What the Sunsetting of Google’s Universal Analytics Means for Law Firms

duck-duck-go-historical-search-engine-usage-rates

Mark your calendars: on July 1st, 2023 Google will stop registering data with Google Analytics version: Universal Analytics. (Note if you are using Google 360 – you have till October 1, 2023 to make the switch.) While it’s not time to panic (yet), there are very very significant changes coming – primarily around an increasingly lack of specificity with regards to both traffic sources and (more importantly) conversion metrics. Google is making this change ostensibly due to increased privacy concerns by the general public. You may have even heard those radio ads from long-shot Google competitor and vocal privacy advocate Duck Duck Go – whose market share has grown to 2.5% of the US market.  The new version of Google Analytics (unimaginatively titled GA4) is heavily focused on privacy and instead of enabling individual linear tracking, it uses machine learning to model consumer behavior across multiple platforms, devices, and platforms for attribution.  Put differently, Google is going to provide GA4 users with their best guesses of how consumers behave instead of actually tracking (and exposing) that individual behavior. This isn’t the first time Google has reduced visibility into consumer behavior under the veil of increased privacy concerns… if memory serves correctly in 2013, Google replaced most of the very granular keyword data in Analytics with “not provided” – driving internet marketers who had been obsessing over individual keyword performance crazy.

The obvious elephant in the room concern here is that the vast majority of marketers are now going to be fed a steady stream of what Google believes (or would like you to believe, depending on your level of cynicism) is generating consumer interest and behavior across multiple platforms. For example, you may now learn that Google tells you that watching YouTube videos is responsible for driving a portion of your website traffic that formerly was entirely attributed to SEO. This can be viewed as a genuine attempt to inform marketers about the effectiveness of cross-channel promotion and/or a craven flagrant bid to drive more YouTube advertising revenue. This becomes increasingly complicated when you consider the platforms for which Google does not ostensibly gather data. How does the password-protected community on Facebook play into website traffic for example? (See my post on Dark Social for more on attribution issues that already exist and are only going to get more complicated). The less cynical reader may also accept the marketing positioning coming from Google – that seamless cross channel reporting integration will provide greater insights and therefore better ROI. Which, of course, assumes that your advertising uniquely has access to this tool, but frankly, that same tide will be rising for everyone so…

How Does This Affect Marketing Efforts for Law Firms?

In legal, some marketing channels are extremely linear, direct, and trackable – think PPC for traffic tickets as an example, in which users typically search, click, call, and hire in a single session. Other hiring decisions are much more indirect and take place over time – think divorce where many users research options over time through a variety of offline and online channels and referral sources before connecting with (typically multiple) law firms. Obviously, this linearity (or lack thereof) differs dramatically by practice area as well as marketing channel. The less linear the consumer’s behavior, the more real, actionable data is removed from a law firm’s analytical review.

Additionally, the modeling is limited to Google’s visibility into the world, which is (almost) entirely online. How is Google going to model consumer behavior for law firms that rely heavily on offline promotion – TV, Radio, Billboards, etc.?  What of those firms who have a significant portion of their business driven by industry referrals? While the volume of brand searches may provide some layer of online insight into the offline experience, I suspect the accuracy of machine learning in modeling non-machine behavior is limited at best. Finally, I also suspect there will be even further restrictions on retargeting advertisements – making the importance of gaining permission to continue to connect with a prospect during their first trip to your site a huge priority.

What this Means for Mockingbird Clients

To be frank, this switch is going to more dramatically impact Mockingbird clients than most other legal market agencies, simply because we’ve gone further at reporting into the sales funnel, instead of just stopping at leads (i.e. how many consultations and clients are attributed to which marketing channels generating instead of just leads.) My blunt take is that this increases the value of our Full Funnel Reporting because leads-only reporting is going to get murkier and less directionally accurate. Yeah, that’s a back-handed self-promotional statement, but it’s also true. Since Google’s announcement, we’ve added GA4 tracking code to all clients on Standard (formerly Starter) and Full Funnel (formerly Aggressive Growth) reporting infrastructure. We’re currently rolling this out to all clients on the legacy reporting infrastructure and those on our simple hosting/maintenance. This means our clients will have at least a years worth of legacy data populating the new system and we’ll have a solid period of time to explore limitations and find workarounds for the new platform.

Our next step is to see what gaps we have in our reporting that cannot be filled with Google’s machine learning as well as integration problems. The most concerning (for us and many firms) is how this will impact the very personal, private data collected by dynamic phone tracking services such as CallRail, as well as automated source attribution for many of the more sophisticated Intake Management CRMs (HubSpot, Lawmatics, Litify, Clio Grow, LeadDocket, etc.). A known issue is that conversion data (like that from very useful CallRail does not Pass through to GA4. We are actively working with CallRail on how to handle this. We are exploring alternative analytical packages that may either replace or supplement GA4 – Adobe Analytics, Fathom, and Adverity. Finally, some of the CRM systems have analytics built directly into them – including two of our go-to favorites, Hubspot and Lawmatics. Stay tuned, I suspect over the next 10 months dramatic changes from other analytics providers as they seek to swoop in to fill this data vacuum.

How To Automatically Get Source Information Into Clio Grow From Form Submissions (WordPress)

Law firms that use Clio Grow as their intake management system may not be aware that it is possible to automatically get source information from form submissions into Clio Grow if you’re using WordPress as your CMS.

The benefit to passing source information into this extremely popular legal intake management software is massive. By doing so, you’re able to accurately understand which of your marketing and advertising channels are driving consultations, and ultimately clients to your firm.

The key here is accuracy. If you’re simply relying on an intake specialist to ask your prospects how they heard about your firm, the response is almost always lackluster. Often, you’ll attribute the lead to “the internet”, “Website” or “Google.”. Sound familiar?

The fact is, The internet is a big place and your website isn’t a true source.

More importantly, your intake specialist doesn’t even get a chance to ask someone who completed a form “How did you hear about us?”

I’ve outlined the technology you’ll need and the steps you’ll have to take to get source information automatically into Clio Grow below.

What Technology You Need To Get Source Information Into Clio Grow

  1. WordPress
  2. Clio Grow (but you knew that already, right?)
  3. Gravity Forms – Elite License required to get the Webhooks add-on
  4. Gravity Form Webhooks Add-On – included in Gravity Forms Elite license
  5. Attributer – Free trial then $49/month

How To Set Up The Technology To Get Source Information Into Clio Grow

  1. Install Gravity Forms on your WordPress Website.
    1. Create a new form with the following visible fields: * Indicates required fields.
      1. First Name*
      2. Last Name*
      3. Email*
      4. Phone*
      5. Tell us about your case
    2. Create the following hidden fields:
      1. Referring URL
      2. Source
      3. Source Drilldown 1
      4. Source Drilldown 2
      5. Source Drilldown 3
      6. Landing Page
      7. Landing Page Group
      8. Inbox Token
    3. I highly recommend enabling and configuring Google’s reCaptcha on your form to cut down on SPAM.
  2. Grab your unique inbox token from Clio Grow
    1. Log in to Clio Grow → Settings → Integrations → Clio Grow Inbox → Copy button next to the Inbox Token
    2. Paste this token in the hidden field you named Inbox Token in 1.b.viii
  3. Sign up for an account with Attributer
    1. Copy and paste the Attributer code on your website. This should ideally be placed in the website <Head> tag.
    2. Add the following default values to the following hidden fields:
      1. Referring URL: {embed_url}
      2. Source: [channel]
      3. Source Drilldown 1: [channeldrilldown1]
      4. Source Drilldown 2: [channeldrilldown2]
      5. Source Drilldown 3: [channeldrilldown3]
      6. Landing Page: [landingpage]
      7. Landing Page Group: [landingpagegroup]
  4. Add New Webhook (gravity forms settings → Webhook → add new)
    1. Name it whatever you’d like. I name mine Webhooks Feed 1
    2. Request URL: https://grow.clio.com/inbox_leads
    3. Request Method: POST
    4. Request Format: JSON
    5. Skip Request Headers
    6. Configure the Request Body section to the following:
      1. Check the Select Fields radio button
      2. Key Value
        from_first Name (First)
        from_last Name (Last)
        from_email Email
        from_phone Phone
        from_message Client Message: “{Tell me about your case::8}” | Referring URL: {Referring URL:11} | Source: {Source:12}: | Source Drilldown 1: {Source Drilldown 1:13} | Source Drilldown 2: {Source Drilldown 2:14} | Source Drilldown 3: {Source Drilldown 3:15} | Landing Page: {Landing Page:16} | Landing Page Group: {Landing Page Group:17}
        referring_url Source
        from_source Referring URL
        inbox_lead_token inbox token
  5. Verify everything is landing in the Clio Grow Inbox it should look like this:
    1. clio grow inbox with source information screenshot

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Process To Create A Contact In Clio Grow From The Inbox

Since Clio Grow does not have an open API, what we did above was pass information from your website form into the Clio Grow’s Inbox. To add a contact you’ll simply navigate to your inbox, click the Add button and then Add Contact. You can also decide to do a Quick Intake if you’d like.

Before we can do this, however, you need to add custom lead sources to your account. Here’s how to do that directly from Clio. The sources you should make are:

  1. Organic Search
  2. Organic Social
  3. Referral
  4. Direct
  5. Paid Search
  6. Display
  7. Email
  8. Paid Social*

I recommend aligning these to what you have set up in Google Analytics. We set up custom channels in our GA accounts which is noted by the *.

Once you have these sources added, you will need to select the correct source from the source drop down field when you add a contact from the Clio Grow inbox. This should match to the source noted at the bottom of the lead in the inbox.

Bonus Points For Connecting Clio Grow To Clio Manage

In Wednesday’s webinar, I’ll explain how to connect Clio Grow to Clio Manage. I’ll also touch on how to pass this source information through to the new Matter in Clio Manage. From there, you can start to understand which sources/channels are driving revenue to your firm. Dare I say ROI?

Helpful Resources:

How did you hear about us?

I just bought a Skylight… a digital calendar that syncs each of my family member’s calendars onto a simple, comprehensive touchscreen. It’s a startup led by a bunch of Harvard MBAs who clearly don’t know much about digital marketing – just like many lawyers.

Here’s one of the screens in their checkout sequence:

Ugg – the electronic version of “how did you hear about us?”, the inaccurate, invasive refrain from many law firm intake specialists. Additionally, most (but not all) “Intake Management Software” perpetuates this practice with a database field to be dutifully data entered by a law firm front desk person.  Except of course, most of the time the answer is; “the internet“.  Also – because that frequently underappreciated and undertrained front desk person hates doing data entry – he decides to skip data entry of those truly useless calls; which leads the firm to have a very incomplete picture of the true effectiveness of their marketing.  This is exacerbated by marketing agencies over-reporting on their “leads”.  So while the agency’s report says 86 leads last month, the front desk has only entered… 7.  This leads to debate and friction between agency and law firm about what really is a lead.  I’ve had that conversation hundreds of times over the past 15 years.

Of course, we landed a man on the moon in the 60, so we can accurately and comprehensively report on digital marketing activities today. The law firms that are taking your market share are absolutely doing that.  Because data is power. I’m tired of hearing marketing agencies talking about “data driven design”, yet they don’t have accurate and comprehensive data to make any decisions.  It’s just a nice sounding soundbite in a sales pitch.

Bringing this back to Skylight – I looked through my own personally tracked history and this is what I found: I know I initially saw a skylight ad on Facebook, clicked through, read some more and then forgot all about them. Until this morning when I had a calendar clash with one of my kids and decided to go back to Google and search for “online shared family calendars display”, which brought me back around to Skylight. So this is a long purchase cycle, with zero brand retention and multiple touch attribution modeling. Great data for our team of MBAs if they had the infrastructure to track it… instead they wanted me to tell them how their marketing was working with a checkbox. Boo.

A Skylight costs a solid $150 – lawyers, your clients are much more valuable – don’t you think it’s time to have real, accurate and automated reporting infrastructure?

How to Monitor Your Website

As one of the newest members on Mockingbird’s team, the world of online marketing truly overwhelmed me. The data and graphs can be difficult to decipher and obtaining that information alone can be a handful. But learning how to monitor a website has become a specialty of mine and this a guide to prove it!

Here are 4 checkpoints that I evaluate on a bi-weekly basis to ensure that Mockingbird understands where our client’s website traffic is coming from, how the data shifts over time, and what kind of opportunities for improvement exist.

Explore Google Analytics

Google Analytics holds a wealth of information, but narrowing down to the important things can be mind boggling. After all, what is “important”?

First, set your time frame, which I typically set at two weeks so that any significant changes can be easily identified. In addition to doing so, remember that while this data is useful, it is even more beneficial to compare this data to the past. Luckily, Google Analytics allows you to do just that by simply checking the “Compare To” box.

Sessions

 

As pictured above, the blue line represents the most recent data set, while the orange line represents the previous period. These lines display the number of sessions (number of times a user actively engages with the website) on each day. From this graph, there were two significant instances in which our traffic peaked. This data can be cross analyzed with any events, blog releases, etc. so that you can either replicate or generate similar content to consistently attract more traffic.

Goals

When a user finally decides to take action, this can be tracked in the “Goals” tab under “Conversions”. Goals are created based on different measures such as form fills, phone calls, or text messages. Keeping track of these metrics can help determine which modes of communication best appeal to your audience.

Analyze Google Search Console

Google Search Console is another helpful tool that analyzes the health of your website. Here you can find how many impressions/clicks your site receives and even what kind of keywords users are using to look up your site. The most important tabs to explore here are Coverage, Mobile Usability, and Security & Manual Actions.

Coverage

Here you can explore which pages are working properly and those that are not. When a site receives an error, it will be notated here. Errors can range from broken links to unreachable pages, which ultimately drag down your site’s SEO and accessibility, especially from search engines like Google.

Mobile Usability

Many users nowadays use their phone to search for various products and services. Therefore, it is just as important to make sure your site works as smoothly and efficiently on a mobile device as it does on a computer. This section allows you to do so by noting any problems with your site as it appears on a mobile device.

Security & Manual Actions

Should any security hacks/other Google policy or guideline violations occur, it will be listed here. It is imperative to address these issues quickly, otherwise, Google may lower the rank of your website or remove it from the results page entirely.

Evaluate Ahrefs

The importance of backlinks and domain authority plays heavily into your site’s rankings. When a site has many trustworthy sites linking back to it, search engines like Google are more likely to believe that the site is credible and provides helpful information that users are looking for. Ahrefs goes into depth with your site’s backlinks and overall domain health. Get the most out of Ahrefs and even see your competition’s backlinks to obtain that upper hand and higher ranking.

Monitor CallRail

Finally, I’ll take a look at CallRail, a phone call intake monitoring tool that helps determine where users found information about your law firm and how well various campaigns generate leads. Perhaps the most important tool CallRail has to offer is its ability to swap out your real business phone number and provide tracking numbers. From there, CallRail can provide meaningful data that could change the way you handle calls.

How Can I Improve My website?

You have the data but now what? Dedicating the time and effort to strategically develop a marketing plan, effectively execute it, and meticulously interpret the data is virtually impossible. Luckily, you don’t have to. Contact a marketing company that knows what they’re doing and get started today.

Never Advertise Without This

I’ve taken over hundreds of law firms’ Google Ads accounts, and about 90% of those were set up incorrectly. This isn’t my opinion on “the right” bid strategy, or me judging an old agency’s ad copy, but a fundamental fact that the account is essentially broken.

Too many times, search campaigns have been running for months (or years) and the account FAILS the very first thing we look at. Their previous agencies boasted about delivering thousands of impressions and hundreds of clicks at such a low cost-per-click (CPC) that “it’s basically like free advertising!”


Just stop.

First of all, impressions are so inconsequential that we’ve removed that metric completely from our Google Search monthly reports. Same with CPC. Seriously. We don’t care, and you shouldn’t either.

Here’s why.

Search campaigns are designed to deliver conversions. You advertise because you want new leads. Most Google Ads accounts we’ve taken over don’t have any conversion tracking at all! Sure, your campaign generated a thousand clicks, but how did that help your business? Oh, those people might have called you? Why don’t you track, I don’t know… phone calls as conversions?

Don’t advertise without tracking what matters.

The first thing you should do before building any campaign is ask yourself what’s the point? Not in the “I give up, what’s the point of trying?” sort of way, but what’s the purpose, what are your goals, what’s important to you?

For most law firms, it’s form fills and phone calls. You need to list out all the ways people can contact your firm, as there may be more conversion paths than you originally thought:

  • Phone calls from ad extensions
  • Phone calls from your site’s main number
  • Phone calls from your site’s toll-free number
  • Form fills on your contact page
  • Form fills on your footer or sidebar
  • Form fills to download your e-book
  • Chat leads
  • Text messages
  • Newsletter signups

There are a lot of ways people can contact your firm. Track them all!

SIDE NOTE: Please don’t list any email addresses on your site. 1) Google Ads can’t track who emails you, 2) your client’s should already know how to get a hold of you, and 3) you’ll get less spam from bots.

Stop looking at impressions, clicks, and CPC as metrics for success. Instead, analyze your cost-per-acquisition (CPA). Are these conversions turning into clients? Move your focus downstream.

Of course all metrics are important to some degree. As an advertiser, I am hyper focused on CTR and CVR and QS and SIS and ETC… But as a lawyer, you don’t need to know all that. You’re advertising to generate leads, and you need to know if that’s happening at a reasonable rate.

If you advertise without conversion tracking, you might as well save yourself a couple grand and cancel now.

Why You Should Be Checking Your Bounce Rate

Relatively underrated compared to such metrics as “pageviews,” a page’s bounce rate shouldn’t be ignored. It’s important to know how many of your website’s pages were the first and last of your website a consumer ever saw. Knowing this might help you to improve your pages.

 

Judging Bounce Rates

Just like limbo at a party, you want it as low as possible for everyone. That being said, different pages will inherently have different bounce rates. Informational pages are likely to have higher rates due to the audience’s ability to get the information they were looking for and leave. Contact pages are likely to have lower rates because very few people click into a contact page from a browser. 

When looking at bounce rates, it’s important to remember page content and user intent. 

 

Improving Bounce Rates

If you want to improve your bounce rate you have to focus on user experience. This means optimizing everything.

 

Page Speed

Nothing gets a user to leave like making them wait. Compress your images, check your loading speeds, and making any necessary changes.

 

Page Design

Look at your pages as if you had never seen them. Are they visually appealing? Are they thematically consistent? Do they make you trust the website? Would it be easy to find an enticing next page to visit? 

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” fix it. Your page is your front entryway. If a visitor enters and doesn’t feel comfortable they’re going to leave.

 

Optimize Content

Content should be optimized for fast reading. That means short sentences and short paragraphs. It also means that the content needs to be useful and relevant. Don’t sacrifice quality for brevity; you can write a longer piece if you really need to.

 

Internal Linking

If your page is well written, interesting, well designed, and loads quickly, one of the best ways to get people to go to a different page is with internal linking. This allows easy access to other pages on the website. We’ve all been down Wikipedia rabbit-holes and ended up learning about the history of some bridge in North Dakota.

If you think your website needs to improve the bounce rate on some (or all, we don’t judge) of its pages, contact us and we can help you figure out how to find and improve your bounce rate.

Call Tracking or No Call Tracking – Choose Wisely

you're not wrong just not helpful imageWhen a law firm starts an engagement with our marketing agency, we always setup our reporting and infrastructure. This includes call tracking. We communicate the value of this during the “sales” process. I like to think it’s what makes our law firm marketing services more attractive than the competition’s.

Once this setup has been completed, the conversation often goes like this:

Attorney [A]: Hey – why is my number changing on my website?! You guys are sending my business to the wrong attorney!!

Mockingbird [MB]: That’s call tracking working as it should! It allows us to measure which marketing channels are working and which ones are not. We’ve confirmed the numbers are forwarding to your firm. Give it a try!

A: Oh. Well I don’t want it.

MB: You should! Without it, we won’t have useful data to make accurate business decisions with your marketing investment.

A: I’ve had the same phone numbers for years. People have it memorized. Scrap call tracking.

MB: We aren’t willing to fly this plane blind. You’re investing thousands of dollars in PPC and we need to know if it’s working. It’s also vital to lowering your cost per lead and client metrics over time. You should continue to use your direct number on your business cards and give it to new clients during your on-boarding process!

A: What if a client saves a call tracking number?

MB: The number will still work! We encourage you to give your direct number to every new client when they sign with your firm. We only report on first time callers, because we wouldn’t want to miscount existing clients that call back using a tracking number as a new lead.

A: If I decide to leave MB, what happens?

MB: We don’t hold you hostage. We would hate to see you go, however, we setup your tools so that you own them. If you want to stop leveraging CallRail, they can port any phone number out from their system and into your preferred call software.

A: I’ll just ask my clients how they found me.

MB: They will tell you “the internet”. Which isn’t wrong, it’s just not helpful.

A: You’re not going to budge on this are you?

MB: Nope.

Call Tracking – Making Your Law Firm Successful

Our 10 Commandments are displayed proudly on the wall every employee (and visitor) sees them as they enter our office.

#3 is “Don’t Make Clients Happy, Make Them Successful.” Call tracking will help our marketing agency make your law firm successful.

If you don’t like it, there are at least a dozen other law firm marketing agencies that will light your money on fire for you. We’re just not one of them.

What do you REALLY need in your marketing mix?

We’re frequently contacted by clients who already have a clear idea of what they want from their online marketing firm. Sometimes they’re dialed in to the point where they already have a list of items they need help with and a clear roadmap for where they’re heading. However, this is far from the norm.

More often than not our prospective clients come to us either having previously worked with an agency (or multiple agencies) or as a blank slate looking to create an online footprint and start marketing their practice online.

In most cases, the bulk of our initial conversation is spent talking through the client’s goals and identifying which channels and tactics make the most sense in order to get them where they want to go.

For anyone asking, “what do we need to do in order to be successful online?” the response is always the same: how are we defining success?

In our experience, there are a few ways clients typically define success:

Success = Profit
I want to make money. If revenue is climbing I’m going to be happy.

Success = Specific Case Types
I want to target a specific type of case. Inquiries from other practice areas are a distraction or a bonus.

Success = Flexibility
I want to pick and choose which cases I can take. I want a high volume of inquiries and will pick which ones I want.

There’s merit to all three of these approaches, and each one necessitates a different set of tactics. This is one of the few aspects of our client’s practices where we can’t make an effective recommendation or provide any useful guidance. It’s up to each individual attorney to decide how they’re going to measure success and then let us adopt a plan that will help them achieve those results.

Stay Focused on the Big Picture

Once you’ve clearly defined what a successful marketing campaign looks like, it’s important to benchmark against your most relevant metrics (revenue, signed cases, or total inquiries) and make sure the tactics you’re prioritizing will help you achieve your overarching goal.

As an example, if your primary goal is to drive revenue, you shouldn’t get bogged down worrying about whether you’ve published any new content in the past month unless you’ve firmly established that new content is the best way to generate revenue.

Similarly, if you’re making a huge push for DUI cases it’s not worth obsessing over your site’s organic rankings for the more generic term “criminal defense attorney.” You’ll be better served keeping your eye on results directly relevant to the cases you’re trying to generate.

This isn’t to minimize the value of setting intermediate goals or looking at multiple trends, it’s merely a reminder to stay focused on what’s most important instead of getting paralyzed by the massive amount of data available on a monthly, daily, and even hourly basis.

So, what’s the most important thing in your marketing mix? Reliable data.

Measure What Matters

Almost no one comes to us specifically asking for business reporting, yet it’s arguably the most valuable service we provide. With all the data available through Google Analytics, AdWords, CallRail, Search Console, and countless other tools, it’s easy to identify which pieces are contributing to the success of your business and which ones are distractions.

Did you publish 5 blog posts and get zero clients and zero backlinks as a result? That’s probably not something you need to keep doing?

Is one channel driving 75% of your inquiries for car accident cases? You might want to expand your budget there…assuming your goal is either more PI cases or more revenue.

There’s no substitute for knowing what’s actually working. Gut feelings or informally polling your new clients about how they found you is unreliable at best and comically misleading at worst.

If you want to win at search, you should do the things that work and ignore the ones that don’t. That may seem simplistic—because it is—but it’s not possible if you don’t clearly define a goal, configure your infrastructure to accurately track everything you’re doing, and then allow data to guide your marketing efforts.