2014 Legal Marketing Year in Review

2014 was a big year in Internet marketing. Some of the hottest trends – the rise of mobile and the explosion of apps – were plain to see. But many of the biggest changes happened behind the scenes. These affected Internet marketing dramatically but were invisible to the average Internet user. Staying up to date in this evolving landscape is a challenge. In this issue, find out about the big changes in 2014, five lessons for 2015, and how we work very hard to keep you safe, secure, and visible.

5 Factors That Influenced Your Online Visibility in 2014

It seems like every year there is big news in Internet marketing. The tools and techniques continue to evolve. This forces attorneys who market themselves online to get more sophisticated and to step up their game – or get a good partner who can help them.

2014 kept this streak rolling. There were many important events from Google algorithm updates like Panda, Penguin, Pigeon to natural language searches, the impact of client reviews, the retirement of Google authorship, and malware attacks on big-name companies as well as millions of websites just like yours.

Let’s take a look back at the biggest changes last year and see how these “behind the scenes” factors will impact your Internet marketing in 2015.

Factor #1: Google Algorithm Updates

Search engine marketing is becoming more important every year. Having your website listed at or near the top of Google, Yahoo, and other search engines boosts your visibility, differentiates you from competitors, and enables prospects and clients to find you more easily.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) must be constantly refined to keep up with changing Google guidelines and savvier searchers. Each year, Google changes its search algorithm around 500–600 times. While most of these changes are minor, Google occasionally rolls out a “major” algorithmic update (such as Google Panda and Google Penguin) that affects search results in significant ways. [Read more…]

Is Your Law Firm Ready for Digital Natives?

Younger consumers, especially those under the age of 35, have grown up in a world in which digital technology is ubiquitous. Also called “millennials,” this is a generation that sleeps with their smartphones and multitasks so much they don’t even realize they’re doing it: texting friends, downloading music, uploading videos, watching a movie on a phone or tablet, and posting on Facebook and Instagram and Vine and Twitter and more.

Digital immigrants, on the other hand, are those older than 35. They have a lesser degree of digital fluency as a result of being introduced to technology at a later age. While digital immigrants understand social media, smartphones, tablets, and wearable devices, and can also be avid users, their immersion is learned rather than innate.

Each of these consumers has distinctive behavior patterns when it comes to using digital technology, from devices and social networks to the Internet and apps. This influences all types of activities: how they shop, connect with friends and family, watch videos, do their banking and even choose a doctor, a real estate agent, or an attorney. According to a recent report, U.S. consumers between the ages of 18-36 check their smartphones an average of 43 times a day.

While the average baby boomer client doesn’t want to create a will or trust online or do research on how to incorporate a business, younger clients prefer it. These young people are moving into the world of work, getting married, and starting families. They are soon to become the typical legal consumers. They are used to conducting their business on the Internet and that’s also how they’ll choose their legal services. [Read more…]

Online Lead Generation: Seven Tactics To Grow Your Law Practice

The Internet has transformed the way we live our lives. The average person consults the Internet to find everything from recipes to yesterday’s game highlights and, of course, legal services. The typical consumer will search Google first, then proceed to the firm’s website or a review site. He or she may watch a YouTube video, “like” the firm on Facebook, or follow it on Twitter.

The challenge for today’s attorneys is to understand how these activities work together and how to use them to connect with potential clients. Having a well-defined Internet marketing strategy is crucial for many businesses, but is especially important for attorneys whose main source of business is their local communities. Here are the seven tools and techniques of an effective online lead generation campaign.

1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
When someone needs legal representation, the first place most turn is Google. They typically search by geographic location and practice specialty. For example, “Boston bankruptcy attorneys.” Search engine marketing allows you to reach and engage the searchers who are looking for you. The process of creating the most relevant site that is also the most search engine friendly is called Search Engine Optimization or SEO. If you’ve optimized your site properly, you’ll appear in the search engine results, making it easier for potential clients to find you and generating a flow of inquiries.

2. Mobile Marketing
A customized mobile app is a great way to tap into your client base — your best source of repeat business and referrals. The AttorneyConnect mobile app keeps your clients engaged with you and your law practice through the privacy of their personal mobile phone. “Go mobile” to stay connected with your clients and grow your business.

3. Blogging
Having your own blog not only helps establish credibility and protect your online reputation but will also help potential clients get to know you and your expertise and build trust and rapport. A blog also improves the search engine rankings of your website and increases website traffic, driving more prospects to your site.

[Read more…]

Get Found! Search Engine Optimization Demystified

Excellent article by John Kruger of Initiate Demand  in this month’s GPSolo, the American Bar Association’s journal geared for General Practice solo practitioners and small law firms. The article is John’s take on SEO (search engine optimization) and how attorneys can leverage it. Read John’s article and learn!

By John M. Kruger

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the effort to modify a website or web page so that it will appear on the first page of results from search engines such as Google and Bing. Why would a law firm want to perform SEO on its website? For the same reason that a car mechanic in the days of the Yellow Pages might have named his shop “AAA Auto Repair”: to be listed first.

SEO is not complicated. It relies on common sense and simplicity. You do not need to know programming, search algorithms, or taxonomy—you only need a basic understanding of how a search engine works.

For search engines to be useful, they must provide good results. The basic premise is to reveal links that have provided quality content with past clicks and that are considered relevant. So, if you click on a link, consider it a vote for that content as being relevant. [Read more…]

Legal Search Marketing – Claims of 1st Page Google Rank

By Ian M. Bardorf

Many attorneys are looking for effective ways to market their legal services on the Internet. Done properly, Internet marketing is undoubtedly one of the most cost effective and productive ways of growing your firm. However, attorneys suffer from the relentless bombardment of inbound solicitations that claim will change their business, and drive highly qualified clients to the doorstep.

Claims like “Guaranteed 1st page Google ranking” and “We’ll put you on the top of Google“, and “Your firm will have an exclusive listing” will certainly lead one to believe that dominating the web in any particular practice and geographic area is only a credit card charge away. The reality of many of these offers is often only realized when the only noticeable increase are those appearing on your monthly credit card statement.

Determining which offers are worthwhile and which offers are scams may be nearly impossible to decipher unless you dig in and do your homework. Unfortunately for attorneys, there simply isn’t enough time in the day to practice law AND effectively manage a marketing strategy that produces results.

Thus, I am sharing my Golden Rule of Internet Marketing. Keeping this rule in mind will undoubtedly save you time, money and a boat-load of frustration: [Read more…]

Legal Search Marketing – 2010 Best Practices for Lawyers and Law Firms

Competition among lawyers, especially in today’s business environment, is as fierce as ever. As a sole practitioner or small law firm, every little advantage that you can create against competitors is going to benefit you. Many attorneys put themselves at a distinct disadvantage without even realizing it. For those attorneys who are not Internet savvy, here are three simple online marketing suggestions that address common mistakes, are easily implemented, and will give you an advantage over the competition.

1. What’s with that email address?

Even something as small and as simple as an e-mail address can have a large impact on your business when it comes to determining whether or not you are going to earn a new client’s business over the competition.

When the internet was first taking off a few years ago, nearly everyone was signing up to utilize free web based email services such as AOL.com, Verizon.com, Gmail.com, Yahoo.com, etc. These free, or generic, web-based email services were very convenient and were primarily created for individuals that wanted email accounts. Even if the account was created for small business purposes, it was acceptable then, but this has changed significantly in recent years. [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.

Search Marketing Tip – Building links for law firms

If your law firm sponsors an event make sure you ask the host to add a link to your website from the online description of the event.  Here’s why.

Many times an event coordinator will ask an attorney to speak at an upcoming event on an area of their specialty or focus. In their own marketing efforts the coordinator will publish the details of the events highlighting the speakers invited.

The value of publishing your website (and getting an active hyper-link to your site) in their online listing is significant. It’s significant not because people attending the event will see your site and click through to visit your website, but because a link from their site to your website serves as “a vote” in Google’s eyes. Even better, if the event is about Massachusetts real estate law, and the listing details topics about Massachusetts real estate law, then links to your website which also discuses Massachusetts real estate law, then you’ve potentially established a highly effective link. The more effective links you create, the more “authority” your site will earn in the eyes of the search engines. More authority equals more visibility. [Read more…]

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.

Legal Search Marketing – Internet Marketing for Attorneys

The practice of search marketing has significantly progressed over the past few years and businesses from Fortune 100s to the two attorney law firm in South Boston, are reaping the benefits. However, still most businesses fail to embrace what is arguably the most cost effective means of marketing and advertising their services by continuing to believe that effective marketing on the Internet is simply having a website.

Search marketing is a continual process of integrating and optimizing various online components. The fact is, there is only so much real estate on the search engine result page (SERP) and we all know that Google is not going to present your website ten times as the only choice. The search engines look for variety. They select websites, blogs, directory listings, social profiles, videos, press releases, PDF files, and just about anything digital that they can index.

Effective search marketing converts searchers into clients by ensuring your brand appears within the SERPs in the right place, at the right time and with the right message. Your chances of obtaining optimal SERP real estate for highly appropriate and targeted search terms significantly diminishes if you simply rely on your website alone. [Read more…]

Search Marketing Tip – Check if your site is indexed

A quick and easy way to determine if your website has been indexed or is even being recognized by the search engines is to do a simple search engine index check.

Here’s how:

To determine how many of your web pages the search engines have discovered and indexed use the following techniques. If your website has 50 pages and you see that the search engines have only indexed 25, then you know that half of your web pages are not appearing on any search engine result pages (SERPs).

Yahoo! To determine if your site has been indexed by Yahoo! you will use Site Explorer.  This allows you to explore all the web pages indexed by Yahoo! Search.

Google: To determine if your site has been indexed by Google, you can simply type “site:yourdomain.com” in Google’s search box. Be sure to enter your website’s domain, and not ‘yourdomain’ :)

Got a question? Let me know if you have any questions about your search marketing strategy.

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.

Excuse me Twitter, can you hear us?

Twitter is getting a good ol finger wagging, browbeating, reprimand from its users. Why you ask? Well, its simple. And its kind of complex too. The short of it is that Twitter has decided to remove a feature that allows users to “Reply” to all users who are part of the conversation, whether they follow you or not.  Twitter says they implemented this change because:

“based on usage patterns and feedback, we’ve learned most people want to see when someone they follow replies to another person they follow — it’s a good way to stay in the loop. However, receiving one-sided fragments via replies sent to folks you don’t follow in your timeline is undesirable. Today’s update removes this undesirable and confusing option.”

However, many Twitterers have responded negatively to this abrupt change and through the hashtag feature, folks are voicing their displeasure in a somewhat Twitter uprising by adding #fixreplies to their Tweets. Here, you can see how it works for yourself: #fixreplies.

The underlying issue for Twitter is this. If you build a social community that becomes popular, like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and lots of others, then you (Twitter) need to keep in mind that its the community of users that have made your property so successful and will continue to make it successful. Because individuals have selected your community as a place they wish to live and visit, they expect to be included in decisions that affect their quality of life in their community. Its the age old struggle between an authoritative party who think they know best and the people who are affected. Online social communities are not exempt from this dynamic. So, Twitter, lets have a Tea Party!

Ian M. Bardorf has over 15 years of sales and marketing experience in Internet technology, with a specific focus on Internet marketing and online advertising.

Embrace social media, people!

Social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and all the rest may have seemed a little adolescent, juvenile, immature (you choose your favorite) just a few years ago but today they are undoubtedly integrated into the vast majority’s daily lives.

A few short years ago many folks, ahem, my age, didn’t see the value of subscribing to such online communities believing wholeheartedly that they were for high school and college kids who were living their reckless youth. Forget about the older generations (meaning, older than me) as they feared all sorts of catastrophic repercussions for such reckless online behavior. From simple online privacy intrusions, comparable to the 1980’s telemarketer calling at dinner time (drove my Dad nuts), to the idea that somehow your ATM pin number and credit card information would inexplicably spread throughout the world, the older generation had very little interest in this “fad”. [Read more…]

Is SEO advertising?

QUESTION: Given the distortions caused by SEO, can the results of Google be trusted?

Ah, the age ol question, “Is SEO ultimately advertising?”

Given that it is in the best interest of Google, and the other major search engines, to serve the most authentic results in the organic section of the SERPs, (they would lose significant share if everyone thought it was just a search engine of advertisment), I maintain that the results are credible – at least for now.

The results may not always be what you’re looking for or expect, but the various criteria, algorhytmic and otherwise, used to determine the results favor an authentic process.

The question suggests that perhaps organic results are obtained by underhanded methodology, i.e. the way to “distort” a result is to do something black hat. And yes, that happens, so that is a distortion caused by ‘black hat’ SEO. Otherwise, simply optimizing your web pages properly only helps the search engines identify and possibly serve your web page as an appropriate result.

So simply optimizing and playing by the rules in itself does not, in my opinion, lead to the distortion of the results and nor is it consider advertising. Good PR perhaps, but not advertising.

Ian M. Bardorf has over 15 years of sales and marketing experience in Internet technology, with a specific focus on Internet marketing and online advertising.

Companies that don’t see the value in search marketing

QUESTION: What are some of the consequence for mid to large sized companies who choose not to consider search engine marketing strategies?

For a mid to large sized company who relies on volume business in either BtoB or BtoC, to choose not to consider search engine marketing strategies because they don’t see the value is VERY hard to swallow. The consequences could be numerous but in my opinion the thought of alienating your audience by not being where they are is a certain slow death.

Many traditional marketers like to chalk up their lack of search marketing initiatives by stating emphatically “our audience doesn’t go online.” Which is the equivalent of stating that we’re going to give the online marketplace to our competitors, we believe in spending tons of money to “push” our message out to the masses, and we prefer to keep our COGS higher then necessary doing things the way we know how, the good ol fashion way.

When in doubt – invest in having professionals do a comprehensive opportunity analysis of your online marketplace. At least this way your CEO has the data to make a knowledgeable business decision.

Ian M. Bardorf has over 15 years of sales and marketing experience in Internet technology, with a specific focus on Internet marketing and online advertising.

Connecting with your online audience

Its amazing how many offline campaigns still launch today without any consideration for the online audience. Yes, this was a common occurrence several years ago as traditional marketers just began to acknowledge that the Internet was an influential medium and not going away. But what about now? How do multi-million dollar offline campaigns ignore their online target audience? Is it still unreasonable to accept that someone watching television will swing their chair around and search Google for a product they just saw on tv or read in the newspaper?

Search marketing taps into a massive online audience that continues to increase every day. More then 225 million Americans have Internet access. Search Marketing can be the most cost effective way to market your business or brand, connect with consumers online, attract qualified visitors to your website, increase brand awareness, increase overall visibility and of course, increase revenue. I just don’t understand what some folks are thinking, and why they choose to continue to miss huge opportunity online.

What Is Search Marketing?

The practice of search marketing has significantly progressed over the past few years and businesses from Fortune 100s to the two attorney law firm in South Boston, are reaping the benefits. However, still most businesses fail to embrace what is arguably the most cost effective means of marketing and advertising their services with the continued belief that effective search marketing is simply having a website.

Search marketing is a continual process of integrating and optimizing various online components, including your website, done in an effort to obtain valuable online real estate and prominently appear in the search engine result pages (SERPs) of Google, Yahoo!, Bing, etc. Search marketing is not an a single “item” like a website, or a one time “event” like launching your new website.

I always say to clients that effective search marketing converts searchers into clients by appearing within the SERPs in the right place, at the right time and with the right message.

Ultimately, one invests in search marketing, which is also often referred to as search engine marketing (SEM), to achieve a defined business goal like obtain new clients, increase visibility and brand awareness, drive qualified traffic, obtain a competitive advantage or integrate off-line marketing initiatives with an online target audience. Search marketing focuses on the organic and paid search listings of every SERP.

At the very basic level of search marketing, there are essentially two components to every search engine result page. They are; Organic Listings which are obtained through search engine optimization (SEO) as well as by establishing and optimizing an arsenal of other digital assets like directory listings, social profile listings, videos, press releases, etc.  and the Sponsored Listings which is paid advertising, like Google Adwords, where you pay for visitors who click on your advertisement and land on your website.

Paid Search is online advertising in the form of ads or text links, which can be found primarily on the top and on the right hand side of the SERPs. Also referred to as “pay per click” (PPC) or “sponsored placement”. This form of search engine advertising means that you can be guaranteed to appear in the paid search results section for the keywords you choose within a day or less. This does not mean you will appear in the organic search results.

Organic Search is the search engine results that are shown due to relevancy to the search terms, not by paid search. Also referred to as “natural” or “algorithmic” search. These are the results that are shown on the middle of the page in the Google, Yahoo!, and Bing search results. One obtains favorable organic search results by implementing an effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of enhancing a website’s code, content and connections in accordance to a search engine’s algorithmic criteria. SEO is the process of obtaining favorable organic search results for specific keyphrases used by your target audience.

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.