Attorneys today know that local searches are the wave of the future. Over 110 million Americans have already looked online for information about attorneys or their legal issues, and it's estimated that nearly 60 million will look in 2013. Think about where your clients tend to come from. If the vast majority of them are from your local area, you don't need to worry about big global search terms—instead, keep your internet marketing based on the idea of finding local people, and you'll get a much better return on investment. Here are seven steps that will get you started on having the kind of local search presence that will bring in new clients.
Step 1: Check the Basics of Your Website
You should start your local search marketing by doing a thorough check of your website. Without a great website, even if you can get people to visit the site, you won't get them to stay long—and you certainly won't cause them to want to call you. Local searches are only useful when they lead to a conversion-ready website.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that you can design your own website or use a template that you only mostly know how to edit. Get a professional company that understands local searches to handle this part of your business: you wouldn't do your own electrical or plumbing work, and this is something that is similarly best left to the pros.
Don't use an old website version that seems half-broken and try to fix it for your local search rankings. Consumers know what looks old and what looks professional and new when they do local searches. You won't save yourself any money by making them think you don't care enough about the information on your website to present it professionally.
Step 2: Make Sure You're Mobile-Ready
You should also make sure that your website displays correctly for mobile phone operating systems to attract the biggest number of local search clients. If you're not mobile ready, you risk losing out on the over 25 percent of local searches that are now conducted through smartphone devices. These searchers tend to be more affluent and more likely to make a decision to call you (because they're already holding their phone). This means that you don't want local searches from smartphones to direct to a website with broken pieces, text that looks “funny,” or Flash videos (which iOS can't see).
Step 3: Become a Sponsor—More Than Once
Next, start thinking about the things you can do offline in your community that might be able to help you build a better presence for local searches online. For example, what about sponsoring a children's sports team or some other type of community activity or event? Typically, in exchange for sponsorship, you'll get a mention on websites that makes your local search ranking improve. Since many of these websites are known to Google and other search engines for having a local focus, businesses mentioned on these sites are likely to appear earlier in search results.
Just sponsoring a single event or team probably won't be enough to get measurable results, unless you're practicing law in a very small town. You should try to sponsor community events and activities as often as possible.
Step 4: Give Back in Your Community
In addition to sponsoring events, consider charitable donations and making appearances as a volunteer at charity events. If you're appearing at charity events and working within your community, you'll be able to build valuable connections both on and offline. Today, these kinds of dual-purpose networking connections are among the most important that an attorney can build.
However, in order to maximize the effect that this giving will have on your local searches, you should consider making most of your donations to charities that are explicitly local. These are more likely to identify your firm as a strong legal presence in your local area, and thus are more likely to move your firm into the first page of local search results for people seeking lawyers in your city.
Step 5: Find Out Who's Prominent in Your “Local Web”
Unless you're located in a very small town (and perhaps even if you are), there are probably local podcasts and other local internet sites that have attracted a significant following in your community and can help you get local search rankings. Try looking for local people who have a podcast or a video blog. Many of these people might be willing to have a guest on for an interview or just as a second temporary host.
This can be a great way to get your name out in a local search in front of an audience that is very internet savvy and likely to recommend you online. You'll also see your search rankings for local searches rise in a hurry when you're making use of your local web.
Step 6: Get Rated and Reviewed
If you're going to be truly successful, you'll also need to succeed in the part of the internet that helps people “validate” recommendations made by family and friends. People won't just look at your firm's website when someone tells them to hire you as a lawyer. Instead, local search often brings up rating or review websites. These sites help people understand what you're like to work with and are considered to be a major influence by many legal consumers. Because they're common in local search results, you should be part of them.
When you're rated highly on one of these websites, you may see your conversion rate skyrocket. But that great advantage, of course, has a flip side. Keep in mind today that every client you have could affect your reputation online in a way that could hurt your business for months or even years to come.
Step 7: Check Your Results
When you've started getting an influx of people from local searches, you should take a look at how many are coming from which searches, and what things you're doing when you get the largest spikes in clients. You may find that a particular form of local sponsorship does a lot for your local search results, or that it does almost nothing at all. By continuing to experiment and keeping track of the experiments you've already done, you'll be learning more all the time about the kinds of consumers who use your firm and their preferences in local searches.