Google My Business Q&A Becomes a Negative Review

When is that negative client review not technically a negative client review…yet your most public negative client review ever?

When your disgruntled ex-client chooses to use Google My Business’ recently launched Q&A functionality to bash your business IN ALL CAPS, instead of using the typical review stars. I ran across the example below while researching the firm as the winning plaintiff in the example of name bidding for my last post. Now, Kurgis has 44 reviews – with an average star rating of just 2.3 – that’s hard to do. But, even worse, there’s a scathing Q&A (which is frankly neither a Q nor an A) showing up prominently in the Knowledge Graph when searching for the lawyer by name.

Sidenote: there’s something hinky going on here – the A: for the Q&A points prospects to Scott Shiff…who was coincidentally Kurgis’ co-plaintiff in the lawsuit I was covering.

Q&A rolled out within the past 6 months or so…very few lawyers are using it for their marketing efforts (one obvious easy example would be asking a simple question like, “What is the initial consultation fee?”) BUT…Q&A holds a very prominent spot in the SERPS – well above editorial review content. So, bad or good, Q&A can have a significant impact on click through and conversion rates.

How ONE Link drove an 11% Traffic Increase

Far too few agencies talk about link building and, in my humble (or not so humble) opinion, most that do, do an absolute garbage job.  Blake Denman posted this shot on Twitter the other day, of the backlink profile for “link building” work done by an agency. This stuff is pure garbage (yet most firms don’t know it).

Blake then postulated (IMO, correctly) how these garbage links (paid for by a client to an agency) actually had the end result of decreasing, not increase organic traffic:

This type of activity is NOT only paid for by the client, but then requires a client to a) notice the negative impact and b) hire someone else to clean up the mess. We call this Janitorial SEO. This is Blake’s joy to deal with for the next few months, and the client’s headache to pay him for it.

So…

What should a firm be doing about link building?

I want to showcase one example of a significant, permanent increase in organic traffic due to just a single link on a site we’ve been working on for years. Now the graph below doesn’t scream amazing, but the difference in average weekly organic traffic between the weeks January 22nd and 29th is a persistent increase of 11%.

The link in question was from a very high ranking site – ahrefs puts it at DR, 82; Moz’s OpenSiteEplorer at 83 and Majestic Citation Flow at 61. The content in question took weeks to develop and the outreach, was frankly hit or miss. In fact, it wasn’t our outreach that drove the link, but instead, the tweet from a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend (this is the way social really works). And just one link. And yet…boom. A 12% increase that will benefit the site for years to come.

So…how do you know if your agency is engaged in useful (I’ll call it advanced) link building, or link building so bad that it’s not just a waste of money, but it’s going to cause you to spend more money to clean their work up in the future? The first answer is easy: a good link building campaign is both long term and effective. This means, that over time, your inbound search traffic shows an up and to the right improvement. In the case of this site, that’s exactly what we’ve seen…below is the long term graph of their search traffic, in which we’ve done nothing more than generate strong content married to a proactive link building effort.

However, the quality of your agency’s link building efforts can be more immediately assessed based on the tenor of your relationship. Are you deeply engaged with your agency? Do they know what you are working on (amazing – specific matters can be link building gold). Have they pushed you on outreach and relationship building?

One final note: this level of engagement, expertise, relationships, content development, care and effort isn’t cheap. And it’s not always successful (which also makes it not cheap). But it’s the primary thing that drives success in organic and local search. If your agency is doing link building and you have NO idea what they are doing, most likely it’s not high level and you are simply torching your kids’ college fund. (Although, watch your traffic, if its growing, I’m more than happy to be wrong here).

If you’d like to read more about link building try:

 

The ONLY Question You Need to Ask Prospective SEO Vendors

Last week was particularly painful – I reviewed a $1,700 a month FindLaw site with pages carelessly duplicated. I looked at a firm paying $800 a month for SEO for a website without H1s. I analyzed a site with a $50,000 price tag (yes – four zeros) that didn’t have a robots.txt file. So, don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of self-proclaimed SEO “experts” who wouldn’t know the difference between a canonical tag and a fluffernutter. But The premise of this article assumes you can do a decent job weeding out the flagrant SEO charlatans and social media marketing consultants guaranteeing Pinterest followers will catapult you to the top of the search results and instead addresses the more important question:

How do you identify an advanced agency from those that are merely competent?

I’ve written a few times about how to vet an SEO provider…

…but I think those articles may be overthinking the key point.

To answer this question, I’m looking to the tactical focus of our engagements for large firms in heavily competitive markets. Once we’ve completed the Janitorial SEO phase – cleaning up all of the pre-existing technical, content, penalty and platform disasters – we move into a maintenance phase. And during this phase roughly 70% of a client’s investment goes towards linkbuilding. So its obvious to me…the only important question you need to ask when looking for a genuinely advanced agency:

Describe your most effective linkbuilding campaign over the past three months.

Know that there is no singular right answer to this question – but thematically you are listening for a few things.

  1. Creativity – effective linkbuilding entails a creative approach to stories, facts and opportunities to generate stories for a highly interested (and online) audience. You are looking for someone who can either generate a unique perspective commenting on existing stories, or, better yet, be active in actually generating the news. Fundamentally – listen for someone taking a creative angle on a story or even a unique approach to the content medium – infographics, video or unusual content.
  2. Collaboration – without a doubt, our most successful linkbuilding campaigns involve deep cooperation with our clients. They know their issues, stories and perspectives better than we do – and we facilitate creativity through brainstorming sessions that include the client directly.
  3. Outreach – great content alone is impotent if no one reads it. “Content is King” is one of the lies lazy SEOs tell their clients – shifting the responsibility of the failure of an SEO campaign to their clients for not blogging enough. (See SEO Regicide, Content the King is Dead for more.) Find an agency who is able to identify raving fans and has an outreach plan for reaching those raving fans through social, email, phone or even traditional PR. Our most recent linkbuilding coup included a $17,000 spend with a PR agency that generated stories and links from places like the New York Times, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal’s Law Bog, as well as 40 other sites.
  4. Timeliness – in many cases, great stories are fleeting – so being able to jump on issues, turn around content and execute on outreach quickly is extremely important.
  5. Failure – note that high-end linkbuilding isn’t guaranteed. At least half of the time efforts are going to fall flat. (And just 10%-20% of the time, agencies deliver a home run.) Experienced agencies know this and should prepare clients for this possibility.
  6. Variety – a strong, organic backlink profile is built through a variety of tactics; agencies who rely on a singular approach to linkbuilding are often walking you towards a penalty.

Of course, you want to avoid like the plague, agencies who promise links, guarantee links, offer to buy links, or suggest in any way that they have a simple, scaleable solution to a complex, unscalable challenge.

Don’t expect to be able to hire someone who can engage in advanced linkbuilding at $500 a month or even $2,000 a month. This is hard, creative, uncertain work – it requires experience, brainstorming, contacts, writing panache, timing and a heavy heavy dose of luck to be successful. It’s an ongoing process

Also note that some Big Box website and SEO vendors are able to easily slot your site into a network of domains they control to generate links back to you. This is flagrantly against Google’s best practices and I’ve dealt with more sites than I care to count where the Janitorial SEO phase has lasted for months as we’ve dug a site out from a penalty. BUT…currently these networks can be effective when implemented by the more crafty Big Box providers. Law firms pay for the value of these links through exorbitant “hosting” costs that run into the hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars a month, when the actual cost should be between $5 and $29. Note that this is a risky approach – my take is that it’s a matter of when, not if, the sites get burned. Additionally, leave the vendor, and those links will slowly disappear from your backlink profile – leaving your site impotent.

Why You Can’t (and Won’t) Win Google’s Local Pack

A great Local SEO study came out yesterday from Juris Digital going over a single case study for “car accident lawyers” in every zip code in Houston. While much came from the study, two things stood out for me as they pertain to lawyers and search:

  1. Searcher proximity is a MAJOR impact on results.
  2. The sheer volume of firms is surprisingly large.

Point #1 is pretty obvious and Google has been pushing this messaging very aggressively.

Point #2 was much more surprising. Of the 138 different searches conducted (admittedly NOT a scientific sample size) – there were a whopping 82 different firms that showed up, with 22 of them showing up only once. The largest marketshare was less than 5%.

This means there’s not only massive variability in who shows up in local, but also that there aren’t any “winners.” Furthermore, you can’t accurately assess your local performance with a self conducted ranking test.

In summary, you are not working to “win” in Local Search, your agency is working to enable you to participate in the rotation of firms – and at best, you are looking at a 5% marketshare of those queries. This is one of the greatest things Google has shifted in order to spread some of the love around. It’s also a reason why there’s so much spam on the mapped results. Now if only I could get Google to rotate the directory results out of organic, I’d be doing just fine…

Is the Avvo Rating Gone with the Sale?

Yesterday brought news of Avvo’s sale, 12 years after the company was founded.  The news sent me scurrying back to the old site where I noticed (I think) something new…. the Avvo Rating no longer displaying on Lawyer profile pages. See Avvo GC, Josh King’s profile below.

Now, I’m not sure this is a)brand new and/or b)intentional – as in…. was this taken down because of the acquisition or is it just sloppy coding – which would be unusual for the Avvo dev crew.  If you view a profile, you can see the AR still loads momentarily (right under the picture where it says “Not Yet Reviewed”, but then quickly flashes out.

.Law Comes Clean About SEO

I was bemused to see a tradeshow booth from .law at the recent AAJ conference in Louisville (which was awesome btw).  And further bemused to know that Carl Jaeckel would be speaking to the conference about the TLD.  To be honest, I sat in the back of the room, huddled with fellow internet marketing shiny object curmudgeon, Gyi Tsakalakis as we plotted gotcha questions to fry Carl on stage.

To catch you up to speed if you know nothing of .law…. in 2015, this new Top Level Domain (TLD – think “.com” “.gov” and now “.law”) was introduced and aggressively advertised as an SEO silver bullet by the marketers behind .law.  (IMO $200 a year for domain registration seemed a beyond slightly excessive.)  This marketing included a bogus “case study” conducted by SEO veteran Bill Hartzer, vigorous PR outreach, a slick brochure (which seems to have been purged from the web), “sponsored” articles placed in legal and marketing blogs and a backlash from Google directly.  Regardless, the case study was touted widely among those selling the new TLD, including FindLaw and John Morgan of Morgan and Morgan, the chairman of the new domain selling service.

Over the past two years, our firm dealt with more than 10 .law domains that failed to generate anything in the way of Search Traffic – at great expense to the lawyers duped into purchasing the domains on the false pretext of SEO awesomeness.

But…. Carl (Morgan’s former CMO and COO of .law from the very beginning) gave us the straight honest truth, albeit two years late. At the AAJ conference, in response to a point blank question about the SEO benefits of the new .TLD, Carl replied:

I’d love to sit here and lie to tell you that you put on a .law and it will amazingly shoot you to the top of the search rankings. – Carl Jaeckel

So there you have it…. the .law marketers were lying all along (and they knew it… there’s a very good reason John didn’t move forthepeople.com to forthepeople.law.)  When I introduced myself and spoke with him later, thanking him for his candor, Carl blamed the “marketing people” for the false SEO promises.

But, when someone comes peddling these new domains (and they will), don’t fall for fuzzy vagaries of what Google may or may not do in the future to change their perspective on TLDs. The SEO silver bullet will NOT be based on “a new .law suffix that could set off a domain gold rush” (which was the 2015 title of an ABA Journal article that has also since been purged from the site, at whose bidding, I don’t know).

Looking Back on SEO in 2017

For better or worse, 2017 has been a year of change. We have a new president in The White House, Fidget spinners (briefly) swept the nation, and (most importantly) Beyoncé gave birth to twins.

But don’t worry, I’m not here to talk about politics, strange toy fads, or future royalty Sir and Rumi Carter.

I’m here to talk about SEO. So let’s begin by looking back to some of the biggest SEO trends of 2017.

1. Reviews Dubbed Most Prominent Local SEO Ranking Factor

Having a significant amount of reviews has been highly correlated with ranking in organic search, even if the website in question has a poor “link profile.” Beyond the amount of reviews the business has, the quality of those reviews will affect ranking. If a review is rich with keywords, such as city names and practices, then it is more likely to have a positive impact on ranking.

To digital marketers the importance of reviews in ranking comes as no surprise. At the end of the day, Google wants to provide users with the best possible experience from start to finish. That means providing information that will help consumers choose the best product or service possible.

It is highly unlikely that reviews will lose their value in 2018, so if you are interested in improving your organic ranking, ask your happy clients if they might be willing to write you a review.

2. The Roll Out of Google’s Mobile-First Search Index

In 2017, Google began rolling out their new mobile-first search index, meaning that Google will now use the mobile version of a website’s content to determine page ranking in search results. This change was made in order to keep up with users and how they are accessing the web, which today is primarily through mobile devices.

If you are curious whether your website passes Google’s mobile-friendliness standards, you can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, along with the help of the Mockingbird’s simple mobile-testing guide to find out.

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3. Ad Extensions (& More Ad Extensions)

In 2017 Google gave ad extensions, and more ad extensions and more ad extensions. The list includes:

  1. Sitelink Extensions
  2. Call Extensions
  3. Location Extensions
  4. Callout Extensions
  5. Structured Snippet Extensions
  6. Review Extensions
  7. Message Extensions
  8. Affiliate Location Extensions
  9. Price Extensions
  10. App Extensions

Ad extensions are beneficial for both users and businesses alike. They allow users to quickly and efficiently interact with ads, and they allow businesses to serve users useful information while taking up more space on the search engine results page…space that would have otherwise been occupied by another website.

AdWords Sitelink Extensions

If you want to know more about these extensions, you can read more about what ad extensions are and how to utilize ad extensions in the legal industry.

Summation

The SEO trends we’ve seen in 2017 have only confirmed what we already knew: Google puts users first. Every algorithmic change is made in order to improve user experience in the long run. Google is smart (like scary smart), and spammy marketing tactics that don’t benefit the user will eventually result in a bump down in ranking, hence Mockingbird’s 5th commandment:

White Hat to a Fault – “Don’t engage in unethical marketing – we are in business for the long term, as are our clients.”

Lawyers of Distinction’s New Top Dog

Mockingbird Marketing is pleased to announce that Lucy Davis of Seattle, Washington has been accepted as a member of Lawyers of Distinction. Lawyers of Distinction limits its membership to the top 10% of attorneys in the United States, and accepts only those who pass their objective evaluation of an attorney’s reputation, experience, license, qualifications, and disciplinary history. Through their vigorous research, Lawyers of Distinction has chosen to bestow this remarkable honor on our dear friend, Lucy.

Lucy Davis is a highly experienced and compassionate personal injury attorney at Davis Law Group in Seattle, WA. With many years of close client relationships, Ms. Davis takes a different approach to advocating for innocent victims of negligent crimes.

Ms. Davis is a member of the King County Bark Association and the American Kennel Club. She is also a strong supporter of the Courthouse Dogs Foundation.

In her spare time, Ms. Davis likes to take long walks and spend time with her family. During the summer months, she spends her time outdoors, either bike riding or boating around Lake Union and Lake Washington. Naturally, Ms. Davis is a die-hard UW Huskies fan, and enjoys attending the Dawg Wagon tailgate party.

Ms. Davis received her Bachelor’s degree from Springfield University, and her Juris Dogtor from Manhattan Law School in New York.

On behalf of Mockingbird Marketing, we want to congratulate all of the skilled attorneys who have been awarded the distinction of being in the top 10% of attorneys in 2017. We can’t wait to see the great things that 2018 brings, especially for Lawyers of Distinction.

*Disclaimer: Lucy is not a lawyer, but she really did win this award. This post is satirical and meant to be humorous. If you’re in for even more of a laugh, take a look at Lucy’s marvelous acceptance speech.

Flossing and Blogging

Ahhh… new years resolutions.  Like “I’m going to blog more.”

I remember my business school friend, Josh Strauss proudly proclaiming to our MBA section that his new years resolution was to floss – and now I think of him every time I pick a stray strand of overcook beef leftover from lunch from my teeth with some waxed string.

Its early January and lawyers across the country are reinvigorated and optimistic – time to “take their firm to the next level” and “up their game” with a renewed commitment to marketing.  Which often entail promises of blogging to feed the “Content is King” beast.  (Turns out content is NOT king, but I digress.)

Blogging is a commitment – call it an annual commitment and not one to be taken lightly.  And just like that tiny roll of overpriced string in your medicine cabinet – if you stop half way through the year, things start to decay.  Nothing looks sadder and more marketing pathetic than a blog long abandoned but still posted on the homepage.

“This post from 2015…..” screams “I’ve given up and I have nothing left to say.”

Now, don’t get me wrong – blogging is super valuable.  (Especially when you do it on your own site to improve your SEO performance and not another domain, but I digress again.)  Blogging can generate links.  Can generate inbound traffic. Can establish your thought leadership. Can forge relationships. Can generate business.   These are all good things.

But.

If you are going to abandon your blog, just like Josh abandoned his flossing regimen some time around April, you are better off not getting started at all.  My guess is that those of you with the self discipline to pull out that floss once a day will do just fine blogging, but otherwise… try something else.

 

(oh – and incidentally, less I turn into a hypocrite – my new year’s resolution…. publish something every business day.)