Dennis Kennedy is a lawyer and Internet consultant in St. Louis, Missouri. He speaks and writes frequently on Internet topics.
Q: How Can I Use Non-Internet Methods to Promote My Web Site?
Jerry Lawson (JL): There is a common misconception that all your “content” should be at your Web site.
Dennis Kennedy (DK): You’re right. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking about your Web site in isolation from your other marketing efforts. Many firms overfocus on the Internet aspects of site promotion and forget about how the use of non-Internet efforts can greatly expand the traffic, especially quality traffic, to their sites.
The simple fact is that for existing and potential clients, non-Internet techniques can drive traffic to your site more effectively than most Internet-only promotion. Notice how every TV commercial seems to include a URL and many Internet businesses have become heavy TV advertisers. I recently read that advertising your URL on radio has been shown to be the most effective way to bring traffic to your site. I’ve noticed that listening to my local National Public Radio station in the morning often sounds like a dramatic reading of the URLs of sponsors.
JL: A lot of law firms here in the Washington, DC area use NPR. It seems to be mainly for “image building” (nowadays more trendily known as “enhancing brand awareness.”)
Brenda Howard (BH): There’s an important reason for all of this. One has to remember that we just hit 50% of the population being on the Internet. This happened in December, 1999. As new people enter the wonderful cyber world, they may actually go there because of some print, television or radio advertisement that contains a website address.
JL: One of the best ways to break through the clutter is by using paper publications that you know your target market reads. Some law firms run ads to promote their URLs in publications like the National Law Journal. Others run such ads in publications likely to be read by businessmen.
DK: Before we get too carried away with ad campaigns, let’s remember that ads are not cheap. If you are already running ads, however, you definitely want to be sure that you get your URL into the ad. Another benefit to this approach is that by checking your Web page traffic you can get a good idea of the effectiveness of a new ad.
BH: Ads really aren’t cheap. Many attorneys write columns for local papers and such. These articles should contain the Web site address. This will encourage anyone interested in the article to read further and go to the Web site. Assuming that you retain the copyright to these articles, they should also appear on your Web site.
JL: If you have the money to spend on an ad campaign, I guess there is nothing wrong with this approach, but there are cheaper–and probably more effective—approaches, as Dennis suggests.
Instead of your material being paid-for ad content, try to become free editorial content for publication. When editors decide to run stories about your law firm, this usually amounts to a form of third party endorsement of you and your law firm.
One of the best approaches is to ask yourself:
“What could I put at my Web site that would make journalists who are read by my target audience want to write stories about my Web site?”
This approach can work wonders, if you know what you are doing. One approach is to go for such a high volume of quality, timely material at your Web site that it establishes you as a top national expert. This is Greg Siskind’s approach: http://www.visalaw.com. Another method is just to be innovative. The “Vacatur Center” is one example.
DK: A companion approach is to make yourself available for interviews with journalists. Most writers are happy to include your URL in the story along with your quotes. Again, you’re establishing yourself as an expert and the story contains a handy link to your Web site.
BH: I’ve done this effectively as a marketing approach. Generally, attorneys are considered subject matter experts in their areas of law and there are always opportunities with the media.
DK: But your efforts really don’t have to be very elaborate. Often very traditional, plain paper approaches can work quite well. Your Web site’s URL should be on business cards, stationery, newsletter, e-mail signatures and your traditional marketing materials. My main rule: don’t waste any opportunities. Get that URL out in front of your audience whenever you can.
BH: Dennis, I consider this to be a minimum requirement. Every Web site owner should have their Web site address on every printed material that the law firm uses. There’s no excuse for not promoting your Web site in this manner.
DK: Do whatever it takes to make your site easy to find, but remember that site promotion is an ongoing job. Your goal should be to get the attention of your target audience, especially existing clients, in a way to get your URL onto the list of bookmarks or favorites that they use on a regular basis.
JL: Right. There are literally millions of Web sites out there. It is unlikely that many potential clients are going to just stumble across your site accidentally. If you want people to find you, you have to do whatever you can to make it easier, focusing your site, using technical tricks to make it rank higher with search engines, or promoting it off the Net.
Whatever it takes.