As a Co-Founder of LAWCLERK I have really enjoyed getting to know Mark Homer as our paths cross at legal conferences around the country. Mark has a unique ability to explain how to market your law firm appropriately without trying to hide behind confusing digital marketing terminology. He’s got tremendous business sense and as a practicing attorney it is refreshing to see someone approach law firm marketing with such a business-focused approach. From his book, speaking, YouTube channel, and the content he is asked to write for other leading legal websites I have watched Mark positively help law firm owners nationwide.
When your perfect prospective client searches Google looking for answers to their legal issues, do they always find your law firm’s website?
When these potential new clients visit your law firm’s website, what percentage of them reach out to you?
Content Strategy is incredibly important because it helps with both of these questions.
Quality content is one of the key tactics to help get your website ranking higher in search engines. But, the content you have on your website is also what helps convince a prospective client to pick up the phone (or live-chat, or email) and contact your firm.
Our Content Strategy Helps Our Client Achieve More Website Visits & More Clients
From being impossible to find in Google to ranking top 3 for over 14 important keyword searches. The new website and SEO-focused content strategy led to an increase in the visibility of the website, growth in traffic to the website, an increase in clicks, & most importantly many more NEW clients.
Content Strategy: The Main Ingredient to Digital Marketing Success
Great content is one of the most important strategies we use to achieve success for our clients. For over ten years now, search engines, and especially Google, have put a big emphasis on the quality of content driving a website’s ranking.
With a focus on quality content and onsite SEO (search engine optimization) we have been able to see amazing ranking boosts for our clients in very competitive markets.
For example, here is a client that was barely in the first 10 pages of google results for very competitive law firm keywords in a large and competitive top 10 market. After an overhaul to their content strategy, you can see the improvement they made in just three months.
Content Flexibility Knocks Out Blog Post Farms
Back in 2011, like many digital marketing agencies, we were using short, focused blog posts to provide regular updates to a website. Typically, a client would sign up for X blog posts per month added to their website.
As we watched how the algorithms were changing and listened closely to Google indicating that their overall long-term goal is to look for authoritative and accurate topical content, we realized that over the long term, churning out blog posts each and every month with thin content is NOT a sustainable strategy for our law firm clients.
After all our testing and experimentation, we stopped churning out monthly blog posts for clients and we switched to higher quality, authoritative, and flexible content strategies.
WHAT OUR CLIENTS ARE SAYING
- Cheryl David, The Law Offices of Cheryl David
GNGF is definitely the best web and marketing company that I’ve ever worked with... During my 30+ years of practice, I’ve worked with numerous companies and in-house marketing coordinators... I was never satisfied... Fortunately, for the last 2.5 years, I’ve been working with the GNGF team, and they’ve been incredible teachers... They’ve truly transformed our site and our marketing. The team is not only responsive, organized and creative. More important than those qualities, they’re friendly and truly skilled adapters of their ever-evolving trade.
Content Strategy is Critical for Law Firm Websites?
One thing that differentiates GNGF from many marketing agencies is our custom approach to each client. There are too many factors to consider when building a marketing strategy that simple packages just cannot work the majority of the time.
In building a strategy for our clients, we must consider:
- The existing website quality the law firm comes to us with
- The current quality of content the law firm already has created
- The practice areas the law firm is targeting
- The ideal client they are targeting
- The competition in their area for their practice area(s) for their ideal clients
- And much more…
You can see that a one-size fits all strategy won’t work with all the permutations that should be considered.
Furthermore, each law firm often has different business goals that need to drive the marketing strategy.
- One client is just getting started in their law firm practice is looking for enough new business to help hire a few key staff members
- Another client has built their business up to be successful, but the success is built on recognition and word of mouth of the key partner and they want to now build more consistent leads to the firm without a focus on their word-of-mouth name recognition in order to sell or retire from the firm.
- Furthermore, one client is in a top 10 city in a competitive practice area and the other is in a mid-market city with a lot of experience in two unique niche areas of law.
Understanding just those few differences in those law firms’ goals and you can see that a custom marketing strategy is going to perform better than some off-the-shelf marketing package.
Just as the marketing strategy will be unique to a law firm, the content strategy will also be unique. When we start working with a client, we complete a discovery process to understand:
- the law firm’s business goals
- the law firm’s brand focus — which encompasses their perfect target client
- an audit of the competition specific to their local market
- a review of the current content on their website
- an analysis of the onsite SEO tactics to help search engines understand the website content
Until one understands these items, one cannot say what specific content will provide the most value to your website.
Once you understand this information you can begin building out a content strategy that will specify the first set of content you should create. This is the content that best matches your goals to your website’s content gaps while also considering where the competition bar is in your market.
Not understanding the need (or not wanting to take the time) to build out a targeted content strategy is what leads many law firms to fall back on the old model of just paying someone to write X blogs per month and hope that it works.
Your content strategy will include an analysis of the right search keywords to target. These are the keywords where your website should appear when your perfect target client is searching for answers to problems that your firm can help solve.
Why “Content Flexibility”?
We have spent years adjusting and testing different content strategies to see what works best for law firms. Starting with the Google “Panda” update and follow-on content-focused search engine updates such as the focus on “E-A-T” (expertise, authority, and trust) we began experimenting and testing content to figure out what worked best for law firm websites.
If understanding all the detail of content related Google algorithm updates is your thing, Search Engine Journal has a great article on the Panda update 2011-2021.
Content Flexibility means our clients purchase a number of words to be used across their digital marketing strategy. Pre-authorizing a number of words of content gives the GNGF team more flexibility to keep the client’s goal in mind as they worked on the content strategy. With this better approach, your GNGF team now has the flexibility to use some of the buckets of words to extend existing webpages that are not ranking, they can use some of the words to combine and then edit similar pages that are competing for search traffic, or they can use many of the words to write whole new authoritative pages to go after new important keywords. With content flexibility, the GNGF team is not forced into ignoring the right tactic for the website because the only deliverable is another month of blog posts.
SEO + CONTENT = 1137% ORGANIC TRAFFIC GROWTH FOR THIS CLIENT
What are Keywords?
“Keywords” is the term digital marketers use to describe what people type into the search engine to look for information. While there are trillions of searches on Google each year, for a law firm, we focus on breaking these searches down into two types: branded keywords and non-branded keywords.
A “branded” keyword search is someone searching for your firm name, or one of the attorneys at the practice. For example, “The Law Offices of Kohls and Casseday” or “Jane Smith attorney.”
Branded keywords are the search terms used that describe your name, your law firm name, and anyone client-facing at your law firm, such as your attorneys and even paralegals and assistants that are very client focused. Think of branded keywords as the way people are referred to your firm. When most people are referred to a professional these days, they typically “Google” you, using your specific branded keywords.
A “non-branded” keyword search is someone searching for an answer to a question they have that may be related to what you are or what you do. For example, a non-branded search a law firm might care about is “car accident lawyer near me” or “can I still go to work if I get a DUI?”
By understanding your law firm’s brand and ideal target client, the GNGF team can use our vast experience and industry search tools to create a list of keywords that apply specifically to your firm. The team will use those keywords to determine where you stand on your branded keywords or where you stand against the competition on non-branded keywords.
While many law firms already have decent search results for their branded keywords, we are still surprised by the lawyers who are hard to find when searching with their “name + lawyer” or “name + attorney” in their city.
Even though it seems simple and basic to optimize for your branded keywords, they should not be ignored. In fact, they are actually one of the first things we work on in our “Law Firm Marketing the GNGF Way” process — we must make sure to “Protect Your Referrals”.
In fact, we often see an increase in leads to a law firm just working on branded keywords. For example, after just the first few months of working with a new client and optimizing for their branded keywords, one firm had a 51% increase in website traffic which led to a 171% increase in leads (from 7 to 19). For this firm that was the difference of an extra 2 clients per month.
We even built a “do-it-yourself” challenge for law firms who want to get a jumpstart on their branded keywords.
In your content strategy, there will of course be some content gaps needed to optimize for your branded keywords. But that is focusing on people who have already heard of your firm.
The biggest growth for a law firm happens when content marketing and content SEO strategies focus on getting your law firm’s website to appear at the top of the search engine results for non-branded keywords.
This means that your website is appearing as an answer to a query someone has about problems you can help them solve but they did not yet know about your firm.
When building a non-branded keyword content strategy, the GNGF team compares the strength of your website for all the various keywords identified for your specific law firm vs. the competition.
We will identify the best keywords to start working on and put the focus there. If the competition is significantly greater than your website for the obvious practice area keywords, your Strategic Account Manager may suggest some slight variations or a smaller subset of your practice area that is not as competitive. The goal is to show Google that your website has some authority in one set of keywords and then expand from there.
Despite what some people claim, when it comes to digital marketing specifically for law firms, the truth is that it is very difficult to take a website that is not ranking in the first few google pages for a lot of non-branded keywords and suddenly have them ranking for all of the important keywords for their practice areas.
That is why we build a content strategy that can achieve some early success and drive some new business to our law firm clients and then adjust and build on that success.
We are confident in our data and can say that a significant part of our client’s online success can be tied back to a pragmatic content strategy based on data specific to each law firm.
How many keywords can I put into one page?
Short answer, we recommend a webpage should only focus on one core target keyword topic.
We often get this question when clients are reviewing a GNGF content strategy for the first time. We get asked, “why don’t we put more types of practice area keywords on a page on the website?”
First, it is important to understand that while search engines try to crawl your entire website, the focus is on organizing each web page individually into the search index.
In other words, Google ranks webpages not websites.
I don’t care what someone else may have told you about some overall magical website weighting, the fact straight from Google is that they measure web pages, not websites. If you have been told differently, Jeff Ferguson explains this in detail in this Search Engine Journal article.
To oversimplify things, think of the google search algorithm working like this:
- someone searches on a non-branded search term such as “divorce lawyer near me”
- the search engine ‘bots’ look in all the buckets of information they have in the search index.
- First, they look at “near me” and figure out this searcher is in Milwaukee, Wisconsin so they go into their Milwaukee Wisconsin bucket of web pages.
- Then they see the person is looking for a lawyer and they go to the lawyer bucket to find all the lawyer-related web pages in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
- Then the algorithm dives into all those web pages and says which of these are web pages that are about the ‘divorce lawyer’ topic.
- All the web pages that are left are pulled out of the buckets and then the algorithm puts them in an order based on what it feels are the most informative and authoritative pages for this specific search.
Therefore, web pages that are extremely specific to issues around hiring a lawyer for divorce are going to have the best chance to rank higher.
This is an oversimplification of the algorithm, but it explains why we don’t want to make one web page about too many practice area concepts. Of course, there are other factors we focus on that go into the search engine optimization of a specific web page.
While Google is getting better at reading entire web pages to determine the quality of that page just as a human would, there are specific ways to add specific technical information around your content to help Google understand what the web page is about:
- The biggest one is the title of the page.
- Next are different headers tags (called H1, H2, etc).
- Finally, there is the ability to add some code that provides what is called structured data or schema markup to a web page.
That’s about it.
With only a few technical ways for your web page to scream to the search bots ‘this is what I am about’ it just doesn’t make sense to water down the web page by trying to do more than a few very closely related keyword topics.
Think about it this way, if you take the very valuable title tag to tell google this page is about divorce lawyer topics in Milwaukee Wisconsin, but then you take a tangent halfway down the page and start talking about adoption or other family law matters, the search engine isn’t going to think this page is as authoritative on the topic as a web page that spends all the time talking about divorce specific content.
In fact, this is related to another content strategy component that we work very hard to help our law firm clients understand. While a lawyer may lump multiple things under ‘family law practice’ most prospective legal services consumers searching about a divorce would never use the term family law and certainly wouldn’t think that divorce has anything to do with adoption or paternity issues.
Google thinks more like a legal services consumer not like a legal professional.
What Content Should I Include on my Law Firm Website?
Our experience has shown that successful law firm websites contain the following types of content:
- Home Page (overview content)
- Pages about each attorney and we often even recommend pages about all client facing staff
- A page about each practice area (as described by a consumer)
- Detailed sub-topic pages about niches within a general practice area
- A page that has frequently asked questions grouped by a keyword topic area
- Specific pages about your office locations
- Resource pages to help with conversion
- After all of the above is done, leverage your ranking growth and extend web presence to other parts of town with ‘city focused’ pages
We discussed the importance of content strategy in other FAQs and how it uses data to map what content needs to be created on the website.
In the type of pages that we describe above, the actual content can utilize different forms of media.
The foundation of your website should be built on easy-to-crawl, search, and read text-based content media.
However, videos, images, interactive graphics, and even audio media (like podcasts) are also great ways to help the prospective client understand your law firm’s brand.
[DO WE HAVE IMAGES WE CAN ADD FROM CLIENTS ABOUT Video (finney), Images, Interactive Graphics, Podcast?
Search engines provide ways for many of these other forms of media to be marked up behind the scenes and can appear in search engines alongside regular text content or enhance the ranking of an existing webpage.
What about a law firm blog?
One thing to note is that we didn’t say “blog” in that list. We have found that with quality content in those areas, law firms don’t need a blog to see great rankings that drive law firm leads.
We are not against a great law firm blog when done right and for the right reasons but using a blog post to try to rank on non-branded keywords is not the most optimum strategy anymore.
We at GNGF have been saying this for quite a few years, but if this goes against everything you have been (or are still being told), we recommend you check out an FAQ opinion we wrote about law firm blogs back in 2018.
What is the GNGF “Keep, Kill, or Combine” Content Strategy for Law Firm Websites?
As mentioned above, when we begin working with a law firm, we do an audit of the current content on the website during our discovery process.
Some law firms come to us with a lot of content already on their website.
Unfortunately, many of those firms have a lot of pages of content but each page is not very long and certainly does not represent a better web page about the topic than their competitors online. We call those ‘thin’ pages.
We understand why many law firms ended up with this issue. For years, agencies both large and small have been selling packages of content pages or blog posts.
Over five years ago that was often enough to help someone outrank the competition on Google. However, the competition has increased, and the content pages on your website that are focused on the keywords you are targeting must be much, much better than those webpages that are currently outranking you.
Enter the GNGF “Keep, Kill, Combine” content strategy.
Before we start looking at new pages that need to be created, we first audit the webpages that you already have. Sometimes this is less than a dozen pages, but sometimes, especially if someone has been buying “X blog posts a month” for many years it can be 100s of existing webpages.
We start with google analytics (of course that is if the analytics exist, if not, we set that up quickly and monitor for a few months) and if any webpages are getting traffic, those are marked as “Keep”. Believe it or not, for many sites we take-over only 5-10% of pages receive ANY web traffic at all.
Then we look at the remaining pages and determine whether to “Combine” some pages. If the content has potential, we will take several similar pages and combine and rewrite into a longer quality keyword-focused webpage that has the potential to compete with the competitive web pages targeting those keywords.
Finally, we are left with a set of pages that really don’t add any value to the site. By having too much thin content your website is taking precious search engine crawl time on subpar pages and dilutes the chance of the better pages getting the right attention. Those pages are marked “Kill” and are deleted from the site.
But “Content is King” I was told, why would you delete pages off of my site?
Because we have the data to show that this content strategy works.
In an extreme example, in one of the largest and most competitive markets in the country, we took over a criminal defense firm’s website that had almost 1000 pages of content. This site had ranked years earlier but as the Google algorithm and the local competition got better, this firm was seeing their rankings and their phone calls drop significantly. The website was the product of over five years of purchasing packages of “X blog posts” delivered each month. Unfortunately, it seemed the content was just being churned out with little focus on why and how it was structured on the website.
In less than one year of following our “Keep, Kill, Combine” content strategy the new website was:
- Ranking on 5000 more keywords than they were a year earlier
- Important keywords driving Top 10 rankings were up 240%
- Traffic to the website had more than doubled.
Those metrics mean nothing without results, in this case, after the jump in rankings and traffic, the client apologized for suddenly being slow to respond to needed approvals because “the phones have been ringing off the hook”
To get these results for the client again, here is what we did:
Since their calls were drying up fast, we needed to move quickly:
- We moved the site to one of our GNGF Go Theme Templates, matching (and improving) their firm’s brand design.
- Because the site was on a proprietary platform, we manually scraped all the content of the website
- Based on their goals, we built the target keywords list, and we restructured their website page/URL structure to maximize SEO while also making the site more navigable to an actual prospective client
Then we started the Keep, Kill, Combine process where we:
- Used analytics to Keep top ranking, top visited, and top converting pages
- Combined thin but decent content into longer informative content for the user while also being more quality for the keyword competition.
- Killed over 500 low quality pages
Of course, we improved the standard on-page SEO elements from the previous
- Header Tags, title/metas, markup, internal links
- Optimized all images
- Speed Optimization
Note, because of the massive overhaul, what we did not do in the first year (this was planned for phase 2):
- Additional Linkbuilding
- New Content
- Paid Advertising or Social Media
It is important to note that this data is from a few years ago. As you can see, we have been testing and perfecting our content strategy using Keep, Kill, Combine, and our Content Flexibility pricing for many years while others are still using old ‘X pages/posts a month’ strategies.
Of course, it doesn’t stop after the “Keep, Kill, Combine” process is complete.
Along with this strategy, our strategic account managers monitor the site vs. the competition to determine what new content needs to be created or where some existing pages can be extended and optimized even further.
Why is it Important to Budget for Content Flexibility vs. Number of Content Pieces?
For many years, like many other agencies, we budgeted a set number of content pieces in our law firm marketing services contracts.
As you can see from our “Keep, Kill, Combine” process above, writing new “X content pieces per month” was not providing a match to the content marketing tactics that were actually working for our clients.
At one of our quarterly strategy meetings a GNGF team member brought up an interesting point. If a law firm was going to use a service like Upwork or Verblio to find their own copywriter to help them with their website content, they typically are paying “by the word” not “by the article”.
She further challenged, “if the freelance copywriting world charges by word, why were all of us agencies charging by the page or post?”
She was right!
After switching to our ‘content flexibility’ model, we now believe that the answer to WHY most agencies do it that way is that it is much easier to sell and plan and create a factory for “500-1000 word” webpages or blog posts to be planned and created each and every month. It is also a very tangible ‘check the box’ deliverable agencies can show.
While our new content flexibility model was the right thing for our clients, it did take more work to execute than the old model.
However, we knew that our GNGF law firm content strategies required a variety of content to be created to help grow the success of a law firm website.
On a client-by-client basis, we do the research and analysis, build a robust content strategy and then execute on a variety of things that require different amounts of content to be written such as:
- Combining existing web pages and then rewriting some pieces and adding a few hundred words here and there to make the content read correctly for the user (and the search engines)
- Extending some existing pages targeting important keywords with another thousand or so words to rank better than competing webpages
- Writing completely new pages from scratch
- Writing frequently asked question content, or editing and extending transcripts from FAQ videos
- Maybe combining FAQs and using more words to create a downloadable PDF lead magnet
- Using words to build new attorney or staff profiles as the law firm grows
- or creating content for other content needs
Therefore, it became obvious that we had to:
- Stop charging our clients by the old “X pages a month” (which we had proven to ourselves did not work as well)
- Start budgeting “X thousand words” to be used for the website content as is needed and appropriate, based on our experience.
This gives the account manager and the client the flexibility to create, update, or extend, the content that is going to have the most impact on that law firm’s website success and adjust the strategies as the website improves or the competition adjusts.
We understand it is different than the way most people sell their marketing services, but we are convinced it is the best and most fair way to price our content creation services for our clients.
Why is a GNGF Law Firm Content Strategy Critical to my Success Online?
All our content work at GNGF is built on the right content strategy for your firm.
Your content needs will be unique to you because of:
- your law firm’s goals being different than other firms
- your existing website content
- the competition in your market
- and much more,
At GNGF, one of the first things we do when working with a client is the necessary audit and research about your website and the competition. We take this research and invest the time with you to develop a custom content strategy to execute over a series of months.
As you can see from earlier questions, this research does take more time than just producing standard legal website content.
Your content strategy defines not just what content is needed but why it needs to be written (or combined, or edited, or extended).
To get the success from your website that you desire, this “what and why” is as important, if not more important, than the actual content that is ultimately created.
Your content strategy plan is reviewed with your firm prior to the effort we take to research, create, and edit the content.
Of course, all your content is ultimately driven by your marketing goals and the brand platform we create with you.
Note: Because we teach marketing ethics at CLEs all over the country, we understand that many states have a stipulation in their professional rules of conduct that hold you, the lawyer, ultimately accountable to the state bar for anything we write, therefore we will NOT post new content to your website EVER without your prior approval.
What is Conversion Optimization of my Law Firm Website's Content?
Content is for more than just ranking – it must cause prospects to contact your firm
Legal website content is not just for search engine bots. The content we plan and create for your law firm’s website communicates your unique brand in a way that compels potential clients to contact your firm.
Our content creators are skilled in making sure the content on your website speaks to your target market while also being effective for search engine crawlers. They take your preferred communication approach as well as your users’ needs when creating each piece.
While we “markup” each piece of content appropriately for the search engines, the search ‘bots’ have become more and more amazing at evaluating content like the average consumer would.
Therefore, the quality of the content for your target market will likely satisfy the search engine ‘bots’ with just the basic onsite SEO recommended by Google.
Our goal is not only for your content to drive people to your website but for them to be compelled to hire you once they get there.
Content is the main vehicle for communicating what you do and why a potential client should hire you.
Therefore, we don’t build a bunch of generic law firm content and decide which firm is going to get it, we custom craft each piece for every client based on the content strategy.
No keyword-stuffed boilerplate content here.
Your Law Firm Blog Probably Sucks
Blogging has become a staple of most local law firms, however as marketers have taken over most of the actual production of blog content for these firms, their effectiveness in getting traffic and new clients have drastically diminished.
Google Core Updates June/July
Google is always updating its algorithm. Our team keeps an eye on these and we bring them on video to update what we are seeing in how this is affecting the typical Law Firm Website
Why Your Law Firm Needs a Custom Marketing Strategy
More and more we see packages promising a lot of amazing sounding deliverables for a “too good to be true” price. Unfortunately, many of these one-size-fits-all marketing packages are about as good as that one-size-fits-all pair of branded socks you got at the last conference you went to.