Law Firm Intake Software Overview

One of the most important aspects of managing your firm’s growth is understanding what’s driving new clients. There are countless ways to arrive at the marketing grail of “cost-per-client,” but all of them involve having some sort of reliable intake system to track where leads are coming from and which leads are translating into actual clients.

The purpose of this resource is to provide an overview of what you should look for when selecting intake software as well as how to assess what features will have the most value for your firm.

Intake Software vs. Case Management Software

While there is some overlap in software that acts as both an intake solution and a case management system, the two pieces function differently. Intake software should be designed to track each inquiry from their original method of contact and help nurture them from prospect to client. Your intake system should be used as a lead tracking tool to nurture each prospect, maximize cases, and measure which marketing channels are driving inquiries.

After the prospect is signed, case management software helps the attorneys work the actual case. Frequently it’s necessary that the two systems are connected, but in many cases firms might have no intake software at all and simply start inputting prospects into their case management system once they’re being reviewed by attorneys within the firm.

Without a proper intake solution it’s very difficult to ensure each lead is being followed up with in a timely fashion, attributed to the appropriate marketing channel, and providing a return on ad spend that will allow for better allocation of advertising budgets.

Must Have Features for Legal Intake Software

Although legal intake software runs the gamut from comprehensive, do-everything solutions to the more sparse only-the-essentials type, the main features every law firm needs are:

Tracking by Marketing Source

Whatever solution you use has to be able to integrate with your call tracking system, website contact forms, and advertising platforms to assign proper lead attribution. Each new intake should have a marketing source assigned based on how the prospective client opted to contact you.

Basic Reporting Features on New Client Acquisitions

You need the ability to run reports on new inquiries and new clients as well as the ability to sort by marketing source. This allows you to see which channels are driving the most leads as well as which channels are most effective at converting into signed clients. It’s very possible some channels may drive a high volume of low quality leads, and you’re going to need the ability to filter out the noise and see what channels are driving actual revenue for your firm.

Case Management System Integration

Although many intake systems also function as case management systems, for the ones that don’t, you’ll need a way to pass off signed clients to the attorneys and teams that will be handling the case. This means your intake software needs to connect with whatever system you’re using for managing cases.

Optional Features for Legal Intake Software

In addition to the “must haves” there are countless other features available to help manage your intakes and increase the efficiency of your practice. The importance of these will vary based on the size, goals, and complexity of the firm.

Customizable Intake Scripts

Many (but not all) intake solutions offer the ability to create custom scripts for your intake team. These scripts guide your intake team through the appropriate questions to ask for each type of inquiry.

Referral Tracking

For practices that refer large amounts of cases to other lawyers or firms, the ability to track the status of those referrals directly within the intake software could be a huge benefit.

Automated Messaging / Email Drip Campaigns / Text Messages

The option to create automated follow up texts, emails, meeting reminders, or drip campaigns to nurture “soft leads” are all great ways to increase incremental conversions. Not all firms will be able to take advantage of this, but for the ones that do, it will typically pay off over the long run.

Restricted Permissions

In many instances a firm may want to restrict their intake staff from having access to reporting dashboards with advertising budgets, revenue projections, and other metrics relating to the health of the business. If that’s the case, the ability to set each user’s level of access is a key feature.

Ability to Import Data

For firm’s that have previously used intake software and want to preserve historic data, the ability to import old campaign data is essential. For anyone willing to lean on old reports or looking to make a fresh start, it may not be necessary.

Two More Things to Keep in Mind

Aside from the features you’ll be needing in a piece of intake software, you’ll also want to consider two other key items when determining the solution that’s right for your firm.

Demo vs. Reality

It’s nearly impossible to get a good feel for software that will be acting as the backstop for a key aspect of your business from one 60-90 minute demo. No matter how many questions you ask or how polished the presentation is, there’s no substitute for what you’ll find out once you start using the software yourself.

Be sure to talk with firms that are currently using the software prior to signing any sort of long-term contract. Ask them about their pain points, what they wish they’d known when they started, and any features that haven’t panned out as advertised. Obviously any vendor provided references will likely be positive, but with a bit of probing you should be able to start separating what’s in a polished demo vs. what you’re going to get when using the product yourself.

Data Privacy

A huge consideration for midsize and large firms should be, “how trustworthy is this company with the data you’re plugging into their software?” Intake software is designed to track your advertising spend, assess what’s working, and tie that directly to your firm’s revenue growth. This data is extremely valuable for anyone looking to gain insight into your business strategy or replicate what you do.

Everyone’s risk tolerance is different, but making an informed decision about how much you trust the software provider, and the companies behind it, should at least warrant some level of consideration.

The Ideal Intake Software for Your Law Firm

With so many products to choose from, it’s easiest to start by determining which additional features (if any) are most important to the success of your practice. If the intake software is listed here, you can be assured that at a minimum it contains the three “must have” features. Key additional features are highlighted following a short description of each piece of software.

Although this list is by no means comprehensive, it’s a good starting point as you search for an intake solution that meets the needs of your firm.

Captorra

Product Description: Captorra bills itself as the “legal industry’s leading case intake software” and there’s no disputing it’s used by a large number of firms. They primarily service mass tort and plaintiff’s personal injury firms, but do allow customization for all types of legal practices. The product is cloud based and offers a high level of customization.

  • Customizable Intake Scripts
  • Referral Tracking
  • Automated Messaging / Email Drip Campaigns / Text Messages
  • Ability to Import Data

Approximate Cost: Although pricing is on a “per quote” basis, expect to pay at least $200 per user along with a one-time setup fee.

Additional Thoughts / Concerns: Captorra is a beast in the legal intake software industry and is owned by Martindale-Avvo. As such, it’s a well supported product but has the drawback of triggering data privacy concerns from a company that’s known to install their own tracking scripts on customer websites (Ngage, we’re looking at you).

Clio Grow (Lexicata)

Product Description: Clio Grow (now incorporating Lexicata) is more of an organizational tool than a pure intake software. It’s great for managing tasks and appointments, and has all the basic functionality needed to manage and measure intake for small or midsize firms.

  • Customizable Intake Scripts
  • Referral Tracking
  • Automated Messaging / Email Drip Campaigns
  • Ability to Import Data

Approximate Cost: Packages can start at about $49 / user / month and scale up from there.

Additional Thoughts / Concerns: Lexicata was purchased by Clio and users were migrated to Clio Grow, which is the intake side of the Clio Suite. Clio Grow can be purchased as either a standalone solution or in conjunction with Clio Manage, which is the CRM portion of the software suite.

Hubspot

Product Description: A user friendly and simple solution with several tiers of features available for firms of all sizes. In addition to being an intake solution, Hubspot functions more as a marketing platform that allows users to manage content as well as track leads and measure ROI.

  • Customizable Intake Scripts
  • Automated Messaging / Email Drip Campaigns / Text Messages
  • Restricted Permissions
  • Ability to Import Data

Approximate Cost: Pricing is highly variable depending on features, support, and use, and ranges from $50 / mo (Starter) to $3,200 / mo (Enterprise).

Additional Thoughts / Concerns: Because Hubspot is more of a product suite than a pure intake system, there are significant pros and cons depending on what tools are already being used by the firm. For firms already relying on other systems for publishing content and managing their advertising, it might make more sense to steer toward a more pure intake product.

Keap

Product Description: Formerly known as Infusionsoft, Keap is an intake solution based largely around automating follow up and outreach to your prospects. It’s a good solution for high-volume firms with a long sales cycle.

  • Automated Messaging / Email Drip Campaigns / Text Messages
  • Restricted Permissions
  • Ability to Import Data

Approximate Cost: Keap uses a tiered pricing system ranging from $79 / user / month up to $199 / user / month. All three tiers require a one-time payment for “Expert Coaching” that ranges from $99 to $999.

Additional Thoughts / Concerns: Infusionsoft has been one of the gold standards in email marketing for a long time, and businesses looking for high levels of automation can get a lot out of this tool. The biggest drawback is that it’s not particularly user friendly for novices and can require a lot of work to get everything configured correctly.

Lawmatics

Product Description: A complete CRM solution with an intake system built largely around customized questionnaires and automated processes. Offered at a fairly affordable price point for small and midsize firms, the intake portion of Lawmatics is designed to help qualify and then guide prospects through each stage of the pipeline.

  • Customizable Intake Scripts
  • Automated Messaging / Email Drip Campaigns
  • Ability to Import Data

Approximate Cost: Price ranges from $99 – $129 / month depending on the features you want to use. Additional user licenses can be purchased at either $49 or $59 / month and there is a one-time setup fee of $199.

Additional Thoughts / Concerns: Overall, this is a middle ground solution for law firms that demand customization but don’t want to spend insane amounts of money to get it. It can also be purchased as a standalone intake system and integrated with a more robust CRM.

Law Ruler

Product Description: Offered as either a standalone intake solution or a full CRM, Law Ruler offers a lot of customization. The intake system is built specifically to automate as much of the intake process as possible, methodically track the source of each lead, and allow law firms to maximize the number of new cases signed.

  • Customizable Intake Scripts
  • Automated Messaging / Email Drip Campaigns / Text Messages
  • Ability to Import Data

Approximate Cost: About $70 / user / month + setup fees for data migration as well as configuring lead tracking by marketing channel

Additional Thoughts / Concerns: Onboarding can be a bit cumbersome and the demo itself doesn’t do the product justice. However, once it’s up and running, Law Ruler is an efficient intake solution that’s easy to use and requires minimal upkeep.

Lead Docket

Product Description: Created by a West Virginia PI firm, Lead Docket strikes a nice balance of simplicity and practicality. The price point also makes it accessible to small and midsize firms.

  • Customizable Intake Scripts
  • Referral Tracking
  • Automated Messaging / Email Drip Campaigns / Text Messages
  • Ability to Import Data

Approximate Cost: Starts at $250 / month

Additional Considerations: Lead Docket was recently acquired by Filevine, a case management system with a lot of great features. It can be purchased as either a stand-alone intake system or paired with Filevine’s case management system at an additional cost.

Litify

Product Description: Built on Salesforce, Litify is a practice management solution that funnels opportunities from the initial intake all the way through litigation or settlement. It’s customizable, it’s rich in features, and it’s priced accordingly.

  • Customizable Intake Scripts
  • Referral Tracking
  • Automated Messaging / Email Drip Campaigns / Text Messages
  • Restricted Permissions
  • Ability to Import Data

Approximate Cost: This is a six figure solution for enterprise law firms. Large setup fees, multi-month builds, and highly variable ongoing costs based on the number of licensed users. Setup fees include extensive on-site or virtual training prior to deployment.

Additional Thoughts / Concerns: A relatively new offering, Litify was initially created by Morgan & Morgan, out of a desire to bring a “best in class” solution to the legal industry. It’s one of the most impressive products on the market for large firms looking to scale processes and make real-time decisions based on cost-per-client (or revenue-per-client) data from their ad campaigns. The two major downsides are the astronomical expense and the product’s connection to a very aggressive PI firm with plans on continued expansion across the U.S.

Salesforce

Product Description: One of the most used, and well-respected CRMs, Salesforce is a frequent solution for law firms in need of a robust platform that can handle both intakes and case management. The product is well supported and can be customized for a firm’s individual needs. That being said, it is not designed specifically for law firms and requires a heavy investment in initial setup.

  • Customizable Intake Scripts
  • Referral Tracking
  • Automated Messaging / Email Drip Campaigns / Text Messages
  • Restricted Permissions
  • Ability to Import Data

Approximate Cost: Pricing is highly variable depending on what features are needed, but the cheapest plan that would be a viable option starts at $1,250 / month.

Additional Thoughts / Concerns: Salesforce is an amazing product, but it’s also not specifically designed for law firms. However, if you’re reluctant to use Litify but like the bones of Salesforce or would rather customize something entirely for the needs of your practice, Salesforce could be a viable option.

Our team has experience working with firms of all sizes to assess return on ad spend, evaluate the efficacy of marketing campaigns, and improve intake processes. If you’d like to discuss your needs in more detail please give us a call.

How to Use Your COVID-19 Downtime To Help Your Law Firm Grow

There’s no doubt about it, we’re all having to change our daily routines because of COVID-19. Many law firms are finding themselves with more downtime than they’re used to, and that can be very scary as a small business owner.

We’ve been talking to our clients a lot lately about whether they should be pausing all advertising, switching focus on their current marketing projects, and even helping them learn new tools and technology to help them work remotely.

Since no one knows when things will start going back to normal, here’s a list of things you, as an attorney or an employee at a law firm, can do to help your business for the long-haul:

  1. Write New Content: You know that content you’ve been meaning to write over the past six months, or even six years? Now is a great time to revisit that list and start churning out your new practice types or sub categories. If you have the flexibility to add new practice types that might help your business now (think bankruptcy, divorce, wills & trusts), create content on those and add them to your website.
  2. Audit Your Site: Not sure if you need new content? Take a look at what you have on your website. If you’ve been in business for a while, there’s a good chance you have some outdated or irrelevant content on your site. Figure out what’s most important to your business and what you want your potential clients to be able to find, or not find.
  3. Audit Your Own Intake Process: If you’ve utilized CallRail’s recording capabilities, now is a great time to go back and listen to how your staff handles your inbound calls. If you don’t record calls, go through your front desk’s process or list of questions they use to qualify a new lead. Are there things missing from the list? Things that could be added?
  4. Work on Your Social Media Presence: With so many people at home and on their computers, you should come up with other ways to get in front of people. While social sites may not be the best converting marketing channel, it does help with your local brand exposure. It’s also a great way to build trust with members of your community. We’ve already seen a lot of really great stories come out over the past couple of weeks of local businesses helping their community through these hard times.
  5. Get Involved: If you’re able, use your legal expertise to help those who have legal questions. If you’re an employment attorney, many people are unsure if they qualify for unemployment. Even if you can’t help the person now, they may need your services in the future and will turn to you.
  6. Go Digital: For those of you still using snail mail and handwritten documents, switch over to something like DocuSign. Move all of your files off of your hard drive and on to the cloud. You can also embrace video conferencing and invest in a good webcam and microphone.
  7. Email Campaigns: Use that long list of emails you have from people filling out your website’s contact form and create drip email campaigns to hit people now while they’re doing research on potential lawyers.
  8. Create a Marketing Plan: For some, marketing is one of the last things you think about when it come to your business. Think about where you’d like to be in the next year, 5 years, or 10 years, and start planning what you need to do to get there. There’s also a lot of really great blog content out there that’s designed specifically for lawyers and their marketing…hint, hint.
  9. Watch Webinars: Use this time to learn something that can help your business later on. There are plenty of tools and marketing agencies putting on more webinars than normal.
  10. Attend a Virtual Conference: A lot of conferences have had to move to a virtual platform, including ours, but are still covering the same topics they would have at their physical events. Instead of paying a couple thousand dollars to attend a conference far away, spend a few hundred to get the same great information, but from the comfort of your own home.

Even though things are uncertain at the moment, you can use this time to do all the things you never had time to do before, and set yourself up for success once everything blows over.

If you’re interested in getting an experts opinion on how you should be handling your law firm’s business and marketing, give us a call.

 

 

How to Prevent the Coronavirus from Contaminating Your Conversions

Preparing for Working Remotely

Things are scary right now, from both a health perspective and an economic perspective. We don’t know how long this is going to last, and we might be buckling in for months worth of changes. The CDC is recommending working from home and washing your hands regularly, but there’s less guidance on how to survive financially right now. If your business is your life, we’d understand if you’re panicking. 

Many folks are talking about the Coronavirus in the “macro” sense. It’s seizing financial markets. It’s wiping out 200+ conferences. It’s the “most pressing uncertainty” according to the IMF’s managing director. 

These “macro” effects are not under our control; our hands aren’t on these dials, and they’re not even within reach. But we can make a difference in our own companies. Leaders at larger businesses have been telling staff to stay home. Small and medium businesses are now following suit. If your company has the ability to convert to working entirely remotely, you should get used to it. I just got an email that a gathering of legal tech executives was canceled because the host company is closing their San Francisco office for the week.

What happens when you don’t have the virtual-office infrastructure and work-from-home policies in place that make working remotely no different than business as usual? Massive productivity losses. Canceled appointments. Missed deadlines. And a lot of missed calls. This means you need to get your systems in place. Now. 

Client Calls

If you’ve told your law firm staff to work from home this week, the absolute first step you must take is checking your phone system to ensure it’s routing calls to phones and extensions connected to real, live humans. Your staff won’t be at their desks so their calls shouldn’t be going there. If they aren’t checking their voicemail regularly when they’re in the office, they can’t be expected to check it when they’re at home. Your system can’t rely on voicemail.

 

Call Forwarding

Call forwarding is a good option for direct extensions. Those calls can ring through to staff members’ cell phones. You can even set boundaries so forwarding occurs only during normal business hours. If your staff is uncomfortable with having their direct cell or home lines available to your clients, they can set up a forwarding number that will help separate their professional from their personal lives.

 

Transfers

Transfers are a bit trickier, but chat apps like Slack allowing interoffice, real-time communication can help law firm staff connect with their coworkers to facilitate hand-offs. This will also allow your staff to stay in direct communication with each other. It’s no replacement for in-person conversations, but maintaining strong lines of communication between you and your staff can be the difference between a smooth transition into working from home and a complete breakdown of organization. 

 

Handling Your Main Line

Just as during a regular day at the office, how you answer your main line is vital to converting clients. If you let your main line go to voicemail or place the task of answering it all on one person, you are setting yourself up for failure. You would be sacrificing both that staff member’s productivity and the perceived availability of your firm. No one wants to hire the firm that doesn’t even have the time to answer their phone.

You need an answering service. I wrote it like that because it really is that simple. It doesn’t decrease your legitimacy or reduce your personal connection with your clients. You will need all the help you can get, and a good answering service is able to provide more than basic “call answering.”

While you and your staff are working from home, a remote receptionist service worth its salt will handle your lead screening, consult scheduling, and payment chasing. Getting all that work outsourced means freeing you up to help your new and existing clients. Being honest about what you can and cannot do on your own is vital in times like these.

As is important in any incoming client call, the option to transfer to a person on your staff needs to remain open. When there’s a true need for a transfer to someone in your office, a good answering service can call or text the intended recipient to see if they’re available to accept the call. Some agencies can even ping that Slack channel to see who, among your staff, is ready to claim the call.

Bottom line, don’t let the mature decision to keep staff at home and protect them from illness trigger a poor decision to burden those staff (who are likely trying to also care for kids kept out of school). Your clients should not suffer from your responsibility, and neither should your staff. 

If you’ve already enlisted a receptionist service, make sure they are providing the tools you need. Not all answering services are created equally, and now is the time that they will be tested. Find the one that works for you, even if it means getting rid of the one you have.

 

Keeping Up to Date

If you feel as though you need more information on how to best prepare, Mockingbird is hosting a webinar with the goal of sharing ideas and recommendations for how to proceed. Our webinar, titled “Converting Leads During Corona – How to Maintain Marketing Campaigns During a Crisis with Outsourced Intake” will be held through GoToWebinar from 12:30-1:30 PM PST on Friday, March 20th.

To register, follow this link. All firms are welcome, as we want to get as many minds on this as possible. We are making it our priority to help our clients strategize their next steps and provide support in any way we can. 

 

Smith.ai

If you haven’t yet taken action or are finding your current service lacking, we’re ready to serve you at Smith.ai. We can take one of two paths:

  • We can get your phones answered within a couple hours with our expedited setup. That’s the second option after you sign-up online.
  • Or, if you give us 1-2 days more, we can get more acquainted for handling those spiffy screening & scheduling tasks I talked about above.

You can even use my name and the code MADDY100 for $100 off. That’s worth like 15-20 free calls depending on your plan. And, that’s in addition to our 20-call free trial.

During the trial and after, we’ll:

🙋🏻‍♀️ Answer your phones

📲 Transfer calls to staff at home (pre-screening leads, as needed)

📆 Book (or reschedule) your meetings

And you can use us just for this short-term stint, or ongoing. We won’t be offended; we’re built for exactly these scenarios, as well as the day-to-day.

Now, go get your phones in order, so those leads Conrad and his team are generating for you receive the friendly, helpful, fast, and accurate response they deserve. We’ve got you!

NOTE: Maddy Martin is the Head of Growth & Education at Smith.ai. The services they offer are one possible solution during this current crisis that’s upending “business as usual” for firms across the country. Mockingbird is not paid by Smith.ai and does not profit off any signups resulting from this post. We’re publishing this post because we think Maddy is exceptionally awesome and you should be exploring all sorts of tech options right now.

The Difference Between a Lead and a Conversion (and Why You’re Responsible for the Latter)

A lot of digital marketers talk about the importance of leads and conversions. We’re no exception. We often even use the terms interchangeably. This is incorrect.

Leads and conversions are actually two very different metrics. They are the difference between someone asking a store clerk for help and someone actually purchasing something. By using them interchangeably proper credit for business growth or stagnation cannot be given. 

 

Leads

Leads refer to when a consumer interacts with the website. This can be in the form of a phone call, form fill, message, or usage of a chat feature. Some marketers consider interacting with X number of pages a lead; leads can be surprisingly subjective.

As a marketing firm, we are responsible for increasing leads. We want to get people to your website and to call your firm. We will do this by running ads, improving your website, and making contact forms and chats accessible. 

 

Conversions

Conversions are when a consumer actually turns into a client. This means they got in contact with your firm and scheduled an appointment. It is direct business.

Your firm is responsible for increasing conversions. If we have done our job and increased leads, it’s now up to you to turn the leads into clients. We can’t answer your phones for you and we can’t provide legal advice during your lead’s free consultation. While increased conversions are an indicator of a successful marketing strategy, it’s a team effort. You owe it to your intake department for your growing client base.

 

When This Knowledge Comes in Handy

For the most part, the difference between leads and conversions is pretty semantic. If your account executive says their campaign resulted in increased conversions, chances are the campaign resulted in increased leads which later led to increased conversions. 

Alternatively, if you’re in the market for an agency and a salesperson talks about how much they increased conversions for a firm, ask what they consider a conversion. They might skirt the question. Maybe they’ll surprise you and say that they consider new clients conversions, in which case they would be correct. If they say they consider using a chat feature a conversion, dig a bit deeper. Sure it might be an innocent error, but it’s always good to be sure you can trust your agency. Don’t waste your money on a firm that’s pulling one over on you.

Who’s Answering Your Phone?

We’ve had “the phone conversation” a few times with our clients: they’re getting leads, but they aren’t becoming conversions. What’s going on if the phones are ringing off the hook but there’s no new business? Is there a way that this could be the marketer’s fault?

 

To answer the second question, yes. It could be the marketer’s fault. If the advertising is sending the wrong kind of clients, then those phone calls are useless. But that isn’t usually what’s going on.

 

How to Diagnose What’s Going on

A Problem With Your Answering Service

We’ve strongly pushed the services of CallRail before on this very blog, and this is the reason why. CallRail records incoming client calls, which you can listen to and better understand where things might be going wrong. Go through the checklist:

  • Did the person answering the phone give relevant information regarding your firm?
  • Was the client’s problem clear and relevant to your practice area?
  • Were the next steps for the client made clear?
  • Was the person answering the phone politely?

If the answer to any of these was “no,” you need to fix something with your answering service.  Whether it’s the office receptionist or a professional team of phone answerers, you need to make sure no clients are being lost through misunderstandings or excessive curtness.

 

A Problem With Your Hours

Sometimes phone calls go unnoticed. If they are coming in during your business hours, they really shouldn’t. We’ve reviewed client call logs and it can be surprising how many calls went unanswered during business hours, often around lunch. We get it, your people are working hard and need to take a break. The problem is, a lot of people are on that same schedule and are only free to call during their lunch break. By being unavailable during these times, you are forfeiting clients.

 

A Problem With Your Intake Capacity

Some small firms just don’t have the infrastructure in place to take in a large number of clients at once, and have a relatively low cap on the number of calls they can handle in one day. In these situations, we recommend investing in intake services. These businesses are ready with trained operators on standby, prepared to answer calls and sign up clients for you. This relieves pressure from your front desk and helps you get the best clients available.

 

A Problem With the Marketing

We’ll admit this happens. It’s not often, but sometimes something goes wrong and the wrong types of clients start calling. The best solution for this is to communicate with the person in charge of your marketing and doing some course correction. 

 

3 Ways to Update Your Intake System

The first and highest recommended way is with CallRail. We’ve already touched on this, so we won’t dwell on it.

The second way is regular mystery shopping. Call your own firm and check in on the intake process. See if your intake crew is professional and productive. If they aren’t, get a new team or invest in some training.

The third way to improve your intake system is through an answering service. This will improve the bandwidth of your intake system and allow you to increase your client numbers drastically.

 

Final Thoughts

Calls are some of the best ways to land a client. You know they are interested in your services to the point that they picked up a phone. Don’t throw that away. Make sure you’re giving them the service they deserve.

Responsive Ads Might Be Your Best Option

Google Ads offers a variety of ad options, but none might be better for small businesses than Responsive Ads, both search and display. We might be shooting ourselves in the foot here, but the reason I’m recommending these ads is because of their lack of a need for a marketing agency. Business owners can run them without needing in-depth knowledge of marketing, advertising, graphic design, or copywriting. 

 

How They Work

Responsive Ads work by taking pre-written headlines, body texts, and the URL of the page. For display ads, you will need a few high-quality photos as well. It then mixes and matches them to find which work best across their wide network. This means it only needs as much skill as it takes to come up with ten pieces of short text. 

 

Where Display Ads are Displayed

Google Display Ads are displayed on the Google Display Network (GDN). The GDN is made up of sites that run Google Ads in a variety of forms, and you can control targeting based on audience and website. The ads can show up as banners that show up in the lower third of videos, banners at the tops of pages, and any other way Google sees fit. 

 

Where Search Ads are Shown

Responsive Search Ads appear alongside all other search ads at the top and bottom of search results. Similar to display ads, you can target based on audience interests, location, and certain demographics (age, gender). 

 

How the Bidding Works

Google Ads’ bidding system works by giving the spot to the highest bidder, but for only $0.01 more than the second-highest bidder’s bid. This generally awards risk-takers, or those willing to invest high amounts in ad spend. This also tends to work in favor of larger competitors in the area who have more to spend, so it can sometimes be difficult to get your first choice keywords. In a market as competitive as legal, experience with the Google Ads bidding experience is definitely an asset. This is why marketing agencies are still relevant, even if you can make your own ads.

 

Other Things to Consider When Managing Your Ads

If you really do want to run your own ad campaigns there are a number of things you will have to think about and decide on. These include ad extensions, call tracking numbers, time restrictions, and further targeting. While marketing agencies such as Mockingbird have experience with this, you too will gain experience. If you truly believe you are ready to take your advertising in your own hands, all the power to you. Go, be free.

When Should You Pay for Listings?

What are Legal Directories?

Legal directories have always had a place in the industry; clients need to know the person they’re hiring is actually accredited by at least one State Bar. Before the internet, they came in the form of large volumes of leather-bound books that adorned offices, which they still do, but the online directories are much more accessible.

 

So why do you need to pay to be listed in a directory? You passed the bar, you have a law firm, why should you have to pay? Well, you don’t.

 

Free Listings

Most of the main legal directories won’t require you to pay to be listed. This includes Avvo, LawDeeDa, Lawyers.com, and various others. This also includes Yelp and Google My Business. Claiming your listing is free, but doing anything more might cost you with varying returns.

 

These directories’ business models run off advertising revenue, meaning they have to provide advertising somewhere, and where better than on competitor’s listings? This gives the directories the chance to profit in two areas: advertising, and getting people to pay not to be advertised on. 

 

Paid Listings

When you pay for a listing, you sign up to not have your competitors advertise on your page (read the fine print if you decide to sign up, details change from site to site). You can also sign up to advertise on your competitor’s pages. If you are in a competitive market, this might be a good way to get a leg-up. That being said, if you are in a competitive market, chances are your competitors have the same idea.

 

There are benefits to directories whether you pay or not. For one they give you the opportunity to get your brand out there. If you don’t show up when people search, do you even exist?

 

Link Building

Another benefit of directories is their link building potential. By getting your website onto your profile you are creating a strong backlink. This can have a tremendous impact. Basic link building is a great way to begin growing your business.

 

So when should you invest in a paid listing? This depends on your financial and geographical situation. Just like all marketing decisions, there are pros and cons. I can’t tell you in a blog post what to do, except to at least claim your firm. Getting your details out there is important, and a free listing and link will certainly help.

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.

How Google’s Ever-Changing Search Experience will Impact the Legal Industry

Google is constantly updating, improving features, removing bugs, and changing user experiences. This is quite noticeable for those of us in marketing, who make it our job to keep our finger on the pulse of changes in the search engine world. 

 

How Ads are Changing for Services

Google provides opportunities to advertise just about anything under a variety of categories from restaurants to stores to legal services. You have probably noticed this on Google Maps and might have noticed this when you search for flights. Different categories are being provided with different user experiences. 

 

For legal services, the ads have remained relatively unchanged upfront. Plug-in options have increased, targeting options have changed, and contact options have improved, but these might not be as immediately visible to consumers. This is how legal ads currently look:

 

 

 

This isn’t anything we haven’t seen before; nothing to write home about. However, a recent Search Engine Land article showed how different services’  advertisements differ:

 

 

One of the potential reasons for Google’s delay on local service ad upgrades could be the category’s susceptibility to spam. It’s not unheard of for multiple fake businesses to appear in searches, oftentimes almost indistinguishable from legitimate businesses. 

 

The future of local ads could see more protections going up to fight spam, more carouselling ads, and more individual add-ons based on the business type. It’s hard to know what’s coming for legal advertising, but we know we’ll be ready.