Category Archives: SEO

.attorney vs .lawyer vs .com domains. What Should Small Law Firms Do?

There are a couple of new top level domains that are opening up for registration in the next few weeks, and the announcement has attorneys wondering what, if anything, should they do?

What’s the deal?

Well first, let’s talk about what the change is.  Around 2006, ICANN, the governing body for domain names on the internet started taking bids for new generic top level domains (gTLDs).  Since most lucrative and/or useful domains have been taken up by domain squatters and the occasional legit business, folks welcomed the opportunity to get a branded domain name that was relevant to their business.

So, they offered companies and investors the chance to own and manage new top level domains.  Some of them are innocuous (.ceo, .bike, .directory, .beer), some are scandalous (.sexy, .xxx), and some are just industry specific (.plumbing, .attorney, .lawyer).

What makes the .attorney and .lawyer gTLDs interesting, is that they are intended to act like the .gov, .edu, and .mil “sponsored” top level domains.  Sponsored TLDs act as a signal of trust since not just anyone can get one of those domains.  You need to meet a managing body’s criteria. In the former, you need to prove you’re an attorney (or attending an accredited law school), and in the latter, you need to be a government, educational institution or branch of military service.

That’s the theory anyways.

Without going into the threat this imposes on existing ethics regulators (a threat that Carolyn Elefant covers in depth in her post “Should Lawyers Mark A Spot With With a Domain Dot – And Will Ethics Regulators Say Yay or Not?“) it’s important to note that even if regulators embrace the new gTLDs, the real question is whether potential clients will.

I’ve always considered sites with the newer TLDs as somewhat suspect.  It’s not a perfect system, but the fact that you need to pay a decent amount of money for a great .com domain is such a good filter that it tends to cloud my judgement when it comes to trusting other domains.

At least, that’s my bias.  But I’m not one to assume that everyone is like me.  I’m a computer nerd by trade, and as such have a fairly biased opinion when it comes to technology in general.

Enter real data…

Instead, I ran an experiment to find out for real, whether the regulated TLDs accomplish the task of inspiring trust in normal, everyday folk.

Here’s how it worked.  Using Google’s awesome Consumer Surveys tool, I asked a simple question of 100 people.  If you were looking to hire an attorney, based only on the domain name, who would you choose?

  • www.john-smith-law.com
  • www.johnsmith.lawyer
  • www.johnsmith.attorney

The idea for those three is based on the following scenario.  Let’s assume you’re trying to find a domain for your solo firm.  And let’s say you have a fairly common name where you can’t get the exact johnsmith.com or johnsmithlaw.com (because if you can, you should do that right now and stop reading.)

You might then consider, do I get my exact match domain with .attorney or .lawyer instead?  Will that get more clients to trust me?

Well, survey says…

Overall, I was surprised by the results. I thought the .com would absolutely trounce the gTLDs and that appears to be absolutely wrong.

.attorney and .com lead the way.
Turns out, while almost noone prefered the .lawyer domain, .attorney actually appears to hold roughly equal to slightly more trust than .com when you take into account the error margins in the survey.

Here’s the preliminary result:

.lawyer vs .attorney vs. .com trust

Younger folks prefer .com, older folks, .attorney
While that’s the general population, it’s interesting that there are fairly heavy splits when it comes to the age of the recipient. Something that might be useful to know for all your elder law folks out there.

age_split

Upper income clients still prefer .com
If your clients tend to be wealthier, or you hope to get more wealthier clients, it’s interesting to note that upper income individuals still prefer the .com.

Upper income folks seem to prefer .com dmoains ober .attorney and .lawyer

Upper income folks seem to prefer .com dmoains ober .attorney and .lawyer

Want to analyze the data for your target clients?
If you want to comb through the data to see what your target clients might prefer, head on over to the Google survey results page and tinker to your heart’s content.

And if you think this data is bunk, or if you want more info for your own purposes, this survey is set for 100 responses and only cost $10. You can set one up yourself and target the results by geographic region and income, and you’ll have the results in a few days.

I see the data, so what should I do?

Well first, don’t panic. It might seem like there’s a great gold rush out there for these domain names, but the population that uses them is tiny (relative to other TLDs) and an even smaller fraction will actually purchase the domains. And since switching and/or deciding on a domain is a BIG deal, don’t make the decision rashly.

Should I switch to a .attorney domain?
Probably not, definitely not right away, and MOST DEFINITELY, not without some professional help.

There are a number of things to consider when considering a domain switch. You’ll need to consider the cost of replacing any marketing collateral you own like business cards, pamphlets etc.

You’ll need to perform an audit of your existing site to make sure any and all pages on your site are redirected to the new domain properly (for any site with more than 5 pages, seek professional help with this).

You’ll need to update all of your DNS records to match the old domain so things like email will still work… in other words, it’s not as simple as just changing your domain.

Should I register my existing domain with the .attorney and .lawyer TLDs?
If you have $35-$100 burning a hole in your pocket and it would make you feel better to have them just in case, go ahead and buy them. But remember, if you buy both at $35, that’s $70 every single year you own them.

But what if I want to prevent someone else from registering them?
Unless you’re a giant brand with money to spare, this is generally a false worry. First of all, as a small law firm, you’re not big enough for most squatters to care about.

Second, unless the squatter commits to building content in your niche, search engines will never find the squatter’s site anyways.

And thirdly, if you’re concerned about someone coming along and registering a domain just to bad mouth you or your firm, well, the only way to prevent that is to buy up every gTLD out there, and that’s going to cost you a whole lot of money just to prevent a hypothetical.

However… one case where I’d consider squatting is if your firm is hyper personalized and your name is reasonably common. For example, if you own “marystevens.com” or “marystevenslaw.com”, consider picking up “marystevens.attorney” and “marystevens.lawyer” as building a little moat around your personal brand is important when you have a common name.

I am just starting out, should I go .com or .attorney?
Based on the data, it looks like we can rule out .lawyer. And if you can get a decent .com with no dashes, go that route for sure.

But, if you found a really nice .attorney domain in a competitive niche, like say “nydefense.attorney” or “thepersonalinjury.attorney” go for it! Given that it appears that the trust is there, it can’t hurt.

But, one thing to consider is whether having the singular “attorney” or “lawyer” as a domain name will be limiting if you want to grow your firm. The domain seems to imply a single individual, and that might become an issue down the road if you suddenly have a couple of associates or additional partners.

I already registered the domains, if I don’t switch, what should I use them for?
First, redirect them to your existing site by using a CNAME or URL record with your DNS provider. I know that’s really techy, so if you need help, just email me.

Second, if you’re not changing your primary domain, do not use your new domains for things like email or other branding materials. Besides confusing your clients, it also confuses google into thinking there really are two sites and that hurts your SEO.

Should I buy up domains for multiple practice areas?
Not unless you’re creating separate sites for each and have the time to maintain them.

Just owning the domains and pointing them all at your existing site won’t really make a difference for your site traffic. Google will only recognize those domains if you actually have content on them and have links coming in using the new domains. And since it’s highly unlikely that any consumer is going to type “newyorkpersonalinjury.attorney” into their browser bar without some sort of marketing material to prompt them, you won’t get any additional direct traffic either.

But what if I’m squatting, hoping to sell the domains to other attorneys?
Well, sorry to be the one to say it, but you’re the reason we can’t have nice things (like reasonable .com domains.)

That’s it! Any more questions?

If you like this kind of no-nonsense marketing advice for solo and small firm attorneys, sign up for our marketing bootcamp where you’ll get one email every week with easy to digest marketing plans that let you get back to being a lawyer.

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Why Google’s Cracking Down On Non Mobile-Friendly Sites And What Attorneys Need To Do

You may have heard whisperings that Google is going to be cracking down on non-mobile-friendly websites starting April 21st.

That’s absolutely correct.

For a while now they’ve been keeping track of whether sites are optimized for small screens and slow data connections. Up until now they haven’t changed any of the rankings based on that information and instead, just show a little “Mobile-friendly” label on search results when searching from your mobile device.

But now, they’re taking the next step, and using mobile-friendly as a ranking signal when someone searches for your firm on a mobile device. We don’t know how much it will affect rankings just yet (but we’re watching closely and will report as soon as we can measure it), but we know that it will drop rankings for searches from mobile devices, and it’s expected to drop them considerably.

What does that mean for you?

Well, it depends on if your site is mobile-optimized. Here’s a link to check if your site is mobile-friendly. If it is, then you should be all set.

But if it’s not, come on back here and we’ll discuss the options you have for avoiding the Google hammer in a few weeks.

So here’s the link to Google’s mobile-friendly tester.

Go check your site and see if Google thinks it’s mobile-friendly. I’ll wait.

How’d you do? Did your site pass?

It passed!

That’s awesome. Gold star for you! You may want to read ahead though to see if one of the other options here might be a better option for you.

It didn’t pass?

Don’t worry all is not lost. Consider this a bit of a wake-up call. After all, you still have a little time to right the ship, so to speak.

First of all, these changes won’t affect your rankings when someone searches for your firm on their desktop. Which, is still somewhere around 75% of search traffic in the US depending on whose stats you use.

But, that still means you’ll start to lose out on 1/4 of your traffic.

A better way to think about this might be to consider the following scenario. Let’s say a potential client just got into a cab when they received an email from a friend referring your firm to fix their problem. The first thing they’ll do is google you or your firm.

If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, your firm website might not be right there in the first spot in their search results. Instead, they might see your Avvo profile (which you may or may not have done anything with). Or maybe they’ll see a complaint a bitter client left on a review site.

All that effort crafting your brand and your message, and it’s all for naught because your site wasn’t the first one listed.

Obviously, that’s not a great place to be in. So it begs the question…

“How do I make my site mobile-friendly?”

Well, you have two options. You can redesign your site, or you can create a separate mobile site that lives at mobile.myfirm.com.

Each has their benefits and drawbacks, but I’m going to strongly recommend a site redesign over creating a separate mobile version of your website.

The main reason is maintenance. With two different web properties to maintain, you’ll need to have a way of keeping them in sync. And what’s more, you’ll need to be diligent about telling Google which version of a page is ‘canonical’. Meaning, which version is the “one true version?” Fail to stay on top of that and Google will dock you for having duplicate content.

The second reason is just common sense. For the same cost it would take to build a mobile-specific site, you could redesign your site to be mobile-friendly and avoid the mess of maintaining two properties altogether.

No need to worry about whether the mobile site matches your desktop branding. No worrying about duplicate content. And hey, you get a fancy new desktop and mobile website for the same investment.

How large is that investment? Well, it depends on what you’re starting with.

I use wordpress or another CMS.

If you already use a content management system like WordPress, it could be as simple as finding a theme you like. A decent responsive theme can be had for peanuts on sites like themeforest.net. You might get lucky and be able to just swap in the new theme and call it a day and you’re done in ~$50.

More likely, you’ll want to find a developer to customize the theme in a few places to fit your brand. That could cost you ~$50-$100/hr for a few hours of work. A far cry from building a new site from scratch.

I had a custom site coded for me.

But if your site was a custom job, as we typically see with agencies or with one-off website designs, your options get a (little) bit more expensive.

You’ll likely need to go through that process again. Which is a pain, I know. This time through though, keep an eye on an ability to upgrade in the future. If you’re working with a developer or agency, make sure they’re using a commonly-used CMS that will be around for a while. WordPress would be my recommendation (outside of using AmazeLaw of course.)

For an idea of what a site should cost these days, check out our guide to How Much a Law Firm Website Should Cost.

But regardless of your starting point. This update is a good thing for your firm. Sure it requires some investment. But that’s exactly what it is. An investment that you’ll most definitely see returns on.

Again. This is a GOOD thing. Think of it this way.

Imagine you had a 20 year old car. It’s worked well for you in the past. Sure, it’s not shiny, but it’s gotten you where you’ve needed to go.

But, a lot has changed in 20 years. Technology has gotten exponentially better. While you might say “I don’t need my car to talk to me,” it’d be hard to argue against the safety, fuel-efficiency, and reliability improvements that have come along with it.

On the road, states incentivize adoption of new technology through car inspections. On the internet, Google is taking on that role by rewarding sites that stay current with better search placement.

So rather than lamenting the fact that it’s become necessary to upgrade your website, you should also feel excited. You can now take advantage of advances in technology that make marketing your firm much easier.

Does your site need a mobile upgrade?

Our sites are all fully-mobile-optimized. If you want to see what mobile magic AmazeLaw can do for your firm…

Schedule a Demo Today

Pick Me! Your Beginner’s Guide On How To Attract Local Clients Via The Internet

I know what you’re wondering: How do I attract local clients who do a Google search for law firms in my area?

In this post, I’m going to give you two ways to attract local clients – and both are free and easy enough to do in an afternoon. Let’s get to it:

First Things First

A word of consideration: As you read this article, keep in mind that there may be some ethical do’s and don’ts when it comes to soliciting or promoting online reviews of you or your law practice. Always check with your state bar association’s guidelines on what action is permissible.

You need an online presence. Forget Yellow Pages and billboards to reach local audiences. Did you know that 83% of your prospective clients will perform an online search first to find local lawyers?

You need a website and completed social media profiles. You also need to set up shop on review sites like Google My Business and Yelp. We’ll discuss this in greater detail later in this post.

You must have a responsive website. People aren’t searching the Internet strictly from their desktop computers anymore, especially when finding out information about law offices. When a client wants to find hours and directions to your office, they’re going to do so via their smartphones. Google found that 88% of local searches come from a smartphone. That’s 4% more than desktop computers.

What does this mean for you? It means that you need a website that looks great on smartphones and quickly gives your clients exactly what they need.

The best way to do that is with a well-designed website that responds to whatever device your client uses to access your information. We can help with that.

Make client testimonials a priority. Your law firm will grow based on word of mouth, both offline and online, too. Make it a part of your client outtake process to ask that they share their experience through an online review, or provide your information to others.

That said, be sure to follow the guidelines of each online review site to make sure you’re complying with the rules (more on that a little later).

Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of designing your local marketing strategy:

Where Do Your Clients Search?

Let’s get real for a moment. Do your clients know anything about Martindale or even Lawyers.com? Probably not. And you may not either. But everyone knows about Google and Yelp. That’s exactly where you need to be right now if you’d like to attract local clients.
Take a look at these two graphs from the guys at SoftwareAdvice.com:

software-advice

Image Courtesy of SoftwareAdvice.com

In fact, Yelp is the most trusted review site for lawyers, by far. More than twice the amount of people go to Yelp to find a lawyer than its’ nearest competitor, Super Lawyers.

legal-servicesImage Courtesy of Yelp

The other big influencer for your law office is Google. A completely new prospective client who has never heard of you will most likely begin their search for representation with Google. Someone who’s familiar with Yelp (and who isn’t these days?) will likely head to Yelp for recommendations and reviews.

We’ll explore both sites in detail, but remember that you should also get listed on each and every site that speaks to your prospective clients. Although we’re going to focus on Google and Yelp in this post, you shouldn’t exclude Avvo.comMartindale, and Super Lawyers. They rock, too, just not as loudly (yet) as Google and Yelp. In fact, we recommend that you focus your marketing efforts on Google (60%), Yelp (20%), and Avvo (20%).

But, since you’re just beginning your local marketing, let’s tackle the two with the biggest ROI now and then focus on the others afterwards.

Would you like a checklist for optimizing your Google My Business and Yelp profiles? Subscribe to receive this free resource.

Google My Business

Let’s do an exercise right now. In your browser, do a quick Google search for “law firms in insert your city, your state” (for example, law firms in Phoenix, AZ). What comes up? Does your website show in the premium space affectionately known as Google’s local snack pack?

law-firms

Screenshot of snack pack of law firms in Phoenix, AZ

If so, fantastic! Move on to the Yelp section below. If not, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to dominating.

What is Google My Business?

Google My Business is a free feature created by Google for any local business that would like to market and promote themselves online.

This feature increases your exposure online. How? When people do a basic search for law firms in your area, your Google My Business listing will show up before the regular search engine results. For this reason alone, Google My Business can be even more powerful than SEO (search engine optimization).

As a local law office, you can’t afford not to be listed through Google My Business. If you’re not on that top three list, your competitors are.

I already have a website. Do I need Google My Business, too?

Yes. While your website should be the central hub of your online activity (i.e. your services, blog posts, bios, and contact information), you also need a Google My Business listing. Google uses the information you provide to better construct their search engine results.

Google is a business too, and they want to provide the best and most accurate information to their customers. Google wants to make it easy for customers to find exactly what they need as quickly as possible.

That’s why they created Google My Business, which distills all of your information into an orderly, easy-to-scan structure. This feature empowers your prospective clients with the following information:

Your Business Name

Address

Phone Number

Website Link

Area of Law Expertise

Directions

Physical Location on a Local Map

Rating and Reviews

Hours of Operation

Photos of Your Practice

Top 5 Related Web Results

zachar-lawScreenshot of Zachar Law Firm in Phoenix, AZ

What is a snack pack?

Google My Business selects three local listings to showcase. We call this the snack pack. They get prime listing above other law firms.

So, why do only three listings make it? It all goes back to mobile. It turns out that the three listing snack pack looks best on smartphones and smaller screens.

How do I make it into the Google snack pack?

There are two strategies you can implement to influence your Google My Business listing and hopefully make it to the coveted three within the snack pack. They are:

Position yourself as an authority. What type of law do you practice? Be sure to get as specific as possible in your Google My Business listing. Indicate if you practice family law, personal injury, bankruptcy, and so on. This will help Google determine where to rank you on their list.

bankcruptcyA Google Search for “bankruptcy lawyer phoenix az”

Get reviewed. Do you have a happy client? Direct them to your Google My Business listing. How? Here comes the creative part.

As of now, the best way to get them to your Google listing is to provide a URL that looks something like this:

https://www.google.com/#q=Zachar+Law+Firm

You’ll create a URL like this by searching for your specific law office name in Google. In the above case “Zachar Law Firm.” If your law office name sounds similar to others, specify by adding your city and state or even zipcode.

zachar2

To solicit reviews, simply ask. Make sure you direct your potential reviewers to your Google search URL (for example https://www.google.com/#q=Zachar+Law+Firm). You can ask in the emails you send out, under your signature, with a sentence like:

Leave Us a Review on Google Here: (provide a link to your Google search URL)

Every so often, you should ask your social media followers for a review. Be sure never to incentivize the reviews you ask for on Google.

Yelp

As we mentioned before, Yelp is a necessary component of your local marketing strategy. One thing you need to know about Yelp is they don’t allow you to ask for reviews. But there are still ways to win on Yelp. Let’s check it out:

What is Yelp?

Yelp is an online review site for local businesses. It’s second only to Google in terms of influence for local recommendations. They average 142 million visits every month. That’s huge.

yelpA Yelp search for “law firms in Phoenix, AZ”

Why do I need to be on Yelp?

You need to be there because your clients are there. More people use Yelp to search for law firms than they do any other review site.

What information does Yelp give potential clients?

Yelp provides the following information in the main listing:

Your Name

Address

Phone Number

Ratings and Reviews

Area of Specialization

Hero Image of You or Your Law Office

One Top Review

In the full page listing, you can add more such as:

Your Website

A Map of Your Location

An Overview of Your Practice that You Write

Does Yelp filter reviews?

It sure does. It’s been said that Yelp eliminates the best and the worst reviews. Yelp also may slash reviews from those without friends, incomplete profiles, or no other reviews. This is why it’s so important to reach active Yelp users who can positively (fingers crossed) promote your law practice.

Wait, I thought I couldn’t ask for reviews

You can’t. But you can ask your clients to visit your Yelp page. It’s a small matter of semantics but you’re a lawyer, so you should be okay with that.

The bottom line is you can encourage visitors to find you on Yelp and hope that they feel inspired to write a review about your wonderful work. You can also place a Yelp badge on your website to further promote your Yelp page. Likewise, add a link to your Yelp page under your email signature with the text, “Check us out on Yelp.”

Final Thoughts

Google My Business and Yelp can positively impact your law firm. Take an hour or two out of your day to set up your profile on these sites. Not sure how to do that? Subscribe to receive a checklist for optimizing your Google My Business and Yelp profiles.

Would you like a checklist for optimizing your Google My Business and Yelp profiles? Subscribe to receive this free resource.

Local SEO 101: What You Need To Know To Dominate the Listings

Chances are, you’ve heard of SEO. SEO is short for search engine optimization, and it’s the practice of doing everything you can to get as high up in the search engine results page (SERP, for short) as possible.

You see, landing on the first page of Google (or Bing) is not an accident. It takes deliberate effort to catapult your lawyer website (and by extension, your law firm) to the first few results, and there’s a lot of stiff competition vying for that coveted spot.

Here’s a free checklist to help you boost your SEO. Subscribe to receive this extra checklist.

Being on the first page of Google (or Bing) is absolutely crucial to grabbing potential clients. These people are on the Internet right now looking for the very legal services you offer, but studies show that most people never click beyond the first page of the search results. If you want to reach them, you’ve got to be on that first page, too.

What is local seo?

Local SEO is slightly different from normal SEO. Local SEO is about getting your website to hit the front page for a specific location, i.e. your city or state.

For example, the results that pop up when someone searches for “law firms Tucson” have all been optimized for a local search.

Local SEO is important for businesses with physical locations. When Internet users search for a law firm online, they usually want to make contact immediately. They’re not going to spend an hour searching through hundreds of listings to find your contact information that’s nestled somewhere on page seven. They’ll likely go with one of the first few listings on the first page.

So, how do you dominate the local results? Let’s take a look at a few proven strategies.

A Word About Keywords

Before we go any further, let’s talk about keywords.

Keywords are words that you type into a search box to call up a particular topic.

To dominate local results, you need to use relevant and local keywords on your website. If your law firm specializes in family law in Birmingham, AL that’s exactly what phrase you should use to describe yourself on your website. An example of this would be in your About Us page where you describe your practice as “family law Birmingham, AL.”

This small effort makes it much more likely for you to show up in the search results when someone searches in Google for that very phrase.

key-words

Image Courtesy of Google

It would be a mistake to overlook your city name here and go generic. There are hundreds, thousands, or even millions of other websites that could turn up for a generic keyword like “legal advice.”

While Google can put together a list of local law firms, if you haven’t optimized your content to indicate that you’re local to that specific area, you’ll get overlooked in favor of your competitors.

The moral of the story? Make all of your websites optimized for local keyword search inquiries by adding your city name.

By the way, don’t go crazy with keywords. Your site’s ranking on the search engine won’t improve from keyword stuffing.

Keyword stuffing is when you list a whole bunch of keywords (usually at the bottom of your page) in hopes that the search engine will select your site when a specific keyword is searched for. While this was a common practice once upon a time, you can’t trick the search engine crawlers this way anymore.

The good news is there are plenty of ways to still optimize your online presence, and we’re going to delve directly into them right now.

Pay for Ads

You need a paid ad strategy if you’d like to dominate local search engine results. That’s because the very first search results on Google happen to be advertisements.

The ads look similar to regular listings except for the telltale orange “ad” icon. They get a lot of clicks. These ads compete with regular “organic” search results and usually win.

A round of ads are also displayed near the bottom of the page, too.

Paid advertising doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Here’s a simple overview of how Google’s paid advertising works:

  • You choose a keyword phrase you’d like to rank for. This means when someone types in this phrase in the search bar, your ad will return along with the search results, hopefully at the top of the page.
  • You decide how much you’re willing to pay. Google ads are pay per click. Every time someone clicks on your ad, your account will be debited the specific amount you agreed to pay.
  • You can determine how much you’re willing to pay each day. If your limit is $5.00 per day, your ad will disappear after meeting that quota until the next day.
  • You create an ad, paying special attention to making it relevant for the keyword phrase you’re bidding on. Be sure you link to a relevant page on your website that discusses that very keyword, or else visitors will feel like you’ve tricked them. (This will negatively impact your ad campaign and cause your ad to disappear from search results.)
  • You then bid on the ad. You’re not guaranteed to win the bid. Sometimes, other competitors are also bidding for that same keyword phrase. Google doesn’t automatically choose the highest bidder, either. Instead, Google uses a quality score to decide who should receive the coveted spot.

Bing works similarly to Google.

While you’re never guaranteed a spot in the top results, optimizing your content and making sure the ad links to a relevant location will increase your chances.

Utilize Google My Business

We’ve talked extensively about Google My Business in this post: Pick Me! Your Beginner’s Guide on How to Attract Local Clients via the Internet. If you’d like to really understand how to list your law firm with Google, definitely check it out.

While I won’t rehash what we discussed there, I will say that getting listed on Google My Business is one of the smartest things you can do to influence where you land in the local search results.

Studies show that clients are more likely to visit a business with a completed Google My Business page.

google-my-business

Image Courtesy of Greg Gifford, DealerOn

Make it a priority to list your business on Google My Business today. In fact, you can do it right now. I’ll wait. It’s that important.

Get Reviewed

In that previous post on attracting local clients, we also talked about the importance of getting reviews, with heavy emphasis on Yelp. Be sure to check that post out, too.

While reviews on third party sites like Yelp are important, you should also actively seek reviews on Google.

These reviews help Google determine whether to display your listing in its Google My Business local results. Because an initial trio of listings feature prominently on the search results page (it’s located right underneath the ads and before the organic search results), you need to do whatever it takes to get a spot on this list.

get-reviewed

Image Courtesy of Google

Encourage your clients to leave a review of your law firm with Google. Unfortunately, there isn’t a straight link you can give them, but you can provide a series of short instructions along with a visual reference like this:

get-reviewd2

Image Courtesy of Google

Create a Blog

If you don’t have a blog already, consider creating one. Websites with active blogs rank higher in search results. Why?

Search engines love to see a freshly updated website. While you’re probably not going to change the core information on your website very often (this includes the content on your About page, your Contact Us page, and your Services page), you can provide fresh content on a blog.

This is also another opportunity to appear in local search results for a specific keyword phrase. You can write about topics that your potential clients are likely to search for. An example of this may be “applying for a K-1 visa in Portland, Oregon.” Your blog post can rank near the top because it contains relevant keywords.

create-a-blog

Image Courtesy of Google

This is the most important thing to remember when writing your blog:

Focus on local keywords (i.e. city, state) everywhere especially in:

  • Your blog post title
  • Your meta description
  • The alt tags on your images

Final Thoughts

Local SEO sounds a lot more complicated than it is. Your law firm can totally dominate the local search results if you follow this advice. Ask any questions you have in the comments below and we’ll be sure to help you.

Here’s a free checklist to help you boost your SEO. Subscribe to receive this extra checklist.

Should A Lawyer Have A Blog?

If you already own a website, why should a lawyer have a blog?

Nowadays, when people have a problem they immediately turn to Google and other search engines to find the answer. The way things work online, a few words or phrases are typed into the search bar and websites that best match it will show up.

For certain legal concerns, you may see searches like this:

  • Wife wants divorce
  • Can my brother sue me
  • What do I do if I get arrested?

In these situations, having a blog and writing about the legal perspective can bring more visitors to your website and potentially lead to new clients.

To achieve this, you will need to write articles with headlines like the following:

  • 7 Things You Must Do When Your Wife Wants A Divorce
  • What To Do When Your Brother (Or Family) Wants To Sue You
  • How Your Arrest Will Affect You And Your Family

Blogging is a powerful tool that takes time, commitment and a little online knowledge to make it work. Here’s a few things lawyers starting a blog should know.

Guidelines For A Lawyer’s Blog

You may not be a web designer, but there are a few things you should know if you intend to provide your thoughts, ideas, and professional advice online. A website is just like your office space: the way it is organized, the overall aesthetic, and the level of professionalism all play a part in whether people will stick around or click away.

Here are a few guidelines to consider when it comes to lawyer’s having an online blog:

  1. Create a responsive website. Many people are navigating the online world from a smart device. This means that your lawyer website has to be 100% responsive and mobile friendly. When it comes to the design elements on the page, keep it simple and keep it clean. And, don’t over complicate the language. People from all kinds of backgrounds will be reaching out to your online. Using simple, everyday language will be the best way to connect with potential clients.
  2. Have a clear way to contact you. There is a purpose to providing a website and this is amplified by adding a blog. Whenever you have visitors coming to your site, your contact information should be clear and distinct. Visitors should be able to send an email with ease or touch your number causing it to instantly dial. Reducing the level of frustrations on your website and in your blog will make the experience that much better in the palm of their hand.
  3. Educate your prospective clients. The main purpose of blogging is to exemplify your professional and answer any questions they may have. The information you provide is often the best place to begin a relationship with you. They can get to know who you are, what you offer, and how you think. Your blog is the place to build trust so that the consultation can happen without any doubts and uncertainties.
  4. Answer questions and solve problems. You might think that there is already a lot of information on the web and as a lawyer, it may be a waste of time to be blogging about it. Your competitors may be hundreds of articles ahead of you and you keep wondering why they continue to get more and more clients. Start blogging. This is an investment in your services and the easiest way to get started is by answering the most common questions your previous clients have asked you before. When people are coming to you online, they are hoping you have the answers to your problems, which the only way you can prove to them that you have it is by writing a blog.
  5. Add special offers. As a lawyer with a blog, this is a great opportunity to attract new clients. One of the best way to do this can be done by offering a free initial consultation. Inside your blog as well as on the side, you can create banners and advertisements that tell your visitors they can sign up for a risk-free, no obligation and no money consultation. Or, perhaps you are doing something special and offer flexible phone consultations.

 SEO Benefits Of Blogging

There’s a few things behind the scenes that lawyers should know about blogging. If you’re unfamiliar with how websites work and how Google shows your website to people searching you could be wasting your time blogging online.

Here’s a little summary of lawyer SEO and how a lawyer that blogs can benefit from it.

  1. More authority. There are elements of your website that determine your overall “web authority.” This is known as Domain Authority (DA) and is ranked on a 100-point-scale. Websites that provide more content will have a higher DA which boosts their rankings in the search engines.
  2. More web pages. Whenever you publish a new blog post, you are expanding the depth and details of your website. Each page URL gets indexed by Google and other search engines which increases your likelihood of being found and is supported by all other benefits found in this list.
  3. More Links. Links are an important variable that determines how well you are ranked. When you link out from your site to another authority site, Google recognizes this. However, when you link to other pages on your own website, this too is counted toward your overall ranking. Blogging gives you the chance to greatly enhance the quality of your site and give it that added boost.
  4. More trust. Many people are seeking solutions to their problems online. If you can position yourself in a way that provides online advice and trusted information, this too helps your ranking. Google tends to favor sites that give visitors trusted information that people actually need. Having a blog will provide that added trust that other websites lack.
  5. More traffic. Publishing regularly will allow you to generate significantly more traffic to your website, and ultimately, to your legal services. Google will often refer people using its search engine to sites that are active and consistently providing relevant and trusting content.
  6. More long tail keywords. Keyword stuffing (i.e. using a common keyword or phrase over and over again in an article) can lead to Google penalties. When you are blogging with quality, original content, you will end up with much more “long tail keywords” in on your website. Over time, this will increase your chances that you will be able to answer specific problems that prospective clients are seeking for online.
  7. More user experience. Google wants people to have the best user experience. To ensure this, Google expects websites to provide visitors with real answers and solutions to their problems. This will be measured by the amount of time people are spending on your website. If many people are leaving, you site is likely not the solution. However, that’s where blogging can help.
  8. More SEO. Blogging is content marketing. And, when you are blogging you are directing your content to a specific, target audience. In doing this, you are already creating the right SEO conditions to succeed online and the more you publish the more you can expect will return.

The Value Of Blogging As A Lawyer

Aside from the technical benefits your website receives with having a blog, there is considerable value when a lawyer blogs.

Take these into consideration:

  1. Save time and improves services. Imagine dealing with a client who didn’t do a background check and they continue to ask basic questions before even getting to a consultation. Having content in your blog is a quick and simple resource to redirect inquiries to the answers they are looking for. After they get the information they need, the next steps can be made with less hassle.
  2. You get noticed more. You already learned a little about the influence that Google has, however, if the information your provide is truly valuable, it’s going to be shared. When a lawyer has a blog and they can connect with the needs of people experiencing legal conflict, it’s quite common that they will share this advice with their friends and family.  Blogging allows you to share your experience and expertise as well as provide trust and support for those in a legal crisis.
  3. Perfect for advertising and announcements. Another great advantage for a lawyer to have a blog is that you can showcase your past successes. Perhaps your firm was featured in the news for a big case, or you were appointed an award in your community. Posting an update about this and sharing this online gives your website that dynamic edge and professional appeal.

There are all kinds of reasons for a lawyer to have a blog. However, as a final note, the most important reason for any lawyer to start blogging, whether you are a fresh our of law school, an experienced attorney, or a retired judge, is that you can continually develop and hone the legal skills as a lawyer.

Avvo For Beginners: What It Is And Why It Will Benefit Your Practice

Love it or hate it, Avvo, along with other third party lawyer review sites, is an inescapable part of the Internet landscape. Clients (past, present, and possibly imaginary) can leave reviews about your service that can either mar or bolster your law practice, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Or is there?

Like the old adage says, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. In this post, let’s discuss how you can use Avvo to attract more clients, build your brand authority, and win at life.

What is Avvo?

Avvo is a service that provides legal resources. In addition to its function as an online legal directory, Avvo makes it possible for users to review and rate attorneys.

Lawyers can easily interact with the Avvo community at large, either through Avvo’s premium-level Advisor service or through the free Q&A forum.

Avvo is one of the most popular and well respected services of its kind.

Why should I be on Avvo?

If you’re a lawyer, you’re probably on Avvo anyway. It’s suggested that 95% of all US-based attorneys are listed on Avvo– whether they want to be there or not. This is because Avvo populates its site using public information obtained from the State Bar Association.

That said, you don’t really want to leave it with just that basic information, do you? Especially since it’s free to claim your Avvo listing, why not optimize it with the type of information that will win you leads?

Check out our tips for creating a winning profile on Avvo!

If that’s not enough to convince you, here are a few other compelling reasons to claim your Avvo listing now:

+Avvo is great for SEO

If you’d like to get found via search engine (and who wouldn’t?), don’t overlook Avvo. Avvo frequently ranks on page one of search engine results for both individual and generic results, as you can see here:

avvo seo generic

avvo seo

That said, I wouldn’t recommend putting all of your eggs in the Avvo basket. You should also have a solidly built website that serves as your online hub. (We can help with that. Click here for more information.) This website should be search engine optimized and the definitive resource for your legal practice online.

However, actively maintaining a profile listing on Avvo will only help your search engine rankings, and may even drive more traffic to your website.

+Clients use the Internet for researching attorneys

While word of mouth is important, clients also turn to good ‘ole Google to find out more about an attorney before even the initial consultation. Clients don’t just look for your phone number and hours of operation online, they look for reviews, areas of expertise, and a winning smile.

This is why full representation on Avvo is a must. You need to be everywhere that your prospective clients are looking for you.

+Control the conversation

While you can’t exactly change what the reviews say about you, you can make it a two-sided conversation.

A lot of attorneys make the mistake of pretending like a bad review doesn’t exist and never responding. Ignoring an unfavorable review doesn’t make it go away. In fact, it reflects badly on you, making it look like you don’t care.

When you get actively involved on Avvo (and other review sites), you can add your response to a review, whether that review is good or bad.

When you respond, keep in mind the prospective client who will read what you’ve written. Choose words that are professional but warm, with a hint of appreciation and insight. Those are the responses that will win the argument every time compared to a “this client was horrible” type of response.

Here’s a Beginner’s Guide to Using Avvo

In order to reap the benefits of being on Avvo, you must actively participate. In fact, the more you participate, the more you can positively impact your Avvo rating. Here’s a rundown of how to use Avvo effectively:

Claim your listing right now for free, and then optimize it.

After claiming your listing, it’s time to optimize it. Be sure to subscribe to receive a list of our top tips for creating a winning Avvo profile.

avvoImage Courtesy of Avvo

Participate in Avvo’s legal Q&A section.

If you’d like to build authority and raise your profile with site visitors who are looking for answers, get involved with the legal Q&A section on Avvo.

Consider upgrading to Avvo Pro.

Use Avvo Pro to track important analytics, such as how many people are contacting you based on your Avvo listing. You’ll also receive a “Pro” sign next to your name, which indicates that you are invested in the Avvo community (quite literally).

Another benefit of Avvo Pro is the ability to remove your competitors’ ads from appearing on your listing.

Advertise with Avvo.

Speaking of showing up on a competitor’s profile, you can opt in to Avvo Advertising. This service allows you to create an advertisement for your service that pops up on another attorney’s free listing.

One of the benefits of going with Avvo advertising, aside from greater exposure, is the fact that you can also target your ads to a specific demographic.

Get as many reviews and ratings as possible.

Avvo offers two types of reviews: client and colleague. Urge your clients to leave feedback for you on Avvo after successfully rendering a service. Similarly, court peer endorsements by asking for them the same way you would on LinkedIn.

To clarify, your Avvo rating is not the same as a client review or peer endorsement. Avvo ratings are determined by how active you are within the Avvo community, along with professional achievements and other information. For a more detailed look at the differences between ratings and review, check out this post: What is the difference between the Avvo Rating, Client Reviews, and Peer Endorsements?

Join Avvo Legal Services.

Another feature that Avvo offers its customers is a fixed-fee advice session. You provide the service and Avvo works as a marketer. It’s offered only to those local to your geographic area, and it’s not available in all states.

Why should you care?

Participating in Legal Services gives you more opportunities to increase your ratings. And higher ratings means that you look better in the eyes of prospective clients.

For information about Avvo Legal Services, check out this page: Avvo Advisor.

Final Thoughts

If you’re an attorney, Avvo is an essential part of your online branding efforts. Your name’s on there whether you like it or not, so claim it and control how prospective clients are introduced to your brand.

Check out our tips for creating a winning profile on Avvo!

Should Lawyers Buy .law Domains?

If you are considering a website or a blog to showcase your legal services and expertise, there are many different Top Level Domains (TLD) to choose from:

  • .com
  • .gov
  • .org
  • .law

This article will examine whether lawyers should buy .law domain and briefly review a few methods to succeed online.

What are Top Level Domains (TLD)?

Without going too in depth about the concept of domain names, here’s a simplified version of what domain names are.

Domain names are the important piece of information that provides a readable internet address of your website. The ending of the domain name is what is known as a Top Level Domain with the most common being .com, .org, and .net.

Overall, there are more than 1000 TLDs available.

Is There Any Significance In Having A .law Domain Name?

Having a TLD can be useful in marketing, search engines, and website optimization. When you consider the most common TLDs like .com, .edu, and .gov, these are recognizable, popular, and rank well courtesy of their authority.

They is some speculation that having these TLDs do not provide measurable proof that you will get ranked higher (such as with .edu and .gov domains).

Also, according to Matt Cutts, new TLDs, like .law, might not receive a boost in the search rankings. Your .law domain will not be treated much differently than other domain names already available.

“Sorry, but that’s just not true, and as an engineer in the search quality team at Google, I feel the need to debunk this misconception. Google has a lot of experience in returning relevant web pages, regardless of the top-level domain (TLD). Google will attempt to rank new TLDs appropriately, but I don’t expect a new TLD to get any kind of initial preference over .com, and I wouldn’t bet on that happening in the long-term either. If you want to register an entirely new TLD for other reasons, that’s your choice, but you shouldn’t register a TLD in the mistaken belief that you’ll get some sort of boost in search engine rankings.”

While Google may not rank a .law domain higher, from a personal point of view, there is significant value to be considered.

What Are The Benefits Of A .law Domain Name?

From a branding point of view, having a .law domain allows you to position yourself as a professional and a figure of authority.

Anyone who registers a new .law domain, must provide a phone number from the licensing of your agency or firm.

Having to go through this additional step during the registration process creates a trust factor for those searching for you.

Buying a .law domain name will provide an additional layer of credibility courtesy of the verification process required.

This is a summary of some the benefits you’ll receive when you buy a .law domain:

  • Brandable & Authority. Using this TLD allows you to create a strong and memorable brand. A .law domain can be descriptive and capture the core of your practice. When deciding on your domain name, consider using your own name, area of practice, or your target market.
    • Examples:law, NewYorkCity.law, StultzandBrinks.law, jones.law
  • Verified & Trusted. When you register your .law domain, you become verified and trusted by those seeking your services online. Only qualified lawyers can apply for this domain. Once approved, you will have a branded and trustworthy domain surrounding your legal profession.
  • Competitive & Professional. Your new .law domain will stand out amongst others. The .law is exclusive to lawyers and provides a distinct and official finish to your online presence.

If You Already Have Another Domain Name, Should You Transfer To A .law Domain?

As mentioned before, there may not be any considerable boost to your rankings in the search engines. If you already using a domain and it is working well, you may not want to transfer your website to the .law domain.

Consider .law as an investment in your practice but only if you don’t have a domain name already. When you transfer a website over to a new domain, you may lose traffic and potential clients.

Getting a new .law domain is an ideal choice for those starting a new website.

Aside From A .law Domain, How Can Lawyers Succeed Online?

A domain name is only one of many factors to consider when putting your law practice online.

One of the most critical areas of getting noticed and finding new clients comes from the content you provide.

Here’s a few things you may want to keep in mind:

  • Offer meaningful, relevant and original content. Most search engines approve of original content. However, they should be written in a way that’s natural and connects with your target audience.
  • Create backlinks on authority sites. When you have published quality content, try to get your site linked with .edu or .gov sites as these have authority. Read law firm SEO Tips hereNote: Never buy backlinks — you could be penalized.

As an authority on the web and a professional of law, you have a responsibility to provide quality content that is relevant and informative to your visitors.

This update from John Mueller on Google’s Webmaster Central makes it clear that content is crucial and the domain name is not given “artificial advantage in search.”

So, Should Lawyers Buy A .law Domain?

Getting a .law domain could be the strategic edge you need to have a competitive advantage online.

However, while a TLD like .law adds a professional touch your online service, providing good content that follows Google’s recommended practices will be much more powerful.

If you are preparing to settle on a .law domain name, remember to incorporate this into your website development:

  1. Publish high quality, original content on your site
  2. Provide relevant content to your potential clients and targeted audience
  3. Avoid SEO practices that could penalize your website (i.e. keyword stuffing, purchasing links, or other Google violations)

Achieving this will lead you to an authority site on the internet especially if you’re considering starting a blog.