Read the full guide below or click here to download it as a PDF.
- SEO for professional services firms
- E-A-T and the YMYL sector
- Compelling service page copywriting
- Nurturing leads through your content strategy
- Improving lead quality
- Digital PR
- Paid Media?
- Increasing lead quantity
- Optimise your landing pages continuously
- Smart bidding and keyword expansion
- Leveraging lead form extensions
- Competitor bidding (proceed with caution)
- Get targeted with LinkedIn Ads
- Maintaining lead quality
- Conversion Rate Optimisation
- Integrated strategy for multi-channel success
- Organic and paid search
- Organic and paid social
- Key takeaways
- Next steps
Digital marketing is now a focus for many B2B professional services firms. Traditional approaches to sales and marketing once dominated in areas like law, corporate training, and financial services. However, since the pandemic hit, the imperative to adapt has seen tech and digital rise in importance on everyone’s agendas: recent Salesforce research found that 87% of professional services leaders sped up digital transformation during 2020.
The past 12 months have impacted professional services in diverse ways, with the movement towards a digital approach spanning the full spectrum of processes beyond marketing. As the need to embrace remote work became apparent, everything from relationship management to HR and operations shifted online for law firms and banks alike. The pivot towards online channels like SEO and paid media was just one aspect of the digitalisation of professional services.
As a digital marketing agency, we felt this shift firsthand in the form of an influx of enquiries from organisations seeking expert advice on how to grow their business online. Many of these companies had never needed to focus on digital before, with the majority of the sales process taking place through offline channels and face-to-face events. By working with us, these professional services organisations have adapted to nurturing and converting prospects in the digital realm.
This guide is our response to the need for clear information on the best approaches to online marketing for professional services firms. We’ve also included insights from our client work where possible to give you an idea of how effective a digital marketing strategy can be for real-world professional services companies. We explore how you can drive revenue and achieve wider business goals through the integration of channels like SEO, paid media, and digital PR.
SEO for professional services firms
As a professional services firm, SEO should form the foundation of your overall online marketing. Your organisation’s website is at the core of this digital marketing channel – as part of your SEO activity, you’ll work to ensure the company has a technically sound site with optimised service pages that convey its offering in a compelling way. This digital asset is a natural precursor to your wider integrated marketing efforts, without which any paid online advertising or digital PR would be fruitless.
Wherever your business sits in the professional services sector, broader organisational goals such as raising brand awareness and generating qualified leads can all be achieved through your SEO activity. Attaining page one rankings across core service-related and informational keywords gets your brand in front of large volumes of users. What’s more, prospects who arrive on your site via organic search are typically high intent, having actively searched for your service offering to reach that stage.
The key is to focus your efforts on the kinds of improvements that deliver results for B2B professional services companies in particular. The sections below will help you orient your organisation’s strategy around the aspects that matter most in this sector. When approaching SEO for professional services firms, we often hone in on the following areas:
- E-A-T (expertise – authority – trustworthiness);
- Service page copywriting;
- Informational content strategy;
- Improving lead quality.
E-A-T and the YMYL sector
The YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) sector encompasses all websites that relate to health, wellbeing, safety, financial security, or other important aspects of people’s lives. This broad category includes the vast majority of professional services businesses such as those in law, financial services, medicine, education, and training.
In the context of YMYL sites, Google stresses the importance of E-A-T (expertise – authority – trustworthiness). When users search for queries that could impact their lives – for example, if they’re looking for a law firm or the answer to a crucial financial question – search engines want to provide them with results from sites that are experts in their field, have the authority to discuss the issues in question, and can be trusted.
But how can Google assess these qualities based purely on your website? The answer lies in demonstrating clear E-A-T signals, which search engines use to gauge the expertise, authority, and trustworthiness of a professional services site. To convey E-A-T, your organisation should consider:
- Awards and accreditations pages with commentary on how they were merited;
- Case studies highlighting the results achieved for clients;
- Informational content showcasing the expertise of employees and leaders;
- In-depth employee and author profiles that outline their areas of expertise and the content they have published on the site;
- Technical security checks such as ensuring that the site has a valid SSL certificate;
- Securing thought leadership features in respected publications that display the authority of staff members in their respective fields, with links back to the site (for example, see this Investment Week article from Shakespeare Martineau, one of our law firm clients).
This list is by no means exhaustive – these tactics are really just scratching the surface of the E-A-T considerations you could explore as part of an SEO strategy for a professional services firm. To learn more, take a look at our comprehensive guide to E-A-T and the YMYL sector.
Compelling service page copywriting
Your service pages are not only the point at which prospects are persuaded to convert, but they also play a vital role in driving your SEO visibility and helping your business to achieve its wider aims. From email campaigns to social media and paid ads, all of the channels you employ in online marketing for professional services will ultimately drive users towards these all-important URLs.
With this in mind, the quality of the copywriting on your service pages is instrumental to the success of your organisation in a digital context and more broadly as well. The aim is to strike a balance between keyword targeting and compelling content that hammers home your USPs: utilise your target keywords in the URL, metadata, headers, and body, but don’t over-optimise at the expense of natural-sounding copy that persuades the reader that they need your service offering.
When writing copy for a professional services site, this balanced approach works well for users and search engines alike:
- On the one hand, you need to ensure that site visitors are left with a clear understanding of your service and its benefits by the time they come to the main call to action (CTA) at the end of the copy.
- On the other hand, Google’s ranking process is designed to reward sites that use target keywords in natural prose but penalise keyword stuffing.
Copywriting should always be done with E-A-T in mind. Crucially, the service pages of a professional services firm must demonstrate the depth and breadth of expertise within the organisation. When explaining your offering, make sure to provide insight into the way you approach the delivery of services. For example, if you were writing a commercial disputes page for a law firm, you’d provide some explanation of the different routes that could be taken to resolve business conflicts such as adjudication or alternative dispute resolution.
Once you’ve perfected the art of writing for readers and search engines, there are some other important lessons to learn when creating service page copy for professional services sites:
- Use a clear header hierarchy with a keyword-targeted h1 and lower headings (h2s/h3s/h4s) for different aspects of your service – nest these within each other to form a logical structure;
- Keep referring back to the benefits of your service offering throughout;
- Break up the text with images, graphics, and bullet points;
- Finish with a compelling CTA that encourages users to convert.
Nurturing leads through your content strategy
Thinking beyond service pages, as a professional services organisation, you should make your wider content strategy a priority. From blogs to white papers and videos, informational content is the ideal vehicle for showcasing your firm’s expertise and positioning it as an authority within its industry. If optimised effectively, this type of content can also rank highly and attract significant amounts of organic traffic, supporting your wider brand awareness and lead generation goals.
Your company’s marketing and sales strategy will already have some consideration for the conversion funnel built-in, particularly as a professional services firm that needs to nurture its leads. The content you publish on your site should be carefully segmented to target prospects at different stages of the conversion process. At Impression, we adopt the AIDA model:
This model encapsulates the process whereby:
- A prospect becomes aware of the need for a particular service and your brand;
- They develop an interest in your offering;
- They learn more and begin to desire your services;
- Finally, they convert by taking an action (such as submitting an enquiry form).
As the shape of the funnel indicates, focusing purely on users who are ready to take an action restricts you to working with a much smaller pool of prospects. By creating content that addresses the needs of users in the awareness, interest, and desire phases, you can reach a wider set of potential clients and encourage them towards completing your desired conversion goal.
With this in mind, the content strategy of a professional services business should address prospects at each stage of the funnel:
- Using top-of-the-funnel content, you can capture users who are in the process of becoming aware that a service could solve their business problem. This could include introductory guides or how-to content exploring a pain point for prospects (for example, a blog about ensuring GDPR compliance in the financial services industry).
- When targeting prospects who have developed an interest in your service offering, you should focus on creating resources that address how an issue can be solved with a particular service. This kind of content is highly effective at moving users along the funnel. As a B2B accountant, you might choose to write about how cash flow problems can be solved through creative accounting.
- As a prospect moves into the desire phase, adapt your content to focus on the USPs of your offering in comparison to competitors – for instance, you might address this with a video that explains one of your services and its benefits for a particular audience segment. This type of content doesn’t always have to be designed to rank independently in organic search, but rather to persuade users to convert once on your site.
- The action stage of the conversion funnel should be covered throughout all of your content in the form of persuasive CTAs. You might, for example, encourage a prospect to sign up for a free consultation at the end of a video, blog, or white paper, or simply point them towards a conversion-focused service page where they can enquire for more information.
As well as nurturing prospects through the conversion funnel, the content you publish has the added benefit of establishing you as the go-to authority for informational queries in your niche. In this way, you’ll increase brand awareness whilst demonstrating your topical expertise, both to the readers you’re trying to engage and to the search engines you want to rank in.
We’ve used this approach to content strategy recently for a B2B and B2C training provider client, Skills Training Group. The results speak for themselves: in a recent month, this client saw a 2000% YoY increase in organic traffic and a 412% YoY rise in leads generated through the website, the majority of which have been driven by informational content.
Improving lead quality
Although we’re interested in the quantity of leads generated, their quality is equally important. It is very common that, as a site’s organic presence grows and more leads come in, the quality of prospects can start to dilute. There are a number of ways that you can help to filter out low-quality leads through your approach to on-site content, many of which centre around being more precise in your approach – we’ll touch on a few of these here.
The copy on your service pages must articulate your offering with precision. It’s frustrating to drive leads that turn out to be irrelevant or unqualified, but this is often due to content that doesn’t describe exactly what the organisation does and who it works with.
This is a common problem with law firms: simply using the phrase ‘employment lawyers’ isn’t enough when the range of services this could encompass is so broad. To reduce time-wasting leads, specify precisely which solutions you offer, whether that’s employment contracts, employee disputes, or workforce management services.
Using the right keywords is part and parcel of describing your service accurately and increasing lead quality. Long-tail queries are highly specific terms that have low search volumes and are often longer than three words (with a monthly search volume of just 10 searches in the UK, ‘financial services compliance training’ is an example of a long-tail keyword).
For a compliance training provider that targets banks and financial institutions as one of its key segments, creating a dedicated page that’s optimised to target ‘financial services compliance training’ will be more effective than trying to target a range of industries with one page. Not only will it be less competitive to rank for this term than ‘compliance training’, but you’ll also find that the page generates qualified leads that are more relevant to your offering this way.
Of course, this is not to say that a more generalised ‘compliance training’ page doesn’t have value. Many of our clients adopt the approach of having a main page for each service in addition to more specific pages for different sub-services or industries. Above all, it’s a case of ensuring that you have enough quality content to target all of your focus keywords with highly relevant pages.
Digital PR is a highly effective tool for link acquisition and brand awareness in any industry but can be especially impactful for businesses offering professional services.
If we revisit the idea of E-A-T, it’s easy to see the value of getting featured in and acquiring links from highly relevant, authoritative publications to build up your own website authority. Not only is digital PR another means of getting your brand in front of a high-intent target audience, but receiving links from other websites is also effectively like receiving votes, each of which improves your chances of ranking in organic search. However, not all votes are equal.
Links to your site from relevant, high-authority websites are a signal to Google that your website is a trusted, high-quality source of information. Conversely, links from low-quality, spammy websites have the opposite effect, so it’s important to check regularly that your website is only associated with trustworthy websites.
The importance of acquiring links cannot be overstated, but links should only be gained via natural means. That is to say, you should never pay for links as this goes against Google’s guidelines. If you do buy links, you risk being hit with a manual action from Google which can have a disastrous effect on your organic visibility.
On the flip side, effective link building based on merit can yield extremely positive results. For example, despite having great content, Mitrefinch was struggling to rank well for some commercial keywords due to the infancy of its backlink profile. Following a targeted digital PR campaign to build links towards relevant service pages and establish authority, we were able to increase their ranking position for their head term from #25 to #4 and promote a 146% increase in sessions. The assets used in the campaign also served as a lead-generation tool, delivering 41 leads within budget.
Paid media is often a highly effective channel for professional services firms, particularly for offerings with a longer decision-making period. Paid media complements SEO extremely well – although your organic presence may take more time to grow, running paid campaigns is a quick way to secure visibility for your business-critical keywords and to start generating the leads you need.
Let’s delve into some of the PPC considerations for professional services:
Increasing lead quantity
Many professional services firms have ambitious growth targets and need to generate a high amount of quality leads to facilitate this. There are several techniques you can employ to maximise the leads from your paid traffic:
Optimise your landing pages continuously
When it comes to landing pages, your approach should be to learn and evolve consistently. Running a split test in your campaigns will allow you to see which version of your page is more successful at converting users, and making use of heat mapping software such as Hotjar will allow you to see which elements of the page are having an impact on your users (either positively or negatively). See the Conversion Rate Optimisation section for more insights on landing page optimisation.
You could also consider using dynamic landing pages, although this may depend on your industry. Dynamic landing pages can display different messaging to different users based on certain known variables. This could include their location, which keywords they searched for, and other custom variables. Having a landing page that is highly tailored to the user in question can greatly increase your conversions and even have an impact on your quality scores, helping to keep those CPCs down. Just make sure that any PPC-specific landing pages are no-indexed to avoid hurting your SEO efforts!
Smart bidding and keyword expansion
Something which has heavily evolved over the last few years is the proficiency of smart bidding strategies, which seek to optimise the bid in the bidding auction based on user factors such as device, demographic, as well as the search query itself. Strategies such as “Maximise Conversions” is an effective way to increase lead volume quickly, and transitioning to more cost-per-lead strategies after to mitigate the amount being paid for a lead.
Further, ever-changing keyword match types, in tandem with smart bidding once Google has identified your target audience and is achieving this at your target KPI, showcase an opportunity to reach new users at a profitable level. Examples of this include expanding into “true broad” keywords, in light of traditional broad keywords being moved away from.
Leveraging lead form extensions
Make use of lead form extensions in your paid campaigns to get users to enquire simply by clicking on your ad and entering their contact details. Lead forms can be run in search, display, video, and discovery campaigns across mobile and tablet devices, making it easier for prospective customers to convert on smaller devices rather than having to tap through fiddly contact forms on your website. You can then download these leads manually or use web integrations to have them import directly into your CRM.
Competitor bidding (proceed with caution)
Bidding on your competitors’ branded keywords is a sure-fire way to get in front of high intent users and offers a chance to shout about what makes your firm different and better. However, this is a risky strategy as you may provoke competitors to begin bidding on your branded keywords in retaliation. Ultimately, the decision of whether to pursue competitor bidding as a strategy has much wider business implications so should be considered carefully by the marketing team and other key stakeholders.
Get targeted with LinkedIn Ads
Paid search campaigns can be highly effective for lead generation, but widening your reach to include LinkedIn Ads can be a game-changer. Targeting on LinkedIn allows you to run ads to users based on key information about themselves, their job role, and their company. This allows you to prioritise your spend towards decision makers in the companies and industries you want to work with, giving you greater control over the types of leads you will receive.
Maintaining lead quality
Lead quality issues can commonly arise for professional services firms when they start to bid on broader terms as part of their PPC strategy. Widening the net may result in more traffic and leads, and if done in the way mentioned above, leveraging smart bidding and careful keyword expansion, can be at the same cost per lead. However, there is the potential to experience an increase in irrelevant or unqualified leads when trying to expand activity. When looking to scale up activity to increase lead quantity, you should be aware that your average lead quality may change in the short term.
To combat this, you will need to adjust your targeting settings to refine quality over time. Review your audience data, along with converting keywords and placements to see where you should be prioritising and deprioritising your budget. You should also make use of negative keywords to filter out poor quality or irrelevant queries, as well as placement exclusions to prevent display ads from showing in placements that are high spending and non-converting.
Further, reporting and optimising leads based on their final value, rather than just a lead itself, provides a good way to narrow down on only leads which drive revenue for your business. This is done through CRM and offline conversions reporting, where leads can be assigned a value based on their quality, importing back into Google Ads as goals, and smart bidding strategies using the value of these leads to determine their bidding. You may see a higher cost per lead following this activity, but the true value of that lead will be much better, and as a result, so will the return on the ad spend.
Remarketing is a highly effective technique for most businesses that are running search campaigns. Sometimes referred to as retargeting, this tactic involves serving targeted ads to users who have already visited your site or carried out a certain action on it.
Many users will visit your website but not complete your desired conversion goal on their first visit. This is a particular issue for professional services companies given that the time needed to evaluate a purchase before making it is often longer than other sectors.
If your customers tend to have a longer decision-making process, remarketing is a great way to maintain top-of-mind brand awareness throughout the consideration period. During this time your prospective customers are likely comparing your offering to competitors, so it’s important to keep reminding them of your USPs and why they should choose you over other competing firms.
By employing remarketing in your paid activity, you will be able to recapture leads that would otherwise have been lost. For display remarketing in particular, the cost-per-clicks (CPCs) can be much lower than in paid search campaigns. Display campaigns can therefore be extremely profitable due to the targeted users being of higher intent.
Conversion Rate Optimisation
Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is used to increase the proportion of users visiting your site that take the conversion action you want them to complete. CRO has evolved dramatically in recent years and it is no longer a ‘nice to have’ as part of your digital marketing activity – it is essential for sustained growth within cost and ROI targets.
We touched upon this in the paid media section with regards to increasing lead quantity, but following a CRO strategy on your website will benefit lead generation across all online channels. Some of the aspects that should be considered during the CRO process are:
- How easy is it for users to complete the desired action? It sounds obvious, but optimising the methods of how users convert (whether by phone, form fill, sign ups etc.) can have a huge impact on lead generation. For example, do the majority of your website users visit on their mobile devices? If so, ensure your conversion goals are easy to complete on a mobile experience and consider prioritising phone calls as your main conversion goal.
- Is your service offering clear and easy to understand? You may think so, but is that the case for your target users? You should evaluate and optimise this by user testing your messaging and amending the design based on the feedback received.
- What are you actually offering? How competitive are you regarding features such as free trials or live demos? Offering these low-risk options can help to increase your lead volume as users know they aren’t immediately signing up to a long-term commitment. We recommend using reciprocity principles to help persuade users to provide their contact details too, such as offering access to VIP content if they sign up or create an account.
- How compelling is your landing page really? Does your landing page match the ad it is being used in? This has an impact on both your quality score and how likely users are to click through but then bounce off if the page doesn’t meet their expectations. Are you clearly communicating your USPs, and are all customer pain points covered? You want to demonstrate a clear understanding of your target audience’s needs in a compelling way that convinces them to choose you rather than a competitor.
- Do the call to actions stand out from their surroundings? The first thing to consider here is how many different CTAs do you feature on the page? Showcasing too many different conversion goals can actually have a negative impact on your conversion rate, this is known as choice paralysis. To avoid this it’s best to stick to one or two clear actions that are communicated with consistent messaging throughout the page.
- Are you pre-qualifying users? In terms of lead quality, look at how you can pre-qualify users so that the best leads convert. Make sure your personas, content, and design targets are correct and consistent, delivering a clear message as to what you offer and who you are looking to work with.
Integrated strategy for multi-channel success
From a multi-channel perspective, your digital marketing channels can and should work together to grow the quantity and nurture the quality of the leads your business receives through its site. No matter what type of company you are, sharing data insights cross-channel can be invaluable, helping to create a highly data-driven integrated marketing strategy. Let’s look at some examples of how organic and paid channels can work together to grow your business online.
Organic and paid search
Paid and organic search naturally go hand in hand when it comes to your digital presence. For example:
- Prioritise converting keywords: Query-level data on terms that convert via paid search can be used to gain insight into the keywords that result in higher quality leads and those which don’t. This can then steer your priorities for improvement from an organic perspective.
- Test your messaging: Paid search ads can be used to test new messaging for your site by running split tests to identify which ad copy resonates most with your target market and is most effective at generating leads. In this way, you can learn more about what’s important to your potential customers, tweaking your metadata as required to increase organic click-through rates.
- Reduce your CPCs: Improving the landing page experience element of quality score can help to keep your average CPCs low. This is due to the content relevance and technical setup of your landing pages having a direct impact on quality score. Making improvements to this can help to lower your costs whilst maintaining or improving your paid visibility.
- Reengage non-converting users: If you aren’t using remarketing campaigns to retarget users who have previously visited your site but not converted, it’s likely that you’re letting a lot of potential leads go elsewhere! Particularly for professional services that have a longer consideration period before conversion, it’s crucial not to miss out on these users. Running remarketing campaigns allows you to retain top-of-mind brand awareness throughout their consideration period, even whilst they may be reviewing competitor offerings. If you attract a lot of mobile traffic but most conversions happen on desktop, then this is also a good way to ensure users come back in future to convert on their preferred device.
- Pause expensive keywords: If you are ranking well organically for certain terms that cost a lot to maintain visibility for but don’t provide the return on ad spend (ROAS) you need, why not test pausing your ads or pulling back on your bids. It may be the case that you don’t need to be spending as much, or it could be that the paid visibility is an important user touchpoint. You won’t know unless you test it.
- Improve your geo-targeting: It’s worth reviewing your organic performance data to see if there are geographic areas where users are more engaged or convert at a higher rate than average. This can often be the case in, for example, more affluent areas or more business-focused areas. You can then use this insight to hone the geo-targeting of your ads campaigns, concentrating spend on the physical locations more likely to yield the results you need.
- Dominate the SERP: Having both a paid result and an organic result appearing in the SERPs for your target keywords is an immediate signal to users that your company is an industry-leader and is very likely to meet their needs. It also means there is less SERP real estate available for your competitors to take advantage of.
Organic and paid social
When carrying out digital marketing for a professional services firm, organic content and social media marketing can also be highly effective in supporting each other:
- Turn organic content into paid social assets: Any guides or video content that successfully engage prospects can be used as an asset in a paid social campaign, attracting users to click through onto your site and learn more about your brand.
- Using gated content to drive leads: Gated content (content that can only be accessed once users complete a form or make a purchase) can be a highly effective means for lead generation. Offering a downloadable PDF in exchange for users’ email addresses employs reciprocity, meaning users are more likely to share their contact information. This can then be passed on for the relevant teams to follow up in the future.
- Discover new audience insights: You can learn more about your target market by employing paid social campaigns, digging into your audience data to get some insights into who they are. And by that we mean who they really are, not just your perception of who they should be. In many cases there is a clear difference, so this can provide valuable insights that can then be used elsewhere in the business. For example, from an organic perspective, you can use this information to create personas to help steer your content strategy, allowing you to produce content that is more appealing to your target audience.
A successful digital marketing strategy is one that is tailored to the needs of the individual business and backed up by data. However, if we had to sum up the main priorities of online marketing for professional services companies in a few simple bullet points, it would be the following:
- Critically evaluate your website copy to ensure it has a clear and compelling message that addresses the needs of your target market.
- Ensure your service pages have only one or two CTAs signposted throughout the content.
- Create keyword-targeted informational content that demonstrates your industry expertise, targeting longer-tail search queries.
- Make use of heat mapping software to evaluate your landing page performance regularly and improve the content and page templates accordingly.
- Invest in remarketing campaigns to ensure you reach out to users who have visited your site but not yet converted.
- Target companies you want to work with via LinkedIn ads to get your message in front of key decision makers.
These focus areas will give any professional services company a good overview of their current situation, highlighting opportunities for improvement and growth.
If you have any questions about the content in this white paper or would like to chat with our team about the digital marketing challenges your company is facing, please get in touch.