How to Sound Like an SEO Expert (without really knowing anything)

So, this post comes courtesy of a phone call I had yesterday with a prospective client.  It started out like many:

I’m not sure what I actually get for my monthly SEO retainer.

A little investigation and I found a huge mess….. which in turn led to a Facebook missive:

That awkward moment when you have to tell a law firm that their previous agency’s $5,000/month SEO budget didn’t pay for H1s or Title Tags.

Perhaps H1s come with the $6K package.

Now – you don’t have to know what H1s or Title Tags are…. you should be doing lawyerly things; but anyone making a living peddling SEO damn well should.

If you aspire to make a living from (your perceived) deep pockets of lawyers… here’s my guide to sounding like an expert without needing to learn what you are actually doing.  (Some buzzwords courtesy of Gyi Tsakalakis – a professional instigator –  although it was Michael Romano who came up with: <h1>Ripped Off</h1>)

Meerkat/Periscope/Facebook Livestream

Livestreaming started with Meerkat and Periscope and has recently had a resurgence with the launch of Facebook’s Livestream feature. Impress prospective clients with your cutting edge tech savvy, the way I watched a speaker at a legal marketing conference (that was essentially a thinly veiled pay-to-pitch event) Meerkat his entire talk.  Boy was he cutting edge – and by the end of said Meerkating, three audience members proudly stood up to announce that they too had become Meerkaters during the talk and had also Meerkated the event.  (seriously I can’t make this stuff up.)  Lets ignore for the moment, the serendipity that would have to occur for a prospective client to actually be starting their lawyer search on social media, be linked to a specific lawyer and have both of those things coincide with the moment said lawyer decided to Periscope his knowledge to the Persicopeverse.

RankBrain

Back in October of 2015, Google launched their Artificial Intelligence update to algo’s – RankBrain – with much ballyhoo and mystery. Turns out the cutting edge of the SEO nerd community hasn’t noticed a big change; although some have suggested this was going to be the end of linkbuilding as we know it (it wasn’t).  Dropping the phrase will make you sound current and mysterious – it might also defect obvious questions that require actual work to respond to: “what about linkbuilding?”

Blab

Want video conferencing limited to four participants?  Enter Blab.  This is a great word and  can be used in all its forms:  blabbing (verb), Blabber (proper noun), blabber (verb), blabbed (past tense), blabby (adjective). I’ve heard some truly ridiculous blabbery during a Blab.  Justblab to prove Blab’s bleeding edgeness…. check out this buzzword laden description from Mashable.  Be the first to write that post on your blog:  “Blabbing Your Way to Profits for Law Firms, Lawyers and Attorneys.”

“Content is King”

This is a great phrase to use with clients who complain about lack of results – turn the responsibility back on them and yell triumphantly “content is king”…. you need to blog more, post more rewrites of last week’s accident news, expand your FAQs and chase the long tail.  Because, clearly, the web is lacking content about every single aspect of the law.

GoogleJuiceGoogle Juice

This is an oldie but goodie – the mysterious GoogleJuice farmed in MountainView and harvested by plucky Google nerds that bestows rankings upon websites. This one is dedicated to a former coworkers who once told me “we don’t have to worry about SEO, we have a lot of Google Juice.”  Frequently used in conjunction with PageRank.

Pinterest

Need to up your perceived social media savvy?  Drop “pinterest”, a site many have heard of; although no one has figured out how a collection of pictures of argyle sweaters, or finely crafted timberframe interiors will get people to hire a lawyer. Fortunately your (self)proclaimed Pinterest savvy transfers an overall sense of social media authority – you are the consultant who can figure out how to get clients to publicize their pending nuptial demise by liking their divorce lawyer on Facebook.

Ninja | Maven | Rockstar | Guru

Still feeling like the one eyed man in the kingdom of the blind?  Calm your nerves by bestowing one of these self-aggrandizing “titles” upon yourself – trust me the National Association of SEO Ninjas is NOT going to come knocking asking for verification.  Ninjas, Mavens and Gurus are often described (by themselves) as  “thought leader”, “recognized expert” and/or “bestselling author” in their Twitter and Facebook profiles.

For maximum impact combine terms from above:  this can be a phrase “Meerkat Guru” or an entirely new word: “Blabjuice”.

And lawyers – if you think you are smart enough to hire a good SEO…. consider taking my simple test:  Are You Qualified to Hire and SEO Agency? or purchasing the SEO Consultant Balderdash Translator from the Legal SEO Store.

It Might Not Be Our Fault, But Its Still Our Problem

We do more than SEO.

Sometimes we do more than marketing.

Long ago, I learned that my SEO clients often turned to me as the solution for any and all technical issues they may have (or think they have.) Kind of like having your mother in law set up her wireless router at Christmas time. We’ve solved all sorts of problems – from email configurations to hacked websites.  I’ve helped clients install plug-ins, set up in-office data backup systems and select the right smartphone that will work with their case management system.

Sometimes the tech goes south and no one knows why.  This is exacerbated by the undertrained, inexperienced IT “experts” who know just enough to be (very) dangerous, who frequently serve the legal industry.  And when the tech goes south, everyone is quick to shout “not it” and point fingers.

This is why we’ve codified our approach to problems in our 10 Commandments:

10.  It May Not Be Our Fault, But It Is Still Our Problem

Clients want problems solved.  Period.  The blame game can happen later, but the immediate issue is to solve the problem.  And we’ll work with or through whomever is necessary to get the job done. It means we need an extremely experienced, technical staff with a curious problem-solving orientation.

The following quote is lifted from an email that went out to a client today.  Unbeknownst to her, her  IT “expert” had changed the MX settings on their domain – clustering email delivery for days. He had no idea what he had done and declared a big “not it” when her email stopped arriving. Our work in identifying the root cause was a long (2 days), frustrating, disruptive, circuitous detective project.  Fixing the problem required painstaking handholding of said expert.  But the firm is now getting their email again.  And thats what really mattered in the first place.

Thanks for your patience while I worked with your IT department to resolve this problem. I hope you don’t have any reservations about how hard we work for you, even when the problems is unrelated to your website and marketing. We value our clients to the point where I will learn a new professional trade in order to solve an issue.

And twice, it was our mistake – so its best to always assume its our fault instead of hope that its not.

Website Refresh

We’ve finally completed a long overdue look and feel update to the website.  Like the barefoot cobbler’s children, we’ve been in need of a website redesign for some time now.  We’re also very proprietary about our client list and now, finally have a good site (our own) to reference.

And we eat our own dogfood adhering to guidelines from the Best Practices for Law Firm Websites post:

  • The primary job of a website is to make the phone ring – check out the cool custom persistent header that maintains the phone number when scrolling.
  • Built on easy to use (and easy to transfer) WordPress creating a custom look with limited incremental expense and automatically responsive.
  •  Hosted on managed wordpress provider WPEngine – more expensive at $29 monthly, but thoroughly worth it.
  • Yoast plug-in configured, GA-Code transferred.
  • Legacy URL’s checked and redirects installed where necessary.

And how much should these cost?  Had we billed our new site to a client – it would have come in at just under $4,500 – keep that in mind every month writing that $1,000 check for your website.

Avvo’s Win for Free Speech – anti-SLAPP law

In a win for free speech, courts used antiSLAPP law to slap a plaintiff for attempting to chill Avvo’s right for free speech.  The lawsuit, which goes back year to my own days at Avvo, was filed by a Florida based attorney claiming punitive and exemplary damages as well as attorneys fees on four seperate claims against Avvo.

Avvo argued that this was an attempt by the attorney to chill free speech and access to the information brought forth by the company on the website.

The case was quickly transferred to Washington state and as the slow wheels of justice turned, the courts granted a motion to dismiss.  The kicker, however, is that under anti-SLAPP, the court can automatically impose a statutory damage award of $10,000 AND may award the defendants attorneys’ fees be paid by the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s attorneys.  In this case the plaintiff was stuck with a $10,000 penalty and almost $50,000 in attorneys fees.

Essentially, we now have a precedent where the threat of a nuisance lawsuit brought specifically to silence an online voice now includes a significant financial risk for the plaintiff.  The loser pays and the public wins.

Super Sunday Sweepstakes

Super Sunday Sweepstakes

Win Free Law Firm Website Hosting for the Rest of the Year

Here at Mockingbird Headquarters, the 12th man is in full swing ready for this Sunday’s game.  And yes – we’re going to tie online legal marketing to the Big Game.

So – to the winning city of this Sunday’s NFL match go the geeky spoils:  10 Law Firms receive free hosting for the rest of the year on the best of breed WPEngine.

Seattle vs. New England

Personally, these are my two favorite teams – as a Seattle resident and Sherman fan, I have to support the Legion of Boom.  BUT.  I was a grad student at Michigan when Brady played (granted Lloyd Carr sat him during his senior year – a precursor of 15 years of Michigan coaching errors, but I digress . . . )  My in-laws live in West Barnstable, I attended Colby and my first post-college job was in Worcester – essentially, I’m a New Englander at heart.

And . . .

We promise to refrain from utilizing phrases like “we’re deflated” or “pumped up” to needle (oh sorry) my Boston brethren.

Why Are We Doing This?

We love the Seahawks and the Patriots (at least I do).  Despite running marketing for 50 law firms across the country and a strong relationship with the your amazing LOMAP office, our footprint in New England is underrepresented.

Our Love Affair with WPEngine

WPEngine is a best of breed hosting provider – we’ve written ad nauseum about their awesomeness.  Here are the CliffNotes:

  • Sites hosted on WPEngine are lightening fast.
  • They have amazing customer service
  • They specialize exclusively in WordPress.
  • They backup your site daily – reducing the downside of WordPress hacks.
  • They are based in Austin, TX – Seattle’s hot weather doppelganger.

“Wait – WPEngine costs $29 a month, That’s expensive!”

Yes – $29 is more than 3 times normal hosting costs, but the downside of a bad host is considerable – see list above.

“Wait – WPEngine costs $29 a month?  That’s a steal!”

No – you must be a customer of one of those website providers who fleece their customers to the tune of $750+ a month.  Hope you aren’t on their proprietary platform too.

Enter Now

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The Fine Print

Entry Dates:

Entry starting at noon on Monday, January 26, 2015.  Entries must be received by Saturday, January 31st, at 5:00 pm EST.

No Purchase Necessary

No Purchase Necessary.

Prize Description

Prize includes website hosting on WPEngine from February 2015 through December 31, 2015.

There are ten prizes total.

Prize Value of each prize is approximately $618 for both hosting (11 months at $29) and site migration (one time fee of $299).

Winners must have an existing website built on the WordPress platform OR build a new WordPress site.  This prize does NOT include the design, development or configuration of a new website.  This prize does NOT include the upgrade, migration or change of any non-WordPress site onto the WordPress platform. Migration of existing websites will be performed by WeMoveWP – and will be completed by the end of February. WeMoveWP is solely responsible for website migrations.

Winners are responsible for website hosting on January 1, 2016 – and available prepaid monthly at a retail rate of $29 if they select to stay on WPEngine.  Migration away from WPEngine is NOT included in this Prize.

Winners will be selected randomly from the winning location; one from each of the following Practice Areas.

  • Personal Injury
  • Divorce/Family
  • DUI
  • Criminal Defense
  • Immigration
  • Bankruptcy/Debt/Foreclosure
  • Tax
  • Estate Planning
  • Real Estate
  • Other

If there are no entries in a particular Practice Area an alternative winner will be selected in an additional Practice Area.

Winners will be contacted via phone and email by Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015.

Eligibility

This sweepstakes is only open to law firms with physical headquarters in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Washington and Maine. One entry per law firm. All entries must include a domain currently owned by the law firm.

Entry Requirements

Enter at Mockingbird.Marketing.com/super-sunday-sweepstakes.  Entrants are required to provide: Firm Name, Contact Name, Phone Number, Email Address, primary Practice Area and existing domain owned by the firm.

7 Traits of Our Most Successful Clients in 2014

Now is the time of year for legal marketing experts to cement their expert reputation by offering prognostications on the whims of Google in 2015. I thought I’d offer a different take on 2015 by highlighting the traits of 2014, common to our most successful clients.

Last year, we worked with 69 companies – from multi-national firms to part time solos. Some of them were very successful. Some of them (really) struggled. What follows are lessons gleaned from the top 15 of those firms who really nailed it last year.

They Focus on Conversion More than Marketing

(Or more accurately – they know that improving conversion is the best marketing investment you can make.)

While lawyers may not understand the concepts of canonical tags or H1s, they do immediately recognize great customer service. Further, customer service (which begins with an extremely positive intake process) is something a firm partner has direct control over.
Successful firms don’t see their front desk as a gatekeeper to the attorneys’ offices, but instead as a welcoming committee that is professional, caring, available and polite. One lawyer insists on having a prim British accent (and accompanying professionalism) at his front desk. Another (PI guy) evaluates his front desk on their ability to have the prospect agree to an in-home meeting with an attorney who is literally in a Lincoln towncar on the way to that meeting by the end of that phone call.

They Engage With Their Marketing

One of the (many) dirty little secrets about online marketing for lawyers is that our clients can usually do a better job at the hard (at least hard for us) stuff than we can. The clients we saw consistently crushing it in the search engines were very actively engaged with the hardest, most creative, least certain aspects of SEO – content development, linkbuilding and review management. These were hands on clients who leveraged their expertise, network and established position of influence with our direction to deliver very successful SEO campaigns.

They Calculate Marketing Channel Effectiveness

Our best clients calculate marketing effectiveness by channel – and not just by asking prospects “where did you find us.” Through a combination of intelligent tracking infrastructure and onboarding management, they knew their cost per client by marketing channel – enabling us to have rational, math based decisions instead of emotive, theoretical debates. In many cases, we installed this infrastructure and the internal discipline to use it in order to make these math based conversations happen.
For one client we ran two simultaneous campaigns through a creative marketing concept for two very different practice areas. Each required a $20,000 proof of concept marketing investment. One was an utter belly flop – the other a run-away success. Had we been focused on debating the genius (or lack thereof) of the marketing concept instead of the business results, nothing ever would have happened.

They Don’t Have Social Media Consultants

Very successful attorneys recognize social media for what it is: a catalyst for their own personal networking. And they know that outsourcing personal networking just doesn’t work – either online or in person. Nor did they need to hire anyone to teach them to write in 140 characters or less. They never embraced the oft-touted fallacy that social media was going to drive search rankings or that prospective clients were going to tweet out their need for a DUI lawyer or begin their divorce process by announcing on Facebook their impending nuptial demise.

They (Often) Had Never Hired an SEO

There were a sprinkling of firms we worked with that had never ever hired an SEO before and started with old, somewhat dated site. Essentially – their backlink and content profiles were so squeaky clean, just by having done nothing, that a responsive website and a little professional guidance were all they needed to take off. Note that these were firms in niche practice areas (i.e. NOT Personal Injury) in secondary geographic markets – where a combination of simple best practices and white hat implementation were all that was needed to drive significant business.

They Work the Legal Directories

2014 was the year the legal directories took a jump up – specifically Avvo, FindLaw and Nolo – all of which benefited from Google algo changes this year. Successful firms didn’t see this as competition, but instead an opportunity to be leveraged through advertising and/or engagement.

They Don’t Care About Their Ranking

Speaking of search engines – our best clients never ever talked to us about where they ranked for whatever SEO phrase most heavily stroked their personal ego. They understood how search results are personalized and that the vast majority of converting traffic comes from the long tail and local. We deliberately parted ways with a few firms who were myopically more interested in a search engine rankings instead of getting their phone to ring. (And no – these things are not necessarily correlated.)

New Years is always a good time to reassess priorities – both personal and professional – mix in some of these lessons for your firm along with your January gym membership.

1% For Good: Colon Cancer Research

Last week, Mockingbird contributed to a small, but growing, 5K run/walk in support of the Colon Cancer Coalition.

This was my third year doing the race – the first year was with my son’s teacher who was fighting colon cancer.  The most recent two years, Katie was not there.  But Katie’s supporters were – wearing purple for Team Purple Power. For putting things in perspective . . . I’ve watched Katie’s young daughter grow up in annual snapshots at this race.  This year, was the largest event yet and we raised close to $20,000 in support of colon cancer research.

Hug your kids and take care of your health.

I Lied to Get MockingbirdMarketing.com

So let me get this aired first:

What follows is too little too late.

And I owe Mandy Graessle an apology, both public and private.

To catch you up to speed – when I was looking for a new domain for my legal marketing agency, I connected with Mandy, who owned MockingbirdMarketing.com – a site the supported her stint as a legal marketing consultant, but was now lying dormant as she had moved on to work directly with Stacy Burke.  I was concerned she wouldn’t sell it to me if she knew either who I was or what I wanted to do with it, so under the pretense of purchase this for a band, I purchased the site through a third party.  In short I misled her and lied.  For the details, check out Mandy’s blog: “Conrad Saam the “ethical marketing expert” scammed me into selling my website“.

This car wreck, of course, is made worse by the fact that I have very vociferously written and spoken against online marketing agencies in the legal space for unethical, duplicitous and shady behavior.  So being rightly grouped with these scumbags is a huge embarrassment.

My reply to her post (copied) below smacked of hubris and arrogance.

Mandy –

So there’s this line in the Godfather (the book, not the movie) where Michael’s rejoinder to the comment “its nothing personal, its just business” goes something like this:

“The Godfather takes everything personally. If a friend of his were hit by a bolt of lightening he’d take it personally. And that is what makes him great.”

So its mostly unhelpful for me to tell you this is just business, because of course you take something personally that you’ve worked on. I’d feel the same way. The reality is, had you known who I was you would have asked for a lot more and I would have ended up registering something like mockingbirdie, or mockingbird-marketing or some such other second rate domain and you’d have $300 less in your bank account. But, my genuine apologies that the way this went down made you feel bad.

As for Dave – he’s my cousin and a drummer in a band in London and an all around great guy.

You’ve got my email address now . . . feel free to use it.

Conrad

So to Mandy – I’m very genuinely sorry.  To everyone else: you are correct – especially within legal marketing we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard – a standard that I have been pushing for a long time, yet failed to hold myself up to.

Mandy and I are scheduled to have a phone conversation tomorrow.  Expect an update.

-Conrad

 

UPDATE:

Mandy and I just had a phone conversation.  And to paraphrase her comments – It may be the Buddhist in me, but sometimes things don’t come to a positive conclusion.  From our conversation, she is idealistic and deep hearted. I offered a genuine apology and we talked about the difficulty in that – given our initial first interaction was based on subterfuge.  We also spoke at length about the dearth of ethics in the legal marketing field and the irony of this incident and the fact that I aggressively call out those whose conduct is unethical. Finally – for those of you who don’t know her idealism – she is not looking for money or even the domain – instead rightly calling out what happened.  Frankly, Mandy made this much easier for me than warranted.

Mockingbird has now been moved to a new domain – utilizing the newly implemented .marketing TLD, so the original domain can be easily transferred back to Mandy, should she change course and make that request. Additionally, we’re directing our 1% For Good towards both the Houston arts scene and a cause Mandy has become personally involved in.  1% For Good is our charity campaign where we donate 1% of our revenue to a variety of different causes – in the past we’ve provided funding for everything from colon cancer research, the Challenged Athletes Foundation and a tiny 7 child orphanage in Africa – and right now I can’t think of anything more appropriate than supporting the Houston arts scene.

 

1% for Good: Challenged Athletes Foundation

Well, it’s been a year since we started the 1% For Good Campaign at Mockingbird – which provides regular donations to charities.  Our first ever donation was to The Challenged Athletes Foundation.  In support of my brother, who has made CAF a regular part of his life, this year, we’ve come back around to supporting CAF – contributing a small portion of the more than $1.1 million dollars raised at this year’s Challenge.

The San Diego Triathlon Challenge

Every year, CAF puts on The San Diego Triathlon Challenge – a fundraising race where a mix of physically challenged athletes and able bodied athletes complete a grueling triathlon on a very hilly course in San Diego. It’s a mile swim, 44 mile bike and 10 mile run.  Imagine completing that on prosthetic legs, or with the help of a guide because you are legally blind.  1511760_851744784849157_5009061916467516567_n

A Note from Paul

The people we support in this endeavor are not the type to let a challenge or some discomfort stop them from achieving their dreams.  It’s time for me to meet the challenge and raise critical funds for the military personnel who lost limbs in service of our county, the children who have had limbs ravaged by cancer, and the survivors of horrific accidents who refuse to hear “you can’t do that.”  As I told you last year, I truly believe that outside of being a husband and parent, this is the most important thing I do every year.

Note the rainbow socks Paul is  wearing – they were in the athletes’ goody bags and were a subtle tribute to Robin Williams, who was heavily involved in CAF.