2/19/09

Internet Marketing for Lawyers: Your Law Firm's Footprint on the Web - Do You Have One?

It's amazing to me how many law firms are still adjusting to have a firm web site on the Internet (and by that I mean, how many firms are still in the process of publishing one).

It's even more amazing to me how once the firm has a website up and running, they think they're done. Except for maybe updating attorney bios and adding testimonials or big wins every so often.

Why? Because the real question that smart law firms need to be asking themselves these days is "how big is our footprint on the web?" and here's what I mean by that....

The Real Question: How Big Is Your Footprint?

Having a nice website is important for a law firm that wants to be competitive in today's market. Especially in today's fight for every client dollar.

If your clients have any level of sophistication, they're going to Google you (or get their kids to do it). They may search not only for the law firm itself, but also for several of the attorneys there - particularly those with whom they have been, or may be, dealing.

If they find a professional, impressive website - good. You're looking good so far.

But what if they're Googling your competition too? Maybe you should do this, and see what pops up.

Your Footprint On The Web

Simply put, your footprint on the web is how often your name is shown on the screen, in different places on the web. What does Google (or to be fair, Yahoo) show when your name is searched?

It's astounding what the search engines can find. Your attendance at a school board meeting may pop up; your letter to the editor of your local newspaper can be retrieved; even your political contributions and your ancestral rank in the family tree may appear in a Google search for clients (and especially potential clients) to read.

You need to use this opportunity to educate your clients (and potential clients) about who you are, including your level of expertise in the law as well as (and this is very important) in their industry or chosen field of interest.

How Do You Build Your Professional Footprint?

It is not an overwhelming task, at least it doesn't have to be. And, it really can be fun. Fun. Really.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Start leaving comments on heavy-traffic sites, you will be amazed at how these things get picked up by the search engines. This means making some sort of substantive contribution to an ongoing story over at the New York Times (they all have comment sections) or the Wall Street Journal, places like that.

2. Start issuing press releases. Yes, media releases. New hire? Press release. Firm retreat? Press release. Someone get Board Certified? Press release. And these can be online press releases, as opposed to the standard print media of old. These things build presence over time.

3. Starting your own blog is best. If you just can't bring yourself to do that yet, ask to write a guest blog post. Go to Google Blog Search, find blogs that discuss issues that pertain to your practice area, and have readership in your location. Don't ask for money and don't expect to be paid.

4. Write a White Paper and stick it on your firm site in .pdf format and offer it to others for their review and use. Make it informative and of the highest quality. Doesn't have to be long - you're not writing a book here. It does have to help people and it MUST spotlight how knowledgeable you are about what you do.

What do you write about? What you know. What are you and your buddies talking about over coffee? Write about that. Write about A-Rod taking steroids and should he be in the Hall of Fame. Write about the cost of gasoline. Write about the state of the State of California, or about child abuse, or about encrypting email.

You need to write about things you feel comfortable discussing because you have some level of mastery of the subject matter. No, it doesn't - and it shouldn't - always need to be heady, sophisticated legal analysis. Sometimes, it should be. Sometimes, it needs to showcase your personality, and give the reader an idea of what you're really like.

There's lots of lawyers out there that can do your job - they're your competitors. At some point, clients know who all can do the job for them, and their hiring decisions then turn to the person or firm that they feel comfortable with, with whom they can relate.

And here is where your FOOTPRINT can be invaluable. (And, with very little monetary investment, I might add.)

Bottom Line

Scatter seeds over many different sites, leaving your virtual business card in a number of places. Write for your intended reader (in law firm marketing that's easy: it's a referring attorney or a potential client). Do this routinely, and do this over an extended time period.

This doesn't have to take a lot of time, but it does take dedication. Marketing always does.
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