Law Firm WP SEO Problems: Google Stopped Supporting Pagination

Bubbling up from the depths of search nerdom (Hat tip to Adam Gent) over the past 48 hours…some overly observant search nerds have picked up on the fact that Google is no longer supporting pagination, yet had failed to mention this to anyone.

Today Google’s John Muller acknowledged that not only was Google disregarding rel next/prev, but had been doing so for years.

I’ve personally noticed this anomaly while doing “site: searches” and locating paginated results with that result set. Seemed odd.

Why This Matters to Law Firms

This is especially impactful (at least theoretically) to law firms utilizing WordPress based sites who have been heavy content publishers and/or grossly overusing Tag and Category pages. Both of these tactics can lead to the generation of multiple, paginated pages. The pagination code, simply put, helps google understand that a sequence of pages are a list of items all related to each other. The most obvious example is a site with hundreds of blog posts, which creates a series of useless sequential navigational pages in groups of 10 blog posts each. This also happens automagically with WordPress sites with the use of Tags pages and Categories. The pagination code simply instructs the search engines that all of those pages in the sequence really belong as the same page.

This is important because (at least in theory) these paginated navigational pages offer no unique content and really a very poor destination for users. Overall, they serve to dilute the quality of content and careful management of them can actually decrease page count while increasing traffic. The accompanying graphic shows how we reduced a law firm’s site page count by 149 tag pages which resulted in an immediate increase in traffic.

Now, apparently one of the tactics to manage these useless pages, not only no longer works, but hasn’t worked for a while.

Sigh.

Time to go revisit all of our client sites…

What You Can Learn from Dick’s Sporting Goods (i.e. How to Monitor for 404s)

Today’s internet lesson brought to you by a retail anecdote from Dick’s Sporting Goods: yesterday I purchased a new lacrosse stick with the lowest of expectations for my retail experience. Instead I was delighted to meet Tucker, a retail associate who blew me away with his knowledge, service and genuine enthusiasm in helping my 8-year-old, first time lacrosse player. Upon checkout (which Tucker walked us through) our receipt included a link to leave feedback on our in-store experience – Tucker, knowing we were grateful and delighted customers wrote down his name and asked for a submission. (Turns out Tucker knows more about generating solid reviews than most lawyers…)

This is when it went sideways for Dick’s.

The Dicks.com/feedback URL redirects to a misspelled URL: dickssportinggoods.com/fedback (not feedback) and 404s….

A simple typo that’s soured my great experience.

Had Dick’s been monitoring their 404’s in Google Search Console, they would have been alerted to a spike in people getting an error page, been able to investigate it, and simply correct the misspelling. (I did send them a message over Twitter, which included a short, albeit predictable detour of searching Twitter for “dicks”, but I digress.)

How to Look for 404’s On Your Site Using Search Console

You can find error pages on your site in Google’s Search Console, under “Coverage” and “Excluded” you’ll find a list of different types of pages that are excluded from Google’s index. In my extreme case example below (disclaimer, not our client) just 8% of the pages on their site are actually indexed. (This is just yet another reason for you to have admin level access to Search Console – if your agency hasn’t set you up with that or (especially) if they refuse to give you access…start looking for a new agency.) Below that report, look for links to both soft and hard 404 errors.

Hone in on the “Not found (404) errors” to find broken pages on the site. In our example here, the site has fixed many of these errors over the past 3 months. Even better you can find that actual broken URL’s which are listed below the graph – making it super easy to fix.

And Dick’s – if your social media people end up reading this…fix that redirect and then make sure you give Tucker in your Issaquah store a raise…he could be working at Nordstrom. 🙂

Bird Droppings: Google Takes Its First Steps Toward Killing the URL…and More

Welcome to another edition of “Bird Droppings.” A simple list highlighting recent articles relevant to legal marketing in order to help bring you up to speed with what’s been happening in the industry over the past few weeks! Make sure to check out our upcoming events at the end of the list!

Industry News

Do people care about flashy ad copy? What makes people click on search ads?

Google is notifying advertisers that AdWords Express has joined the Google Ads platform.

Google is partnering with Automattic and WordPress in order to develop a news publishing platform.

Google decides to make unsolicited changes to your campaigns. Advertisers get 7 days to opt-out.

Google takes first steps toward killing the URL

Why Is Content from Google Posts Appearing in Local Pack Listings?

Upcoming Events:

What: Chat Bots: Can AI Deliver a Better, Cheaper, More Effective Chat Experience?
When: March 13, 2019
Where: Webinar
More Information

What: BEDLAM Conference 2019
When: March 29, 2019
Where: Nashville, TN
More Information

What: Digital Marketing for Attorneys
When: April 17, 2019
Where: Webinar
More Information

What: Practice 360 | A Day For Lawyers & Law Firms
When: May 17, 2019
Where: Washington, DC
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What: PILMMA Internet Boot Camp
When: September 12, 2019
Where: New Orleans, LA
More Information

Google+ Shutting Down in April 2019

Google is Killing the Google+ Social Network

Google+ is (was) Google’s attempt at creating a social platform to compete with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Launched in June 2011, Google+ has had many ups, downs, and pivots throughout the platform’s life cycle.

It’s been linked to and disconnected from Google My Business (previously Google Places), Google Hangouts (RIP), Google Photos, and a slew of other Google products. In short, Google attempted to connect it to everything at one point or another.

In October 2018, Google cited low user engagement and announced they were shutting down Google+ by the end of 2019.

In December 2018, they accelerated their timeline to shut down by April 2019 due to bugs and security concerns.

Should You Be Worried?

No.

I’d safely bet that 99% of people reading this don’t use Google+ at all. Even if you do copy your Facebook posts to Google+ Circles, there’s nothing to save or transfer or export or worry about.

Let Google+ die, and be happy you didn’t waste time in a social network ghost town.

What You Need To Do

While Google+ is appropriately being killed off, Google My Business has absorbed many of its best qualities. If you’re not already taking advantage, you absolutely should be leveraging the following features through Google My Business:

  • Posts – Publish announcements, deals, and more directly on your GMB page.
  • Follow Button – People can follow your business, and be notified of updates & posts.
  • Q&A – Users can ask (and answer) questions about your business. Watch these closely!
  • Messaging – People can message your business straight from your GMB page.
  • Photos & Videos – Not new, but a major factor in promoting your business.
  • Reviews – Not from Google+ but you can’t talk about GMB without talking about reviews. Go get some!

The elimination of Google+ is long overdue, but if you’re already using Google My Business to its full potential you have absolutely nothing to fear. And, if you’re underutilizing some of the features highlighted above, now would be the perfect time to start.

How Our Client Got Scammed (& How We Played a Part in It)

Perhaps I should have thought long and hard before posting this, as Mockingbird unwittingly played a part in one of our clients dealing with a huge online headache.  But…I’d rather share our experiences so that others might avoid them, than cover things up to make us always look great.

Here’s the story:

One of our clients had their email account hacked. Hackers set up forwarding rules on that email account so that anything coming from us bypassed the client and were forwarded to them. They then replied to an existing current email thread with us, asking for a password to the website backend to make some basic content changes. The client had unfortunately used that same password for a variety of different accounts. Chaos ensued….

How to Guard Against This….

  • Use a sophisticated password management system. (We use LastPass).
  • I’d strongly recommend that law firms connect with your agencies and put in place a strict policy of ONLY sharing passwords over the phone.

There have been an increasing number of scams impacting small businesses – especially the legal community, if the chatter on solosez is any accurate indication. Protect yourself.

Battle of the Sexes: Online Reviews

We all know online reviews are important. Most of us nowadays, before buying something online or booking an appointment, will scan reviews to find the business with the most favor among peers. But what groups of people pay the most attention to these reviews? Does everyone care equally? If the answer to that question is no, this could have implications for businesses targeting specific demographics. To answer one facet of this question, Jamie Pitman of BrightLocal published an article in Search Engine Land addressing the divergence in online review behavior between men and women, and the results are surprising. Jamie and his team conduct their annual “Local Consumer Review Survey“, in which they poll a representative sample of 1,000 people and published the results. Here are some of Brightlocal’s notable findings from 2018:

1. A Much Higher Percentage of Men “Always” Read Reviews

While 37% of the men within the sample reported “always” reading reviews before interacting with a business, only 15% of women reported doing so. Meanwhile, 29% of men polled reported only “occasionally” reading reviews, while 45% of women did so. As Jamie noted, this implies that businesses with a male customer base need to be thinking about their review profile online.

In thinking about what might account for this difference between men and women, my mind goes to a few possibilities:

  • Too small a sample: it could be the case that the women being polled just happened to place less importance on reviews, or visa versa for the men, and this doesn’t reflect reality. I’m looking forward to next year’s survey to see if these results are replicated.
  • Women rely on other avenues of research: To really bury myself in stereotyping here, beauty products come to mind as an example. It could be the case that with something like makeup, women trust friends or social media influencers more than they do reviews.
  • The men polled inflated their answers due to some societal/psychological stuff I won’t pretend to understand: Perhaps men feel more pressure to play the role of a responsible shopper than do women and this was reflected in how they answered survey questions.

Regardless, let’s explore the implications assuming this sample accurately reflects consumer’s review behavior.

2. Fewer Women Have Been Asked to Leave A Review

Another finding of note within BrightLocal’s study is that more men reported having been asked to leave a than women. When asked “Have you ever been asked to leave a review for a business?”, 54% of men selected, “Yes, and I did leave a review”, while 37% of women responded the same. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 25% of men selected, “No, I’ve never been asked”, while 44% of women responded the same. Meanwhile, 21% of men and 20% of women responded with, “Yes, but I didn’t leave a review”, respectively.

So what can we take away from this? Assuming this sample of the 1,000 people surveyed is an accurate representation of people more generally, this tells us a few things:

  • Ask women for reviews: The biggest takeaway for me from this finding is that ONLY 37% OF WOMEN HAVE EVER BEEN ASKED TO WRITE A REVIEW. From an online marketing perspective, this is astonishing. I urge each of my clients to make a policy out of asking for Google reviews from every one of their clients (assuming the relationship is good). To hear that 44% of women have never been asked to write a review is astounding. Additionally, assuming your customer base is an even spread between men and women, it’s a good idea to have a representation of your female clientele online for potential customers that are also female. My intuition tells me that women relate better to the testimonials of other women when shopping around, and vice versa for men. Given that a smaller percentage of the women that were asked to leave a review did so, this is something to take into account when assessing your review profile to make sure women are represented. It should be noted that as with most things SEO, there’s debate around just how valuable online reviews are, and if you’re getting them, which platforms glean the most value per review. That being said, not one of these voices is suggesting that reviews have no value or aren’t worth having and asking for.
  • Ask everyone for reviews: Looking at the last bullet, the same applies to men. 44% of women responded as never having been asked to write a review, while 25% of men responded in kind. That’s still a lot of men, and a lot of missed opportunities for reviews.

People Are Reading Businesses’ Responses to Reviews

The most surprising finding from BrightLocal’s survey is how often potential clients read businesses’ responses to reviews. According to the survey, when asked, “When searching for a local business, do you read businesses’ responses to their reviews?” men responded with the following: “Yes, always” (37%), “Yes, regularly” (27%), “Yes, occasionally” (27%), “No, never” (9%). Women responding with the following: “Yes, always” (20%), “Yes, regularly” (24%), “Yes, occasionally” (43%), “No, never” (13%). What this tells me, above all else, is that people are interested in businesses’ responses to reviews. In the likelihood that an irate customer leaves a scathing review with less than the full story, don’t let that be the full narrative potential customers see. If you respond with the full picture (e.g.

So What?

If you remember one thing from today, let it be this: reviews are important, ask ALL your clients to write them. If you can remember two things, also remember to respond to exceptional (in the good or bad way) reviews.

Site Kit by Google: Check-in on Your Site in one Location

Google announced a new site plugin that plans on making many aspects of web admins and business owners jobs more streamlined and efficient.

This new plugin dubbed Site Kit by Google will be a free, open source plugin that will incorporate many different Google tools and products into one easily readable dashboard. A perfect location to check on the health of your site.

In the first release of the plugin, Google has integrated four tools. Here is what Google currently says will be available on the dashboard.

  • Search Console: Learn how users discover your content on Google Search.
  • Analytics: Understand how users navigate your site.
  • AdSense: Set up AdSense and monitor your earnings.
  • PageSpeed Insights: Identify critical performance optimizations for your site.”

The plugin will also include deep links to Google tools and advanced reports.

Site Kit will begin Beta testing in early 2019. Mockingbird will keep our eyes out for the release of the full plugin later this year and will keep you updated as more information is released. Subscribe to our Newsletter to stay informed on this and many other aspects of the legal marketing industry.

Don’t Turn a Blind Eye to How Your Phone is Answered

Almost every law firm has a dedicated person answering their main phone line, but not many are regularly auditing their calls. The initial touchpoint for a potential client is a crucial step in whether or not they’ll hire you, so why wouldn’t you put the same time, money, and effort into intake training as you do for the marketing that drives those calls to you in the first place?

As a marketer, it’s my job to drive calls to your office. What happens when they contact you is completely in the hands of your intake team.

I’ve had multiple conversations with clients who believe their intake process is superb, only to call in myself and have a less than favorable experience with their gatekeeper. If I have a bad experience, potential clients are also having a bad experience, which means they’re probably not going to hire you.

There are a few options, depending on how involved you’d like to be, in the auditing/training of your intake team:

  1. You can mystery shop your own office and create a script off of your findings
  2. You can use your marketing agency to mystery shop or listen to your recorded phone calls and give feedback
  3. You can hire an intake specialist to coach you on how to properly answer your phone and capture more leads

Which ever method you choose, continue to be involved with your intake team. Your intake team is the first personal connection made on behalf of your firm, make sure it’s a good one.

How Bad Chat Implementation Can Kill Your Website

It’s already hard enough getting people to your site, so once you’ve succeeded in having a prospect click an advertisement or organic result, you want to do everything you can to convert them into a client. At the least, you want to have a chance to see if they’re a good fit for your services.

Unfortunately, one of the tools that’s supposed to make it as easy as possible for people to contact you can have the exact opposite result you’ve intended. Offering a “chat” option on your site, when done poorly, can absolutely kill your conversions and send your bounce rate through the roof.

We’ve written before about how you should be very cautious with the way chat is implemented on your site. However, one recent incident noted by Premier Law Group, highlighted the importance of carefully monitoring any changes to your chat script.

Premier Law Group has managed to keep their bounce rate somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-25%. This means that only approximately 1 in 5 visitors leave the site without viewing more than one page.

The traditional chat interface they’ve used has been the somewhat obtrusive, but fairly commonplace dropdown similar to what’s pictured below:

typical chat dropdown display

It’s pretty annoying, but only takes up the upper portion of the screen.

Following negative feedback from users about the annoyance of having a chat bar cover the top of the screen by default, the firm attempted to mitigate this by immediately displaying the chat popup and allowing users to clear it if they didn’t want to use the feature.

It had the exact opposite result of what they’d hoped.

Analytics for Thursday, Oct. 4th
Analytics for Thursday, Oct. 5th

Can you tell which day they changed the chat interface to a full screen popover?

There’s been plenty written about the SEO dangers of using pop-ups, but this highlights exactly how poor the user experience is when you aggressively push something that’s only useful to a very small percentage of visitors.

Premier Law Group was savvy enough to immediately catch the jump in their bounce rate, concede that the well-intentioned change was a bad idea, and revert to the previous chat display.

The full screen takeover was live for a few days, and immediately following the change back to the old version, the bounce rate settled back into the 20% range.

The eventual compromise was to move the chat display to the bottom of the screen, so at least the top navigation is accessible when it’s being shown on arrival.

Ultimately, whether the additional conversions from chat is worth sacrificing user experience is a question every firm should think about prior to implementation. However, once you decide to add chat on your site, be very careful about how it’s displayed or you might be doing a lot more harm than good.