Law Firms Budgeting for SEO
CallRail’s 2022 Marketing Outlook for Law Firms reports that 59 percent of law firms surveyed said that they would like to spend more on marketing strategies but believe that they don’t have the budget to compete with bigger firms. You don’t need to compete with the budget of a massive law firm to start seeing results from marketing. You just need to have the right strategy to match your budget.
In this chapter, we will cover the importance of making a budget for your law firm marketing, how to determine what budget works best for your firm, which channels you should invest in to maximize your budget, how to evaluate and tweak that budget over time, and whether it’s worthwhile to hire an outside marketing agency to handle it all for you.
Top takeaways from this chapter
- Why your marketing budget is important
- How to figure out how much to allocate for marketing
- How to analyze your ROI and use it to tweak your strategy
- How to maximize your budget
- Common mistakes to avoid when building your marketing budget
- Whether you should do your marketing in-house or hire an agency
The importance of budgeting for law firm marketing
“How much is it going to cost me?” That’s a big question for most law firms just entering the digital marketing world and hoping to create new clients from search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, pay-per-click (PPC), and other types of legal marketing.
The key here is to know that you can work within your budget in most situations. However, it’s also important to be realistic about what you can expect from what you put into it.
In the ABA’s 2022 Legal Technology Survey, they reported that of the law firms surveyed, only 57 percent had a marketing budget. Having a law firm marketing budget sets you up to reach potential clients.
For some law firms, it’s difficult to justify spending money on a marketing budget because it can seem like a gamble to put some of your firm’s revenue into something that seems risky. However, your marketing budget is not gambling money but rather an investment in the growth of your firm. When handled by professionals like a marketing agency, you can expect to see significant increases in leads and new clients.
Your marketing strategy is not just about bringing in new clients. It’s also about increasing your firm’s name recognition and reputation. This is what we call brand awareness. This helps to establish your firm as a thought leader in your industry, and over time, that builds trust in who you are and what you do. There is a significant return on investment in any investment you make.
Investing in the right marketing channels for your law firm
Assuming you have a law firm website that’s prime and ready to go, you can then start to zero in on the most appropriate marketing methods. As a small law firm, you may initially feel like it’s impossible to gain footing in a market dominated by big law firms with outsized marketing budgets. You don’t have to match them dollar-for-dollar – don’t assume you have to outpace the big guys. There are numerous ways for a small law firm to market itself competitively with good results.
One of the most common types of paid advertising that could be a component of your marketing campaigns is pay-per-click or PPC. The problem with this method is that it can be very expensive, especially for highly competitive keywords. This is an area where the larger your budget is, the more weight you have to throw at this form of lead generation.
If you want part of your marketing strategy to include PPC ads, do some research to determine what keywords are relevant to your practice, their search volume, and their cost per click. Try to find keywords that balance decent volume with lower cost to get the most from what you invest.
Adjust your PPC campaign over time based on the results you get. If a keyword you use gets high clicks, but low conversions, it’s not likely a high-quality keyword for you, and you shouldn’t continue to invest in it. You can also adjust your ads to only appear during the times of day when you believe your target audience is likely to see them. This can also help to save money and make this an effective marketing tactic.
If this sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. Array Digital will help you understand which keywords are best to target and how much you can expect to spend to acquire a client through PPC campaigns.
SEO with content marketing
SEO is a long-term technique, but it has the benefit of costing significantly less. It costs less than many PPC campaigns, but it also costs less than using billboards, TV and radio ads, or other ads you may be using to adversities your legal services locally.
When you engage in content marketing backed by research and strong keyword targeting, you signal to Google that your site has topical authority in your practice area. This helps you rank higher in the search engines. Users who are looking for information about your practice area are more likely to find your website as you gain keywords and rank higher in the search engines. This ultimately leads to increased traffic to your website and increased leads as well.
Several forms of content marketing can help in this way, with blogging being one of the best tools to bring clients to your website and grow your firm’s brand awareness. If you are in family law, blogging about divorce legal proceedings or changes to this type of law may help you attract prospective clients. As a law firm, you can access a wealth of useful knowledge. By targeting topics that people are searching for and then sharing your knowledge in an easily digestible blog post, you can gain their trust and their business.
Focus these marketing activities on topics that your target audience needs. For example, a personal injury law firm may wish to discuss tactics that insurance companies use to settle for less or discuss legal strategies for securing the maximum in pain and suffering claims.
A bonus effect of content marketing is that you can target keywords that would be prohibitively expensive to target with PPC ads. It will take time to build your online presence. And throughout that time, you will be adding to your website and working to attract your target market. With good keyword research, you can really zero in on the people you are most interested in working with as your clients.
Here’s what you have to know. You could get leads faster by using PPC ads. This is much more expensive but will yield at least some leads right away. With SEO services, we’re investing in the long haul, but let’s talk about the difference in cost between these two methods, both of which will help you get leads.
The money you save by using SEO services and SEO-focused marketing over PPC can be exponential. Here is one example from our recent research.
For example, when researching the keyword term “Baltimore car accident lawyer” we can look at the top website listed there. Let’s say they get about 620 visits to their website for that term every month. Now, we can put a value on this based on what they would spend to get the same number of leads through PPC advertising. If we did that in this case, that law firm would be charged $42,000 for the same amount of traffic from PPC.
That value is based on the cost-per-click for that same search term, “Baltimore car accident lawyer.” In this case, that cost is over $65 per click. This law firm is saving all of that money because organic SEO is working for them. Since they are ranking at the top of that page, they are almost guaranteed to consistently pull in several leads month after month without paying anything more to target that keyword.
Sure, that initial few clicks that may turn into leads from PPC is a solid option for immediate help, but if you look at the cost over time, it’s hard not to see the savings in applying SEO experts and SEO services to your law firm’s website.
Social media marketing
Do law firms use social media? They should. Social media is a massive and often under-utilized marketing tool for the legal industry. It is a solid place to promote your law firm if you use it properly and with some guidance. The most valuable platforms for social media include LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. They allow you to disseminate content to your target market, pulling in new traffic and capturing new leads.
Social media offers a way to connect with your audience and remain engaged with them over time. You can build out your brand and increase your brand and website authority as well.
The 2022 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report found that 31 percent of respondents were utilizing video content to reach their audience. Videos are an increasingly popular content format since they are more engaging than articles and infographics. Lawyers can take advantage of this under-utilized format to explain complex legal topics.
The videos that people watch all the way through tend to be short — most are less than 10 minutes in length. They are also to the point, and most importantly, they have captions on them. Many video viewers do not watch videos on social media with the sound turned on, which makes having captions in place critical to ensuring your videos get more likes, shares, and clicks. This also provides greater accessibility.
One of the additional benefits of video is that you can share the same video across multiple platforms. You can share it from your website to your Facebook, for example. When you do this, it helps to increase the audience reached without significant effort or expense while also creating backlinks to your site from those social media platforms.
Tips for maximizing your law firm marketing budget
Marketing services cost money, but choosing the right marketing plan helps ensure you get the reliable results you need to make it all worth it. To help you, consider these tips for getting the most out of your efforts.
Spend the entire amount
It is tempting to dip into your marketing budget to cover expenses elsewhere in your firm. However, the only way to see the benefits of your marketing efforts is to actually put in the money and the effort. If your company is struggling, marketing can fix that by bringing in the qualified leads you need to build your firm. Don’t slash what can help to fix the bottom line.
Diversify your marketing methods
The best marketing campaigns target a variety of avenues. This helps to target a wider audience of potential clients. After all, social media marketing is useless for potential clients who are not on social media. We want to get referrals from multiple sources, which means we need to use several sources to do that.
A mixture of social media marketing, content marketing, paid advertisements like Google ads, and community-focused outreach (such as sponsorships and seminars) will cast a wide net and reach more people as a result.
Regularly evaluate your return on investment (ROI)
Money matters. That’s why you need to consistently monitor the metrics for your website design, SEO efforts, and PPC campaigns to ensure they are bringing in what you expect or providing a positive ROI.
Check your metrics and evaluate which marketing techniques result in the greatest return for you. For SEO, use Google Analytics to track those metrics, including online contact form submissions.
Yet, do note that when checking your metrics, it’s critical to use a wide enough data set to filter out trends. For example, if you are a divorce attorney who views data monthly, and you realize that calls have slowed in the month of March or April, it is likely due to spouses being less likely to divorce during the months of spring break for the sake of their children. Using a large enough data set (i.e., comparing year-over-year) will help you see a larger picture not skewed by short-term trends.
Using the information available, also try to determine where your new clients came from — how did they learn about your firm to contact you? This can be as simple as asking them when they filled out a consultation form or scheduled an appointment. A simple question like, “How did you hear about us?” lets you know what’s working efficiently.
There are several tools that you can use to help manage this kind of client information. Some examples include Clio Manage and CallRail. These programs do the heavy lifting for you, monitoring where your traffic and leads are coming from and providing you with near real-time information. This lets you know specifically which of your marketing efforts are paying off.
Adjusting your law firm marketing budget over time
Where are you right now in your marketing? If you are just getting started and haven’t put much time into it, you may need to spend more time and money upfront to gain a share of the market. This is especially true in competitive markets and for small law firms that are competing against large and well-established firms that typically have much bigger budgets. This can happen in any industry but often occurs with personal injury lawyers, family lawyers, and criminal defense attorneys, for example, in larger cities.
When you are in a competitive market like this, you need to jumpstart your marketing with a more aggressive budget. This lets you gain some market share and do so quickly, helping to boost your ROI.
Once your marketing strategy is underway, you will then work to evaluate which avenues are more efficient for you, adjusting your marketing costs based on those that bring in leads and clients.
Then, track which marketing methods bring in the most clients — but also the clients with the highest lifetime value to your firm. Once you know this, you can then adjust your marketing strategy to invest more in successful methods and disinvest from costly, low-return methods.
It’s important to remember that some marketing methods create a quicker return than others. Don’t stop your SEO marketing just because you are not seeing returns within a month or two. SEO marketing takes an average of 6 to 12 months to start showing returns, and that time increases if you are in a competitive market like New York or California.
You may be able to lower your marketing budget over time as you gain a portfolio of regular and returning clients, and those clients send you referrals.
Common mistakes to avoid when budgeting for law firm marketing
Don’t make these common mistakes. They could end up costing you money.
Paying for cheap SEO services
Unfortunately, this happens a lot, and it nearly always results in frustration for law firms. The adage holds true: you get what you pay for. If you hire an outside agency or freelancer to handle your digital marketing, don’t look for a company that offers the lowest price point. Instead, ensure you are turning to a company that has the ability to do the job correctly. Cheap SEO firms fail to put in the back-end work that ultimately leads to a stronger, long-term outcome.
Most often, these companies are outsourcing the SEO work overseas, and that means there are issues with the quality, clarity, and liability associated with inaccurate information.
Reducing your budget when you have less business
It’s tempting to trim your marketing budget when your firm is struggling to get enough cases. Yet, doing so is arguably the worst thing you could do. Most often, this is when you need to increase your marketing budget. If you don’t focus on marketing, you are cutting off the source of leads you need when you need those leads the most.
Instead, reevaluate what you are spending and put more money and time towards efficient lead generation.
Outsourcing vs. in-house marketing: Which is right for your law firm?
CallRail’s 2022 Marketing Outlook for Law Firms report showed an interesting correlation. Eighty-three percent of law firms surveyed reported that they outsource their marketing work. There was a strong correlation between work that was unlikely to be outsourced and underperforming marketing channels. Specifically, the least likely marketing task outsourced was website management (approximately 28 percent outsourced), and website optimization ranked as the number one challenge that law firms face when marketing. Similarly, social media is the third least likely task to outsource but the top underperforming marketing channel.
This isn’t surprising. Marketing created by lawyers typically doesn’t perform well. Marketing created by marketers has a better chance of reaching your target audience.
You’re an attorney who is busy. You may not have the time or expertise in marketing to handle it efficiently yourself. Without industry knowledge and hands-on training, you’ll need to overcome a significant learning curve before you can actually turn this into a profitable venture.
Doing your own marketing in-house may save you money. After all, you don’t have to pay yourself to do the marketing. However, the quality of results you get from a knowledgeable team of marketing specialists who have a solid legal industry level of knowledge is going to pay for itself many times over.
Invest in your firm’s future
Skip the billboards, radio plug (no one can remember that phone number anyway), and cold calling. Instead, better your firm’s SEO. It will pay for itself.