Online Marketing & SEO Basics for Lawyers and Law Students
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This Stuff Isn’t That Hard
Before we get started, let’s clear up one common misconception, which is that it’s impossibly hard to run your own website. It’s not.
If you can get into law school, you can maintain a website. (You might choose not to, which is fine. But don’t psych yourself out — it’s not really that difficult once you get things up and running.)
Similarly, you can create and maintain basic social media accounts, and you can do your own search engine optimization (SEO, for the uninitiated).
Yes, there are consultants out there who will tell you it’s necessary to spend thousands of dollars a month to get access to their secret knowledge. It’s not. They don’t know anything that you can’t learn with a bit of effort. And even if you ultimately decide to hire someone to do the day-to-day work, you still need to understand the fundamentals, to ensure you don’t get totally taken to the cleaners.
So, without further ado, let’s talk about the basics of marketing.
Legal Marketing and Personal Branding 101
One thing that’s odd about legal marketing is that it essentially collapses into personal branding (unlike a non-legal company, where “the brand” might be wholly unrelated to “the people behind the brand”).
Even if you’re at a large firm, clients are typically hiring “the lawyer” rather than “the firm.” If you’re in solo practice or at a small firm, the link is even more obvious. (Certain public interest organizations are arguably exceptions, in that they’re promoting “a brand” in client outreach and fundraising, not individuals. But if you’re employed by such an organization, it would still behoove you to establish your own brand in case it becomes time to move on to new opportunities!)
This personal branding concept is uncomfortable for many lawyers (and lawyers-to-be) because it seems somehow “un-lawyerly.” Tough cookies, it is what it is.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re going to have to get comfortable putting yourself out there and developing a personal brand.
Before the wailing starts, rest assured that you don’t have to “toot your own horn,” or whatever it is that lawyers are reluctant to do. But people do need to be able to learn about you — as a person.
Why Lawyers Need a Personal Brand
Why? Consider this basic tenet of marketing: People will only hire someone they know, like, and trust.
The overall goal of all of your marketing (online and offline) is to create an environment where your potential clients can come to know you, like you, trust you, and — ultimately — hire you!
In order to get to the hiring point, shockingly enough, you have to let them get to know you. Scary, I know! When I started my first website, I refused to put up a photo or link to the About page very prominently. “It’s not about me!” I proclaimed. Which is sort of true, but also fundamentally misguided. Yes, people mostly care about what you can do for them (we’ll talk about this in detail later), but they’re also curious about who you are.
Contrary to the conformist mindset in the law — which says you have to be exactly like everyone else to succeed — the most effective marketing comes from a place of authenticity. You are who you are, and the trick, to the extent there is one, is to find the people who will respond to that and pay you for your work.
Step one in the process is helping these people (your ideal clients) find you. That’s what we’ll talk about next. Stay tuned!
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For more helpful advice, check out all the posts in the Online Marketing & SEO Basics series:
- Online Marketing Basics for Lawyers and Law Students
- Defining Useful Goals for Your Online Legal Marketing
- Defining Your Ideal Client
- What Is Your Ideal Client Searching For?
- How the Internet Works (from an SEO Perspective)
What questions do you have about online marketing, personal branding, and SEO? Leave them in the comments for an answer!