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

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

 

The Dangers

Domain Ownership

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

 

Content Ownership

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

 

Upselling Poor Service

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

 

Our Experiences

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

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

 

What to Look for When Signing a Contract

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

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

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

 

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

Impacts of Google’s January Update on the Legal Industry

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

HTTPS Usage

From semrush.com

 

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

 

Local Results

From semrush.com

 

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

Reviews

From semrush.com

 

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

 

Top Ads

From semrush.com

 

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

 

What Does This Mean

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

What Types of Traffic are Better?

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

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

 

Referral Traffic

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

 

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

 

Paid Traffic

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

 

Organic Traffic

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

 

The Takeaways

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

 

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

 

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

Your Logo Is Big Enough

As a designer, I receive many requests for changes by clients regarding a design that I have created. I almost always get asked, “The logo is small, can you make it bigger?”, “I can hardly see the logo, could you make that bigger?”. I understand that you may be proud of your logo and you want it to be prominent, however, the size of your logo isn’t the most important aspect of your website nor should it be the main focus of the site.

Many people also believe that their brand is their logo. A brand is much bigger than just a logo and it can be presented throughout the entirety of the design. Your brand is how your firm represents itself, how you treat clients, your messaging and positioning, the overall experience that someone has with your service and firm. Yes this does include your logo however the logo on your website should never distract the user from the messaging on your website and it should never compete with it.

Large logos can come off cheesy and look amateur. Take a minute to check out the size of the logo for these well-respected brands:

Screenshot of popular website headers

It’s a pretty slim chance that your firm can compete with the same brand recognition as Apple, J.Crew, Nike, and Target, but you can still strive to achieve a similar professional, polished look. Your logo isn’t the focal point of the design. It can throw off the entire balance of the design and make it look cheap if it’s too large.

That brings me to another issue and a shameless plug from yours truly. If your logo needs to be larger to read it, it’s not a good logo. Logos should be scalable and recognizable at any size. If you need an updated logo or a logo redesign OR BRANDING, hit us up.

I have a strong opinion that if you include LLC, Law Firm, Attorneys, etc in your logo – it’s unnecessary and looks a bit amateur. People, who come to your website are aware that you are a lawyer, or a law firm, or an attorney..get it? That goes for you too, Esquires.

Also, if you ABSOLUTELY need to make your logo bigger, please watch this video.

When We’re Happy to See Clients Go

We love our clients. We love getting new clients and keeping our more senior clients. There are law firms we’ve worked with for years; working relationships that sit at the very core of our company. We value all of them and hope to see our partnership last long into the future. That being said, losing a client isn’t always sad.

How We Know We Did Our Job Well

Our team always puts in 110% to ensure our clients’ successes, and it’s satisfying to see it pay off. There are single-attorney firms we’ve worked with that started without a website, without ads, and barely with a budget to grow. Once they get to the point where they’re able to hire an in-house marketing team, we know we’ve succeeded. 

 

Not the End of the Road

Just because a client is ending their contract doesn’t mean it’s over. We like to keep in contact, not close any doors. 

 

We also like to keep the door ajar by offering consulting, reporting, and/or collaborative services. Like doting parents watching their kids move out, we’re always here for support and want to know how their lives are going. 

 

The Mutual Benefits

When a client leaves us, we make sure to use that to both of our advantages. We make all of their resources as easy as possible to transfer to their new team, and we ask them to leave us an honest review. This helps us know how we can improve and lets potential clients know the quality of our services. We both walk away better off than when we started.

 

How This is Relevant to Your Firm

Saying goodbye to clients is a staple of running a business. People move, grow, shrink, and change, and it’s a good thing. Unless you’re a corporate lawyer, there aren’t many instances in which you want recurring clients. A divorce lawyer probably doesn’t want to have the same client over and over again; that client isn’t doing well if they’re getting divorce after divorce. You need to know how to say goodbye to your clients. 

By keeping your door open and parting on good terms, that client might not come back but will refer others to you. Turnover is a good thing. If you don’t think so, check out our reviews.

How Your Domain Authority Affects Your Firm

Let’s clarify one thing right off the bat: Domain Authority is not the same as PageRank. Domain Authority (DA) is a tool created by Moz used to estimate your page ranking. It uses link flows and trust metrics to come to its conclusion, but DA has no effect on how well your site actually does from a technical standpoint. 

 

This doesn’t mean that DA has no effect on your site whatsoever. It has more of a sociological impact in the way that owning a fancy suit doesn’t mean you’re rich, but it might help you get a higher paying job. Having a high DA will improve link-building opportunities, which will, in turn, improve your PageRank.

 

Your PageRank comes directly from Google and isn’t accessible. You can try to calculate it, but your DA is probably a better estimate than you’ll come up with. The main thing is that your PageRank actually does determine where your page sits in the search results. As you can probably assume, higher is better. You want your page to show up at the top of the organic search results. PageRank says whether or not it will.

 

Improving DA and PageRank

Google and Moz determine your metrics through a number of factors but largely focus on links and content. Lucky for you, you have some control over both of these.

 

Link building is your best method for improving authority. By having a more trusted site vouch for you by posting an article with a link to your site, they are improving your trustworthiness. You can build links through guest-writing articles, negotiating with authors of relevant pages, or adding links to directories in which your firm is listed.

 

On the content front, the main advice Google gives is to prioritize quality over quantity. Google determines quality through E.A.T.: expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. If you want your blog articles to be used as resources, they have to be relevant to your firm and what people want to know regarding your expertise. You need to prove that you are a trusted expert, and your website needs to prove that you aren’t trying to steal anything from your clients. This means that anyone who visits the site needs to be comforted by the layout, so content extends beyond writing and into the design. 

 

What Comes with a Good DA

When you manage to improve your DA and your PageRank you will most likely see an increase in traffic relevant to your business, meaning an increase in leads and clients. You will have more opportunities for quality link building, the heavens will open up you will finally find inner peace. 

 

It’s never that simple. Maintaining good DA means maintaining your website, keeping up with search engine updates, and consistently producing quality content. It’s work, and not always work you have time for if you’re also running a law firm.

 

Mockingbird is here to help. We work in improving your website, content, and link building connections. If you would like to get more clients, contact Mockingbird today.

 

Tools We Love: CallRail

Call tracking has become a standard for anyone who’s focused on measuring the success of their website. There are plenty of tools out there that offer call tracking, but we’ve fallen in love with CallRail, and have stayed in love for many years now.

Over time, CallRail has added features and improved how effectively it tracks an individual’s call history.

What does it do?

Instead of showing your real business phone number, you can use a tracking number in places that a potential customer or client will see. If you choose to add tracking numbers to your website, CallRail will dynamically swap your real number with your chosen tracking number(s).

How does it work?

Within CallRail, you can either port (move) numbers you already own or create new numbers to use as your tracking numbers. These numbers can be displayed on your website, within ad copy, on billboards, or anywhere else you might want your number displayed.

When someone calls one of these tracking numbers, the information from that call is stored in your CallRail dashboard. The caller won’t notice that they’ve called a tracking number, and neither will the person answering your main line.

Implementation

For number swapping on your site, you’ll want to install CallRail’s script directly onto your website (we suggest using Google Tag Manager to do this).

You’ll also want to connect Google Analytics and Google Ads to CallRail in order to link your data together.

CallRail Integrations

Setting up Tracking Numbers

If you’re running Google Ads, you should have at least two tracking numbers, one for mobile, the other for desktop. You’ll use both of these as extensions for your ads.

A good rule of thumb is to place a tracking number on any marketing or advertising you’re paying for. If you have a TV commercial, make a tracking number specific to that. If you still advertise in a phonebook, have a tracking number for that as well.

This is the best way to figure out which campaigns are driving leads, and from those, clients.

Keyword Pools are the best way to track calls that happen on your website. A keyword pool is essentially a bunch of numbers that are available to show on your website at any given time. If you have 5 people viewing your site at the same time, each will see a different number and their visit will be tracked individually. It doesn’t matter where the user came from (Organic, Direct, etc.); each person will be tracked accordingly in your CallRail dashboard. This eliminates the need for individual tracking numbers by channel source.

CallRail Tracking

Form Captures

CallRail can also track the form submissions on your site. This is great for calculating ROI on forms, all in one easy place. You can easily search for a signed clients name, see their form submission, and see how they got to the site in that visit.

Call Recording

CallRail has an opt in feature to record calls on the tracking number level. If you wanted to only record calls from one of your numbers, you can do that. You can also customize the message that plays to the caller that alerts them they are being recorded.

If you suspect there’s an issue with your intake process, call recording is the best way to pinpoint the problem. It’s also a great way to track the quality of your leads. You might find that one of your advertising channels is only bringing in callers who can’t afford your services, who are outside of your service area, or the wrong kind of practice type.

Call Log

In the call log, you’ll be able to see all of the calls that have happened on all of your tracking numbers. You can switch to specific time periods, look at only specific tracking number, sources, and a number of other things.

You can also mark-up calls with notes about the call, or whether it was a good lead or a bad lead.

Callrail Call Log

Call Attribution

The call attribution tab has the best breakdown of how many calls you had by channel for a given time period, as well as how many were first-time calls. It’s important to know how many first-time calls you’ve had in comparison to your total call volume. At Mockingbird, we only report on first-time calls because we’re trying to track new business, not current clients or people who have contacted you previously.

CallRail Call Attribution

 

CallRail has a ton of amazing features that haven’t been covered here, and they’re constantly improving the tools they offer. As an official CallRail partner, feel free to contact Mockingbird if you have any questions. We’d love to help get you started with CallRail and improve your current tracking setup.

Google’s November “Bedlam” Update

Those of us in the SEO business began noticing that our website metrics were changing in mid- to early- November, and it wasn’t until November 12 that Google confirmed that they had rolled out an unannounced update, by that point coined as the Bedlam update (no relation to BEDLAM 2020, our awesome conference.) From there, it wasn’t until early December that Google revealed why there had been such drastic changes.

 

Neural Matching

The reason for the upset has been pinned down to Google’s update implementing neural learning, a form of AI that aims to prioritize user intent. This is designed to provide users with more relevant search results. This means that some website might be receiving less traffic but higher leads, some websites might be lower across the board, and some might be higher across the board.

 

The Local Impact

Local businesses have seen some of the more significant impacts, with rankings changing drastically to reflect relevance over proximity. Spam listings and keyword-stuffed posting seem to have benefitted from the update. They are likely to be taken care of as Google smooths out the kinks of neural matching. The best way to fight this is through local optimizations and spam fighting.

 

Stabilizing Post-Bedlam

While most of the initial upheaval and “bedlam” of the update has worn off, the full impact and time frame until it’s considered the new normal is still unclear. The best way to carry on after such an event is to make sure your website is following Google’s best practices, provide relevant content, and regularly check in with your marketing team to ensure nothing’s on fire.

 

What Our Clients Should Expect

Our team here at Mockingbird has led our clients through years of Google updates. We have consistently helped them back onto their upward trends. We expect Bedlam to be no different. Still, we have been taking every step to keep our clients on the right track.

 

If you have any questions about how the update may have impacted your site, contact your account executive.

How Digital Advertising can Work With Outside Advertising

We see it all the time: lawyers come in having spent thousands of dollars on billboards and TV ads and aren’t seeing the results. They don’t want to give up their billboards but want to expand into digital advertising. Lucky for them, this is completely possible.

 

Visibility vs. Conversions

Advertising doesn’t have a singular goal, and different campaigns have different purposes. Some campaigns focus on increasing brand awareness or visibility, and some focus specifically on increasing conversions.

 

Outside Advertising

Billboards and tv ads are generally better for the former, as they can’t target specific audiences. This is beneficial since brand recognition can be a significant contributing factor to a consumer’s decision of which firm to choose. Even if they don’t need your services when they see your ad, they might remember your name when they do.

 

Digital Advertising

Digital advertising, search ads in particular, can target specific audiences to the point where your ad is only being shown to consumers in your area who you know are looking for legal services at that exact moment. If they happen to remember your name from your billboards, that could certainly help increase your chances of getting a conversion.

 

Combination

Certain forms of digital advertising, like Youtube and Display ads, work similarly to billboards and TV ads. You don’t always know who is going to see them, and they aren’t designed to increase conversions. By running a campaign of outside advertising as well as Display and Youtube ads, consumers will become aware of your brand. By sending them a targeted search ad as soon as they do need your services, you’ve almost guaranteed a conversion.

 

Mockingbird is proud of our expertise in digital advertising. We may flinch when we hear that a prospective client has been spending thousands on billboards and pennies on digital, but we are happy to design a campaign that will benefit our client without them sacrificing their billboards.  

If you would like to hear how your outside advertising can be made even more effective, contact Mockingbird today.