Finding Your Following With a Niche Subject (And the Surprising Charm of a Mortician)

Legal writing rarely blows anyone’s socks off, and for valid reasons. Not many people want to learn about the law unless it is directly impacting their life, which makes building a dedicated following difficult. Do you know what else people don’t usually like to learn about unless they really have to?

 

Learning About the Funeral Industry

The beauty of the internet is that sometimes it gives you things you aren’t searching for, up to and including information on death practices. Ask a Mortician, a YouTube channel run by California mortician Caitlin Dougherty, has almost 1,000,000 subscribers. In her videos, Caitlin talks about various things, from the legality of home funerals to the fate of the bodies from the Titanic. She’s been doing this for years, and her channel has been building momentum from a relatively slow start. 

 

So how did she do it?

 

Well, she started by largely posting videos on topics chosen by her viewers. As the title might suggest, people would “ask a mortician” and she would answer. By this point, she’s able to post videos on just about any topic she wants and will get pretty good viewing figures. Sounds nice, right?

 

But here’s the thing: it also helps her business. Caitlin helps run a funeral home, to which she gives a call out in all of her videos. She promotes their eco-friendly services and explains their processes. If it sounds surprising that this is a thing that almost a million people subscribe to, it shouldn’t be. People love learning about things they had no idea about.

 

Now Back to Your Firm

So what can we learn from Ask a Mortician? Well for one content can take some time to gain any traction. You might have to deal with a lot of trial and error as far as what actually gets any traffic.

 

 Second, think about what people might not know. Have you run into any obscure laws in your state/practice area? What do you learn in law school that is immediately proven wrong in the real world? Do you have any stories about funny scenes that have happened in court that you can share? What do you bring to the table?

 

Third, you need to learn how to adjust course and build off what’s working. See what types of content people really seem to like. Keep making more of that. Maybe it’s videos, maybe it’s blog posts, maybe it’s a podcast. Find where you fit.

 

Fourth, find your voice. You need to have an identifiable voice that people what to hear from. Maybe it will take you a few weeks to find your voice, maybe it will take a year. No matter how long it takes, find it then keep it consistent. 

 

Is It Worth the Time Commitment?

I mean, sometimes. It certainly worked for Caitlin and her funeral home, but it’s definitely not worked for countless other creators. Whether or not it’s worth it is up to you. Are you willing to put in the hours for a potential flop?

What Does “Trust” Mean for the Legal Industry

Google can and will provide answers for just about any question you might have, but just because it provides the answer doesn’t mean you need to accept it. From queries regarding laws to questions about health, a lot of user searches impact the legal industry. Because of this, it’s important to understand how and where users trust their search results. 

 

A recent survey by Path Interactive looked into this very question, focusing specifically on medical and political queries, but touching on legal advice. These graphs show some of their findings from a sample size of 1,100 respondents:

Legal decisions: 13% never, 24% rarely, 23% sometimes, 32% often, 7% very frequently
From Moz.com/blog

 

What Can We Read Into Here?

The first thing we can take away is that fewer people make important legal decisions than medical or financial decisions based on information from Google. Only 32% of respondents often make legal decisions based on Google results, compared to the 39% who often make financial decisions and 37% that often make medical decisions.

 

So what does this mean? Well, for one let’s take a few things into account here. We learn to take care of our health and finances from a pretty young age, without professional help. Most of us learn how to handle a common cold, injuries, and basic savings and spending. We don’t all learn how to appeal a criminal charge from our parents. 

 

This means that more people may feel comfortable handling their own financial and medical issues based on advice from Google, but will seek professional advice for legal questions.

 

The fact that fewer people make legal decisions based on Google results is probably actually good business, since that means consumers are less likely to take things into their own hands and will instead hire a professional. User’s distrust of Google might be to your benefit. 

 

Using the Data 

Beyond making major life decisions, the survey looked into whether users find featured snippets and knowledge panels trustworthy. For the most part, they do. Of the respondents between the ages of 26-35, 44% find knowledge panels very trustworthy and 25% find featured snippets very trustworthy. 

Chart showing decreasing of trust in featured snippets as users get older, but most users still trust them
From Moz.com/blog

 

Chart showing inreasing trust in knowledge panels as users increase in age, but still high trust levels across the board
From Moz.com/blog

This provides a good opportunity for visibility. If users are looking for trustworthy information but are less likely to make legal decisions based on search results, they are likely looking for professional help. You are that professional help. If you can grow your image through trustworthy content, you can grow your client base.

 

Why None of This Is New

E-A-T has been a part of Google’s best practices for a long time now, with the “T” in E-A-T standing for trustworthiness. In an ideal world, you would have been producing trustworthy content for years now. Maybe you already have been. Good for you!

 

But if you haven’t been producing trustworthy content, you really should start. You don’t need a lot of it (content for content’s sake isn’t worth it), but proving your firm to be a helpful resource usually pays off in the long run.

 

In Conclusion

Expect your incoming clients to have done some research on their case prior to hiring you. People are becoming more proactive online, and the legal industry is one of the industries where consumers are less likely to try and take problems into their own hands. This is to the benefit of law firms. It means that users are not only searching for reliable information, which you can provide, but are also looking for someone to hire, which you can also provide. 

 

If you want to learn more about how your content can improve your business, you might want to look into our content development plans. Mockingbird has years of experience helping law firms audit their content and develop ongoing plans. Contact us to learn more.

SEO Shouldn’t Be Everything

4 SEO Practices You Can Ignore

 

The task of search engine optimization (SEO) is a never-ending one. Search algorithms change, user preferences shift, and plug-ins become outdated. Nevertheless, you can find countless listicles of advice on the basics of SEO (don’t worry, we see the irony of this post). This might give you the impression that SEOs know what they’re doing, or at least have worked out the failsafe paths to success. Despite all the knowledge and experience out there, there seem to be at least a few areas where the common advice can be ignored.

 

1. H1s (And H2s and H3s)

Let me preface this by saying that headers are important. Don’t abandon your headers. What I will admit is that H1s aren’t as vital as some might want you to think. As long as your headers are sequential, it really doesn’t matter if they start with an H1 or an H3. What’s important is that your content is organized in a way that both search engines and users will understand, and not necessarily in that order. 

 

2. Constant Content

We’ve talked about this quite a bit over the years, but it’s worth mentioning again: content for content’s sake isn’t as valuable as some SEOs might want it to be. This means that it’s better to produce a lower amount of content and focus on making it high quality rather than spewing out a fountain of low-quality content. No matter what anyone says, don’t invest time and effort in a blog that you don’t want.

 

3. Word Counts

SEO best practices say that the ideal length of a piece of content is somewhere between 800 and 1500 words. In reality, different websites have different needs. If you’re writing a comprehensive guide to all of the inconsistencies between state and federal criminal laws and how to handle a case that is impacted by those issues, you might need a bit more than 1500 words. If you’re adding case results, they probably don’t need as many as 800 words. Use your own best judgment when deciding how long a piece of content should be, but remember that fully fleshed out topics normally do better than brief summaries.

 

4. Writing for Keywords

Keywords are still a primary aspect of SEO, but you shouldn’t strain your writing to better fit a keyword. As AI becomes better equipped to understand users, the intent is becoming more important than keywords. As long as the topic of your content is clear and it answers a question in an authoritative way you shouldn’t try to fit in every synonym for your keyword.  

 

In Summary…

The three pillars of good content are E-A-T: expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. This means that the focus of your content should be providing quality advice from a platform that makes users feel secure. Your audience should be your priority, not the search engine. If you are creating a product that your audience appreciates, the search engine will follow.

How to Get The Most Out of Your Blog

Maintaining a blog can feel like a fruitless chore, believe me, I get it. You can add and add to it and see no returns on 95 percent of your blog posts. So how can you turn it around and how can you know if it’s even worth it to keep going?

 

Breaking Out of the Spiral of Dis-Content

If you feel like your blog is going nowhere, chances are you don’t have a clear idea of where it’s supposed to go. Without a goal in mind it’s impossible to write functional content.

Your first step is deciding what type of audience you’re writing for, and what part of that audience you want to become clients. Write about what they want to know and, more importantly, what they need to know.  This will help you figure out where your blog is going and will hopefully inspire some interesting posts that drive traffic.

 

Linking to Your Practice

One of the important things to remember about your blog is that it doesn’t have to be directly related to your practice area. You can write about a specific subsection of the law that you find particularly interesting. This will help you stay interested in it while also starting to rank for those long-tail keywords. 

Once you’ve figured out your focus, you can try to find places where it might link to your firm as a whole. Think of where it overlaps with your practice areas. This will help traffic flow to the rest of your site and into your firm.

 

Find a Schedule That Works for You

Daily blogs can honestly be a bit excessive. Annual blogs are a bit sparse. Try to find a schedule that makes sense given your bandwidth and list of ideas. This might mean once a week, twice a month, once a month, or any period. 

Once you have found a cycle that works for you be sure not to get married to it. If a current news story is incredibly relevant to your practice or your blog, write a surprise post. Staying flexible will be your friend.

 

Guest Post

As far as publicity and link building goes, not much works better than guest-blogging. If you can write a post for a well-known publication, or get a well-known author write a post for you, you are building the authority of both you and your blog.

 

Stop the Blog if it Isn’t Working

Not all law firms need blogs. They aren’t a requirement for your bar membership and if no one’s reading it, it’s just costing time. Try to take steps to improve it, but if it still isn’t driving any traffic after a year or 18 months, don’t feel bad for abandoning it. You can pick it up again at any point if you feel the desire, but don’t feel bad for not doing that.

 

If you are worried about your blog and feel like your content could be improved, consider our content development plan. Mockingbird can help you audit your blog, cut what’s slowing your site down, and make a plan for building on what you need. Contact us to learn more.

What is a Manual Action and How Do I Fix It?

Google tries to be vigilant about spam. It really does. Link building schemes, black hat tactics, and malicious software are some of the main things Google looks for. When it finds them, it might respond with a Manual Action.

 

So What is a Manual Action?

A manual action is when an actual, real-life member of Google’s team checks in on your websites and penalizes it for going against best practices. Manual actions can take a variety of forms and can be consequences of a variety of things.

 

Types of Manual Actions

 

  • Partial Matches (partial de-indexing)

If Google finds pages in violation of best practices it might de-index those specific URLs. This means that they will no longer show up in search results. This can be done to a page, sub-domain, forum, or any section of a domain. A partial match action is generally the best possible scenario for webmasters who are facing spam attacks, as the domain is still functioning and traffic can still find your site. It is still important to try and fix the issue and lift the action as soon as possible.

  • Whole Site Matches (total de-index)

If the problem is found to be larger than a few key URLs, Google may de-index the entire domain. This is a harsh penalty, but it can be reversed once the site complies with webmaster guidelines. Whole site matches are generally implemented when a site flagrantly ignores guidelines by cloaking content, redirecting users, and exposing users to malicious content. If your site is facing a whole site match, you need to consider what brought you there and if you need to change course.

 

What Might Cause a Manual Action

 

Google has a long list of reasons for invoking manual actions. Most of them involve spam links, as link building schemes are about the most forms of breaking best practices that webmasters do. The complete list includes:

 

  • User-generated spam

User-generated spam is spam that comes not from the webmaster, but the users of the website. This happens in forums and comments sections of websites.

  • Unnatural links to and from your site

This refers to link building schemes and spam attacks. If your site is suddenly sending thousands of links to a single, low authority site or is showing signs of spammy link exchanges, or has thousands of links from one low-authority site, Google might reprimand the URL or domain.

  • Thin or duplicate content

This is more subjective, as some sites do not need large amounts of content. That being said, many sites have unnecessary numbers of pages with practically duplicate content, which often sees penalties.

  • Cloaked content/images

This is a pretty old-school black hat technique, and Google is pretty good at finding when people try to implement it. Cloaking refers to showing different content to humans than to the GoogleBot. They can do this by having one image cover another, writing paragraphs of keywords in the same color as the background of the page, or stuffing keywords into gibberish text. Google really doesn’t appreciate these techniques and comes down pretty hard on those that do it.

  • Redirects

Redirects, whether desktop or mobile, refers to when a user clicks on a link to one website then gets redirected to another, completely unrelated, URL. The penalties are usually applied when the redirect goes to a site that is harmful or the redirect is malicious in it’s intent (i.e. sending a user looking for cartoons to a porn site).

 

How to Fix a Manual Action

Fixing a manual action starts by fixing the problem you were originally penalized for. If you were hit for displaying spam comments you might want to delete those comments and block the IPs they were sent from. If you were hit with a spam link attack, go through the disavow process and clean up your referrals. Google has recommendations on how to fix your website after all types of manual actions. 

Once you have made the changes you need to make, you can make a reconsideration request. This is a request for Google to re-review your website and lift the manual action. 

Sometimes you do the work, write the request, and get a denial. This means you didn’t do the fullest work you needed to do. Get back to work and draft a new reconsideration request. 

 

Final Thoughts

Don’t mess with Google. Even if they wrongly put a manual action against you, you apologize and follow the recommendations they give you. Google holds all the power.

When Snippets Don’t Help

It’s general knowledge that ranking highly on Google is a good thing. It drives traffic, improves authority by making it more accessible, and increases brand awareness. But what happens when ranking doesn’t improve the business?

 

One of our domains has six featured snippets in their top eight pages, as ranked by Ahrefs.com. Featured snippets are the gold standard of rankings. They get high volumes of traffic, are valuable, and mean the page is pretty well optimized. If you look at the data, the first page is valued at over $2,000.

Snippets and Bouncing

One of the struggles related to featured snippets is the high bounce rate. People look for answers, find them, and then move on. Of the six snippets, only one has a bounce rate lower than 80%. This is pretty terrible, considering the site as a whole has an average bounce rate of 15%. While bouncing users may be a sign of increased brand visibility, they are also not paying the bills.

 

Snippets and Conversions

So we’re currently looking at a sample size of six snippets. Only two of them resulted in more than one conversion in the past three months, and those two didn’t exactly blow anything out of the water. This isn’t boding well for the fiscal benefits of featured snippets.

 

Expand the Sample

So we were looking at one domain. Let’s expand that. I glanced at a few of the other domains under our watchful eye and found results that weren’t all too surprising. This is all anecdotal, and further study would be good, but let’s start with what we’ve got. 

 

Conversions

When looking at the correlation between snippets and conversions, there didn’t actually seem to be much of one. Pages with featured snippets converted similar if not fewer users than pages that performed at a similar level. This makes sense, as the users who utilize featured snippets are often looking for a quick answer and don’t necessarily want to hire a lawyer. Just because you’re looking for the penalties of a second offense DUI doesn’t mean you were arrested for a second offense DUI. 

 

New Users

Ok, conversions aren’t the best metric to look at. What about new users? If the theory tracks, pages with featured snippets should be head and shoulders above the rest of the pages as far as new users go. 

 

But that isn’t always the case either. Look at this domain’s Google Analytics sorted by new users (pages with snippets are green):

Of the top 25 pages for new users, only six of them were snippet-ized. Beyond that, the average bounce rate for those six pages is 74.62%, not exactly to die for. Again, these numbers remain relatively consistent across domains. 

 

Final Thoughts

Here’s the question: are snippets worthy of being the golden goose of SEO? To be fair, our domains are all legal, which don’t exactly serve well for converting for snippets. This is one of the reasons why we don’t aim for snippets as an official business goal. While we generally consider them beneficial, we don’t see them as an instant success. Leads should always be the defining metric of the success of a campaign.

High Funnel vs Low Funnel Marketing: Knowing Your Jargon

The language of marketing has always been designed to isolate clients. Marketers use technical jargon to upsell and confuse prospective clients; an unethical power play. Well, here at Mockingbird we’re trying to tear down those walls. By providing definitions, we’re opening doors to the tough questions. We’ll start by talking about the Marketing Funnel.

 

The labels on the left refer to the stages of the funnel; the labels on the right are the page a consumer might be on at that stage in their journey

 

What is the Marketing Funnel?

The marketing funnel is the funnel being referred to when marketers talk about “high funnel” or “low funnel” tactics. The term was coined long before the internet and covers the broad stages of converting a consumer to a client. The stages are:

  • Awareness
  • Opinion 
  • Consideration
  • Preference
  • Purchase

 

In layman’s terms, these might be:

  • Becoming aware of the brand/problem
  • Doing research about the brand/problem, finding the solution (the product)
  • Doing research on other solutions, or products
  • Deciding which product they prefer
  • Buying (converting)

 

What is High Funnel Marketing?

High funnel marketing is in reference to strategies that target brand awareness over direct conversions. This might mean promoting blog posts, coordinating scholarships, or sponsoring events. It’s about getting your name out there, meeting your clients where they live.

 

What is Mid Funnel Marketing?

Mid funnel marketing is catching consumers who you know are aware of your business but might not have become clients yet. This is often in the form of remarketing, or advertising to people you know have visited your website. This reminds them of your brand and of the problem they’re looking to solve. Mid funnel isn’t as common of a term, but it has its place.

 

What is Low Funnel Marketing?

Low funnel marketing is targeting people you know are about to become clients. It’s the people who might have something in their cart but haven’t proceeded to check-out in the past week. It can also be advertising to people directly searching for the problems you cover. If you’re an LGBTQ+ friendly family lawyer specializing in child custody in the North Platte, Nebraska area and someone types “same-sex child custody lawyer Lincoln, NE,” you should target them specifically. 

 

Is High Funnel or Low Funnel Better?

It depends on your goals. If you are trying to increase traffic to your site and broaden your market then high funnel is probably good for you. If you are just trying to get clients, low funnel is preferable. Of course, the best option is a balance of both. You can’t have a business without brand awareness, but you also can’t have a business if no one is buying anything.

 

How Do I Keep People Moving Down the Funnel?

Remarketing is a good way to keep people moving and in the funnel. Previously mentioned about mid-funnel marketing, remarketing mainly just reminds consumers that if they haven’t found a solution for their problem yet, there’s a brand that has solutions. You’ve seen remarketing in action when you look at a product then see ads for that exact product everywhere for the next three days. It’s considered a highly effective strategy.

 

Where Does this Blog Post Fit in the Funnel?

This blog post would be considered high funnel, as it’s targeted at a more general audience than our specific market. Since it’s informational rather than opinion-based it’s designed to be picked up by search engines and answer people’s general questions on marketing funnels. If you start seeing ads for Mockingbird or decide to look at what services we offer, you’ll have entered the middle of the funnel. If you eventually become a client, congrats on two accounts! First for making it all the way through the funnel, second for getting a great marketing team for your law firm.

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.

A Guide to Using Ahrefs’ Internal Backlinks Tool

Ahrefs has a plethora of useful tools and resources. Since the publishing of that post, a few new features have been added. One of these features in the “Internal Backlinks” tab:

Internal backlinks located under Backlink profile in the side menu

What Does it Do?

Put simply, it shows which pages link to which pages, all within your website. Internal linking is important for site organization, user experience, and crawling ease. The Internal Backlinks tool helps you to understand your linking structure, which pages could use more links, and which pages are only ranking well because of their internal linking. 

 

Before going into the functions, let’s go into the options.

 

Setting Up a Search

Group Similar/All

The first option to toggle is whether to look at all backlinks or just the unique ones. When All is selected, it will show you all of the links of every page, including the ones that are on every page. That means it will show the link to your contact page that appears in the upper-right hand corner of the page throughout the website. This doesn’t help if you’re trying to see if you need to link to your contact page more in your blogs. When Group Similar is selected, it filters the links that appear on every page with the exact same anchor text out of the listings. 

 

Link Type

There’s a pretty wide range of link types to look at. Some of the more important ones to know about are Dofollow and Nofollow.

  • Dofollow – These are links that search engines are allowed to follow when crawling a site. Dofollow links add authority with both internal and external links.
  • Nofollow – Nofollow links do not let search engines follow them while crawling. These should largely be the links you don’t need crawlers to crawl on every single page. This means the links in the navigation bar and the footer are generally safe to be nofollow. It is also a good link type to check to make sure links that can be dofollow are attributed as such.

 

Platform

What’s available to toggle in this section depends on how your website is set up, but chances are you have the options of “All” and “Blogs.” As you’ve probably guessed, it means you can filter what types of pages you’re seeing.

 

Language

As with Platform, the languages you can check up on are just the languages that your site has. If you have a multilingual setup then you can see which pages are being linked to in all relevant languages.

 

Traffic

In Ahrefs’ own words, traffic “estimates the total monthly search traffic to the referring page from the top 100 organic search results. It is…the sum of traffic from all organic keywords.” This metric is manageable by listing your lower and upper limits for which pages you want to see, with higher numbers being better. You can use this to see which pages are getting low traffic and trying to improve them.

 

Search Bar

The search bar is useful when looking at specific keywords and/or pages. It allows you to either include or exclude, with include being the default. This means that if you have one page that performs so well it’s an outlier, you can exclude it. 

 

Targets

The final section in the search box is what you’re targeting. You can decide to focus on URLs, titles, anchor text, and/or surrounding text, depending on your needs. 

 

Examining Functions

Now let’s get into the functionality. As for link structures and seeing where you can build out, there are some pages where it makes sense that it’s easily accessible from just about every page on the website. An example of such a page would be your contact page. 

 

If I wanted to find how many blog posts linked to the contact page, I might set up my search like this:

This will show me all of the blogs that link to the contact page and the value of those pages. Since there are only 20 blog posts that fit the description, there’s probably room to add a few more, especially to higher-performing posts. 

 

If you want to know if any of your higher-performing pages owe their rank to internal linking, or if you want to improve the ranking of some of your lower performing pages, you can find those in Internal Backlinks as well. 

 

Measuring Authority

To do this, sort all the pages in the Internal backlinks section by UR (URL rating, a metric calculated by Ahrefs). When you have found a page with a high UR, search for it in the search bar, narrowing the search to only include URLs of referring pages. This will show all the pages that it already links to. If you think you can add more links with making the page oversaturated, add more. 

 

On the flip side, if you’re wondering what pages could be improved by being linked to,  sort by lowest to highest UR. Once you find a page that you think could use some more traffic, search for that page or keywords relating to that page. You will find which pages are linking to it, and which pages cover the topics discussed on the page that could serve as anchor text.

 

Utilizing These Tools

There’s obviously more you can do with Ahrefs and with this tool in particular. Understanding your links and ratings is an important step to understanding your website. To learn about how Ahrefs can help your law firm, contact Mockingbird.