal Internet marketing strategies. Here are a few reasons why your legal Web site’s infrastructure is so important:

  • It ensures that your site loads quickly in all browsers and traffic conditions – Good site infrastructure will ensure that you legal site loads quickly and properly when viewed through any browser and in high traffic conditions. A site that looks great in one browser but displays broken features in another will turn off site visitors and reflect poorly on your practice.
  • Makes it easier for Google and other search engines to index your site – Sites built with clean, uncluttered code are easier for Google and the other search engines to index, which is a bigger deal than you may think. The indexing algorithms are designed to ‘remember’ which sites are difficult to ‘crawl’ and therefore index their contents less often, which affects placement in search results.

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Linking with reputable sites can win you points with the search engines, which highly prize viable networking achievements. However, if you’re careless about which sites you link to, you could run into trouble.

The Internet is awash with so-called “link farms” – shady services that offer to artificially inflate a site’s network in the hopes of fooling the search engines into thinking that the site is popular. While using link farms can actually yield some short-term gain, this process puts you at risk for getting de-listed by the search engines and thus ruining your online legal marketing efforts.
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1) A dysfunctional practice
If your firm’s financially disorganized, troubled by ethical problems, or incapable of taking on new cases, a web site isn’t going to fix it – no matter how well constructed or content rich. If your firm is having difficulties, fix them first then build your web presence.

2) The actions of competitors
The Web is a Wild West and will likely continue to be so for some time. Just because you rank well and dominate a keyword today doesn’t mean that you can sit back and relax. You must continue to build on your foundation so that you can stay ahead of your competitors. You are only as good as your current SEO campaign. The Internet is a living, breathing, ever changing animal – a shape shifter. You cannot control the behavior others, but you can control your own thematic approach by focusing on your web site and your long-term strategy.
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In today’s Internet environment a blog is the single most cost effective Internet marketing tool available. You can get a free blog from many places and/or you can purchase professional blogs if you have the budget for under $5000 a year and it is worth every penny.

Here are just some tips on what to do once you have a blog…

1) Update frequently
The best written and most compelling legal blog won’t yield a good ROI if you only update it biannually. Schedule time to blog on at least a weekly basis.
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Be as specific as you can about your practice and area of the law.
Tailor your content to the kinds of clients you most want to represent. Answer questions that your clients are most likely to ask.

Build content for consumers.
It can be difficult for you as a legal professional to empathize with the dilemmas and frustrations of writing about the law at a consumer level. You must remember the level of knowledge that most potential clients have of legal matters is much lower than what comes naturally to you. You must walk your clients through the process step-by-step. Outline hypothetical scenarios. Give concrete examples. The clearer a potential client can visualize the process of working with you, the less overwhelmed he or she will be and the more likely he or she will trust you with the case.
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