Why Does Search Intent Matter?

In the early days of digital advertising, search engines used keywords to understand their users. This is how SEOs optimized pages to get higher and higher page ranks for their clients. Things have changed a bit since then, and not in the least regarding how search engines work.

 

The Great Intent Shift

Search engines have been getting better at understanding user intent over user keywords for the past few years now. Using open-source machine learning, Google created BERT, a robot designed to understand intent, and released it into the world in the Fall of 2019. 

 

The release of BERT indicated a shift of intent over keywords. If you want to know what this looks like, imagine a person trying to figure out the visa process of moving from Guatemala to America. They search “Visa process Guatemala to united states.” With the keywords being “Visa,” “Guatemala,” and “United States” they Google might give them an onslaught of news stories about new policies. Other than maybe influencing them to move to Canada instead, these results won’t help them learn what they need to do. 

 

When you change the situation to user intent instead of keywords, the person is more likely to get links to the DHS immigration page or a blog post from an immigration lawyer. The point is, they are more likely to get what they intended to get. 

 

How This Helps You

While keywords still matter, they no longer need to be the focus when you’re creating content. Instead of stuffing H1s and H2s with various repetitive synonyms, trying to rank for as many keywords as possible, you should focus on writing the most accurate and helpful headers you can. It’s a lot easier to write quality content if you’re not fighting for every word. 

 

So how should you focus on intent? Provide quality content and write out the straightforward questions with straightforward answers. This is where blog posts, FAQs, and other resources will benefit you. People want straightforward answers to their legal questions, and that’s something you can provide. Search intent might just be what helps you get the traffic (and clients) you want.

Google My Business is a Necessity (Even if it Goes Premium)

Last year Google sent out surveys to local businesses to see how much they could potentially charge for premium Google My Business memberships. This led to a bit of panic, but has yet to be implemented. What I’m here to argue is that your firm needs Google My Business, whether you need to buy a subscription or not.

 

Visibility

Even if they do implement charged services, GMB listings will still be free to claim. These listings are the best way to get your business on the map in a very literal sense. You claim your business and then you appear on the map. When a client searches “Lawyers near me” you need to show up.

 

NAP Consistency

Your name, address, and phone number are about the most important details of your business that you want to express. As far as Maslow’s hierarchy of marketing needs, your business name is pretty much at the bottom of the pyramid. GMB is a good starting place for ensuring your business details stay consistent.

 

Review Consolidation

As far as review collection goes, GMB makes it pretty easy. The service collects reviews from Yelp, Avvo, Lawyers.com, and various other platforms. This makes it easy for clients to find average ratings and for you to keep track of your reputation

 

Driving Conversions

Finally, I want to touch on the main reason to build out your GMB profile: it drives conversions. Really well. You can see this on Google Analytics: Conversions → Multi-Channel Functions → Top Conversion Paths → Primary Dimension: Default Channel Grouping Path. See where GMB ranks in your conversions. Here’s how it’s done for just a few of our clients:

 

In summary, GMB works in favor of local businesses. The main benefits of GMB aren’t the ones Google is thinking of charging for, so take advantage. If you don’t have GMB, you’re really falling behind. Please catch up.

Link Building: Where to Start

Starting a Link Building Project

Link building is one of the building blocks of SEO. It helps to make connections, building domain authority, and motivating you to create interesting content. We all know this, but where do you start? Well, let’s start with where not to start.

 

Avoiding Schemes and Scams

There are countless businesses around promoting opportunities to buy lots of links for cheap. Don’t utilize them. Link building schemes are great for short-term growth and long-term destruction. And the growth isn’t even real since the incoming traffic rarely converts or interacts. 

Bottom line: don’t buy links.

 

Finding (Legitimate) Opportunities

Looking for places that will provide you with links or are willing to collaborate is hard work. It helps to begin where you are more likely to get a response. This could be directories, local newspapers, even alumni newsletters. These are examples of places where you can simply add a link to your website’s homepage or your attorney profile and call it a day.

 

One technique we like using here at Mockingbird is Lookback Link Building, a termed coined in-house. It can help get high-quality links without asking publications to change recent pieces.

 

The next level of link building is guest blogging or writing content that sites want to link to. This usually takes either an extreme talent for writing alongside high subject matter expertise or a longstanding and good reputation in the field. You should always aim for creating the highest quality content as possible, but the bar is a bit lower if you’re already a well-known name.

 

Building Connections

Making connections is hard in this world, and it’s even harder when you’re asking for a favor. Prepare yourself for a lot of rejection and even more indifference. A lot of your requests will be ignored. You learn to live with it.

 

So what do you do once you make a connection? If the type of link you’re requesting is just putting a link in an article where the firm or attorney is mentioned, ask for that. Explain how it will help the readers who might want to learn more about the subject. Try not to make it sound like a business transaction. People don’t like feeling like they’re giving you something for free.

 

Beyond singular links, you need to build connections with publications and websites that might be open to collaborating with you as a subject matter expert. This means that they would be open to you writing guest pieces or linking to your content. This is a great position to be in. If you find yourself with these types of connections, don’t piss them off. They’re your ticket to a high domain authority.

 

The Benefits of Link Building

If you aren’t convinced that an improved backlink profile will help you out, we have multiple case studies to show you otherwise:

 

Let’s Make 2020 the Year of No Long Term Contracts

Here at Mockingbird, we have made our disdain for long-term contracts well-known. We have seen too many law firms fall victim to the predatory practices of FindLaw and other such agencies. Too many of our clients have come to us after being stripped down by contracts designed to empty their wallets. It’s because of this that we want to warn you of the dangers of signing onto a long term contract and how to avoid it.

 

The Dangers

Domain Ownership

Ownership of the website often sits in the fine print of these contracts, and it rarely benefits the law firm. This is one of the ways agencies trap their clients; they can’t leave without losing their website. 

 

Content Ownership

Right alongside domain ownership is content ownership; the agency owns all the content on the website. This means that even if the client manages to leave, they can’t keep anything from the website they might have been adding to for years.

 

Upselling Poor Service

When you’re trapped in a contract the agency has little motivation to provide you with the service you deserve. When you find them failing to deliver, they might even ask you to pay more for certain features that should be included or are completely irrelevant. Suddenly the contract is more expensive and the service is just as bad.

 

Our Experiences

We’ve been in the business for a while, and we’ve had more than a couple of firms come to us desperate and without a website:

Helping these firms get back on their feet has made us painfully aware of how damaging long term contracts can be. That’s why we’ve built a guide for escaping FindLaw

 

What to Look for When Signing a Contract

As a lawyer, you’re probably used to the implications of the fine print. The fine print for your marketing agency shouldn’t be given any less attention than what’s in your clients’ cases. Here are a few of the things you should keep an eye out for and flag:

  • Domain ownership
  • Content ownership
  • Termination penalties
  • End dates

If you see yourself about to sign a contract that will hold you for years, stop and think: is there a better way?

 

There is. Don’t make bad decisions in 2020 that will follow you for the next decade. Don’t sign the contract.

Impacts of Google’s January Update on the Legal Industry

Google released a new core update in mid-January, most of which has been rolled out at this point. As with all updates, Google reassured webmasters that no specific sites or industries were targeted. That being said, some industries saw greater impacts than others. And since we’re a legal marketing agency, we like to focus on the impacts on the legal industry. 

 

Based on research from SEMrush.com, the legal and government industries have seen a fair amount of volatility over the past week. The peak days of change were January 14-16, and things appear to be back to normal now.

 

But just because things are no longer changing doesn’t mean there wasn’t an impact. SEMrush works to track SERPs (search engine results pages) in a number of categories, from featured snippets to reviews. 

 

By looking at a selection of these SERPs (not all of them are relevant to the legal industry, such as shopping results) we can get an idea of how legal websites might have been affected.

 

HTTPS Usage

From semrush.com

 

HTTPS usage saw a drop when the update was rolled out and has been steadily declining since. Fortunately, it looks like it might be bouncing back. 

 

Local Results

From semrush.com

 

Local results, or “Local pack” as it’s called on SEMrush, consists of location-based results that appear on the map and the first three results (see below).  After an initial dip, local SERPs seem to have bounced back to where they were before the update.

Reviews

From semrush.com

 

This metric refers to the number of organic results that appear with a star rating under the URL. As with the local results, there was an initial dip immediately following the update. Fortunately, this result is also creeping back up to where it was.

 

Top Ads

From semrush.com

 

Top ads refer to the ads that appear at the top of the page of search results. These have been seeing some serious fluctuations over the past 30 days, but seem to have been on a steady increase since before the update.

 

What Does This Mean

So what do these metrics really mean for you and your business? Mostly it means that there might be a bit of instability in your traffic for a little while after this update. Unless your website is seeing a long-lasting and extreme drop in traffic, it’s nothing to worry about.

Should You be Advertising on DuckDuckGo?

Neglecting all search engines that aren’t Google might not be your downfall, but it definitely won’t help you. It’s also possible to run whole advertising campaigns just on Google and Bing’s main sites. Here’s the thing: you shouldn’t.

 

The Underdog Engines

Google owns a majority of the global search engine market. This makes it a highly competitive market for advertisers, since that’s where a lot of the consumers are. This is why Microsoft Ads (or Bing Ads, depending on who you’re talking to) are a good alternative. The competition is lower, the prices are cheaper, and return on investment is often comparable if not higher than with Google Ads. 

 

Where DuckDuckGo Fits In

Going further down the funnel from Bing is DuckDuckGo. DuckDuckGo doesn’t own half a percent of the global search engine market, but it is growing. 

 

The business model of the platform rests on ensuring user privacy. Unlike Google and Bing, DuckDuckGo advertises based solely on keywords, not user history. This makes it particularly appealing to users who are concerned about their personal safety and privacy.

 

Who Could Benefit from Advertising on DuckDuckGo

Due to the secure nature of the search engine, DuckDuckGo should be particularly appealing to businesses dealing with sensitive matters. As a law firm, it’s likely that you are dealing with sensitive matters.

 

A quick glance at a few of our clients has shown some pretty significant numbers of pageviews over the past six weeks from DuckDuckGo users. As in, over 100 users for some firms. This may not be a lot percentage-wise (less than 1% of total traffic),  but some of them have been leading to conversions. For a platform that isn’t getting much focus, it has a lot of potential.

How to Advertise on DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo is an affiliate with Microsoft, meaning advertising is distributed through the Bing Ads interface and network. This means that you can set up your Bing Ads to be distributed on DuckDuckGo searches. 

 

You can make sure DuckDuckGo is included in your Bings Ads by going to Settings → Ad Distribution → Network → select All Search Networks.

If you would like help managing your law firm’s digital advertising, contact Mockingbird today.

What Types of Traffic are Better?

I’ve been spending some time on Google Analytics. I’ve been looking at which of our pages are doing well, which are at the tail-end of their trend, and which are leading conversions. 

There are some obvious leaders in the conversions department, mainly our homepage and our Law Firm Advertising page, both of which we heavily advertise. They are also pages that tend to get pretty consistent organic traffic. What I was interested in was how their organic traffic related to their paid traffic in terms of conversions.

 

Referral Traffic

The page we’re looking at had a total of 3,243 sessions in the selected time period. Most of that traffic came from referrals, but referrals drove the smallest percentage of sessions to conversions of the metrics being investigated (referral traffic, organic traffic, and paid traffic).  Despite its 2,160 sessions, referrals only led to 6 leads: a measly 0.28% conversion rate. 

 

This seems to be reflective of the site as a whole, as organic traffic drives the highest percentage of sessions. Referrals hold a close second, showing their traffic-driving power, but they also convert the fewest number of users. With a 0.57% conversion-rate sitewide, referrals should probably be thought of more as visibility-assets than business-drivers. 

 

Paid Traffic

For this page, the second largest traffic driver was paid advertising. Paid traffic drove a total of 10 leads on that page, leading to a 4.61% conversion rate. Despite being about a tenth of referrals traffic-wise, paid traffic had a conversion rate that was over 16 times that of referred traffic. This is a good example of quality traffic over general traffic. 

 

Organic Traffic

Finally, organic traffic for the page was third as far as numbers of sessions but was second as far as conversions. As previously mentioned, organic traffic drove the highest percentage of sessions site-wide. What wasn’t previously mentioned was that organic traffic has the third-highest percentage (0.83%) of online conversions. Above it were paid CPC (4.22% conversion rate) and direct traffic (0.84% conversion rate). 

 

The Takeaways

The point of this research was to see the value in different types of traffic; a holistic approach to understanding Google Analytics. A quick glance at a number of Google Analytics accounts will show that while each website has its own quirks, organic and referral traffic are often high in the ranks as far as numbers of sessions, but referrals are often outpaced by paid and organic traffic when it comes to conversions. 

 

But conversions aren’t everything. Holistic, remember? Direct traffic also often ranks high for conversions, which implies that the clients who went directly to the site knew what they wanted and had already made their decision to convert. They probably made that decision during a prior search, which is why we shouldn’t discount referral traffic or any traffic that doesn’t seem to be driving leads quite yet. The one exception I’ll concede to is paid traffic. If your paid traffic isn’t resulting in leads you have a problem.

 

If you want to know more about what your law firm’s website’s traffic means, contact Mockingbird.

The Social Media Sites You Shouldn’t Ignore

Social media is a medium that can’t be neglected when building an online business profile. It provides an opportunity to interact with your community and control your online persona. According to a study, social media can also help build your page ranking.

 

In the study, which looked at results on branded searches, social media profiles and pages ranked page one in a high percentage of searches. One site that stood out for branded searches was LinkedIn, which was the most commonly appearing website in the study.

 

From searchengineland.com

 

Facebook was the second most common website, showing up for 246 out of 500 companies. 

 

So what does this tell us? 

 

For one thing, it tells us that having a social media presence is vital for online reputation management. You have full control over your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, you have less control over your reviews (but you still have some). When a potential client hears about your firm, the first thing they will do is look you up. By having multiple sites you control on Google page one you are crafting your image.

 

So how can we take advantage of this?

 

Well, you can build out your profiles. If you don’t have a Facebook or a LinkedIn business page you should build them. If you already have them, update them. Post regularly and maintain your presence.

 

Will Mockingbird help me make a Facebook?

While the team here at Mockingbird will help with online reviews and social media advertising, we do not maintain our clients’ profiles. That’s something you’ll have to figure out.

Low on Funds? Don’t Get a Custom Site

Custom-built websites are beautiful. They can be technological cathedrals of web-design and intricacy. And, sometimes, they are wholly unnecessary. Many firms don’t need a complicated site, just a functional one that the lawyers understand and the clients can navigate. 

 

This is where websites from templates come in. A well-designed template is fast to set up, cheap to launch, and easy to manage. 

 

We’ve all seen bad lawyer-websites. They aren’t intuitive, have outdated designs, and don’t function very well. Maybe you own one of those websites. It’s understandable; being a lawyer is busy work and you probably don’t have time to manage a website, especially not a complicated new website. Unfortunately, a bad website can scare away potential clients. If it’s especially outdated it might not even show up in searches. 

 

A well-designed website template is easy to update, add to, and navigate. 

 

This is why law firms should have the option not to pay for a brand-new custom website, especially since it’s a luxury that not every firm can or wants to afford. Any service that says a fully custom website is a necessity is a scam.

 

So what firms generally benefit from template-built websites?

 

Firms that generally benefit from template-built websites are those looking to save money. This might include immigration lawyers, criminal defense lawyers, and solo firms.

If you are interested in building your website from a template, contact Mockingbird. Our Echo websites are fast, easy, cost-effective, and beautiful.