The 7 Surefire Steps to Successful Law Firm Marketing

The 7 Surefire Steps to Successful Law Firm Marketing

Running a successful law firm has two elements: client acquisition and client fulfillment.  Fortunately, law schools only teach you the client fulfillment part—you probably learned little or next to nothing about client acquisition.  There is no point in knowing how to practice law if you don’t know how to find clients that will hire you.

Why do I consider it fortunate for you that law schools don’t teach marketing?

If every law student graduated law school  knowing surefire ways to get paying clients, you would be forced to compete in an amazing competitive marketplace.  Lucky for you, most lawyers have little to no knowledge of marketing a law firm. They end up wasting time and resources, lurching from strategy to strategy, never quite gaining the momentum necessary to grow a practice and dominate a market. You’re not going to waste time and resources.

While we are a digital marketing firm, we fully realize that there are offline strategies that can deliver tremendous results. This guide is going to give an overview of a few of these offline strategies as well as tactics to integrate them with online strategies.

Before we get into the meat of it, here are the 6 steps:

  1. Craft the right message about your practice, figure out whom you need to reach, and when to reach him or her
  2. Establish a marketing budget and stick to it
  3. Build a website that communicates your message through both imagery and text
  4. Become an online authority
  5. Become an offline authority
  6. Tend to your online reputation
  7. Hire a professional to run a paid search campaign for your firm

1. The Right Message, The Right Person, at the Right Time

Good marketing gets the right message, to the right person, and the right time. Before you start spending any money, time, or effort on marketing your practice, you need to determine what your message is, whom you should deliver it to, and when he or she will be most receptive to it.

Craft a Unique Value Proposition

The right message is not a tagline; the tagline is simply a succinct communication of that message.  Why should someone hire you vs. a competitor? What are you able to offer that another law firm does not offer? Why does your practice exist?

Maybe you’re a former appellate prosecutor that has decided to go into private practice.  You can craft a message touting your past experience “on the other side” as an asset to your client.

Maybe you’ve specialized in a specific niche, such as intellectual property in the software industry. By declaring a specialization, you can craft a message around the specialized expertise that you have about your client’s industry.

Regardless of what you have done or whom you are, you should be able to offer some uniqueness in your services.  It is imperative you communicate your unique value proposition in your messaging.

Target “The Right Person”

Most advertising that you’re familiar with is an unmeasurable, “pray and spray” approach to marketing. Daytime television or late-night cable ads for “aggressive local lawyers that will fight for you!” are basically targeting people that don’t work 9-5 jobs (or don’t work at all).  This will include lots of people who are not your target audience.

It is advisable that you start by creating “buyer personas,” even if you do so informally. Imagine the client that is most likely to hire you and your practice and determine that person’s:

  • Age
  • Income
  • Interests
  • Occupation
  • Preferences related to your services
  • Questions that this person may have about topics related to your services

This is going to allow you to better understand the person to whom you are tailoring your message. Let’s make a few buyer personas for a lawyer that focuses on real estate:

Jonathan Ramirez, age 42. He owns a bodega in Philadelphia and nets $45k a year. He is a member of both the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and and the Association of Bodega owners in Philadelphia.  He has a number of questions about what would be involved with converting a small warehouse on Lehigh Ave. into a small supermarket.

Margie Levine, age 53. She is an executive at a fast-growing fast casual restaurant based in Philadelphia.  She is tasked with overseeing the opening of new locations throughout the region and is unsure about how certain regulations vary between Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

Deliver Your Message at the Right Time

A regional advertising firm approaches you with a pitch.  They’re going to put an advertisement for your land use firm in every bar bathroom at the Jersey Shore.  For both Jonathan and Margie, this is going to be the wrong time for them to see your message.

While this may be an extreme example, it is not uncommon to hear from attorneys that want to advertise their services on platforms that are new, but entirely inappropriate for their target audiences.  Snapchat may be the newest, hottest social media platform, but it would be an entirely inappropriate place to run personal injury ads.

A Tale of Two Law Firms Marketing On Facebook

Users go on Facebook or Instagram with a certain goal in mind; they likely want to catch up with friends, read about things that interest them, or share the minutia of their day. This is a decent medium for a real estate attorney to place sponsored content about real estate on the feeds of people interested in real estate.  It is a terrible medium for a local personal injury lawyer to share content about slip and falls.

Why is it “decent” for one lawyer yet “terrible” for another? Timing.

The content about real estate will likely be in alignment with why some of the viewers are on Facebook in the first place; they want to read about things that interest them. No one goes on Facebook hoping to read about slip and fall lawsuits.

This is not to say that no one is interested in content about slip and falls—it’s just the wrong time to deliver that content.  The local personal injury lawyer would be much better served by running a paid search campaign targeting searches related to slip and fall injuries.  He should also consider creating a blog/video series that runs through all of the particulars in slip and fall cases in the state where he practices. The right time for the PI lawyer to deliver his message is when the client is explicitly looking for it, not when the client is more interested in cat videos.

2. Establish a Budget For Your Marketing

Does Your Law Firm Serve Businesses or Private Individuals?

Marketing a divorce lawyer has very different costs involved with it that marketing a firm focused on subrogation.

Marketing law firms that serve individuals

The 2018 Deloitte CMO Survey indicated that b2c businesses spend the highest percentage of gross revenue on marketing at 18%. This would indicate that a startup personal injury firm should consider spending anywhere from 10%-20% of gross revenue to get started.

The Small Business Administration recommends spending 7%-8% of gross revenue on marketing if your business generates less than $5 million dollars in gross revenue annually. Considering that most startup law firms are earning less than this $5 million a year, this might be the right number for your firm.

Marketing law firms that serve businesses

If your practice provides legal services to other businesses, your marketing efforts will be quite different from those of a firm that aims to reach the masses.  The 2018 survey by Deloitte in the previous paragraph reports the “service consulting” industry allocating 12% of gross revenues to marketing. For a firm whose area of focus could be described as service consulting, it may be necessary to spend 5%-15% of gross revenue on marketing, especially in the case of a startup law firm

3. You Need to Build a Website

In 2018, the most common content management system (CMS) on the internet is WordPress.  You’ve almost certainly heard of it before.

WordPress is great for law firm marketing for a number of reasons:

  • It is probably the easiest CMS to use
  • It is open-source and boasts a massive community of users and contributors. If you can dream up a function that you would like your website to perform, someone has likely developed a free or inexpensive addon—referred to as a “plugin”—that can provide that feature
  • For a cash-strapped startup law firm, there are tons of local developers that can get a template WordPress site up to help you market your firm
  • WordPress will allow you to begin blogging.  By writing blogs, you’ll be able to answer the sorts of questions that potential clients are likely to type into the search engine. By answering these questions, you’ll demonstrate your expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) to the search engine while gaining an opportunity to pitch your services.  E-A-T is how Google determines the “worth” of your site, which will impact your likelihood to rank. More on this later.

Should Your Law Firm Build a Custom Theme or use a Customized Theme or Template?

This is a hotly debated topic in the world of web design. Our agency rarely builds custom themes because they cost markedly more than a customized theme or template and can deliver the same results.  Here is a rundown of the upsides and downsides of each:

Custom Theme (typically $5k-$15k)

This is a WordPress theme that is coded from scratch.

Pros:

  • When designed right, they can be very fast to load
  • Saves storage space, often 80% smaller than a premium customized template

Cons:

  • Expensive; usually cost $5k-$50k depending on the complexity of the design and the skill/reputation of the developer
  • When designed wrong, can perform worse than a well designed customized theme

Customized Premium Theme (typically $2k-$7k)

This is a premium theme that was purchased and customized to your specifications.

Pros:

  • If it’s a good theme and the developer knows what he is doing, it can also load fast
  • Often widely used, so most bugs have already been discovered and addressed
  • Much more affordable than a custom theme

Cons:

  • They are usually bigger than custom themes, often as large as 15mb-20mb
  • More expensive than a template

Template Theme (Typically $500-$1500)

This is a paint-by-numbers theme.

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • You can get started fast
  • You have a WP site, which some SEOs believe is better for search rank than a Wix or Weebly site

Cons:

  • You are often limited in your customization options
  • There’s a high likelihood that your site will look like someone else’s

You Need a Website that Clearly Communicates Your Message

Messaging is the #1 problem with most attorney websites.

You read the previous section and now you understand what you need to say, whom you’re saying it to, and when you need to say it.  Now it’s time to build a website and make sure that you’re delivering this message.

Most attorneys fall short during this step. They often rely on IT and web designers to deliver their message, despite the fact that neither has a background in marketing.  If you are not crystal clear about what you want to communicate to your visitors, the person building your website will not do so effectively. Unless you are working with a marketing agency to craft your message and build your website, you must have everything spelled out for your web developer.  Fail to do this and you’re probably going to miss out on a lot of business.

Visuals are just as important as the site copy

Visitors are going to look at the photos, graphics, colors, and typefaces on your website before they read a word of what you’ve written.  Craft that message with your images.

Case Study in Using Images to Communicate Benefits, Not Features

We began working with a law firm that handles life insurance claim denials for beneficiaries.  This was the website that they built originally:

boonswang law original site

Months went by and visitors to the site were not contacting the firm for consultations.  The firm that built the site changed to the header image, resulting in this site:

boonswang law second site

The site still wasn’t converting visitors.  This was mostly due to faulty visuals that did not effectively communicate the benefits of having the firm represent beneficiaries.

The initial design was simply of a plaque outside the office, which communicated nothing at all. The contact form and contact information did not really stand out against the design, resulting in a website that did not drive leads.

The redesign addressed the issues with the contact information, but the header image communicated nothing other than “our clients are sad and helpless”—the exact opposite of what a firm should want to communicate.

We rebuilt the site with visuals that focused on the outcome of hiring the firm.  The father is not in the photo, but the mother and the young girl are ok, enjoying a beautiful sunset—the entire reason why the family purchased the life insurance policy in the first place.

new boonswang law website

Law firm website headers most commonly feature pictures of the partners. No one cares about them.  The header of your firm’s website should say something about your client, not you.  If your client needs workers’ comp benefits to pay the bills, get better and go back to work, the header should feature workers in an industry that is prominent in your area. If you’re an expert in land use, show some images of the groundbreaking of a large construction site.  Focus on why people hire you and not who delivers the services.

4. Become an Online Legal Authority

Now that you have a WordPress website, you’ll be able to start working on creating an online reputation.    As I mentioned in a previous section, becoming an online authority in your area of expertise has a number of benefits.  The first is that it helps your site to rank in Google.

Ranking On Google Is Much More Than Being #1 for 3 Keywords

When we began working on the Boonswang Law website (see previous section), the founder expressed that he “had to rank for life insurance lawyer and life insurance lawyers.”  After running pay-per-click ads for 4 years and collecting data on hundreds of thousands of queries, the term “life insurance lawyer” and its close variants only account for roughly 30% of client inquiries that he received.

The remaining 70% of client inquiries came from people that had performed searches such as:

  • What to do when beneficiary of life insurance is deceased?
  • Lawyers to sue metlife over death benefits
  • Can insurer deny benefits over lapsed payments

These, along with the thousands of other relevant queries, are great opportunities for your practice to get in front of potential clients.  To start, it gives you an opportunity to pitch your services while they are on your page. Second, when Google receives positive user signals—meaning that the visitors seem to stop searching after they visit your site—you’ll earn “expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness” in the eyes of the search engine.  This will increase the likelihood that your site will show up for other queries.

Online Content Can Be Much More than Blogs

There are tons of different ways that you can provide valuable content and build your reputation online.  Among them are:

  • Facebook live
  • Webinars where you share your expertise
  • Linkedin videos
  • YouTube videos
  • White papers
  • Infographics (though I’m not the hugest fan of this content)

5. Become an Offline Legal Authority

Several of the most prominent personal injury and workers’ comp law firms in the Greater Philadelphia Region built their practices around their relationships with labor unions.

Do what you can to cultivate relationships with trade associations, chambers of commerce, unions, or any organization that your prospective clients may interact with.  This is a time-consuming process, but one of the most valuable assets that your firm will have.

Speak at as many Meetups, CLE events, conferences, or any other gatherings as you possibly can.  Build a reputation in the market that you wish to serve. When a member of the local organization is injured, you may be the attorney that his friends recommend.  When someone is injured on the job, the union rep may be the person that recommends he hire you.

6. Cultivate Your Online Reputation

According to Review Trackers, 83% of clients check reviews before hiring an attorney.

That’s something that you simply cannot ignore.

In addition, quantity and quality of online reviews are a ranking signal for local SEO, making online reputation management a part of a solid SEO plan.  Your practice must develop a plan to solicit reviews from happy clients and know how to handle negative online reviews.  Having a long list of positive reviews of your firm will help you to close the leads that you have and quite possibly play a role in getting your practice onto a prospective clients’ shortlist.

Doing so can be as easy as creating a template email to send to all of your happy clients.  Within that email there should be a link to leave a Google, Facebook, Avvo, and/or Yelp review. If you can only pick one out of the bunch, my recommendation is to focus on your Google reviews.  After setting up a Google My Business account, you can create a link that will send people right to a box where they can leave reviews.  Simply sending them a link to your Google profile or  knowledge panel will add unnecessary steps and confusion, so learn how to create the link.  This link will show you how.

7. Hire a Professional to Run a PPC Campaign for Your Firm

If your law firm is marketing to the general public and not businesses, you should be running paid search ads.

We’ve heard all of the nonsense excuses; ignore them. We’ve never run a PPC campaign for a law firm that wasn’t ROI positive.  If you’ve tried and haven’t gotten any business from it, it was because you didn’t know what you were doing.

PPC management for law firms is not something that just anyone can do.  You’re going to be going up against professionals that are using sophisticated scripts and techniques that a non-professional simply won’t be able to compete against.

Before you do hire someone, there are a few steps that you need to take:

  • Calculate your customer lifetime value. How much is a case worth to you? You need to know how much you stand to earn per client acquisition and how much you can spend to acquire a new client.
  • Set up robust conversion tracking. By setting various conversion goals and importing them into Google Adwords, you’ll be able to know how much it cost to get a prospective client on the phone.
  • Keep track of your close rate. Out of every client contact that you receive that you can attribute to your Adwords campaign, what percentage turn into revenue?

By keeping tabs on how much it costs to generate revenue for the firm, you’ll be less likely to complain that “Adwords is expensive.”  If it costs you $600 to acquire a new client that is likely to generate $8k, that $600 cost is money well spent.

“Lawyer” vs. “Attorney” For Your Website’s SEO

Does Using “Lawyer” vs. “Attorney” Impact Your SEO Efforts?

Long gone are the days of having to feed Google exact match keywords. Through machine learning, including RankBrain and natural language processing (NLP), the search engine knows what people want when they enter a query.

That said, user intent may change based on whether they are using the term “attorney” vs. “lawyer”

If a local electrician is looking for representation in a workers’ comp case, he is going to be more likely to use “lawyer” or “attorney” vs. an insurer that is recruiting “lawyers” vs. “attorneys” to handle subrogation claims. Does this affect your search rankings?

In this post I’ll show you some data culled from local searches in the New Jersey and Philadelphia markets as well as some Google Trends data to help you determine if it matters whether you use “attorney” or “lawyer” on your site and if it does, which is likely to impact your website’s search rank given your area of practice.

Is there a difference between someone that is “a lawyer” vs. “an attorney?”

This is one of those questions that the first page of Google cannot seem to agree upon.

The majority of results on page one state something along the lines of “a lawyer is someone that graduated law school but doesn’t represent people in court. An attorney can represent clients in court.”  In the United States, this is not true; there is no difference between a lawyer and an attorneyThe American Bar Association states that ” A lawyer (also called attorney, counsel, or counselor) is a licensed professional who advises and represents others in legal matters”—the two terms are synonymous.

In countries outside the United States, such as the UK, there are legal professionals whose duties vary greatly depending on their title.  For example, British legal professionals are either barristers, who represent clients in open court or solicitors, who are able to litigate in court but not to argue cases in open court. Additionally, a barrister doesn’t deal directly with clients, acting instead through a solicitor.

Using “Lawyer” vs. “Attorney” Changes the Search Engine Results

The first question is “does it matter whether you use ‘lawyer’ vs. ‘attorney’ when performing a search?”

We typed in a few different queries to see if changing “lawyer” for “attorney” had any impact on the results.  Let’s check the results:

“Divorce Lawyer Near Me” vs. “Divorce Attorney Near Me”

ch divorce lawyer vs attorney 1

“Personal Injury Lawyer Philadelphia” vs. “Personal Injury Attorney Philadelphia”

philadelphia personal injury lawyer vs attorney 1

“Divorce Lawyer Philadelphia” vs. “Divorce Attorney Philadelphia”

philadelphia divorce lawyer vs attorney 1

This is a very small sample. Its purpose is to simply illustrate that the search results do change when using lawyer vs. attorney. In the next section, we’ll take a look at a very large sample of data through Google Trends.  We’ll compare a number of areas of practice to see whether searchers tend to use “lawyer” vs. “attorney.”

What Does Google Trends Say About User Searches for “Attorney” vs. “Lawyer”

Personal Injury


Divorce


Workers’ Compensation


Social Security Disability


Google Autocomplete Insights Are Often More Actionable Than Google Trends Data

Autocomplete is one of the least talked-about and underutilized SEO tools in our toolkit. While Google Trends simply provides insights into search volume, autocomplete “predicts” what we are likely to type next, providing us insights into what the search engine thinks you are looking for.  Autocomplete is impacted by your location, the time of day, your past searches, and recent search trends in ways that Google Trends isn’t.

Let’s take a look at a number of autocomplete screenshots from our office in Cherry Hill, NJ:

Bankruptcy lawyer vs. attorney

Personal injury lawyer vs. attorney

Social security disability lawyer vs. attorney

Workers compensation lawyer vs. attorney

In this case, it looks like a lawyer would be better served by focusing on “workers comp” than workers’ compensation and she’s definitely a “lawyer” and not an “attorney.”

Divorce lawyer vs. attorney

It is important to keep an eye on these autocomplete predictions.  They are dynamically generated and more likely to correlate with search results than data from Google Trends. Ignore them at your own peril.

Can We Use Google Search Console Data to See Whether to Target “Lawyer” vs. “Attorney?”

Using Google Search Console data is going to potentially present biases into the data.  We’ve already optimized our client sites to “lawyer” or “attorney,” which would skew the data.  We want to know what people are searching for, not what Sagapixel has optimized for.

Ultimately, Keyword Permutations are Not the Most Important Thing in Your Firm’s SEO

You should be focusing your SEO efforts on answering the questions that people have about your areas of practice. First, doing so will put you in front of potential clients.  Second, if people engage with your content—that is, they read it and don’t immediately click back to Google and look at the next result—you’ll earn trust signals that will help your site to rank

If someone types “divorce lawyer near me” vs. “divorce attorney near me” Google knows exactly what that searcher wants. They want someone located near him or her to represent him or her in divorce proceedings. 

The algorithm is not looking at whether you used “lawyer” vs. “attorney” on the site.

It is looking at items such as:

  1. The proximity of the attorney’s office to the searcher
  2. The “trustworthiness” of the site
    1. If its copy well-written
    2. Whether the site mobile-friendly
    3. If it have spammy backlinks that seem manipulative
  3. Click data from past users that have clicked on the attorney’s result on Google (this a big one that not enough website owners and SEOs talk about)
  4. Links from other websites, especially local websites, which indicate that the practice is active in the local community

The Top 5 Questions Every Lawyer Asks About Marketing a Law Firm

5 Questions Every Lawyer Asks About Marketing a Law Firm

You are an expert when it comes to the law, but law school didn’t prepare you for one of the most essential parts of running a successful practice: marketing. Over the last decade of helping law firms to grow their practices, we’ve heard the same questions over and over. This guide will answer all of the top questions that our attorney clients ask us regularly.

Quick Links

How Much Should I Spend on Marketing My Law Firm?
How Much Time Should A Lawyer Spend on Marketing vs. Practicing Law
What Results Can a Law Firm Expect from SEO?
Why Do Law Firms Fail in Online Marketing and SEO?
How Can Blog Posts Help Market My Law Firm?

#1 How Much Should I Spend on Marketing My Law Firm?

Experts recommend dedicating anywhere from 2% to 18% of a business’s gross revenue to marketing. Yes, that’s a very wide range; so let’s narrow it down a bit.

First, consider whether your practice is b2c or b2b

Marketing a personal injury firm is very different from marketing a practice that provides services to health care providers. There are marketing mixes that are more effective for each of these target markets and varying costs associated with reaching them.

B2C

The 2018 Deloitte CMO Survey indicated that b2c businesses allocate the highest percentage of revenue to marketing, with 18% of gross revenue spent on marketing. According to this report, a personal injury, workers’ compensation, or family law attorney that wishes to reach the masses will likely have to spend in this range in order to achieve maximum results.

How much should you spend to market a small law firm?

On the other hand, the Small Business Administration recommends spending 7%-8% of gross revenue on marketing if your business generates less than $5 million dollars in gross revenue annually. Considering that most sole practitioners generate less than this number, the argument could be made that this is a more reasonable allocation for a marketing budget.

How much should you spend to market a new law firm vs. an established one?

It is important to consider the stage of your practice. If your practice does not have a brand, a name that everyone in your market recognizes, you should consider reinvesting 10%-18% of your gross revenue in marketing your firm. An established practice may be able to get away with a spend of 2%-5% to maintain its brand.

B2B

If your practice provides legal services to other businesses, your marketing will differ entirely from a practice that serves the general public.
According to the aforementioned 2018 survey by Deloitte, the “service consulting” industry reports allocating 12% of gross revenues to marketing. For a firm whose area of focus could be described as service consulting, it could be beneficial for that firm to allocate 5%-15% of gross revenue to marketing depending on its stage of growth.

Second, Consider Your Firm’s Growth Stage

Are you just hanging out a shingle in your local town? Do you have a practice that is well-known in a given market but wishes to expand? Are you considered an industry leader and aim to simply maintain that status?

If you are just starting out in a market, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve just graduated from law school or if you’ve already become an industry leader. In the eyes of your target, you are unknown and undifferentiated.

In order for you to achieve some level of brand awareness and differentiation, you’re going to have to dedicate resources. You are likely going to have to dedicate 8%-15% of your gross revenue if you wish to establish a brand with a unique value proposition.

#2 How Much Time Should A Lawyer Spend on Marketing vs. Practicing Law

If you haven’t read the previous section, read it and return to this section.
There is an opportunity cost for every hour that you spend on marketing vs. practicing law.
If you have an hourly rate of $175/hr and you spend 10 hours a month writing blogs, going to networking events, and hosting free informational sessions, bill yourself for your time. In essence, you’re spending $1,750/mo on marketing. If you were to hire someone write for you at $125/hr, you would still come $50/hr ahead if you spent that time practice law.

If you have free time and you are determined to DIY your marketing, dedicate as much of it as you can to grow the practice. If you are foregoing billable hours to handle marketing, you are likely losing out on revenue since few marketing agencies have hourly rates higher than yours.

#3 What Results Can a Law Firm Expect from SEO?

The results that a law firm can expect from search engine optimization (SEO) vary greatly depending on the consumer and the specific SEO practices that are followed.

Is Search a Part of Your Customer Journey?

No marketing channel is a panacea. Although it is unlikely, there always is a possibility that search is not part of your customer journey.

If your target clients are locals needing representation in workers’ compensation claims, SEO is likely to play a part in the process that they go through before getting representation. Whether they explicitly Google “workers’ comp lawyers near me” or search for “can I get workers’ comp for carpal tunnel,” SEO will present an opportunity for you to get in front of them and allow you to pitch your services.

If your target clients are large corporations needing representation in real estate transactions, search is likely to play a secondary or possibly no role in your customer journey. McKesson is not going to turn to Google to find an attorney to represent them when they buy land for their next facility. However, let’s say your firm creates a guide that answers all of the questions that a company may have about land use regulations in Ohio. You will have a valuable opportunity to create brand awareness in decision makers at companies as they research online and find your guide.

In other words, SEO may help to get your immediate results if you wish to reach individuals and it may help you to get long-term results if you wish to penetrate companies.

If search is not a part of your customer journey at all, you’ll never see results from SEO.

You’ve Determined that SEO Will Help Your Law Firm; How Long Will it Take to See Results?

The Local 3-Pack

If you operate in a market with just a few competitors, it shouldn’t take long for you to see results. After doing local citations for your law firm, you might start showing up in the local 3-pack in a matter of weeks. Just keep in mind that the local map results are greatly influenced by local links, so go after any opportunities to get links from local government websites, chambers of commerce, or the BBB. If you get these links, you’re going to see results in the local 3-pack more quickly.

The Organic Results

The time that it takes to establish established expertise, authority and trust will vary from market to market, but in our market, it takes around 6 months to 12 months to do so. This is what will lead results from SEO.

We are not in 2003 and SEO is not about “putting the right keywords on your page.” In 2018, SEO is about establishing expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (that is a link to the training guide Google gives to its search quality evaluators, just in case you have any doubts about the importance of E-A-T).

In order to establish E-A-T, you’ll probably need some sort of content strategy. Let’s take the example of the top-ranked divorce lawyers in NJ.

example of the top-ranked divorce lawyers in NJ.

In the case of the search “divorce lawyers NJ,” we didn’t get a result for the front page of the law firm. Instead, we have a guide to getting started with divorce in the State of New Jersey. After millions of queries related to “divorce lawyers in _______,” Google has determined that people are more interested in obtaining information about divorce than they are interested in vetting lawyers.

Through natural language processing (NLP) and past user click data, Google has determined that this result best fills the needs of the searcher. As a result, this page receives anywhere from 1k-5k visitors a month. By creating a thorough guide to divorce in NJ and making it freely available through their website, this firm has likely generated hundreds of thousands—or potentially even millions—of dollars in revenue.

Screen Shot of ahrefs showing law firm with high organic traffic

At the same time, the firm did not start nor stop with this guide. The site has written comprehensively about divorce, family law, and all of the topics that relate to it as it could identify. By thoroughly covering these topics and demonstrating user engagement through visitors that stayed on site, it successfully established expertise, authority, and trust. By doing this through dozens, or even hundreds of posts, your firm can send the signals to the search engine that you are able to better fill the needs of Google’s users than any other site.

#4 Why Do Law Firms Fail in Online Marketing and SEO?

The firm approaches SEO as a short-term strategy

SEO is like planting a fruit tree in your yard. Just like SEO, you may not get any fruit from the tree for six months to a couple years. If you need to feed your family now, you should get a professional to do PPC advertising on Google and Bing. Think of PPC like buying your fruit from the supermarket.

Many attorneys start SEO plans knowing that it may take 6-12 months before they see results, but still get cold feet after 4 months. They get nervous and stop everything before it gets a chance to get any momentum at all. This is the equivalent of stopping the watering of a tree before it bears any fruit, then believing that fruit can’t be grown in your yard.

The firm wastes time publishing blog content that no one needs or wants

One of the things that separate good SEOs from inexperienced SEOs is their approaches to content planning. A good SEO executes tactics to identify topics that the blog is likely to be able to rank for, while a bad one just writes content for content’s sake.

If no one is searching for a topic or if a topic has already been thoroughly covered by important publications, don’t waste your time. Adequate SEO research will help you to identify topics that you can potentially rank for and that people are actually interested in reading about. If you’re interested in seeing this process, we have a video showing how to find keywords for blog topics here.

#5 How Can Blog Posts Help Market My Law Firm?

Think of your blog posts as an infomercial on your services, an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and the benefits you can provide your clients. Blogging can be an extremely cost-effective way of getting your firm in front of prospective clients. It can also serve to establish you as an authority on the topics that most matter to your prospective clients and the engagement that you get on your blog posts can serve to send trust signals from your website to Google.

For example, a person researching criminal record expungement is demonstrating an implicit need for an attorney that is skilled in this area. By writing an engaging blog post that thoroughly explains the issue, your visitor will find your website and potentially reach out to you. Why perform a second search for “lawyer for expungement” if they’re already on the site of an attorney that can help them?

The Attorney’s Guide to Raising Your Avvo Rating to 10/10

How to Raise Your Avvo Rating to 10/10

Any attorney that engages in any sort of online marketing knows Avvo.

It is the preeminent lawyer review site and one of the most visited lawyer directories. Just as Yelp can make or break a restaurant’s reputation, client reviews on Avvo can do the same. It is critical for any lawyer to actively manage his or her online reputation, as a neglected online presence could suddenly become a liability.

Whether you hope to use Avvo as a lead generation source or not, any potential clients that searches your name on Google is likely to see your Avvo profile—ignore it at your own peril.

There are best practices in online reputation management that you can employ to ensure that your rating stays as high as possible. This guide will walk you through the calculation of your Avvo rating and what you can do to maximize it.

Table of Contents

 

Why Bother Actively Managing Your Avvo Rating?

Who Actually Reads Avvo Reviews? Everyone.

Would you hire a web design or SEO company without checking their online reviews? Have you ever checked Yelp or Trip Advisor to check a restaurant’s rating?

In both of these cases, you are about to make a decision that is nowhere nearly as risky as hiring an attorney, yet think of the effort that you’ve expended in choosing the right restaurant for a Friday night out. Your clients are probably doing even more research than you did when you had your website built. At some point during this process, they will Googld your name and see your Avvo rating.

Anyone that enters your name into Google is likely to find your website, then your Avvo profile.  Here is an example of typical search results for a local attorney in Cherry Hill:

 

The Good Reviews Will Drown Out the Bad Ones

By actively maintaining your Avvo rating by monitoring it and soliciting reviews from happy clients and acquiring peer endorsements, you are preparing against the inevitable negative review.

Even the best attorneys have an occasional unhappy client, and as you probably already know, people are much more likely to leave a review when they are unhappy than if they are happy.  It is virtually inevitable that you will receive an unfavorable review from a client at some point in your career; if you have dozens or hundreds of positive reviews, it will mitigate the impact of the negative reviews.

By adopting a system for soliciting client reviews and peer endorsements, you will greatly increase the likelihood of sticking with your reputation management plan.  You will need the following:

 

  • A template email that you can send to clients upon successful resolution of their legal issues.  While it is nice to write a custom note, you are going to find yourself too busy to actually write it. This will likely result in you not asking for the review at all.
  • A set time to request the review. By timing it properly, you will increase the percentage of clients that actually leave a review.  Our experience has been that the best time to request the review is right after a client gets what they want, so don’t wait too long to send your email.
  • A list of colleagues that would be likely to leave a review.

 

What is the Avvo Lawyer Ratings Scale?

It is a rating scale of an attorney from 1-10.  Each rating has a corresponding qualitative description of it as seen in this chart:

RatingDesignation
10.0 – 9.0Superb
8.9 – 8.0Excellent
7.9 – 7.0Very Good
6.9 – 6.0Good
5.9 – 5.0Average
4.9 – 4.0Concern
3.9 – 3.0Caution
2.9 – 2.0Strong Caution
1.9 – 1.0Extreme Caution
avvo score of a legendary personal injury lawyer in philadelphia

Even Philadelphia personal injury lawyer Robert Mongeluzzi, one of the region’s most high profile attorneys, has an 8.2 Avvo rating and profile that doesn’t reflect his stellar career.

 

This rating—along with ratings from Yelp, Facebook, and other websites—may often be pulled into the search engine results when someone searches your name.  If you do not actively maintain your Avvo profile, there is a possibility that you may have a rating that is not reflective of the quality of service that you offer.  There are attorneys with stellar reputations that do not have 10/10 Avvo scores simply because they never completed the profile.

Prospective clients will Google your name and there is a very high chance that they will see your Avvo rating.

How Are the Avvo.com Lawyer Ratings Calculated?

Avvo.com’s algorithm is a guarded secret. Former Marketing Director Conrad Saam has stated that Avvo’s algorithm is like a “resume scoring application” and the company has stated little more than that.

The company has stated that:

“The Avvo Rating is calculated using a mathematical algorithm that evaluates the information in your profile. If it’s not in your profile, then we don’t know about it, and if we don’t know about it, then we can’t give you credit for it. Adding relevant information (the more current, the better) to your profile can translate into points toward your rating.”

In other words, give the site as much information about your career as you can.  The more you give it, the more it has to rate you.  As outlined in the previous section, some people will jump to huge conclusions about you and your practice based on your Avvo rating, so take the time to fill it out.

SEOs believe that the following are all criteria that weigh in the algorithm:

  • Years in practice
  • Accolades and achievements
  • Peer endorsements
  • Completeness of the profile
  • Number of reviews
  • “Contributor points” (outlined in the next section)
  • Legal publications
  • User site signals

SEO professionals have noticed that reviews and peer endorsements seem to impact Avvo’s rating more than publications and activity on the Avvo forum, but the company has yet to corroborate this anecdotal evidence.  It has only gone as far as to say that endorsements state ‘this is a strong lawyer in my community.’

The completion of the “cases won” section of the profile is likely to weigh in the algorithm. In addition to being a direct signal that the information included in the profile is complete, sharing a track record of successful resolutions will likely decrease the amount of users that “pogostick” (view your page and quickly leave to visit the next).  If Avvo’s algorithm is anything like those that power most search engines, it is tracking user engagement. If a large number of visitors quickly leave a profile page, the algorithm would likely demote it.

 

What are Avvo Contributor Points?

Avvo’s Contributor Points are a system by which lawyers can respond to questions in a “Quora-like” forum.

This is the information that the company shares about its point system:

Connecting with the Avvo community

  • Posting one of the first three answers to a question  (+10 pts)
  • Answering a question within the first hour  (+5 pts)
  • Agreeing with a recent question’s answer (+2 pts)
  • Commenting on an answer  (+2 pts)
  • Publishing a guide  (+15 pts)
  • Marking another attorney’s guide as helpful  (+2 pts)

Helping Avvo maintain quality forums and information

  • Receive an “I agree” vote on one of your answers  (+5 pts)
  • Receive a “Marked as helpful” vote on one of your answers  (+5 pts)
  • Receive a “Best answer” vote from a question’s asker  (+10 pts)
  • Receive a “thumbs up” vote on one of your guides  (+3 pts)
  • Receive a “Staff Pick” designation for one of your guides  (+40 pts)

Educating others through Avvo

  • Participate as a guest-blogger  (+100 pts)
  • Guest-host a webinar  (+1,000 pts)
  • Speak at a Lawyernomics conference  (+10,000 pts)

Most of these bullet points describe activities that would be good to engage in even without a point system. By sharing your time and expertise, you create authority and a reputation in your industry. Forums like Avvo’s now allow that authority and reputation to potentially spread throughout the world.

Steps to Getting Started with Avvo

1. Claim your profile

Naturally, the first step is to find your profile.  You can find your profile by searching here.

how to find your avvo profile

Find it your profile and claim it.

You will need to verify your identity by using LinkedIn, your email, Facebook, or phone number.

2. Fill out your profile to 95%

It does take a bit of time to fill out your profile.  Grab your laptop, put on some Netflix, and fill it out until it reaches 95%

You can only get it to 100% by adding an Avvo Rating Badge to your site, which won’t actually benefit you in any way, so don’t bother.

3. Fill out your areas of practice

This is a step that you don’t want to get wrong.

For some areas of practice, it is entirely possible that the Avvo directory is sitting at the top of the search results on Google.  This means that a prominent placement on Avvo will likely result in client inquiries.

Fill out your practice areas as truthfully as you can, but remember that if you’re a personal injury lawyer that focuses primarily on catastrophic personal injury vs. car accidents, be sure to note your practice areas to reflect that.

4. Add all of your state bar licenses

The completeness of the data that you provide will be reflected in your score, so be sure to provide as much as you can.  At the same time, don’t share anything that you’d rather not share—if you were disciplined by the Nevada State Bar in 1992 and have been practicing in Minnesota ever since, don’t list your Nevada Bar license.

5. Share all of your work experience

This is possibly the most important step.

In addition to the benefits of providing more information to the algorithm, people want to know about your background.

Would you hire an attorney without knowing where he or she has worked?  It’s also important to include accurate start and stop dates; some believe that it helps your rating. Others believe that it’s simply better at telling prospective clients your story.

6. List any awards you’ve received

While some argue that it is necessary to list awards and recognition in order to get a 10/10 Avvo rating, a brief look at the site shows that this is not the case.

On the other hand, having a number of awards and honorary memberships listed under your profile is likely to catch the attention of visitors, sending user signals to the algorithm that indicate that people are finding what they want when they get to your profile. This may be a case of it being beneficial to make your profile for people and not algorithms.

7. Add Cases to your Portfolio

Adding details about the sorts of cases that you’ve successfully handled is another way to increase positive user signals.  A long list of successful outcomes is likely to catch the attention of visitors.

8. List any organizations with which you are affiliated.

Are you a Million Dollar Advocates club member?  List it.

School board memeber? List it.

Share as much information about yourself, the organizations you are affiliated with, or anything at all that reflects well on you.

9. Share any publications you’ve authored

If you’ve ever been published, it increases your “authority” in the eyes of potential clients (and the algorithm).  Be sure to keep it professional—as riveting as your Harry Potter fan fiction may be, it’s not going to help you paint the picture of professionalism.

10. List conferences or CLE events where you have spoken or taught

Demonstrating that you have spoken at some conferences will help your Avvo rating.  It’s also important that you include a link to the even; without it, you may not get the “Avvo points.”

11. Request Peer Endorsements

SEO studies have shown that peer endorsements are a strong factor in Avvo’s rating system.  It is imperative that you request them from anyone that will give them.

The site will ask how you know each other.  It will give you the following options:

  • Fellow lawyer in community
  • Worked for lawyer
  • Supervised lawyer
  • Worked together on a matter
  • Opposing counsel on a matter
  • Co-Worker
  • Friend
  • Family Member
  • Other

We’ve seen “worked together…” and “opposing counsel…” impact the Avvo Rating 3x more than the other options, so keep that in mind when answering this question.

 

Are SEO Gigs on Fiverr Any Good? I Spent Some Money to Find Out.

Are SEO Gigs on Fiverr Any Good? I Spent Some Money to Find Out.

Even after Penguin, I still see websites using terrible, utterly spammy SEO approaches that are actually helping them to rank.

Every month, especially when there is news of “volatility” in the SERPs, I expect to see these guys crash and burn after a penalty, but alas, there they are ranking—all thanks to 425k blog comments that they sprayed across the internet.

How it is that they don’t get penalized is beyond me, but there they are, right in the money spots for some fairly competitive keywords.  I know for a fact that one of these websites is run by the owner of a competitor of my client’s business, a person that has no SEO training beyond “links will get you to page 1.”

In January of 2017, I decided to do a little experiment.  Is it possible to rank a website locally solely through Fiverr gigs?

This competitor of my client has been ranking his site by purchasing the following kinds of backlinks:

  • profile links on websites that allow dofollow links
  • massive amounts of blog comments
  • links from nonsense articles hosted on servers in Russia

It would not surprise me if he were buying traffic as well, but there was no verifiable way for me to check that.  I opted to purchase some traffic packages as well

I settled on the legal niche.

I do a lot of SEO work for law firms, so it is a niche that I am highly familiar with.  This would also allow me to compare the results of my white hat efforts for local clients against the spam efforts that I put forward for this website.

Additionally, SEO for law firms is notoriously competitive, and I thought that it would be even more powerful to rank a site in this niche than a less competitive one.

Since this website would technically constitute attorney advertising, I got a client to agree to allow me to use his phone number and contact info on the site just in case someone actually did contact him for representation.

I set up the site for my Fiverr SEO.

I didn’t want this site anywhere near my legit work, so I opened another hosting account and put up a WordPress site in about an hour (if I ever do this again, I’m going to hire a $50 Fiverr gig to do the site, which would make this an even better experiment).

It was a responsive template that didn’t look that bad.  I really put minimal time into creating content, so the copy was on the thin side, at around 200-300 words.

I bought my first Fiverr SEO gig ($6)

do fiverr seo gigs workdo fiverr seo gigs work

Sure, I’d love to get some links from Harvard, Berkeley, and Penn State!  I also loved the fact that he was “Expert and Best Hi Quality Backlinks Provider” born and raised in the old U.S. of A.  I placed my order, which was completed within a day or two.   I received a spreadsheet with the urls of the links that were “created” including the following:

http://brooklynatlantis.poly.edu
http://ask.buffalostate.edu
http://boinc.umiacs.umd.edu
https://netplusadmdev0.internet2.edu/
http://ict.usc.edu/
https://vue-forums.uit.tufts.edu

Union County Has It All!


http://setiathome.berkeley.edu
http://courses-sandbox.uplb.edu.ph
http://www.peacockroom.wayne.edu
http://milkyway.cs.rpi.edu/milkyway
http://ecologicalurbanism.gsd.harvard.edu/
http://volunteer.cs.und.edu
http://rdbp.sea.gov.ua
https://www.iupui.edu
http://community.openscholar.harvard.edu

Impressive, right?  I should be able to just sit back and let the visitors start rolling in!

Unfortunately, they were all forum profiles with a link to my new site and the anchor text that I was targeting.  Six months have passed, and none of these links have shown up in my search console.  Neither Majestic or Ahrefs ever found them either, so it really was a wash.  Obviously, these pages are not getting indexed and I’m out $6.  Could have bought a sandwich!

Since that was a wash, what about a Fiverr gig that actually gives me some metrics? ($21)

fiver gig listing tf and cf

Ok, so here we have a gig that is going to give me 5 “PBN links” with a high TF and CF and a DA/PA of 25.  I ordered the gig and got my report a few days later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

These were the domains that linked to my site:

the sites that linked to my fiverr gig

 

Now, if Google just followed Majestic’s metrics to determine rank, I’d be happy with this.  The gig cost $21 and got me a couple links from sites with metrics that weren’t that bad.  Let’s take a look at the actual sites linking to me:

fiverr gig seo site example

 

So this is less than ideal.  The link that I purchased was for a “worker’s compensation lawyer in cherry hill,” but here it’s sitting next to blogs for testosterone injection therapy.  I don’t know what Google is going to make of this, but it is typical of what the other four websites looked like.

I will add that after 6 months, all of these links are listed in my search console, so Google did crawl them.

What about a Fiverr SEO gig offering 150 links? ($11)

supposedly panda-safe SEO links from fiverr

This one is 101% manual!

It’s Penguin and Panda safe!

What could possibly go wrong?

I put my order in and wait a few days.  I’m dreaming of the torrent of cases that my client is going to get from the $50-something dollars that I’ve spent on Fiverr SEO.

I get the report and check the sites in Majestic

 

 

fiverr seo gigs are not trustworthy

 

 

 

 

Again, by Majestic standards, it’s a mixed bag.  Most are sites with no backlink profile to speak of, but a few do have some numbers in the 20s, so who knows?  The one thing that I do know is that many of these links are also in my Search Console, so Google did crawl them.  My takeaway was that I added a lot of super-spam links to my site, and if anything was going to get it penalized, it would be this gig.

Ok, let’s see how buying some Google Search traffic affects the site

buying search traffic doesn't help rank

So this service is going to search for my keyword, go to my website, and send signals to Google that my search result is best.

This has got to work, and it’s only $5!

I order, a few days go by, and I see a massive spike in visits… as well as a massive 99.9% bounce rate.  This is definitely not going to be the signals that I was hoping to send to Google.

I contact the seller and share my concerns.  She responds with an offer to provide some other services to make up for the mess that she made of my analytics.

I strongly advise against buying search traffic.  These sellers do not care enough about your $5 or $10 gig to not cut corners and end up sending your bounce rate to the stratosphere and your dwell time to 00:00.  Just don’t do it.

I stumble upon something that moved the needle ($6)

a fiverr gig that may have helped with SEOI tried a few other $5 gigs and other than seeing them affect my numbers in Majestic, I didn’t really see any other effects.  I ordered one last gig from what seemed to be one of the most popular sellers and waited.  Within a few days of buying this gig, my site was suddenly ranking on page 3-4 for the “workers comp” keyword variations that I ordered.  I was quite shocked.

The sites that hosted the blogs looked spammy as hell (see right), but amazingly enough, there was a definite correlation between buying this gig and the site starting to rank locally for the keywords I was targeting.

Most of the links that I got from this gig are still listed in my Search Console and as I have checked a few of them, they all seem to be live still.

Flying high until March 21st.

drop on march 21st

 

 

 

 

We were ranking 17-25 for the keywords that we were targeting and had spent less than $100.  That all ended when Google did something on March 21st, 2017.  My impressions dropped to half of what they were, and as of June 14th, they haven’t gone back up.  Now, I do recall training a new employee to work with the template that the site was built with around this time, and we did end up removing some content.  It may have been a result of the changes that we made to the site, or it may have been the inevitable slap that Google decided to give us.  I did notice that around this time, we stopped ranking for keywords that were often used as anchor text, so it was likely related to that.

My final opinion on Fiverr SEO gigs.

The vast majority will have no positive impact on your search rank at all.

There are a few in there that may help you in the short term, but long term, it is not an effective source for you to rank a website.  Don’t waste your time or money.

 

 

Should Your SEO & PPC Reports Be No More Than 3 Numbers?

The case for simplified SEO and PPC reporting.

Does in-depth reporting provide any value in the first place?

I work primarily with professional services firms, the majority of whom are law firms.  These clients are highly intelligent, extremely well-educated, and generally speaking, highly successful in their fields.  If anyone outside of marketing is going to be able to easily understand a typical PPC report, it would be the accountants, lawyers, and adjusters that we work with, but surprisingly, most do not.  Even after the meeting or phone call that explains a CTR or a CPA, I can tell that the majority do not entirely understand what the reports are telling them and that we need a new way to report to our non-marketing clients.

“All kinds of lines and graphs”

I recall a first meeting with a small firm in Philadelphia that was leaving a well-known attorney marketing firm from out of state.  I asked about the results that he had been seeing, what was working and what wasn’t, and he answered that “they send me an email with all kinds of lines and graphs every month, but it is impossible to read.  I’ll send you a copy of some of them and you can tell me.”  The forwarded email was a standard report that clearly outlined the changes in traffic, time on page, bounce rate, and all of the typical metrics that we use to track web traffic.  The client was a 38 year-old graduate of the University of Pennsylvania that was very comfortable managing most aspects of his website, so it was not an issue of not being “tech-savvy” or uneducated.

He just didn’t get what the numbers meant in terms of his business and the time that his agency put into those reports was wasted.

Pick three numbers and put them front and center.

PPC and SEO reporting must be simplified to the point that a child can understand it.  At Sagapixel, we have started creating dashboards for clients using Google’s Data Studio. These dashboards prominently feature the numbers that mean the most to that client.  What does your client care about?

  • Number of phone calls?
  • Number of people visiting the website?
  • Time on page?

By focusing on a few numbers that the client clearly understands and that you have mutually agreed impact the business the most, your reporting goes from being “an email with a bunch of lines and graphs” to being a document that communicates the progress and results of the work that they are paying you to do.  In the case of analytics reporting for non-marketers, less is significantly more.  All of the typical detailed reporting should be placed on separate pages as to not overwhelm or distract our clients, but still remain available should they choose to delve more deeply into the work that you’ve done.

What are your thoughts?  Have you had any positive experiences with greatly simplifying your client reporting?  Am I totally wrong? Please share below.

 

6 Invaluable Tips For a Law Firm Starting SEO

As you begin the somewhat scary process of investing thousands of dollars into SEO for your website, here are 5 invaluable tips.

1. Make sure that you’ve gotten some references for the company that you hire.

While most attorneys are too busy to get on the phone and vouch for their SEO vendor, any reputable company will have developed relationships with a few that will be willing to answer a short email about whether they are happy with the service that they’ve received.  If your prospective SEO agency cannot deliver on this, pass.

2. Make sure that you will have a monthly scheduled call

You should be constantly in the loop with what is going on.  It will send the message to your agency that if there is any slack on their end, you will pick up on it quickly.  It is very easy for a company to deliver results off the bat, then start to spend less and less time on your account as time passes.  Avoid inattentive husband syndrome.

3. Retain control over everything

Your hosting should be in your name, as should your domain name registration, and you should have administrative access of the site through WordPress.  Unless you really don’t want to deal with it, there is no reason for your SEO company to have total control over anything. Should its delivery begin to falter, the divorce will be much more difficult if you do not have possession of the site or domain name.

4. Learn to use Google Analytics

Lynda.com has a course that will teach you all of the must-know basics.  I highly recommend you take it and monitor your analytics at least twice a month.  This will give you some insights into the SEO work that your agency is doing.

5. Learn to use the Google Search Console

Start tracking your ranking for specific keywords.  If analytics tells you what people do when they land on your site, Google Search Console will tell you how they found it in the first place.  While there are many third party tools that will tell you how you are doing on Google, none will be as effective as the tool that Google provides us due to the sheer amount of data that they have.  This will give you even more insights into the work that your company is doing.

6. Your SEO company should be creating content, building backlinks, and changing things around on your site.

If they are not writing blogs, shooting video, or posting some sort of content, that is a red flag.  If they are not building backlinks to your site, that is another red flag.  If they give you some story about doing “on-site optimization,” ask for specifics about title or header tags that were changed and the effect on rank that was reflected in the Search Console.  This will allow you to call bullshit on any company that is billing you and not actually doing anything.

If you are interested in learning about SEO in general, I highly recommend you check out our series on the process of SEO:

Phase 1 – Technical SEO

Phase 2 – Local SEO

Phase 3 – Content Strategy

If are ready to take the first steps towards hiring an agency to help rank your website, you can find out more about our SEO services here.

Break Down Your Competitors’ Online Strategy Using Just 2 Free Tools

Break Down Your Competitors’ Online Strategy Using Just 2 Free Tools

What will it take to rank the site of a local attorney in local search?

Step 1: Find out who is ranking for the keywords we are targeting

We just launched a brand new site that has no backlinks.  As any good SEO knows, this site is going to need some links if it is ever going to rank for anything.  How better to develop a strategy than to see what has ranked some of the current top results?  But who are they?

For this, we’re going to go straight to Google.  We are going to check who is already ranking for the keywords that this client wishes to target:

  1. lawyers in mount holly
  2. workers compensation lawyers mount holly
  3. workers compensation lawyers south jersey

As you can tell, this client is a lawyer in Mount Holly, NJ that wishes to rank for terms related to worker’s compensation.

“Lawyers in Mount Holly”

After the local three-pack, we have a number of directory sites, followed by some local firms (several of whom are actually in the three pack).

Step 2: Uncover the linkbuilding strategies of the sites that are currently ranking well

We’re going to take these urls and put them into Majestic SEO.  Using the domain comparison tool, this is what we found:

Clearly, there is a reason that mr-law.com is outranking the rest.  While neither the citation flow or trust flow of the site is particularly high, the other sites have clearly done almost nothing in terms of SEO.  The takeaway from this is that even a modest SEO plan will rank our client for these keywords.

What has been mr-law.com’s approach to linkbuilding?

Tentative answer – Directory submissions

why is my competitor outranking me

As I scrolled through the site’s backlinks, they were mostly from low to medium-quality directories.  This is not the best approach to linkbuilding, but in the incredibly noncompetitive market that our client is competing in, this was enough to outrank everyone.

Don’t trust just one tool…

So this is what Majestic says.  What if it missed something?  We’re going to check the same site in Ahrefs.

ahrefs for law firm seo

linkbuilding law firm new jersey

Turns out that with the exception of a local real estate website, mr-law.com is relying almost exclusively on directory submissions to rank.  Outranking this website for “mount holly lawyers” should not be particularly difficult for our client, but let’s see what it will take to rank for the more competitive worker’s comp keywords.

What will it take to rank for worker’s comp-related keywords?

Step 1: Who is ranking for “mount holly worker’s comp lawyers?”

how to rank for workers comp lawyer in nj

We did not get a local 3-pack for the search “worker’s comp lawyers mount holly,” but we did get a smart snippet result (see image to the right).  We’ll have to keep an eye on what this site has done as far as local SEO and where it is ranking in the organic results.

results for seo analysis workers com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2: What are these firms doing to build backlinks?

We now have the first local results (after skipping over the first three from Superlawyers and Findlaw).  Let’s throw these into Majestic and see what we find:

workers comp lawyers south jersey seo audit

Looking at these raw numbers, I don’t see a clear winner, so let’s check them in Ahrefs:

ahrefs seo analysis south jersey

What is clear from looking at the two tools is that www.brennerlawoffice.com clearly has many more backlinks than the others, and rupinskilaw.com is the largest site (in number of pages and amount of content), but www.injurylawyernj.com has links from the largest number of domains.  For this keyword, it will likely be more difficult to rank, but we already have three different websites ranking through three different approaches.  It would best serve us to look at the specific link sources for all three sites and form a strategy based on what we learn.

www.brennerlawoffice.com

law firm using directories to rank on Google

As I scroll down the list, I come to see that the site is ranking almost exclusively through links coming from directories, similar to the firms that we saw for the previous keyword.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach as long as the quality of the directories is high.  The problem with an approach like this is that it can be copied with a few hours of work.  A site that wishes to win the local SEO game needs to have links coming to it that a competitor cannot simply create a profile for.  This is not to say that we should forego creating profiles for the client, but this is not a throrough backlink strategy.

www.injurylawyernj.com

law firm in new jersey that finally started doing SEO

This is what it looks like when a firm wakes up and starts doing some linkbuilding.

As you can see, this firm just started doing some linkbuilding a few months ago, but let’s see what they have been up to.  Are they building links through guest posting?  Are they creating content?

more links from attorney directories to boost seo

Nope—more directory links.  In comparison to www.brennerlawoffices.com, it looks like they’ve submitted to more of these directories, but the other website’s directories duplicated many of those links, resulting in more overall from less submissions.  Between the two, it’s hard to say which one is more spammy; the one that has the lower quality links or the one that gives more links per submission.

I almost don’t feel like even looking at the third one, but I have to do my due diligence and see what they’ve done.

rupinskilaw.com

example of terrible backlinking

Spam.  Either this firm has a side hustle selling air jordans in Korea or they have paid a terrible “SEO guy.”  Amazingly, this was the firm that popped up in the local snippet.  WTH Google???

What I have learned

  1. It should not be particularly difficult to outrank these websites.  I’m shocked that any of them is even ranking well.
  2. Directory links continue to work for local SEO.  Although I am doubtful of this being a long-term ranking strategy, these firms are certainly generating business from this approach.  It is a matter of time before they call a firm like mine to handle the disavows once Google rolls out a new algorithm that smacks them for all of the directory links.
  3. Rupinskilaw.com is committing some egregious SEO sins, but they haven’t been penalized yet.  Honestly, I see backlink profiles like this all of the time and I have strong suspicions that Google’s propensity to penalize websites is greatly overstated.

7 Things You MUST Do Before Doing SEO for a Law Firm in New Jersey

These first tips are applicable regardless of where your practice is.

1. Claim Your Google My Business Account.south jersey seo company

This is your free business listing on Google.  Click here to claim it.

When you’ve searched for a service and saw the big box in the upper right hand side of the search engine results page (like the one to the right), that information was populated by Google My Business.  If you want your firm to pop up there, claim it and maintain it.  Post pictures, respond to reviews, stay active.  If you go to the Google My Business Dashboard, you’ll notice that there are analytics that let you know about people that called you, viewed your business, or asked for directions.  It’s good to keep tabs on this.

2. Get A Mobile-Friendly Website

If your site is not mobile-friendly, you’re missing out on cases.  If you’re really hurting financially, get a site from Wix.com or Squarespace.  If you’re ready for a big-boy website, make sure that it’s not only mobile-friendly, but that it also has tap-to-dial markup and tap-to-email.  It’s really simple to do and shouldn’t cost extra.

3. Set up Google Analytics and Search Console

Have your web designer set up your Google Analytics and Search Console.  Even if you have not idea how to read it, the data will be valuable in the future when your firm grows and you’re ready to hire a marketing agency.

4. You are a lawyer, not an attorney, law office, or law firm

When you start doing your SEO or Adwords, know that people look for “lawyers in ______.”  They are not searching for law offices, attorneys, or law firms, so if you focus on these terms in your online strategy, you’re going to chasing a smaller piece of the pie

These next few tips are insights that we have from working in the Greater Philadelphia region

5.  SEO and Adwords work wonders for B2C practices like PI, family law, or worker’s comp, but not so much for B2B practices such as real estate law or tax law.

Corporations are not really hiring tax attorneys that they find on Google, but the private individuals that work at those corporations do hire lawyers from Google.  If you cater to this population, SEO and Adwords will almost certainly be worth it.  On that note,

6. Adwords works and you should have someone do it for you.

If you have a good Adwords manager, you’ll get clients tomorrow.  If you’re curious about seeing some of the numbers that you’re likely to see if you DIY your Adwords account, check out this other post that we wrote about the topic. In a nutshell, Adwords can be hit-or-miss for a novice, but can be a major moneymaker if you do it right.  Following us on Facebook or signing up for our newsletter can help you get there if you really want to do it yourself.

7. People in South Jersey are including town names when they search for lawyers

This is good to know when doing your SEO and Adwords.  You will find that keywords targeting specific towns that you serve tend to be a little cheaper than the broad “worker’s compensation lawyer”-type keywords.  If you are focused on the town where your practice is located, we have found that ads running location extensions tend to extremely well, so be sure that they are set up

 

 

What Law Firms Should Know Before Spending Money on SEO

Ranking highly for your area of practice may not be a panacea

Search rank for generic terms can be crucial for certain types of practice, but not all.

There are lawyers that focus on areas of practice that cater to clients with an immediate need, and others that offer services that may be of use down the road.  The customer journey—that is, the process from a client becoming familiar with your services to the point at which he or she actually hires you—differs greatly depending on the type of client you are serving.

If your clients have an immediate need for your services, ranking on page one for your area of practice could potentially make your practice.  It can be extremely beneficial for an attorneys to rank highly for keywords related to worker’s comp, DUI, family law, personal injury, and such time-sensitive areas of practice.  Generally speaking, potential clients that search for such terms are ready to hire an attorney and are not interested in deliberating.  Often, they don’t have time to ask around and interview five lawyers; those are the ones that are turning to Google to find representation fast.

If your clients are businesses, the process is more deliberative.  Businesses that need help with real estate law, tax law, or corporate law are not going to Google, searching “corporate lawyers” and hiring the firm occupying the #1 spot in the SERP.  If your goal as a tax lawyer is to build a practice by ranking #1 for “tax lawyer in baltimore,” you will be sorely disappointed once you reach your goal.

So if I do personal injury or criminal law, SEO can help me, but if I handle landlord-tenant matters, I shouldn’t bother?

That’s not what we’re saying.

If you happen to focus on an area of practice that focuses more on establishing long-term relationships vs. generating a revolving door of new clients, your goal should be thought leadership, not search rank for generic terms.

Let’s take the example of an attorney that handles landlord-tenant matters.  These are the organic results for “lawyer to evict tenant” from our office in Marlton, NJ:

is seo good for all law firms?

Generally speaking, it is going to take a lot of time and money for a local firm to outrank these national websites, and even if one were successful in doing so, it may not see the business come in.  For matters such as real estate, a landlord is not very likely to be in a rush and hire a lawyer because she was the first he could find. He is more likely to hire a lawyer because he trusts her, and thought leadership is how she generates that trust.

Let’s take the example of a different kind of search:

should law firms do seo

Buildium.com is one of the first organic results and it gives me the information that I am looking for.  Once I click on the link, I’ll come to learn that it is a property management software, which may be of interest to a landlord. This is thought leadership and SEO is one means of attaining it.  A lawyer that wishes to work with landlords in NJ should focus on creating content that would be of value to landlords in NJ and should focus all of his SEO efforts on providing (and promoting) valuable content to them.  If we were working with such a lawyer, our focus would be on ranking for searches like this one.

If your website is the one that businesses turn to for information, they are more likely to turn to you for your services

Businesses do not hire attorneys because they happened to rank highly; they hire them because they trust them

The aim of your SEO practices should be to create that trust.  Identify your business clients’ areas of interest, create content to serve them, and promote that content. If you have a practice that caters to businesses, do not focus myopically on search rank for generic terms.  Focus on being the authority that those businesses find when they search for information related to your services.  Answer questions that you know they might have.

What if my firm focuses on an area of practice that relies on a constant stream of new clients?

If this is the case, your SEO strategy should focus on your rank for focused, relevant long-tail keywords such as:

  • “Divorce lawyer in vineland nj”
  • “Lawyer for dog bite in bucks county”
  • “cherry hill lawyer for social security disability claims”

The best way to achieve high ranking for clients searching for these terms is the same as it is for the B2B lawyer, but the end goal is different.  You want to become a thought leader in order to drive SEO, which will help your pages rank highly, which in turn will get clients on the phone.  If your website becomes the authority for info on DUI defense in Pennsylvania, generating hundreds of 4-5 minute visits a day, you are going to rank well when someone is simply looking for a “DUI lawyer in Ridley.”

So what should my law firm’s SEO look like?

Your law firm should aim to be a thought leader.  If your firm caters to businesses, this will create trust that could lead to a long-term relationship.  If your firm caters to a revolving door of new clients, your online thought leadership will have aided you in ranking for the specific terms that you targeted in your local SEO efforts.  Finally, your SEO efforts should have an offline component.  You should be participating in conferences, encouraging people to follow you on social media, and telling everyone you know about your blog.

 

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Five Easy Ways to Improve Your Law Firm’s Digital Presence

By Frank Olivo, Sagapixel SEO | Web Design | PPC

It is remarkable how many law firms are missing out on basic, inexpensive solutions that could greatly help their online presence.  In this post, we are going to share a few of the most common missed opportunities that we see when we consult with new attorney clients.

You can put up a responsive, mobile-friendly website.

Amazingly enough, there are still attorneys that rely on outdated sites that are impossible to read on mobile devices.  Considering the plethora of cheap template solutions, there is really no reason for anyone to not have a mobile-optimized site.  Virtually every template created for Drupal and WordPress will allow you to have a responsive, mobile-friendly site, and both are designed for the non-technical person to be able to post blogs and change content.

You can put up a click-to-dial in the header.

More searches are being performed on mobile devices and you want to make it as easy as possible for them to get you on the phone.  Simply adding some code to the top of your site will enable visitors to tap your phone number in order to call you.

You can optimize your website  for speed.

Go to Google’s Pagespeed Insights and type in your url.  If your site is like the typical site that we encounter, it has a lot of room for improvement in speed.  People don’t want to wait for your site to load on their devices—they’re more likely to simply return to the search engine results and click on another result.  There are a number of plugins out there that can help you to speed up your site.

You can claim your Google My Business.

It takes you five minutes and allows you to control the snippets about your practice that appear in the big box in the search results.  There is no reason to not have taken care of this already.  Go ahead and Google your practice; you’ll see what we’re referring to.  You can pick what images people see, enable searchers to see a street view of your office, interact with clients that leave reviews, even display Avvo, Facebook, or Superlawyer reviews.  Having control over this service will help you to guide your online presence and increase the likelihood that you show up in results for local searches.

You can start asking for reviews from your successful cases.

When you have won a case, make a point of asking your client to give you a review on Avvo and/or Google.  People look at these reviews, and if they are on the fence about hiring you, it could be the factor that tips them towards hiring you.

We don’t want to overwhelm you with a long “to-do” list.  We do strongly encourage you to follow through on our advice, and hope that your practice continues to grow as you serve more and more of your clients.

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