According to the FBI, there were more than 538,000 violent-crime incidents and about 3.4 million property crime incidents in 2020, based on statistics from local law enforcement agencies.
These numbers presume to show that there are many criminal defendants needing representation. Yet, criminal law attorneys still face unique business development challenges. Creating a legal marketing strategy that focuses on local marketing helps criminal law attorneys achieve their goals.
Criminal Law Marketing Challenges
Many criminal law clients have financial limitations, so they opt to represent themselves or utilize a public defender. While the public defenders are skilled and committed attorneys, almost every jurisdiction is overwhelmed by its caseload. As such, public defenders are limited in their ability to provide the same level of service as a private criminal defense attorney. But lay people unfamiliar with the criminal justice system may not understand the difference. And, even if they do, opting for free representation is necessary for many defendants and their families. In addition, television shows, films, and even podcasts have brought Hollywood’s version of criminal law into people’s living rooms for decades. Non-attorneys increasingly have unrealistic expectations of how the criminal justice system works based on binge-watching “Law & Order” and will choose to represent themselves.
In addition, the criminal law market is saturated with competitors. Standing out against the attorneys with the flashy bus ads or the high-profile criminal defense attorneys who show up on TV can be difficult without the right budget or celebrity client or headline-grabbing case.
Lastly, we know that referrals from trusted friends and family is a common way to get new law clients. Most people, though, don’t want to reveal that they or a family member are charged with a crime. This makes the referral pipeline narrow for criminal law attorneys.
Create a Criminal Law Local Marketing Strategy
The first step in creating a criminal law local marketing strategy is to look inward at your practice and clients. Ask yourself if there is a type of matter you work on more than others. Maybe you handle mostly driving while intoxicated cases because you’ve generated a reputation as an expert in that area of law or perhaps your focus is on rape cases because a nearby college tends to generate these types of incidents. Think about who you’ve represented over the last few years in terms of demographics: age, gender, income level, housing status, etc. From this exercise, see if you can identify both a niche practice to market and a client persona for a niche target audience to market to.
These are the first steps of every successful legal marketing strategy. Identifying this information about your practice will help you create your personal brand, value proposition, and elevator speech. It also serves as the basis for all your legal marketing activities, from content to social media to search engine ranking through search engine optimization, or SEO.
In a local legal marketing strategy, SEO has the spotlight. Search engines are where people turn to find whatever they need — including criminal defense attorneys. As we previously discussed in “How Does SEO Affect My Law Firm?,” there are many good reasons to use SEO strategies to market a law firm locally. The main benefit of a local SEO marketing strategy is to ensure that your law firm’s website appears high on search engine results pages (SERPs). Using keywords that reflect the firm’s services and location on the firm’s website, blog and news posts, social media, and digital advertising is key to boosting your SERP rankings.
Consider these local SEO facts from SEO Tribunal:
After searching for a local business on a mobile device, 88% of users will call or visit the business in the next 24 hours.
Forty-six percent of all Google searches are linked to something local.
Ninety-two percent of searchers select businesses from the first SERP.
Before jumping into an SEO strategy, be sure that your law firm website is up-to-date, easy to navigate, and includes complete information about the attorneys and their practices. Ensure the personal brand and value proposition you developed are communicated on the website. This will help the website be found by search engines and convince visitors you are the right attorney for the job.
Five Local SEO Marketing Plan Tactics
Google My Business: Every law firm should have a free Google My Business profile. Fill it out completely to get the best results. As a criminal defense attorney, consider listing longer office hours than typical businesses, as you are more likely to appear in search results that happen later at night or on weekends. Use your registered law firm name and don’t add extra keywords, as Google will flag that.
Google Local Services Ads: Google’s LSA badges show online searchers you are a screened and qualified service provider in your industry. Compared to pay-per-click ads, LSA ads appear higher on SERPs and are pay-per-lead — meaning you only pay when the ad generates a call or email. An LSA requires that you create a Google My Business profile, have a physical location in the city you want to advertise in, and have a phone number for your law firm.
Pay-Per-Click Ads: Creating and buying digital advertisements on search engines will help your law firm appear higher on SERPs. Compared to organic searches, PPC ads allow you to target audiences and use keywords and usually generate instant results.
Organic Search Strategy: The backbone for a successful organic SEO strategy is content that is keyword rich, informational, and useful. Creating and posting blogs, for example, on topics related to your niche practice helps ensure people find your website when searching specific words, like “DUI attorney in Houston” or “attorney date rape Peoria.” Besides the resources needed to create and post the content, this strategy is free and results are generally seen over time.
Directories: Claiming your profiles and completing them on both legal industry and general business directories helps boost SEO. Review sites like Avvo, FindLaw, and Martindale-Hubbell as well as Yelp! and Nextdoor are helpful for SEO but are also beneficial for overall visibility.
Local Marketing Activities for Criminal Law Attorneys
More traditional legal marketing tactics can help with an SEO strategy by creating searchable, positive content, but they can also be valuable ways to build a good reputation and brand.
Get involved in local community activities, like sponsoring the Little League team or volunteering to provide pro bono services. Attend legal and business networking events to get to know potential referral sources. Ask colleagues and former clients to provide reviews — even an anonymous testimonial detailing how you helped a client is better than none.
Keeping the marketing focused on a tight geographic range helps potential clients find you when they need you most.
To learn more about local marketing for criminal law attorneys, contact the marketing team at Scorpion.