Important! (Temporarily) Stop Asking For Reviews!

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I was in the middle of writing a post about the importance of turning your clients into zealots of your business and leveraging that into a 5-star review profile and a successful referral program. Unfortunately, until everything returns to normal that post will have to sit in the purgatory of my drafts folder.

If you haven’t already, stop asking clients to leave reviews!

 

As of last week, Google has suspended “new reviews, new review replies, new short names, all videos, and all Q&A” on Google My Business. This was in response to many businesses getting flooded with 1-star reviews for issues concerning the outbreak. While Google’s response may seem extreme, its aim is to protect the digital reputation of businesses during this unprecedented time. You can read Google’s response here.

Yelp’s response is more conservative, but still is attempting to protect businesses’ reputation from unfair reviews.  The important points of Yelp’s response are below.

  • Zero tolerance for any claims in reviews of contracting COVID-19 from a business or its employees or negative reviews about a business being closed during what would be their regular open hours in normal circumstances.
  • Reviews flagged by the community will be evaluated by our human content moderators to ensure they comply with our content guidelines.
  • Content that does not meet these standards will be removed and not count toward a business’s star rating.

 

This is a situation we are continuing to monitor. We will update you as soon as reviews have opened back up. In the meantime, continue to do great work for all of your clients and keep a list of happy clients to reach out to in the future.

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.

 

 

Recent Google Update Winding Down

The still as-of-yet unannounced Google update seems to be coming to a slow close for the legal industry. 

 

The update has been largely affecting search engine results page (SERP) positioning, leading to general unrest among the SEO community. Based on metrics from SEMrush, the instability caused by the recent update has been greater than that of the past two official updates, peaking at a 9.4/10 in SEMrush’s SERP volatility metric. 

 

The volatility has lasted longer than expected and is largely recognized as having begun on February 7th and continuing through the present moment (February 13th). As far as the legal industry goes, SERP volatility has since dropped to 6.8/10; still high, but trending downwards. 

 

From SEMrush.com; Legal industry-specific data

 

What does this update mean for my site?

Google ranks SERPs on a variety of factors, from domain authority to site organization to links and affect organic traffic. It is unclear whether this update has been a net positive or negative for the legal industry. Either way, expect changes. Adding an annotation to your Google Analytics account is probably a good idea to keep track of which trends might be due to this update.

 

How can I protect my SERPs?

There is no way to prepare for Google updates other than by following Google’s best practices and ensuring your content is high quality and up to par with your competitors. If it’s any consolation, your competitors are probably getting hit just as hard.

The Ultimate Citation/Directory Listing Checklist

Running a business online can feel like trying to cook with multiple burners. There’s a lot to keep track of and if you forget about one aspect you might burn the house down. This stress is understandable, but not necessary. 

 

Get ready for a metaphor that, quite literally, sucks. A well kept online presence is more like having an army of Roombas (not sponsored): you can keep an eye on them doing their own thing, help out when one gets stuck under the couch, and end up with a clean house. But the first step is making sure the Roombas are set up correctly. In this metaphor, the Roombas are your various directory listings. Now you just need to know how to set them up.

 

Step 1: Claim Your Listing

Many directories offer free listings, you just need to claim your business. Many directories also offer paid options for free listings. This would allow you to make sure that your competitors aren’t advertising on your listing. Depending on how competitive your market is, you might not need to pay extra for this.

 

Step 2: Enter Your Business Information

We’ve talked about NAP consistency before, but for the newcomers, NAP stands for “Name, Address, Phone number.” NAP consistency refers to the practice of making sure your business details stay the same across all of your listings. You don’t want a client finding one address on Yelp and another on Google. There are plenty of services that offer consistency checks; reviewing all listings and citations to ensure everything is up to par. Having inconsistent NAP can be damaging to a business, but is remediable

 

Step 3: Add a Description

Your business description is the place for you to stand out and employ keywords. If you are locally owned, LGBTQ+ friendly, women-led, Spanish speaking, or anything else that makes you stand out in your field, use it. Make sure your description outlines what your firm does, its practice areas, and what sets it apart.

 

Step 4: Add Photos

Adding photos to a listing helps to prove legitimacy. Adding high-quality photos helps to prove professionalism. This is one reason why it’s always worth it to get a professional photographer to get high-quality photos of the firm, location, and lawyers for both the website and the listings. 

 

Step 5: Set Up Reviews

Reviews are vital for your online reputation. Bad reviews can tank leads, and good reviews can get them flowing. This is why it’s important to keep them active and keep them monitored. 

 

Step 6 (optional): Find a Monitoring Company

Why waste your time micromanaging your listings when you can pay professionals to manage them for you? There are a number of agencies that provide this service, but if I might be biased in suggesting Mockingbird’s Nest service for local SEO.

 

Keeping up with all of your listings can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. When you set up your online presence correctly, managing it is less of a chore. If you want to learn more about local SEO, contact Mockingbird.

Top 4 Ways for Law Firms to Stand Out

Being unique in a saturated market is the best way to get attention and build your client base. But it’s hard to know how you’re unique, or at least unique in a way that matters to your business. 

Mockingbird handles a lot of clients, and we see what makes certain firms stand out. Here’s our list of the top 4 characteristics of stand-out firms.

 

1. Multi-Lingual

This is good for any practice area. Despite America’s melting pot of cultures and being home to millions of people for whom English is not their first language, only a small percentage of firms offer services in another language. Over 10% of American households primarily speak Spanish. If you’re a firm in a rural area, chances are you could own the Spanish language market for hundreds of miles. This is even more the case with languages like Vietnamese, Polish, and Farsi. If you have a second (or even third) language under your belt, use it.

 

2. Local Roots

Community means a lot to people, and if your firm can boast its local qualities you might just land yourself a reliable client base. If you aren’t originally from the community, you can strengthen your ties by participating in and sponsoring local events, designing scholarships, and being a subject matter expert for local journalists. 

If you are from the local area, you’re already a step ahead, but don’t get cocky. You will still need to be active in your community and get your name out there; unless you were incredibly social and/or your town is incredibly small, it’s unlikely that everyone knows who you are. Stay involved and tout your roots.

 

3. Expertise

 We know the Bar is picky about who can call themselves experts, which is why you should show off when you can call yourself an expert. If you have worked hard to be an expert in a specific area of the law, you have a step above your non-expert competitors. You have access to a keyword they don’t. Just make sure you can be called an expert by the Bar or else you might see some penalties.

 

4. Accessibility

While accessibility can refer to the ADA, it can also refer to just being open and welcoming to all types of clients. Is your content accessible to people who might not be comfortable with the law? Is your website clear and easy to navigate? 

While your website does need to be ADA compliant, accessibility goes beyond that. Make sure you’re putting your clients first, and make sure they can feel it. Legal matters tend to be sensitive, so being the firm that makes your clients feel comfortable is important.

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.

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.

The 4 Best Ways to Optimize for Local

The importance of local SEO has seemingly been emphasized to death, but I think you’ll find that we’ve barely scratched the surface of the importance of the practice. Consumers consistently choose local businesses over larger businesses, and will often make that decision early in their search journey. 

 

1. Google My Business

By setting up your Google My Business you are giving yourself a local physical presence. You will now show up when someone searches for “law firms near me” and will appear on Google Maps. By having an up to date and consistent Google My Business Profile you are preparing for customers to find you. 

 

2. Local Landing Pages

What are consumers seeing when they first land on your website? Is it relevant to where they are? It should be. Local landing pages are only really for firms that have unique services depending on locality. If your firm has multiple offices or attorneys with different practice areas in different cities, then local landing pages would be ideal for you. You can talk about cases you won in those areas and your best settlement amounts, all of which help to advertise your work.

 

3. Local Reviews

Reviews can be made through Google My Business, Yelp, or simply by the local paper. Reviews by locals are ideal, as it makes your business appear more trustworthy (we know it’s already trustworthy, but we need it to appear that way too). Local newspapers are especially useful as they provide opportunities for link building, PR, and reviews by trusted members of the community.

 

4. Provide Community-Centered Resources

What issues are unique to your community, or are at least prevalent? Is there already local information about it online? Can you be a better resource? Having quality, helpful links that people in your area can click on is incredibly vital for a local law firm and shouldn’t be neglected. Any time you see an opportunity to write about the legal implications of a local issue, you should be planning your next blog post. Being a resource is the best way to raise brand awareness.

Knowing how to build your local presence should go hand in hand with building your brand. Your firm should be a part of the community, just as any other local business would be. If you would like help planning your local strategy and investing in local marketing, contact Mockingbird.

How to Claim and Create your Apple Map Listing

I recently visited a client of mine and tried to use my iPhone to pull up directions to their office. Despite looking for them directly by name, I couldn’t find their listing. This can be frustrating for anyone trying to visit your office, and could potentially cost you business. But fear not, the fix is very simple and takes less than ten minutes.

  1. If you have an Apple ID, use that to login here: https://mapsconnect.apple.com/. If you don’t have an Apple ID, you can create one on the same page.
  2. Click the “Add Place” link. Enter your business name and location.
  3. If nothing shows in your search, create your listing and fill out as much information as possible.
  4. If you do have a listing, click into the profile and “Claim this place.” Update and add any relevant business information.
  5. Verify through a phone call. *NOTE: your listing will not be visible on Apple Maps until you’ve finished verifying.

Here’s what your finished product will look like:

Apple Maps

As you can see, Apple Maps also pulls information from Yelp, like your reviews and photos. So, make sure you add your Facebook, Yelp, and Twitter accounts, if you have them.

Not only is it important to have an Apple Maps listing for your potential clients to find you and share important details about your business, but this is also the information that’s shared when someone does a voice search using Siri.