I took the time to review the ABA’s Top 100 Blawgs Blogs for 2016…. and must commend the selection team on pulling together a great list. My personal reflection is that there was a heavy focus on finding sites with interesting, well written timely and thoughtful content — exactly the stuff that can make a blog successful.
In doing so, I found a few very interesting patterns.
Less Than Half of the Blogs Were from Law Firms
By my rough count, less than half of the blogs cited were from actual law firms – leading me to believe there is still a lot of room for (extremely high quality) content development coming out of law firms. Naturally, there were a lot of law professors and news writers with a legal bent as well as advocacy/reform type content, like Prison Law Blog. (Which incidentally is written by a currently incarcerated, Christopher Zoukis, who plans on going to law school upon his release – inspirational story.)
BigLaw Dominates the List
Of the blogs that represented law firms – roughly two out of three were from large firms…. and down at the bottom end of the size market, just 4 solos made the list. Perhaps this is a reflection of the marketing/PR departments lobbying for list inclusion, but there’s got to be more room for the little guys!
Some Law Firms Don’t Own Their Blog
One of the most surprising findings was that two of the domains were not registered to the law firm, but to their agency instead. Historically, FindLaw has been notorious for this practice – in which the firm doesn’t own the asset they are paying for. If the domain isn’t registered to your firm, you don’t control that domain and your agency holds all of the cards. Put another way: you rent your site; you don’t own it. Nervous? I wrote a post on How to Use Who.is to See if You Own Your Domain; you can see from the WhoIs listings below that the blogs for Constangy Brooks Smith and Prophete and Franczek Radelet are registered to their agency, LexBlog instead of the firm.
80% of Blogs are OFF Primary Domain
Of the law firm blogs – 4 out of 5 of them live on standalone domains. This runs against foundational SEO theory – in which the consolidation of a blog’s natural linkbuilding prowess helps the firm rank in both local and organic search. I suspect much of this is due to the internal politics of getting a subject specific blog launched amidst a wide reaching BigLaw environment. Gyi Tsakalakis has argued that highly technical, subject specific, stand-alone blogs are very appropriate for law firms attracting referrals from b-to-b lawyers seeking specialists, instead of consumer-facing practices like car accidents or divorce. BUT…. from a marketing perspective when SEO is concerned, there is widespread consensus that blogs belong on a firm’s primary domain.
This is a review of a Benchmarking study I conducted for the American Bar Association quantifies the question:
How much business does SEO generate?
This has been an oft disputed theory – although frankly I’ve never understood the dispute – but there are certainly factions within the legal online marketspace who argue vociferously that SEO traffic should not be a law firm’s objective. And we’ve certainly seen many examples of low quality traffic; however, my personal thoughts echo SEO audit superstar, Alan Bleiwiess who commented on this issue:
Wait. Who says traffic from search doesn’t lead to sales? I need to meet such people. If for no other reason, than to laugh. Uncontrollably. In their faces.
So instead of letting theories clash (and to see if Alan is right)… I thought I’d actually look into the data. Turns out, SEO traffic generates inbound phone calls at a pretty consistent and strong rate. Utilizing call tracking software and and only counting first time callers we found:
SEO generates 3.35 calls for every 100 visitors.
Granted its a small sample size – and these are mostly long standing clients of mine – so they are well taken care of from an online marketing perspective (yes, I’m biased). For the most part, we’ve pruned out garbage content; focused traffic on local traffic instead of global traffic and heavily invested in high converting terms from a content perspective. You will note, from the graph above, there still is a wide array of success here – from about 1 call/100 session to 6 calls/100 sessions. (And yes – we are digging deep into each of these firms to understand what those differences are – but that’s a study I’m keeping just for my own clients.) We also found, those firms in the study who were PI firms – that average rose to 4.5. And if you really want to nerd out and go back to your graduate stats course – the correlation coefficient between the two was .70.
Now of course, not all of these inbound inquiries are prospective clients – it may very well be someone’s spouse looking up his wife’s number to coordinate picking up the kids from soccer – or more frequently a PPC salesperson prospecting for clients. BUT…. overall there is a clear and solid line between search traffic and prospects.
You can read more on the study in the ABA Journal or see the stats behind the study here.
Law Technology Today published my post on the Law Firm Website Cost Benchmarking Study we did for the American Bar Association. You can read all of the goodies here. BUT – they didn’t include my handy dandy graphic and so, in the spirit of a picture is worth a thousand words….
(Note – study size was 81 different law firm sites, built on the WordPress platform in the US. Sites stuck on the Y axis – we simply didn’t have accurate turnaround time data for.)