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Legal Industry: Web Design and Inbound Marketing Case Study

Peter Campbell
By Peter Campbell - June 01, 2017

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At Horton Group, we spend a lot of time evangelizing the virtues of Inbound Marketing. We’re believers! However, every once in awhile, we feel that it’s important for us to take a break from the theoretical in order to show you how Inbound works in the real world. Today, that is our mission: to show you a real-life example of how Inbound Marketing changed the game for one of our clients.

An Introduction To The Client:

Today our case study focuses on a business operating in the real estate law space. Or, more accurately, two businesses. Our client is notable real estate attorney who had been managing a small law firm and a title agency, both of which were operating as separate entities.

Our fearless leader, Ned Horton, also has a strong presence in the Nashville real estate scene and had been doing business with the attorney for years. During that time, Ned kept an analytical eye on his colleague’s digital presence. It was clear to Ned that this was an area that the lawyer could benefit from his Inbound Marketing expertise.

So the two of them started talking. Eventually, Ned brought his Horton team into the picture and we began to learn more about the client’s challenges, goals, and competition. In the end, the client came on board to get a brand new, Inbound-optimized website, and that is where our story begins…

Phase One: Building A Great Website

The first step in any successful jump into Inbound Marketing is building a great website. Without an elegant, Inbound-optimized, conversion-ready digital “home base,” there’s nothing to build on, and there’s nothing to help you close sales. This was our first order of business for the client’s law practices.  

Challenges + Goals:

The client’s primary goal in hiring Horton Group was to improve the company’s Google search rankings. The client was (and still is) among the most trusted real estate attorneys in the Nashville area, but their search rankings did not reflect this. It should also be noted that bringing universally positive customer reviews to the forefront of their website was a secondary goal for the client.

In approaching this web build, our project managers and web developers had a more technical set of goals that would need to taken care of in order to deliver what the client required. It was, at this point, unclear whether the client would continue working with us after the launch of their website to implement a full Inbound Marketing strategy, but our team would need to the lay groundwork for future Inbound success regardless.

To ask Dan Wiley, who headed up the development of the client’s new site, the biggest challenge he faced was information architecture. The firm’s website was packed with dense legal information, and Dan had to craft a seamless digital experience that would make the structure and flow of that information as intuitive as possible. It took a few focused sessions with our whiteboard for Dan to fully map out a strong framework for how visitors to the client’s new website would move through to find relevant information.

Strategy:

The first big strategic decision we made was to consolidate the client’s two businesses. Legally, they remain separate entities, however, for the purpose of their front-end, consumer-facing digital identity, our contention was that a single brand would be more effective than operating two different practices simultaneously. To quote Ned, CEO of Horton Group, “It’s like splitting your votes; it’s like fighting on two beach fronts.” Indeed, this was a problematic arrangement, not only from an operational standpoint, but from a marketing standpoint as well. It was going to be difficult and cumbersome to achieve meaningful SEO value while “fighting on two beachfronts.”

The decision to consolidate the client’s digital identity necessitated a tactful rebranding effort that would be appropriate for both of legal and title practices. After time spent deliberating with the client, we settled on a new name, which was both straightforward and descriptive. In time, these decisions would be validated many times over.

The last big strategic amendment that we made in crafting the client’s new digital identity was the decision to narrow the focus of their website. The previous website advertised the capacity to practice law in a number of different areas that were completely separate from real estate. While the client is a seasoned attorney with the capacity to practice in many different areas of law, the focus of this business was real estate, and real estate alone. In crafting the new website, we eliminated many of these extra areas of practice to focus on their primary area of practice.

Prior to starting work on this project, the client supplied us with the websites of some of the practice’s competitors to use as a reference. We learned more about the client’s likes and dislikes and how each of these things related to the needs of their business. In crafting the new website, both aesthetically and organizationally, these sites were used as a reference.

Outcome:

After many long hours spent in development, the client’s site was ready to be launched. Following an extensive revision process, we were given the final “OK” and the website went live. However, in the time leading up to this event, we were very upfront in letting this client know that a great website is only the first step in achieving the search rankings they had wanted. To truly leverage the resources available to you in the digital age, one must commit.

And that’s exactly what our client did. Cue our entrance to the world of Inbound Marketing.

Phase Two: Making The Jump To Inbound

Once the client’s new site was launched, our first order of business was to put them through a thorough, month-long onboarding process so that they would 100% understand the comprehensive digital tool that we had built for them. At Horton Group, we make transparency our policy, so it’s important to us that our clients understand exactly what they are paying for.

As a part of this month of on-boarding, the client was introduced to their new Inbound project manager, our very own Mediha Barucic-Howell. She would be responsible for creating quarterly strategies for the client, as well as managing their implementation and quantifying their success.

Challenges + Goals:

Now, with their website live, the client’s original goal remained constant as we entered into the initial phases of our Inbound implementation: to obtain higher rankings in Google’s search results pages. But this is easier said than done. As was true during our website build, our team devised a cohesive set of more technical goals that, when accomplished, would provide the client with the search rankings they were seeking. Indeed, their new website was both thoughtful and beautiful, but this would be the first time that our work would face any sort of quantifiable evaluation, so we were eager to prove ourselves to our client.

One huge hurdle to achieving the kind of rankings that this client wanted was informational congruency. Because we had merged two separate businesses into a single enterprise, and because we had then renamed that enterprise, we had a mess of incorrect information to clean up across the internet. Correcting the citations and listings that existed on the many 3rd party databases was a huge undertaking. Mediha, the client’s project manager, was forced to devote a lot of the monthly budget to this task, which forced us to be slower out the blocks with the rest of our strategy than we had originally anticipated. But tending to these citations and listings was critical! To learn more about how citations and listings play into an Inbound Marketing strategy, check out our blog post on the subject.

So, in the beginning of the client’s first year of Inbound Marketing, it was a major challenge to accomplish everything that we needed to while staying on budget. Mediha had to use her time strategically in order to sustain meaningful progress on all fronts. However, within the first quarter of the year, our team had finished cleaning up these citations, and Mediha was able to begin implementing her overall Inbound Strategy more aggressively.

One major facet of that strategy was content. Content is a critical piece of the Inbound methodology for any client, but this was not just any content. The client worked in the legal field, which meant every word our content writers wrote had legal ramifications. We at Horton Group do not employ legal experts, so this posed a challenge to us. Each piece of content written for this project would need explicit approval from the client in order to be published. Horton’s writers soon became adept at conducting legal research and making complex legal content accessible by the lawyer’s potential clients. While the writing and approval process was initially challenging, we were ultimately able to develop a streamlined process which allowed for revisions and ensured accuracy.

So let’s talk strategy…

Strategy:

In taking on this client, Mediha’s first priority was to take care of citations and listings. Moving forward without taking care of this first would be an anchor around our collective necks. Mediha’s strategy was to take care of this as quickly and efficiently as possible, while allocating remaining budget to lay the groundwork for a more proactive Inbound strategy in the second quarter. These citations and listings also played an important role in helping establish the rebrand we had carried out for the client. This client had placed a good deal of faith in us by rebranding, and we were determined to deliver excellent results.

Starting promptly in the second quarter, Mediha and her team were ready to implement drastic on-site and off-site SEO tactics. On of the primary facets of Mediha’s strategy was to devote significant portions of the client’s budget to jump-starting the client’s blog. Mediha had been working with our content and SEO teams to establish keyword clusters throughout the first quarter, so when the time came to ramp-up, we were ready.

Our content marketing strategy was targeted towards earning the client search rankings for keywords within our established keyword clusters. Most of our content budget was devoted to blogging on topics that fell within this spectrum of topics. With the approval of the client, or content team began a rigorous blogging regiment designed to help this new website and brand climb Google’s search results quickly. Mediha devoted the remainder of her budget to efforts on social media. Because of her aggressive content strategy, there was no shortage of content to share across the client’s various platforms.

It was important for Mediha to set accurate expectations for the client. SEO is not instant. It would take time, and after rebranding, our team was fighting an uphill battle. Realistically, it would take about 6 months before the client would begin to see results. This means the third and fourth quarter.

So how did we do?

Outcome:

We asked the client to place their faith in us for roughly 6 months while we implemented SEO and Inbound strategies for this new brand. Unfortunately, these things take some time. In business, 6 months is a big ask, but they took the leap of faith with us, and they were rewarded.

The first vindication of our Inbound efforts came slightly before the 6-month-mark when our client began getting new leads and new business who specifically cited Inbound-related reasons for their patronage. Some said that they had repeatedly found our client through organic search (that’s SEO!), and one customer mentioned that our client’s sleek new website was a major selling point for them. Of course, having a great website does not make you a great lawyer, but it does make you a savvy businessperson. Managing a digital identity that is elegant, consistent, and approachable will be a lead generating machine! Of course, it was up to our client to the close the deal once they were in the door.

As 2016 came to a close, we were coming to the end of our first year providing our client with this basic level of Inbound work, along with quarterly reporting. The client was already feeling satisfied, but we needed to crunch the numbers to find out how effective overall. Success that you cannot quantify is success that you cannot sustain!

It should be no surprise that, when comparing 2015 to 2016, the metrics were extremely positive! These percent changes demonstrate the power of Inbound Marketing, and explain our client’s surge in business. But this was just the tip of the iceberg…


Metric

Percent Change

Sessions

+264.92%

Users

+248.66%

Pageviews

+279.13%

Pages / Session

+3.89%

Average Session Duration

+ 63.75%

 

Phase Three: Taking Inbound To The Next Level

At the start of 2016, this client had taken a leap of faith into the world of Inbound Marketing. They were out on a limb, so it’s understandable that they were not quite ready to devote significant resources to us. However, during that first year, we proved our mettle by bolstering their web traffic almost 3 fold. As this first year came to a close, it was time to talk about the future.

This client had a fairly large marketing budget, but only a small fraction of it was being devoted to our Inbound Marketing efforts at Horton Group. These budgetary constraints limited us to just the bare necessities of the Inbound Methodology. The rest of this client’s marketing budget was being spent on other channels such as print advertising. However, at the end of the first year, this client’s Horton Group / Inbound Marketing ROI was exponentially higher than anything else he was spending money on, so he made the decision to reallocate the rest of his marketing budget in our direction.

We were not going to let our newly earned financial flexibility go to waste. We got to work developing a strategy to take this client’s Inbound Marketing to the next level, and take full advantage of the resources that we were being entrusted with. This extra budget would allow us to employ more advanced Inbound tactics such as creating longform content offers. However, perhaps the most important Inbound development in this second year was getting the client on HubSpot.

What Is HubSpot?

HubSpot changed the marketing world with their innovative Inbound-friendly marketing, sales, CRM, and CMS software. They wrote the original Inbound playbook, and have been a thought leader in our industry ever since. There is no shortage of compelling data supporting the case for using HubSpot, and as an official HubSpot Silver Partner Agency, we can personally verify its validity.   

Now that we have HubSpot in our toolbox and newly earned resources at our disposal, let’s talk about the goals we established and the challenges that we would face in accomplishing those goals.

Challenges + Goals:

In our first year with this client, we had had no trouble earning new leads. Moving forward into her second year managing this project (2017), Mediha’s primary goal is to drill down into the bedrock of what this client's identity to earn a higher percentage of “Marketing Qualified Leads” (MQLs). If you are unfamiliar with this term, it refers to leads who have been determined to be ready to pull the trigger and be converted into a customer. Mediha’s other goal for this year is to expand this client’s newfound SEO prowess into adjacent keyword clusters.

Beyond the intrinsically challenging nature of these goals, the Horton team expects this year to run smoothly. Having an experienced project manager like Mediha at the helm is extremely helpful, but we also don’t want to discount the important role that the client has played in allowing us to work at our best. In regards to Horton Group’s relationship with this client, our account manager Josh said “Any successful Inbound Marketing requires a partnership. You don’t always see that, but [the client] really puts in that efforts to give us what we need to make it successful.”

Strategy:

Of course, Mediha’s Inbound strategy for year 2 continued and expanded upon our previous efforts in the realms of social media management, SEO, and content creation. However, the availability of additional resources were extremely important. Moving forward, Mediha would have the means to implement a much more aggressive and effective strategy.

The first key area where Mediha ramped up this client’s Inbound Marketing was in the content arena. In addition to publishing regular, SEO-optimized blogs, Mediha and her content team began creating targeted content offers. If you don’t know, a “content offer” refers to a substantial and valuable piece of content that consumers pay for with their contact information. This creates a meaningful connection between consumers and marketers that can be leveraged to drive sales. But there are more benefits to creating content offers than the potential for short-term sales.

What purpose would content offers serve for this client? In Mediha’s words, “...to generate leads, be a thought leader in the industry, and establish ourselves as a reliable, current resource.” Indeed, establishing our client as the industry expert that they are would have long-lasting rewards, transcendent of a few new leads in the short-term.

In developing her Inbound Strategy, SEO was also a major focus for Mediha. In the client’s first year of Inbound, we had had substantial SEO success, but now it was time to reach further. After a strategic series of discussions with the client, an adjacent keyword cluster was selected and a plan was implemented to expand our colonization of Nashville’s real estate law websphere.   

Outcome:

We’re about halfway through this second year of Inbound Marketing, so we have not been able to fully quantify the results yet. However, we have gathered the data showing our progress through the first 6 months of year 2. The following statistics show the difference between April of 2016, at which point we had only just started our initial Inbound efforts, and April of 2017.


Metric

Percent Change

Sessions

+274.48%

Users

+320.24%

Pageviews

+195.44%


At the end of the year, we will run the numbers for a much more thorough overview of our results. And aiding us in this process will be HubSpot. HubSpot has been helping us crunch the numbers continuously since the onset of our second year. This incredible software will provide us with comprehensive data and streamlined reporting that will enable us to make the changes we need and fine-tune our processes in order to provide our client with sustained Inbound success. Indeed, the real merits of a platform like HubSpot are shown over a long period of time because true Inbound Marketing is not just a quick fix; it’s a lifestyle.

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