Press Release (ePRNews.com) - CHICAGO - Mar 27, 2017 - Virtually any business looking to do SEO can find information online applicable to their industry. Optimization techniques are both ubiquitous and applicable across a broad variety of companies. For attorneys, however, that is hardly the case.
Of course, things have changed, and today lawyers and law firms take a more practical perspective on their role in society. At the end of the day, they are offering a service, and they need to keep the lights on like everyone else.
A Brief History of Legal Advertising in the U.S.
Advertising is a tactic as old as time, but for attorneys, it is relatively new. Before the 1970’s, lawyers were banned from advertising their services in all 50 states; a practice that was relaxed after a 1977 Supreme Court ruling citing first amendment free speech privileges that should be applied to attorney advertising.
Legal advertising remains controversial to this day. Since the 1977 Supreme Court ruling, advertising guidelines have been left up to individual state bar associations. Depending on what state they are practicing in, lawyers have a particular set of marketing and advertising rules that need to be followed to remain in compliance.
The Legal Culture
Another characteristic of the legal industry that sets it apart from others when it comes to marketing is the underlying perception it has of itself. Traditionally, practicing law is one of the most prestigious professional stations that a person can hold in society. Attorneys maintained long relationships with clientele and gained new business exclusively through referrals from their sphere of influence.
The resistance from portions of the legal community to advertising was all about a devaluing (real or perceived) of the profession. Attorneys were worried that promoting their firms like any other business “cheapened” the legal profession and made it less credible. Labels of ‘snake oil salesman,’ ‘ambulance chasers’ or ‘Hucksters’ peddling inexpensive legal services with flat rate fees are personifications of the legal industry most lawyers are trying to avoid.
SEO for Lawyers
Lawyer marketing including SEO is no longer taboo but it’s also no less awkward to navigate. Search engine optimization for many companies just isn’t filled with the ethical hurdles and extreme competition that the legal vertical experiences.
Attorneys interested in digital marketing might first gravitate toward paid advertising on Google or through social networks. The sticker-shock is not surprising. Online legal advertising as an industry is ballooning into a multi-billion dollar market. Cost per click rates can easily exceed $100 for platforms like AdWords and Bing. Staying in front of fickle searchers and keeping a steady stream of leads coming in means spending tens of thousands for competitive phrases in the legal vertical.
For large firms, this may be just a cost of doing business. For the much larger pool of smaller firms, however, competing in an environment like that is next to impossible especially if you’re just starting out.
Search engine optimization has emerged as a viable alternative in online marketing for lawyers for three important reasons:
1. The long-lasting effects of SEO make it more economical for the hyper-competitive legal niche.
2. Other than referrals, consumers are using the Internet as a primary method for finding information both about their legal situation and someone to help them with it.
Local SEO is huge for attorneys because their target markets are often geographically confined. The majority of attorneys are only licensed to practice law in one state, and even then they may only serve clients within a limited geographic location such as within a city or county.
Industry Specific Marketing Needs
With all of the tenuous history surrounding legal marketing, it’s no wonder attorneys have to be cautious about the kind of information they put online. Blogging and content generation are a huge part of SEO yet articles containing information related to legal situations need to be written by legal professionals (either by JDs or actual lawyers).
Any piece of content referencing legal scenarios such as ‘steps to take after getting in a motorcycle accident‘ or ‘7 things to know before calling a divorce lawyer‘ could potentially be construed as legal advice. A non-legal professional would have no idea what they should or should not be writing.
When it comes to shopping for SEO services, the odds are that many firms an attorney calls for quotes are not going to have licensed attorneys on staff to write marketing-related content if they even understand in the first place that it’s required.
And that’s just blogging. There’s also optimizing web page copy, generating content for social media, and other places on the internet where content gets published in an attorney’s name. Writing the wrong stuff can open the door to ethical misconduct on the part of their state bar association or even legal retribution on the part of consumers.
The Attorney Trust Factor
Trust is something that every business must instill in its customers, but that is especially challenging for lawyers. There are few other professions (save the medical field) where consumers are as vulnerable when they come knocking.
Attorneys often get a predatory label as ambulance chasers regardless of whether they deserve it or not. In other words, the bar is high for lawyers to establish trust with consumers; something many other businesses do not have to contend with. Social proof is an important part of avoiding impropriety before it ever happens.
Attorneys can join organizations like the Better Business Bureau, Super Lawyers or the National Association of Trial Lawyers that provide social proof in the form of badges and other resource attorneys can use in their web presence.
For more information on legal-specific SEO visit http://rankings.io/seo-for-lawyers/