As the days, weeks, and months continue to pass this 2022, we’re already seeing a few emerging trends presenting themselves as immediate opportunities with which businesses should engage sooner than later. In the past, we’ve put together lists of the top ten actions that businesses—and more specifically law firms—should be taking on an annual basis. We published our findings at the beginning of 2020, 2021, and just a few months ago in 2022. You can view our bold predictions for 2022 (which came out in November of 2021) and see how on point they are so far: https://www.marketmymarket.com/10-ways-law-firms-will-win-in-2022/
It may be unprecedented to add a few more elements to this list, as the initial 10 are more than enough of an undertaking for any business at the beginning of the year. Nevertheless, I strongly believe that business owners should not really sleep on the following five marketing areas because the dividends that they can pay may be exponential if implemented or at least considered imminently, rewarding you as we get closer to the end of the year.
5 Additional Growth Opportunities in 2022: Considering Everything From Marketing Development to Public Relations
What these topics involve is everything from your marketing and business development to some branding and public relations. The topics are as follows:
- Expanding the scope of work that you do for your video content
- Shifting your approach to content, or at the very least, shifting the way you execute your content
- Continuing to pursue Google My Business locations or satellite offices or locations, even at a time when you may be hearing a lot of marketers and other agencies talking about how GMB no longer works
- Establishing further thought leadership or reconsidering the way you position yourself as a thought leader in your community and within the industry
- Evaluating which directories you are currently on and which directories you are not on
Here’s what you need to know.
“Who reads anymore?” we often ask ourselves. The immediate answer seems to be “At least Google does.” But for how long? And if people are getting to your website via text, what are you doing to then provide what they may really be looking for?
To begin on video expansion, we have talked extensively about the importance of video as a different medium for content on your website and social media; anywhere that your potential clients might find you online. Also, it is common to have what is considered or known as the firm overview video or company overview video where a potential client can learn more about who you are and what it is that makes you different (especially when potential clients are weighing multiple choices). Plus, it really helps in establishing some sort of differentiator with a visual, as opposed to leaning completely on the text on the website (and let us hope, no stock imagery). It has been widely established that a firm overview video is helpful for people to learn more about you prior to them contacting you.
Practice Area, FAQ, and Testimonial Videos
Expanding upon that would also be creating what we can consider a library of videos on a variety of subject matter. For example, having a video for every practice area on our website (or at least the main ones—we can understand the breadth of this undertaking for some practice areas such as Criminal Defense. Yet, you will still see lawyers accomplish it.). If someone lands on a particular page of the website, they might see not only a firm review video but also a practice area video specific to their legal situation. In addition, creating videos for FAQs, which used to be common when I started in legal marketing about a decade ago but seems a little bit less common now, seems to have been a fad for its time.
I think that quick, less substantial videos have been relegated specifically to a video center or video-specific page on the website that oftentimes doesn’t even have a discernible means of navigation. However, the majority of these FAQ videos can easily be integrated into appropriate blogs, social media posts, or other long-form articles or pages on the website that happen to go over a particular question, or at least have a subtopic that goes over more specific areas of the overarching practice area or law that can to be answered via a video.
Another video form that has high importance is the testimonial video, which could be considered common to an extent, but law firms typically only succeed in obtaining 2-3 testimonial videos and touting them for years, if not indefinitely. Testimonial videos have a high degree of “repurpose-ability”—they could be introduced into newsletters, introduced and proliferated through social media, and even utilized in forms of advertising. They can also be used for a drip or nurture campaign for those potential clients that have reached out to the firm and have not decided yet. These potential clients benefit from receiving an appropriate testimonial video, which is the closest to their situation. A strong testimonial video could easily be the difference between you and another law firm.
YouTube and Other Video Social Media
It is becoming increasingly common, especially for lawyers that are just beginning their marketing or starting off a firm on their own, to really go head-first into creating a YouTube studio and producing their own videos. if you are in a situation where you are not ready to retain a professional video production company, it is quite common, especially with today’s technology and post-production or editing services that can be found on Upwork or Fiverr (any website of this nature endorsing the ever-growing gig economy), to create a lot of their own videos and their own channels (dare I say, TikTok?). And these videos, which are placed on YouTube and other video-centric social platforms and search engines, have been creating not only brand awareness and firm awareness; they have been useful for many lawyers without an extensive budget for their marketing to have a steady stream of potential new clients that are coming in through means other than always their website.
“If it wasn’t for the necessity of ranking and visibility, would SEOs even bother with a content strategy any longer?” SEOs may think. “If we weren’t so tired of reading the same page and blog thousands of times, perhaps we’d be more excited about how we create content and the impact it has on our website visitors.”
The legal industry is in dire need of shifting the approach to content. It is not so much that there is a groundbreaking new form of content, meaning that it is still very common as far as the composition of the website to have:
- Attorney bios
- Case results/settlements
- Long-form articles, and so on
It is more so about how to be creative and engaging with the content while still informing and/or educating the visitor. I have been talking to lawyers ad nauseam about content for years, but it is more involved as of late. We are amid the next iteration of flow and execution.
For example, anything that we could consider to be cliche or generic, such as the opening of a Personal Injury page saying “if you or a loved one,” the opening of a Criminal Defense page saying “if you’ve been arrested,” or “if you’ve been charged with”; these are forms of content that are, for lack of a better phrase, completely played out. And many marketers, especially some of the people on our own team, are discussing what it is that is going to really engage readers from the get-go and provide truly helpful, even emotionally charged, genuine substance.
Storybranding and Shifting to Client-Focused Content
There are some content creators in our space that have been using tools and materials from a set of guidelines called “Storybranding,” which was created by Donald Miller, to reposition the flow of content, the presentation of content, and to make the website a resource to illustrate the law firm as being a guide (with many a reference to Obi-Wan Kenobi and his shaping of the Luke Skywalker saga).
What all of this means is that the majority of law firm websites talk about lawyers, their wins, their accolades, and their accomplishments. This is the focus about them and needs to be repositioned as them being what makes them qualified to be the guide for the client. It is not a change in basic conventions, but it’s a novel way to present some of the strongest content on the website, especially on the homepage and primary practice area pages. Ultimately, our websites should primarily be focused on how they can help the visitor and why they are their appropriate guide to help them navigate the particular legal issue they’re currently facing.
Storybranding is a great way to re-imagine how content can be executed and how we can have a fresh outlook on writing and being creative. A new perspective revitalizes how we perceive the content we produce throughout the entire website. Some examples of ideas being thrown around include the consideration of using anecdotes to lead off content in a more engaging manner. There are considerations of avoiding irrelevant subsections or subtopics such as statistics or explanations that do not offer any value to the person landing on the website.
Fewer Statistics, More Sympathy
The fact of the matter is that many marketers have become very carried away with some of the SEO/marketing aspects of creating these pages from a competitive standpoint and are losing sight of putting themselves in the shoes of the visitor and what someone with an actual legal issue would really be looking for.
If someone is involved in a car accident because of the negligence of a truck driver, do they really want to learn about the hazards the truck driver experiences while traveling, potentially showing the law firm sympathizing more with the defendant than the plaintiff? Approaching content from a standpoint of utmost help and guidance and avoiding the pitfalls of just rewriting what we are seeing on other websites will be transformative for any content creator.
SEOs have finally met their match—unparalleled restrictions on Google My Business approvals. It was one thing to avoid Regus, Opus, and Da Vinci at all costs. It was another to painstakingly vet dozens, if not hundreds of independent office buildings offering virtual offices. Now we need to do signage, video walkthroughs, retina scans…is it all worth the effort?
The next section is continuing to pursue Google My Business locations. It has become common knowledge (I am hearing this from other marketers and agencies incessantly through the grapevine) that people who are watching marketing videos and webinars are finding out that Google standards have become exceedingly stringent regarding approving and continuing the operation of Google My Business locations. There have been major updates with big gaps in between over the past five to seven years.
The Difficulties of Google My Business
I remember personally when Google made it very apparent that Regus, Opus, and Da Vinci virtual offices (I feel like I am ratting off a hodgepodge of dead artists and talk show hosts) were going to be heavily scrutinized and may not pass approval in accordance with their approval process. It has been a while since that was proclaimed. Nevertheless, it has been moderately easy and straightforward for most businesses to get approval for Google My Business by meticulously following the steps that Google has laid out for approving a virtual office.
That has become much more difficult over the past four to six months, and Google in its crackdown has even rejected very real offices of businesses with very dedicated addresses and business incorporations. With these, the businesses that actually have physical locations are being held back from being approved unless they follow other criteria or other steps that may include signage, speaking with representatives, and doing video calls and video walkthroughs with a Google representative to prove access and ownership, or at the very least, a lease with these offices. Google knows it and I suppose we do too—there’s rampant abuse of their Google My Business offering.
The next step would seem obvious then—marketers and agencies are advising that their clients give up. It was a good ride, and it is time to move on to the next venture. But as we know, every single time that there is an obstacle where others drop off, it is an opportunity for us to step up.
The Current State of Virtual Offices
One thing to keep in mind before proceeding with the next iteration of what we can consider local SEO is that there are hundreds if not those thousands of office buildings throughout the United States that do have a reliable, steady stream of income from virtual offices. With a shaky economy and potential imminent recession, shall we say that people are more obliged to become “crafty” in situations such as these. Them knowing that plenty of local businesses want to take advantage of this current arrangement, or at the very least continue what they have going now, is likely.
Therefore, in response to the possibility of these revenue streams essentially drying up because of the new, more cumbersome requirements of a Google My Business location, there may be opportunities for dedicated suites at a reasonable cost or a desk or other ways of obtaining a space within office buildings without it necessarily just being pegged to the same suite or room number as dozens of other businesses.
The Future of Offices With Google My Business
There will be another iteration where you will be able to comply with what they’re asking. Maybe you don’t get a virtual office any longer for $50 or $100 like we got to enjoy for the past decade or more, but there will be other opportunities that will manifest themselves because of the compliance of office buildings and other locations that want to support GMB locations. Those prices might be more than what we are seeing now—we are talking several hundred dollars and as high as $400-$500 (or more) in even more populated areas and more competitive areas.
But this is not a situation where we completely dismiss the approach to taking local SEO. This is something that we can see as an opportunity and propel businesses to establish themselves within these office buildings. Businesses will eventually create more and more of a physical presence by originating with an actual physical presence as opposed to a virtual one. This is a great impetus for businesses to serve communities more adequately by being more present instead of virtual.
It will be up to the office buildings to collaborate and work alongside businesses to enable them to do this in a cost-effective way. Maybe we venture into a world where virtual offices are eliminated but more GMB listings actually come about, in response to commercial space concessions and expanded consumer experience preferences.
With a comprehensive content plan in place, working on videos to answer questions, and establishing a presence that those in your city can truly perceive as local and within the community, what is a better juncture than tying many of these together and then…
The fourth part is Thought Leadership. It is my thought that a lawyer, in this instance, is a respected and often highly regarded member of a community. Their contributions both locally and beyond are often respected in areas of law, justice, and social matters by many people that are looking for a Thought Leader, whether this is on social media or local news, or even within their own industry. Whether it be a Bar Association or member of boards related to legal services or legal aid, lawyers are looked to as Thought Leaders.
So, you will see an instance of PR badges, logos, or notoriety on a lawyer’s website. Some of these common logos are for example CNN, maybe ABC, USA Today, and plenty of local news station affiliates. Many of these accolades or recognitions are derived from simple press releases and then technically being able to use the logos from these news sources as a means of showing that their Thought Leadership was desired and sought after from numerous places.
Recognition in New Media Over Traditional News
What I think will change in Thought Leadership going forward deals with other forms of media and information that are more up-and-coming—inclusive to other generations and potentially other cultural groups and interest groups. What we may first think of as unconventional may easily be more relevant than your traditional local affiliates of ABC, NBC, or Fox News, for example. People are used to just seeing the “As Seen In” with a wide array of familiar broadcast logos and not really noticing the significance of these because this is commonly used on other websites (the same can be said about awards. Consumers “like” awards, but do they know what they really mean, where they come from, and if they stopped to think about it, would they really care?).
Is it to the point of insignificance because of their casual inclusion? I believe that maybe some coveted blogs, podcasts, and independent news sources are going to be of much more interest to the average consumer than your frankly stereotypical local news affiliates that can be bought via a press release or some sort of sponsored content. I think that you will see that as time goes on, average consumers will be much more impressed and gravitate towards a renowned podcast or being a guest on a renowned panel, speaking engagement, conference, or even a damn TikTok with the right influencer—all over a local affiliate for traditional news.
And again we ask…why pay to be within a set of results that were preceded by another set of results?
The last point I want to make is evaluating directories. Market My Market has plenty of articles outlining the composition of search results for many short-tail vanity keywords on an annual basis. We have acknowledged for years that there is typically a dance between FindLaw directories and Justia and SuperLawyers. We also understand that Lawyer.com and Avvo are completely irrelevant at this point. Yelp thrives on people going to Yelp by virtue/way of being a “Yelper,” not necessarily their positioning consistently on SERPs.
But as of 2022, we are at one of the first times that we really see some non-legal-specific directories making some headway. We know that back in the day, Thumbtack was carving out a little bit of a path on its own but had what I believe is an antitrust issue with Google, because Google was being Google (cannot quote me on this, but my immediate recollection was that Google-owned Thumbtack, and then it was an antitrust issue for them favoring their own directory). But we do see Expertise.com staking its claim, and I do think that there is something to be said about a non-legal directory being a little less biased, at least from the perception of the public.
Handling Your Presence in Directories
This was a good time to evaluate what directories are truly still giving you traffic. There are thousands of ways that people search—if your rep with the directory is simply focusing on a very small pool of keywords, and you are showing up top three for that, and then you go to that directory and you are still in that mix getting swapped around randomly with five other people, the likelihood of you gaining leads from the directory is minimal and more likely non-existent. The only way you can really tell is through a reliable tracking number and via some sort of analytics to look at referral traffic and see if they took an action once they got to your website. Never rely on the information that your sales rep at a directory has given you, because it is always going to be them donning rose-colored glasses all the way while covering the reporting, and it will always be skewed for them to continue to sign you or renew you on an annual basis.
You need to be as objective and as firm with the value you are driving from the directory as possible. On the other side of things, you should be aware and should be cognizant of the directories that are available in your area that are not only currently positioned for some strong keywords locally but also the ones that seem to be up-and-coming. It is important for you to be aware of the directories that are at the bottom of the first page today but were not there yesterday. Some of those directories have potential in that if you get in earlier, you can potentially lock it in at a more favorable long-term rate. Take this opportunity if you see that the trajectory or the trend of that directory seems to be going in the right direction.
Looking Out for New Directories
With Expertise (which by no means I am plugging, and I am in no way affiliated with), there is something to be said about their directory being on the second page last year, and then the first page this year towards the bottom, and then making their way to the top three positions. It is important to acknowledge the direction a lot of these directories are going and be prepared or potentially negotiate well in advance to have a favorable spot once it really does start to get an influx of traffic.
There will always be directories. They come and go, and it is always important to know…well…when they are coming and going. For bankruptcy, you might see Upsolve in some areas. In some other areas, you might randomly see something like “Three Best Rated,” and a few others. I only know this because of general awareness of directories; again, how they come, how they go.
Take Advantage of New Marketing Techniques as Soon as Possible
This concludes the five items on my radar that I have now acknowledged just over a quarter of the way into 2022. These are considerations I would take advantage of much sooner than later, and that is the reason for their immediate release now rather than something that can preeminently take over the first half of my 2023 list (though some may make a reappearance, should they have substantial updates). I would encourage you to look at and consider these as we are moving along in 2022. The sooner you are prepared with some of these or all of these marketing approaches, techniques, and considerations, the sooner that you’re able to separate yourself from your competition in an array of different opportunities for visibility, perception, potential client experience, and branding.
Turn to the Legal Marketing Experts at Market My Market for Help Taking the Next Step
From strong video marketing and exciting copy to best-in-class SEO and thought leadership, we at Market My Market are standing by to help your business flourish. Our team seeks to ensure your content outranks and outperforms your competitors’ sites so you can be at the top of your niche. We provide content and SEO packages to help your site transform into an industry leader by remaining at the top of SERPs. To learn how we can advance your business, send your website to the top of search engine results, and attain conversions, contact the experienced content and SEO professionals at Market My Market for a free consultation today.