For many years solicitors firms in the UK have relied upon two key aspects for their marketing; reputation and referrals. With changes in UK legislation the latter won;t exist and they must turn to their websites and SEO to steal a march on competing firms.
The aspect of reputation goes without saying but does not guarantee a steady flow of new clients and work, especially for the expanding or larger practice.
The biggest client aqcuisition strategy for most solicitors firms has been through referrals from claims management companies who have been authorised by the Ministry Of Justice. For referring these claims, a solicitors firm would pay the claims management company a healthy referral fee of anywhere between £400 and in some cases £1000 for each case. Sadly some of the more nefarious claims management companies would sell these claims details to multiple solicitors thereby multiplying their profits and milking their clients.
We all know and hate those adverts on TV and radio spouting “where there’s blame there’s a claim”. For those of use whose blood pressure rises at the first whisper of making a claim good news is at hand. For solicitors firms who are reliant on this work I am afraid that the writing is in the wall.
Recent legislation has been passed in the UK which bans the practice of solicitors firms paying for case referrals which, has a two fold effect. Less annoying adverts for us the TV viewing public but also a dramatic cull on the route to market for many solicitors firms.
Owing to the lucrative nature of the claims referral industry, the claims management companies have invested hundreds of thousands into their own marketing and SEO that now has little if any worth. This was a marketing budget spend that solicitors firms believed that they didn’t have to pay as they relied on the work that was referred to them.
One thing that many people didn’t realise was that solicitors firms couldn’t claim back as part if their costs, the price they had paid for the case referral. To all intents and purposes the referral fee was marked as a marketing spend, and a large one at that.
Still, as one door closes another one opens. Solicitors are realising that the profession as a whole has been ignoring the marketing power of the internet and have paid little or no attention to their website presence. I have heard from many web designers that solicitors firms have been teling them that they bought a website years ago and it hasn’t driven any business to them at all. Well this is not surprising.
The legal profession need to understand that a website is a living and breathing thing. It needs nurturing and feeding if any return is to be made on their investment. They cannot rely on just putting up a website and the following day loads of new clients will find them on Google and start instructing them in droves. A number of solicitors firm’s websites that I have recently audited show that they have not been updated for years. It is also apparent that those websites have not even been optimised for the keyword practice phrases that they want to be found for. Only a handful had a blogging facility and even less had any kind of social media integration.
There are a small number of solicitors firms who have embraced the SEO method and whose websites are doing impressively well in targeted traffic. As a direct example the Manchester solicitors firm Pannone have an excellent website which has been and continues to be optimised well. They update on a very regular basis with on topic articles and news bulletins. They have good social media integration and it is obviously working. I won’t hazard a guess at their SEO budget spend however, remembering the old adage of “you get what you pay for”, they have got it and a lot of it.
So what about the rest of the solicitors in the UK. Solicitors have to appreciate that the legal market place is changing. People now see Google as a primary resource for information and social networks as a way of being recommended services. With referral fees being scrapped solicitors firms will have to find their own route to the market place and are left with traditional advertising and online marketing with SEO or PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising.
The sooner solicitors embrace the power of the SEO and effective internet marketing the better for them. They also need to appreciate that good SEO comes at a price and to opt for the cheapest supplier could be throwing good money down the drain as well as allowing the firm next door to steal a real march and get the business.
The claims referrals industry has allowed even the smallest form to get the chance of nationally based clients. Recent studies have shown that 20% of Google searches are for locally based services or products and solicitors firms could now get a real online foothold in their local area; for example by optimising for the search term “fraud solicitor manchester“.
Many solicitors have a bleak outlook for the future but the forward thinking few are embracing the changes and seeing it as a real opportunity to expand into a new arena of providing legal services. They are investing into their websites through SEO and are starting to find a real return on their investments. Those professional clients who started with us a few months ago have seen a real upturn in the business generated by the websites. The longer others leave it the more costly their SEO will become as the keywords become more and more competitive.
There is no better time for a solicitors firm to start looking at their SEO and social media strategy than now. Leaving it until later will only make the job harder, more time consuming and inevitably more expensive.
Speak to a number of SEOs and see what experience they have in the legal market place. Make sure that they are not optimising the website of your leading competitor, where an obvious conflict would arise. Ask them their advice on keywords and strategy and listen to what they say.
In the legal market place, the future is bright, it is exciting and it is there for the taking.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Richard Hartley is senior SEO at Big Red Rocket. He has worked in a many competitive market places and has a loyal band of clients who solely use his services. He writes articles on the ever changing subject of SEO and is available for lectures on SEO for professionals.
In the world of SEO he has a unique insight to the workings of the legal market place and has consulted for and implemented SEO strategies for a number of solicitors and professional organisations.
Owing to the natural sensitivity of Richard’s client base he is happy to work under confidentiality agreements.
For further information you can contact Richard by clicking here.