Getting to the top of the Google search engine rankings for your law firm web presence, especially for major practice areas in saturated markets, can be costly in time and dollars. However, law firms leveraging the power of YouTube have some untapped potential for web traffic. According to the ABA Legal Technology Survey Report 2018, less than 2% of lawyers use YouTube as a marketing channel. A total of 14% of firms have produced a video to market their practice, though the bigger the firm the more likely they are to have video marketing (from 4% of solos to 36% for firms with more than 500 attorneys). Looked at it another way, 77% of responding lawyers DON’T have videos. What can you do to leverage video marketing?
The Power of YouTube
YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine, processing over 3 billion searches a month. In 2019 80% of all internet traffic will come from video and the chances of getting a page one spot on Google search results increase by 53 times with video.
Consider user demographics for YouTube. Over 80% of 45 to 64-year-old American internet users watch videos on YouTube, and over half of those aged 65 and over. YouTube users are more likely to have a college degree than the general population and are more likely to have children than non-users. Seventy percent of millennial users (ages 21-37) watched a YouTube video to learn how to do something new or learn about something they are interested in. Is YouTube the right platform to reach your intended audience? Consider creating a few client personas to help determine if it reaches your target market.
Content is King
Lawyer Gerry Oginski, who has a thriving YouTube channel for his New York Medical Malpractice and Accident Trial practice, advises “don’t talk about yourself and don’t talk about the law”. While you can use YouTube to host a commercial for your firm, the categories that resonate with YouTube Users are not commercials, but “How To” videos, vlogs, and educational videos. The focus should be on providing information, not advice. Tell stories and highlight your value proposition. Review all NC Rules of Professional Conduct and ethics opinions regarding communication, solicitation, and advertising. Also, the Rules and opinions should be reviewed in each jurisdiction you practice in since the rules vary state to state.
You may think that the only popular lawyer videos are brash or shocking. However, there are plenty of excellent examples of law firms doing video well. Do a search (on YouTube of course) to get a sense of what seems effective in your practice areas by looking at the number of views different legal topic videos have on the platform.
What content will resonate with your potential audience? Start with keyword research. While there are many tools you can use for comprehensive keyword research a simple process includes using the Google search engine. For instance, Google has three different types of results for a keyword search:
- Keyword suggestions – variants that stem from your text entry when you type into the Chrome address bar or in the Google search box
- “People Also Ask” which often appears in the middle of the page of search results
- “Searches related to” which appear at the bottom of the search results page.
After you have done a general Google search run the search on YouTube to see what videos already exist for your keywords. These are keywords you can then use to help focus your message, to title your video, and add to the description and tags areas in the YouTube Creators Studio.
Write a Script
No matter what type of video you make a script is essential. Effective videos should be short, about 3-5 minutes long. One way to ensure that you stay on point is to write a script. Use a script timer to find out how long it would take to read it. You want to be natural so practice reading your script! There are plenty of free teleprompters that let you set up your script on a computer screen or tablet so that you can read the script while you are making the video. By writing a script you can also easily convert it to a transcript and add it as captions in YouTube or “burned in” to the video using video editing software. While YouTube will attempt to automatically create captions, you may spend a lot of time editing them without a script. A script added to your video as a transcript will also make it more visible to the search engines since search is still mostly restricted to the written word, not audio.
Build It or Buy It?
Next, decide what type of video you want to make. A “talking head” video is common and depends on excellent lighting, high sound quality, and good production value to be effective. While you can do it yourself there are many companies that can help you make a professional video. However, due to cost and discomfort with being “on camera,” some lawyers may seek other options. One simple way to produce a video is to create a slide deck in Microsoft PowerPoint and then add narration and save it as a video file. Another option is to create an animated video, either with cartoon-like characters or whiteboard animation. While there is sure to be a learning curve, you can create low cost or free animated videos with online tools like Vyond, Powtoon, or Moovly.
Optimizing Your Videos
Using YouTube’s editor, a free video editor, or the built-in Windows video editor/Mac video editor you can add text overlays, captions, and calls to action as well as optimize the video for size and audio quality. You can also add music clips to begin and end your video.
Certain elements, in addition to captions, will help optimize and improve your video. Custom thumbnails, which you can create with free tools like Canva, create a still image of your video that doesn’t inevitably show you mid-sentence in search results. If you plan on creating a YouTube channel YouTube cards can encourage viewers to subscribe or “like” your videos. End screens also help to promote your channel and your website. To see some good examples of fully optimized videos check out personal injury attorney Barry Zlotowicz’ LawFull YouTube channel.
How Am I Doing?
The YouTube Creator Studio has full analytics reports, which provide in-depth information on audience retention, which videos are most successful, traffic sources and much more. As with all marketing efforts determine what your goals are to measure success.
If you already have a website, there are pros and cons to embedding YouTube videos on your site. It may drive traffic away from your site, as videos using the YouTube embed code can lead visitors to view your video on YouTube instead. You can always embed your videos on your site using a hosting platform like Wistia, and maintain the YouTube channel as a way to attract a different set of visitors and then drive traffic to your website from YouTube.
Whether you are an intrepid techie and decide to make your own videos or hire a company to help you it is a good idea to understand the power of YouTube, what makes a successful video, and the steps involved. Search Engine Watch has some basic advice for successful use of video marketing, which includes using the TOP approach: Targeting your videos – understanding searcher intent, keyword research and video creation; Optimizing your videos – creating a branded presence, optimizing titles, tags and descriptions; and Promoting your videos – getting real, engaged views on your videos, building links and embeds to your videos. After some exploration, you may find video marketing is right for your firm.