Thursday, December 29, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Large Large Firm Use of Social Media (Including Legal Blogs)--An Infographic

Vizibility and LexisNexis teamed up to produce a new report on the use of social media in (mostly) large firms.  On one hand, we are not the usual legal marketing junkies who see the phrase "social media" and begin to salivate.  After all, we were lawyers before entering the world of marketing planet.  The term "social media" has become so broad that is seems virtually meaningless to use.  The internet is all about connectivity, so its hard to say how any firm with an online presence at all isn't "using social media" in some form.

But it still is worthwhile to take a peak at this infographic published on the survey to get a flavor for what the biggest firms seem to be focusing on in the online world.

A few caveats for the statistically inclined: the data was collected via online survey requests sent to members of the Legal Marketing Association (LMA).  As expected with that respondent pool, those involved were largely the biggest firms.  Roughly 60% of respondents were firms with more than 50 attorneys.  When it comes to legal blog writing, this is, of course, an important distinction.  The value and purpose of certain types of social media, including blogs, are highly dependent on the size, location, and practice area of the firm.

Anyway, a few findings that caught the eye of our legal content writers:

*Among this group of large firms, blogging seems to be the second most widely-used form of social media, behind professionals networks (mostly LinkedIn).

*While the majority of firms use blogging in one way or another (about 83% total), smaller firms seem to use them a bit more.  Firms with 20 or fewer attorneys show about 5-7% higher rate of blog use.

*The smallest firms show the largest total use of blogs (roughly 89%).

* Most firms measure the effectiveness of their online efforts by lead generation, increased traffic, and, actual new clients.  However, smaller firms are much more likely to also consider the effect of the efforts on the overall level of client satisfaction and the effect on the firm's public perception.  This is encouraging.

Beyond these stats, the research also provides some benchmarks with other Fortune 500 companies for which to compare the legal market.  On that front it seems that the legal world is far ahead of the game when it comes to blog use.  Only 23% of Fortune 500 companies have a consumer facing blog.  Surprisingly that number has actually stayed stagnant over the last three years.  This should be compared to the roughly 80% of the largest law firms which are using the content building tool.  We admit surprise at see that only 23% of non-legal mega companies are using these blogs.  The low number is somewhat shocking but the comparison to the legal world is not.  Unlike many of the other biggest companies, lawyers provide personal services.  Blogs are one way to sell that personalization to the roaming consumer.  Hence the value of the blog to the firm as opposed to others in the Fortune 500.

Infographic courtesy of Vizibility Inc.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

SEO Marketing Gimmicks Are Irrelevant For Small Law Firms

When it comes to online marketing, small to mid-size firms usually have the most to gain by prioritizing legal content writing.  For maximizing one's online presence and attracting the attention of those who need your legal services in your area, there is nothing better than consistent, quality, content being added to your blog and website.  It is important to reiterate that legal content writing is NOT a gimmick.

Many law firm marketing businesses attempt to complicate the SEO process.  Solo, small and mid-size firms get sold on expansive (and expensive) online marketing packages where terrific promises are made about drawing in online clients.  Don't buy into it.  

That is exactly the point that was made by Suzanne Meehle in an insightful post at Solo Practice University.  Attorney Meehle shared some lessons from her first year of solo practice, and noted:
I got suckered into signing up for law firm marketing contracts. You know the ones: big research companies also offer marketing packages to improve your search engine optimization (“SEO”) and promise you’ll get more leads through their online directory than any other way.   
She went on to explain that the basics of SEO for most small and mid-size firms are not complicated.  We agree.  She wrote:
Figure out the keywords that people will actually put into search engines to find a lawyer like you, then stick them into the “keywords” box in your web site back-end. Use multiple pages – one for every practice area. Update your site regularly with fresh, relevant content. Lather, rinse, repeat. Because what works to drive traffic to your site is going to change day to day. [emphasis added]

As our law blog writers repeat ad nauseum, 95% of what works with online marketing can be explained in one word: Content.  New, quality, consistently updated material connected to the firm website and blog is far and away what matters most to attract attention online.  Do not get fooled by expensive marketers who try to sell you on the other 5% that matters far less.

We are proud to be lawyers first, and marketers second.  By this we mean that we keep the common sense value to a law firm in mind in all of the work that we do.  Our law blog writers do not sell a random array of secret-sounding plans to magically get clients to your phones.  We focus exclusively on what we know works: producing valuable, tailored content on a consistent basis.

Law Blog Writers Blog Named Lexis Nexis Top Tort Blog of the Year

Our law firm content writers are proud to announce that a a blog that we write, The Illinois Medical Malpractice Blog, was recently named the Top Tort Blog of 2011 by LexisNexis!  The blog belongs to a terrific personal injury firm, Levin & Perconti based in Chicago.

The honor was handed down based on a several months long nomination and voting process conducted through the LexixNexis Litigation Resource Community.

The contest involved an entire slew of incredibly high quality legal blogs.  We are very proud of the honor, and remain committed to helping firms across the country produce quality, informative, worthwhile content for online audiences.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How Do You Know If Your Law Firm Blog Writing Is Working?

All competent attorneys and firm managers track their spending—marketing dollars are no exception.  It is perfectly logical and appropriate for all firms working on law firm blogging to come up with systems to measure the effectiveness of the blog.  But treating the value of the blog exactly the same as other completely different marketing tools is a recipe for problems.  Failing to understand what a blog provides—and consequently how it should be measured—is the main reason why many firms cut their blogging effort short.

Unlike other legal marketing tools, blogs can be as much about firm perception as actually drawing in more individuals to contact the attorney.  In other words, blogs seek to both make more individuals in need of legal services aware of the firm AND make the client aware of the superior services offered by the firm.  The blogs therefore can draw in more searchers as well as make them call.  These are two different effects, and measuring the effectiveness of both different evaluations.  It is one thing to draw more people to a website, but it is another to get them to actually take the desired step of calling or otherwise making content.  Some marketing efforts do one or another—legal blog writing can do both. 

Monitoring tools should reflect that.  Obviously, it is important to keep an eye on total page views for the website as well as the blog.  Similarly, call volumes and online content form responses should be closely tracked.  The ratio of both must also be gauged to determine if conversion percentages are stable, decreasing, or increasing.  Beyond that, the less quantitative benefits of the effort must also be added to the mix.  This includes the perception boosts among prospective clients, current clients, supporters, and others in the legal community.  Similarly, the more dispersed online marketing effects, like Facebook likes, shares, re-tweets, blog post comments, and similar details need to compared before and after prolonged blog use.

All of these evaluations must be weighed against the cost of the blogging.  The cost of a total blogging effort (i.e. paying legal ghostwriters) and the potential benefit in terms of client acquisition and reputation must be properly balanced.  Also, no matter what evaluation tools are used, as discussed this weekend, it is important to keep timing into perspective.  Blogs are long-term marketing tools.  They are not efforts to axe after a month.     

Evaluating Law Firm Blogs, in brief:

* Examine both blog and firm total page views, calls, and other direct contacts
* Measure the contacts as a percentage of views
* Evaluate effect on public perception
* Consider legal reputation platform
* Monitor social network effects (likes, shares, notices, page views)
* Gauge reaction from current clients and firm supporters

Sunday, December 11, 2011

One Month Is Not Enough—Legal Content Writing For the Long Haul

One of the biggest mistakes shared by some newbies to legal blog writing has to do with throwing in the towel too early.  Some believe that they can start a blog, add some content, and then expect to see immediate results in a short time.  Besides the fact that many are unsure of the proper way to measure the effectiveness of their blog writing, many fail to take the long-view of the project.  It is simply inaccurate to believe that a blog will be created and then new clients will be flocking in within a month because of the legal content writing.  It takes much longer than that.  Blogging for law firms has to be a long-term commitment.  Here’s why…

For SEO purposes, blogging is helpful because it uses a linking strategy.  A blog links appropriate keywords to the firm’s main website.  Virtually all search engines build their ranking system around links.  How many links are going into and out of a website and the “quality” of those links constitute the centerpiece of search engine rankings 

Of course, search engine crawlers cannot be fooled by stuffing countless links in seemingly value-less posts solely for the purposes of added links to a website.  Instead, links have to be used sparingly in quality content pieces that provide actual value to the viewer.  Even when going at full tilt with the most blog posts possible there are only about 90-120 total links that can be obtained with a month.  Those links would need to be spread out among various keyword types and/or practice areas.  That is simply insufficient to see any sizeable impact.  More links are needed. 

Crawlers speed
In addition, posts do not have an impact the moment that they are put online.  Search engine crawlers must find them first.   This process may take days, or perhaps a week, and only sometimes longer than that.  This is an impediment to immediate search engine benefit.  Many first-time bloggers do not account for this and give up on the effort far too soon.

The time required to seen an impact from the blogging also depends heavily on the amount of competition in any given area.  For example, trying to break through on medical malpractice keywords in a big market will certainly not happen in a single month of blogging.  However, it might happen a bit quicker if the market is smaller and the legal practice area is more tailored. 

Audience Development    
As with any new publishing effort, word of mouth is not created overnight.  The best law firm blogs are checked frequently by loyal viewers and shared across social media platforms.  However, the longer that a blog has been in existence the more time it has for readers to stumble upon it and share it.  A blog that has been around for a month simply has not had enough exposure to build this audience.  More time is needed.   

The gist: do not give up on your blogging too early.  It takes time before an impact will be seen.   What that “impact” should be is a whole other question that often confounds firms.  We will delve into that topic later this week.