How Law Firms Can Avoid Online Marketing ScamsRieva Lesonsky
Has your law firm been burned by online marketing solutions before? Unfortunately, there are some scam operators out there that promise more than they can deliver. How can you protect your firm and avoid being disappointed in your online marketing provider?
What to look for in legal online marketing solutions
1. Measurable results: Digital lead generation and search engine optimization tactics may not be your area of expertise, but the results of these efforts are easy to measure. SEO efforts should boost your website traffic, while online lead generation services should increase the number of leads you get and, ultimately the number of conversions. It's that simple. If a company can't show you measurable results within a realistic amount of time, be wary.
2. Realistic promises: Speaking of "realistic”: The reality is that SEO takes time to pay off, so be wary of any legal marketing solution that claims to guarantee top rankings on search results pages within a matter of days. It can take several months for search engines to re-index your site and for your search engine optimization efforts to pay off. While you should expect to see gradual improvement, companies that promise instant results may be using unethical tactics that can backfire on your business. As Google warns, “Practices that violate our guidelines may result in a negative adjustment of your site's presence in Google, or even the removal of your site from our index.” (Read Google's guidelines for choosing a search engine optimization provider.)
3. Additional marketing services: To get the most from a legal marketing provider, look for one that offers additional marketing services along with organic search optimization. SEO is just one part of your firm’s online marketing plan, and if the company you choose to handle organic SEO can also help you with pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, social media marketing and other services, so much the better.
4. Ongoing support and advice: Some legal marketing solutions sign you up for a program — and then you never hear from them again. A reputable online marketing company will be available for customer support when you have questions or need advice. For example, Web.com’s Lead Stream product includes monthly review calls with online marketing experts, as well as ongoing customer support.
How to choose an online marketing solution for your law firm
1. Talk to clients: See if the company can refer you to other law firms or attorneys it serves as clients. Ask them about their experience, including what kind of results they got, whether they feel the service was worth the cost, and whether they would recommend it to others. Then, go beyond pre-selected references. Ask around among your business and legal connections. Has any other law firm or attorney you know used this law marketing solution? If the company provides online marketing solutions for other types of businesses, you can ask those business owners for feedback, too.
2. Do your homework: In addition to reaching out to your real-life contacts, be sure to go online to find out what other people are saying about this particular legal marketing solution. Search for mentions of the company on social media, and look for reviews on software and services review sites. Don't forget to check the basics such as the Better Business Bureau website. Of course, every business will get some negative reviews or comments, but you should be able to get a sense of what customers overall think of this legal marketing service. You should also check how long the company has been in business.
3. Ask questions: Attorneys are often used to being the smartest people in the room, and may find it hard to admit when they don't know something. But unless you are an SEO expert, it's easy to get confused when terms like “black hat,” “metadata,” “SERP” and “SEM” are being thrown around. If you don't understand something the marketing solution provider is offering, ask them to explain it in plain language. Remember, you are the client and deserve to have your questions answered. In addition, you'll ultimately be responsible for the actions of the legal marketing provider you choose, so you need to understand just what they're doing. If a company won't or can't explain exactly what they plan to do and what the expected results are, consider that a red flag.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship.