There is a great deal of material available online regarding content marketing. Some sources make it sound like a mystery. These materials can cause attorneys and managing partners to put off developing a much-needed strategy. Other sources make it sound simpler than it is, leading law firms to develop ineffective plans.
The truth about content marketing is somewhere in the middle. It’s neither easy nor an insurmountable obstacle. It’s consistently evolving, and the most important player – Google – routinely updates its algorithms. Despite these adjustments, white-hat content marketing tactics are fully accessible to law firms and legal marketing professionals.
Whether you are considering your firm’s content marketing strategy for the first time or you are revisiting the issue, there are several fundamental tips you should keep in mind:
Anyone who is going to participate in developing your firm’s content marketing strategy should learn about content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO). No one is asking you or your colleagues to become SEO professionals. You don’t need to know each of the factors Google uses to rank your website. However, you should know the essentials, including headings, keywords, meta descriptions, title tags, page speed, bounce rate, and link building.
You should also review important metrics and how Google Analytics measures them. You will need to be able to gather and analyze this data in-house, or understand what a marketing consultant or agency is telling you.
If you want to develop your firm’s first content marketing strategy or improve its current plan, you need to know where you’re starting. Obtain a comprehensive view of everything the firm has and does in regard to content marketing before making plans. Preferably, you would conduct an SEO site audit. There are numerous free SEO site audit tools available online or, better yet, you hire someone to perform an audit.
You need to know what is on your website and how it performs. You also need to know what other marketing channels your firm utilizes, like paid advertisements, email, or social media. It is best if you know how each channel performs right now and their current return on investment (ROI).
Content marketing is a circular plan. There is no clear end. After a certain period of time implementing a specific strategy, you will benefit from conducting another SEO site audit, clarifying your goals, and redefining your strategy.
Your website doesn’t have to work alone. Paid ads, direct mail, email, and social can work in partnership with your site. However, you should not automatically decide to use or keep all available marketing channels or social media platforms. You could end up using numerous channels poorly instead of using one or two well. It is best to be deliberate about which marketing channels you use, and specifically, which social media profiles to have. Choosing the right channels for your firm relies on knowing where your clients are coming from and your ROI, which is information you can obtain through Google Analytics.
Once you have the big picture, now it’s time to think about improving and adding to your existing content. To do this, you need to consider who makes up your audience. What demographics are you targeting? The importance of this step cannot be understated. Knowing who you are talking to is essential in determining the voice and style of your content. Are you targeting experienced business professionals who will prefer formal content? Or are you hoping to reach middle-aged individuals who may respond better to a neighborly voice?
Discuss this with the stakeholders in your firm. Do the research. Audience, style, and tone are not something to be decided quickly or based on assumptions. Your firm should leave this step with a demographic profile, in writing, which is backed up by measurable data.
Before you brainstorm specific topics for website pages, blogs, and social media posts, think of how you will generate topics now and in the future. This is a step too many firms skip, which makes it hard to consistently publish content when inspiration runs dry.
Your first muse should be the practice itself. Information regarding the legal matters you handle should be available on your site, which dictates the pages you need to revise or create. Your clients’ most common legal complications and questions are perfect for all types of content. You can also take a look at what your competitors are publishing.
Once you are clear on how to generate content topics, create a content calendar. You will need to ask yourself:
Once you answer these generic questions, begin to fill in the exact topics you will cover and when.
Your content plan should be in writing. It could be formalized in something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet. The more organized you are in the beginning, the greater the likelihood you keep up with your plan and see positive results.
One of the worst things you can do as a firm is to fill your website with thin and useless content. Simply publishing words online is not helpful. The content you publish needs to be targeted to your specific audience. It needs to provide useful and accurate information. In many cases, the content should be comprehensive and offer actionable solutions to certain problems.
For every page, blog, or social media post you write, you should know exactly what you want the reader to take away from it. If the takeaway isn’t clear, rewrite the content.
Content marketing will not return results overnight. Instead, it takes months to improve or build a website, add unique content, and track your metrics to see how you’re doing. It may take more than a year to see results.
Because it’s a long-term commitment, you need to have a plan for how, when, and who will:
You need to be realistic about who is participating in your content marketing effort and how much time each person has to dedicate to the plan. Law firms that try to keep their content marketing efforts in-house can easily find themselves overwhelmed or falling behind. Inconsistency in your efforts will delay the potential benefits of your work, which is why it is essential to be realistic, if not conservative, about how quickly you can publish content.
If, by this point, you realize developing and maintaining a content marketing plan is an unrealistic option for the attorneys and business development team at your firm, consider working with a legal marketing agency.
As an attorney, you may write a great deal of formal letters and contracts. The tone and style you use for legal documents does not translate well into legal content writing. How you discuss a legal principle in a brief or complaint is not how you should discuss that same principle on your website. You may be able to shift gears and write in plain language for your online readers. You may not. This is something you and any other content contributors need to determine. If you or other contributors find you are not the best legal content writers for the firm’s website, find someone who can write accurate content in the style and tone your audience needs.
Another content writing mistake attorneys make is not adequately formatting a web page or blog post. It doesn’t just matter what you say, it also matters how it looks. A reader should not click on a page, scroll through it, and find a wall of words. There should be headings, subheadings, and bullet points to catch the eye. There should be clear sections that break the content up into easily digestible pieces. Offering readers clearly-defined sections and lists allows them to find answers to their questions instead of exiting your page and clicking on another firm’s site.
Many law firms make the mistake of using stock photos and no other visuals despite the fact many people are visual learners. While content may be king, visuals are important as well. Law firms should not be afraid to use custom photos, graphics, videos, and infographics to supplement or deliver content. The best way to obtain custom visuals is to work with a designer or videographer or to hire a full-scale marketing agency. Using these different visual elements in addition to traditional website pages and blog posts can keep online viewers engaged with your site.
Content marketing is a circular effort, but you need to know where you are now, and where you are going. In other terms, you need clearly defined and measurable goals. Defining these goals may be tougher than you think. Firms often have generic objectives, such as bringing in more clients. But what about a higher goal? How many more clients should you bring in for your efforts and financial investment?
You need to consider everything you want content marketing to do for you, determine how to measure whether your goals are met or not, and consider a realistic period in which you can reach these aims. If your marketing efforts become too big of a time commitment, it’s time to consider bringing an agency into the fold. Postali has years of experience helping solo practitioners and small to mid-sized firms market their services and bring in clients, and we are prepared to explain the above content marketing tips for law firms to you and your colleagues.
Whether you want to improve or start from scratch, we want to hear from you.