How Law Firms Can Avoid Common, and Costly, SEO Mistakes in 2016

Experts discuss topics ranging from content to links, onpage and offsite issues, rankings, pay-per-click advertising and more in this insightful video. Tanner Jones, Grant Brott and Robert Padgett provide helpful tips for law firms to increase their ROI from the Web, and warn about common mistakes that firms can make that will harm their firm’s efforts.

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Mike: Hi my name is Mike Zellmer. I am the director of marketing for Consultwebs and I wanted to welcome you to our webinar today: How Law Firms Can Avoid Common and Costly SEO Mistakes in 2016. So we certainly aim to make it worth your while today, to give you some action items that you can use for your own firm’s online marketing, and particularly to improve your SEO. We wanted to thank you all for taking some of your valuable time to be with us today. We know you’re all very busy so let’s get right to the topic here.

Why is it important for law firms to avoid common SEO mistakes?

So why are we here today? Well this is an important topic for law firms. We hear about more and more money that’s being invested in online marketing in industries virtually across the board, and law firms are certainly no exception. So with more of our resources going into online marketing and SEO, we all want to be sure that we’re not making simple and what may seem to be insignificant mistakes but ones that can really make our efforts less effective nonetheless. You’ll notice that the term common mistakes is marked in yellow here and you’ll see that throughout the webinar. When something is marked in yellow it’s just a visual cue that what you’re seeing there is a mistake to avoid.

So here is our plan of attack for today. Our panel, who I’ll introduce momentarily, is going to talk about lots of different areas of SEO and online marketing in general. We’ll give you a bunch of items to consider and suggest some improvements that you may be able to implement in your own campaigns. So please keep in mind that the topics here are not exhaustive. There are tons of little factors and activities that go into a successful SEO campaign. What we want to do today is just to give you a good overview and not get too deep into the details. We certainly want to be respectful of your time. We’ll also give you some easy ways to improve what you’re doing online to help you increase your return on investment. And we also have a free resource for you that has additional information to help you analyze your current online campaign.

So let me introduce our panel of experts and then we’ll get into the meat of the webinar. With us today is Tanner Jones, vice president of business development for Consultwebs. Tanner has extensive experience in online marketing for law firms. He’s a regular speaker at legal and marketing conferences, and he’s been featured in several well-known legal publications. Tanner, thanks for joining us today.

Tanner: Absolutely Mike. I’m happy to be here, thank you.

Mike: We also have Dr. Robert Padgett. Robert serves as a senior marketing consultant, and he works on Consultwebs client campaigns. Robert has a master’s degree at ecommerce, a doctorate in business, and has extensive background and knowledge in technical SEO, site usability, user experience, web architecture, analytics, and lots of other topics. Welcome Robert, and thanks for joining us.

Robert: Thanks for the invitation Mike. It’s nice to be here with you.

Mike: All right. Lastly, we have Grant Brott. He is our lead marketing consultant. Grant, who heads up our entire consulting team, has more than a decade of experience in search engine optimization. Grant holds multiple certifications in web content development, small business management, Google analytics and several others. He is also an expert in local search optimization. Grant, thanks for being with us.

Grant: Yeah Mike, thanks for having me.

Mike: Okay. So here’s a look at our roadmap of topics for today. These gentlemen will cover areas particular to some of their own expertise. I wanted to mention that when we discuss onsite issues, links and mobile design in particular, we’ll share with you all a few free tools that your firm can use to get more information and maybe make some improvements to your online campaign. I’ll paste links for those tools in our chat window as we discuss. We will have a couple of poll questions too, the first of which I am going to launch right now, if you all can see our poll question. And this basically we’re just trying to help us identify some characteristics of our audience, to help us understand what kind of information you may be looking for and to help us guide our presentation to maximize the benefits to you today. So we’ll leave that up for just a few more seconds to allow everyone to answer.

Okay, and let me share those results with all of you. It looks like we probably have the majority here that work in marketing. We do have some attorneys and paralegals with us and some other roles as well. So we’ve got a bit of a diverse crowd. So thank you all for participating. So we’re also going to try and leave some time for questions at the end of our hour. Please feel free to use the GoToWebinar control panel to submit your questions at any time during the webinar today. You don’t have to wait till the end if a question arises in your mind while we’re covering a particular topic. Go ahead and put that question into the chat window and we will certainly answer as many as we can at the end, time permitting.

So Grant, being that you are an expert on local search and local search optimization, I’m sure you’ve got some helpful information for folks on our first topic.

Local optimization for law firm websites

Grant: Thanks Mike. So we’re going to go over some local things, touch on some of the key factors for local real quick here. One of the big ones that we see a lot of issues with with firms we work with is their Google business listings. We see a lot of duplicate profiles, multiple profiles, inaccuracies made from listings that maybe the name’s one version or there’s just lots of inaccuracy within the profiles. So with those, the objective, what you want to do here is to claim your main listing. And then any duplicates or other listings from maybe there used to be a different partner at the firm and now you’ve got a different name or whatever it might have been, you want to get rid of those ones. So you only have the one main listing and you want to do that, if you have two offices, you want one main listing for each office and any other ones you want to get rid of those.

And then going a step further is with attorney listings. The biggest problem with those we see is where they’re claimed and they’ve got XYZ law firm and then the attorney’s name. With the individual attorney listings, what you want to look for is to claim those and you can claim all under the same account. So you have your main firm listing and then each attorney that works at your firm. But with the attorney ones, you don’t want the firm name in the heading. You just want it to be the attorney’s name. So it shouldn’t be XYZ attorney, it should just be attorney such and such. And then for the category you can put it as a lawyer, and then for the URL of that profile, you want to put the link that goes to their bio page on your website. That way it links right over that attorney’s bio page on the website. It takes people right to what they’re looking for. They’re looking for that attorney. It’s a good user experience to send them right to that page.

The next item is NAP consistency. NAP is name, address and phone number. Going back to the first part of the Google business listings, you want to make sure that you have that accurate. The best way of doing this is to write it down and have a file or record somewhere, and set what you want your name, address, and phone number to be. That way any time a listing gets set up or something new comes along and you’re going to go do it, you’re using the same format of the name, the same address format, the same phone number. We see a lot of listings and duplicates that come in and it’s the name and address of the same but then you’ve got a different phone number. One might be the 800 number, one might be the front office number, one might be for an attorney’s phone. So you want to pick one set and you want to use that across all profiles for each specific office location.

The next item’s reviews. Reviews are online word of mouth nowadays. No one really does anything without going online and researching and reading some reviews about items. And the same goes for services, attorneys… it doesn’t matter. Somebody, if they’re going to come to you they’re going to read reviews about you first. So you want to make sure you’re asking your clients for reviews and consistently working on gaining more reviews. And Google is by far the most important one but there’s other sites. Yelp, is big in some locations for the legal industry. Avvo does client reviews on there. So any platform where you can gain reviews, you want to be getting them on all of them. Google of course should be your priority at the beginning until you’ve got a decent amount of reviews on there.

The last item here is virtual offices. This is a problem area and you see it’s in yellow. Google has guidelines specifically stating that you shouldn’t create a Google business listing unless it is for a legitimate office location. And their guidelines, basically what they’re looking for is location with hours of operation where somebody could walk in off of the street during those hours of operation and speak to an actual real person in that building. There is ways round that and ways to use those and use them safely but it gets very complicated. And if you don’t do it right, you can lose all of your listings. You can literally have your entire Google account suspended and then you won’t show up at all for your local listings, for a Google business listing. So it’s one of those areas you should be very cautious of, is using virtual or [inaudible 00:10:21] offices if they’re not staffed. And you’re just using it as like a meeting location or something like that. You should not set hours of operation if somebody can’t walk in during those specific hours of operation. You want to be careful of that. So that’s all I have got for local. Next up is Tanner with social media.

Social media tips for lawyer’s online marketing

Tanner: Good stuff Grant. Thanks very much. Local, that’s such an important topic. In fact, over 50% of search today online is done with local intent. And so if you’re going to focus on one thing, that’s definitely an area to push. When it comes to social media, there are some crossovers, especially with the point Grant brought up with reviews. We’ll talk a little bit about reputation management and reviews in a moment, but social media is an area where, from my experience in the profession, some law firms have jumped both feet in, other law firms have just tried to dabble a little bit. They know social media is growing, they know it’s important. They just don’t know what to do with it. And it’s a legitimate challenge. It’s difficult to get engagement on a law firm Facebook page for example. And so we want to talk a little bit more about engagement and interaction in particular.

First, let’s touch on what to avoid. The major mistakes we see is the inactive and/or duplicate profiles on social pages for a law firm business. And so what this can be is you can go to Facebook in the search bar and search your firm’s name. And when you search your firm’s name, if you see multiple profiles showing up, those are likely duplicate profiles that have been set up on your behalf. You want one business profile on those social channels. Otherwise, basically there’s a risk that people are going to be engaging on different pages that you’re going to spread yourself thin. You want to be able to focus on one channel effectively when it comes to one single social media profile.

So make sure you don’t have those inactive profiles or duplicate profiles out there. You want one primary profile. The next piece here is to focus on regular updates. When you’re looking at those profiles in your social channels, if you see that you haven’t had a post for the last two weeks, and maybe even worse, two months or two years, then those profiles are likely doing more harm than good. If a perspective client comes across that channel and they see you that you haven’t applied any effort there, unfortunately it gives an impression that you haven’t stayed ahead of the curve there. And it may give a negative impression on your ability to service them. Even though we all know that that’s probably so far from the truth, it’s the natural impression that’s gained from these inactive or dead profiles with very little engagement.

It also gives a sense of popularity, and so you want to be able to keep these profiles updated regularly. That can mean a few times a week. It could mean even more than that. What you want to focus on is getting post on those pages that actually get involvement. Get people liking, get people sharing, get people engaging with it because that is ultimately how people judge the popularity or the trustworthiness of a business. And you want to consider this 80/20 rule that you’ve always heard about: 80% of your post should really be focused on more of engagement type topics. So for example you can see in this third bullet point, community events are phenomenal for this in particular because people can get involved in what’s going on in their local market. If you’re posting about a local charity walk, maybe you’re posting about maybe something that you’re getting involved in, you’re setting up a booth at the firm at this local event. Those are types of things that get involvement because they’re real to people. If you’re posting on the other side of that about legislative changes or updates to practice areas, that’s much less inviting to the vast majority of the people on social networks. And so you want to first of all think about engagement and then secondly think about how you can capitalize on that engagement and occasionally drop in relevant content related to your practice. That’s how you’re going to get the most from these social channels.

The next piece is considering advertising options on social platforms. Facebook in particular gives phenomenal opportunities for you to be able to be very specific on the types of demographics you wish to target specific to your market area, specific to your practice areas. And you can drill down and target people based on occupation, based on gender, based on a number of other things, which allows you to be much more efficient and targeted with your advertising dollars. Another very attractive thing with Facebook is that the cost to advertise there is significantly less as compared to platforms like Google AdWords with PPC. So if you’re not currently advertising on Facebook or those types of social channel ad platforms, you should certainly at least get into it and begin testing that because I think you will certainly find some power and being able to get your name and your brand in front of people at a very cost effective rate.

The next piece as I alluded to you earlier is the reputation management aspect of social media. I’ve had a lot of firms tell me that they don’t want to get involved in social media because it puts them out there. They’re afraid that maybe if they have a profile, it just gives somebody another opportunity to go on and blast them, give them a negative review. The truth of the matter is, whether or not you have a social platform like Facebook out there or Twitter or anything else, there are unlimited ways for consumers or your past clients to go online, find a place to leave a negative review. There’s Google+, there’s Avvo, there’s a number of other places where people can do that. And so you have to embrace the power of social media. There are literally billions of people on social networks and that’s where they’re spending a large majority of their time. And if a prospective client comes to a Facebook channel and they see that you have been building very strong positive reviews on your Facebook page, that adds social proof, that builds credibility, it builds trust, and dramatically increases the likelihood of them considering you for their current or a future case. So I strongly encourage you if you haven’t done so, begin working to build those positive reviews, not just on Google+, as Grant mentioned earlier, but all the profiles, including Facebook for example. Now Robert’s going to talk a little bit about content and onsite issues and things to avoid here.

Content and onsite issues with law firm websites

Robert: Thanks Tanner. I’m going to start by sharing a line. I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, but the marketers say that content is king, and that is because content is really important for ranking. And Google has become very intelligent in differentiating content that’s good from content that is poorly written. So the first two items that are in yellow, like Mike mentioned, are things that you want to avoid. So keyword stuffing means that you are repeating the same keyword over and over again in that page. So for example, if you’re looking to rank for a page about car accidents or something related, you shouldn’t be using a car accident attorney or car accident lawyer all over the page. You want to use synonyms, keywords that are related to this topic so that Google understands that you’re an authority on this topic and that your content is touching on several aspects around this topic and not just repeating the same keyword all over.

Duplicate content is also very dangerous. Thin content is like a page that has a paragraph or very little content, and duplicate could be internal duplicate content issues that might be caused because your website is available with dab-dab-dab and without dab-dab-dab, and some other technical issues. So it’s important to make sure that you don’t have any duplicate content. Other problem is having duplicate content with other websites. So an example is like posting press releases that you’ve distributed online on your website as well. So you can avoid that. You should avoid that, but if you want to add those press releases to your website, you can no index them so that Google will not find them and will not see that as duplicate content.

The problem with thin and duplicate content keyword stuffing is that it doesn’t only affect that page. That’s a bad page. It affects the whole site. So for example, let’s say you have a section on your website where you have a bunch of press releases that are indexed in Google and Google sees that duplicate content, that might affect the whole rankings of your site. And until you remove that content, that duplicate or thin content from your site, it’s going to be really hard ranking for important terms. So it’s tricky sometimes because the page that your optimizer is working on doesn’t rank or might not be ranking but it’s not because of that page but of other pages on your site that are suffering.

Another very important topic is user experience. Google wants to provide the best possible answers to its users. So we need to make sure that our websites are prepared to provide easy access browsing thorough information to make sure that people find the answer that they’re looking for. And Google measures user experience by bounce rates. For example, somebody makes a search, goes to your website, bounces back, does another search or clicks in another search result, that’s something that Google will see as this page is not providing the correct answer, or this page is not providing the correct user experience. So that might hurt your rankings.

Keyword research and in depth articles, this is really important. So like I mentioned, the keyword research thing, finding keywords that are related to each other and writing in depth articles that touch on different topics around a subject is very important for ranking. So this will provide Google enough information to show that you have good content and also you have more possibilities of answering the question to the users that come to your site.

Schema is a code that will tell Google what type of content you have on your site. So let’s say you have an address, you can use Schema to let Google know that that text in your website is an address. You can also Schema for articles. Both tools that are mentioned, and Developers Google can help you. Well, I’m going to talk about first. It’s very easy to use. It’s a form that you can fill out. If you want to use Schema for your business, you can fill out the form and then the Schema Creator is going to give you a code. So you can just get that code and paste it on your website. Google has another tool that checks your Schema. So make sure that the code that you’re adding on your website is correct. So make sure that that Schema code is correct.

Mike: Great, and Robert, I wanted to mention to everybody in the audience here that I did paste those links into the chat window. So you can copy those out of there if you’d like and save them. Of course they’ll be in the slide deck which we plan to make available to you all after the fact as well. I wanted to take a second and launch our next poll real quick. Basically, we’re just curious how many years your firm has been actively engaged in trying to make your listings appear higher in search rankings? So not just we’ve had a website for this long but how long have you really been cognizant of SEO and then thinking about it and then have it be part of your strategy? We’ve got over half that have voted already. I’ll give it just a few more seconds and we’ll close that poll down. All right. Let’s see what we’ve got. So it looks like the bulk of our bell curve here is right in that one to five years range. And I think that’s right on for what our understanding is too, is that that’s the time when it started becoming a real important thing to law firms within the past five years. It looks like we’ve got some early adopters in the crowd too, but anyway, thank you all for sharing your thoughts on that. And Grant, I’ll turn it back over to you.

Offsite issues with law firm websites

Grant: All right, thanks Mike. I want to talk about offsite issues. And this goes into, in SEO we think that offsite is okay, we’re doing links over here and we’re doing this stuff offsite of our website. But what we’re going to refer to here also is what you’re doing offline and how that ties into online also. You should be thinking of your marketing across all platforms as a united front basically. You shouldn’t look at your website and be like, okay that’s my website. It does its thing over here. We do SEO on it and then be over here doing TV and radio or print stuff or anything like that. You want to make sure that you can tie it all together. So you can have that consistent brand message across the board. So if you do something online, it’s the same branding as it is when you participate in this event in your local community. Same messaging, same log, same coloring, your whole brand ties together like that. So making sure your brand is integrated across all platforms.

Events, organizations, sponsorships, a lot of attorneys speak at legal conferences and stuff like that, those organizations, your local bar, Chamber of Commerce, events. If you host or sponsor an event or maybe you do a scholarship or you sponsor a little sports team or something in your community, these are all offline things that you do that we can leverage online efforts for. So we can take that event that you’re hosting and then we can go post it on these dozen or two dozen different event sites. So we can spread the word. We can push that event on your social media channels to spread the word and get more attendance.

There’s paid promotion stuff that you can do online. So there’s all this different stuff. When you do one thing, don’t think of it as its own standalone thing. Think about, “Okay, how can I integrate this and leverage these other platforms to benefit this over here?” A quick simple one with — and this is more going back to online with the offsite. If you sponsor a local event or organization or you’re a member of, everybody’s got their bar. So if you go to that website, they usually have a list of all their attorneys for that state and you can go through there and you can find that often times you can get a link back from that to your website. The same with any event, if you go sponsor an event and you sponsor it for, it could be $500 or $5,000, often times all it takes is, “Hey, we’re sponsoring this. Is there any way we can get our logo and have our logo linked back to our website?” And you’ve just got to link. So now Google looks at it and says, “Hey look, they’re part of this. They sponsor this event over here. It’s a local community event and it’s tied to the website.” So Google sees that connection in the local community, which it tells Google that you are a real business in that location, you’re part of these different events and organizations and they link over and they give that connection for Google when they look at your site, making you more relevant to the location, which all ties back into Google’s giant ranking algorithm and how they determine who gets seen and stuff like that. So at the basic level, that’s what you’re looking at right there.

So I’m going to move on from this one and talk about links for a few minutes here. Links are still one of the key things in the eyes of Google when they look at sites and determine what’s going on. Like I was talking about the local community stuff there, an event if you sponsor it, you’re going to link back to your website, Google will accept that, that’s a connection to the local community. It makes you more relevant in that location. Not every link is equal. Not every link is going to be a benefit. There are links out there that can hurt your site and you want to stay away from those. Gambling websites. Sites that get hacked often end up with gambling and porn sites links to them. This is all stuff that Google sees and they penalize your site. You will take a Google penalty for it, whether that’s for links or whatever it may be. They know this stuff and you will lose rankings and exposure basically. So yes, you can go to sites like Fiverr and stuff like that and you can buy 1,000 links for like $5-$10, but those links are more likely to do your website harm in the long term. But you might get a bump in the beginning. Google is going to catch it, eventually read it and be like, “Hey, look at this,” and boom! Now your site doesn’t show up at all. So the paid links, the linked firms, stuff like that goes back to you get what you pay for. If you’re spending $5 for 1,000 links, they’re probably not worth much value, versus like a local Chamber of Commerce membership where you can get a link back from that. It’s the local community, it’s business related, it’s highly relevant, it costs more, it’s a member thing.

So that’s what you’re looking at with those. Anchored text. So when you get a link, it could be a car accident lawyer and it links back to your website, or it could be your firm’s name, XYZ firm links back to your website. You don’t want to go after all one thing. So you don’t want to take one practice area like car accident and then make all those links point back to your site with the term car accident lawyer because that’s going be anchored text. That’s spammy tactics. Google looks at that and that can hurt your website and your ranking efforts, and you’ll lose exposure to your website online. So you want to spread that out. You want your firm name, you want your practice areas in there sometimes. You want generic terms like click here, visit our website, stuff like that. You use attorney names as part of the branding clump of options. So those are some of the things you want to look at when it comes to links.

You also want to look at do you have bad and toxic links to your website? The tool listed here, which Mike posted on the chat for everybody, is cognitiveSEO. They offer a free trial. You can go in there, sign up, run this back link check, and it’ll show you if you have bad and toxic links. It will scan all the back links to your website and it’ll literally highlight them and be like this is toxic, this isn’t toxic. You want to take a look through those and see okay, maybe something got marked that shouldn’t have, but the majority of the time the stuff that it marks is stuff you probably don’t want linked into your website. And that’s a good start of hey, we need to get these removed and cleaned up. That can be a big process sometimes. Some sites might link to you and there might be no way to contact them and stuff like that, and Google’s offered other routes and avenues to go about reporting those.

And then the last thing here is cheap or easy tactics won’t lead to long term success. It just goes back to everything I’ve been talking about here. You spend $5 to get something, you’re getting what you paid for. You might get something in the beginning of it but in the long term, it’s going to do you much more harm than good. So keep that in mind. Next up is Tanner, and he will be covering rankings.

Don’t place too much emphasis on rankings for just a few terms

Tanner: Thanks Grant. Rankings, if you’ve been investing in search marketing, especially if you’re not as technical when it comes to SEO, one of the natural things to focus on is rankings. And it’s easy to go to Google and type in a search term and see where you show up or where you don’t show up. And so naturally, that is where a lot of people gravitate to evaluate the success or the progress of their campaign. But it’s important, you have to really understand there are things like for example when you’re looking at key terms that do not relate back to primary practice areas, for example, if you’re running a search term, let’s say “Charlotte personal injury lawyer,” those terms absolutely have search volume around them. It’s a natural search term to look for and seeing where you show up in the search results. But that’s a commonly used term, or what we call a money term or a big term. And so while those terms you certainly are looking to see if you’re ranking for them, those are not the terms that typically drive the lion share of leads to your site. We find that typically well over 80% of the leads that come to our client sites come through long-tail search. Those are search terms that are very detailed, very specific, sometimes often obscure search terms related to medical expenses, or how to recover from damages. So very specific elements, and those are all things that you want to — if you’re focusing on rankings over leads then you’re always going to get caught up in the ups and downs and fluctuations of the search results.

Another thing you want to look at is when you’re evaluating return on investment, you want to look at the number of leads and the growth of leads coming through the site. And so again, rather than focusing on rankings, focus on where those leads are coming from, different websites, where they’re coming from referral sites. Like if you’re getting traffic from Facebook and that’s leading to conversions, whether you’re getting traffic from Google and that’s leading to conversions. Being able to compare that quarter after quarter will give you trends, and that’s a much better metric to look at when it comes to progress from your search marketing efforts. And this is data that your vendor should be able to work with you on and you can cross-compare your data to ultimately determine your average cost per lead and ideally your average cost per case once you compare the leads to what’s been signed up with your vendor’s numbers. So those are all going to be extremely useful data points that allow you to see where those dollars are going. So ultimately in summary, you don’t want to focus on rankings, focus on the things that actually put dollars back into your business, which is the leads and the case numbers and signups.

Optimize videos on your firm’s website

Robert: Videos can be very valuable for your website as long as we use them correctly. So don’t make videos just to have videos on your site. It’s important to focus on making videos that can answer questions to your users, perhaps explaining processes. So if you have an FAQ page, it’s great to have videos that can complement those answers. So those are few examples of how videos can be used successfully on the website.

So not optimizing videos for a search. What we want to do is transcribe the videos, put the text below the video or around the video. So it’s another signal that you’re giving to Google what the video is about. You can have a sitemap for videos on your site. You can have two different strategies, one having a channel on YouTube that can drive traffic to your website. So people are searching for several topics in YouTube and they can find your videos and go to your website. It’s also okay to embed YouTube videos on your site but you have to know that you will not get credit for those videos. In order for Google to give you credit for those videos in your content, you need to use software like Wistia that they have like an SEO embed that will tell Google that that video is a part of your content. So having images, videos on your content is a plus. Google likes pages that have different media on them. So it’s great if you can add some videos that fulfill our purpose and answering a question to one of your visitors.

I’m going to continue with the next topic, mobile. So mobile has been very important for a few years now. Users of smartphones have been increasing over time, and last year it became extremely important to have a mobile website because Google made an update that favored websites that were mobile friendly. And by mobile friendly, I mean that the website is going to adjust to the screen that the user is using. So that image on the slide you can see a responsive website depending on the type of device. If you’re using a smartphone, tablet, desktop or laptop, the website looks fine. So not using a responsive design can really hurt now. There are other options of having a mobile website, like having another sub-domain for mobile, but that can complicate things because you will have different URLs that might show the same content. So you can create duplicate content. Again, that can hurt you. So responsive design is the easiest way to make sure that you’re not going to run into problems with Google.

Stuffing too much information into mobile display. So we need to remember that mobile display is smaller. We cannot have the exact same information that we have on a desktop. We need to adjust that information so that it’s easy for the user to navigate throughout the side, and mobile what we want to focus is making it easier for users to contact your law firm. Getting the directions to your office. So keeping that very visible and adding calls to action like call now, contact us, is very important for users in smartphones. Your navigation should be clean and simple, very easy to get to the most important pages. And there is another free tool that Google provides that will tell you if your website is mobile friendly or not. So that’s going to be shared in the chat as well. And I’m going to let Tanner continue with pay-per-click.

Pay-per-click advertising can be effective for law firms, but when done poorly can be very expensive and yield little

Tanner: Pay-per-click is an area that lots of law firms continue to invest serious dollars in, and it can be very effective if it’s performed well and the strategy is sound. But we’ve also spoken with lots of firms who have wasted a significant amount of dollars on PPC. So let’s discuss some of the things to avoid first and foremost. Using broad-match terms, basically not defining specifically what you want to show up for in AdWords. For example, broad-match for auto wanting to try to capitalize on car accident. With broad-matches you can potentially be showing up for people looking for mechanics, people looking to buy a new car, and many other completely irrelevant searches. And ultimately what that turns into is a low quality visit where you’ve paid for. And also they’re quickly going to bounce off your page and you’re going to diminish your quality score, making it more expensive and more difficult to continue to do well in PPC. So you absolutely want to avoid those broad-match terms.

And also not setting proper geographies your specific market area. We see this gross mis-targeting fairly regularly unfortunately, where somebody in Atlanta is showing up down in Florida and getting traffic from different areas. And naturally your conversion rate is going to suffer from that and also your return on investment is going to suffer. Ideally, you’re using somebody who is in PPC for law firms on a regular basis, using somebody who is an expert manager when it comes to PPC. That’s where you’re going to see the optimal performance from it, somebody who’s able to monitor it regularly, being able to look at specific key terms and determine which are effective and converting actual leads and which are not. And making adjustments accordingly. If it’s just a one-time set-it-and-forget-it strategy, you will most certainly lose dollars because of it. And if you’re not losing dollars, you’re certainly not making the most you can from your PPC efforts. So lots of attention will ultimately allow you to outpace competition there, especially as more and more firms are turning to PPC for those quick results.

And then lastly with PPC, using dedicated landing pages is something we have found to be critical. It’s really the key way to be able to make the most of a PPC campaign. And what that means is if you’re running an ad for car accidents, we’ve used that example a few different times, but if you’re running ads for that, you want to send the visitor directly to a car accident specific landing page that is built around the user and their particular needs. So incorporating testimonials related to auto accidents and how your firm has helped a person through a very similar experience as someone who has just clicked that ad. You can incorporate verdicts and settlements if your state allows that. The content should speak directly to a car accident victim in that case. That is how you’re going to make the best of that PPC campaign, and we typically find that the average industry is around 3.5% conversion rates. And once a visitor clicks on an ad and gets to the page and by our use of landing pages dedicated to a specific practice area, we typically average about 10%. So we have seen a significant increase in conversions because of that use. And again, going back to Robert’s point about responsive design, you want to make sure you’re running ads for mobile and ensure that that landing page is set up responsively so that it looks great on all devices, phone, tablet, and PCs.

Mike: Very good. And particularly with PPC we do have one last poll that we’d like to share with you all and see where you’re at in this particular subject. So if you do run PPC, who’s managing that campaign? And if you don’t know, that’s fine too, you can certainly answer that way. Just curious to see what the distribution is here. We’re almost at half. We have over half of the folks now that have voted. So we’ll give it just a couple more seconds for anybody else who’d like to get in. And let’s see what we’ve got here. So it looks like lots of folks using other company, several manage their own. Very interesting. Thank you all for participating in that poll.

And let’s get back to summary of things. Actually before I get into this, Tanner, you didn’t really get to cover rankings very much. Did you have just maybe a highlight or two on rankings that you could share with folks?

Tanner: Well, I was certainly talking but we must have had some issues with that, so I apologize. But rankings and summary, it’s not a good enough measurement tool to be able to pull up a random ranking and see where you show up or where you do not show up, if you’re investing in SEO. So I just encourage everyone who is investing in SEO, rather than looking at rankings from day to day or week to week, look at the specific metrics that are actually putting dollars in your firm’s pocket, which is leads and cases. Being able to attract the number of leads coming through the sites and comparing that with you vendor who is managing the campaign, and then ultimately taking the next step to what is actually turning into a file and signing up as a case so that you can determine your average cost per lead and your average cost per case, that is the best way to be able to track effectiveness and progress but also to know your return on investment.

Tools for law firm websites, and Q&A with the panel

Mike: Very good, thank you Tanner. So at the beginning of the webinar here, we did talk about a resource that we were going to share with you all. And Tanner, would you advance that for me please? Thank you. And actually Tanner, if you wouldn’t mind, I’ll put you on the spot. If you could tell folks about our self-assessment tool, I’d appreciate it.

Tanner: We created this self-assessment tool for law firms in particular to be able to evaluate their own campaigns in the comfort of their own offices. So this is basically a detailed checklist that you can go through or you can sit down with your marketing staff if you have them. Go through this checklist and review it to your site. If you can go through this checklist and see that you’re checking off all of these bullets, you’re doing an extraordinary job, and I’ll tell you that you’re probably doing better than 99% of firms out there. And so this is just a good guide and I’d encourage you to most certainly download it and get full use out of it and tell us what you think.

Mike: Thank you Tanner. I’ve pasted that link in the chat for everybody. If you’d like to click on that you certainly may. I also wanted to just mention our blog and our email newsletter. and I’ll paste another link for you all in here. Every two to three weeks at present we’re sending out an email newsletter with some new information, blog posts from our staff, videos, other resources to help keep law firms informed and give them some advice for their online marketing. If you don’t already get the newsletter and you’re interested, we certainly encourage you to register. There is a sign up in the sidebar of our blog and that link is there in the chat window for you all.

Just one more item, we do plan to send you the slide deck from today’s webinar, and if our technical difficulties don’t prevent us, we’ll send you the video as well once it’s ready. So you can reference back the information we covered today when you need it. Okay. I think we do have a little bit of time left for questions. We did get a number of them that came in through the course of the webinar. Let me go ahead and just throw one out to the group here. What is the best way to ask for client reviews? So I know that’s a big hot topic for all of us. Any of you guys have some thoughts on good ways to cultivate reviews?

Grant: I can jump in on that one real quick. We work with so many clients and I’ve seen variation across the board on the tactics that work from one law firm to the other. Some law firms have used review platforms. We’d leverage one of those that internally with our clients that has showed good results so far. In the end, the best approach that we’ve seen would be when the firm gets involved and the client is actually talked to about it, potentially walked through the process. And it’s even better if it’s from the attorney that handled that case or maybe the paralegal that worked with that client versus them getting something from somebody they don’t know, a phone call or an email saying, “Hey, we’re a such and such firm. We are glad we were able to help you with your case and stuff. We’d love it if you’d give us some feedback, maybe leave us a review.” It’s a lot of work, but it’s been the most effective way.

The other ways, the review platforms and stuff come down to a numbers game of you’re sending something out to clients whose cases are closed and asking them for feedback. The platform we work with our clients on allows you to send that request and then it basically says, “Were you satisfied or not satisfied?” And if they say, “No,” then they basically they’re able to give feedback. And that feedback goes directly to you versus them going online and leaving a bad review. So it filters out negative reviews, and then if they say, “Yes, we’d highly recommend you,” then it moves them forward to, “We really appreciated working with you. We’d love it if you’d leave us a review about your experience on one of these sites.” And that lists like Google and Yelp, or Yelp and Avvo or something like that. And we can adjust that case to case. So if it’s a single firm with one attorney or if it’s a firm with multiple attorneys, as the reviews come, you can go in and actually edit what is sent to them. So it can look like it’s coming from that individual attorney but it’s not going to take that attorney’s time up. Like a paralegal or a marketing person at the firm can set that up and run that and send that out or work with us and we do it for some clients.

So it’s really been you’ve got to test it out to see what’s going to work with your clients and your customer base. Sometimes it’s hard to get attorneys involved and contacting and doing that follow up and stuff because of how busy things get. Other times having a director of marketing or something do that, a little harder because that client may not have worked with that person. So they might not have a clue who that person is. So that’s just a quick little piece on the review side of things.

Mike: Great. Here’s a question that pertains to locals. So Grant, I’m sure you’ll have an opinion on this one. How do you get rid of a listing that is your business but is an old address? So do you have any tips on the best way to handle that to avoid any kind of mess with NAP consistency?

Grant: It depends on the site. Every site is a little different in how you report and get rid of a duplicate listing. We find that when we get clients on board that have moved locations previously, that we will see 100 listings from their old location. And then hundreds of new listings, and it can take weeks and weeks of cleanup work and sending email requests and filling up forms. For a Google listing, I’m hoping that’s what this is a reference to since that’s what we’re talking about on the call, if you go to that profile and you’re signed in, so if you sign in to your Google profile and then you go to that listing that is old and incorrect, there’s a little upside down triangle under where the logo or the photo is, and then it’s got some of the firm info and then it’s got some options. There’s a little upside triangle type arrow pointing down. You can click that. It will pop down a little thing that says report or block this listing. And you can go in there and report and mark it as an old listing or a duplicate listing and fill out that form that way for Google.

And every site has a different form or method. Some you have to email them, others want you to call them and verify that you’re the actual business owner. Sometimes Google, before they’ll get rid of that listing will require you to submit a copy or a business license or a tax license to show that hey, this is us. We are this business. This is a duplicate of our original listing over here. Please remove it.

So it can be a week-long, a two week-long process in some cases of back and forth and providing information and stuff like that to try and get stuff taken down, depending on how thorough the site is. Google is pretty thorough. They’ve started giving the option of submitting business licenses or IDs and stuff like that via their forms and stuff.

Mike: Okay, great. It looks like maybe we have time for just one more question. So let me throw this out to the group. How do you prepare for Google algorithm updates when you don’t know when they will happen or what they will do? So that’s a good point. We don’t really know what Google’s up to. Does anybody from our panel here, any of you guys have any thoughts on how do you prepare for something you’re not sure is coming and what it’s going to do?

Robert: I can answer that. So Google has provided like good practices on content links. So if most of the updates that Google does is regarding both of those, it’s either content, penalizing bad content or penalizing websites that have bad links. So focusing on the best, trying to follow the best practices, the good practices that Google provides, is the safest way to avoid any issues after an algorithm update. But we cannot control Google, so it’s important to not only rely on organic traffic for your business, that’s why on this presentation we discussed social media, pay-per-click. And there are several strategies that you can use to diversify your traffic. So that’s my advice.

Mike: Great. Thank you. Well it looks like we’re just about out of time. I wanted to thank you all for joining us today. Thank you to our panel, Tanner, Grant, Robert. Thanks for spending some time with all of us. And to all of you in the audience, be on the lookout for the slide deck and like we said, hopefully the video, if we didn’t have technical difficulties get in the way. I will plan to send you those by email. And certainly feel free to contact us at any time through our website, our 800 number, or by email. We are certainly happy to answer any follow up questions you may have or if you’d like to discuss online marketing, we’re always up for that.

We’re certainly happy to have been able to share some great information with you today and we look forward to hosting you for another Consultwebs’ Webinar in the future. Good luck with your efforts to improve your firm’s SEO and online marketing, and certainly let us know if we can assist you in helping you get more cases from the Web.