Several years ago, I began working with a life insurance lawyer in Center City, Philadelphia. This was the first time that I had ever worked with an attorney, and it began my journey into law firm marketing.
Many law practices live and die by their Google rank. For most of my previous accounts, digital was just one part of the marketing mix; for many lawyers, this one included, it was virtually the entire mix. There is a clear reason for this; while some areas of practice allow for a firm to establish a long-term relationship with its clients—as a real estate or tax lawyer may—areas of practice like life insurance, personal injury and criminal law force a firm to constantly find new clients.
Given the potentially high payoff of a litigating a successful case, the law firm SEO and PPC landscape is fierce. There are paid search keywords that go as high as $150/click and the large firms are spending tens of thousands of dollars a month on SEO and PPC. We had to deliver results in an extremely competitive environment.
I set out to deconstruct the SEO strategy of competing firms, only to find that every one of them was using blackhat strategies such as comment spamming and paid links. I had always been under the impression that Google had become good at weeding out these practices, but as I delved further into law firm SEO, I came to find that nothing could be further from the truth. As I began to take on more and more attorneys, I found that the sites that ranked well fell into one of two categories: firms using blackhat SEO and firms that had full marketing departments with strong relationships with the press.
It seems like the high-risk, high-reward approach of using blackhat SEO to rank law firm websites has been the only way that smaller practices are able to compete with the massive multi-state firms that are all over the news. As a result, I’ve explained to my clients the risks involved with replicating these strategies and largely steered them towards PPC, while setting aside a small budget to create content to target long-tail keywords.