The legal marketing industry is flush with companies offering services that are either built or rely heavily on proprietary technology and platforms offered exclusively to their law firm clients. This is all fine, in theory. But for law firms, choosing a web hosting platform or content management system (CMS) built on proprietary legal marketing technology can result in problems with content ownership, integration of additional services, and more.

Like frustrated mobile phone customers trapped in unclear contracts and extended payment plans, many law firms find out too late that their practical ability to leave their current provider is difficult at best and litigious at worst.

What Are Proprietary Legal Marketing Services?

Any marketing service provider will likely have proprietary systems and information. That’s the way of the business world. But these systems should always benefit clients rather than creating sticky services that are difficult to change when the relationship doesn’t work as planned.

Proprietary legal marketing services include platforms like FindLaw and Scorpion, which offer a range of legal marketing products—like website design and hosting, directory listings, and search engine optimization—that often rely on proprietary technology that is only available to the company’s customers.

Watch for These Red Flags in Law Firm Marketing Services

Limited Customization of Strategy

When a legal marketing service is focused on creating and maintaining its proprietary technology, its strategies are likely to be heavily focused on using that technology, whether it’s a website platform, legal directory listing service, content management system (CMS), a combination of offerings, or something else.

This usually means the client gets a pre-packaged, general solution that is customized to maximize the use of the proprietary tech, not to address the client’s specific goal.

A more time- and cost-effective approach is to build your law firm’s plan around current status and needs. Plenty of available platforms and technologies, like WordPress and Google Analytics, can be used to do just that.

Pre-Packaged, Formulaic Content That Fails to Connect

As with marketing strategy, content produced by a company that is primarily focused on its proprietary legal marketing technology may not be forthcoming; if it does materialize, it may be lackluster at best. It may also be far too similar to the content the company has created for its other clients, due to the use of pre-packaged material and cookie-cutter formulas to speed content production.

In theory, some attorneys may not mind sub-par content if it serves a purpose in search engine optimization (SEO) and brings more eyes to the website. However, Google and other search engines constantly refine their algorithms with the goal of giving Internet searchers the best quality content on the topic of interest. As the process of choosing that content is refined, the quality of law firm website content has become even more important, and this trend is expected to continue.

To truly stand out from the pack, a law firm needs content tailored to its practice areas and geographical reach. TOPDOG’s legal content production team members pride themselves on creating custom, legally accurate, and jurisdiction-specific content that attracts qualified leads, keeps potential clients engaged, and emphasizes why your law firm is exceptional.

Website and Content Ownership Issues

At TOPDOG, we have talked with many clients who found out too late that they did not own the rights to their website design, data, analytics, or written content, such as blogs and page content. In other situations, firms may own the content, but moving it from the current service to an alternative option is at best difficult or, at worst, impossible. This can come as a shock after a law firm has spent significant sums of money on content and marketing services, only to learn that the benefits largely vanish when they leave the service.

Guaranteed Search Engine Rankings or Leads for Lawyers

Effective search engine optimization and other legal marketing strategies are not quick, easy processes. Data must be gathered and analyzed to evaluate what is working and what isn’t, and the approach should be adjusted accordingly. A few methods—like black hat link schemes—may boost search engine rankings more quickly, but these are generally unethical or the benefit is fleeting, if not both.

If promises being made regarding the number of leads for lawyers or other guarantees in a marketing proposal seem too good to be true, they likely are. Law firm marketing services should be able to clarify the specifics of how they qualify leads for lawyers they serve and the SEO practices used.

A Proprietary Legal Marketing Example: Is FindLaw Worth It?

FindLaw is a large, diversified legal services provider with offerings targeted to attorneys and the general public. Many attorneys use the company’s website design and hosting services as well as additional marketing services. In the past, FindLaw created and hosted its websites on a proprietary legal marketing platform. Many problems with FindLaw and complaints about the difficulties of accessing and transferring website data and content to another service occurred, and the company began hosting its websites on WordPress.

Transitioning the content hosted on a WordPress website should be relatively simple for someone with knowledge of website development and design. In our experience, this is not the case for FindLaw WordPress websites. An extensive technical guide is provided to FindLaw clients who wish to migrate their website away from the company’s control and service. The steps necessary to do this are arduous even for someone familiar with website design—and some elements, like attorney bios—cannot be transferred at all, so these firms must create new content once again.

Reported problems with FindLaw are not unique, unfortunately. Scorpion is another example of a marketing services company that created difficulty for clients who wished to take ownership of their sites and move them off the Scorpion platform. A quick look at negative Yelp reviews for this company demonstrates that transparency is low, migrating away or diversifying is challenging, and promised returns often don’t materialize.

Other law firm website platforms, like LawLytics, may offer more affordable options for attorneys who are interested in DIY methods. However, you won’t own your LawLytics website, and exclusive content, maintenance, and SEO may not be available or may be features that require additional investment.   

When You Want Custom Law Firm Marketing Services

The field is crowded for law firm marketing services. It is also littered with shiny things that lack real and lasting value. At TOPDOG Legal Marketing, LLC, we prioritize strategies and results that are meaningful and durable. As a legal marketing service led by attorneys with digital publishing experience, we know where and how the two fields meet. Are you using a proprietary legal marketing service and wondering if it is genuinely serving your law firm’s best interests? Reach out to schedule a consultation with TOPDOG by calling (844) HEY-T-DOG (439-8364) or completing our online contact form.

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