How To Market to People Who Hate Lawyers in One Easy Picture

I just bumbled across the Browne Law Group while doing some competitive research in the greater Phoenix, AZ market. Sometimes I see work that I wish we had done, that I wish was mine so we could point at it and tell you…we’re awesome. And this is one of those sites. (But we didn’t, so I can’t.) Instead, I’m sharing this to try to inspire your mind to think beyond typical lawyer branding and positioning.

And let me tell you, this might not work for you. Your lawyerly sensibilities may be completely insulted by law books turned into a dumbbell, or triceps that are bigger than your thighs.

But you are totally wrong.

The anti-lawyer lawyer branding speaks deeply to prospective clients when evaluating a lawyer. You either love him or hate him. And because of that, a prospect’s consideration set when selecting a counsel among the entire legal market gets split in two: the anti lawyer vs. everyone else who pretty much all look the same. For those of you who live under a rock, the legal profession suffers from an overall negative perception among the general populace. So, being the non-lawyer lawyer seems like positioning with extremely broad appeal. And as a side note – it’s more than just killer branding and content – the underlying code on the site is solid as well.

I’ve been writing about this for years – prospects want to hire people who happen to be lawyers, instead of lawyers who happen to be people. Stop spending so much effort branding yourself as a lawyer and instead work on letting the person behind you shine. As for me…”hire lawyers with tattoos not combovers” kind of resonates with me (have you seen my melon?)

It’s not our work, but I wish it was. Byron – when you stumble across this post, know that I wish you’d fire your agency and give us a call. But don’t. You don’t need to – they are really good. But to anyone else, who has the guts to pull some real genuine branding (with or without ink), give us a call.

The ONLY Question You Need to Ask Prospective SEO Vendors

Last week was particularly painful – I reviewed a $1,700 a month FindLaw site with pages carelessly duplicated. I looked at a firm paying $800 a month for SEO for a website without H1s. I analyzed a site with a $50,000 price tag (yes – four zeros) that didn’t have a robots.txt file. So, don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of self-proclaimed SEO “experts” who wouldn’t know the difference between a canonical tag and a fluffernutter. But The premise of this article assumes you can do a decent job weeding out the flagrant SEO charlatans and social media marketing consultants guaranteeing Pinterest followers will catapult you to the top of the search results and instead addresses the more important question:

How do you identify an advanced agency from those that are merely competent?

I’ve written a few times about how to vet an SEO provider…

…but I think those articles may be overthinking the key point.

To answer this question, I’m looking to the tactical focus of our engagements for large firms in heavily competitive markets. Once we’ve completed the Janitorial SEO phase – cleaning up all of the pre-existing technical, content, penalty and platform disasters – we move into a maintenance phase. And during this phase roughly 70% of a client’s investment goes towards linkbuilding. So its obvious to me…the only important question you need to ask when looking for a genuinely advanced agency:

Describe your most effective linkbuilding campaign over the past three months.

Know that there is no singular right answer to this question – but thematically you are listening for a few things.

  1. Creativity – effective linkbuilding entails a creative approach to stories, facts and opportunities to generate stories for a highly interested (and online) audience. You are looking for someone who can either generate a unique perspective commenting on existing stories, or, better yet, be active in actually generating the news. Fundamentally – listen for someone taking a creative angle on a story or even a unique approach to the content medium – infographics, video or unusual content.
  2. Collaboration – without a doubt, our most successful linkbuilding campaigns involve deep cooperation with our clients. They know their issues, stories and perspectives better than we do – and we facilitate creativity through brainstorming sessions that include the client directly.
  3. Outreach – great content alone is impotent if no one reads it. “Content is King” is one of the lies lazy SEOs tell their clients – shifting the responsibility of the failure of an SEO campaign to their clients for not blogging enough. (See SEO Regicide, Content the King is Dead for more.) Find an agency who is able to identify raving fans and has an outreach plan for reaching those raving fans through social, email, phone or even traditional PR. Our most recent linkbuilding coup included a $17,000 spend with a PR agency that generated stories and links from places like the New York Times, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal’s Law Bog, as well as 40 other sites.
  4. Timeliness – in many cases, great stories are fleeting – so being able to jump on issues, turn around content and execute on outreach quickly is extremely important.
  5. Failure – note that high-end linkbuilding isn’t guaranteed. At least half of the time efforts are going to fall flat. (And just 10%-20% of the time, agencies deliver a home run.) Experienced agencies know this and should prepare clients for this possibility.
  6. Variety – a strong, organic backlink profile is built through a variety of tactics; agencies who rely on a singular approach to linkbuilding are often walking you towards a penalty.

Of course, you want to avoid like the plague, agencies who promise links, guarantee links, offer to buy links, or suggest in any way that they have a simple, scaleable solution to a complex, unscalable challenge.

Don’t expect to be able to hire someone who can engage in advanced linkbuilding at $500 a month or even $2,000 a month. This is hard, creative, uncertain work – it requires experience, brainstorming, contacts, writing panache, timing and a heavy heavy dose of luck to be successful. It’s an ongoing process

Also note that some Big Box website and SEO vendors are able to easily slot your site into a network of domains they control to generate links back to you. This is flagrantly against Google’s best practices and I’ve dealt with more sites than I care to count where the Janitorial SEO phase has lasted for months as we’ve dug a site out from a penalty. BUT…currently these networks can be effective when implemented by the more crafty Big Box providers. Law firms pay for the value of these links through exorbitant “hosting” costs that run into the hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars a month, when the actual cost should be between $5 and $29. Note that this is a risky approach – my take is that it’s a matter of when, not if, the sites get burned. Additionally, leave the vendor, and those links will slowly disappear from your backlink profile – leaving your site impotent.

Rumor Mill: FindLaw transitioning sites to WordPress????

UPDATE: A second, well placed and completely unrelated source has corroborated FindLaw’s intent to migrate to WordPress.

On the phone with another law firm prospect today who told me her FindLaw rep had told her that they were transitioning websites from the proprietary FindLaw platform to WordPress. Now, this would be a major change in the online marketing world for lawyers and something that would really shake up the industry. I received two competing perspectives on this after I posted on Facebook:

Not surprising. Everyone has been leaving for years for their own WordPress sites so strategically it’s probably their only move. Be interesting to see how it pans out for them. – Shelly Fagin

 

We’ll see. My guess is this is just an instance of the FindLaw rep not knowing anything. You could honestly put 20 of them in a room together and still not have the cumulative web knowledge to update a paragraph on their own proprietary system…   – James Eichenberger*

Now – the theoretical economist in my believes that Shelly is right. Having spoken to perhaps a hundred FindLaw clients in detail over the past decade, the long term, captive nature of the proprietary platform and contracts is something clients resent. No one wants to be beholden to a vendor, especially when cheaper, better alternatives exist. This has been, perhaps, the primary reason we’ve easily been able to score deals with FindLaw clients. (To be 100% fair, I did lose one client back to FindLaw about two years ago and that eats at me like maggots feasting on a forgotten hamburger.)

Alternatively, the pragmatist in me suspects James is right…I just can’t see the impetus to move with the market, while you can still squeeze a little more profit (and captive clients) out of your big box brand recognition.

So – in the comments…anyone from Minnesota care to weigh in and let us know?

* – and oh, hahahahahaha I went to link out to Shelly and James’ respective sites, only to find I couldn’t find anything for James, so I moseyed on to his Facebook profile looking for a website (and a lawyer in need of serious SEO?), but no…James’ Work and Education on FB…

Oh James – a beer on me should you ever find yourself in Seattle.

 

FindLaw’s Atrocious Social Media Product

File this one under another egregious example of tech salespeople peddling overpriced, ineffectual products at the legal community. I spoke with an attorney today who drops around $1,400 a month for a bundle of services including the FindLaw Digital Marketing Boost and FindLaw Engagement Builder, and the FindLaw Social Media Marketing Tool. Now, I’ve written ad nauseam about the idiocy of most social media marketing in legal, so I was curious exactly what FindLaw is pushing. And for $1,400 bucks every month. That’s like having twins attend an overpriced east coast prep school.

So what does the FindLaw Social Media Marketing Tool deliver?

  1. It lets you schedule blog posts to Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google Plus (and let’s not get caught up on the fact that FindLaw is still referring to Google Plus as if it’s a relevant product.)

 

If you really want to get fancy, this seems like a cheaper alternative.

Seems to me, the free Hootsuite subscription and/or a well chosen WordPress plug-in is more than enough. To call this Social Media Marketing Platform out as a separate, value added line item is ludicrous. It’s like paying extra for a speedometer on a car or laces with a pair of shoes.

If you’d like to prove me wrong, please do so…here’s a link to the Quick Start Guide: FindLaw Social Media Product. I can just hear the commissioned salesman pushing the transformative promise of social media marketing.

Just the latest example of a big box company taking it to lawyers who don’t understand. And if you think I’m overstating the case here, this proposal included a rate hike for his monthly website hosting – increasing by about $175 a month to just over $800 monthly. Oh – and that rate? Locked in for another 12 months.

Is Google Moving to Kill Retargeting?

This morning, Google announced an updated setting allowing users to turn off retargeting ads (which they euphemistically refer to as “reminder ads”.

“Reminder ads like these can be useful, but if you aren’t shopping for Snow Boot Co.’s boots anymore, then you don’t need a reminder about them,” – Jon Krafcik, Google

Note that in legal, these retargeting ads have been hit or miss – with some practice areas completely verboten due to privacy concerns (although some lucky PI advertisers still have been able to sneak through the Google ad review process. However, other practice areas that have a less personal nature (take business litigation for an extreme example), retargeting is incredibly effective, as the cost is extremely low to reach people who have already expressed an interest by being on a site.

CNN knows that despite living on the west coast, I’m an L.L. Bean fan….

Will this have a big impact? I’d say yes – Google accounts for roughly 90% of the retargeting market. However, it will ultimately be the ease (or difficulty) with which individual users can opt out of specific ads that will dictate the impact this change has on advertisers’ retargeting campaigns.

Why You Can’t (and Won’t) Win Google’s Local Pack

A great Local SEO study came out yesterday from Juris Digital going over a single case study for “car accident lawyers” in every zip code in Houston. While much came from the study, two things stood out for me as they pertain to lawyers and search:

  1. Searcher proximity is a MAJOR impact on results.
  2. The sheer volume of firms is surprisingly large.

Point #1 is pretty obvious and Google has been pushing this messaging very aggressively.

Point #2 was much more surprising. Of the 138 different searches conducted (admittedly NOT a scientific sample size) – there were a whopping 82 different firms that showed up, with 22 of them showing up only once. The largest marketshare was less than 5%.

This means there’s not only massive variability in who shows up in local, but also that there aren’t any “winners.” Furthermore, you can’t accurately assess your local performance with a self conducted ranking test.

In summary, you are not working to “win” in Local Search, your agency is working to enable you to participate in the rotation of firms – and at best, you are looking at a 5% marketshare of those queries. This is one of the greatest things Google has shifted in order to spread some of the love around. It’s also a reason why there’s so much spam on the mapped results. Now if only I could get Google to rotate the directory results out of organic, I’d be doing just fine…

How to Inadvertently Hide Your Content (And Gut Your Site) with Pop Ups

Got another call from a lawyer whose website, he thought, was underperforming. A quick review of the site shows why….

While the site is visually fine, note that all of his practice areas display as pop ups on the same URL…the individual practice area content doesn’t actually exists at his URL: http://grenierlawgroup.com/practice-areas/. (Note below – the URL for this practice area is stuck at /practice-areas/, as is all their other practice area content.

And you can see that Google can’t find any pages about specific practice areas:

I’ve seen this with attorney profile pages as well. So…when you are DIYing (and you really can) your websites…be sure that all of your content has a page (read: distinct URL) on which to reside.

Why You Shouldn’t Hire an HOURLY Marketing Consultant

Hourly based work seems like the right approach…especially when it comes to marketing services. You only pay when you need something and you pay a pre-determined, agreed upon amount. Concerns over contractors delivering deliberately slow work aside, hourly engagements are easy to understand, and for an agency, easy to agree to. Furthermore, hourly engagements enable consultants to be called into battle when needed.

Hourly billing makes it very easy to bid on work – there’s no need to scope the requirements of a specific client and there’s flexibility to increase or decrease budgets as necessary. As a marketing agency, hourly billing also plays conveniently into one of our 10 Commandments: It Might Not Be Our Fault, But It’s Still Our Problem. When we have a client who has some emergency, we drop everything to address that emergency. An hourly billing arrangement makes this very simple.

Despite that, hourly billing is a horrible way to structure an arrangement with a marketing agency because it encourages a reactive, instead of proactive relationship.

A brief non-legal anecdote….

We just fired our accounting firm after a nagging feeling that everything wasn’t being done both on time and entirely well. (btw – we’ve signed up with a firm called Accountfully that seems to approach their business in the same way we approach ours.) In our kick off call with Accountfully, they uncovered time and time again, stupid sloppy errors from our previous firm. Of course, we were getting what we paid for – or paying for what we got – the time it took to do 90% of the job well. But of course, with accounting (even more so than with marketing), I don’t want a 90% well done job. I want a third party, outsourced, I’m-not-going-to-worry-about-this-because-an-expert-is-already-proactively-looking-out-for-me peace of mind. So we’ve transitioned our arrangement from an hourly bill to a monthly retainer. And yes, I’m going to spend more money on accounting this year than last…except of course that that final 10% – the proactive part that ensures we keep the tax man happy is going to be managed proactively for me.

The reality is, we were paying our accountant for what they did…it’s just that what they did wasn’t a) done well and b) what they needed to do. A retainer (with a good firm) means you have someone proactively monitoring your business instead of reacting to your requests. And for a function you don’t understand or hate (in my world – accounting), that’s the way it should be.

 

My new accounting team – billing us on retainer instead of hourly.

 

Another Problem with the ROI Metric…

Yesterday I wrote about how using ROI is an almost impossible task for agencies (ROI – the Marketing Catchphrase Agencies Just Don’t Get), despite the fact that so many of them use the term regularly in their marketing efforts. One of the biggest problems with a simplistic approach towards ROI is that fallacious assumption that your marketing efforts primary business metric should be to maximize ROI.

Why?

Because ROI is expressed as a percentage, maximum ROI should rarely be the goal of a marketing effort. I’ll use the simple case of YellowPages advertising to illustrate my point. Now, we all know that nobody looks at the Yellow Pages anymore. And nobody advertises in them. Like never. Poor starving Yellow Pages. This widespread consensus has led to rapidly declining costs for Yellow Pages advertising – the laws of supply and demand being what they are.

BUT

Some people do read the Yellow Pages. And that back of the YP book cover that used to cost $50,000 is now only $500. And that ONE client a month who called you that year because of that ad…generated a huge ROI b/c the cost of acquiring them was only $41.66 ($500/12 months). Yet a law firm does not subside, let alone grow on one client a month. So this massively profitable campaign, which generated the firm’s highest ROI across all of their marketing channels should never be thrown out, but it should never be depended on either. An agency following the “Maximize ROI” maxim from their marketing materials would have put this law firm out of business.