PR & Link Building During Crisis: What We Have Learned from COVID-19

COVID-19 has quickly become a global pandemic, with far-reaching consequences that are unprecedented in the modern era. Its rapid spread has left most of us reeling, with more questions than answers.

These uncertain times are cause for concern at many firms, but as Account Executive, Kelsey Butchcoe stated in her recent article on the Mockingblog, this is also a time to focus on projects that may help your business in the long-run.

At the risk of sounding overly optimistic, Coronavirus presents an opportunity for attorneys to build positive brand recognition and improve organic search ranking for the future, while also helping the general public.

Offer Expertise, Provide Value

As an attorney, you have legal knowledge that is desperately needed. There are innumerable news publications, blogs, and nonprofits with questions to which you may have the answer.

Criminal law attorney? How is Coronavirus affecting prosecution?

Family law attorney? How are individuals handling custody during lock-down?

Employment attorney? What rights do employees have to refuse to come into the office if they feel unsafe in their workspace?

The outreach I have done to news publications has been incredibly well received. Why? Because legal expertise is immensely valuable in a time fraught with uncertainty.

Get Creative

Right now, getting interviews and features with your COVID-19 legal expertise is relatively easy, but there will come a time when this is no longer true. It is likely that as firms notice attorneys gaining recognition during the COVID outbreak, they will try to achieve the same, and publications will become flooded with interview offers.

If you would like to maintain momentum in your PR outreach you should consider creative ways to remain relevant moving forward.

Is there data that you can begin collecting? Perhaps you can turn this into an infographic that you can use as a link building asset as COVID-19 begins to settle down.

There is no set strategy that will work for every firm, it is up to you to consider what unique knowledge you have and use your creativity and communication skills to package it in a way that will attract interest from publications.

How to Handle Projects Started Pre-COVID

Did you have a PR project that you were working on before COVID-19 became a pandemic? How should you proceed? The likely answer is that you will either need to put your project on hold, or alter it for relevance. The last thing you want to do in a time of crisis is let your firm come across as tone-deaf or even disrespectful.

Example

Before the novel Coronavirus, my team and I were working on promoting numerous scholarships. As schools began to close for the year it became obvious that we would be the last people a high school administrator would want to speak with. We immediately stopped all outreach to schools and shifted our efforts.

We began working more heavily with scholarship websites, such as ScholarshipOwl. As these publications are dedicated to the subject, they will likely be happy to move forward with the promotion of scholarships, and unlike the schools, they have the time to do so.

Moving forward, we will adjust the scholarships we offer to be relevant to COVID-19, and of course, alter due dates.

Be Adaptable & Opportunistic

The main lesson we have learned from the Coronavirus crisis so far is that the agile firms will survive (or even thrive) with the right mindset.

In order to come out on the other end of this virus we must all have grit and utilize our creativity.

We must think like cockroaches.

Survival is what our clients (and in turn the agency) need. We are a Cockroach. The adaptable, innovative, opportunistic, skittering, nauseating, and yes, disease-resistant arthropod that not only survives, but actually thrives in disaster.

-Conrad Saam, Mockingbird Founder

 

MOCKINGBIRD IS NOW COCKROACH

BEDLAM Named One of the Top 11 Legal Conferences Lawyers Need to Attend

The first BEDLAM Conference took place only 8 months ago, and it’s already gaining heat in the legal marketing world. Answering Legal recently dubbed BEDLAM one of the top 11 legal conferences lawyers need to attend.

Creating the Best Damn Legal Marketing Conference

We try our best to be humble, so pardon our bragging, but we believe the rank is well-deserved. The BEDLAM Conference is the culmination of years of combined experience in every facet of the legal marketing industry. Mockingbird’s founder, Conrad Saam, began his career in legal by running marketing for Avvo. When Conrad began at Avvo, it was just a spark of an idea:

One of the keys to [Avvo’s] success was a very deep understanding of search engine optimization. Through our skill in search, Avvo surpassed the established players in the legal industry – Conrad Saam

After leaving Avvo, Conrad took the knowledge he gained and created Mockingbird: an upfront, honest agency made up of data-loving nerds with business mindsets.

Throughout his career, Conrad has made connections with the top minds of the legal marketing industry. Among them are four of the speakers at BEDLAM:

  1. Mike Ramsey, Founder of Nifty
  2. Gyi Tsakalakis, Founder of AttorneySync
  3. Mark Homer, Founder of GNGF
  4. Casey Meraz, Founder of Juris Digital

The Agencies I’d Refer My Brother To

At Mockingbird, we take our ten commandments very seriously. Among our commandments are:

#2 – We are Responsible for our Clients’ Livelihoods
#5 – White Hat to a Fault

We rely on these commandments to guide us in every facet of our business — including who we choose to partner with.

Beyond their expertise, the speakers (and vendors) at BEDLAM are trustworthy, no BS individuals. They are the sort of people who will answer your questions honestly, whether you like the answer or not. This is why we chose to partner with them to create this truly one of a kind conference.

The Knowledge

Over the course of three days, these legal marketing experts will take a deep dive into just about everything related to legal marketing, including:

  • Website functionality
  • Speed improvements
  • Review management
  • Google Analytics setup
  • Link building tactics
  • Advertising strategies
  • Lead tracking
  • And more…

We encourage attendees to come with all of their burning questions. But like I said, we pride ourselves on zero BS so prepare yourself for the honest answer:

Commandment # 3 – Don’t Make Clients Happy – Make Them Successful

Don’t pander to misguided strategies or humor foolhardy requests from clients just to keep them happy. We will argue with a client instead of wasting her money.

We Hope to See You There!

Learn more and apply to attend BEDLAM, here.

The first 50 applications get $200 off with code: EARLYBIRD2020, so get on it!

How to Use (the Right) Keywords in Your Blog Posts

How do users find your blog posts online? Unless they subscribe to your newsletter or follow you on social media, the answer is likely that they find your content through search engine queries.

Knowing this, it is extremely valuable to develop your content based on what users are searching for.

In a previous article, it was said that to optimize your blog posts for search you should be utilizing keywords. But what are keywords, how do you identify them, and how should they be used within your content?

What are keywords?

According to Moz, “keywords are the words someone types (or speaks!) into a search engine.” There are many factors that determine which result a search engine will serve for a user query, but one major indicator of content relevance is the words that are being used.

Here is an example search query and result:

All of the search terms being used can be found in the title, description, and body of the blog post. This indicates to search engines that the information is relevant to the searcher. In order to have a high performing, traffic and lead driving blog, you must write content that users are searching for.

So, what can you do with this information? Well, you could guess which words your potential audience is using, or you can identify the right keywords like a real SEO pro.

How do you identify keywords?

What is a digital marketer without her tools? When identifying which keywords you should use, it’s helpful to use a keyword planner, such as Moz’s Keyword Explorer.

This tool can help you with your content development with two main features:

  1. Explore by Keyword – Type in a word or phrase and get back related keywords.
  2. Explore by Site – Type in a webpage or site and get back keywords that it ranks for.

After the list of words is generated, you will need to decide which keywords make the most sense for your content strategy. The two components you should focus on are search volume and difficulty score: The search volume tells you how many people are searching for that keyword each month and the difficulty score will tell you the strength of the pages that are currently ranking for that keyword.

To determine if a keyword presents a good ranking opportunity you must consider both search volume and difficulty.

For example, just because the search volume for a term is low does not mean that you shouldn’t pursue it. If a keyword has a low search volume, but also low difficulty score, you may have a good chance of ranking for that term. If a term has low search volume and a high difficulty score, that may not be a keyword that you should pursue using.

How should keywords be used in your content?

Once you identify the words that your potential clients are searching for, the next step is to implement them into your content.

Topic

One way we suggest brainstorming ideas for blog posts is to consider what questions your clients have asked you in the past. One way to supplement that exercise is by using Serpstat Questions. Once you have identified the keywords you would like to use, you can enter them in the Serpstat and generate popular questions that use that word.

Title & Description

Make sure that you are optimizing the title and description with the keywords that you have identified.

Do Not Keyword Stuff

I repeat, do not keyword stuff. Search engines are not dumb. There was a time in which you could list a bunch of keywords on your page and you might end up ranking. That day has passed.

Today, you must produce quality content that uses keywords organically, not in an unnecessary and contrived manner. Instead of hunting for all of the sentences in which you can cram in your keywords, simply aim to answer the question, the word usage will come naturally (I couldn’t stop using the words “keyword” and “how” in this post if I tried).

Blog Smarter, Not Harder

Many attorneys are of the belief that having an active blog is the key to online success. Most of us have heard the phrase “content is king,” and many of us have bought into it.

While content is important, there is no point pushing out blog posts that no one will read. If you’re currently blogging once a week, but you’re not seeing any results, try cutting it back to once or twice a month, but do your research first. Follow the steps outlined in this article, and keep at it.

You have valuable knowledge, you just have to figure out which pieces of it potential clients are actually searching for.

Slow Site? Speed it Up with PHP 7.3

There are many factors that affect the speed of your website. But one that is often overlooked is PHP. PHP is a scripting language used to develop WordPress themes and plugins.

This language is regularly being updated and improved upon, but without regular back end updates, many sites get left in the dust.

The newest version of PHP, PHP 7.3, has just been released. Upgrading from PHP 7.2 to PHP 7.3 can result in a 15% decrease in request processing time (WP Engine).

Speed is a major ranking factor for search engines. Users expect sites to load near instantly, and when they don’t, they move on to the next search result. Knowing this, search engines favor sites with short load times. If your site is too slow, users will be less likely to find your business online.

Even if users do find your business, a long load time may reduce the likelihood that they stay on your site. According to WP Engine, “Slow-loading sites are the number one cause of page abandonment across all audiences.”

Bottom line, a slow website means lost traffic, lost leads, and fewer clients. 

Security

Additionally, PHP 7.3 improves website security. WordPress requires regular software updates in order to ensure security. No major security issues have been detected in PHP 7.2, but it is best practice to keep all components of your website up to date, including PHP. Unlike older versions, PHP 7.3 is actively supported by WP Engine. This means that if vulnerabilities are found, the host will resolve them before a security breach can occur.

Upgrading to PHP 7.3

Updating your website’s PHP is relatively simple, but like any technical change, making this switch does have the potential to cause issues on your site. If you would like your PHP upgrade to be handled by professionals, contact Mockingbird for help.

How to Not F$%k Up Your Site Launch

Your website is ready to launch! Congrats! Now I know you’re excited to get your shiny new site in front of your users, but there are a few critical steps to take before pressing the (figurative) go button.

It may seem like a simple task, but properly launching a website takes technical knowledge and experience. Missing one step can lead to lost domain authority, lost traffic, and bottom line…fewer leads and clients.

Recently a law firm came to us baffled by the fact that their beautiful new website was performing so poorly. Minutes after digging into the site, our team knew that some crucial errors were made during launch. Pages weren’t added and/or redirected properly, 17 backlinks from high domain authority sites were lost, odd pages were being indexed in search results. They spent tens of thousands of dollars on a site that was sinking.

Though these missteps are reversible, it is, of course, better to avoid the traffic drop in the first place.

Here are a few steps you can take to avoid tanking your site traffic:

1) Ensure URLs Match (or Are Handled Properly)

Make sure your new website URLs exactly match your old website URLs. If your old Traumatic Brain Injury practice area page was domain.com/tbi-injury/ make sure it is the same on the new site. If you would like to change it to domain.com/practice-areas/tbi-injury/ make sure that you have a redirect in place. These redirects should ideally be made at the domain level.

2) Uncheck Discourage Search Engines

This may seem like a no-brainer, but this little checkbox can easily go unnoticed. Make sure that you are not asking search engines to ignore your site. Uncheck the box!

3) Update Robots.txt

Make sure that you aren’t asking search engines to not crawl your site through your robots.txt either. The “/” below signifies that you want to block search engines from crawling your entire site. Remove this. Also, not as detrimental, but add your XML sitemap here to show search engines where to find all of your pages.

4) Run a Screaming Frog Crawl

Run another crawl of your site. Make sure that there are no internal 404s or unnecessary 301s within your site. If there are any, fix them!

And much much more…

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to properly executing a site launch. If you truly want to ensure your site launch goes off without a hitch, call a marketing company that knows what they’re doing.

The Art of Historic Backlink Development

Recently, while scouring the web for mentions of a client, I found a killer article he was featured in on a prestigious website with a high domain rating. The article had no link to the client’s website. Thus, he was missing out on a great opportunity to be associated with an authoritative publication. So, I reached out to the web admin and asked for credit, and boom, our client got a well-deserved high-quality backlink that many would pay big bucks for.

The Power of Lookback Link-building

Lookback Link-building (coined by Mockingbird’s Kelsey Butchcoe) is one method of creative link-building (and you don’t even have to be that creative to do it). Mockingbird is known for telling people to stop Googling themselves, but I’m here to tell you to Google yourself! Not to see how you rank (see Stop Googling Yourself) but to find lost opportunities for backlinks.

Another client of ours has had numerous speaking engagements with high-quality publications and news sources, but the majority of online mentions he has received lack links to his website. We are now in the process of reaching out to these websites and artfully (without sounding like marketers) asking for credit (AKA backlinks) for the information. Not every webmaster will readily respond to the request, but some will…perhaps with a bit of pestering.

Researching opportunities for historic backlinking can uncover a treasure trove of potential link building. So, search for your name, your firm, anything you may be associated with. Did you get mentioned online for sponsoring a marathon or doing a news interview? Were you featured in your alma mater’s monthly alumni blog? Reach out to the web admin, you might just get a great natural link, for free!

Is Your Firm’s NAP Consistent Across the Web?

NAP is your firm’s name, address, and phone number.

In terms of Search Engine Optimization, it is very important that your business’s presence be consistent across the internet. This means that your firm should be listed with the exact same information (NAP) on all directories, social platforms, etc.

What do you mean exactly the same?

When we say the exact same information, we mean the exact same information… Here is an example of listing inconsistency:

Listing #1 – Correct Listing

Joe and Susan Law Group, PLLC
321 Lawyer Ave, Suite 203
Seattle, WA
(555) 555-5555
www.joeandsusanlaw.com

Listing #2 – Slightly Off

Joe & Susan Law Group
321 Lawyer Ave, #203
Seattle, WA
(555) 555-5555
joeandsusanlaw.com

If your Google My Business listing says “Suite 203”, your directory listings should not say “#203”. If you use PLLC in your business name on Apple Maps, use PLLC on your Facebook page. These small differences in listing details aren’t going to pull your firm’s web presence down into the Google dumps, but correcting these errors will improve your web authority over time.

Listing #3 – Totally Wrong

Joe Carrigan Law Firm, PLLC
321 Lawyer Ave, #250
Seattle, WA
555.555.5555
http://joeandsusanlaw.com

This large inconsistency is something we see often when helping law firms clean up their web presence. Maybe your firm went through a recent name change, maybe you’ve changed office locations, or maybe an individual incorrectly submitted your business information. Whatever the reason, it is a fundamental necessity that your firm corrects major listing inaccuracies.

Why Does NAP Consistency Matter?

Dependable firm information will help search engines understand who you are, what you do, and how users can find and reach your business. This will help establish search engine trust in your business. Varying information across the web will discourage search engines from sending users to your firm.

Correcting listing inconsistency can be an uphill battle, but there are tools that Mockingbird uses to make the cleanup a bit easier. Tools like Yext and Moz. These tools find business listings that don’t match your business information and help to suppress those listings. They also push out your correct NAP to the most authoritative and relevant information sources, such as Foursquare, Bing, Apple Maps, Whitepages, and more.

Moz and Yext help with fighting errors in listings, but often we will have to reach out directly to the listing website to get it removed or corrected. This can be a time consuming (but completely worthwhile) effort.

Is Your Firm’s NAP Consistent?

Use Mockingbird’s NAP Scanning Tool to find out how consistent your business’s listings are across the web, and please feel free to reach out for help addressing any issues that you find.

Google Reinforces the Importance of Speed & Security

Starting this month, Google is rolling out a couple of critical algorithm updates regarding speed and security. These changes have been a long time coming, and Mockingbird Marketing has made sure that our clients’ sites are prepared.

Speed

We’ve known for quite some time that desktop website speed is an important ranking factor. But now, Google will also be looking at how fast your mobile pages are and use that as a ranking factor in mobile search. In the past, Google has (not-so-subtly) hinted at the importance of mobile page speed by releasing tools like the Mobile Scorecard and Impact Calculator.

Google has stated that this change will only negatively impact the pages that “deliver the slowest experience to users.” At Mockingbird, we have several practices set in place in order to ensure quality site speed, including hosting our websites on WP Engine.

Security

Google’s Chrome browser will now mark non-HTTPS sites as ‘not secure’. This is one of the numerous changes that Google has made over the years in order to incentivize secure websites…and discourage non-secure sites.

 

This is what the recent update will look in a user’s browser.

Google has hinted at a small rankings boost for secure sites, which has successfully encouraged many webmasters to add a security certificate to their sites. This recent change, which punishes non-secure sites, solidifies the fact that user security is no longer just an option, it is a must.

Implementing HTTPS was one of Mockingbird’s essential practices long before these algorithm changes were made, and our clients websites should not be negatively affected.

Google Now Notifies Those Who Leave Reviews When Business Owners Respond

Google has announced that it will now notify users who post reviews on Google Local results after the listing/business owner responds to the review.

When you, as a listing owner, respond to a user review, Google will wait five minutes, and then send the user an email notifying them that you have responded. Google graciously allows you five minutes after posting your response before it notifies the user so that you are able to make any necessary edits (edit grammar or cool down that hastily written response).

This change should incentivize business owners to respond to reviews, whether they are positive or negative. Regardless of notifications, responding to reviews shows that a business cares and can help build relationships with clients.

In the past, responses from businesses would often go unnoticed by users, but this update is bound to change that.

So be aware when you’re responding to negative reviews that the user will almost surely see your response.

 

Example user notification