Stop Sending Me Your Google Account Log In Credentials

I frequently speak with attorneys who are only too eager to hand over their log-in credentials for the Google Analytics account.

Stop doing it.

You are not just opening the kimono – you are taking it off and throwing it away.  Here’s why:

  1. Once you’ve finished sharing this data with me, you’ll have to change your password; otherwise I’ll have ongoing access. This is easy to do, but few ever consider it.
  2. Most law firms don’t run their email through google and  because you must use a Google Account to access Google Analytics, many of the log-ins are personal google email accounts.  (While you can associate a non Google email address with your Google Account, very few do.)  Sending me over your personal account to log in to your company’s Google Analytics account means I can now read your personal gmail . . .
  3. If this is the primary business account (either a solo lawyer or the marketing department), the log-in also opens up access to Google Webmaster Tools, Google Adwords etc.
  4. By default your account probably has administrator access – which means you can add and delete users as you see fit.  Now that you’ve sent me your credentials, so can I.  

Note that if you rely on your agency to set up Google Analytics for you THEY will have your administrator level access.  This is something you should check and change immediately if it is the case.  (I’ll show you below how you can tell if this is the case.)  Demand your agency make you the sole administrator and then grant them “user” level access.

What does this look like in the real world?  Recently, I transitioned a client (who will remain nameless) from their existing agency (who will also remain nameless) to Atticus.  When reviewing the client’s Google Analtyics account, we discovered that a new, innocuous sounding administrator-level account (marketing@example.com) was created just prior  to the switch.  My client swears that she not only didn’t create it but wouldn’t know how to.

Setting Up User Level Access in Google Analytics

You can avoid all of these problems by simply granting user-level access to Google Analytics.  Here’s a step by step:

Log in to Google Analytics and Select the Appropriate Website

analytics login

Click Admin

analytics 2

 Select the Users Tab

analytics 3

Click the “+New User” Button

analytics 4

Add a User with “User” Permissions.

Note that you can get more complex with what people can and can’t see – if you want to explore, here’s the Google Documentation.

analytics 5

 

Done.

You are Foolish if you run Google Adwords but not Bing Ads

Bing vs. Adwords
Out with Captain Dan.

I went striped bass fishing in Cape Cod last week aboard the Salt Shaker.  Captain Dan, who has been fishing there for about 30 years, has intimate experience with fish, tackle, currents, temperatures and the bay; which means that I’ve pulled in some big stripers each of the last 6 years I’ve been out with him.

It turns out Dan is an experienced, savvy online marketer as well.  On the 45 minute ride back from the fishing area, I asked him about how he markets his one man charter business. What follows is a rough recollection of his comments about PPC advertising.

“I used to spend a lot of money on Google – but that stuff is expensive.”

“A lot of what I paid for were marketers clicking through and trying to sell me stuff – I know that b/c I used a different email.”

“With Bing, I’m paying about a quarter of what I did on Google.”

And he’s right – the economics of pay per click advertising mean that the return on investment for Bing will outperform Google.  Here’s why: In the PPC bidding system price impacts not only who wins, but also how much they win. Simply put – because web searchers tend to click on things higher up on the page, buying your way to the top means you’ll get more clicks.  This means that PPC traffic is one of the few items with negative economies of scale – where the more you buy, the higher the per item costs.  And the more bidders there are in the system, the higher that price goes. This is exacerbated by attorneys who have translated 3 years of get-to-the-top-of-the-class education to ridiculous, irrational PPC bidding wars.

Because Google is the dominant search engine, most small businesses dip their toe in the  PPC waters with Adwords, not Bing Ads. At the risk of stretching the metaphor too far – they are fishing where the fish are.  And this seems to make sense – but because the market is so crowded with all the other small businesses doing the same, the economics don’t pan out as well.  Essentially, while there is more volume of searchers at Google, the crowded marketplace makes each of these searchers more expensive to buy.

So, if you are running Adwords and not Bing Ads, you are flushing money down the toilet. You will get less volume at Bing – but it will cost much less per click – in Captain Dan’s case, about 75% less.  And this is the key to ROI. To make things even easier – Bizible has just launched a free tool that will auto-tag a Bing advertising account with Google Analytics tracking code. Get started.

A Common Sense Law Firm Policy for Authorship

Authorship is the hottest new innovation in search.  And like many changes that preceded it, authorship has the legal community spinning in circles trying to figure out what to do.

But first . . .

A Quick Primer on Authorship

At a very high level, authorship is the association of an individual writer’s reputation to a piece of content.  This manifests itself in two important ways.  1. As a ranking factor – i.e. Conrad Saam has accrued a strong reputation for writing about search and therefore his content about search will rank well regardless of where it is published.  2.  As a click through factor – to help searchers identify good content, Google is including a thumbnail of the author in search results.

Authorship for Lawyers

Authorship is a big deal.  At the latest SMX Advanced conference, a study (with what looked like an admittedly anemic dataset) claimed a 200% increase in clicks to results with authorship than without, regardless of position on the SERP. Later in the same session, a major newspaper editor suggested that a writer’s Author Rank (uggg – our industry’s latest nauseating   buzzword that is soon going to be misused by MBAs desperate to display some tech cred) would soon be a primary hiring factor.

 

Authorship has been written about ad nauseam – I’d recommend Ann Smarty’s cheat sheet overview if you need to quickly get caught up. For now, I want to focus on the perceived risks of authorship . . .

Why Law Firms are Afraid of Authorship

Authorship does raise some genuine questions.  To capture search traffic, more and more law firms are expanding the velocity at which they publish content to the web – using more firm lawyers, or with ghost written content.  This has raised policy issues around authorship. The two most common concerns that have some law firms completely balking wrt to authorship are:

“What if I publish something that could be used against me down the road in a case?”

This red herring actually has nothing to do with authorship.  The logic is pretty simple –something published on your law firm’s blog that is so damaging is probably not going to be more so with a picture attached to the results on a search engine query.  I hear this concern mostly from law firms using outsourced third parties to vomit out a huge volume of low quality content onto their sites.  If this is a question you find yourself asking – consider fixing the content problem, not the authorship problem.

“What happens if Bill leaves my firm – can he take his authorship with him?”

This is more nuanced question and mirrors a common firm partner concern:  I spend year’s building Mary’s reputation as a great lawyer, and then she goes and opens up a firm across the street from me.  Allaying this concern requires an understanding of how authorship works. Let’s go back to the central premise of authorship: content for reputable writers ranking regardless of where it is published. So, yes, a lawyer can build up their writing reputation on a firm’s blog and then put that reputation in their pocket and start a new firm with a new website and leverage that reputation to rank.  From an Author Rank perspective two things happen here:  1)as their reputation builds on their new site, so does the value of that reputation to the original content and 2)if they choose to disassociate themselves from the original blog, they lose the value of that reputation.  It is important to note that reputation isn’t built just because I’m writing on a specific blog, but also because of many additional associated signals (links, shares, etc.).  Just like in real life, the reputation for an author (or lawyer, or singer, or SEO consultant) transcends any individual publishing platform.  Therefore, there is no downside to using authorship to enhance your content’s ability to drive traffic.

This brings us to . . .

A Common Sense Law Firm Policy for Authorship:

Don’t publish anything you wouldn’t attach your name to.

Hey Lawyers: Be (Very) Careful With Retargeting

I happened to glance at the screen while my 5 year old daughter was playing virtual dress-up.

Legal Retargeting

Hello “Goldberg Jones – Divorce for Men”.  Nice to meet you.  Actually, nice to get reacquainted with you.

My daughter is getting these ads because I was on Goldberg Jones’ site last week researching some duplicate content issues.  And now the web thinks I’m thinking of going single.  And so does my daughter . . . and when she logs onto our shared computer, so does my wife.

Due to all of the legal searches I do . . . the search engines and advertisers think I’m a drunk driving tax evader with mesothelioma whose wife is about to leave me before I’m deported.

And these ads are going to follow my wife around the web for the next 30 to 90 days.  Let’s say she spends her free time looking at pictures of cute fuzzy seals . . .

Legal Retargeting III

 

Or oggling David Beckham in his one-size-too-small undies . . .

Legal Retargeting

You get the point.

Now of course in theory, users can change their privacy settings to (mostly) avoid retargeted advertising; however, we all know that in reality many users fail to do so.

Retargeting is a very effective advertising tool.  It sells Nikes, trips to France, car insurance and even SEO Agency services.  I’ve helped many of my clients implement retargeting – but, given the nature of legal work – retargeting should be considered very carefully.  Retargeting is a marketing channel that some practice areas should just steer clear of.

Your Ranking Report is a Dangerous Waste of Time

Lawyer:  “We’re ranking really well, but our phone just isn’t ringing.”

Me:  “Well, how much traffic are you getting?”

Lawyer:  “I don’t know”

You are wasting your time if you are looking at Ranking Reports to assess the success of your SEO campaign.  Worse – if you agency sends you a regular ranking report (and no traffic report), they are probably deliberately trying to hide their poor performance.

Ranking reports are often used by agencies to suggest success while they are delivering very little in value (i.e. more traffic.)  They distract from business goals and focus your search campaign on the wrong tactics.  They are used to rationalize exorbitant retainers that deliver little in the way of new business.

I recently talked to a lawyer who forwarded me her agency’s two most recent ranking report showing 172 different terms that “ranked” between 1-3. When we dug into the Google Analytics data, there were very few visits referenced for those terms.   Additionally, each ranking report had a different set of terms. I suspect her agency was simply using a third party rank checking tool, cherry picking the “good” results and sending her a rosy picture every month along with her bill.   I drew her the following graph cross referencing the ranking reports with her Google Analytics data to demonstrate why her agency’s glowing ranking reports weren’t driving inbound phone calls from prospective clients:

Ranking Reports for Lawyers

Why Good Ranking Reports Don’t Result in Traffic

So, how can a site rank for a term, yet fail to generate traffic?

Local

Remember that little thing called Google Local Maps Places that dominates the screen area for most localized searches (including legal searches)?  Ranking Reports completely ignore Places results.  Legal SERPs very frequently integrate Places – so your glowing Ranking Report displays a very misleading picture of your site’s ability to generate traffic.

Personalization

Search engines are increasingly delivering personalized results based on the individual searcher’s geography, previous search history and social graph.

Geography

A “divorce lawyer” search from my office will generate a results page with Seattle area divorce lawyers).

Previous Search History

My news related searches disproportionally return CNN.com because they know I visit that site on a daily basis; whereas my father may return Fox news results.  Attorneys will frequently sit in their office, run a ranking check for a specific term they want business for, be pleased when their site shows up #1, yet puzzled that their phone isn’t ringing with a flood of incoming prospects. What they don’t realize is that the search engines are personalizing their results based on previous surfing history. The Ranking Report is delivering a false positive because the single most frequented site by any attorney is their own site.

The big picture: With the exception of the false positives from previous search behavior, personalization isn’t taken into account by ranking reports.

Social Graph

My searches include results from people with whom I connected via the social graph.  Google calls this Search Plus your World.  (Bing functions in a similar fashion.)  Depending on the searcher and the subject matter, research has shown up to 60% of results can be influenced by the social graph.

Long Tail Terms

Searches are increasingly specific – think “trial for my third DUI arrest” instead of “DUI Lawyer”.  This is known as the long tail.  Focusing on ranking reports misses all of the traffic within the long tail.  To get a feel for how the long tail works – look at all of the different terms that bring traffic to the profile page on your website.  If you are like most attorneys you’ll see something like:  “William O’Smith”, “Billy osmith”, “Bill O. Smyth”, “Bill Smyth Avvo Rating.” “Bill Smith Lawyer”  “Bill Smyth phone number” etc.

Additionally, its very easy to generate a positive rank for an obscure term.  Think “fuzzy bunny slipper lawyer”.  As more and more consumers are accustomed to search engines automatically geographically targeting their query, (think “personal injury lawyer” instead of “Poughkeepsie personal injury lawyer” they are frequently dropping the geographic component of their search.  A lot of erroneous ranking reports I’ve seen have obscure geographic references in them that are never searched by anyone (zip codes, townships etc.).

 

The Alternative To Ranking Reports

Instead of monitoring the search engines for how your site ranks for a finite set of terms, use metrics that really drive your business. Look at the inbound traffic to a page or group of pages within a practice area.  This can be done easily in Google Analytics with the “landing page” report.  Alternatively, use a keyword or a group of similar keywords to track inbound search traffic for a specific practice area – “divorce”, “implant”.  Changes in traffic that include these keywords demonstrates progress (or decline) in your site’s ability to generate business – not just ranking.

The Final Word

I wrote a version of this post two and a half years ago for Search Engine Land – Excuse Me While I have a Ranking Report Rant.  In the ensuing comments, there were a number of defensive agencies insisting that clients still demanded ranking reports.  Matt McGee, one of the best SEOs I know responded to the anger:

I made a decision 3-4 years ago to never again provide a ranking report to clients. I tell prospects this before they commit to working with me and invite them to find another consultant if they want to track rankings, or to do it themselves. Best SEO decision I ever made . . . My clients hire me to help them make more money. The ones who seem more concerned with rankings than money get referred to other SEO consultants.

Local Gets a Makeover: Google Knowledge Carousel

Yesterday, Google announced the most significant change to the user experience in Local search with the official launch of the “Knowledge Carousel”.  From Google:

Click on one of the places in the carousel to get more details on it, including its overall review-based score, address and photos. If you want to see more places, click the arrow at the right of the carousel. And you can zoom in on the map that appears below the carousel to restrict your search to only places in a specific area.

This new feature dominates the top of the search results for localized searches with a huge black bar and highly visual interface:

Google Knowledge Carousel
Knowledge Carousel for “Seattle Steakhouses”

 

Upon clicking on one of the carousel items, two very interesting things happen:

  • The search engine automatically executes a brand search for that item – in our examples see how “steakhouse” has been replaced by “Daniel’s Broiler Seattle” in the search bar.  (Interesting inclusion of the city here.)   
  • The map is replaced by a section dedicated to even more data specific to the business.

Click through on Carousel

What This Means for Lawyers

So far . . . nothing.  I have yet to see the Knowledge Carousel with any legal searches.  (If you find one . . . . please send me a screenshot.)  However, I suspect it is only a matter of time.  Restaurants are a great example where there are a lot of reviews and vibrant imagery – making the carousel experience appealing.  I suspect the relative paucity of this type of content is the reason we aren’t seeing this in legal.  Yet.  When the carousel comes to legal, those attorneys who will win will have the following common aspects to their online profile:

  • Vibrant imagery – of either their office, or more likely their portrait.  
  • Lots of structured data in their Google Places Page.  (hours, languages, practice area, pricing etc.)
  • A heavy volume of reviews across the web, but especially within the Google ecosystem.

9 Questions your Legal Website Developer Doesn’t Want You To Ask

To the best of my knowledge, the legal industry is the only industry that pays for their websites on an ongoing subscription basis.  Most companies pay a one off project fee for their website, lawyers tend to lease them on an ongoing basis – often at exorbitant rates with little or any value add.

If you have a monthly website bill ask your provider the following pointed questions . . .

1. Who owns the domain?

If you don’t own your domain, you have no control over the primary destination of your online presence.   Website developers who maintain ownership of a domain are essentially renting you space on that domain instead of building something that you own.  Consider a primary factor in search marketing success is the overall strength of a domain – including links to that domain as well as the age of that domain (i.e. how long it has been registered) – and you understand that owning your domain is essential.  As a most insidious business practice – some website developers will have you pay SEO consulting services to build the strength of a domain they own and then turn around and either raise your price (given it’s increased effectiveness) or sell it to your competitor across the street.

Paying for SEO services on a domain that you don’t own is like installing granite counters, stainless appliances and custom cherry cabinetry in your rental apartment.

2. How long is my contract?

Best Answer

“We’ll send you the final bill once you’ve approved development on your site.”

Good Answer

“We offer month to month subscription that you can cancel at any time.”

Very Bad Answer

“We require a two+ year commitment from our clients.”

Offering discounts for upfront payment is reasonable; forcing clients to lock into multi year agreements grants your vendor all of the power in the fluid and competitive world of technical marketing.

3. On what platform is the website built?

Best Answer

“Wordpress”

WordPress is the dominant website platform, which means that there is a huge community of developers ensuring it keeps up with the constantly changing technical world.  It’s also mind numbingly easy to use for anyone who made it through law school.  I’m an admitted WordPress fanboy – but I’m not the only one. Avvo’s legal websites are built on WordPress and Kevin O’Keefe from Lexblog moved his entire platform from Moveable Type to WordPress many years ago.

Good Answer

Various other commercially available platforms with easy-to-use content management systems that can be hosted at a variety of different website hosts.

Worst Answer

“We have a proprietary custom developed system . . .”

Very simply, the development resources required to keep a platform up to date with the changing technology of search marketing are considerable.  Vendors with proprietary systems may or may not keep up with these innovations.  Additionally, proprietary systems make it extremely expensive and difficult to transition away from (see question 9 below) – locking attorneys in with a sub-ideal vendor.

4. How should I tell if my site is performing well?

Great vendors will focus on growth in non-branded (i.e. NOT your name or your law firm’s name) traffic.  Poor vendors will send you ranking reports with extremely long tail queries (i.e. “north staten island tow truck accident lawyer”) that may rank, but never will generate any traffic.  For more on the dangers on relying on ranking reports – check out my Ranking Report Rant on Search Engine Land.

5. How much does hosting cost?

Exorbitant hosting costs are the primary way website developers justify translating a one time project (building you a nice and effective website) into an ongoing profit stream.

LawyerEdge charges $114 monthly for hosting and email – Findlaw sites range well north of this.  But website hosting is cheap. Very cheap.  For simple hosting and great customer service, Bluehost will take care of you for $3.95 a month. That monthly website developer fee is the same product that Danica Patrick pitches during every Superbowl that costs less than a cup of coffee.  If you have more than one zero on your monthly hosting cost, you are being taken for a ride.

Hosting Costs

6.  Are you charging me for “email maintenance”?

The only appropriate answer is no.  (Look closely at the image above and send it to your provider if you have a separate line item for “email”.)

7. How do I modify content on a page or add a page?

Best Answer

“Here is the username and password for your content management system.”

Worst Answer

“We are happy to provide you with consulting services on an as-needed basis for an hourly rate of . . . .”

8. What is the username/password for my Google Analytics account?

Good Answer

“Our system emails you a set of reports on a regular basis; you can also log into Google Analytics with this username and password . . .”

Bad Answer

“You don’t need to worry about that confusing lexicon – we create a monthly report to tell you how you are doing.”

Run Screaming Answer

“Your site doesn’t have Google Analytics on it, you don’t need it and we won’t install it.”  Even worse:  “Your site does have Google Analytics on it, but we won’t give you access.”

Any web development shop that won’t provide you access to Google Analytics – a free, easy-to-install, easy-to-use, easy-to-understand tool, is either exceptionally lazy or more likely deliberately hiding their own performance.  Relying on a vendor to define AND calculate the metrics of your success puts the fox in the henhouse.

9. If I decide to leave, who owns the content, imagery and code?

This is the second most important question (after domain ownership).  Look closely at your contract to see how your developer approaches you from a prenuptial perspective.  Divorce lawyers know that breaking up is hard to do, but breaking up with someone who doesn’t want to break up can be abject misery. (And very expensive.) A proactive developer will specify what you own (most critically, content, domain, and imagery) and provide you with username and password to a hosting provider. In the event that you want to break up – a really good developer will assist you in transitioning instead of relying on contracts, limiting access or content, and creative ownership claims to make it painfully difficult to move on.

 

If you have a monthly website cost that is more than $50 – be certain to find out exactly what else you are getting for your money.

Why I Started Atticus Marketing

Atticus Marketing - Online Search Marketing for LawyersWhen I left Avvo to run Urbanspoon’s marketing in 2011, I thought I was saying goodbye to the legal profession forever.  Instead, I found myself tugged back by attorneys looking for search help who I couldn’t work with while at Avvo.  What started out as occasional free SEO advice grew into moonlighting consulting gigs.  Working with these firms exposed me to the gross overbilling and outdated, ineffective and self-serving tactics employed by (some) legal industry marketing agencies.  I was now experiencing first hand the anecdotes I heard about during my days at Avvo.

Eventually I decided it was time to leave restaurants behind and go full time with Atticus Marketing with the following guiding principles:

  • Value – We deliver value NOT hours.  Value = traffic growth.
  • Transparency – We deliver good and bad news to our clients.
  • Targeted – We only work with clients we can cost effectively help.
  • Persistence – We create value that persists should the client choose to disengage.

Over the past year, I refined a process and set of tactics that are cost effective in driving traffic improvements for my moonlighting clients. This experience guided the development of a product called Simple Search to help a very specific subset of the legal market. Simple Search delivers a targeted, quantifiable improvement in website traffic at a regular, predictable cost and is designed for:

  • Small to medium, consumer facing firms.
  • Moderately competitive markets (by practice area and geography).
  • Firms who would rather work with clients than work with Google.

 

It’s nice to be back.

Outsourced VP of Marketing

Isn’t it time your law firm had a Vice President of Marketing?

Your marketing spend is currently managed by one of your attorneys, or perhaps the front desk person who took an interest in the website.  The budget is enough to cover a full time attorney salary, yet you don’t know if the money is being spent wisely. You’ve tried lots of different marketing vendors but still can’t tell which ones are worth it.  You know there’s a better way to justify these decisions than the salesperson’s refrain: “if you get just one client, it will pay for itself . . .  ”

Atticus delivers a part time, lower cost VP of Marketing to maximize the return on your marketing investment.

Through the implementation of strict controls, we constantly monitor cost effectiveness across all of your paid marketing channels.  We develop the business metrics – cost per lead, cost per qualified lead and cost per contract – to hold your vendors accountable for their performance.  This data is used to shift your spend to most cost effective channels – delivering more clients at the same (or even reduced) spend.