With Thanksgiving only a day away, we’re thinking about turkey and all the other holidays, but also probably realizing “It’s almost the new year!” Time moves fast right here in the second half of Q4, and it’s about time we took a look ahead at how the marketing landscape will change (again) in 2020. We took a look at what some other marketers in the legal space are saying, and I’ll be elaborating on their points and tying them into my own beliefs instead of outright shutting them down if I don’t agree with their validity.
I will also have my own predictions that I believe will most likely pan out, and a few bold ones I do think could easily happen sometime in the next few years, even if it isn’t necessarily next year.
To start – some predictions around the industry, paraphrased:
- Lawyers will stop marketing themselves as “Lawyers” and “Solicitors”
- Will be replaced with businesses branded as “legal services providers”
- Will drop the words “lawyers,”, “law firm,” and “solicitors,” and anachronistic designations like “LLP”, “& Co” and “Partners” from their brand name and marketing entirely.
I haven’t heard too much about dropping typical keywords people have been using to find lawyers or attorneys; the most I’ve discussed with professionals in the legal space about “legal service providers” is when the trend in law firm mergers has continued, they have opted to use more “legal service” branding and marketing terms instead of “lawyers,” “law firms,” and “attorneys.” I believe this is something that could be moving in that direction but based on the state of the average law firm composure and branding, I don’t think this will occur anytime soon.
- Quality over quantity in regard to digital content
- Firms are focusing on producing quality pieces of content each quarter rather than dozens of shallow pieces that generate minimal results.
Quality over quantity has without a doubt been the move for most successful legal marketing campaigns. The frequency hasn’t by any means slowed down to the point of content strategies being viewed quarterly – maintaining a content calendar quarterly may be the case for many organized plans, but the content is still viewed in weeks, at most months, for most quality content campaigns in the legal space.
With the onset of EAT and other user behavior algorithm updates in regards to content, there’s no doubt that Google has been putting a larger emphasis on content produced by law firms that tend to expand on topics beyond the 450-600 words many of us were used to quite some time ago. This isn’t the case for everything as I’ll discuss later in this blog (namely directories), but as far as most long-tailed trending topics go, it’s more common to see the average piece of content reach 1,000 words or more.
- A firmer focus on “semantic search” over general keywords
Semantic search is essentially the next iteration of keywords in search queries, as presented thoroughly in the recent Google BERT update. Instead of simply presenting keywords in a search, the new update to the algorithm is hopeful in presenting better results of search intent and context. It’s a natural progression towards putting an emphasis on natural language.
- Podcast Interviews
- Firms are participating in interviews on popular/engaging podcast channels. An added bonus to the exposure this brings is the back link to a firm’s site in the promotion of the podcast.
Podcast interviews can be compared to more accessible, trending forms of traditional media interviews. They index well online, are hugely popular among many demographics, and can be re-purposed to almost no end. Plus, they’re fun and easy to do. I don’t think most law firms would benefit tremendously from having their own podcasts exactly, but running a circuit with the numerous legal podcasts out there as a guest could certainly go a long way. Doing outreach to be featured on a podcast is generally easy and does not take much preparation.
- Greater focus on lead nurturing & relationship management
- Focus on maintaining a client relationship (and cross-selling your services) through demand generation” platforms with email drip campaigns
This is possible for much of B2B and some of B2C (B2C where someone doesn’t have to decide about retaining a legal service as soon as others, like Wills/Trusts and Estate Planning). Cross-selling is a concept that exists in the legal community but hasn’t been talked about as much until it was pulled into e-mail campaigns and newsletters.
- A decline in social media marketing
- Firms will take a step back from traditional outsourced social media marketing, and put a focus on using social channels (such as Twitter and LinkedIn) to connect with peers, share interesting takes on the law, share, discuss and debate their personal interests, etc.
- The exception to this is with YouTube. Firms will take a higher interest in producing quality, informational video content via YouTube and then distributing it across all social platforms.
- Instagram is a way to share content from “behind the scenes” and allow users to feel a personal connection with your practice.
- Reddit – Subreddits like r/AskLawyers and r/LegalAdvice are great for finding interested parties who might require your services.
The decline in social media marketing would be solely based on the discretion of the law firm, as the numbers showing its viability is increasing. I would agree that the decline would come from social being outsourced, as social media are some of the most personal outlets for connecting with brands, and understanding brands mostly come from the inside. Connecting within the community is essential for Facebook and Instagram, and YouTube is still the most popular channel by far for an important medium of content: video. Reddit is an interesting idea for providing legal advice, but there is a risk of liability from being construed as real legal advice and/or solicitation.
- Utilizing services such as Avvo to prioritize online reviews
I’m not quite sure how linking up with Avvo can prioritize online reviews. If anything, every client I’ve had in the past 5 years has dropped Avvo’s marketing, and the merger with Internet Brands didn’t help. Their brand recognition isn’t quite that great either, as confirmed by surveys we’ve been doing for years asking, “What website do you trust to look at reviews for lawyers?” Avvo isn’t always in the top 10, but we like featuring them on law firm websites all the same.
My Bold and Not-so-bold Predictions for Legal Marketing Trends
- Directories will continue to dominate search results as Google’s updates to its algorithm inadvertently favor the content and on-site components of a directory more than a website.
- Google will add another paid ad to 3-pack results, bringing the total up to a brutal 2 out of the technically 5 spaces reserved for local.
- Google local updates will reverse some aspects of the 3-pack ranking correlation that began to trend upwards before, such as reviews and landing page authority, and favor the physical location of the searcher more.
- Algorithm updates from Google will inadvertently create an onset of many technically outdated SEO tactics being viable again, such as keyword stuffing and duplicate (yet verbose) content.
- Google will offer a product that is extremely similar to, if not exactly the same as, geofencing.
- Google will roll out advanced monetization for Google My Business that will include video overviews, featured reviews, easy scheduling via chat or text, even better-featured pins on maps, and more.
- Voice search will accelerate even more in popularity. This is based on the growing sophistication of accurate results via voice, lower costs of devices that support it, and higher advertising for devices that support voice search that we’ve already been seeing for weeks in TV ads.
- Content word count averages will continue to increase their minimums to roughly 1,000 for higher ranking pages since Google will continue to put an emphasis on EAT standards, raising the bar for trustworthy and authoritative content.
- Facebook advertising will start to work for campaigns in most industries as their audiences and targeting will finally start to click with a further reworking of their algorithms
- Google will include a warning for websites with long site speed load times, much like they do for non-HTTPS websites (this may be the case already, but the rollout will be faster than we think).
- Structured data results will become more prominent, and more categories will be added.
What Are Your Predictions for Your Law Firm’s Success?
Are you as eager as we are to see what unfolds in 2020? If you’re interested in staying ahead of the trend when it comes to your legal marketing game, come talk to us. We’ve helped lawyers across dozens of practice areas hone in on just the right cases with striking results.