The Secret of Search Engine Optimizationi (Shhhhh, don’t tell anyone)

If you are like most lawyers, you are constantly being barraged by offers from SEO “experts” who know the secrets of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Here is the biggest secret about SEO that I am going to share with you….

There is no secret. Despite what all the experts say, Google, Yahoo, MSN and every other search engine out there do not want a website to show better in their search results because of superior SEO. These search engines make their living by bringing back relevant websites to a particular query. If these results are skewed and not relevant, then the searcher will look elsewhere and not continue to use the search engine.
This creates a cat and mouse game between the SEO Experts (mostly Spammers) and the search engines. I would suggest you do not get caught up with all this.

Remember from my last post, above all, Content is King. If you are adding relevant content, have a Google Site Map (table of contents for Google), and are listed in a few good web directories then your lawyer website or blawg will do just fine. Stay away from trying to guess “keyword density” and other SEO methods. These strategies come and go. Trying to keep up with them will be frustrating, complicated, and in the end, not beneficial to your overall web traffic.

If your hobby is to SEO your law firm website on a frequent basis and the art of SEO interests you, then go ahead. Otherwise, put your head down, and refresh your relevant content. If you build it, they will come.

Attorney Referral / Lead Services

Attorney/Client lead and referral services claim that they take away the labor, analysis, confusion, and qualification of pay per click campaigns. A law firm pays the service and the service provides the law firm with leads it acquires through pay per click campaigns or organic capture.
In investigating a few of these services, including AttorneySync, LegalMatch, and LegalConnection, I found some good and not some good features.

All three did a good job of showing up on pay per click campaigns.

Legal Match and Legal Connection have a very detailed and long intake form which is good and bad. It is good that any referral or lead that gets to you has a lot of information and is more qualified than a typical web inquiry. It is bad that many potential clients will not have the patience to fill out the form.

The AttorneySync form was more intuitive and less lengthy than LegalMatch and LegalConnection. As you can imagine this is good and bad as I described before.

Once the form is filled, LegalMatch informs the user that an appropriate attorney will be in contact. AttorneySync actually shows the attorney that has meets the practice and location criteria. Legal Connection shows up to 3 possible attorneys that meet the criteria. Which one of these is better? I think all three have their merits.

Ok, so do I like the idea of this lead/referral service? I’ll give my generic answer of “it depends”. The upside is that these services take the grunt work out of SEO and Pay Per Click. These services have the ability to ratchet up their ad campaign to get your firm a certain amount of leads. These firms do all the research and heavy lifting for the right keywords. The downside is the uncertainty of the quality of the leads. No matter how long an intake form is, the lead may not be what the you are looking for. I especially hear this with Real Estate lawyers who complain they receive far too many Landlord/Tenant leads. DUI/DWI inquiries tend to be a lot more cut and dry. Either the potential lead was arrested for DUI or not.

So should you try one of these services? I would say giving one a shot would not be a bad idea as a compliment to your Law Firm website and Blawg (lawyer blog). You also need the time and the ability to respond quickly to one of these potential leads as these potential clients are in the market and want immediate feedback. I would also be wary to accept any promises of great leads and would be hesitant to commit to a long term contract.

Also, consult your state bar association on the ethics of these services. Some state rules are strict about referral services.

AttorneySync
LegalMatch
LegalConnection

Posted by Legal Marketer

Directory vs Website Listing

From http://legalmarketingguru.blogspot.com/

As you can guess from my previous posts, I believe a website for an attorney or law firm is one of the pillars of marketing your practice. A well constructed and crafted website can convey a professional/competent image and drive visitors and potential clients to your practice.

The two largest lawyer directories present attorney listings in a different manner. Lawyers.com, as a default, presents a typical “directory style” listing of a firm or attorney. In this listing, there is contact information, listing of lawyers, practice areas, law school information, etc. There is an option to “view website”.

Findlaw on the other hand, defaults the listing back to the attorney’s website. There are very few attorney listing that present the typical directory listings as described above.

There are pros and cons to both formats of listings. If I know a lawyer’s name, then the directory style listing is quicker and more efficient. If I don’t know a specific attorney, then I may want to investigate their website. Findlaw does not give the directory listing style whereas Lawyers.com gives you both options. For this reason, I have to give the nod to Lawyers.com for more consumer choice.

Please let me know what you think.

Lawyer Web Marketing in these economic times

Lawyer Web Marketing in these economic times

 

As every other industry across the country and globally, the practice of law is affected by the severe downturn in the economy. There are less real estate transactions, mortgages, deed and title work, real estate settlements, estate planning, and general business and consumer transactions.

So what is a lawyer or law firm to do in these challenging times to continue to market when market dollars are being squeezed? Here is a checklist of what a lawyer should continue to do to market his or her firm on the internet:

1. Take a fresh look at your firm’s website content. Is it relevant for today’s economic reality? Is the tone of the content in alignment with your target audience’s mood? For instance an estate planning attorney may want to add some content which says something like “We understand the current economic reality, but now is the absolute best time to reavaluate your estate planning strategy” This will have some resonance with your potential client that A. you recognize and sympathize with his or her current mood and B. Give them a reason to come see you for a consultation when your potential client may not have otherwise.

2. Realize that all consumers including your potential clients are hesitant to make big decisions and are doing even more online research. These potential clients want information to help them in their decision making process. This means your site will need more legal related information to allow your potential client to “dip their toe in the water” and see if you are an expert in there desired issue. Customers are going to go online to find information, are they coming to your website or someone elses?

3. Create a lawyer blog giving your opinions or current economic news on a regular basis. The good news is that blogs do not have to be as formal as a typical law firm website. You do have to be consistent in writing a post on a regular basis.

4. Scour the internet for free lawyer directories and submit your website.

5. Submit you law articles to legal related article websites.

6. Look for legal question and answer websites and answer questions that are in your area of practice. You will establish yourself as an expert, allow you to get a potential client, and create a weblink back to your website.

Law Question Website

I wrote about a site called AskingLaw several months ago. The site is a law Q&A website that is taking off in the right direction. In fact they are generating between 6K-10K unique visitors a month (they supplied me with their traffic reports). Great for a site that has been around for less than a year. I have their RSS feed on my site.

The site caters to consumers looking for answers to their legal related questions, very similar to this site, however we don’t have the ability of allowing our viewers to ask questions. The reason for my post isn’t so much for the reader but for the attorney.

We write marketing pieces every now and then on this site. Something that we’ve not mentioned is your ability to market your firm on Q&A sites. The great thing about AskingLaw is you don’t have to have a log-in to ask or answer questions. They even allow the person answering questions the ability to link to their site and put their full contact information on their answers (great for exposure and picking up new clients).

There is no doubt in my mind if I were a practicing attorney ,I certainly would be participating on this site to market my own practice. The other nice feature that they offer is the ability to upload their RSS feeds. I like RSS feeds for several reasons. As an attorney you could upload one of these feeds to your site or even bookmark it on your browser. For instance, if I’m a practicing personal injury lawyer I may want to bookmark their personal injury RSS feed. Check it once a day, answer a few questions and get some nice link exchange which ultimately will lead to new clients.

There are other services on the internet very similar such as lawguru and findlaw. I think it would be advantageous to look at all three services, however, a free service without having to sign-in is ideal.

If anyone else has any other cool legal sites, please feel free to share.

Lawyer Content

Lawyers be patient! That is my advice to those lawyers that have invested time and money into their website marketing plan. I once again reiterate that internet marketing doesn’t happen over night although with the right SEO development you could potentially get results within several months.

The biggest part of promoting your website online is to continue to update your site with new content. You will want to refer to previous posts I’ve created for this site. Too many lawyers get discouraged because they don’t see results right away. They invest money into directories only too see their investment fall to the waste side. I also see folks in the SEO world developing 3-4 sites for a particular business and there is no way they can keep up with all four sites without help. My suggestion would be to concentrate on 1-2 sites.

A good idea would be to create your attorney website and attach a blog to the site. There are several tricks I’ve given throughout these articles and I HIGHLY suggest you read through my articles before you begin your website marketing campaign.

When someone is using the internet they are first and foremost searching for legal information about their problem. In order to capture those people you need to generate rich content. This content if written correctly can do 2 things. It will first be recognized by the search engines and second it will capture your audience. I’ve come across high ranking sites that were poorly written however the SEO was written almost to perfection. While the site is showing up on the first page of google I’m pretty sure the prospect to client ratio was poor.

You can create good content for your website without having to abandon your readers. If you use good title tages, keywords density and meta tags along with a well written page you will capture the SERPS and generate clients to your practice.

In closing, be patient. Like a favorite movie of mine, “If you build it he will come” If you continue to add good content to your website, clients will come!

Lawyer Blogs

We have talked about lawyer marketing for websites but how about blogs? I would like to give each lawyer that knows nothing about search engine marketing a quick overview. Search engine marketing is your ability to get exposure on the search engines. This means building a site with relevant content and having your pages show up on the first page of the major search engines.

While I recommend each lawyer to have a website its becoming more obvious that google is on board with the blogs. A blog is a great way to create exposure on the internet and the best part about it, its very easy to learn. There are several different blogging software programs out there but WordPress is by far the best. They’ve got the whole search engine marketing game down and best of all, they’ve got a huge community backing them. You can download their software for free by clicking here wordpress.org.

Lawyer blogs are becoming common ground in the legal industry because search engines like google love fresh content. If your blogging software is search engine friendly like wordpress, you can certainly capture those keyword search terms. You can blog like you are writing content. Consider reverting back to past posts on this blog.

There are many lawyers who are taking advantage of blogging and those lawyers are generating the majority of their business via the internet. Over the last year, I’ve consulted over a dozen of lawyers and each one has taking the leap into becoming bloggers. In fact, most of them are generating 2-3 times more unique visitors to their blog compared to their website. The majority of all their visitors are coming from google with a select few coming from yahoo and msn. Each one of these lawyers are hosting the wordpress software.

I’ve also been consulting with a group that has a very interesting blog. They use the blog to interact with people searching for legal information, very much like this site. They came to me about 8 months ago searching for ideas on how to help kick-start their website. We looked at several different options and decided to put their site on a blog. They are now generating over 1,200 unique visitors a day to their site. The numbers are staggering considering just 8 months ago they were getting about 600 unique visitors to their site per month. I directly contribute this to fresh content and the blogging software.

If you are a lawyer and you’ve noticed that your website isn’t generating as much traffic as usual, it could be a direct result of a competitor blogging about your key search terms.

I will talk a little more in-depth at a later time. I’ve got work to do and so do you. Get busy and start blogging!

Lawyer Marketing Link Exchange

It has been awhile since I’ve posted my last article to legalcatch. I’ve had some positive feedback from previous lawyer marketing posts and I’m happy to hear some of you are putting these ideas into place. I’ve gotten some feedback from both industry experts but more importantly through several of my clients. I’ve put into place several months ago a ramp up on one technique that seems to be working very well. I am talking about link exchange and not the same type of link exchange you are probably thinking about. I’m talking deep link exchange and not just from one site to another, I mean deep link exchange from different pages within your website.

Lets consider the following: You have a website address called http://www.yoursitewhateveritis.com

This is the page I call the “Parent” aka your homepage and every single page on your website should have a link going back to the parent. The link from the other pages on your site should link on a keyword. For instance Law Information may be the keyword term that legalcatch.wordpress is trying to capture. I use the hyperlink with the title in the hyper link aka law information going directly to this sites homepage. For some attorneys that practice personal injury law in New York, their keyword may be New York Personal injury lawyers.

To find out what people are searching for use this tool: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

This is google adwords tool and you can find out what people are searching for by putting your keywords into the keyword selector.

Your “children pages” should be your key five or six pages listed on your site aka, about us, contact, practice areas etc. Each of these pages should have links going to other pages aka deep links as well as to the parent.

Your grandchildren pages should be those pages linking down from your about us, contact and practice area.

Now lets put it together.

Home Page (every page should link to your home page with 1 to 2 different keyword phrases)

Child Page (these are the pages that describe your firm and services. These pages may include your about page, practice areas, firm overview and practice areas)

Grandchildren (these are the pages that should have your practice areas such as car accidents, slip and falls, mold cases etc if your a personal injury lawyer. For criminal lawyers it would be assault and battery, dwi, dui etc.)

Great grandchildren (these pages should describe terms related to your grandchildren pages such as for a personal injury lawyer – contingency fee, compensation, expenses)

The link exchange should start from the bottom up and you can link from the top to the bottom. When you link from your parent to great grandchildren pages we call this deep linking. If you can capture the terms for each page through your hyperlinks you will get good seo. google loves deep link exchange and if you can take the time to get good link exchange within your site you will crush the competition I promise. google has changed their algorithms and I’m almost certain that deep linking within a website is something they are weighing heavy on today and in the near future.

I have one other technique that works with this link exchange I will explain in my next post. Try this technique and do a lot of link exchange within your site. I promise you will see your site take a leap in the search engines.

Lawyer Submission

Throughout the last couple of weeks I have received emails regarding the best places to submit your website. Before I give you a few names of sites I have used, we first need to understand why linking and submissions are important. When you create a website the first thing to consider is creating a vast amount of exposure in public directories, legal directories and search engines. Linking your website from certain directories will be advantageous for you.

When you link your website from different directory’s you do 2 things:

You get the incoming link to your website which will help boost your rankings

You get a link within the directory in the event someone is using the directory to locate an attorney

Before you begin linking in every imaginable directory on the internet consider the following:

  • Do not link into spamming sites
  • Link your website in the right area – lawyer section

Provide a good anchor tag – When linking use a keyword term, ie New York criminal lawyers. This term should link directly to your site.

Linking from different websites and blogs that are legal specific. This means if you can get into a good link exchange program with other attorneys around the country it will help you in the SERP’s.

Stay away from link farms. A link farm or link cloud is a way to spam the search engines. Search engines are now penalizing those links that are part of link farms. It will only hurt your rankings.

I have provided a list below of some of the better places to have your website listed. I have included both free listings and paid listings.

There are other ways of finding the right directory or places to link your website. If you are looking for other places do a search (google) for a specific keyword that relates to a term you are trying to capture. When you look at the result you may see one or two of your competitors on the first page. Take the first part of the url (whatever.com) and put that site into the search engine box and submit. Exclude http://www. just put in the name of the site followed by the .com.

Once you have done so you will be provided a full lists of sites linking into the website. Those are probably some of the sites you need a link from.

In closing if you decide to start linking you will get better exposure on the internet. Most people that sell search engine optimization believe that linking is the most important part in getting top exposure on the search engines. I think its very important and I suggest you do so immediately.

As always your comments are much appreciated. Both the good and the bad!

Content is King for Lawyers

This is the beginning of search engine optimization. I will begin talking about content. The next couple of posts will be critical in getting your lawyer website showing up in the search engines. There is a so called “formula” and tonight I will begin breaking down the formula starting with content. This is the first piece of the puzzle. I will describe how I can get your lawyer website to show up on the search engines through good content. I don’t mean by putting your name into a search engine, I mean by putting in a key “search phrase” into a search engine.  If I create a lawyer website I want to know that the search engines are hitting my site and my site can be found through keyword phrases. Keyword phrases should include:

  • The state, counties and towns that your law practice covers
  • The areas of law you practice (personal injury, criminal law, family law etc.)
  • Description of services related to each practice area (car accidents, drug offenses, divorce etc.)

In laymen terms when someone puts in a keyword phrase such as “New York car accident lawyers” your site will appear on the first page of the search. This is called search engine exposure through search engine marketing. The concept for search engine marketing is ever changing. By the time I finish this post perhaps these techniques will be null and void, however, I highly doubt it. There are many so called “search engine experts” that will argue some of my recommendations, but based on my experience and success, I will give you the information that has worked for me in the past (well most of it). Its first important to understand that the major search engines often change their algorithms so people like me can’t own certain key word phrases. I have heard that these search engines will change their algorithms anywhere from every six months to a year. To you this means that the way the search engine finds information could change a little. So lets begin!

The Basics

Submitting your site: For most cases in order for these search engines to find your site, you will need to submit your site to each search engine. There are cases that they will pick up your site but it will take much longer. My recommendation is to submit your site to google, MSN and Yahoo right away. Click on the links to submit.

Time: Understand by submitting your site doesn’t mean you will get instant exposure. It takes time so be patient. There are ways to bypass this that I would like to keep to myself, but for the most part the amount of time you have your URL (web address) on the internet will count for something.

Content is King

Good Content: The key to search engine exposure is unique and relevant content. It all starts with good content and if anyone tells you different they are wrong. Without relevant content on your site it is very hard to get found through organic searches. When you start writing your content the best thing to do is look at other attorney websites. The websites that are showing up on the first page of the search engines. These are the websites that you want to mimic in a sense. Why? Because their websites are showing up and your website is not. I have worked with many lawyers that developed their own websites and as a result of poor written content, their site rarely got traffic. Poorly written content doesn’t give much appeal to the search engines hence they never get traffic to their site.

Words per page: This is where I differ from some Search engine experts. While most experts believe there needs to be a balance of content, I believe that too much content isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Now, I will tell you that too much content will often times get your visitors jumping from your site so pay close attention. An individual page on your website should be around 500 words. In the industry you will hear 250 minimum and 500 maximum. I have created pages with over a 750 words and those pages are standing number 1 on many different searches. You can easily find out the words per page by copying and pasting your content into Microsoft word. Goto the tools menu and hit word count. If you are under 250 start writing.

Laying out your content: This is very important. When creating pages on your website you will want to start with a “home base.” This page often times explains your practice and links out to certain pages within your website. For instance, I may have a page listed as “practice areas.” This page should briefly explain my practice areas with hot links to separate pages to each of the practice areas. I will give this site a good link New York Personal Injury Lawyers – Click that link to see the example. I will explain to you later why I presented that link as “NY PI lawyers”. When you give your practice areas a home base, you basically lay the content out for the search engines to easily access your content. It also helps for navigation purposes.

Keyword Density: This is another area that many SEO experts may disagree. Based upon my experience, keyword density still plays a significant role in getting your site found. Keyword density is the ability to be repetitive with certain words for each page. For example, if I’m a New York Criminal Lawyer, I will want to repeat that phrase several times within each web page. Keyword density breaks down all the words on a particular page and calculates each word. The calculation is based upon every word and the tool will show you a percentage. Click here for the tool – Keyword Density – A good percentage will be anywhere from 2% – 5%. Anything over or under will be somewhat insignificant however they still will show up in some searches. I do recommend never going over 6% for reasons I will explain later. The words you are trying to capture are those words that people are putting in the search engine to find an attorney like you. You will need to do a little research in finding out what people are putting in the search engines. I typically do the research for my clients and it can be time consuming. A quick hint* If you are a New York Estate Planning attorney than your 2-5% is typically New York Estate Planning Attorney. Of course everyone that practices estate planning in New York is obviously going after this term so you need to consider being more location driven when you begin. This means perhaps the town you practice in i.e. Oswego Estate planning attorney to begin. However do include both New York and NY somewhere on each page.

Google SiteMap: Let me make this clear. You need a google sitemap on your website! If you don’t you will be handicapping yourself, trust me. Click on this link google sitemap. If you can’t figure it out, I would recommend paying someone who can. A sitemap will help google find your content much quicker. I’m not saying your dead in the water without one, but it will help you if you have one.

In closing, this is just the first part of a large puzzle. I begin with content because I believe content is the most important part of a website. Without content you have nothing. If you follow this formula you are one step closer to getting exposure on the internet. Until next time, I accept all criticism and praise equally.