Screwing Lawyers: Calculate The True Cost of Your Agency’s Long Term Contract

I hear this story about once a day from a frustrated lawyer… “Our marketing isn’t working.” “My agency doesn’t tell me what they are doing.” “Our rankings haven’t improved.” “The vendor won’t let us into Google Analytics.” And so on and so on.

Being frustrated with your marketing isn’t uncommon or even unfair.  Sometimes best efforts belly flop (even at my own agency.)  But the lemon juice poured in the fresh cut is recognizing that you are contractually stuck with the ineffective, lazy, useless, opaque “efforts” of your marketing agency for the foreseeable future.

I received this email today from a frustrated firm:

“Just a quick update: we unfortunately found some fine print yesterday that we had previously missed. It looks like we are stuck with FindLaw until November of 2020.”

The true cost of your long term marketing contract isn’t the value of the contract to the agency ($8,200 a month for the next 36 months…) but actually the opportunity cost of all of that lost business your firm could be generating if your agency was actually effective. Using extremely rough math…that $8,200 monthly cost equates to roughly $300K over the life of the contract, but it really should be measured as three years of your firm struggling to find clients while your bottom line bleeds…drip drip drip…into your agency’s top line.

Using basic business metrics, if that investment returned just a pathetic 4x (i.e. cost of client at 25% of the value of the matter) that $300K expense is really $1.2 million dollars in revenue your firm isn’t capturing. And, your underperforming agency has NO incentive to turn this around – because their profitability is inversely related to how hard they work for you.

So let’s be clear: entering into a long term contract with a marketing vendor benefits them, not you. As soon as you are locked in, as this is a service industry, your agency’s profitability skyrockets by doing as little as possible for you. This is compounded by the deliberate obfuscation of performance data. Ask yourself why your long term agency contract precludes you from access to your site’s Google Analytics or Google Ad campaigns. What do they not want you to see? What are they not doing for you?

You are supposed to be sophisticated savvy lawyers. Imagine how you would act if you could be hired under the same terms that you hire agencies: long term, guaranteed retainers with no requirements to share what you are allegedly doing for your clients? Would you do client work or instead hire hordes of cold callers to assail the front desks of your next prospective victim?

Oh, and before you sign…read the fine print.

Immigration Attorneys: We Want You!

So…. Since starting Mockingbird, we’ve never proactively sought business.  For the most part it has come to us.  BUT…. I’m now proactively looking for more immigration attorneys to add to our client list.  Over the past two years, we have locked down online marketing for a handful of immigration attorneys.  And at the risk of making this sound like I’m selling a set of steak knives or a used Ford Taurus – its an easy, repeatable, fool-proof system that has delivered stupendous results.

I’m writing this this morning after coming out of a conversation with one of our immigration clients that sounded something like this:

“Please turn down the efforts – we’re turning away business – I don’t even bother to reply to half of the voicemails.”

Here’s the inbound traffic growth this client has experienced since we took over his account (from a big box Legal Marketing “Expert”) – he’s now driving 9 times the traffic than prior to our engagement:

Here’s another situation – where we’re driving close to 10 calls per day to a small immigration firm.

Why Immigration? The answer is twofold threefold:

  1. We’ve spent a large amount of time (and money) learning what works and what doesn’t in Immigration.
  2. Much of our effort and experience and learnings are generated from the hypercompetitive markets of Personal Injury, Mass Torts and Criminal Defense.  Simply applying the best practices from those aggressive and overcrowded markets to the less competitive and frequently more distributed immigration market is all it takes to make a huge impact.
  3. (And yes, some of this is undeniably due to the xenophobic politics of the day.)

 

 

Google Analytics is Lying to You!

Do not trust the data in Google Analytics. It is lying to you!

Even if you installed the tracking code correctly, all the data you see is incorrect. It’s tainted, false, misleading, and wrong. It’s a huge mistake to make any decisions based on the data in Google Analytics… unless you make some essential adjustments.

Where Does the Misleading Data Come From?

Google Analytics is a very popular target for spammers and hackers. Just recently, sites across the world were hit by spam that looked like referral traffic from Lifehacker and Reddit. Semalt is another popular source that has been spamming Google Analytics accounts for years. Other spammers are more subtle and use “ghost” hosts to infiltrate your website data. Spammers are relentless, and they’re developing new techniques every week.

While spam is the primary destroyer of good data, your website traffic may be skewed for another reason. If you’re looking at traffic reports and think all the sessions are potential customers, you’re wrong. Your own office may be inflating traffic numbers without realizing it. While this is not fake traffic, it’s not valuable traffic either.

Other sources of bad data include bots, spiders, crawlers and other digital marketing tools. Call tracking and chat software often impact the quality of your Google Analytics data, and poorly coded robots can appear as human visitors. All these sources must be wiped out before you can begin to even remotely trust Google Analytics.

How To Fix Your Google Analytics Data

If you plan on using Google Analytics in any way, you must prepare your account to block all the bad data. Here at Mockingbird, this is the first thing we do before working on any website.

Step 1 – Create Multiple Views

It is very important to create multiple property views because once you start messing with Google Analytics data, there is a chance you may irreversibly break something. We suggest creating at least 3 views – Raw Data (the untouched backup), Master View (the one you use), and Test View (the one you test with, obviously). Once you have these views set up, you’re ready for step 2.

Step 2 – Create Filters

Filters block data from ever hitting your Google Analytics account. If you filter all traffic from Russia, you may still get traffic from Russia, but you won’t see it in your Google Analytics account. It is important to understand Filters apply to future data and cannot be retroactively applied. If you want to remove spam from historic data, you’ll need to apply Segments (more on that later).

Here are some examples of Filters you should create:

  • Exclude spam referral sources (we have a list of 80 that we block)
  • Exclude internal IP addresses
  • Exclude partner agencies’ IP addresses
  • Include only your Hostnames

Again, once these are applied, the filtered data is gone forever. Make sure to test each filter to make sure it works correctly.

Step 3 – Select “Bot Filtering”

This one’s easy. Google Analytics has an option under View Settings that is called Bot Filtering. It “excludes all hits from known bots and spiders.” Check the box and hit save!

Step 4 – Utilize Segments

While Filters will help keep your data clean in the future, there is still a way to save your historic spam-filled data. Create a Segment that matches your filters so it excludes the bad data. You’ll need to apply this segment every time you look at your data, but it is a great way to accurately analyze past performance.

Does This Really Fix Everything?

I wish this were the end of the story. However, spam sources continue to evolve and you’ll need to update your filters and segments regularly. Furthermore, UTM codes (used for tracking digital marketing campaigns) may wreck havoc on your account if not implemented correctly. Check your account monthly, if not weekly, to make sure your data stays clean. Create custom channel groupings if you need to.

If you or your marketing agency aren’t proactively monitoring the Google Analytics, you may be making misinformed decisions based on misleading data. Stay on top of it, and Google Analytics can be an invaluable gold mine!

Legal Connect with Google Workshop – Two October Events

We’re happy to announce not one, but two Legal Connect with Google events for October.

This is a free, day-long, hands-on Workshop specifically designed to assist lawyers in evaluating their online marketing effectiveness.  Classes are focused on local, natural and paid search and are taught by Google employees and Mockingbird founder, Conrad Saam.

So if you wanted to attend the pilot event this week at Google HQ in Mountainview, but were unable to, there’s now a second and third chance.

Victoria Fabiano, Google Strategic Partner Manager
Victoria Fabiano, Google Strategic Partner Manager

Dates and Venues

October 7 and 8 in New Orleans.   Details and Sign Up

October 17th in Google’s New York City Office.  Details and Sign Up

Workshop Description

During this intensive Workshop, experts from Google and Mockingbird guide attendees through a 12 page worksheet to evaluate the efficacy of their current online marketing efforts, with an eye towards identifying specific weaknesses or missed tactics. This is NOT a conference with talking heads delivering thinly veiled sales pitches from sponsored powerpoints, but instead a hands-on, interactive education, empowering attendees with actionable tools & tactics.

This is a HANDS ON workshop, you will need a laptop and access to your Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools and AdWords accounts, as well as your firm’s website CMS.

Elizabeth Olinger, Google Account Manager
Elizabeth Olinger, Google Account Manager

The Agenda

  • 8:30am-9:00am | Registration & Continental Breakfast
  • 9:00am-9:15am | Kick off & Welcome
  • 9:15am-10:00am | The Online Legal Marketplace
  • 10:00am-11:00am | Google Analytics & Business Metrics
  • 11:00am-11:15am | Break
  • 11:15am-12:15pm | Search – Organic
  • 12:15pm-1:15pm | Networking Lunch
  • 1:15pm-2:15pm | Search Local + Advanced Linkbuilding
  • 2:15pm-3:15pm | Search Paid

 

Are Your Partners Sending Fake Traffic?

At the risk of stating the mind-numbingly obvious: accurate reporting infrastructure is of primary importance in evaluating the efficacy of marketing channels.  We’ve recently uncovered two vendors deep in the conversion cycle, whose reporting infrastructure is double and even triple counting website traffic. (This artificially made our own reporting to the client  look much better than it actually was.)

The Issue

The issue at hand is the way conversions are reporting back to Google Analytics data. A good reporting infrastructure is built not only on traffic – but also the frequency of that traffic doing what we want – in the law firm sense, this means (for the most part) filling out an online form or calling the firm.  We’ve looked at two different cases in which both online and offline conversions are being counted as a second or even third session, which means over reporting traffic.

Apex Chat (Online Conversions)

In the case of Apex Chat, we found that when sending chat completion data (as a conversion event) back into Google Analytics, Apex actually sends a new session to GA when chat is engaged and another new session if the chat moderator marks the chat as a prospect.  These are marked as events in Google Analytics as:

  • ApexChat Chat
  • ApexChat Lead

This means, a session generating a lead is erroneously reported as three different website visits. If you dig deeper into those sessions – you see (in the graphic below) them applied to Direct traffic and that they see zero pages and zero time on site.   You’ll also notice – in this case they inflate direct traffic volume by 6%.  Not huge numbers, but not insignificant if you are watching things as closely you should.

Apex

This is simply a very sloppy integration with Google’s API – Apex told us they are aware of the issue and have a resolution; although they didn’t roll it out to us when we requested.

CallRail (Offline Conversions)

The CallRail issue is more difficult, because frankly tracking an offline conversion back into an online reporting system is tactically much more difficult.  Essentially, the phone number identifies the channel that generated the session; however, tying the call back to the specific session is much more difficult. (The work around is to utilize CallRail’s per session based phone tracking, a significantly more expensive alternative.)  But you can see, given the sheer volume of calls generated by a website, that there’s a large inflation of sessions – in this case, they are accurately allocated to the appropriate marketing channel – so traffic for all channels gets artificially inflated.  In our example, this was a sitewide artificial increase of 9%.  In the graphic below, look at the dramatic difference in patterns between the inaccurate (first column of graphs) and accurate (with the duplicated traffic removed) second column of graphs.

CallRail

For now, I’ll reject my internal cynic and reject the hypothesis that some especially crappy agencies are deliberately implementing tools to artificially boost their numbers….. or, hmmmm, maybe I’ve just enabled them with the information to do so.

Tools We Love: CallRail

As you’ll recall, we love data here at Mockingbird. We have previously mentioned why we love call tracking. At the time, we discussed a few of the available tools out there but recently we find we’re really in love with one:

CallRail.

Why you ask? Because it’s so damn powerful and extremely easy to setup. The reporting is great and if you did nothing more than simply set it up and install it, you’d have more than enough information to use. And boy is it useful. Want to know how many calls your Adwords campaign produced? Now you will! Armed with that information, you can calculate your costs per lead, prospect and client. If you know what each client earns you, you can even calculate your ROI.

What does it do? When your customers visit your site, they’ll be presented with a phone number that will dynamically mask your main phone number. The number changes depending on how they found you. Your customers will be cookied as well, so should they return to your site within a year, that same number will populate.

How does it work? You sign up for CallRail, set up your channels and then install a WordPress plugin that will mask your main number on your site. For the most part it’s that simple. If you’re not on WordPress (you should be), you can install a script that will swap the number.

One quick caveat: You should never enter your tracking number into a directory website in place of your main number. Yes there are exceptionsbut exercise caution if you don’t know what you’re doing here. We do NAP (Name, Address, Phone) clean ups all the time, and we don’t want to have you hire us for this.

You will need to create a tracking number for each advertising channel. In figure 1. you’ll see a basic setup example.

The main four channels
Figure 1. The main four channels

As you’ll note, we’re capturing the main channels here. For search, you can lump all the major engines into one bucket called “All Search” for “Paid” and “Organic.” We might suggest that you lump all organic into one bucket, and then break out your paid search campaigns into their own sources. You can certainly create one number each for Google, Yahoo and Bing for paid search and organic if you choose.  Figure 2. shows how you can organize your campaigns further.

  1. Direct – People who type in your website directly. www.yoursite.com
  2. Adwords
    1. This is “Google” for “Paid”
  3. Organic
    1. We’re using “All Search” for “Organic” here.
  4. Referral
    1. This channel fires after all other channels. Consider it a catch-all for all traffic that isn’t coming from paid, organic or direct from your site. As an example, this could be a referral from a directory site. Yelp.com is an example (and of course, if you pay for Yelp, you can assign a tracking number specifically to this channel).

Other Ways to Track

Tracking Sources
Figure 2. Things you can track

If you look closer at Figure 2, you will notice a few additional options. You can track people who land on a specific landing page, or even click on eternal links that contain a UTM code. You can even track “Offline” sources. These would be great for direct mail pieces that prioritize a call as opposed to a site visit.

Some of the More Amazing Features

Call Flows
Figure 3. Call Flow Options

If you just used CallRail for tracking, that would be enough, but why stop there? You can set up Call Flows, which are in essence an “If This Then That” system for routing your calls (Figure 3.) As an example, you could have a caller that dials a specific number between 8 AM and 5 PM routed to one of a few numbers in a round robin fashion. Should there be no answer, you can have that call sent to voicemail, or your cell phone. Calls outside of that time can be routed in a different manner.

These numbers even receive text messages if you enable it. Sure you’d have to make sure you can answer these text messages in a timely fashion, but it’s one more way that your potential customers can interact with you (just remember to have them opt-in, if your local laws dictate this. I’ll leave the legal ramifications to you lawyers).

Copilot
Figure 4. Copilot

You can even dial out from any of your assigned numbers using their CoPilot section. You simply click, “Place Outbound Call” and you’ll tell the system who you’re calling, what number you’re calling with, and what number you’re at. You coulld place a call from this system using your cellphone, and the person you dial would see the business number. Copilot also  allows you to see live or recent calls, place calls and answer or send text messages.

Form Captures. Yep, if you have contact forms on your site, CallRail can capture that information as well. It includes the typical input fields like name, email address and also includes referrer information (e.g. Yelp.com).

Call Recording. This can be hand in a number of ways.

You can (and should) enable the Google Analytics integration. This will place the call data in to Analytics for you in the form of events.

Heck, you could even track keywords, but that’s a completely different setup, and likely the topic of another post. Keep in mind that CallRail also has FANTASTIC support and a great, up to date knowledge base.

So what’s stopping you? Let us know what you think in the comments.

 

 

Introducing the Echo Legal Marketing Platform

Echo is our amazing new marketing platform. We take the tools that we use every day as an agency for our clients who are paying us $5,000-10,000 a month and we bring them into your law firm. We use video tutorials to provide step by step instructions on how to use them.

  • Analytics. How do we use Google Analytics? What do you need to keep an eye on and what metrics matter? How do we use tools like Moz Local and Yext to bolster our local performance?
  • Review Management. How do we make sure that when we’re reviewed on Yelp, Avvo or Findlaw that we get an email that day telling us about that review?
  • Call Tracking. How do we implement call tracking? What is call tracking and how does it work, and what can it tell you?
  • WordPress. We use WordPress websites to power our legal-centric and responsive designs hosting on the amazing WPEngine.
  • How do you use Google Webmaster Tools to track the real performance of your site at the keyword level, instead of relying on ranking reports?

All of this is wrapped around business reporting infrastructure with a final goal of helping you calculate exactly how your marketing investment is performing.

Marketing Tools: $300/month
Legal Centric WordPress site: $300/month
(or both for $500)Learn more at echo.mockingbird.marketing or sign up for our Webinar where we’ll tour all of this awesome functionality.

Mobile Penalty Study: Traffic up 9% on Day 1

Yesterday marked the beginning of Google’s mobile algorithm change – and while it is scheduled to take a full week to completly roll out, we’re monitoring the results carefully at Mockingbird headquarters.

Mobile Penalty Study Methodology

We looked at data across 54 different law firm sites – 42 mobile optimized and 12 that weren’t – compared average daily mobile search traffic from the previous 8 weeks to the traffic on April 21st.  In aggregate the volume of traffic to the non mobile sites was up by 1% compared to the mobile friendly sites’ 9% lift.

The Graph

In the graph below – the blue bars are mobile friendly sites and the red bars are non mobile friendly sites.  I’ve graphed the top half (as measured in traffic) of sites in our study, because the data sets below were so low that small changes had a large impact in the % change numbers.
Mobile Day 1

 

Limitations of the Data

  • The roll-out is far from complete and we’re expecting more dramatic changes over the week.
  • Law firm traffic tends to dip over the weekends and we compared a weekday against an average that included weekends – so there may be an artificially high change that won’t get worked out until we have a full week’s worth of data.
  • A more accurate comparison will be a week’s worth of traffic once the roll-out has, well, rolled out.
  • Many law firm sites have a low volume of traffic – specifically mobile natural search traffic – so small differences can have a large impact on % changes.  This is why I aggregated all of the data to come up with the 9% number (instead of the average percentage change.)

The conclusion?  Stay tuned… this is just the beginning of what we expect to be a very bumpy ride.

Why YOU Must Control Access to Google Analytics

Got this email today from a law firm who has asked us for help because they think their marketing investment might not be worth the spend:

Conrad,
Thank you for taking time to speak with me yesterday.  I requested Google Analytics access from our marketing company and received this response.  Any thoughts?
“The analytic platforms we use are through our private accounts and house all our marketing/seo clients on it. Thus, we are unable to provide individual access for clients to view.”  

AHHHHHHHHH!  This makes me so mad.

Yesterday in reviewing her site we looked into the code and yes, GA was installed (albeit poorly – it was missing on some pages). The only possible conclusions are:

  1. The agency in question is stupid – has inherited the site, doesn’t know GA was already installed, never considered installing it and has genuinely chosen a proprietary reporting system that lumps access across multiple sites into a single log in.
  2. The agency in question is smart – is doing 4/5 of nothing to work on the site and is deliberately hiding data so they can keep cashing their checks.  Oh – and they’d be lying about not being able to grant access to Google Analytics.

Unfortunately, lawyers asking for access (especially admin access) to Google Analytics is often the first step tipping off an incumbent agency that they may be on the chopping block.  Sadly, some immediately turtle up – withdrawing as much as possible and trying to control their own clients information, passwords and access.  That’s what we have here.

Remember attorneys, this is your site, it is your data, it is your performance, it is your prerogative to hold your agency’s feet to the fire.  Google Analytics data (and access to it) is yours to control.  Biggest red flag for any agency is the refusal to share data, let alone putting clients in control of it.