How can I be sure I’m making the most of my marketing budget?

If you would like to get more out of your marketing budget, you may want to consider hiring a firm to help. Here are some questions attorneys and law firms should be asking themselves and thier potential marketing partner.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Can you meet with a local account representative who can make immediate changes to your marketing campaign?
  • Is it a long-term relationship or is it always a new rep?
  • Are you getting the results you expected?
  • Do you feel you’re getting your money’s worth?
  • Can you be spending your monthly budget better or more effectively?
  • Have you considered taking your budget and reallocating it across more opportunities?
  • If so, how?
  • Who will help you manage all these different relationships?

Questions for your marketing partner:

  • How big is your marketing firm?
  • How many clients do you have?
  • Where is your headquarters?
  • Who will work with me and what are their qualifications?
  • Who do contact if I need to make immediate changes?
  • What kind of clients do you work with?
  • What is your marketing expertise?
  • How do you measure success and track and report results?
  • Do you require longterm contracts?
  • What do I get when/ if I decide to leave?
  • Do I have easy access to my site, content, analytics, etc.?

I have a website I’m happy with. What else can I be doing to market myself?

Successful Internet marketing means creating and leveraging a strong online presence. Your online presence is a combination of all of the ways you are represented on the Internet: your website, online profiles, videos, blog posts, podcasts, social media pages, directory listings, and more. Used separately, each one helps you be found by more prospects and clients. Used together, they will help you get as much visibility online as possible to grow your business.

Read my article “Online Lead Generation: Seven Tactics To Grow Your Law Practice” to get more tips about using the Internet for marketing.

 

I know I need to add content to my site but I don’t have a lot of time. How can I get started?

One great way to add useful content to your site is by collecting and sharing information that you come across during the course of your regular day. This is known as “content curation.” When you curate content from around the web, you choose the most relevant and interesting items that are related to your practice and the interests of your clients and prospects. These can be news stories, recent decisions, current events, or articles on another website. You can then simply add your comments or opinion, recap the article, and tell readers why you think this is helpful or important for them.

There are many ways to use curated content to build your reputation and attract more of your ideal clients. Here are three:

  • Blog. A blog is a great place to share your curated content. People expect to read your opinions on a blog. It’s a great way to show your expertise and add your interpretation.
  • Website. Google rewards high quality, shareable content. You can create a new page on your website with your comments and a link to the information that will give you an SEO boost.
  • Social media. Be sure to share any content that you find online with your friends and followers. This will drive people back to your website and improve your reputation as an expert.

Why are client reviews so important for attorneys?

With more consumers using the web to post reviews, you need to make sure you are protecting your good reputation. Avvo, LinkedIn, and your own website are the best places to have reviews. When someone searches for “your name and review” you want these websites to come up first. I can’t emphasize enough how important reviews have become, especially for attorneys. In fact, 85 percent of consumers say that they read online reviews for local businesses to determine whether these businesses are good or not. (This is up from last year’s 76 percent).

Yelp is a common review site for everything from restaurants to hair salons. They have recently started to expand in to professional services including attorneys and law firms.  It’s the least friendly to account holders in terms of managing your reviews compared with Avvo and LinkedIn.

Being proactive and having several good reviews is critical. Many times I see that the first review of an attorney is unfavorable, followed by a spurt of positive ones. I know that instead of asking clients for reviews regularly, he or she has had to scramble to get good reviews published so as to push the negative one down. Take the time now to get some good reviews before this happens to you. Remember, given the nature of your business one party usually is not pleased with the outcome.

You may learn more about client reviews in my blog post, “How to Manage Your Online Reputation.”

How can I keep tabs on my name online?

Monitoring your reputation online can be time-consuming. You want to make sure you’re visiting review sites and searching for your name every day. There are several tools that can make this a lot easier. One of the simplest is Google Alerts. This free service from Google allows you to type in any search term, such as your name or the name of your firm. Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your queries.

You can enter as many terms as you like. It’s a great way to see where your name is being mentioned and see any reviews as soon as they’re posted. You can also use Google Alerts to keep track of a developing news story, a competitor, an event or anything you want to stay up-to-date on. Check out Google Alerts here: http://www.google.com/alerts.

Question: Snapchat, Vine, Pinterest, oh my! Do I need to stay up to date with all the new online tools?

It depends. When in doubt, the most important thing to ask yourself is, “What are my clients using?” More and more of us are signing up for Facebook accounts every year, including users over 65. On the other hand, the only people I know using Snapchat (the photo sharing app) have an average age of 14. Vine (the 6-second video app) is being leveraged by businesses of all types and some consumers. Pinterest (the image sharing website) is huge among women age 35-44.

If any of those are your target audience, you might want to at least read the Wikipedia entry to find out more, in case it comes up in conversation. You don’t need to use every tool, but being up to date is a quality we all look for in an attorney, and that includes knowing a bit about what’s happening online. Spend a few minutes on Google and you could learn enough to weed out new tools you do, and don’t, need to know more about.

Question: Is it true that the more someone clicks on my website, the higher my website will rank in Google?

No. Search engine marketing — on Google, Yahoo, or Bing — is one of the most effective tactics to generate leads, help you promote your expertise, reach prospects and stay connected with clients. Search rankings are notoriously unstable, and subject to a variety of factors such as the location of the person searching and whether they’ve logged in to Google and are using personalized results. But one thing they do not depend on is the amount of traffic coming to your website.

Enhancing your website so that it’s listed at or near the top is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Higher rankings can boost your visibility and a drop in rankings can mean a loss of potential consumers. A good SEO project can take three to four months to begin showing a real impact, depending on a number of factors such as the age of your site, the number of quality inbound links you already have, and the competitiveness of specific relevant keywords. SEO is not a quick-fix marketing tactic that can deliver results in a matter of hours or days. Instead, it typically takes a diligent, ongoing process that gradually improves your site’s rankings.

Question: Should I add video to my law firm website?

Yes! Video has many benefits for attorneys. Website visitors in general are getting more visual and enjoy viewing video online. It’s a great way for prospects and clients to get to know you quickly and easily. You can share your expertise on a particular topic without having to write a long article. And according to a new study, having video on your website can improve your search engine rankings. In fact, according to Forrester Research, an indexed video has a 50 times greater chance of ranking on the first page of Google results than a text page. Videos can be hosted on YouTube and link to your website, and other online profiles like LinkedIn, AttorneyConnect, Avvo, and Justia. Adding video to your marketing mix is a smart move.

How can lawyers reach prospects who are using smartphones and iPads?

Here in the Northeast we’re “on the go” and tend to be early adopters, rushing out to buy the latest thing. We’re using all kinds of mobile phones and tablets more than ever. What’s interesting is that as the demand for mobile devices grows so does the need for local business information like your firm’s name, address, and phone number. According to a recent study, search for local business information on mobile phones continues to grow with nearly 86 million people accessing this info on their mobile phones last year, a 63% increase since 2010.

Two things lawyers can do now to make sure prospects can find you via their mobile phone are 1) make sure your website is readable on a mobile phone and 2) make sure your local listings are up-to-date on sites like Google Local, Google Maps, CitySearch and Internet Yellow Page sites. With more people searching for information on their mobile phones, you need to make sure clients and prospects can find you quickly and easily and that they’re getting the most accurate information about your firm.

Is FindLaw or Martindale-Hubbell Worth The Cost?

If you don’t have a website or your website is simply a business card online without video, testimonials, articles, or Q&As, you may benefit from investing in these services for a year or two to jump start your marketing efforts. Then you should harvest your investment by transitioning your site to a more affordable option and invest the money you saved in even more marketing opportunities.

The point is that you don’t have to pay just one company a premium rate year over year. Once you decide to take your Internet marketing to the next level, it’s time to move on to an agency that’s dedicated to your success.

Question – Is YouTube something attorneys should use?

YouTube is an excellent place for attorneys to promote themselves with short online videos. Videos hosted on YouTube may be embedded or link to your website, and other online profiles like LinkedIn, AttorneyConnect, Avvo, and Justia. A short intro video of yourself can help break the ice for potential clients who may be hesitant to call your office to discuss a legal matter. Videos give folks a glimpse of who you are and can be an effective way to present yourself when you can’t.

Question – What’s up with Google Places?

Google Places, the online directory of businesses around the world, has been entirely replaced by a new feature, Google+ Local. As of April 30, 2012 roughly 80 million Google Place pages worldwide have been automatically converted into 80 million Google+ Local pages. It’s a dramatic change though it will undoubtedly disorient some users and business owners.

Google+ now contains a “Local” tab and static Google Places pages now give way to more dynamic Google+ Local pages. The Zagat 30-point rating scale is also replacing Google’s star ratings. Users will be able to discover the new Google+ Local pages in several ways: through a search on Google.com or Google Maps, in mobile apps or through a search on Google+.

Google+ Local pages are much more visually interesting. They also enable the presentation of a wider variety of information types than Google Places allowed. They will permit local businesses to develop followers and message them, and to have the kinds of social interactions now available on Facebook and Twitter. As a result, Google+ becomes another local search destination within Google, arguably with richer content and more functionality than Google.com offers at the results page level.

The conversion of Google Places pages to Google+ Local pages is taking place regardless of whether Places pages were claimed by business owners or not.
Google says there will be many more merchant features to come.

Question – What is Google+ and do I need it?

Google+ (pronounced and sometimes written as Google Plus, sometimes abbreviated as G+) is one of the newest social networking sites. Launched as a test in June 2011, the site became available to all in September. The New York Times declared it Google’s attempt to rival Facebook, which has over 800 million users.

In January 2012, Google+ had surpassed 90 million users. However, these users are reportedly only spending 3.3 minutes a month on Google+ compared to Facebook users who spend 7.5 hours a month using Facebook.

Google+ integrates previous social services such as Google Profiles and Google Buzz and introduces new services such as the Stream, Circles, Hangouts and Games. Circles enable users to organize people into groups (Friends, Family, Acquaintances, Following) for sharing across various Google products like Gmail. Hangouts are used for group video chat. In the Stream, users see updates from those in their Circles.

I have trialed Google+ on a few attorney websites with mixed results. Although it offers more flexibility in terms of grouping contacts, both the attorney and his or her contacts need to be Google users to engage with the service. It’s a cool feature, but the verdict is still out whether it will have practical use for business development.

Question – I just got a Twitter account for my firm — what should I tweet?

Congrats on setting up a Twitter account – you’ve taken the first step. Social media like Facebook and Twitter let you stay connected with clients, share information, gather feedback, and obtain more visibility in the search rankings.

Imagine your Twitter account as a friendly information booth or place for people to ask questions and share information. You can also share links to interesting articles; post updates on the law, announce upcoming seminars or events; ask questions; solicit feedback; and ask followers what they think. Experts recommend that business tweets are two-thirds conversational and one-third promotional. Research has shown that conversational tweets produce 8 to 12 times the response of company-oriented ones. An example of a conversational tweet is, “Are Massachusetts family courts over-worked and understaffed?” A promotional tweet is, “We’ll be hosting a seminar tomorrow on Estate Planning strategies. Contact us to reserve your spot.”

Once you set up your firm’s account, commit to engaging and replying quickly. Twitter and Facebook users expect you to respond to questions and complaints quickly. To connect with followers, be real. Use an authentic, personal voice. Post your photo and business phone number. More than any other format, tweets can be casual, friendly, and transparent.

Question – I’ve noticed that Google’s layout has changed. Are there fewer paid listings now?

You’re right! On November 2, Google announced a major change to how sponsored listings would appear on their results pages. In some cases — but not all – ads no longer appear on the top and side rail, but only on the top and bottom of the page. There has never been a layout change as significant as this one and the shift poses many new challenges for advertisers.

Before 11/2/11, results pages included three listings at the top of the page and up to ten listings on the right rail. Advertisers are now competing for fewer spots in the new layout. Based on examples provided by Google, the ad placement shift to the bottom decreases the number of positions to three at the top and two to four at the bottom, a potential fifty percent reduction in listings on the first page of results. Google reports that this change is designed to improve the search experience for users and that it is based on data that ties navigation and click rates to search term and indicates where users are more likely to click based on what they’re looking for. We’ll have to wait and see what the long-term impact is.

Read Google’s official announcement

Question – Who should use FindLaw and Martindale-Hubbell?

If you don’t have a website or your website is simply a business card online without video, testimonials, articles, or Q&As, you may benefit from investing in these services for a year or two to jump start your marketing efforts.

Then you should harvest your investment by transitioning your site to a more affordable option and invest the money you saved in even more marketing opportunities.

The point is that you don’t have to pay just one company a premium rate year over year. Once you decide to take your Internet marketing to the next level, it’s time to move on to an agency that knows your local market and that’s dedicated to your success.

Question – How can I attract local clients to my website?

Since most people (97%) search online before making a purchase, it’s logical that anyone seeking an attorney will head to Google first.

The most important thing you can do to be found in a “local search” is to claim your Google Places page and verify that the basic information is accurate. I wrote an article about Google Places that explains how in more detail.

The second most important thing to attract local searchers is to gather testimonials and ratings for your business. Client reviews are critical for local attorneys to gain visibility on search engines and social directories like Yelp that people turn to for referrals. Reviews and ratings offer two benefits: differentiating your firm from the competition and improving your rankings on the search engine results pages.

Encourage your current clients to write testimonials. Once you have obtained their reviews, submit them to relevant websites and feature them in an easy-to-use and easy-to-find section on your site and LinkedIn profile.

Question – On my website I have a description of my firm, my bio, and some testimonials. What else can I include to beef up my site?

Website content is anything visitors can see on your site. It’s the “meat” in the website sandwich. Although there are many different types of content you can use to connect with website visitors and your clients, here’s a list of common formats that you may want to consider adding to your site as part of an integrated marketing strategy:

  • case summaries
  • whitepapers
  • podcasts
  • webinars
  • blogs
  • newsletters
  • research
  • tutorials
  • video
  • surveys and questionnaires
  • success stories
  • industry news
  • FAQs
  • how-to articles
  • did-you-knows

Question – I’ve been a LinkedIn member for a while. What new LinkedIn apps should I use?

LinkedIn offers a number of applications (apps) for members to connect with other members and promote their expertise. Four that I think are especially valuable for attorneys are:

Events
The Events application adds a box to your profile that shows what events people in your network are attending. This helps you find events based on your industry and job function. You can sort by most popular events, search for events, and create new ones.

Answers
LinkedIn Answers is a tool that allows you to ask questions and answer inquiries posed by other members. It is a valuable place to share knowledge and expertise. To try it, click on the “Answers” tab.

Groups
Nearly 18 million members are a part of LinkedIn Groups, with 1.5 million joining groups every week. Groups are an opportunity to participate in conversations that are relevant to your firm’s practice areas and to answer questions that match your expertise.

SlideShare
With this app, you can share presentations and documents with your LinkedIn network and upload PDFs, presentations, video or more. You can also browse and comment on the presentations of others in your network, and see the latest presentations from your network on your homepage.

Question – I’ve had success networking at local events. Do I need to use Google too?

Most attorneys are fantastic natural networkers, connecting with current clients and prospects through colleagues, peers in other professions, trade and bar associations, and networking events. They know it’s a necessary part of generating leads and growing their practice.

Only a few attorneys have chosen to use this ability to attract and retain clients via the Internet. These early adopters are using Facebook, Twitter, Google Places, Avvo, Justia and other social media to gain a competitive advantage online. And they are reaping the benefits. Taking advantage of social media to build a network can help you improve online visibility, outrank your competition, get the most out of your digital assets, retain loyal customers, and generate leads efficiently and cost-effectively.

By completing a profile on mainstream and legal social networks and optimizing properly you can dominate the search engine results pages and make it easier for potential clients to find you. This consistently strong online presence will build awareness of your expertise, generate traffic to your website, and create a flow of inquiries that will grow your business.

Question – I’m getting a lot of spam email. How can I tell which ones are real?

Our email inboxes fill up quickly these days, often with unwanted junk mail, solicitations, ads and special offers. Although most email providers are working diligently to filter out this spam, some get through and it’s not always easy to identify a legitimate inquiry. Attorneys are especially prone to receiving this type of email.

Many of these spam emails are intended to get you to give them your email address (by replying) so they can spam you with other solicitations or for more elaborate schemes. For example, one scheme involves sending you a fake check for an agreed upon amount. The check arrives $1,000 too much and they request you wire or send a check for the overpayment.

Here are some strong signals, usually in combination, that can help you identify and filter out spam quickly:

1. Country of origin.
Emails from another country can be a sign of spam. Look at the address extension to see if it ends in .org, .com, .edu or .net, the four standard American extensions. If it ends in .co.uk (United Kingdom) or another country it may be spam.

2. Lack of specifics.
Using general terms like “Dear Counsel” in the greeting and “your jurisdiction” etc. show that they don’t know you and are fishing for more specifics. [Read more…]

Question – Should I reduce my advertising with the Yellow Pages?

We all grew up with the familiar yellow book. Now there are many variations on the original and it’s still on the shelf in my house. But when was the last time you opened it up to look for something – a vendor, restaurant, or service?

If you’re like most people, you haven’t done that in a while, and I suspect most of your clients haven’t either. With more than one billion searches a day, most questions are answered with a quick trip to Google. Even more importantly, one study says almost 70% of people search online before making a purchase.

Because of this shift, companies that manage Yellow Pages are trying to maintain revenues while pitching advertisers to appear on increasingly popular online sites. These companies try to convince advertisers like you that their prospects don’t have access to computers or aren’t likely to search online for an attorney.

Advertising in Yellow Pages can be expensive, with many attorneys spending thousands of dollars each year for print listings or display ads and even more for online listings.

Most attorneys can avoid this expense. Depending on your particular practice area, geographic location, and client base, I recommend cutting back or eliminating Yellow Pages ads entirely. Do a two-month test. Track your incoming leads to find out how many are coming from yellow pages. Reduce your annual spend and see if you see a variation in lead type or volume. Or reallocate a portion of your advertising budget to online advertising and track it. You may want to move completely online.

Bear in mind not only the number of prospects and clients your advertising is generating, but the type and consider the source. You may want a certain kind of clientele that you just won’t reach from the phone book.

Question: Why doesn’t my ad show first when I increase my budget?

The days of simply spending more money to buy a top placement in Google’s sponsored ads section (not the natural listings) is long gone. Yet, there still remains a misconception among many that if you simply increase the amount you’re willing to spend on a keyword, you can buy top placement. Not true.

Google changed its criteria for serving ads several years ago as it became abundantly clear to Google that they could make more money. So the smart folks at Google asked themselves, “what will it take to make more people click on more ads?” Thus, the Adwords ‘Quality Score’ was implemented and Google did make a lot more money.

Here’s the scoop: the Google system calculates a ‘Quality Score’ for each of your keywords. It looks at a variety of factors to measure how relevant your keyword is to your ad text, to the landing page text and to a user’s search query. A keyword’s Quality Score updates frequently and is closely related to its performance. In general, a high Quality Score means that your keyword will trigger ads in a higher position and at a lower cost-per-click (CPC). [Read more…]

Question: How do I get the best rankings on Google?

Well, you’ve got to love the enthusiasm surrounding this question.

I’ll assume your asking about getting great rankings in the organic search listings as opposed to the Sponsored Listings or the local business listings which comes at the top of the search engine page when someone search with a geographic reference, like “Boston, MA divorce lawyer“.

This is referred to as SEO – Search Engine Optimization. Although there are many components to a well optimized web site, it basically comes down to this (according to Google):

  • In your site design, use text rather than images and Flash for important content
  • Have relevant and descriptive content on the specific topics you focus on.
  • Make your site work with JavaScript, Java and CSS disabled
  • Organize your site such that you have pages that focus on a particular topic
  • Avoid HTML frames and iframes
  • Use normal URLs, avoiding links that look like form queries (http://www.example.com/engine?id)
  • Market your site by having other relevant sites link to yours
  • Don’t try to cheat the system (by stuffing your pages of keywords, or attempting to target specific content at search engines, or using link farms)

Bardorf Legal Marketing is a Massachusetts Internet marketing and advertising firm working with lawyers and law firms on enhancing their online effectiveness in the areas of SEO, paid search, social media, affiliate marketing, blog and website development, and targeted local search marketing campaigns.

Question: Isn’t SEO just adding keywords

Isn’t “optimizing” a website just the task of adding lots of targeted keywords?

Although adding appropriate keywords to any web page is a critical step in properly optimizing a site, it is just one task from various interdependent actions and processes required to effectively optimize any site.

Perhaps the most important factor regarding the “process” of adding appropriate keywords to your website is specifically ‘how its done’.

The most severe ramification for improperly optimizing your site is becoming “blacklisted” by the search engines. That means, your website will never be served in the search engine results. One would really have to be totally negligent or willing to take a tremendous chance for potential short term value to become blacklisted for improper implementation of keywords, but it does happen.

For a more complete answer regarding the optimization of your website, I would invite you to read my article title SEO 101.  Let me know what you think.

Bardorf Legal Marketing is a Massachusetts Internet marketing and advertising firm working with lawyers and law firms on enhancing their online effectiveness in the areas of SEO, paid search, social media, affiliate marketing, blog and website development, and targeted local search marketing campaigns.