Why Law Firms Should Promote In Online Directories
There are four reasons why promoting in online directories is exactly what you should do:
1. Visibility. When prospects search for lawyers in Google, they see three paid ads, then three or four map listings and then a list of organic results. If they skip the ads and the map listings, which is how many potential clients search, chances are they will click on a directory listing in the organic search results.
Directories form about one third of organic results and very often get the top rankings. If you were to search for a criminal defense lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, for example, the first organic result would be either Avvo — which is currently the biggest attorney directory in the country — or Yelp.
Of course, there will be many listings on that directory page. So how do you make sure your prospects see your profile? Have a sponsored listing. This guarantees that you are in one of the top 4 results.
- SEO. We talked about this when we discussed the importance of SEO strategies in the overall marketing plan for lawyers. Ultimately, in order to get top rankings, Google wants your website to have authority. One of the ways to gain more authority is to have more credible websites link back to your website. Thus, inserting links to your website in online directories — which are very credible websites — helps your website rank higher.
Some online directories don’t charge for links, which means you can insert a link to your website in their basic free listing. Most of the big directories, though, offer linking to your website as part of their premium listing service, so you’ll have to pay for it.
- Reviews. This is a double-edged sword. Online directories usually let your clients post reviews. Positive reviews drive more people who browse the directory to contact you. Negative – when there is they comprise a significant portion of all reviews – could really hurt you. There are ways to boost positive feedback online and to handle negative feedback, which is called reputation management.
4. Your prospects like directories. People find it easier to have relevant information properly sorted in front of them rather than having to go through Google search results one by one. So, there is a good chance that if they see your sponsored listing, click on it, and see what they were looking for, they will visit your website and contact your office.
How to get the best results
Start with the directories that attract the most demand for your services. There are about a dozen online directories. Unless your firm has budget for sponsored listings for each attorney in every directory, you should start with the directories that generate most demand for your services.
To identify platforms that will attract most clients to your firm, you should interview them to understand what you can expect from your investment. Here’s what you should find out:
- How many people will see your sponsored listing monthly. Directories have this information and should be happy to share it.
- How many people you can expect to click on your listing. This is what they call an average ad click-through rate.
- How many of the people who will click on your listing will contact you or go to your website. Online directories can monitor how many people click on your website’s link or fill out a contact form. It’s a bit more difficult with prospects who call you directly, but they do their research in order to improve their performance. Some directories may be reluctant to divulge that information, but you (or better yet, your digital marketing agency) should insist on getting it.
In addition, you should know your own numbers to better understand the expected ROI on this marketing investment:
- Your call-to-client conversion rate. This is a measure of how many calls from different prospects does it take for you to land a paying client.
- How much you earn per client, on average. We know this may vary, but, using the law of averages, you can come up with an average number to work with.
Now that you have that information, you should be able to write up a clear funnel and estimate your potential return of investment. Here’s an example:
You pay $500 per month for a listing on the best online directory. If 1000 people see your listing, and you have a 3% click-through rate, that’s 30 people who will click on your listing. Let’s say out of those 30 people, 20% contact you, that’s 6 people. If you have about 30% conversion rate — meaning converting people who call you into paying clients — that’s 2 clients per month. This means you’ve paid $250 per converted client.
Now you should know how much each client is worth to you. Let’s say you’re a criminal defense lawyer. You make $3,000 — $5,000 on state cases and $15,000 to $75,000 on federal cases. You can average that number out for both types of clients, but either way, the numbers work out very well — you’ve paid $250 per client and you’re earning thousands from each.
Don’t forget to test. Almost all of our law firm clients have listings on one or more online directories. We can tell you from experience that you can never be certain what will work best for you. Based on the type of law you practice and where you’re based, the results you see from different directories can vary greatly. That’s why you should always test at least a few directories to find out which one works best for you.
That being said, you should be prepared to give each platform at least 6 months to a year in order to see results. Never rely on data from just one or two-month long test.
Allocate a portion of you marketing budget for testing out platforms, and stick to the ones that deliver the best results. Please, keep in mind that directories are useful for B2C attorneys, they don’t work well if you’re, say, a corporate lawyer.
Final point: monitor performance and switch, when warranted. Directories are in constant competition and some of them overtake others. Just recently we discussed this with an attorney who used to be on Nolo, but has noticed a decline in the quality and quantity of leads, which is why he’s switched directories. Be prepared to do the same, if you notice that a platform’s performance is on a decline.
Comrade is a Chicago based digital marketing company that specializes in website design and marketing for attorneys. Read more about our content marketing service for law firms.
Natalie: One of the subjects that we haven’t talked about just yet, we talked about SEL, we talked about PPC and digital marketing in general. Then you keep seeing those other websites and local directories pop up in search results whenever you’re searching for legal practice.
Natalie: Why don’t we talk today about the directories? Are they effective? There are paid, there are non-paid directories. How can legal firms use those directories and what results they can expect?
Sasha: Yes, cool question. There are a dozen or so of highly visible directories specifically for attorneys. The most visible one is probably Avvo, A-V-V-O. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, right? There are so many of them, a dozen or so.
Sasha: Yes, they are effective. If for nothing else, they’re effective because they have high visibility to Google. When you list your firm there, you create a highly credible link pointing back or your website.
Sasha: If you have watched other videos, we’ve been talking about this for a while; that you need to have highly credible links from highly credible websites going to your website which will uplift your website in Google’s eyes. It will give it more authority.
Sasha: If for nothing else, you’ve got to be listed in those directories. All of them, if I’m not mistaken, they allow you to list yourself there for free. I think none of them actually charge for basic listings.
Natalie: Basic listings and some listings you are not allowed to publish your website, so you would need to pay for that.
Sasha: Right, and that’s where it gets a little bit tricky. All of them make money by giving you premium listings. The premium listing uplifts you in the ranks above everyone else in your category.
Sasha: For example if you practice, I don’t know, criminal defense in the great state of Georgia, in Atlanta, and you want to be highly ranked on AVVO; you’re going to need to spend some money with AVVO so you’re listed above 347 other lawyers that practice criminal defense in the great state of Georgia, in the city of Atlanta.
Sasha: Is that effective? Heck yes, it’s effective, and here’s why. When people look for attorneys, when they need help, and I’m going to use criminal defense in this case because I started with it. When people look for attorneys, let’s say you go and use Google.
Sasha: You type in criminal defense lawyer, or some people just say criminal lawyer, which that really doesn’t make sense to me. It makes it sound like I’m looking for a lawyer who’s a criminal. People do that, I’ve seen criminal defense attorneys call themselves criminal lawyers. It’s just really hilarious, but that’s not the point.
Sasha: When people search for a criminal defense attorney, what they will see is first they will see three ads in Google, and then they will see map listings, like three or four map listings, and then there will be organic links. Invariably, a third or more of those links are going to be not attorney websites, but directories that are listing those attorneys.
Sasha: If I am a consumer looking for a criminal defense attorney, and I’m looking using Google and I go to those organic listings because I decided not to pay attention to what’s in the ads, some people skim them over. I didn’t like what I saw in the map listings, I just go to organic listings because that’s how I prefer to search.
Sasha: The first listing might be Avvo or Yelp, sometimes Yelp takes the very top or any other directory. The first few positions could really be just directories. I as a consumer, I will go and I will click on it. I will say, “Oh, that’s useful because I see all these attorneys listed in one place instead of going one by one.”
Sasha: Avvo and others make it very simple to understand what it is that you do. If you have asked your clients, former clients, to leave your reviews, they will actually see how well you are liked or disliked by your clients. Then there’s going to be a link to your website, so they will actually end up going to your website.
Sasha: Yes, it can be incredible, incredibly effective except for people who are, for attorneys, they’re obviously people, but specifically for attorneys; it will not be very, very useful if you practice law in the practice area where consumers do not look for you directly on Google. Where consumers and those could be business consumers like if you’re a B2B attorney and most of your new business comes to you through networking and through referrals.
Sasha: In that case, consumers are not going to Google your type of attorney, they are going to Google you. Then you just need to validate whatever it is that they learned through that referral and then give them some additional information so that they can see you as a very credible, reputable attorney. That’s a whole different ballgame.
Sasha: Directories, very useful for B2C attorneys that do set up themselves with premium profiles. If you do not have a premium profile, unless you practice law in a very, very lightly populated area and there are very few competitors, chances are you’re not going to pop up at the top of the list. People who do spend a little bit of money on promoting themselves through those directories will pop up at the top of the list.
Sasha: Now, how do you choose between those dozen or so directories? You want to start with the biggest and the baddest. The way that I would go about this is I would look at who gets the most traffic, who gets most search volume in my specialty area, in my practice area.
Sasha: For example, if I am a criminal defense attorney, I would interview Avvo and others. I would say, “I’m in Atlanta. If I do have a premium listing, how many people should I expect to see my listing? How many of them can I expect to click on it?” From that, you can make an inference as far as, “Here’s how many phone calls I should get.”
Sasha: Here’s how you decide on that; for example, Avvo says that there are a thousand people that will come to this listing, not your listing but to this page with all the listings looking for criminal defense attorneys per month. Then you can ask them, “What’s the click-through ratio? How many of them are actually going to click on my listing if I’m position number one, two, three, or four?”
Sasha: I think they have four paid listings. They’re going to tell you if they divulge that information, which they should; they’re going to say, “Our click-through ratio is 3%”, as an example. Out of 1000 people, 30 people are actually going to click on your link and look at it and say, “Okay, interesting.”
Sasha: Then you should make an inference, and they will probably not tell you this information; you, or better yet, your marketing agency, should get this information. How many of those 30 people who will look at your listing will end up going to your website or calling you right there off that Avvo listing?
Sasha: Then you’ve got to know your numbers. How many calls or inquiries does it take for you to land a client? From that, you can build out a really nice clean funnel and say, “So many people are going to see it, so many people are going to see my ad or my listing, so many of them are actually going to pick up the phone and call, and so many of them are going to become my client.”
Sasha: You will know how much it will cost you to acquire one client. The way that you do it, let’s say you spend $1,000 with Avvo and you end up with two clients per month. Now you know it will cost you $500 per client to acquire them through Avvo. It’s as simple as that.
Sasha: Then you can decide whether that $500 per client is a reasonable enough cost. If you are a criminal defense attorney and you get some state cases, which bring in relatively a small revenue, let’s say $3,000 to $5,000. Then you get some federal cases that bring in between $15,000 and $1 million, whatever it is that you charge clients depending on the complexity of the case. Once in while you’ll get OJ Simpson, and then you’ll bring in a few million dollars.
Sasha: You just have to understand what that $500 in customer acquisition cost gets you in terms of revenue. Never think of abandoning the listing after one month if the numbers look bad. In marketing and in sales we always look at the quarterly performance and want to compare the monthly and quarterly performance month after month, quarter after quarter to really understand where the numbers are.
Sasha: What happens is that there are spikes and there are drops, you just need to average it out. There are different seasons and so many other factors that come into play that you do not get to worry your head with. You just need to worry your head with the numbers; what it costs me to acquire a client, and what do I get for that client acquisition cost?
Natalie: This and our experience, we also have listed our clients to multiple directories. We’re also able to track how many calls, how many forms, how many clicks they get to those listings and from the listing to the website.
Natalie: It turns out that you really don’t know which directory is going to work for which attorney in which geographic area. The best way to know how whether it’s going to work for you is to test. I would suggest allocating a specific budget, “Okay, we’re ready to invest.”
Natalie: Don’t be afraid to invest something like $500 a month for just one listing. I’m going to tell you, with one of our clients, paying $500 is bringing him 20 leads. It’s leads, it’s not clients.
Sasha: How many clients does that convert into?
Natalie: It’s around 10%.
Sasha: 2 clients or so?
Sasha: What does each client, what is it worth?
Natalie: Thousands of dollars.
Sasha: Thousands of dollars, okay.
Natalie: For $500, basically $250 per converted client. My point is, just test different directories. Don’t be afraid to spend $500 versus … I know another client of ours, I spoke with them recently. They keep spending $100 a month, for months if not years, without getting any results; “Because it’s not a big amount, we can keep doing this.”
Sasha: They will feel the pinch.
Natalie: Right. In the course of months or years, it’s thousands of dollars that you can invest in a directory that’s actually going to bring the results and big directory.
Sasha: That’s a really good point; don’t underspend. When you do and your competitors don’t underspend, guess where the business is going to go to? The ones that don’t underspend. Being too thrifty can actually hurt a lot.
Sasha: Another point, don’t rely on directories only. They will never bring you unless you’re okay with getting a couple of new clients a month and that’s it, you really need to do other things. Directories are just one of the sources.
Sasha: If you think about it, you need to get as much attention as needed to accomplish your financial goals. For that, you really need to have what we call omnipresence marketing. You need to be present everywhere where your prospective clients, people who want to give you their money, are looking.
Sasha: Directories is just one of the ways. It would be a terrible mistake not to be listed in directories period. Unless your caseload is full without getting much business from directories, unless that is the case, you really do want to have those premium listings in the directories. That’s how you will get more traction.
Natalie: Yes. In fact, one of our clients; he’s been advertising with Nolo, one of the directories, and he paid per lead. His feedback was that for the past month, if not years, he’s seen a decline in the quality of the leads that are coming in. He’s been relying on this directory for a while, now it’s time for him to search for a new source.
Sasha: It’s interesting if you think about a directory in the same business like any other website.
Sasha: They fight each other.
Natalie: As a legal firm.
Sasha: Nolo used to have a stronger presence, and now it’s on the decline I guess. Others might be beating them and taking over their position, so there’s more traffic going to others, and more conversions, more leads, and ultimately more cases from others. That’s a really good point.
Sasha: All right, that’s a wrap. Thanks for watching.