Marketing your firm in an additional language besides English is a great way to expand your potential client base. Census Bureau data indicate that one in five U.S. residents speaks a foreign language at home. There are relatively fewer law firms competing for work in other languages so it is generally not as difficult achieve better search engine visibility. We work with a number of law firms that seek to cater to clients in other languages, so we wanted to share some tips.
1. Include quality content on your site in the language
We recommend including high-quality, original content on all law firm websites. The same holds true for marketing in another language. You will want to have someone who is fluent in both English and the second language write or translate the content. Using a translation tool to translate content for your site is not a good idea for several reasons. First, the translation tools are great if you want to use them personally to get an idea of what is being said in a foreign language, but they are far from perfect and cannot produce translated content that reflects well on your firm. If you are marketing to someone in a foreign language, you to want to make a good impression, which means demonstrating mastery of that language. Also, the search engines seek to reward high-quality content, and the errors in the machine-translated content can be detrimental to your search results. Just as frequent grammatical mistakes and awkward sentences would likely be off-putting to an English-speaking visitor, so would machine-translated content be off-putting to a reader of that language.
2. Make sure the metadata on your site is optimized accordingly
The metadata on your site helps the search engines identify what is most important. If you are adding content to your site in a different language, you will want the tags to be appropriate as well. If you are optimizing the site yourself, make sure to optimize the tags in the right language. If you are working with a provider to help you with your optimization, make sure the provider is aware of the foreign language content and creates appropriate tags.
3. Make sure someone at the firm speaks the language
This seems basic, but we have seen examples where firms do not have anyone who actually speaks the language being marketed. If you do not have someone at your firm who can speak with prospective clients in the language you are marketing for on the site, then trying to market for another language is not a great option. It is likely to disappoint and alienate prospective clients who contact you if you are not able to communicate in the marketed language.
4. Try it out before investing a lot of energy
While having an entire site, including navigation, in another language is ideal, it is not necessary to put in that much effort from the outset. Here is an example of a site that is entirely mirrored in Spanish: http://abogado.carabinshaw.com. All of the content on this site is in Spanish, and it even has live chat in Spanish. Here is a site that has a Spanish section rather than an entire mirrored site: http://www.neymanlaw.com/espanol.html. Most of the navigation is in English, but the Español section is accessible from the navigation bar. If having one page in another language works well, you can always add additional pages, and ultimately create a mirror site to ramp up further and gain more traction in the market. Or if the section works to your liking, you can keep it as a section. If you see success with your marketing efforts in one additional language, you might also consider marketing in more languages if you or others at your firm speak additional languages.