Building an outreach plan can be overwhelming. It can appear like one of those thousand piece jigsaw puzzles. But like those thousand piece puzzles, there is gamesmanship to setting yourself up for success. My name is Peyton Tackes and I’m a Digital Strategist for Mockingbird. I’ve been doing strategic marketing for over a decade and there are a few things unique to the legal industry that I’ve come across since joining the Mockingbird team. I wanted to share a few datasets that I analyze when creating content and outreach marketing plans for law firms. This information is how Google interprets who you are. Business owners – be interested in knowing this data about your business and where to find it because this sort of information should help make strategic decisions in where to invest marketing dollars. Knowing your online identity and who Google understands you to be is the foundation for creating a strong digital marketing strategy.
Getting organized. I look at everything you have been telling Google that you are for as long as your company has been on the internet. I look at how many versions of your name are out there, how many times you have rebranded, any sort of social celebrity, all the ways in which you are involved with your community, etc.
Name and Brand:
What is the current legal name of the firm? Is it different from the Brand Name of the firm? Are you using the same name across all brand platforms or are there conflicting names out there? More so than any other industry I have worked within, law firms use “California-Specifically-LA-Personal-Injury-Car-Accident-Lawyer-Near-Me” (Trademarked!) for all of their online ads or social platforms but then switch it to their ‘legal’ name “Mockingbird Law Firm, PLLC” on their website, attorney bios, and legal directories…. As if Google will be able to tell the difference. I’m not discouraging this… I’m just saying please be intentional if this is your strategy. Know what is out there about your business and know where it is. Do you have multiple domains due to your brand? What is the redirect plan? Have you updated everything within your control to avoid all the 301s?
Location, Location, Location
Addresses. Again, a common quirk I’ve seen unique to legal marketing is that most firms have multiple addresses targeting different neighborhoods. If you pay for these different addresses, please follow through on the Google verification process to have your firm location verified as a Google Business Profile. Google Ad Location extensions are tied to the different locations, Local Services Ads (or ‘Google Screened’) are tied to individual locations, Google Profiles are obviously tied to the different verified locations, and as an oversimplification, your locations don’t exist on Google unless they have been verified. Receive the postcard, type in the code.
2022 Yellow Pages
Yext. If they are a client of mine, I will try to get them signed up on the platform as soon as possible. It is the present day Yellow Pages and provides an extensive amount of backlinks that I will not have to chase down manually. Feel free to read more about our love affair with Yext here. There’s not much more that needs to be said about that.
Online Presence. This includes their Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, StumbleUpon, Lawyer . com profile, their website, everything. Are they consistent with the practice areas? The blurb? The information? I will generally take down everything I can find and reconfirm this is how they would like to be presented online. This effort helps fend off the future complaint of “we’re getting leads for criminal when we don’t even take those cases”. If you or your attorneys have told Google, at any point, anywhere, you wanted criminal cases and have not removed that information…. Then according to Google, those are the cases you want.
Building the Database
Not going to lie, this is always the most difficult part. Because it needs to make sense and be functional to three parts – me (and by extension, Mockingbird), the main user of it from the law firm’s side (Marketing Manager or Managing Partner), and most importantly, it needs to make sense and be applicable to the firm’s practice. So the workbook will always look different because it needs to be customized where it will be used. It also takes some time to become helpful. It will be a few months before we start utilizing it regularly based on how organized everything from “The Account” section is as well as how quickly we get access to what we need.
Either way, this is an example of the bones of the Outreach Planner –
The “Account” and “SelfListings” sheets we talked about in the first section, and while this blog post is not about organizing your Link Building Plan, I’ll briefly talk about what goes into the different sheets.
Events – This is anything of importance to your business. Sponsorships, Event Participation, Award Recognitions, Scholarship Opportunities, Big Anniversaries, etc. I will include columns: Month, Event, and then URL, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin (of external organization) as well as any previous years’ write-ups about such events
Contacts – This is the – often slow cooked – meat. This is where all local, industry, community, school, influencer, publications and information go. I will include columns: Name/Description, Category (set up in the Settings sheet), URL, Contact info, Facebook (+followers), Instagram (+followers), and Linkedin. This is my version of a 2022 Media List. Depending on the firm, I can break this up into a separate sheet entirely if a firm has many avenues of press communication.
Links – Important historic links to track. These are the .edu, .gov, any big time press coverage, etc. Anything you want to make sure you are staying on top of as those big time links certainly matter. I will include columns: First Seen Date, Last Seen Date, Referring Domain, Domain Authority, Linked Page, Repeat [Y/N](aka do we need to follow up annually like scholarship opportunities), Contact, Facebook, Instagram, Notes
Content Pool – I will start building this based on what is on your site. I will use The Tactics below in order to fill this sheet up. At minimum, I will include columns: Time of Year (ToY – could be “May” or “Q1” or “2022” depending on topic/relevance), URL, Category, Last Updated
Dang, that was a huge build up to get to what I wanted to talk about. But here we are. For the most part, if you do any sort of marketing, I’m sure you have a system in place to keep track of everything above.
I’m also sure you have a very good grasp on the seasonality of your business, I’m sure you have an idea of popular content on your site, I’m sure you are somewhat aware of important links to your page (as you may have reached out in order to acquire them in the first place). I am sure, wholeheartedly, that you know more than I do about your business and you probably even know more than you think you do. I believe, to a fault, when you tell me you are the best firm this side of the Mississippi.
For the most part, whatever you tell me, I’ll accept as fact.
And that is why I like to start with the data. Data gives me the most unbiased information about who you are, who you attract, and why you attract those people online.
Highest Converting Pages
This marker assumes conversions have been set up within Google Analytics correctly (and if a client has not set them up, we will go ahead and make sure that is done). Depending on overall traffic to the site, I will pull the top converting pages based annually or seasonally. Traffic to a page is great, but I am interested in the pages that make you money.
- Which page someone was on when they decided to pick up the phone or fill out a form reaching out to the firm?
- Was it because of the content on that particular page?
- Was it because there was a place to convert on that particular page and there isn’t a place to convert on other pages on the site?
- When was the last time the page was optimized?
- When was the last time the form was optimized?
- Is there any benefit to updating the page to provide more relevant information? HubSpot calls this “historical optimization” and it has been known to move a needle or two.
- Did they start on that page or were they directed there after landing elsewhere on your site?
> Make sure all of those page links are listed in your workbook (I keep them on the “Content Pool” tab), along with any time sensitive relevance to those pages.
Google Analytics, Search Console
The next stop on my strategy train is understanding (from the data) if there is a seasonality to how people land on your site. Depending on what you do (family, criminal, PI, etc.), I will break up the year into quadrants (i.e. “summer” for family law would be June, July, and August; or the same months could be “motorcycle season” for PI). I will keep the segments to 2-4 months out of the year and see if anything jumps out at me.
In the example below, I filtered Search Console for Jan-Mar 2021 and, as you may guess, the tax question jumped off the page.
Following the user even deeper into the journey, searchers were landing on one of my client’s blog posts. That blog post was ranking #3 on Google for that particular query, and the page itself seemed optimized well for that query. So why wasn’t it a high converting page?
After following the user as the searcher and now on the site, I discovered there was no place for the user to convert on the page. The page was missing a form. Or any sort of call to action. And while that is important to note and fix, the longer play is understanding there is a captive audience full of potential clients searching for tax related answers at the beginning of the year.
Under my General Optimization notes went:
> Updating posts to include call to action
And under my Nov.-Jan. SEO Calendar went:
> Optimize and update all tax related posts
> Reach out to applicable mediums asking to share 50/50 split post
And onto my Content Pool tab went any links relating to tax related family questions.
An oldie but goodie. Having an understanding of how many domains are linking to yours is just something you should know about your business. My personal process is running the backlink report, sorting by Domain Authority (aka Domain Ranking or Authority Score or whatever proprietary name the software gives this score), and then making my observations.
Some of the things I look for include:
? How many redirects there are (not necessarily an issue but something to take note of)
? Which pages (outside of the Home page) are being linked to?
? Is there a popular attorney? Why?
? Is there a blog post a lot of domains point to?
? Is your scholarship or community outreach page being linked to an appropriate amount of times?
> Any links that stand out that we need to follow up with or track, we need to add to our “Links” sheet
> Any pages that are linked to frequently, we should add to our “Content Pool” sheet
Example Action Item: Let’s say there is a scholarship page that is being linked to from several .edu domains. We can now turn that into a project of building up a strong list of other, relevant .edu domains to reach out to and ask to share our scholarship page. We should include when the scholarship deadline is and every year, task ourselves to reach out to the schools a few months beforehand to ensure they have our link up.
Run the Backlink Analysis, but now analyze the report in order to see if there are any high authority links the firm has lost within the past year. Remember, links always come and go, so as long as you are gaining more links than you are losing, it’s not something to worry too much about. But it’s important to understand which high authority domains are no longer linking to your site, and why. Sort by Domain Authority and if you see any domain with a score higher than ~50, try to determine when (and hopefully why) they no longer link to your site.
Tag Your It
Check out who has tagged you or ‘checked in’ on social media. Was it a testimonial or recommendation where you should reach out to the person and thank them? Were you a co-sponsor and an event page or another sponsor tagged you? Was a blog post shared because a publication found it useful or interesting? Take down any mentions you believe are noteworthy and be sure to return the favor in your own social plan. Importantly, be sure to check the platforms you’re not on. So many times I will find a Twitter Mention that a client never saw because they aren’t active on Twitter. If Mockingbird Marketing is mentioned on Twitter by the ABA, it’s safe to assume the ABA also has a Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, and even a website where they are also active. Clearly the content was worth advocating for on one platform, why not build on that? The people who tag or mention you online are also more than likely those who would be advocates for you on their website or even *gasp* in the real world.
Just Getting Started
The best part about this system is it gives me such a good foundation going into any new account about where priorities should lie. Maybe we need to start at the beginning. And clean up the brand online and make sure everything is consistent. That’s totally fine. Because we have a plan to do that, as well as what to do after that, and then after that. On the other end, let’s say a client is locked into their brand, is incredibly consistent across the board, has a great book of links, but wants even more… I also know where to start with that client.
There are many other datasets to collect and utilize – where did the various attorneys go to school? Are there opportunities there? You are clearly a subject matter expert in an area where people will hire you for assistance…. write about it. Start jotting down common questions you’re asked in person, ask us to run a content gap analysis, always be tracking where your clients found you online and start creating client profiles. Do your motorcycle cases find you on Facebook but car accidents find you on Google? You should know that information and you should use it in your marketing plan.
If you need help organizing an outreach or content plan, reach out to Mockingbird. Organizing your information into an actionable strategic marketing plan is one of my favorite things to do.