Whether you run a solo outfit or manage a large law firm, you probably spend a significant amount of your overhead on marketing. You need to get a return on that investment, so attracting potential clients is a priority. 

In order to attract clients, it’s important to understand how people find, choose, and ultimately hire an attorney when they need help. Taking the time to learn a little bit about the process can really pay off – helping your firm to target its SEO and marketing budget more effectively. 

While many potential clients continue to rely on recommendations from friends and family to find a lawyer, the truth is that most people begin their search for legal services online. 

In fact, one study found that 96% of people use a search engine like Google to find a lawyer.

Let’s look at the basic steps in a potential client’s search for an attorney from the beginning through retaining an attorney. 

Generally, there are four steps a person takes to create a “shortlist” of potential attorneys.

Most people have no interest in searching for a lawyer until they need one. 

They won’t reach out to a personal injury lawyer until they’ve been in a car accident or gotten hurt because of a defective product. They won’t search for a criminal defense attorney until they find themselves (or a family member) facing criminal charges. They won’t look for a family law attorney until there’s a need to take formal action in terms of a divorce or protecting their family.

Whatever the reason might be, a legal issue needs to arise for the person to begin searching for an attorney.

Most people begin searching for an attorney by Googling to find an answer to a legal question. Google has about 88 percent of the search engine market share in the United States. 

Therefore, most law firm marketing strategies focus on appearing at or near the top of Google search engine results (SERPs). One of the best strategies is to answer questions that people will enter into search engines.

Many people ask a question, like “How much is my personal injury case worth” or “How long does it take to get divorced?” 

Therefore, providing answers to specific questions consumers ask when searching for a lawyer can be a valuable Search Engine Optimization tool that generates new leads.

3.  Conduct Targeted Geographical Searches For a Lawyer

Once a person finds an answer to the question bothering them the most, they will begin searching by geographical area. 

For example, they may search for a “family lawyer near me” or “personal injury attorney in Boston.” The goal is to get a list of attorneys that handle the legal issue in question.

Google displays results in a specific order.

At the top of the page are LSAs or Local Service Ads. Law firms must pay to appear as a “Google Guaranteed” or “Google Screened” ad. Whether the consumer is impressed by the LSAs depends on the consumer. 

According to BrightLocal, LSAs get 13.8% of clicks when they appear on a SERP.

Pay-per-click ads are the next thing to appear in the search engine results. These PPC ads are also paid spots on the pages for local search engine results. However, these ads are only words and may not draw as much attention as the LSAs.

When a SERP contains LSAs, PPC ads (at the top) get about 11.1% of user clicks. When no LSAs appear, top-of-page PPC ads get 14.1% of user clicks.

Local Pack results show the results of a local search query. Three businesses relevant to the search query are shown on a local map. Goggle ratings, addresses, and a short “blurb” about the business are located beneath the map. Users have an option to click for additional results. 

The results in the Local Pack are generated from information in Google’s business listings. Therefore, as part of your local SEO strategy, you need to make sure you update your Google My Business information.

The three-pack gets 28.8% of clicks (LSAs appear) and 32.2% of clicks (no LSAs appear).

Organic results fill the rest of the page. Google generates these results based on complex algorithms. Ranking organically is tough, so many law firms hire SEO specialists and law firm marketing companies to help them rank higher in the organic search results.

Organic search results get the lion’s share of user clicks. In fact, the top 3 organic results on a Google SERP secure 34.6% and 39% of user clicks (with and without LSAs appearing, respectively). 

Should you focus your marketing efforts on LSAs or PPC ads, try to get your firm to show up in the local pack, or invest in strategies to rank organically? Or, all of the above? 

The answer really depends on a lot of different factors: the geographic area you’re targeting, what type of law you practice, and how your law firm’s website is converting at the moment. 

Typically, a comprehensive approach is best – priming your firm to appear in multiple sections on the SERP, and increasing the odds that a user decides to click through to your law firm’s website.

4.  Research: Visit Attorney Websites and Check Online Reviews

The next step is to visit law firm websites. A potential client might visit up to six or more law firm websites when searching for an attorney. 

Keep in mind that consumers have a short attention span. Therefore, the law firm’s website needs to have specific factors to increase CRO (Conversation Rate Optimization). Consumers may not be aware of the factors that attract them to a law firm’s website. 

However, based on searches and time spent on websites, factors that can help keep a potential lead on your website longer include:

  • Websites that load quickly
  • Provides information in clear formatting
  • Easy to navigate to pages of interest
  • Visually impressive graphics
  • Content that is informative and helpful
  • Websites that are accessible on cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices

In addition to researching a law firm by visiting the firm’s website, the consumer also reads online attorney reviews on sites like Google and Avvo. Online reviews are powerful. If your law firm has a low rating, most consumers will continue to the next law firm. Getting a one-star increase on Yelp can grow revenue by as much as 9%!

The average rating is important, but so is the number of ratings your firm has. For example, a consumer may choose a law firm with a higher number of ratings when the rating is the same as another law firm with a lower number of ratings. 

People also put a lot of stock into whether law firms respond to reviews – good and bad.

Therefore, law firms need to focus on getting ratings from prior clients on Google, Facebook, legal directories like Yelp, and other review sites – and responding with feedback on a regular basis.

Most law firms have testimonials from prior clients on their websites. Consider adding video testimonials to your website. A video testimonial may attract more attention and be more convincing than a written testimonial.

Narrowing the Options: Consultations and Research

The next step is to meet with lawyers on the shortlist to determine which one is the best fit for the client’s particular situation.

1.  Set Up Initial Attorney Interviews

Face-to-face impressions are the best way for a consumer to judge whether an attorney is right for them. Therefore, the consumer contacts the law firms on their shortlist to schedule a consultation. The firms that respond quickly and make the intake process efficient and pleasant will make the best impression.

Therefore, the employees answering your law firm’s phones and responding to online requests need to be caring, compassionate, friendly, and knowledgeable. You do not get a second chance to make a first impression.

Law firms with a 24/7 live chat feature online and representatives to answer phones will have a higher conversion rate. Consumers call law firms at all hours of the day and night. Today, you need to be ready whenever the consumer finds time to call.

From a conversion standpoint, the key points to remember are:

  • Prompt response
  • Friendly employees
  • Helpful communication
  • Availability
  • An efficient and easy intake process
  • Free consultations 

Your law firm could be the last firm on the consumer’s shortlist. However, if you meet more of the above factors, your law firm could be the one that receives the person’s business. 

2.  Conduct Additional Research

Potential clients might continue to research while they schedule and attend initial interviews. They might try to verify that you are licensed to practice and in good standing with your state’s bar association. In addition, they may follow your law firm on social media websites.

Therefore, never stop adding new and informative content to your website and social media sites. Creating new advertising campaigns will keep your law firm fresh in the person’s mind if they are following your law firm’s social media accounts or revisiting your website as they continue to choose which attorney to hire. 

3.  (Potentially) Put Off the Decision…Because Life Can Get in the Way

Even after a potential client meets with a law firm, they might not hire an attorney right away. Things come up, and the consumer may take days or weeks to make a decision. 

But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re off their radar. Keeping your law firm front and center is the key to converting consumers who might still be in the process of researching law firms. The goal is to bring the person back to your website when they’re ready to hire a lawyer.

Some law firms use newsletters or eBooks as a way to stay in contact with potential leads. By providing their email address, the consumer can obtain additional information that is not available on the website. “Free” materials are often a great marketing tool.

However, law firms need to be careful that they do not overload a consumer with unrequested contacts. A law firm marketing consultant can assist attorneys in developing targeted contacts for potential clients.

The goal is to encourage the leads to schedule appointments to meet with an attorney without causing them to block the contacts because of too much pressure. 

Making the Final Decision to Hire an Attorney 

Once you can get the potential client in the office door, it is up to the attorney to close the deal. However, the law firm cannot forget that with each initial interview, there may be dozens of new leads that day for the law firm to process. Therefore, lawyers must continue to enhance and implement a digital marketing strategy that results in leads turning into clients. 

The internet has changed the way potential clients search for legal services. Understanding how people find, choose, and hire an attorney can help law firms target their marketing dollars more effectively. 

At LawRank, our law firm SEO specialists know what it takes to stand out in a cluttered marketplace of competing attorneys vying for your attention. Contact us today if you’re interested in learning more about our award-winning digital marketing for lawyers and personal injury lawyer SEO services that can put your law firm on top.