Prediction: Google Screened as Ranking Factor for Google Local.

Google has traditionally and aggressively separated paid from organic.  The firewall between their departments ensures there’s not anti-competitive issues – i.e. spend more money on Google Ads and see your organic rankings skyrocket.  I’ve run into this over and over again with our awesome reps from the Google Premier Partnership program, who advise us and our clients on Google Ads.  These awesome peeps wouldn’t know the difference between an H1 and an Immigration Visa and think NAP is something their kids do after a particularly arduous virtual school day.

My prognostication:  Google’s separation between Search and Advertising may crumble in the near(ish) future.

Look what Erik Beatty spotted this morning in the support drop-down for LSAs: an  “Upgraded GMB Profile” option.

This is very valid useful data that, I would argue, should be used for showing up in the Local Results.  In fact, the prospect of improving what shows up in Local in the legal industry is what I thought the original intention of Google Screened …. removing the spammy crap that litters Local results – non law firms masquerading as law firms, out of state or out of market lawyers faking offices etc.

This would be a major adjustment for Google; breaching a very fine line between organic and paid.  While they’ve been reluctant to cross this rubicon in the past, lawyers should welcome this development as it will kick the bogus garbage out the Local, which filters real prospects through lead selling agencies, extracting a ton of value out of the legal profession with zero added value.

RBG and the Lawyer Mom Owner Conference

It’s 2:00am Saturday morning and I can’t sleep. The massive implications of RBG’s death on my mind. I have a daughter; time to watch On the Basis of Sex with her.

What to do?

This morning is the perfect time to make sure everyone I know is aware of Carolyn Elefant and  Jeena Belil’s Mom Owner Lawyer Summit, a conference dedicated to enterprising female lawyers.  I’ve first met Carolyn back in 2007 and have always referred to her as the Godmother of solo practitioners.  She’s inspirational, entrepreneurial, upfront and delightfully innately nerdy.  She started her law firm in 1993 and has made sharing her experiences to other enterprising lawyers a side gig primarily through her blog MyShingle.

When:  September 30-October 1
Where:  Online!

To me, Carolyn has always seen law firm ownership as the answer to both personal professional fulfillment.  If you have an inkling that there might be more to your profession and your life than the current status quo…. spend two days at this conference.  

This Summit has an entirely female speaker lineup and features some of the amazing women I’ve met during my sojourn in the legal marketing world.

I’ve bought tickets for all of my agency’s female clients and have a few left so if you’d like to attend the Lawyer Owner Mom Virtual Summit as my guest…. just add a comment (your email won’t be public) and I’ll delete it once I’ve sent you a ticket.  And please spread the word… there’s a target of 1,000 attendees and Jeena and Carolyn are not that far off their goal.

Oh, and to bring things back full circle to RBG… please vote. Early.

-Conrad

Spotting The Hallmarks of SEO Balderdash

If you can bring yourself to sit through the entire video here, it’s going to come across as pretty haughty and dismissive. But that was my honest assessment of the crap I was listening to. The micropoint to this post is, “taking selfies in front of local landmarks won’t expand your Local Search results,” but the main point of my post is larger.  Watch (if you can) the entire thing as Jason Brown and I defrock tactics used to make someone look more experienced than they are:

  • Sliver bullet to SEO success
  • Modicum of plausibility
  • Lack of specific examples and data
  • Trappings of authority

And if you start to smell some of that from an “SEO expert”, try doing a little research. Searching for “selfie” on Search Engine Land turns up…well…not much, and nothing in the way of Local Search magic bullets; although there is this interesting 2014 post about a Goolebot selfie at the beach:

Source: SearchEngineLand: https://searchengineland.com/search-pics-google-cardboard-googlebot-beach-matt-cutts-selfie-195404

And if you are a law firm staffer who was sent around the city to take pics of yourself at various local landmarks, overtip your local restaurant and head back to the office. You are wasting your time. Sorry.

Spoiler Alert: this video is just as cringey as public selfies.

 

Is Avvo (coming) Back?

Back in early May, I wrote a post: Avvo in SEO Traffic Free Fall. One of the many questions fielded about this was, may the come back?  The answer was “probably” – from everything I could tell (including Avvo’s pointed “no comment” to the question around what was going on with their traffic), this looked like a one-off SEO penalty, with a sudden and otherwise inexplicable drop in traffic.  Note from that previous article that this was for a select set of high value, head terms; the fall-off in volume was also anecdotally corroborated by numerous attorneys.

I’ve been able to get my mitts on an Avvo email that suggests not only was I correct in the original assessment, but that (possibly) they are at the beginning of a rebound. This is (somewhat) corroborated by a variety of third party reporting systems that sync with the timing from this Avvo data – which shows a hitting the bottom mark sometime in the middle of June.

So here are the data points:

From Avvo

This is the graph circulating Avvo that shows a pretty impressive traffic growth – again, if this is accurate it would support my supposition that this was an SEO penalty (or a major major stupid technical whoopsie, which I doubt would go unsolved for this long).  Note that this graph does not show at all these rankings are for – for all we know its “fuzzy bunny slipper lawyer” or just focused on Lincoln, Nebraska.  Also note that the overall number of terms for which they rank top 3 is still minuscule.  Finally, this graph starts at the beginning of May, which is exactly when I first published my study, which means it conveniently leaves out the cratering that occurred during February and March (read: its built to paint them in a very positive light.).

SEMRush & ahrefs

SEMRush and ahrefs (both spectacularly inaccurate albeit directionally helpful third-party tools) show a traffic turnaround coinciding with the data above from Avvo. Of note, these tools give us a chance to look much further back for historical context and suggest the directory is still a ways off from its former zenith.

But… Ranking Reports

I hate ranking reports, but it was Gyi Tsakalakis’ ranking report of 250 head terms that first tipped me off on the Avvo decline.  So I circled back and the results still aren’t pretty.  While this is a very very very slim sampling of head terms, there seems to have been no movement within this set:

My advice?  Watch closely and as always, monitor success through your own reporting metrics, not your vendors’.

 

Law firm websites serving up foreign porn….

So as expected from the flagrantly clickbaity title, there’s little redeemable content in what follows.  You should probably stop reading now, but you won’t because you are wondering where this post is going and whether or the Mockingbird blog was hacked (it wasn’t). The moral of the story, is that Google results are sometimes entirely inexplicable. If that’s what you’re up for, then by all means, read on….

I often flippantly tell lawyers about the importance of upgrading their site, if for no other reason than to ensure that they don’t unintentionally starting hosting foreign porn.  It’s a glib comment, but born from experience… about every six months, I’ll sit down with a prospective lawyer client and review their site on a screenshare only to uncover porn. The experience lies in the weird Venn diagram of awkward, sophomoric and mortifying.

I ran into unintentional porn in front of a prospective client again today, while we were perusing the local results for Personal Injury lawyers in New Orleans on a shared Zoom screen.

Among the usual suspects was a firm I didn’t recognize with only two reviews outranking some large firms with impressive marketing machines.  Glicker Law.  In an attempt to show the client the value of a strong backlink profile (b/c why else would this two star firm show up on the Maps, right…?) I clicked through to GlickerLaw.com:

As Obi-Wan Kenobi said so eloquently, “these are not the PI lawyers you are looking for”.  A little digging on Archive.org shows that Glicker Law used to exist on this domain, but the it expired some time in early 2018.

Which begs the question: Why is Google serving a years ago defunct law firm website that now contains a huge compendium of foreign porn in the heavily competitive local results for personal injury lawyer in a major US metro? No clue.  And this isn’t new… back in 2016 I wrote a post almost entirely identical to this one: Seattle DUI Lawyers stripping for $1.99 a minute?

Now don’t get mad at me that this post lacks a good conclusion, that you fell victim to a clickbaity title and that your prurient curiosity was the only reason you’ve made it through this entire post; I told you at the beginning reading this was barely worth your time. No conclusions other than, “hmmmm, that’s odd.”

Welcome to search.

Smith.ai, CallRail and Mockingbird sit down to talk legal conversion….

Yesterday, I got together with two long term Mockingbird partners, Smith.ai and CallRail to discuss the practice of maximizing conversions, the reporting infrastructure required to evaluate marketing mix like an MBA would and the importance of monitoring the quality of your intake approach. Intake conversion epitomizes the need for a perfect mix of agency, technology and humanity required to optimize the delicate balance of the art and science of conversion.  Have a listen…

 

The Chasm Between BLM and Lawyers: Part I

During this 50 minute conversation, I sit down virtually with two lawyers who are intimately involved in social justice in Minneapolis. Travis Kowitz is white man, shot by a pepper bullet while live streaming the first two nights of the protests after George Floyd’s murder. Emily Cooper is a black woman pushing the cause of entrepreneurship to Minneapolis’ black community as the path to financial and personal freedom. Both are gritty, ambitious, lightly profane, and deeply committed to the part lawyers can play in the movement for social justice. We spend time talking through the history of systemic racism, specifically in Minneapolis.

From a lawyer marketing perspective, get inspired with some of the tactical approaches these two have taken in getting deeply involved in the community. My hope is that by listening to this, you may be inspired to go beyond carefully worded statements and donations and get more involved.

“words are just words, but when I take notice its about what actions people take behind the words; because words are just pandering.  Is anyone actually doing anything?” – Emily Cooper

The focus of this series is exposing the huge gap between the Black Lives Matter movement and lawyers, many of whom went into the profession specifically to advance the cause of social justice. We talk with hands-on, driven lawyers who are actively involved, on the streets in their communities, far beyond making bail fund donations or publishing carefully worded statements of support. We challenge the trepidations felt by many lawyers, starting with “I don’t want to say the wrong thing.” This is a raw, uncomfortable, and oftentimes painful dialogue that needs to happen. You won’t agree with everything you hear; you’ll probably feel offended. All the more reason to listen.

Google Ads Policy Change has Legal Squarely in Mind?

Hot off the Google notifications press…Google is updating their Ads Policies policies specifically to move against Clickbait. This seems consistent with their overall messaging around quality content and user experience. Google describes the policy:

The ‘Clickbait Ads Policy’ will cover advertisements which demonstrate clickbait tactics or use sensationalist text or imagery to drive traffic. Additionally, this policy will prohibit ads which use negative life events or strong negative emotions to pressure the viewer to take immediate action.

Now – a lot of legal issues do involve strong negative emotions and do require immediate action.

Further, the specific language Google uses to describe these upcoming changes seems to be directly targeting the legal industry:

Ads that use negative life events such as death, accidents, illness, arrests or bankruptcy to induce fear, guilt or other strong negative emotions to pressure the viewer to take immediate action.

I’m not quite sure how a bankruptcy, injury, or criminal defense lawyer can not run afoul of these specifications.  This holds true for other facets of law as well…divorce, immigration, etc.

The gray area here is around the end user’s personal mindset…but the reality remains that if we really can’t advertise around these issues a lot of the legal marketplace goes back to…organic!  (Ok – perhaps that’s some wishful thinking on my part, but…).

Stay tuned, I’ve invited Google to join us to talk through these questions as part of our Google Premier Partnership. If you’d like notification of when that talk will be (literally – I’m getting this info out to you before I can set up a date)… sign up for our newsletter.

Lawyers and Cops and BLM and Branding

This started as my musings around police as a brand, but quickly begged the question: why is the lawyer brand so tarnished even in light of today’s social justice movement?

I’m not sure how the police, as a brand, evolve past this. Even making the fallacious assumptions that next week America unifies and completely solves social justice issues and 100% reforms the police force…how does the public see a blue uniform and a badge and not immediately associate those things with anything other than murdering black men, teargassing protestors, abandoning their offices, assaulting the elderly and shooting the homeless in wheelchairs? The word uniform serves two purposes here: the police uniform is part of the brand and it encourages us to apply the same perspective uniformly to all police officers. Whether you argue this is an issue of a “few bad apples” or believe it’s a result of the systemic militarization of the cops, public sentiment around all police will be applied uniformly. That is the function of brand: setting expectations of what you are going to get – i.e. you have a very clear and set expectation about what you are going to get when you order an Egg McMuffin or drive an Audi R8 or use tax services from H&R Block.  And right now, what America is getting across the country from the police brand is disgusting.  
 
And yes, I fully grok that my white male perspective on policing has evolved dramatically over the past 2 weeks, that many communities have always associated the police brand with fear and violence and that that evolution is a large part of the point of today’s movement.
 
I go back to the future of the police… If they were any other brand – a car, a fashion line, an airline, a power tool, they’d be shelved immediately because of what is now indelibly and universally linked to that brand. There would be no attempt to recover, evolve, and adjust the positioning and messaging.

Lawyers as a Brand

I spent the first two nights of the Minneapolis protests watching a livestream of attorney Travis Kowitz who was on the streets and watched by tens of thousands via Facebook.  Travis’ feed was through his law firm’s Facebook page – it was clear he was an attorney and as I texted back and forth with him I noted how many of the comments on his feed pushed an alarming and frequently violent anti-lawyer vitriol.  This was a man doing what I’ve been pushing lawyers to do in many circumstances – getting deeply and intimately involved in the community and tacking flack for being a lawyer.  Many of you went into this profession to make the world a better place and yet, lawyers are frequently seen as part of the problem, not part of the solution.  As a non-lawyer, working in legal for 15 years, I’ve been afforded a unique insider’s view into the good lawyers do.  We’ve codified this in our agency’s 10 Commandments – even presciently calling out police brutality.

  1. We Love Lawyers – Attorneys, especially those who represent individuals, are the primary counterbalance to corporate greed and the widespread abuse of police and political power and the abusive insurance industry. We are honored to play a small role in this system.
The lawyer brand is frequently unfairly painted with negative connotations – a cruel irony – and yes this is painting with unfairly broad brush strokes, which is what happens every time we generalize – police or lawyers. Here’s just a smattering of the anti-lawyer commentary on Travis’s feed those first three nights:
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I’d encourage you, at this moment to take the opportunity to get deeply involved in your community – well beyond a law firm donation to bail for protestors or a carefully worded statement on your law firm’s social media profiles. There’s a lot that can be done that goes beyond these gestures.

Inspiration for the Lawyer Brand…

To offer some new perspective and perhaps provide a small dose of inspiration, I’m hosting a webinar this Friday with two Minneapolis lawyers who are deeply and intimately involved in social justice – Travis Kowitz and Emily Cooper – in the first part of our series on the Chasm Between BLM and Lawyers. Register here to join us and listen. The conversation will be raw, uncomfortable and you probably won’t love everything you hear.