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Need some info on digital marketing for criminal defense lawyers? Check out this post for five tips and best practices you may want to consider when you update the marketing plan for your law firm.
Criminal law is likely one of the most familiar areas of the law for many Americans. It is the law seen in many dramatic legal television shows, such as Law and Order. Criminal incidents frequently dominate local news headlines, while high-profile matters, such as the recent Gabby Petito case, the Casey Anthony trial, the Scott Peterson matter, and the O.J. Simpson trial, attract both local and national attention.
Perhaps the reason criminal law matters often surface in both legal entertainment and news media on such a wide scale is that many lives across the United States are impacted by criminal incidents and criminal law each day.
In 2019, nationwide FBI data estimated that over 1.2 million violent crimes occurred, while over 6.9 million property crimes occurred, and approximately 10.1 million arrests (excluding traffic offenses) occurred. This translates into thousands of people each day seeking advice or representation from criminal defense lawyers.
However, despite practicing in an active area of the law, criminal defense lawyers still need to focus on implementing best practices to achieve legal marketing success. While reputation and the related traditional word-of-mouth advertising can certainly help create a client base, this alone is often not enough to build a thriving practice in criminal law.
Many people charged with a crime do not want to broadcast this information to their friends, family members, and colleagues and therefore may not seek referrals from their network in the same way they would if faced with an estate planning or personal injury matter. Additionally, many people want to do further research on a lawyer, even if they have received a referral or recommendation from a trusted friend. Thus, you want to ensure that people can find you while searching on their own for a lawyer in their time of need.
In this post, we offer you four digital marketing tips (plus a more traditional bonus tip!) to help you reach the kind of high-value potential clients your criminal law firm needs.
Tip 1: Identify Your Niche and Consider Your Audience
To reach the best kind of clients for your firm, it is important to consider your target audience. Identifying your target audience will help you maximize the return on your investment in digital marketing channels by ultimately increasing the number of quality leads your firm brings in.
Defining your target audience often involves an internal examination to identify your niche and the kind of client your firm serves. For example, if you are a criminal attorney specializing in defending those accused of capital offenses or other serious crimes, you likely do not want to reach many people seeking representation for a traffic ticket.
Start by asking yourself what types of cases your firm typically handles. You may handle violent crimes, all felonies, DUIs, juvenile incidents, traffic tickets, or business fraud, just to name a few. Perhaps your firm specializes in a couple of key areas or handles a broader spectrum of matters.
Whatever the case may be, once you have identified your niche, you can make a profile of the type of clients that you serve. Consider key demographic data, such as age, gender, socioeconomic status, employment status, and location. The answers to these questions help you define the audience you want to reach and better understand the ideal channels for reaching them.
If someone has built a DUI defense practice in a college town, his target audience, messaging, and marketing strategy are likely different from an attorney that handles securities fraud matters in a major city. Both of these lawyers could likely benefit from leveraging a variety of strategies. However, the DUI lawyer in a smaller town may want to spend more resources on targeted local marketing, while this second lawyer focused on white collar crime wants to increase her visibility in business circles and advertises heavily in professional settings, such as webinar presentations. These lawyers can make these choices and better allocate their resources by having a better understanding of their target audience.
Tip 2: Prioritize SEO
Regardless of your practice area, you want to prioritize visibility on the search engine results pages (SERP) of Google and other search engines as much as possible. It is no secret that society is becoming increasingly digital, and people are looking for lawyers with increased frequency online. But focusing on search engine optimization (SEO) is especially important for criminal lawyers, where long-tail searches can provide a large amount of traffic and potential leads.
SEO is related to visibility in the organic results. The organic results are those websites on the SERP that appear as a result of the process by which search engines crawl, index, and rank content to serve users with relevant information for their query, as opposed to other results on the SERP that appear due to paid marketing strategies.
In this sense, SEO is free, though many lawyers will need to hire consultants and outside legal marketers (like our team at Justia) to effectively develop an SEO strategy. Regardless of where you are on your SEO journey a few key things remain certain:
- Create high-quality, original content for your law firm website and any legal blog that your firm operates. This includes incorporating natural keywords into your content without sounding overly optimized. You can check out our suggestions for creating an effective blog post and our tips for writing law firm website content to help you get started.
- Build authentic backlinks from free, reputable sources, such as lawyer and law firm directories. Remember, you should never pay for links. Link building schemes are frowned upon by Google and other major search engines and will likely negatively impact your SEO efforts.
- Make sure your foundation is sound. You want to ensure that you utilize industry best practices in your site’s structure. While the list of industry best practices is too great to discuss in a single blog post, some basics include confirming that your site is responsive and mobile-friendly, accessible, and secure.
- Build a mobile-friendly, speedy website. While creating a responsive and mobile-friendly site is mentioned as best practice above, it is so important to this practice area that it warrants an independent mention. Many people may be searching for help in a criminal matter from their phone or in a pinch where time is short. As such, it is especially important to prioritize speed and mobile-friendliness as a criminal lawyer.
The good news is that good SEO practices generally also make your site more user-friendly. This improves the experience that potential clients have on your website and blog, and in turn, can lead to more leads for your firm.
You can learn more about the basics of SEO in this Search Engine Land article. We also recommend checking out our recent Justia Onward posts, Lawyers Beware: 6 Common SEO Myths, Some of Which May Be Partially True and Justia Q&A 5: Common Questions About Search and SEO.
Tip 3: Bolster Your SEO Efforts With Other Paid Ads
As discussed in Tip Two, you want to focus on increasing your visibility on that SERP. SEO is focused on the organic website listings, but there are multiple ways to appear on the SERP and achieve first-page search visibility. One such way is through paid search ads.
Related Post: SEO + PPC = Holistic Marketing Strategy for Lawyers
In recent years, Google and other search engines have greatly increased the percentage of paid ads on the first page relative to organic search. Therefore, by leveraging paid ads on the SERP, you greatly increase the odds that potential clients will find your firm. We recommend considering Google’s Local Services Ads (LSAs) and traditional pay-per-click (PPC) ads. With LSAs, you have the opportunity to appear at the top of the SERP, above all other paid ads, any local listings, and the organic search results.
LSAs are the only way to achieve the coveted “Google Screened” designation. In addition, LSAs are unique because they are pay-per-lead, which means you only pay when you get an actual contact through your ad. In contrast, traditional PPC ads require you to pay each time someone clicks on that ad, regardless of whether you receive a lead.
Traditional PPC ads display above the organic results, but below any LSAs. Sometimes they also appear in other locations on the SERP in addition to the top of the page. Regardless, PPC ads allow you to better command the SERP and reach more clients. By bidding on tailored keywords and creating an effective PPC strategy, you can also build your brand and better control your reputation online while also reaching more potential clients.
To learn more about setting up your own PPC campaign with Google Ads, read our recent post, How To Set Up a Google Search Ad.
Tip 4: Up Your Local Marketing Game
Local marketing matters for most lawyers and criminal defense lawyers are generally not an exception. While there may be some specialized areas of criminal law that allow for a more regional or national practice, many criminal defense attorneys receive the bulk of their clients from the local area.
In many areas, this local client base is made up of residents. However, in tourist areas and other areas with frequent guests, you may often receive non-local clients who have been accused of a crime in your town. Regardless, local marketing strategies can help you reach both of these groups, if optimized appropriately.
First, you should optimize your Google My Business (GMB) profile. Complete your profile set-up and update all of your contact information. Be sure to confirm that your name, address, and phone number (NAP) are correct. This information should be consistent across the internet, including on your website and in any directory profile you and the other lawyers in your firm may claim.
When setting up your GMB profile, it is also important to ensure you include a link to your law firm website, set your hours appropriately, and pick your primary location(s). You should also add pictures and videos to your page.
Remember, GMB is not a one-time task. You need to make sure you consistently update this information if anything changes for your firm.
After optimizing your GMB presence, you can turn to your free lawyer directory profiles in the various, reputable directories. We suggest starting with our own Justia Lawyer Directory, as well as Avvo, FindLaw, and Martindale. Then, you can move on to your profiles in the other as lawyer and law firm directories.
Next, you should update your profile in other local business directories and ensure your NAP is optimized across the web. Services such as WhiteSpark and Yext can help simplify this effort and increase your consistency.
Reviews are also an important part of local marketing (and your larger marketing efforts) because people trust others’ opinions. Ninety percent of consumers read online reviews before they decide to visit a business and 88% of consumers say they trust those reviews like they would a personal recommendation.
Therefore, you should solicit Google Reviews, as well as reviews on directories such as the Justia Lawyer Directory and Avvo. You also will want to pay attention to the reviews you may get on other search engines, Yelp, and social media sites, such as Facebook.
For more information about managing your reviews in search results, check out this post. For additional information on best practices for handling social media reviews specifically, you can read this post.
Tip 5: Consider “Jail Mail”
The concept of “jail mail” marketing is generally not a digital marketing tactic, but is a practice that has been around for quite some time in the criminal defense marketing world. Lawyers have found success in sending traditional letters and other marketing materials to people charged with the types of crimes that lawyer typically handles.
Because this practice has become so widespread, it may be overly saturated in some areas. A person charged with a DUI may receive 15, 20, or more letters from attorneys interested in handling the case. However, just like many personal injury attorneys continue to use traditional marketing methods because they have found that they work for their practice goals, some criminal lawyers swear by jail mail as a strong piece of their marketing strategy.
As such, lawyers not already using this tactic may want to consider whether it makes sense for their firm to test it out. As always, remember to make sure you check your bar association’s rules to ensure your plan and content are both ethically permissible and compliant with any rules about attorney advertisement and unsolicited direct marketing.
Final Thoughts: Why Do You Care?
Effectively marketing your legal practice requires carefully considering your particular practice area and the channels that may be most effective in reaching your ideal clients. While this list of marketing tips is certainly non-exhaustive, increasing visibility in front of the right clients is crucial to maximizing a criminal defense lawyer’s return on investment in legal marketing strategies.
If you want to learn more about additional marketing strategies that can be customized for your law firm and practice area, Justia Marketing Solutions may be the right fit for you. Contact our team to learn more about all of the options available today.