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November 7, 2012

6 Steps to SEO Blogging Success for Law Firms

blog.pngOne of the most difficult tasks in legal internet marketing is motivating and showing attorneys how to write their firm's blog. I have decided to create a recipe for blogging success.

Step 1: Know your audience. Understand that each blog that you create has a target audience. Do some research and put some thought into it. If you're a personal injury attorney in Duluth, MN writing about Mesothelioma, your most likely audience is going to be the taconite miners and their friends and family. Stop writing generic articles about premises liability or product liability. Speak towards your client's needs. Instead of writing about faulty drugs, write about specific drug's side effects. So for example, this blog will be targeted towards personal injury attorneys wanting to generate organic seo traffic through blogging.

Step 2: Be sure to value what the customer values most. Since our target market was defined earlier, I think we all know personal injury value above all else...money. I am kidding. Quality relevant cases without wasting time on irrelevant leads. Be sure to always have what your customer values most  in mind when writing your blog. Each client is different but over the course of a law career trends will become apparent. It also helps to be unique and original in your topic selection and write about rare and uncommon topics where your competition is too slow or inept to respond to the market, or the market might be viewed as too small to warrant a blog post.

Step 3: Every blog should include an offer to engage with its readers. Engagement is greater than a free consultation and offering a free consultation is not engagement. Engaging with your potential clientele is easy to do and pays off in spades. Some tactics to start the conversation of engagement;



As a personal injury attorney, it wouldn't be a bad idea to differentiate your offer from those of your competitors, as to my knowledge, everyone and their mother offers a free consultation. That is no longer an offer. Your offer has to make you stand out from the crowd. What will your offer be?. For example, you could also release a free white paper; maybe it could be titled The top ten questions to ask your personal injury attorney before hiring them, in exchange for their e-mail address and permission to contact them. The bottom line being: Be creative with your offers, marketing is great and will make a difference in how your potential clients will view your business, but no amount of marketing in the world will compete or substitute for a greater or better offer.

A FREE CONSULTATION IS NOT AN OFFER, BECAUSE ITS THE SAME OFFER AS EVERY OTHER ATTORNEY IN TOWN. BE DIFFERENT. BE UNIQUE. BE ORIGINAL. Ego te provoco.

Step 4: Discuss the benefits that your audience will gain from hiring your firm. One practice that lends itself to being an example of obvious benefits, would be Bankruptcy practices. The Massachusetts Bankruptcy Blog of Goldstein and Clegg is a good example of explaining the benefits of hiring their firm for a bankruptcy proceeding. Automatic stay stops creditor harassment and collection. It allows a person to gain a fresh start, and start their financial life over again in most situations, often one of the greatest benefits of filing bankruptcy is the ability to rebuild credit. Luckily, a good blog also discusses the cons or alternatives to their services.

Step 5: Discuss the alternatives to your service.  As AttorneySync's SEO Manager, I am partial to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). On the other hand, I can also recognize when SEO isn't the best solution for a law firm. Often if a firm is not seeking a long term strategy wants to see results immediately, or has a smaller budget we recommend a pay-per-click campaign, this doesn't mean that PPC is better or worse than SEO, it simply means that every client is different and has unique firm goals, we will treat them that way as we help them reach their objectives.

With regards to PPC, I always like to tell the story of the hunter and the farmer to illustrate the differences between paid search marketing and organic search engine optimization. Paid advertising is like a hunter. If you're hungry, you can go and get a meal right now. You might pay dearly for it, but it's highly unlikely you will come home empty handed,  and you will likely be able to eat.

SEO is more like a farmer. It takes a lot of work on the front end, your results are delayed by at least a season (a couple months), and there are threats that might threaten your whole crop (Penguin). But, if successful, you will have a source of food (clients) that will last well into the distant future with mostly maintenance as the greatest cost. Typically, a combined strategy using both SEO and PPC is the most comprehensive and works well for clients. Also using PPC is a great way to experiment with a new product or practice type before making a large SEO investment.

Step 6: Provide proof of your value. The proof is in the pudding. How can I prove to you that content marketing (Writing Blogs)  will help your SEO campaign? I can't. But you can prove it to yourself! Install Google analytics with goal tracking for your quick contact form.

Start writing blogs using the formula described in this blog. Sit back and watch your tracking data as the number of people who land on your blog as an entrance page, and those people who choose to contact you via your e-mail contact form on your website.

Write a blog a week, for 3 months and track your traffic, conversions and, most importantly, return on investment from blogging via the number of contacts you receive from your new organic content marketing strategy. I think that you will be pleasantly surprised at your results. Feel free to drop me a line and tell me how you did via Twitter at @JLBellefeuille

For those of you looking for the quick and dirty guide to get to the top of Google's search engine results pages, you've come to the wrong place. Write for a reader, not for a spyder. A good content marketing strategy part of a balanced SEO strategy, but is not by itself a SEO strategy. Good luck blogging.
January 31, 2012

Were You Looking For Law Firm SEO or Paid Search?

Searching.jpgI spoke with a number of lawyers over the last several weeks that came to our agency in search of law firm SEO services........at least that's what they thought they wanted.

Really what they were looking for was more business through the internet. The particulars of which strategy they should use in order to make that happen was the reason they were talking to me in the first place. However, there is enough hype around SEO these days that most law firms assume this is route they need to take.

If a law firm has the appropriate budget, time, and resources available they should be involved in SEO, paid search, email marketing, social media, content creation, and every other type of online marketing avenue But in many cases, time and money are finite resources. As a result, a law firm must prioritize which strategies make the most sense depending on the needs, goals, and resources available.

While there are many online marketing strategies one might consider, I want to focus this post on 2 strategies specifically related to search marketing. Law firm SEO and paid search.

When Would A Law Firm SEO Campaign Make Sense?

An important point to understand is that SEO is a long-term strategy.  You are investing in a strategy that will build equity in your online properties.  The benefits are that you don't have to pay the search engines directly to be listed in the "organic results".  By and large, the natural results are the most clicked listings on a search results page so they attract the most attention and traffic.  In addition, once you've reached a tipping point, your traffic and leads should continue to increase while your monthly investment remains the same.  The result is that your cost per lead should go down over time.

Something to consider is that the process takes time.  It isn't an advertising strategy where you pay money month 1 and the leads are rolling in by month 2.  As I wrote in another post explaining why SEO isn't an advertising strategy:

SEO is a marathon not a sprint.  I like to think about executing SEO in the context of gaining or losing weight. If you want to lose weight you need to put together a plan that includes eating properly, exercising, getting enough sleep, reducing stress, etc. It isn't something that happens overnight, in a week, or even in one month. It's a series of small activities and best practices that build on each other over time. No one, outside of scam artists, would promise you healthy weight loss, overnight, by paying some money and taking a pill.

SEO isn't so different from this. There is no quick fix or magic pill. It is the art of building your online reputation to increase awareness and lead flow to your firm. SEO in 2012 is not just about manipulation of Google results in an attempt to rank #1 for a given term. In fact, with personalized results and Google, Search Plus Your World, you can see that the results are increasingly different for each user depending on a variety of factors. SEO needs to be a component of a larger inbound marketing strategy in order to be truly successful and long-lasting.

Understanding the monetary investment as well as the time investment required to perform successful SEO is critical.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when trying to determine if a law firm SEO campaign makes sense:

  • Do you need new leads today or can you afford to wait?
  • Do you have the budget in place to stick with an SEO campaign for at least 8-12 months with minimal return at the start of the campaign?
  • Do you have the time to participate in some aspects of the campaign?
  • Are you a good writer?  Do you have people at your firm that are available to write articles?  If not, can you afford to pay professional writers to help with content production?
  • Do you have a foundational understanding of SEO and the activities that are important for its success? 
  • Are you looking to build a sustainable online presence that will generate leads consistently or are you looking to pick up a few clients in the short term?
For more in-depth information on organic search strategies you can check out our guide on Organic Web Strategy for Law Firms.

When Might a Paid Search Campaign Make Sense?

Paid search is an advertising strategy.  In a nutshell, you bid on keywords and pay Google when someone clicks on your ad.  It's more like traditional advertising in that your ads go live as soon as you create your account. This is contrary to organic and local results discussed above, which will take longer to develop.

You also have more control of your offer, URLs, address, and links you choose to display in your ads.  It is a great choice for law firms that are looking for more immediate results.

Some drawbacks to consider are that paid search can be expensive.  It's extremely competitive, especially if your competition has hired paid search managers to optimize their accounts.  Also, once you stop paying for ads you are no longer showing up in the results.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when trying to determine if a paid search campaign makes sense:
  • Do you need leads immediately?
  • Do you need a solution that doesn't necessarily require a large time commitment from the firm?
  • Are you just looking to pick up a some clients in the short-term?
  • Do you want a solution that provides for more flexibility in your monthly investment?

Hopefully this gives you a little more insight into deciding which search strategies make the most sense for your firm.

Photo by Danard Vincente

January 25, 2012

8 Tips On Writing Great Web Content For Your Law Firm's Website

writing.jpgI talk with lawyers everyday that have websites they need help marketing. They want their websites to bring in more traffic, more leads, and more clients. When I ask how often they are updating their sites and what type of content they are producing, the other end of the line is usually met with silence. The fact is that in today's online marketing universe, you need to produce new content for your website on a regular basis.


Why Do I Need To Create Content?

There are a myriad of reasons why you should produce new content for your site on a regular basis. In the interest of keeping this post succinct, I'll list 5 of the most important reasons in my opinion:


1. Fresh content helps to build links to your site - As you may have heard before, "Content is King". The truth is that in order for your site to gain more trust and authority in the eyes of Google, you need acquire links to your site. One of the best ways of doing this is to produce content that other sites want to link to. Simply having a firm profile and section on what you do isn't going to get it done. This is why you need to produce fresh, relevant content on a frequent basis.

2. Creates more outlets with which consumers can reach you - Most consumers on the web will find your site through the use of a search engine like Google, Yahoo, or Bing. Creating more pages for your site creates more entry points for consumers looking for your services. Think of the search engines as a yellow page listing in this respect. Each new piece of content gets you another entry or listing in the Google index, increasing your footprint on the web.

3. Shows your expertise in your field - By sharing knowledge and expertise in your area of practice, you help to solidify your credentials and ability to help potential clients. The web is a big place and simply talking about how great you are doesn't necessarily build trust. However, educating consumers with your expertise can help separate you from the pack, build trust, and attract more clients.

4. Helps with rankings and SEO - Search engines like sites that are updated on a frequent basis. This shows you care about your service and site. It gives the search engines a reason to "crawl" or come visit your site more often. Ultimately, this is going to help boost your rankings and bring in more traffic.

5. Allows interaction and relationship building with your clients and other professionals - The web is an interactive medium. Media such as television, radio, magazines, etc. are passive in nature. You produce content and people sit back, relax, and consume it. The web is different in that it is far more interactive. By utilizing tools such as blogs on your site, you can create content that will encourage conversations, comments, downloads, inquiries, etc. Creating effective content will increase interaction, which will build professional relationships, create leads, and ultimately new clients.


8 Tips On Writing Great Web Content

So now that we've established important reasons for creating content in the first place, let's discuss some tips to keep in mind as you are producing the content:

1. People on your website scan the pages...they don't read them - Keep your paragraphs and sentences short. Use headlines and bolding that highlight your key messages.

2. Use bullet points - 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, less "markety" - 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 does the average Joe not 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 they will quickly go somewhere else.

5. Use pictures and illustrations in your writing (where appropriate) - Using photos, illustrations, and videos creates a better, more engaging experience that draws a reader's interest.

6. Consider your audience - This is a similar point to staying away from legalese. However, the point I want to make is that your content shouldn't be Alan Dershowitz style legal briefs, unless you are writing exclusively for other attorneys and legal professionals. Your articles should be lighter in nature and helpful to the lay person who might be looking to retain your services. Stay in a universe they can understand and relate to.

7. Include calls to action - It is important that you tell your readers what to do once they have read your article. Encourage readers to contact you, submit a request for a free case evaluation, download a helpful guide or e-book you write. Work this into your articles or place them at the end. Encourage interaction.

8. Write about how you are able to help the potential client - Many law firms talk a whole lot about themselves, but not much about the problems of the potential client. Rather than simply talking about the firm or individual attorney achievements, frame the achievements and expertise of the firm from the standpoint of how it will help solve the problems and concerns of the site visitor. This is an important distinction.

A great book to read on the subject is Net Copy by Nick Usborne. It is a quick read that addresses how to approach writing for the web.

This is a great article from the godfather of web usability, Jakob Nielson, discussing how users read on the web.

Photo by Churl

October 26, 2011

My Experience Searching For An Attorney

search.jpgMy wife and I moved at the beginning of September to another apartment in the city. We had a few issues with the previous landlord and our security deposit. The situation escalated to the point that I needed to speak with a landlord/tenant attorney.

I have 3 different friends living in Chicago that are attorneys. However, none of them practice in the landlord/tenant field. So naturally, I asked around to see if they could refer anyone who could help with my specific problem. One of my friends gave me the name and number of a lawyer that handled landlord/tenant issues.


What Happened Next


I was happy to have the name and number but I decided that I wanted to check out the referred attorney's website so I could get a handle on his practice.

I Googled his name and nothing came up. I searched for the name of his firm and a generic lawyers.com profile showed up with a phone number and address, nothing more. I ran a search for his partner and an unclaimed Avvo listing appeared that offered me no additional information.

I figured as long as I was online doing research, I should see who else is out there. I started performing searches for landlord/tenant attorneys in Chicago. I looked for answers to specific questions I had regarding my issue. I came across a couple of informational websites and blogs that discussed the specific issues I was facing. The articles helped me through the process and explained some of the rights I was afforded as a Chicago tenant.

You know what happened after that? I followed up with one of the guys providing me with good information instead of the referral.


The Point


My partner, Gyi Tsakalakis, wrote a post on our company blog titled "A Guy Searches On Google".

Have you heard this one?

A guy gets into a car accident. He's injured pretty badly. He has a friend from college who is a lawyer, but she works patent litigation. However, she knows someone from law school that handles motor vehicle accident injury cases. She gives the guy the attorney's name.

The guy searches for the lawyer on Google. Google returns the following:

  • The lawyer's website, that has been +1′d by someone the guy knows on Google+.
  • The lawyer's Google Places listing with several reviews from clients and other lawyers.
  • A .pdf file of the lawyer's resume.
  • The lawyer's Avvo profile with reviews, answers, and license history.
  • The lawyer's LinkedIn profile that contains testimonials and answers the lawyer has provided on LinkedIn's answers.
  • A YouTube video of the lawyer discussing the anatomy of a car accident case.
  • The lawyer's Super Lawyer profile.
  • A local Adwords Express Ad containing ratings, address, and phone.
  • An article in which the lawyer is quoted on a local news site.
  • The lawyer's JD Supra profile containing guides for accident injury victims.

The guy has seen what he needed to see, he calls the lawyer.

Here's a similar, but different story.

A guy gets into a car accident. He's injured pretty badly. He has a friend from college who is a lawyer, but she works patent litigation. However, she knows someone from law school that handles motor vehicle accident injury cases. She gives the guy the attorney's name.

The guy searches for the lawyer on Google. Google returns the following:

  • An unclaimed Avvo profile with very little information.
  • A website that looks like it's from 1990 with stock images.
  • Some other listings for a guy with a similar name.

The guy has seen what he needed to see, he searches for another lawyer.

Which one of these do you want to be your story?

My experience is living proof of the pitfalls when you don't take control of your reputation, messaging, and visibility online.

Photo by Danard Vicente (http://www.flickr.com/photos/danardvincente/)

October 20, 2011

Organic Web Strategy For Law Firms

My colleague, Gyi Tsakalakis, recently put together this excellent 17 page, guide on organic web strategy for law firms.

August 22, 2011

Social Media Is Sexy, But Don't Forget About Search and Email

email.jpgWe have short attention spans these days. Especially in marketing. Everyone wants to be on the bleeding edge of the next big thing (yes even some lawyers). Social media has been talked and written about incessantly, from Facebook to Twitter to Google+. When it comes to digital marketing channels, social media is new and sexy. However, a Pew Internet study came out recently that reminds us search and email remain the top online activities.

The Econsultancy blog discusses the study in a recent post:

According to the study, 92% of internet users in the United States use search engines and send email. The number using social networking services? 65%.

That 65% figure isn't unimpressive, particularly when one considers that less than five years ago, less than 20% of adult internet users in the U.S. were tweeting and liking. But when it comes to proven, sustained usage, social media can't yet hold a candle to search and email.

The most impressive thing about search and email: usage is remarkably consistent across demographic and socioeconomic categories. Consider the following:

  • 96% of those ages 18 through 29 use search engines. On the opposite end of the spectrum, 87% of those 65 and older use search engines too.
  • 90% of those making under $30,000/year use search engines; that's not substantially less than the 98% usage rate seen amongst those making $75,000/year and up.
  • 94% of internet users in the 18-29 category use email while 87% of those in the 65+ group use email.

All told, well over half of U.S. internet users (59%) use search engines on a daily basis, and an even higher percentage (61%) use email daily.

What Impact Should This Have On Your Law Firm's Marketing Activities?

The implications are that if you want to have a well-rounded, effective, online strategy, you can not abandon the tried and true methods of search and email for the new kid on the block....social media.

Now don't get me wrong, my advice is NOT to ignore social media as a component of your overall strategy. It's just important to keep in mind that there are no magic bullets and the best results come from well-rounded campaigns that include activity across a lot of different channels.

Email marketing and search engines have been proven revenue generators and effective marketing channels for law firms. Make sure you are putting resources and effort into making these channels work for your firm even as you expand and grow your social media presence.

Photo by Ramberg Media Images (http://www.flickr.com/photos/rmgimages/)

August 19, 2011

Google Related: The Competition Now Has A Listing On Your Firm's Website

Google recently announced the launch of Google Related.

Now with Google Related, a new Chrome Extension and Google Toolbar feature, you'll automatically see interesting content relevant to what's on the page you're viewing, right where you're viewing it.

Here is a video that describes the new tool in more detail:




The Competition Is No Longer Just A Click Away.....

Now they are a scroll over, from a visitor's mouse, on your own website. As you can see from the screenshot below, the visitor can simply mouse over the "Related Places" and see links to your competition:

related.png

Over at the Marketing Pilgrim they discuss some interesting ramifications:

While the additional information is striking for the end user it can be a web site owner's worst nightmare. Why? Well, Google's Related Places from their Place Page data is put front and center for your visitor to see. Now we are seeing what Google had planned for some of the information they recently stripped from their place pages.

Now, more than ever a businesses website better keep a visitor's attention. Right now, not all sites are seeing the extension pop up but in the local space it looks like it is the vast majority of sites are seeing the bar with this additional information.

Now the competition isn't just in the SERP's but it can come up on you're your own website! I liken it to being in a store that is running ads for their competitors on big screens while you try to shop at the store. Not ideal for a businesses in most cases.

Google Related Is Not Everywhere

One thing to keep in mind is that Google Related needs to be installed as an extension with Chrome or an Internet Explorer user needs to have a Google Toolbar in order to use it. This means that only a small percentage of the total searches performed will have an end user with access to Google Related at this time.

What This Means To You

This means that you should be paying attention to the type of content and engagement you are offering on your website. It's no longer as simple as generating a high ranking and getting a click. You have to pay closer attention to what you are offering once a visitor arrives on the site. If you have thin content, a suspect design, poor architecture, etc. than it's getting even easier for a potential client to find someone else who is able to offer the visitor what they are looking for.

August 4, 2011

Google News Badges & Subject Matter Experts

Google News recently became more social by releasing Google News Badges.

According to the update:

"The U.S. Edition of Google News now lets you collect private, sharable badges for your favorite topics. The more articles you read on Google News, the more your badges level up: you can reach Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and finally Ultimate. Keep your badges to yourself, or show them off to your friends."

The Greater Significance

At this time, the impact of these Google News badges isn't entirely clear. However, when you start to look at the bigger picture you can see the puzzle pieces Google is putting together.

The grand plan appears to be a fundamental shift in how Google views authority on the web. Google wants to tie authority and expertise back to individuals and real people. Proof can be found in the approach with Google+ and usernames and changes such as Authorship Markup. They are looking for signals beyond links and social is becoming a more important component of the algorithm. Google wants to identify subject matter experts and deliver their expertise to its users.

What this means for law firms is that they are going to have to get serious about becoming online publishers, content producers, and subject matter experts in their respective fields.

The days of throwing up a 5 page firm website, performing some link building, and thinking you have a web strategy in place are long gone.

July 28, 2011

Google Places: Updates To The Look But Not The Algorithm

Google recently revamped the layout and look of their Places pages. They made a number of changes including removal of the review snippets from 3rd party sites, an aesthetic redesign for a cleaner look, more prominent call to action buttons, and removal of "More About This Place" results which gave insight into citations Google found for a Places page.

What the leading experts in the local space have stressed is that you should not confuse the updated look to mean there is a new algorithm.

Let's take a closer look at the various changes.

Cleaner Look & Streamlined Information

Google updated the look of the Places page to make it more streamlined and clean. The reviews and the call to action for users to leave a review have been made more prominent.

Citations: Places pages used to have a section called "More About This Place" which showed other web pages that referenced the business. These citations essentially serve a similar purpose for local visibility as links do for traditional SEO. The disappearance of these citations from the page does NOT mean that they don't remain an important part of your local strategy. It simply means that mining a competitors Places page for citation sources is no longer a viable strategy.

Review snippets: There was quite a bit of push back from other review aggregators (such as Yelp, CItysearch, and Tripadvisor) when Google started to show snippets of those third-party reviews on Google's Places page. There is even an ongoing antitrust investigation part of which involves this specific issue. Google has decided to pull the snippets of reviews from 3rd party review sites. Instead there are links at the bottom of the Places page pointing directly to the review sites.

places-layout-change.png

Best Practices For Local Search Still Remain

What is important to note is that even with all the interface changes, the best practices for local search still remain. Citations are still important as are getting reviews on a variety of 3rd party websites. The absence of these from the redesigned Places page does NOT mean that they are no longer a component of the local algorithm.

July 13, 2011

What Is Inbound Legal Marketing?

Inbound legal marketing is marketing that is focused on getting found by customers. It is the art of "pulling" customers to you rather than "pushing" your message out to them through interruption-style advertising.

No one does a better job of explaining the philosophy and practice of inbound marketing than Hubspot, pioneers in the field. Here is a short explanation from Hubspot on Inbound Marketing:

In traditional marketing (outbound marketing) companies focus on finding customers. They use techniques that are poorly targeted and that interrupt people. They use cold-calling, print advertising, T.V. advertising, junk mail, spam and trade shows.

Technology is making these techniques less effective and more expensive. Caller ID blocks cold calls, TiVo makes T.V. advertising less effective, spam filters block mass emails and tools like RSS are making print and display advertising less effective. It's still possible to get a message out via these channels, but it costs more.

Inbound Marketers flip outbound marketing on its head.

Instead of interrupting people with television ads, they create videos that potential customers want to see. Instead of buying display ads in print publications, they create their own blog that people subscribe to and look forward to reading. Instead of cold calling, they create useful content and tools so that people call them looking for more information.

Instead of driving their message into a crowd over and over again like a sledgehammer, they attract highly qualified customers to their business like a magnet.

The Foundational Components of Inbound Legal Marketing

In order to execute a successful inbound legal marketing campaign, there are three main components:

1. Content - You need to have a strategy in place to create engaging, useful content. This can include more than just text articles. It can also include videos, infographs, ebooks, webinars, etc. The content is the tool that is used to attract potential customers to your marketing.

2. SEO - Search engine optimization is the practice of making sure your content can be found through the search engines. This is important because search engines currently act as the gateway to the rest of the internet. Search engines are where the majority of your customers will begin the process of searching for legal representation.

3. Social Media - Social media plays an important role in your inbound marketing efforts. It allows you to build relationships with people who can help distribute your content and get the word out about what you do. Increasingly, it plays a larger role in your search engine visibility as well.

People use the Internet in a variety of ways. When your website, blog, profile, or other "professional online presence", becomes a source of information, answers, and solutions you will see that it attracts potential clients looking for your legal services.

This, in short, is what inbound legal marketing is.

June 22, 2011

5 Things You Should Know About Law Firm SEO

google-instant.jpgThe concepts of search engine optimization are new to many in the legal profession. There is a lot of misinformation out there as well as unreasonable expectations and promises regarding law firm SEO and how it works. What follows are 5 things you should know about law firm SEO:

It Takes Time

Search engine optimization is not a process that happens over night. In fact, it doesn't happen in one week or one month either. An analogy I like to use is that SEO is similar to losing weight. You don't eat right and exercise for a week and expect to be thin. It is a process of doing these things every day over the course of months in order to see results and reach your goals.

I am hesitant to give exact time frames for success since the competitive landscape, practice areas, monetary investment, age of your website, etc. all have an effect on the length of time it will take to reach a tipping point. That being said, 6-12 months is a reasonable expectation.

It Isn't The Same As Advertising

Hiring a company to perform SEO is not the same as investing in advertising. This is often a source of confusion and frustration for firms used to paying a fee and receiving an immediate flow of leads or phone calls. When you invest in SEO, you are building equity into your online presence. You are positioning yourself as a go to place where people looking for your type of legal services come to find you. As Lee Rosen explains in his article Would You Rather Rent Or Own Your Marketing:

Advertising is like renting. You get to borrow someone else's audience for 30 seconds or a minute. The audience has come to the newspaper, magazine, radio, or television to see something they're interested in, and you happen to be there. Hopefully, they'll pay a portion of their attention to you rather than to what they actually came to see.

Of course, if you stop paying the rent, you'll lose your opportunity to speak to that rented audience. The minute your ad budget runs empty, you're cut off, and you might never reach those people again.

Does advertising work? Sure it does, but it's tough to build equity when you rent. You've got to keep paying the piper, or the music stops.


It Doesn't Create Demand

Law firm SEO doesn't create demand, rather it fulfills existing demand. In other words, if no one is looking for your very specific niche of legal services, SEO isn't going to fix that. SEO can help you position your website/blog, content, legal services, etc. in front of individuals that are in need of those services.

This is an important distinction because I talk to many lawyers who view SEO as a "magic bullett" to getting new business in a new, creative niche. They'll say, "I've searched all over and no one else is doing anything like this!" While there is an incredibly small possibility that it may be a new potential market no one has tapped, odds are there is a reason others aren't doing it.

It Isn't A Commodity

SEO is not a commodity, it's a service. While the underlying, fundamental principles of SEO remain consistent across various law firm SEO campaigns, the approach for each individual firm should be unique. The link targets, keyword research, content strategy, etc. are all dependent on the practice areas, resources, and competitive landscape for each firm.

It Requires Participation

Performing SEO properly requires participation from members of the firm. Whether it's assistance with content, activity by the attorneys on social networks (which are increasingly having more impact on your visibility in search), or feedback on the lead quality the success of your campaign will increase with participation in the process.

May 31, 2011

Where Is Search Headed & How Does This Impact Your Law Firm?

Search engine logosPart of our jobs as web marketing consultants for law firms is to stay abreast of the changes that happen in our industry. In fact, what I believe separates the men from the boys is the ability for a company to understand not only how to leverage results with the way things currently are, but also being able to predict where things are going. Since search engine optimization is such an important part of any law firm's web strategy, I wanted to discuss where I think search is headed and how this impacts your law firm.

Where Is Search Going?

Search engines such as Google and Bing are working to make search more like a digital representation of the offline world. In a recent article by Aaron Wall over at SEO Book, he discusses this idea:

At one point in time online was a new and (fairly) level playing field where one could win based on meritocracy. Increasingly though search is becoming "a digital representation of the physical world." To win online you will often be required to win offline.

...at some point jumping through technical loopholes will be so tiresome & expensive that it will be cheaper and easier to create the signals Google wants to see through brand, public relations, and consumer experience than it is to try to fake them.

As search is becoming "a digital representation of the physical world" some of the best SEO tips in the years to come will have nothing to do with sitting at a computer. In due time, in search, there will be no security through obscurity.

As Google continues to add signals to it's algorithm from mobile devices, social signals such as +1, local and review signals, etc. search engine optimization for law firms will increasingly become less about how to game the Google results and more about developing a trusted brand online. Search engine optimization is becoming a way to position your website, blog, profile, or other "professional online presence", as a source of information, answers, and solutions to a potential client.

How Does This Impact Your Law Firm?

This forces your firm to become more active participants in the development of your content and reputation online. Whether that takes the form of investment into content development in house or through a third party, having a strategy in place to create, share, and publicize content is going to be essential. And this content is not limited to just writing articles. Videos, reviews, infographs, newsletters, webinars, are all the types of content your firm should be looking at if you are interested in building a long term online marketing strategy.

Additionally, the content needs to have real substance behind it and be genuinely helpful for your potential clients. Simply churning out articles or other content for the sake of it isn't going to be as effective as creating content people actually find engaging and interesting enough to share.

Don't Make Excuses

It's easy to dismiss legal content as "boring" and the type of stuff no one wants to share. That simply isn't true. That's a lazy way of thinking about it. The problem of boring content exists with most legal content online today but that simply means there is a lot of opportunity for someone to do something a little bit different and present the information is a unique way. It comes down to allocating the appropriate resources into your online content strategy and development to come up with something a little different. The problem isn't that all legal content is boring, the problem is that most law firms present it in a boring way.

May 16, 2011

Using Google Reader

RSS feeds are a great way to keep up with news and topics related to your specific legal niche. I use my RSS feed as a way to centralize the blogs and content I want to stay up to date with, discover ideas for blog posts, follow the conversations in my industry, monitor my competitor's activity, and more. However, many lawyers I speak with aren't familiar with RSS or the use of an RSS reader such as Google Reader.

What Is An RSS Feed?



WhatisRss.com tells us:

RSS (Rich Site Summary) is a format for delivering regularly changing web content. Many news-related sites, weblogs and other online publishers syndicate their content as an RSS Feed to whoever wants it.

RSS solves a problem for people who regularly use the web. It allows you to easily stay informed by retrieving the latest content from the sites you are interested in. You save time by not needing to visit each site individually. You ensure your privacy, by not needing to join each site's email newsletter.

Our email boxes are already flooded with too many emails and receiving blog updates this way can be cumbersome. Subscribing to RSS updates through a reader is a more advisable way to consume the blog content. Benefits include:

  • Reducing the time and effort needed to check websites for updates

  • They help to aggregate all your information into one space, a sort of personalized newspaper you create

  • It allows you to pull information from the web rather than have information pushed to you via email

  • You can easily unsubscribe from feeds

  • You can keep information more organized via tagging, labeling, categorizing, sharing, liking, etc.

Google Reader

In order to subscribe to RSS updates, you will need to use an RSS Reader. My RSS reader of choice is Google Reader. Here is a short video explaining Google Reader and how to use it:

Google Reader Mobile

Google has a very good mobile version of their Google Reader as well. It offers many of the same features and benefits of the desktop version.

May 6, 2011

Diversify Your Web Strategy

Whether you are investing or growing crops, diversifying your assets can insulate you from risk and help you expand your enterprise. The same is true for your web strategy, especially your web content. Here are a couple aspects to your web strategy that you should focus on making more diverse:

Diversify Traffic Sources

Diversifying the sources from which you get traffic to your web properties is critical to long-term success online. While search engines can be an excellent source of traffic (and will likely dominate your search traffic source share), relying too heavily on search engines will make you extremely vulnerable to changes in the search algorithm. Such reliance will also cause you to miss out on a lot of other relevant web traffic.

Diversify Link Sources

Getting more quality links from a more diverse cross-section of root linking domains is a very strong signal to Google. Relying to heavily on a couple sources of links, is really a losing web strategy. In fact, each new link you get from the same domain is likely to have a diminishing return. Therefore, you need to be constantly on the lookout for new link sources that will diversify your backlink profile.

Diversify Your Web Content

When you think of online content, you probably think of words. Don't worry most people do. However, there is a vast variety of online content that isn't pure text. As important as words are to your web strategy, you simply can't ignore these other types of web content. Diversifying your web content will make your site more interesting which will attract new visitors, social shares, and or course, links. All of which are critical to have success on the web.

So the next time that you are thinking about how much traffic you're getting from search engines, or trying to get another link from a site that you already have 100 links from, or sit down to write another blog post, article, or boring new page of written content, think about how you can diversify your web strategy.

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.

optify-ctr-1-20.png

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.