Nobody wakes up in the morning and decides that it would be a good idea to research criminal defense attorneys. The average person will never need a criminal defense attorney, nor will they spend time shopping around for the best one in their free time. From a marketing perspective, that’s a daunting scenario — advertising services that aren’t used regularly, yet absolutely necessary if the need arises. So how can you stand out at a moment’s notice, and with little to no brand loyalty?
The perception problem
Before addressing some marketing strategies, we need to look at a larger issue. Criminal defense attorneys have many factors working against them when it comes to gaining new business, apart from the relative lack of demand for the average person, criminal defense attorneys have to combat some culturally induced stigmas. Often portrayed in TV and film as a shadowy business, It’s one of the more thankless jobs in the legal industry, yet it’s one of the noblest. It’s one of the few jobs secured by the United States constitution. The sixth amendment guarantees the rights of criminal defendants to a public trial without unnecessary delay, and the right to a lawyer.
For a society obsessed with true crime stories from hit podcasts like Serial and My Favorite Murder, to engrossing documentaries such as “Making a Murderer”, one would think that criminal defense attorneys would be less taboo these days. So for those that pursue this noble endeavor, how do you overcome that negative perception, and how do you market your firm as the perfect fit for a client in need? It starts with a reputation.
Building your criminal defense firm’s reputation
Building or increasing your criminal defense firm’s reputation won’t happen overnight, it’s not likely that you will land the next high-profile televised case and instantly become the go-to defense attorney that everyone’s talking about without putting in some hard work first. There are however some steps you can take towards planting a digital footprint that will slowly build your reputation.
Craft a compelling website
Your law firm’s website is the source of truth for any prospective client looking to find a lawyer. Your site’s messaging should be clear and concise and show the reader who you are as a lawyer, what your practice’s key differentiators are, and who you are looking for in the perfect client.
Don’t feel the need to cram all of this information onto your homepage though, it can become overwhelming — which is the last feeling you want to give your clients. Use plenty of imagery to convey your message, humans are inherently visual learners and the addition of pictures or symbols can actually help the reader process information faster. For some extra inspiration, check out this list of best law firm websites.
An easy way to convey your reputation is by including past client testimonials, this gives readers a glance at how others who have worked with you in the past perceived your service, more on this later.
Focus on local SEO
SEO or “Search Engine Optimization” is a term that you’ve probably heard thrown around in the past, and for good reason. It’s extremely important to the health and prosperity of your website and helps your site rank higher in places like Google and Bing. There is a subset of SEO, called Local SEO, that’s even more important for your business to be focused on.
According to a leading SEO research firm, SEMrush, “Local SEO is the process of optimizing a business, product, or service for a search query that is location-specific.” When searching for law services, especially by loved ones who may be searching for defense attorneys in areas they may be unfamiliar with, it’s important for your firm to be listed when a query comes in for “criminal defense attorney located in (area)” preferably in the first one or two results.
There are many factors to consider when ranking in local SEO, and the rules are constantly changing due to privacy concerns and advertising regulations, but the basic math goes like this:
Organic search + paid search ads + Google Business profile = higher local search rankings.
For now, let’s focus on setting up a Google Business profile. It’s 100% free, and yet it’s not the first task people think about when setting up a website.
Set up a Google Business profile
Google Business profiles are important for many reasons, but none more so than planting your firm directly on Google Maps.
As you can see, when searching for “Criminal Defense Attorneys in Oakland, CA” the results show the top three offices. How does Google choose these three? Google has deemed them relevant based on their keywords, location, and website activity. As it relates to their Google Business profile, all three have the same thing in common — they’re complete.
Stuffed with name, address, hours, contact information, and most importantly reviews, a complete profile is a must. BrightLocal states that 80% of consumers lose trust in a local business if they see incorrect information online. For a thorough overview of the steps necessary to complete your profile, BrightLocal does a fantastic job of walking you through them.
As mentioned above, one of the most important factors to your online success is customer reviews. Not only does it give prospective customers insight into how you work, and what your results look like during a real case, but it helps your firm rank higher. Looking at the screen shot above, you can notice that all three are 4.9 or 5-star reviews and range from 16 to 177 total reviews.
In an instant, you can already tell the difference between a 5-star review with 16 reviewers, or a 5-star review with over 100. You’re more likely to click on the latter. It can be daunting to ask customers for reviews, but by formulating a simple and repeatable process, it will just become one of your normal steps.
Make the ask of your client as soon as your case is complete, your hard work will be fresh in their minds and they will be more willing to take the extra step for you. Make it as simple as possible for them to leave a review, provide them with the exact link in a text or an email and let them know that the process only takes a few minutes. Forming this habit will do wonders for your search ranking.
Standing out in the criminal defense field doesn’t have to be a challenge. Working at these simple steps repeatedly will yield results and your law firm will start to see more and more leads come to your website organically.