Wednesday, May 31, 2006

77% of Americans are online according to a Harris Poll

I ran across this recent Harris Poll. Some interesting facts:
In 1995 only 9% of adults were online.
In 2000 57% of adults were online.
Now 77% if adults are online.

What does this mean to a law firm? More and more adults are using the internet for shopping, communicating, and most importantly researching information. I think it is logical that consumers will be looking at and searching for legal related websites. Why wouldn't they? They research everything else online.

Having a well crafted, findable, and attractive website is more important than ever for attorneys.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Direct Mail marketing by attorneys

Direct mail has been around since the Pony Express. The question whether Direct Mail is effective is almost as old. Dose it work for attorneys and law firms? As I like to always answer most questions "it depends".
Some critical things to look at are:
1. What type of clients are you trying to attract? Small business owners, affluent individuals, people charged with a crime, etc... This is the most important question you ask yourself because it directly effects the most critical factor of your campaign...
2. The mailing list. If your list is poor, you results will be poor, no matter how pretty or compelling your copy and design are.
3. Outsource or Inhouse? Most mailing houses only want large mailings (50,000 +) Your law firm may not need that large of list. If you do it inhouse, that is a lot of manhours stuffing envelopes, printing labels, putting postage on.
4. Cost. With an average of a 1% client acquisition, I suggest that you really look at the bottom line. Postage, design, and your time can add up fast.
5. Goals. What are your goals for a direct mail piece? To have the phone ring? to announce your services in a new practice area? To acquire transactional clients? How many?
6. Testing. This is the most ignored aspect of direct mail campaigns I see. Track your results for each direct mail piece. Compare list results. Compare copy/design results. With a little testing you can see what the most cost effective combination is.
7. Leverage other marketing efforts with your direct mail. For example, put your website address on your direct mail piece. Email a version of the direct piece to your clients. Speaking of email marketing..stay tuned...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Google gains a little over Yahoo and MSN in searches

Google remains the top dog of online searches with 42.7 percent of all searches for the month of April. Yahoo declined a little from 30.7 percent to 28% as you can see in the article below

What does this mean? Google still remains the dominant player for searches (and we can assume legal related searches). However, Google still owns less than half of all searches. Don't focus only on Google when you search for your firm on the internet.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

New look for Yahoo! Homepage

If you have not already check out the Yahoo! new home page,
In my opinion, there is not a whole lot of improvement from the old Yahoo! Home page.

What this means to your legal website? Probably not a lot, except Yahoo! may get some more people using it for searches with this new publicity. Google still owns about 50% of all internet searches, but Yahoo holds on to the 2nd most popular search engine.

If you have a legal website and are concerned about search engine marketing, do not forget to test Yahoo as well as MSN and Google. I see too many law firms and attorneys only worry about how they show up on Google which again, only handles 50% of all searches.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Do People Actually Look for Attorneys on the Internet?

I am often asked this question. The short answer is yes. The long answer is, "It depends". A few factors determine this listed below in no particular order.
1. Practice Area. Does the average internet user need an Insurance Defense/General Litigation attorney? Most likely not. Internet surfers may however need a lawyer in practice areas of family, divorce, criminal, small business incorporation, construction/home improvement, immigration, real estate, bankruptcy, consumer protection, personal injury, medical malpractice, estate planning etc. You get the picture.
2. Geographical area. For instance, if you are in a very rural part of the country with little internet access, then do not expect to have thousands of web hits per month.
3. Demographics. Younger folks tend to be online more than older folks.

My advice. If you are unsure if your area of practice and geographic situation will result in prospective clients looking for you via the internet, start small. Get a basic website and see what happens.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Yellow Page Listings

Most attorneys I speak to see diminishing returns with their hard copy Yellow Pages/telephone book but are afraid of stopping their listing due to "losing their place" in the order of the book or not being found at all.

So what is a law firm to do? Here is what I recommend:
1. Make a comprehensive list of all marketing dollars and where they are going. This includes the basic telephone book listing in your town all the way to that $500/month website.
2. Determine what each advertising dollar you spent brought in as far as net profit for the year(you are tracking how clients are aquired aren't you?).
3. Find your top advertising mediums and invest more in them. Consider dropping the non producers.

For instance, is it really worth it to keep just your name in a local book for say $175/month? This listing says nothing of what type of lawyer you are and what kind of law you practice. If by chance someone were to call you, they would ask basic questions on whether you can help then with their legal issue.
That money could be better served in a mini website that targets a particular area of practice you are trying to promote. The mini website could be crafted to attract visitors from a specific geographic area such as "Bucks County PA". The prospective client who finds your through this medium already knows what areas of practice your firm covers, where you are located, and a little about your firm's profile.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Online Legal Directories, are they worth it?

There are hundreds of online directories specifically targeting lawyers and law firms. They range from the behemoths of Findlaw and to the more practice specific ones of Divorcenet and LegalPointer.

There are two main reason to be listed in any online directory listing attorneys.
1. Visitors will come to the directory and find you
2. Your website will be listed in the directory giving your website an incoming link (having incoming links to your websites from reputable sources helps increase your exposure on the web).

The problem with reason #1, is that the directory listing is often priced to market demand not how many qualified prospects you will receive. For instance, Personal Injury often will cost 5-10 times more than a Divorce listing only because the PI attorneys are more likely to pay a high price. My advice, take a good hard look at the directory spot. Ask hard questions like "how many visitors and/or prospects should I expect to obtain from this listing?" Ask to see web traffic reports and ask some other lawyers that have that listing their opinions.

If you can get the lowest cost listing on a particular directory, then reason #2 would be a good move. Having an incoming link to your website for $10-$50/month from a legal directory is probably worth the positive effect on your firm's search rankings.

In conclusion, I would be very wary of spending big money on directory spots. If you want to spend big money, use it for more web content or look into pay per click.

Until next time,

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Articles and Newsletters on your law firm's website

Both articles and newsletter type content can help your site's ranking in the major search engines. In addition, your visitors will be engaged and impressed by your knowledge in their legal issue
Just a few pointers:
1. Ideally, the articles and newsletters should be HTML pages (normal web format) not files that your visitors have to download. HTML is the most search engine friendly format available.
2. If you do not have the ability or time to transfer your articles or newsletters, then chose a popular file type such as Word or Adobe's PDF. The first page or so will be indexed by the search engines.