Instant effectiveness, extremely high traffic, and abnormally high conversion rates: Does that sound good? These promises have helped unscrupulous so-called marketers rope in many unsuspecting attorneys over the years — but the attorneys usually get little more than a disappointment.
Claims about web marketing for lawyers should always be taken with a grain of salt. The best way to get results is to analyze the needs of your firm and make a strategy that works within your budget to accomplish your goals.
If you would like some help sorting through the details, please contact us at FORWARD Lawyer Marketing today. We handle attorney SEO and many other online marketing techniques for firms nationwide. Our number is (888) 590-9687.
In the worst cases, shady marketing practices can actually hurt your rank — they can even get your website temporarily banned from showing up in Google search results. Seeing as that is completely opposite of what you want to do when you use SEO for lawyer marketing, black hat doesn’t make a lot of sense.
We’ll talk more about that throughout this article. Here’s what we’ll cover:
As we mentioned above, please feel free to call us. As Google Partners, we build lasting marketing strategies for reputable law firms to grow their presence online.
Black hat marketing doesn’t have any formal definition. It is more of a general term that we use to describe unethical and sometimes illegal practices online. It can be applied to hacking, marketing, and a number of different activities.
At best, black hat marketing is taking an unfair advantage over the competition. However, as you might imagine, this type of unscrupulous practice is rarely at its best.
These techniques more frequently involve gaming the system or cheating outright. Furthermore, although this is not often the case with marketing and advertising in general, black hat techniques in market research and client tracking could sometimes even be illegal — for example, if they involve the misappropriation of proprietary data sets or the invasion of personal privacy.
Now, there are some people who believe that, when there is ambiguity present that allows for unethical or unscrupulous behavior, it’s the fault of the ambiguous system. Google is not of that camp.
The search giant regularly shuts down accounts or punishes websites that fail to follow the terms of service. The fact is that there really isn’t all that much ambiguity in Google’s terms. If there’s any leeway in a potentially exploitable service or function, Google typically protects its right to censure or stop bad actors from taking advantage. It does this through blanket statements in the terms of service or, sometimes, with explicit warnings in the descriptions of the exploitable function.
What does that all boil down to? Google is opposed to black hat marketing by definition. Additionally, they have the power to erase any success you see by using these techniques.
SEO is a long-term effort that builds up slowly, has low risk, and is easy to maintain. It just doesn’t make sense to approach it in such a risky way.
The opposite of black hat is, perhaps unsurprisingly, white hat. White hat SEO for lawyers entails using extensive knowledge about the internet and search engines to work within the system and get sustainable results.
White hat techniques are what the majority of internet marketing firms use. You do not have to worry too much about what you’re getting — but you should definitely keep an eye out for anything that looks suspicious before you engage the services of an agency.
The prevalence of white hat marketing means that average performance statistics can be relatively reliable as a benchmark — especially if you get information that is based on specific types of businesses. By the same token, you should probably regard with great skepticism anyone who promises meteoric growth with law firm SEO.
As mentioned above in this article, search engine optimization is a long-term strategy. It’s also competitive in many legal practice areas, such as family law, injury law, and estate planning. It is not uncommon for it to take a few months (at least) to start meeting your initial goals.
White hat strategies work with the system to get results. When you choose to employ an unethical black hat trick or tactic, you’re pitting yourself or your marketing agency against the search engines.
Think about it. Who’s smarter, who has more resources, and who has the ability to change the game?
Black hat marketing firms may have a few employees, some with technical skills. The fact is that, with unethical consultants, it’s often hard to even know the truth about what’s going on behind the scenes. Google is not exactly forthcoming with technical details — but it is a leading global enterprise employing some of the best engineers in the world.
Google and other search engines exist to put relevant information in front of people. In the long run (which is what SEO is concerned with, as we mentioned above) there’s no shortcut around that.
Good marketers don’t need petty tricks to increase your search rank. They do, however, need to be smart and knowledgeable enough to understand the following:
Most marketing agencies online for lawyers use ethical techniques. However, you might still want to be on the lookout for anything that might be construed as unscrupulous, unethical, or illegal. Here are some warning signs that the firm you’re working with might not have the approach you need to protect your business interests:
When you engage in business with black hat marketers, there’s more than search rank at risk. You might also be throwing your budget away on traffic that doesn’t convert. That’s because unscrupulous marketing firms attempt to use a variety of techniques to fool not only the search engines but also, at times, their own clients.
We have touched on some of the risks and consequences of black hat lawyer marketing in the other sections of this article. However, let’s look at it all in summary right now. Here is what’s at stake if you do business with one of these firms:
Any one of these risks should represent enough of a headache to turn you off the prospect of using these so-called tricks and shortcuts. Together, they could easily make your SEO strategy a liability for your firm.
If you are still tempted to pursue these types of techniques or are feeling persuaded by the companies that offer them, it might be because you need to set some realistic goals for SEO. SEO is just one part of the overall marketing strategies for a law firm — and it has a very specific function.
SEO is a strategy to put your firm in the best position to organically grow in relevance to web searchers. It involves building a website to succeed from the very first step. In short, it’s about preparing for success and tracking progress.
What SEO does not do: It does not bump your site up to the top ranks overnight. The more popular the search, the more work you have to do to get your website on the first page of results. For the number one slot, there’s an even longer climb.
If you want faster results and instant leads, we would recommend something like PPC for lawyers or pay per lead. There are plenty of options if you want to see things happen right away — SEO just isn’t one of them when it comes to the legal profession.
Our goal is to learn your law firm marketing goals, then help you achieve them. Please contact FORWARD Lawyer Marketing at (888) 590-9687 at your earliest convenience to get started with a no-obligation consultation. For some real-world examples of what we do and how it can impact your practice, feel free to check out a few of our case studies.
This case study shows how a single-attorney family law practice started attracting more high-asset, financially complex divorce cases.
Click here to read about a family law firm that increased caseload five-fold in a few months.
To develop a multi-faceted strategy that ethically pursues all of your goals, contact us to schedule a consultation at (888) 590-9687.