What is Top of Funnel Content as it Applies to Law Firms?
Top-of-funnel content is content created to drive awareness and gain new clients through helpful, educational content. It is designed to be the first way people come into contact with you and your firm and begin building trust, with the goal to move prospective clients further through the marketing funnel.
While you may ultimately want to make a case for your firm and why a visitor should hire you to represent them, you shouldn't focus on that with this type of content and focus on genuinely helping your audience get answers to their questions.
Answers Questions & Solve Problems
Creating effective top-of-funnel content that does all this means you must understand your audience’s problems and create compelling content to help them find a solution.
When people search on Google for answers they usually click on the first few search results without looking at the websites. Once they find their answer, they're out of there.
So how can this type of content be effective marketing?
It’s all about increasing awareness.
People rarely jump right into a relationship with a lawyer — even when they need their services.
This is especially true for injury lawyers who have the most trouble converting across the entire legal industry.
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Deciding on a lawyer is what we call a deliberate decision and not something a person does ad hoc.
A lot of clients need to learn about their situation, options, and how they should proceed before they decide. This includes comparing firms and seeking out offline recommendations.
Starting at the Top
This is where the content marketing funnel needs to be leveraged. You need to have content on your site that addresses each stage of a prospective lead's search to make their decision on what firm to hire.
Content that caters to the needs of users at each stage is known as the content marketing funnel which traditionally has 3-4 stages:
A person searching online for answers is on a journey. The job of your content is to help guide them along the way. Content at each stage of the funnel should nurture the relationship through their journey without heavy-handed sales tactics.
The beginning of that journey is where top-of-funnel content plays a role.
Imagine a person who's just been in an accident and is trying to figure out what to do next. What might they start searching for on Google?
- What to do if you get in a car accident?
- What to do after a car accident that isn't your fault?
- How to prove you're not at fault in a car accident?
- How long should I be sore after a car accident?
All of these questions offer opportunities for you to introduce yourself to a potential client by being the page that ranks and supplies the answers.
It also allows you to educate them on their legal options and get them thinking that they may want to hire an attorney to represent them.
They usually won't make an immediate decision right then and there—but it's the touchpoint that you're aiming for here. Not the lead.
As that same person begins to search online for more in-depth questions (e.g. should I hire a lawyer, best accident lawyer near me, etc.), you'll have a better chance of convincing them to hire you if you keep showing up in virtue of you being the name they consistently see along every step of the way.
This is why it's important to establish trust with every piece of content you create and not be overbearing with your pitches (e.g. having your website chatbot annoying interrupt people with pings, notifications, and popups) as they're trying to learn.
To find the topics that work well as top-of-funnel (TOFU) content, you'll want to do keyword research and get an understanding of what people are searching for on Google so you don't waste your time creating content that's based on your own biases.
Your Audience is More Important than You
The audience is the judge, jury, and executioner.
You may be proud of the millions in settlements you’ve won for your clients. You may think that’s helpful insight, but that doesn’t focus on your audience’s needs at that moment. So check your ego at the door and focus on their challenges and pain points.
Attend to their problems and answer their questions. Make them the hero of this journey. That's how you win people over and get them to trust you.
It's just like Dale Carnegie said in How to Win Friends and Influence People:
You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.
— Dale Carnegie
Empathizing with Your Audience
You’re likely already practiced with understanding another’s needs — After all, who do you try to please in court? So write like you would to clear the jury's doubts. Craft your research like you would stand up to the scrutiny of a judge.
Ultimately, your audience isn’t thinking about the law firm, they’re thinking about their needs, so if you start talking about your law firm, they’ll stop listening.
Let’s look at two examples of personal injury attorneys doing top-of-funnel content: one right, the other wrong.
The Right Way
BrooksLaw’s article succeeds because it gets right to the point. Their high-quality graphics and original data add unique value. Ultimately, the content is successful because it focuses on the question the user has: how much money do I (as a client) get from a settlement?
The Wrong Way
While the information is useful, Nolo bombards the user with six calls to action to purchase products, get a consultation, or jump straight to committing to the service. It’s plain to see how the content suffers because it focuses on the value their service can provide to the user rather than the user’s question.
The average user engages with three to five pieces of content before deciding to take action. Your typical prospect is going to see more than one article of yours if you've adequately written content for each piece of the funnel.
This is especially true for top-of-funnel content since the top is, by its very nature of being a funnel, wider than the bottom. That being said, don't confuse diversity with quantity. A good diversity of TOFU content is helpful but that doesn't mean you should inundate your blog with it.
2-3 pieces of well-ranking TOFU content can often generate enough brand awareness for you to be sufficient.
Diversifying your content type increases your potential audience but it should still remain relevant to those who have recently experienced an accident.
Let’s look at diverse content for personal injury attorneys:
For complex and nuanced topics with high search volume, long-form top-of-funnel content can be an easy way to capture new visitors who may potentially require your services.
Jacoby & Meyers' quick guide to calculating overtime is an excellent example that can help attract people who may want to make a wage claim.
It offers well-researched and comprehensive information. Chapters remain a decent utility, whereas the original graphics make it an engaging read.
Social Media Posts
Herman & Herman creates informative infographics for their attorney Instagram account that are helpful to a wide audience while still relevant to preventing accidental injury.
Fitzpatrick & Associates use their YouTube channel to supplement the content on their blog and reach new audience members with engaging, safety-related topics.
In the video description, they include a call to action to read more on their blog. As of writing, the video has over 7,400 views, which likely drove additional traffic to their website.
Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard created a serialized podcast detailing one man’s struggle to get justice after a work-related injury.
With interviews with the man, their staff, and well-written summaries on their blog, this is an excellent way to create top-of-funnel content that engages your audience.
Ebooks & Guides
TonaLaw has a 24-page resource perfect for their target audience — those who recently got injured in a car accident.
The extensive guide covers everything from insurance coverage to how to get the highest payout.
This accident preparedness checklist from GJEL Accident Attorneys is a great example of straightforward and beneficial content for your audience.
Sutliff & Stout’s team analyzed over 1,000 crash reports and developed a unique Danger Score using their formula. They visualized the results in a custom map:
Staying Top of Mind
Once you’ve made your audience aware of your presence through your top-of-funnel content, it’s key to stay top of mind. If your prospects ever get into an accident, they don’t even have to think about who could help them — your name is immediately the first one they remember.
Some ways to do this:
- Post frequently: Your top-of-funnel content is the perfect strategy to continually publish things that your entire audience or your local area might be interested in. You don't always have to tie things back to personal injury either (especially when posting on social)—content that highlights your local area is a great way to pick up syndication and local buzz.
- Create an email newsletter: Keep former and prospective clients engaged by sharing weekly or monthly roundups of helpful information. This is often difficult to do effectively for most firms as most people get bombarded with emails and you have to have something really interesting to cut through the noise and not annoy people.
- Engage with users on social media: When you post an article, share it on your socials, and invite users to comment. Wrap up your post with a question (or don't link to anything at all) and just spark a conversation amongst people.
Your top-of-funnel content has the potential to pull in users from more than just Google. In addition to organic search traffic, top-of-funnel content can drive visits from social media, news articles, YouTube, and blogs. These are the channels best suited for lawyers.
Not everything has to go everywhere. Tailor your content strategy to each distribution channel.
On social media, visual content gets 2.3 times the engagement of text-only posts. So save your long-form text and original research for your website. For social, things like infographics, visual statistics, and other shareable visual snippets work great.
Your blog pages should aim for long-form content — but not so long that it becomes an ebook. Focus on helpful guides, news, and original research. Not every piece must be lengthy, especially if your team has put together original data that news outlets may pick up.
Match your content to the length it merits.
If you have an ebook, it's useful to set up a landing page for it as a lead magnet for potential clients. Capture their email address in exchange for the gated content and you will have more opportunities to build the relationship.
Word of warning though: if you're going to gate your content behind a form, it should be a landmark piece that people will actually want to download. This is not easy to do for the consumer market but can be great to build out your network of reporters, journalists, and other attorneys.
For your video content, you can embed relevant clips to your blog, but it’s important to optimize your YouTube channel for organic search also. YouTube is the second most used search engine after Google and shouldn't be posted too in a cavalier manner.
You Have to Set the Bar
Unremarkable content will push you out of your audience’s mind. They’ll skim and forget.
Whatever you’re sharing has likely been done before by the numerous other personal injury attorneys in the industry. Every personal injury attorney can offer a free consultation. So you have to hold your top-of-funnel content to a higher standard.
How will you stand out in the sea of sameness?
Here are some inspirational examples:
Gilreath & Associates avoids the trap of the notoriously dry tone often found on lawyers’ websites by injecting their own voice and flair for storytelling. Here’s how they open an article titled, “Who’s Liable in an Accident with a Self-Driving Car?”
That's a lot more engaging to read than most articles out there on other attorney blogs. The scene it paints is more memorable for your audience than straightforward legal explanations you may first jump to.
Justin Ziegler skips vague generalities and gets down to the nitty-gritty of a real case study in his extensive guide on pain and suffering in car accidents:
The concrete data and case specifics do a lot more to tie the numerous legal rules to what plays out, once again making this an article his audience is unlikely to forget.
Friedl Richardson takes a unique approach on the offer of a free quote by implementing an interactive Pain and Suffering Calculator:
The content is engaging and conveys the value of injury lawyers without the pressure of talking to one. It’s convenient and unique, which will win points with their audience.
Keep these examples in mind when you set out to create high-quality content. Use unique data, write with your personal voice and insight, and differentiate your approach to the same problems, and your top-of-funnel content will be more likely to keep your audience interested.
Gauging Success & Iterating
As your top-of-funnel content isn’t meant to convert right then and there, you can’t immediately pinpoint your successful tactics. But that doesn’t mean you should just take shots in the dark.
You should measure these metrics to find your most successful content and repeat the content strategies that work:
- Traffic: The total number of visitors to your article is measured in a platform like Google Analytics.
- Time on Page: While you’re in Google Analytics, check how long your visitors spend on your top of funnel content. The time on page can tell you if people are lingering or not.
- Bounce Rate: Visitors can arrive on your website and leave without clicking anything else. Your bounce rate indicates how often your TOFU content entices users to explore other pages on your website.
- Shares and Likes: For your content on social media, keep track of what gets the most likes and shares. Identify patterns. Does your audience particularly like infographics? Are they more likely to share an interesting statistic? Pay attention to the patterns to grow your audience.
- Engagement: If a post gains comments or starts a discussion, it’s resonating with your audience. Comments are also an important signal to social media algorithms to boost your post’s visibility, thus increasing your audience reach.
Up Next: Proving Your Case
Just like it’s nearly impossible to argue your case without laying out all the facts, it’s hard to win clients without informing them of your services.
That’s why it’s critical to create insightful, differentiated top-of-funnel marketing tactics across multiple channels.
Once a potential customer has entered the top of the funnel, you can employ your marketing strategy to convert them from a visitor to a lead. One step at a time.