The past few years have seen a dramatic increase in new web sites, directories, and social networks for attorneys. From LinkedIn to Avvo to Facebook to Twitter, it seems like there’s always a new opportunity to promote your business. Faced with finite budgets and resources, many wonder whether or not to implement these new tools at the expense of more time-tested tactics.
Happily it’s not an either/or situation – online marketing techniques can reinforce the effectiveness of relationship building, traditional networking, and lead generation. And as more consumers turn to the Internet, having a strong, complete online presence is more important than ever.
Consider these statistics:
• Most people (97%) search online before making a purchase — anyone seeking an attorney will head to Google first (BIA/Kelsey).
• 66% of American use online local search, like Google local search, to locate local businesses (TMP/comScore/proprietary average).
• 54% of Americans prefer the Internet and local search to phone books (comScore networks).
• When researching products or services in their local area, 90 percent of consumers use search engines, 48 percent use Internet Yellow Pages, and 42 percent use comparison shopping sites.
• 63% of social networkers are more likely to use a local business if the business has information available on a social networking site (Localeze/15miles).
Your Online Presence
But what exactly is an “online presence” and how can it help you grow your business? Your online presence is a combination of all of the ways you are represented on the Internet: your website, online profiles, videos, blog posts, podcasts, social media pages, directory listings, and more. Individually, each of these helps you be found by prospects and clients. Using them in combination, strategically, is even more powerful and will help you get as much visibility online as possible. For example, completing a profile on mainstream and legal social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Places, Avvo, and Justia and optimizing each properly you can dominate the search engine results pages and make it easier for potential clients to find you.
Most attorneys are fantastic natural networkers, connecting with current clients and prospects through colleagues, peers in other professions, trade and bar associations, and networking events. They know it’s a necessary part of generating leads and growing their practice. Only a few attorneys have chosen to use this ability to attract and retain clients via the Internet. And they are reaping the benefits. Building a strong online presence can help build your professional network, gain a competitive advantage, get the most out of your digital assets, retain loyal customers, and generate leads efficiently and cost-effectively.
Here are the essential elements of a credible, interesting, successful online presence.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO means using techniques to bring your website into the top positions of search engines like Google for specific relevant keywords. Higher rankings can boost your visibility and a drop in rankings can mean a loss of potential consumers.
Blogs can improve search rankings and increase website traffic. Having your own blog will help potential clients get to know you and your expertise, build trust and rapport, and offer a cost-effective way to build a brand.
Ratings and Reviews
Ratings and reviews are the digital equivalent of “word of mouth” referrals. Encourage your clients to write short reviews and post links to the sources on your website.
GENERAL BUSINESS LISTINGS
Google Places [www.google.com/places]
Google Places is a free online business listing service. Being listed in Google Places will help you be found online and differentiate yourself from the competition. Claim your listing and verify that the basic information is accurate. Then add links to your other online assets like a blog, reviews, videos, photos, or LinkedIn profile.
LinkedIn is a general online business directory. With more than 135 million users, LinkedIn is used primarily for professional networking and is an easy, low maintenance way to connect with clients, prospects. You can also join relevant groups and answer questions.
Avvo [www.avvo.com] and Justia [www.justia.com]
Avvo and Justia are popular online directories that specialize in attorney profiles. Completing your listing, answering questions, and posting speaking engagements, case examples or articles allows you to have a complete online profile and engage with clients.
JD Supra [www.jdsupra.com]
JD Supra is an online repository of legal documents, filings, and pleadings. Publishing your filings, decisions, briefs, and newsletters allows them to be found on the search engines as well as by the media and opposing counsel.
The behemoth online social network now has over 800 million users and is an essential way to build and maintain professional and personal networks. Company pages allow you to maintain a specialized presence and share insights, expertise and links to relevant articles.
This microblogging site allows you to post or share short messages of 140 characters each. It’s a fun, fast way to connect with clients and prospects and one more tool to get your practice noticed.
Beyond the Website
The best online marketing goes beyond launching a website to creating a strategic online presence. The Internet is quickly replacing yellow pages, television, and radio as the preferred source for people in need of a lawyer. Taking the time to represent your expertise online, consistently and credibly, will help you stay current and build your business. To find out more about Internet marketing for attorneys contact Ian Bardorf at www.bardorfmarketing.com.