On April 1st, 2013, the legal market for personal injury was hit with a curveball. A call for the ban of referral fees for personal injury cases was introduced in 2012 by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).
This was in response to growing concerns about the high cost of civil litigation, and the increase in both cost of motor insurance premiums, and the number of claims made in “compensation culture”. The now infamous term was coined to encapsulate the encouragement people were starting to receive, to take advantage of their insurance by making claims for minor injuries or by creating ‘injuries’ that were difficult to dispute.
LASPO believed that by banning referral fees would reduce overall costs in individual cases and prevent the growth of “compensation culture”. Ultimately, it would result in stopping people from putting in personal injury claims when they initially would not have done so. This became especially transparent for weak and/or fake claims.
A year later, this ban came into effect. If violated, the offending company would be punishable by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Expectedly, the ban has caused huge disruption in the personal injury claims industry, and therefore mass concern.
The SRA acknowledged that smaller legal firms would be susceptible to suffering from a “likely shrinkage” of the personal injury claim industry, and the costs associated with this big shake-up in the that landscape. Considering how many of these smaller law firms relied on referrals for income, the intensifying of competition now means these companies will need to find new ways of marketing and promotion in order to avoid insolvency.
Nowadays, the Internet is an essential plateau for boosting a company’s online visibility and presence. And having a good online presence isn’t just for superficial purposes. It instils trust and reputation in your clients, and it’s a platform for you to communicate your company’s values and specialties, to an audience you might not have connected to before.
As Internet usage accelerates over the years, Google’s ranking of local businesses can reward companies by establishing them as trustworthy and helpful answers to the query the user has inputted. Therefore, the higher you rank, the better the reputation of your firm. So, this is a significant opportunity for firms, especially smaller ones, to tap into a sizeable market share.
But, it’s one thing to talk about SEO, keywords, and all those technical terms. How do you actually put it all into practice?
Increase the content on your site
If the objective of your firm’s site is to rank for as many keywords as possible, then it is only logical to link it to increasing the amount of content you publish on your site. But it’s not just the amount that you should look to increase. The quality of each piece will contribute heavily to the way prospective clients view your site, and therefore your firm.
Relevant, engaging content will always be more likely to be shared by other sites. The higher the quality of your content, the more likely those links will also come from sites that are more reputable. Getting five backlinks to your content from small blogs may be less valuable than gaining one backlink from a hugely authoritative site such as Wikipedia.
Distrust looms over the personal injury sector like smog. Simultaneously, the Internet is rapidly becoming the first place anyone goes to in their search for answers. Information, ultimately, is worth a lot more in the long run than a sales push, especially after something like the referral fee ban.
If someone is looking to make a personal injury claim, then they are looking for a solution to a problem they’ve encountered. That is a customer who’d want relevant information, and help, rather than a sales pitch.
And it’s not as simple as that. Information in an accessible, user-friendly format is even more important. The competition online is only increasing. Everyone’s clamouring for the top position of Google’s search results page, so content that is not only reliable and informative, but also unique and niche, is essential. Otherwise, it becomes impossible to stand out from the crowd as a leading competitor in the fierce personal injury claims landscape.
Engage with your potential or existing clients online
Per month, Twitter has 330 million active users worldwide. That’s only one social media platform, and usage of sites like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook will only increase. Using social media to demonstrate your brand personality, or announce big news, has been a popular promotional tool.
By having an active social media presence, you can interact with your customers on a more personal level. This can help increase a client’s trust and perception of your company. After the ban and legislation change following the ban, trust, approachability, an informative approach rather than a sales-oriented approach, and familiarity are valuable commodities.
Social media enables the information you publish to be shared, and the activity of your social media feeds helps curate the relationships between your firm and your clients.
According to Ambassador, 71% of customers would recommend a brand if they had a positive customer experience with it. Of course, it’d likely be different across sectors, but it does demonstrate the importance of social media for a company.
Focus on your standing as a local business before expanding
- Link building
Trust your site’s SEO with an SEO expert
As the Internet ingrains itself into everyone’s everyday lifestyle, not only can clients afford to be picky, so can Google. By updating its algorithms, Google has grown more intelligent. In doing so, paid-for and ‘spammy’ techniques to boost a site’s ranking are being penalised.
Therefore, if a legal firm’s looking to create a successful online marketing campaign to attract more clients, it’ll need to climb up the search engine rankings. In order to do that, a solid Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategy needs to be implemented. And to do that well, consultation with honest, helpful experts in SEO, who know Google inside-out, is essential.
It may be tempting to do it alone with some free how-to guides. But in reality, results-based advice after a careful audit on the website’s current performance is needed before anything else. Building on that, a strategy with realistic goals comes next. A sensible, thought-out budget should be set. Don’t fall for the ‘we’ll make you number one on Google for £10’ promise.
Furthermore, these goals should be made with a mixture of a legal firm’s expertise in the sector and clientele and the SEO firm’s expertise in online marketing. A consultation can be made, and options outlined based on what the firm wants to achieve, setting periodic targets, and importantly, being able to be realistic about those targets. That encompasses everything from the extent of those targets, as well as the cost.
To create a no frills, realistic strategy, with points to improve on and aspirations to push that won’t be simply out of reach, experience and honesty is needed. A close relationship between both firms in order to achieve the same goals and push harder to make bigger strides is essential. That will hopefully manifest itself into a manageable, executable online marketing plan that is both pinpointed for online growth, and within the law.
It’s not a one-person job, or even a one-firm job. Especially when you remember you’re catering to clients, standing out not just to those clients but to Google is integral to any campaign. In this legal landscape and the emergence of strong competition in, marketing should now be as vital to any personal injury company’s profile. Just as referrals once were, except this time, it’s transparent, customer-oriented, and won’t get banned.