In part 1 of this blog series, we discussed legal industry and traditional advertising trends that attorneys should be aware of going into 2020. Part 2 is dedicated to the trends that are changing the way lawyers market: digital advertising and technology.
Technology has been disruptive in many industries, and the legal field is no different. Established law firms are being challenged by firms who invest more in digital advertising. Technology is re-shaping the way many tasks are performed, from legal research and document preparation to client intake and billing.
It can be hard to keep up, but that’s where we come in. In this post, we’ll discuss the most important technology and digital trends your law firm should be planning for.
The use of voice assistants like Google Home, Amazon Alexa or smartphone voice assistants like Siri shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, 55% of teenagers use voice search on a daily basis. While teenagers may not be your law firm’s clientele, it’s indicative of where the future of search is going. Law firms who get in front of optimizing for voice search will have a clear advantage as its use increases.
This means that the visual element of the consumer journey is completely removed. Someone may ask a voice assistant for information about local law firms and start the process of making a decision before even researching their website.
Currently, voice search behavior is very task related. It’s used mainly for directions, dictating texts, making calls or checking the time. Expect this to change as people become more comfortable with voice search.
Your SEO strategy should entail optimizing for voice search through a combination of local SEO for your law firm and website content strategy. These two are foundational and will poise your firm’s website for success in voice search results.
SEO is not a one-time project. It requires consistent work through optimization, content strategy and technical website improvements – especially in the competitive legal industry. One of the reasons you can’t simply do some SEO work and move on is that Google’s algorithm is constantly changing.
It’s important to stay up-to-date on Google’s algorithm so you understand any updates and how they may potentially affect your website’s rankings. Algorithm updates happen daily. Some are small, while others are more significant.
Google’s recent BERT update was noteworthy. BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. Simply put, it helps Google better understand the context behind search queries by analyzing the relationship between words.
While Google will say there is no action website owners can take to prepare or react to the BERT update, it’s incredibly important to understand and monitor because it showcase’s Google’s constant effort to provide highly relevant results to searchers’ queries. Remember our first point about the rise of voice search? BERT is all about understanding natural language, which has to be related to the rise of voice search. This means websites with poorly-written and low-quality content will continue to struggle with SEO rankings.
BERT released in 2019 but its impacts will continue to be analyzed through 2020 and beyond. There will also be more notable algorithm updates that may affect your firm’s rankings. The key is to stay well-informed and understand if and how you should alter your website and SEO strategy to minimize negative impacts of algorithm updates.
Google searches are becoming increasingly local. Search queries containing “near me” have increased across nearly every category, according to Google’s 2019 data. “Near me” searches have increased over 500% in the last several years, and we’d expect that to continue to increase.
Attorneys need to continue to increase their focus on local SEO; the act of optimizing your business for presence in Google’s local map pack. When a local pack is present in search results, they command a large percentage of clicks, so it’s important real estate for your law firm to acquire. The local map pack is also what Google’s voice assistants use to return queries, so it’s a crucial piece of your strategy to capitalize in voice search.
Effective website design is all about understanding your law firm’s audience and creating a visually appealing design that’s easy-to-use and provides your website visitors with relevant, useful information. There are a lot of considerations as you build or update your law firm’s website design, but web content accessibility should be an important one.
Web content accessibility is the practice of designing a website that people will disabilities can access. Web content accessibility (WCAG) guidelines provide direction on things like text color and size or how to ensure that screen readers can understand your website’s content.
There aren’t clear legal requirements for a website to meet these standards (aside from certain industries like federal agency websites.) However, it’s becoming more and more common for websites across all industries to prioritize efforts to ensure their websites adhere to accessibility standards. While the legality is a murky area, as the Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t specify websites as a public domain, there have been cases where a website has been sued for failing to comply with the ADA.
Is someone going to sue your law firm website for not being accessible? It’s unlikely. The reason it’s becoming more and more common isn’t necessarily for fear of legal action, but because it’s simply the right thing to do. Website developers are becoming more familiar with how to design websites to comply with accessibility guidelines, and it’s something they can gradually chip away at on your website.
It’s worth having a conversation with your law firm’s website developers and designers about what you can do to improve your website’s accessibility.
This really shouldn’t classify as a 2020 website design trend, as the need to design your website for mobile devices is not new. However, we still see law firms get this wrong.
For most attorney websites, the percentage of website traffic coming from mobile devices has increased tremendously, and it may even have surpassed your desktop traffic. Yet many law firms either neglect to deign their website in a mobile-friendly manner or they build a website design to fit a desktop and then modify it to be mobile-optimized.
Many web designers are taking a mobile-first approach. This means starting out your website design to be optimized for smartphone screens, rather than design for desktop and hope it looks okay on mobile. This requires a thoughtful approach to how you will lay out your content, if and how you’ll use video and how you’ll design calls-to-action to make sure they’re prevalent but not overbearing on a small screen.
But the visual elements are only half the battle. People expect websites to load quickly, and your page load speed will affect your website’s SEO rankings. Even law firms who nail the visual design of their website often fail to consider these technical elements. In order to design a great mobile experience, you have to focus both on the design and achieving a fast load speed.
Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is used to describe any technology that uses computers to make decisions and predictions by learning from data, known as machine learning. While it sounds complex, A.I. is often present in our everyday life. Google’s algorithm uses machine learning to better understand queries and provide search results. Uber and Lyft use A.I. to determine pricing and minimize detours.
A.I. and machine learning are transforming the way law firms operate as well, and we expect this to continue. It’s being used to automate tasks like filling out forms, finding terms in documents, legal research and submitting paperwork. A.I.-powered chatbots are also being used on law firm websites to help automate the client intake process or answer basic questions.
The rise of A.I. has instilled some fear that technology will eventually replace the role of humans in the legal field, especially roles like legal secretaries or even entry-level lawyers. In reality, that’s probably not the case. A.I. should be used to create efficiencies and automate recurring, time-consuming tasks so that the people employed at law firms can focus their time and energy into more meaningful work.
Every attorney should have taken notice that the legal technology industry is growing. In 2029, investments in legal tech reached $1.2 billion for the first time. Law firms have always been known to be a bit behind when it comes to adoption of technology. But as legal tech continues to find innovative solutions to help law firms create efficiencies, those who find the right way to incorporate technology into their firm operations will be at a significant advantage.
This means your law firm should establish processes for how to handle the rapidly-changing world of legal tech. How will you evaluate new technology? What areas of your firm could benefit? It will also force law firms to face some tough decisions about how to balance human resources with investments in legal technology.
It’s no surprise that the legal industry has largely been slow to adopt social media. Social media marketing requires time and resources, and it can be difficult for law firms to justify the investment. Is it really helping your firm drive business? If not, what is the real benefit of establishing a social media presence for your firm? What kind of content would a law firm even product anyway?
If you haven’t already, it’s important that your law firm establishes a point-of-view and strategy behind social media. In one recent survey among attorneys, 70% of respondents said that social media is part of their law firm’s marketing strategy, although their goals seem to center more around brand awareness and engagement rather than driving new business.
Remember that social media entails more than just Facebook. YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram are also common platforms that law firms use. It may benefit your firm to focus more on certain platforms depending on your goals. For example, LinkedIn can be a great tool for lawyers to establish thought leadership and create referral relationships with other attorneys.
Even if resources are slim at your firm, there are ways you can test into social media marketing with a limited time commitment. Your digital marketing consultant or agency can help you understand if paid social media advertising is a viable option for your law firm. You can also use platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn to re-share work you’re already doing, such as posting to your legal blog.
We’ll admit that influencer marketing isn’t usually on the top of the list of tactics that law firms should prioritize, but that may change. As social media grew, retailers and other industries began leveraging influencer marketing by partnering with social media “influencers” with large followings to help promote their products or services.
These influencers with thousands, or sometimes millions, of followers are known as “macro influencers” due to their extremely large reach. However, influencer marketing is changing. Brands have begun to realize that “micro influencers” – social media personalities with smaller followings, are often a better fit. They may not have as large of reach, but their followers tend to be more loyal and more engaged. Brands are also building long-term relationships with influencers, rather than using them for a one-time product or service promotion.
This trend has been especially helpful for local businesses, as they can find local influencers to help build their brand. Local influencers often have a great deal of trust build with their audience, so an endorsement from an influencer can be a very effective way to promote your law firm. There are many creative ways for law firms to leverage influencer marketing.
It’s sort of like using a local celebrity in a commercial for your law firm. For example, a personal injury attorney could partner with an influencer to create a content series about winter driving safety tips. Influencer marketing is also a great supplement to law firms who are working to increase their content marketing and social media reach, as they go hand-in-hand.
Content marketing has been one of the most effective ways for businesses, especially law firms, to increase their online presence. However, content marketing no longer just means blog posts or written content on your website.
Online video will continue to become an increasingly important medium for law firms to use. In one survey, 72% of businesses reported that creating video content improved their conversion rate. Creating effective law firm video content will benefit your firm in a number of ways.
Video is a great way for prospective clients to interact with the attorneys at your firm. Whether it’s a promotional video or a Q & A style short video, it’s a chance to showcase your attorneys’ expertise in a more engaging way. This can build confidence and trust, and it makes your website visitors feel like they’re getting to know the firm in a way that written content can seldom accomplish.
In 2020, you should take time to evaluate your content marketing mix and determine the best way to incorporate more video content.
2020 is a new decade, and attorneys who want to grow their business will need to embrace the change the legal industry is experience. The key is to keep learning, and don’t be afraid to test and try new things with your law firm’s approach to marketing or technology. If you’d like to talk more about how to optimize your growth strategy in 2020 and beyond, we’d love to help.