Just eight personal injury (PI) brands dominate the web searches of potential clients, with national law firm Irwin Mitchell leading the way, new research has found.
The report also found social media strategies “massively under-developed within the legal services sector”.
The in-depth study by digital marketing agency Stickyeyes found that 56% of personal injury searches in 2011 included named brands, and the leading eight accounted for 80% of these.
The eight were Accident Advice Helpline, Irwin Mitchell, National Accident Helpline, Claims Direct, Thompsons Law, Pannone, Fentons and Injurylawyers4U.
The report broke down the searches which did not include a brand into seven main “sub-verticals”, with generic PI terms – such as ‘personal injury claims’ – the most popular (30% of such searches), followed by terms relating to road traffic accidents (25%) and to accidents and illness at work (20%). It said “high levels of exposure within these markets are critical to success”.
National Accident Helpline led the way in the first two, but the report said “this position is under threat from the likes of InjuryLawyers4U, First4lawyers and Claims Direct”. Irwin Mitchell was “the only brand to be a leading player in multiple sub-verticals”, and was particularly prominent in searches around clinical negligence.
Overall, after aggregating click share across organic and paid search in the top 70 keywords within the PI market, the report said that Irwin Mitchell had just over 20%, and National Accident Helpline just under. Claims Direct was third with 10%. The next named law firms were Fentons and Pinto Potts at eighth and ninth, both with less than 5% click share.
On social media, the report said no single operator stood out in terms of best practice as a means of developing a two-way dialogue that stimulates both volume of discussion as well as quality.
Accident Helpline led the social media ‘score card’ by having “the most robust level of customer touch points across the main social platforms, as well as having good-quality interaction”. It was followed by Pannone, Fentons, Simpson Millar, Irwin Mitchell and Thompsons Law.
The report noted that Fentons and Simpson Millar are “carefully developing a social strategy that recognises that engagement quality is just as important as volume and penetration”.
Few were operating effectively across all platforms – for example, Pannone had far more Twitter followers than any other brand, but little activity on Facebook. The report also noted that it had a lower number of retweets than Accident Helpline, which had a third of the number of followers, indicating that the latter is producing higher quality content.
Operators such as InjuryLawyers4U and National Accident Helpline which have invested in TV and other advertising “are not dovetailing this with an integrated social media campaign to propagate this [brand] equity online”, Stickyeyes added.
Phil McGuin, head of research at Stickyeyes, said recent organic search ranking fluctuations, as well as ever-changing spends on paid search “could see new entrants challenge for the top spot”, especially with the substantial proportion of searches that are not brand related.
“A strong presence within this area would allow niche operators, including new market entrants, to compete directly with the larger, established brands,” he said. “A large coordinated spend across organic, paid and social media online could also reap dividends for entrants wanting to capitalise on one of the fastest growing markets within the legal services sector, currently valued at £3.5bn.”
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