Organic vs paid content

Content marketing comes in different forms, with the main difference being between organic and paid content. But which is best for law firms to use?

Traditional marketing methods have not worked well for small and medium law firms in recent years, which has prompted the search for better alternatives. The use of content marketing is something the legal sector has increasingly embraced as a modern and more effective marketing strategy.

However, this has raised a question: is organic or paid content the better tool for legal content marketing?

What are the pros and cons of organic content?

Organic content involves producing written content to be published on your website, on social media, or external sites. The single most important element is search engine optimisation (SEO). This consists of different elements:

  • Short tail keywords (single words of brief phrases used in search)
  • Long tail keywords (longer phrases used in more detailed searches)
  • Relevance
  • Authority
  • Video and good images

The problem, of course, is that as your keywords will be similar to those of many other similar service providers, there will be plenty of matches. This is an issue not only because of the sheer number of similar results; research has shown that most web searches do not go beyond the first page. Once those results have appeared, the individual searching will usually click on one of them, with very few looking on page two and beyond.

For this reason, reaching page one is critical if your organic content is to make an impact.

Given the widespread matching of keywords, a range of other factors will also apply to determine a ranking. Search engine logarithms have hundreds of these, not all of which are known, although some are evident.

The reason these exist is that in the early days keywords alone could gain a high ranking and this meant a lot of low-quality content could be produced. Some were even unscrupulous enough to use irrelevant but popular keywords to boost their ranking and gain web traffic.

Updated algorithms have cut all that out and the web is better for it. Content producers must now provide content that is relevant, readable and authoritative. High quality pictures and videos can also help, although they must be relevant too, while good backlinks will add to the authority.

A consequence of this is that authority and relevance can only be proven over time. When starting from scratch, it can take a few months to get your content ranking where it needs to be.

However, once it is there you will have a lot of content on the web that is permanently visible, strong authority and will raise widespread awareness of your services. When this point is reached, organic SEO for law firms can be very effective.

A further advantage is that organic content incurs no extra cost beyond your standard running costs of having a website and paying the legal content writers.

Why paid content can be a fast-track to success

Paid content offers a fast-track alternative to organic, whether through paying a platform to host your content, or pay-per-click (PPC) ads, which can be displayed on social media or search engine ranking pages.

While organic content can take time to build up its authority and make its way up the ranking pages, paid content can shorten this process. In the case of finding an external platform and writing there for a fee, you will have the advantage of using a site that already has an established readership. In the case of PPC ads you can bid for social media or search engine ranking page space right away, whatever the level of your organic SEO.

PPC ads such as Google Ads or Bing Ads still use keyword search and the very fact that it is designed to encourage clicks makes it one of the most effective ways to get leads. Once someone has clicked, they become an identifiable contact you can work with.

Sometimes you may find a rival bidder has offered a similar amount for the same space, in which case the same SEO quality criteria will apply here as with organic content, so PPC and any other paid content still needs to be of high quality and relevance.

PPC has some unique features worth noting as well, that may be particularly useful:

The downside of paid content is that it will not be visible for as long and in so many places as organic content. In addition, there is, by definition, a higher cost to producing it than organic.

What is the best option for your law firm?

There is no single, simple answer to what the best option is. Ultimately, you have three possibilities

  • Focus just on organic content, such as news and blogs
  • Focus just on paid content, such as PPC and Google Adwords
  • Use a mix of the two

Several factors may decide which your best option is:

  • How old your firm is
  • Your budget
  • Your long and short-term business plans
  • Your overall digital marketing strategy

If, for example, your firm is new (or at least new to digital marketing) and wants to start getting leads very quickly, using paid search and PPC is likely to be the best approach. This might be particularly useful if your wider marketing strategy includes an email marketing campaign, as the leads could be included in that.

However, if your firm is a bit more established and perhaps simply needs to improve its content, organic SEO could be the way forward, getting more clicks and raising the awareness you seek.

While PPC can get a lot of leads, organic SEO should be designed to build up a following for your content that makes the leads you do get of higher quality.

These pros and cons can be weighed together to help decide which is best. But combining the two can be a very powerful option. For instance, if your firm is new you might use paid search and PPC effectively early on, while gradually building up your organic presence. Then, after a few months, you can rely more on your high search ranking and will no longer need to spend money on paid content.

Rather than take a dogmatic approach, it is important to work with the experts to establish the best way forward for your firm’s individual needs, devising the content strategy that works best for you.

Charlie Britten,

Image from Pixabay.