Stephen Fairley 0000-00-00 00:00:00
No doubt about it, Internet marketing has radically transformed the face of legal marketing. More of our time, both at work and at home, is spent online. Whether it’s researching topics of interest, connecting with other people on Facebook, planning our next vacation or watching movies on Netflix videos. One of the secret tools of Internet marketing for attorneys is the power of having a targeted blog. In a new report on the influence of blogs, eMarketer.com found that in 2010, 51% of Internet users in the U.S.— that’s over 91 million people— read blogs, and they project that usage will go to 60% (150 million) in the next four years! Still think blogs are a fad? you heard it here: if your law firm marketing plant doesn't have a robust social media component including a blog, you are courting irrelevance. While Social networks like facebook and Twitter continue to be more popular, blogs hold a unique position in the online media landscape because they have become an accepted source of high quality, relevant information. Americans spend nearly a quarter of their time online on social networking sites and blogs, up from 15.8 percent just a year ago (that’s a 43% increase) according to research released recently from The Nielsen Company. According to their data, Americans spend 36% of their online time communicating and networking on social networking sites like Facebook, reading blogs, sending personal emails and instant messaging friends and family members.Technorati, the top blog search engine,is tracking over 133 million blogs worldwide.Two years ago, there were only about 1,800 to 2,200 blogs written by lawyers. Last year there were approximately 4,500 legally related blogs. As of this year, www. Law.com now indexes over 23,000 legal blogs! There is still a window of opportunity, but it is closing quickly. 3 Keys to Successful Blogging Clear Strategy. Are all legal blogs successful? No, and here's why: lack of a clear strategy Blogging should be a part of, but not your entire, online law firm marketing strategy Think of a blog as an online platform that allows you to connect with members of your local community educate potential prospects, stay connected with clients, show referral sources what you can do, and position yourself as a credible expert to the media. In order for your blog to be effective it needs to include: • A list of topics designed to engage your target audience • A list of social media sites you can use to promote your blog (think Facebook Linkedln andTwitter) and a clear plan of how to do it • A list and schedule for utilizing article marketing services to add visibility and to feed your blog to journalists and thought leaders • A search engine optimization strategy to increase your page rank (Google's measure of your site's authority) Content Is King. In a recent study of 1,400 small business owners and lead generation results from blogs and social media, Hubspot.com reported that business to business (B2B) companies who reported having a blog generated 67% more leads than companies who did not have a blog.The gap was even larger when comparing business to consumer (B2C) companies (in the legal industry a B2C law firm would practice primarily consumer law like personal injury, family law, bankruptcy estate planning, and criminal defense). B2C companies who had a blog reported generating 88% more leads than B2C companies who did not. Read that again! That one statistic should convince the skeptics among you to rethink your "I don't understand blogging or I don't have time to blog" non-strategy For our clients who use blogging and social media correctly it is becoming a great source of online lead generation. However, you need to know that content is king. Google loves fresh content and in general, the more fresh content you push out to Google the more it will reward your blog site by pushing it up the results. In that same report by Hubspot.com, they found a direct correlation between the frequency of blog updates and the percentage of companies who acquired clients from their blog. Only 38% of businesses who update their blog monthly reported acquiring a new client. That percent went to 58% for blogs updated weekly Sixty-nine percent of companies acquire new clients when updating their blog 2-3 times per week, but 90% of companies who update their blog daily report acquiring a new client! Frequency matters! Conversion Matters Most. Many law firms spend an enormous amount of time and money trying to drive visitors to their website and blog. However, they don't spend nearly enough time focusing on tweaking their blog or website to improve conversion rates. It's amazing how much difference the placement of a photograph can make or the changing of a headline or even the size of the opt in button. I recently came across a fascinating website that shows you real results from a wide variety of industries and the tests they conducted on their website to determine which one would convert better: I highly recommend you check it out if you want to start learning more about how to improve conversion rates: www.WhichTestWon.com. Many business owners (yes, as a partner you are a business owner) continue to struggle with how to accurately measure return on investment (ROI) for blogs and social media. As you develop your social media marketing plan, take the time to determine what you want to know Using a tool like Google Analytics, you can track your conversion rate of website visitors compared to how many take action by calling the phone number on your website or fill out the contact form or request your free special report. You also want to track how many of those people who take those actions actually set appointments; how many of those appointments show up; how many of those appointments turn into paying clients; and how much money each of those new clients spend with your law firm. However you choose to measure social media, it is imperative that you have a success metric in mind before you begin. Without some sort of benchmark, determining your ROI is impossible. Digital intelligence firm eMarketercom just came out with a free report called "Seven Guidelines for Achieving ROI from Social Media" that does a nice job of summarizing exactly what marketers need to do to achieve success with their social media marketing programs. I'll do my best to summarize: 1. Establish clear marketing goals for your company (generate more opt ins, more leads, etc). 2. Identify the basic measurements and metrics you want to measure. 3. Remember; social media is a commitment to connect with leads, clients and referral sources, it's not a campaign.To win at social media, you need to have a long-term outlook 4. If hard ROI metrics are difficult to track directly, consider a range of softer metrics that can be linked back to desired business outcomes. 5. Determine how much a client who opts in to your database is worth to you if a sale is made. Estimate how many sales you need to make in a year to justify the investment. 6. In your ROI calculations, don't overlook the value of cost savings that result from engaging in online conversations with prospects, leads, clients, and potential referral sources. 7. Examine your choices for managing your blog and social media marketing efforts.You have three choices: (a) Do It Yourself! While this may seem the cheapest option at first ("It's only my time"), consider this—How much do you charge per hour (if you don't charge hourly ask yourself how much value do you place on an hour of your time)? For example, if you bill out at $250 per hour and it only takes you 1 hour to research, write, edit and post a blog (that's a good estimate), but you do this 5 times every week to maximize lead generation, that's $1,250 per week, $5,000 per month, or $65,000 per year That's not counting the "opportunity cost"—not only will you "spend" $65,000 of your time each year, but you will also lose another $65,000 in actual billing where you could have billed a client! So the true cost of "doing it yourself" may be upwards of $130,000! Suddenly, that doesn't seem so cheap. (b) Use a Staff Member:This usually takes the form of either instructing an associate to do it (what's their motivation to write great blog posts 5 times every week?) or assigning another non-attorney staff person to write it—at which time it becomes just one more thing on their long list of to dos. Not to mention the fact that you will need to make sure any staff member understands key word density ratios, how to insert the correct key words, and using the correct header and title tags—you know all that SEO stuff, which is the real reason why you are blogging anyway; (c) Outsource It. A growing number of attorneys are outsourcing their blogging efforts and social media campaigns to organizations like ours (full disclosure: yes, we have a program for attorneys to manage their blog and social media).When you outsource you can focus on end results not the process and hopefully you will be working with professionals who do this for a living. It's not just another item on their to do list, it is the very service you are paying them to provide for your firm. When you interview an outsourced legal marketing company be sure they meet these 5 criteria: (i) they can point to other attorneys they work with; (ii) they have a written blueprint for how they intend to generate leads for your law firm; (iii) they clearly integrate blogs and social media and see one as an extension of the other; (iv) they charge a fiat fee that's reasonable based on results; and (v) they have clearly identified strategies to track and measure actual results from your blog and social media. Having a written guarantee of results is even better. The two most difficult ones for most attorneys to grasp are # 3 - social media is a commitment, not a campaign (there is no easy button and it's not a "get rich quick" scheme) and #7—how to manage blogs and social media cost effectively (doing it yourself is usually the most expensive option). Building a social media presence takes time.You cannot simply post a few articles on your blog and expect prospects to knock down your doors. Create content that is relevant to your targeted prospects, keep pumping out fresh content 5 times per week, and when they come focus on converting them!
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