April 21, 2011

Top Spot Or Bust

It's no surprise that getting to the top 3 spots of Google can help increase the traffic to your firm's website. However, a new study shows just how dramatic the difference in click-throughs is among the different positions on the first page.

According to the study:

Websites ranked number one received an average click-through rate (CTR) of 36.4 percent; number two had a CTR of 12.5 percent; and number three had a CTR of 9.5 percent. Being number one in Google, according to Optify, is the equivalent of all the traffic going to the sites appearing in the second through fifth positions.

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In short, getting into the top spot for a particular keyword can triple your traffic for that particular word.

Long Tail Traffic

Optify's study examined the click throughs on both head terms (keywords with more than 1000 monthly searches on Google) and long tail terms (keywords that had searches of less than 100 a month).

According to the study:

Head terms had a higher CTR (32 percent) in the number one position than long tail terms (25 percent). However, long tail terms had a higher overall CTR on Page 1 of Google than head terms (9 percent vs. 4.6 percent).

From a strategic perspective, you won't see a huge benefit in terms of traffic for your head terms until you reach the first 3 spots in Google. However, for longer tail traffic once you reach the first page you can see decent click through rates.

What Does This Mean For My Law Firm's Search Marketing Strategy?

Your search marketing strategy should target keywords you have a realistic chance of reaching the top 3 spots for (ideally position #1). Simply getting on the first page for a high volume keyword is not as effective as reaching a top 3 spot for a keyword with less volume, but one that will result in much higher click through rates because of your position.

You really need to take a good look at the competition currently ranking for a keyword at the top of the results. What does their link profile look like? What type of content strategy do they have? How old is their domain? Where are they making investments online? Without a fundamental understanding of these details, you could invest a lot of time and resources into an SEO campaign that has very little chance of beating out the current "top dogs".

The other half of the strategy is producing quality content, on a regular basis, so that you can get visibility (ie: reach the first page) for long tail keywords. This will enable you capture traffic from the segment of people that are using Google as a research tool.

The value of content production extends beyond simply attracting visits from long tail keywords. Quality content engages your visitors, converts more leads, attracts links, and develops your reputation. As my colleague Gyi Tsakalakis says:

When you boil it down, effective law firm SEO strategy involves publishing great search-mindful content and developing creative strategies to get that content in front of people who are ready, willing, and able to consume, link to, and publicize it.
April 6, 2011

Looking For An Effective Way To Translate Your Firm's Wordpress Site? Try WPML

Here at AttorneySync, we are big fans of Wordpress. We often recommend Wordpress for lawyers looking to setup a new website and/or blog for a firm.

Recently, a firm located in Russia, but serving clients internationally, asked us for assistance with setting up a basic wordpress site. One of the stipulations was that the site needed to be built in English with the ability to be translated manually in Russian. Since the majority of the firm's audience was either going to be English or Russian speaking, it was important that the text appealed to both groups. This meant that simply installing an automated translation tool wasn't sufficient. What we needed was a solution that allowed our client to manually translate each page and post on the site.

Additionally, we wanted to make sure that we retained SEO (search engine optimization) benefits of both versions of the site.

We found that the WPML (Wordpress Multilingual Plugin) accomplished this. There are two paid versions of the plugin, one is $29 and one is $79. The version that is right for you depends on the amount of translating you need to do, the number of people working on the translations, and whether or not you need outside assistance. With either version, you can use the plugin on as many sites as you wish.

From the WPML website:

WPML makes it easy to run a multilingual website with a single WordPress install. Choose languages for your site and start translating content.

The default install comes with over 40 languages. You can also add your own language variants (like Canadian French or Mexican Spanish) using WPML's languages editor.

You can arrange different language contents in the same domain (in language directories), in sub-domains or in completely different domains.

I found setting up the plugin and languages easy to accomplish. Once you have the languages setup, actually performing the translation is easy. There are selections on the pages tab in wordpress as you can see below:

translate.JPG

You simply click on the language "plus" sign of any page and you will be taken to a new version of your page where you can input your translation.

You can do the same on the actual edit screen of each page or post as shown below:

translate page.JPG

The plugin also handles translations of visitor comments and Wordpress themes.

SEO Benefits

The plugin allows you to choose whether you want the translation to appear on a subdomain of the website (ie: english.yoursite.com is a subdomain of yoursite.com), in a directory (ie: www.yoursite.com/english) or on another domain entirely. It would be best to consult with an SEO professional to determine what the best setup is for your site.

From a search marketing perspective, investing the resources into a proper translation of your website is important if you are trying to market to a multilingual audience. Thinking that you can install an automated translation tool and perform well in search engines across all the languages is a misnomer. Watch the video below, from Google's Matt Cutts, that explains in more detail what Google is looking for on a multilingual website:

March 31, 2011

The Short Term Effects of Google's +1 For Law Firms

Google announced yesterday the release of the +1 button in search results. According to the official announcement:

Our goal at Google is to get you the most relevant results as quickly as possible. But relevance is about relationships as well as words on webpages. That's why we recently started to include more information from people you know--stuff they've shared on Twitter, Flickr and other sites--in Google search results.

Today we're taking that a step further, enabling you to share recommendations with the world right in Google's search results. It's called +1--the digital shorthand for "this is pretty cool." To recommend something, all you have to do is click +1 on a webpage or ad you find useful. These +1's will then start appearing in Google's search results.

Here is a video from Google further explaining how +1 works:

For a more in depth analysis, check out Danny Sullivan's extensive analysis of +1 on Search Engine Land.

The Short Term Effect Of +1 For Law Firms

This is a very interesting move from Google. As if it wasn't obvious already, Google continues to integrate more social signals into the search results. The long term effects of this remain to be seen (although I think social signals will become a much more significant component of the algorithm), but I think the short term impact for law firms will be minimal. Here's why:

1. The +1 button is only available on the search results page - Upon initial release, the +1 button is only going to be available on the search results page. It is unlikely that a user will "+1" a website before visiting the site and checking out the content. This means that in its current form, a user will need to perform a search, visit a site, and after reviewing the site content, return to the search results page and +1 the result. I don't see this happening often.

That being said, it's only a matter of time before Google releases a +1 button that website owners can place on their sites next to Facebook "Like" buttons. Once that happens, I can see the +1 activity increasing substantially. It is rumored that it will be several months before the website version of the button is made available.

2. A user needs to be logged into Google in order to see the +1 results - In order to see the +1 results a user needs to be logged into Google. This means that a significant portion of searchers, that are not logged in, will not see the +1 results. Long term, I think that more and more users will search via mobile phones and apps and have some version of personalized results. However, right now the +1 impact will not effect every search.

Thinking About Your Law Firm Web Strategy Long Term

Now don't get me wrong, even though I believe the short term effects will be minimal it would be foolish not to understand that the game is changing and it's important you are "shooting ahead of the duck". Simply building links to your law firm's website to capture traffic from vanity keywords such as "Chicago personal injury lawyer" is not the future of search engine optimization. SEOmoz puts it quite eloquently:

Inbound marketing is going to overtake SEO as the primary function of SEO professionals. Engaging across social channels to get links, shares, likes, comments and +1s is going to be the future for generating organic traffic to your site. Not just from Google but these channels are increasingly driving significant volumes of traffic in their own right.
March 25, 2011

How To Automatically Post Your Blog Articles On Your Law Firm's Facebook Page

I have had a number of lawyers recently ask me how to automatically post their blog articles onto the law firm's Facebook page.  While there are a number of Facebook applications that will pull in RSS feeds, most of these appear in their own section of the Facebook page.  Not on the wall of your page.  You can see an example of a separate RSS newsfeed section from AttorneySync's page below:


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By posting articles directly onto your wall, the articles will appear in the newsfeeds of the individuals that "like" your firm's Facebook page.  This will increase the exposure of your content and deliver it to the individuals that signed up to receive updates from you.

Networked Blogs


The service I recommend for automatic wall posting is called Networked Blogs.  Networked Blogs is a Facebook application that allows you to register a blog, claim the blog as your own, and then syndicate the content from the blog onto your personal Facebook profile and any Facebook pages that you have admin access to.  You are not required to syndicate to all these spots, you can pick and choose where you want the posts to appear.

The Process


To get started you will head over to Networked Blogs and click the "Add your blog" button at the bottom of the page.  This will take you to Facebook where you will login and arrive at the Networked Blogs application.  You will click "register a blog" in the upper right.

register.JPG

Fill in your blog information and click next.  In the next step, the application will ask if you are the author of the blog.  You will click yes and the app will request that you verify one of two ways.  Either having Facebook friends verify or embedding a widget onto your blog (which you can subsequently remove after verification).  While it is a good idea to eventually verify your blog, this is not a necessary step to do right away.  To move ahead, you can simply click "I'll do it later" underneath the verification method selections.

This will take you to the registered blog page.  From here you can select "Set up Syndication".

syndication.JPG

This will route you back to the Networked Blogs site to select your syndication options.  From here you can choose the Facebook profiles and pages you want the blog articles posted to.  You will also be able to select your options for what images to display with the post and whether to use the Networked Blogs toolbar.  You will also have the option of adding a Twitter account where you can automatically feed in your blog posts.

Continue reading "How To Automatically Post Your Blog Articles On Your Law Firm's Facebook Page" »

March 2, 2011

Where to Get Citations to Improve Your Law Firm's Local Search Rankings

If you have spent anytime building your professional reputation online, you have probably come across information about local search marketing. And if you have read anything worth its salt on local search marketing, you probably should have read something about business citations. But how and where should you get these citations? Here are some places to add to your spreadsheet for consideration for getting local citations for your law firm.

Continue reading "Where to Get Citations to Improve Your Law Firm's Local Search Rankings" »

February 10, 2011

How To Properly Syndicate Your Law Firm's Content Without Hurting Your Own Rankings

syndicate.pngA component of any well developed law firm internet strategy should include the production and syndication of practice specific, professionally written content. Posting content directly to your website or blog should serve as the foundation of your strategy. However, taking advantage of syndication networks such as JD Supra, Avvo, or ExpertHub can get your content in front of a bigger, more widely read audience. This can be beneficial in driving more traffic to your site, building a larger blog readership, exposure for the firm and attorneys, and increased phone calls.

That being said, it's important to understand what steps to take when syndicating your content so that the search engines know you are the original creator of the articles. Ignoring these steps can result in sites you've syndicated your content to outranking your original articles. While these steps aren't guaranteed to be foolproof, it will help to ensure you aren't sending mixed signals to the search engines.

1. Your Syndicated Content Should Link Back To Your Original Article

If a search engine finds multiple instances of content that are the same it considers all but one of the articles to be duplicate content. When the article you post on another website links back to the original article on your site, it helps the search engines determine the source of the original. Make sure the link is pointing to the original article page and not just any page on your website.

2. Wait To Syndicate Content Until The Search Engines Have Found Your Original

Once a search engine finds and indexes your original article it should time stamp the article and establish it as the original. In order to find out if the article has been indexed by Google, you can perform a search for the full url of your article. While this doesn't always guarantee your article will continue to outperform the syndicated one, it helps to ensure you are sending the right signals.

3. Avoid Syndicating The Entire Article If Possible

Provide a snippet, or couple of paragraphs of the article with a link back to the original. This way you can enjoy the increased exposure of the article on the syndication network and still drive visitors back to your site. This will also help avoid duplication of the entire piece of content.

4. Have The Syndication Partner "noindex" Your Syndicated Article

The noindex html tag tells Google not to index a specific web page. In this situation, your content will benefit from the exposure of the syndication site without hurting your own search engine visibility. The downside is that you have little to no control over whether a syndication partner will noindex a page. Most probably will not, however if this option is available or can be negotiated than it could be worthwhile.



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Free Guide: Writing Content For Your Law Firm's Website

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February 8, 2011

On-Page Optmization

Once you have brainstormed a list of relevant keywords and prioritized them by search volume and competition, the next step is getting these keywords onto your web properties. This is referred to as "on-page optimization" and is part of the signaling that tells search engines like Google what your web pages are about.

There are certain parts of your web pages that play a very large role in communicating the subject matter of a web page to a search engine. The most important of these is the page's title tag.

We see many law firm websites and blogs that use a lawyer's name or law firm name in the title tag. While this may make sense in terms of branding the firm, only using an attorney's name of law firm's name greatly limits the information that is being communicated to the search engines. While sites that implement title tags like these are likely to rank well for those names, they are unlikely to rank as well for much else.

February 5, 2011

Consider Who Owns Your Online Investments

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Web marketing has become a much more decentralized process. It used to be that your online presence would consist of a static website and nothing more. The goal was to drive visitors to your website where they would be converted into leads. However, the process and strategy is changing.

As my colleague Gyi Tskalakis points out in his article The Distributed Web:

When it comes to marketing a law firm online, the concept of the distributed web is especially important. It is more important to get your content in front of your targeted audience than it is to drive them to your website.

That is why legal blogs, social media, and content platforms play such an important role in building your web presence. They allow you to disseminate your content to a much broader targeted audience.

It is no longer sufficient for your online marketing strategy to consist of a lone, static website. While having a website remains an important component of online marketing, investments need to be made in blogging, social media (such as Facebook and LinkedIn), and content platforms (like JD Supra and ExpertHub).  However, when deciding how to make investments in these various components of your web strategy it is important to understand who owns the platforms.  Let me explain.

 

Renting Vs. Buying

When it comes to utilizing other companies' platforms for your marketing, such as social networking sites, it is important to understand that you do not own your terms of service.  In a great quote by David Dalka, he explains the difference between investing in online properties you own vs. those you don't:

Think of it this way, a social networking profile is like an apartment, while a web site built on a domain you own is property that belongs to you. You don't see too many people rent an apartment and then invest $20,000 in remodeling the kitchen do you? This is because the improvement in property is not owned by the individual and the future values of the improvements are highly uncertain.

The same is true of social networking sites. This is typically not seen as a problem by individuals. It also goes unnoticed by most traditional brand marketers as they are used to expiring, non-measurable media in the pre-Internet era of marketing and often not held accountable by senior management. Once fully understood by senior business executives, the microeconomics of marketing channels has emerging implications for enterprise business strategy, marketing budget resource allocation and eventual redefinition of the skill sets required to lead businesses into the future successfully.

The main point to consider here is that when assessing how much to invest in each component of your online strategy, it would be wise to consider which of those properties you are building equity in. Which of those properties do you actually own?

Investing time and resources into a firm website or blog is an investment in properties you own. Spending money on advertising Facebook Business Pages, Google Places accounts, building followers on social networks, etc. should be a component of your strategy and in many cases will yield results. But ultimately, you do not control the fate of the properties that you do not own. Even though they deliver results now, the future value and control of those investments is highly uncertain.

I'm not suggesting you ignore taking advantage of these additional outlets to acquire clients. I'm simply pointing out that you must consider making your largest investments in online properties that you have equity in.

December 28, 2010

Inbound Marketing Principles For Your Law Firm

3D Team Leadership Arrow Conceptphoto © 2007 Scott Maxwell | more info (via: Wylio)
I first came across the term inbound marketing from our friends over at HubSpot. Inbound marketing is essentially the process of getting found by people that are searching for your services. This is in contrast to outbound marketing which is blasting your message out to the masses in hopes of capturing someone who might have interest (ie: television, radio, email blasts to purchased lists, etc)

In a thoughtful post Hubspot wrote on the subject of inbound vs outbound marketing, they tell us that:

Rather than do outbound marketing to the masses of people who are trying to block you out, I advocate doing "inbound marketing" where you help yourself "get found" by people already learning about and shopping in your industry. In order to do this, you need to set your website up like a "hub" for your industry that attracts visitors naturally through the search engines, through the blogosphere, and through the social media sites. I believe most marketers today spend 90% of their efforts on outbound marketing and 10% on inbound marketing and I advocate that those ratios flip.

The Times Are Changing

It used to be that the firms with the largest marketing budgets and biggest advertising spends were the ones able to generate the most cases. This was a "stack it high and let it fly" mentality. But times have changed and the effectiveness of this type of advertising has shifted.

The internet has allowed consumers to research their issues, make more informed decisions, and seek out the types of services they are looking for. It's less about shouting the loudest and more about positioning yourself as an authority in your field.

Consumers are battered with advertisements all day long and for the most part tune it out. However, if you can implement a law firm web strategy that is truly helpful to those that have questions and need your services, you can prosper online.

What Should I Do?

You can start by listening, being helpful, and getting active. Try some of these simple, free suggestions:


  • Start a blog on Wordpress - Talk about your field of expertise. Write articles that are helpful and informational.

  • LinkedIn - Join relevant groups and participate in discussions. Search for questions people have posted an answer them. Don't spam out that you give free consultations. Offer legitimate, helpful answers and the requests for service will come.

  • Twitter - Track relevant topics on Twitter. Don't worry about tweeting what you had for breakfast. Spend some time listening to what others put out there. Again, be helpful and participate. Answer questions and point people in the right direction towards good resources. Work on building and nurturing relationships.

December 14, 2010

Prioritizing Link Targets

As you may have heard, links to your website are like votes for your website in search engines. And as you almost might know, not all links are created equal. So how do you get more quality links to your website? The first step is to prioritize link targets.

Continue reading "Prioritizing Link Targets" »

December 4, 2010

Review Quality vs. Quantity

As Jeff discussed over at AttorneySync's lawyer marketing blog, a recent embarrassment for Google has prompted an algorithm change that may have consequences to your law firm's local positions and your local web strategy.

On Mihmorandum, David Mihm talks about how this incident may impact Google's use of reviews in its algorithm:

Thing is, Local Search experts have long speculated that the valence of reviews has had an extremely low, if any, impact on rankings, whereas the volume of reviews has always been considered one of the strongest factors. Many of us have noted how puzzled we were that this was the case but this bias (or lack thereof, I suppose) has been pretty obvious for awhile.

***

Google announced it has updated its algorithm as a result of all this negative publicity, to take into account some of its sentiment analysis capabilities, prompting outcry from various corners of the web that Google was becoming a further moral arbiter of how to do business, rather than returning relevant results. It's a fine line, but frankly as a searcher in this case, I'd side with Google on this update.

I would agree that the importance of volume of reviews is on a steady decline and that the quality of reviews is increasing. However, Google has a problem here. Aren't bad reviews something that consumers should know about?

By burying businesses listings that receive negative reviews, Google may effectively create a chilling effect on the voices of dissenting reviewers.

To me, the problem of serving "the best" results to users is far more complicated than simply deciding between local businesses that have positive and negative reviews. While review quantity and quality are undoubtedly signals, more advanced algorithmic factors are necessary to provide quality results for local searches.

Nonetheless, law firms that provide an easy way for their clients to post reviews will have more success with local search engine visibility. If you're looking for ways to increase your reviews online, be sure to check with your state bar's rules on this subject.

December 1, 2010

Why Is Local Search Important For Law Firms?

Search engines have completely changed how we research, learn, collaborate, and find things online. According to the local search experts at GetListed.org:

Today there are well over 10 billion unique searches done each month, and that's just in the United States! Of those searches,

40% of queries have Local intent (1)
5% use the city and/or state name
2% use informal terms, like neighborhoods
0.5% use zip codes

On Yahoo alone, 100 Million unique visitors per month search with "local intent" (2). We can extrapolate that there are HALF A BILLION unique Local searches per month on Google, based on Yahoo's ~15% market share (though we've not seen any "hard numbers" released by Google about its average Local Search volume). We've seen both Google and Yahoo make dramatic shifts in how they return results in 2008, and all the trends point to Local.

On top of that data, respected technology experts around the world think the world of mobile search is ready to take off in 2009 and 2010.

However, you don't need to be a local search expert to recognize the value of local search. Ask your friends, family, and clients how they would search for an attorney online. I'm willing to bet that many of the people you ask will include some form of geographic modifier like a city, county, state, or zip code.

Even if they are still using very general search terms, as more search engines implement predictive and suggestive search, even unsophisticated users will be directed to search phrases with geographic intent.

With Google's recent Place Search update, we have witnessed many law firms that didn't pay attention to local search signals lose visibility within search engines.

The importance of local search to local businesses, like law firms, is only going to increase as more Internet users search from mobile devices. Classic law firm seo strategies simply aren't enough to maintain visibility as search engines place greater weight on local and social signals.

November 30, 2010

Understanding Non-Branded Keyword Searches

Any law firm SEO campaign should be measured in a number of different ways. Rather than simply focusing on your ranking for a particular keyword, you should understand how those rankings are producing targeted traffic. How that traffic is converting into leads and finally how many of those leads are becoming new clients. This is the only way to truly measure the effectiveness of a campaign and understand the return you are getting from your investment.

One of the important factors mentioned above includes understanding the make-up of the traffic visiting your website. For search engine traffic, it's important to understand the keywords people are using to find your site. This helps us to better understand how our rankings for certain keywords are effecting our actual site traffic.

Non-Branded Keyword Searches

What are non-branded keywords? They are the general category keywords used when a prospect is not aware of your name or the name of your firm. They may be terms like "injury lawyer Chicago" or "bankruptcy attorney in Baltimore". The value of the non-branded keywords is that they represent opportunities for new business. These are clients looking for your legal services that are not already aware of your firm.

Finding Your Non-Branded Keywords In Google Analytics

Utilizing a free analytics program, such as Google Analytics, is a great way to get some insight about your search engine traffic. Once Google Analytics is setup on your website, you can view the keywords people are using to find your website under the keywords tab under traffic sources:

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Look through the keywords and see what the composition of your search traffic is. Are the majority of searches for your firm's name? Is the traffic targeted? Are searchers reaching your site after looking for non-branded keywords? Would people searching for the keywords you see be likely to retain your services? These are important questions to ask in order to determine the effectiveness of your keyword strategy.



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Free Guide: Hiring A Law Firm SEO Consultant

Are you looking to increase your visibility online but are feeling overwhelmed by the number of service professionals promising the world to you?

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November 19, 2010

Web Rip-Off Alert: $500 For Google Places Profile Claiming?

As reported by Natalie Waddell in Save your money. Claim your own Facebook Place:

Five hundred dollars to have a third-party consultant claim your Facebook Place on your behalf because it is "complicated to do if you don't have experience"?!

Give me a break. This is absolutely outrageous; but true. It is what is being charged by a high profile seo company located in Vancouver.

If someone tries to charge you $500 to claim your Google Places profile, hit delete, hang up, or walk the other way. Claiming your Place profile is free and not difficult. In fact, head to getlisted.org to claim all your major profiles.

On the other hand, local law firm seo strategy is about more than simply claiming profiles. You need consistent strategic local citations. Getting those requires both strategy and leg work.

November 18, 2010

4 Tips On Writing Content For Your Law Firm's Website

copy.jpgWriting content for your law firm's website requires a different approach than most other mediums. The content needs to be informative and helpful. However, you are faced with the unenviable task of explaining, in layman's terms, very complex subjects while at the same time facing the fleeting attention of your site visitors.

I want to address writing content from the standpoint of engaging your visitors and helping to increase contacts from your site.

4 Tips On Writing Good Content For The Web

  1. People scan content on the web...they don't read everything in full - Keep your paragraphs and sentences short. Use headlines and bolding that highlight your key points.
  2. Create Lists - People love lists on the web. When lists and bullets are used appropriately, a user can more easily scan and digest the points you make.
  3. Be conversational, cut down on the "marketing speak" - I always stress that people want to buy from other people, not faceless firms. This is especially true when selling professional services. Make sure you write with your voice, while maintaining a professional tone.
  4. Stay away from legalese - Not only doesn't the average consumer understand it, but they will quickly dismiss your material and move on to another site. Attention is fleeting on the web, if a potential client doesn't understand what you are saying, your competitor is only a click away.

A great book to read on the subject is Net Copy by Nick Usborne.



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Free Guide: Writing Content For Your Law Firm's Website

Want to learn how writing content for your firm's site can help bring in business?

Download AttorneySync's Free Guide On Writing Web Content For Lawyers.