Competitor Ads in your Google My Business Profile…

Well, we seem to be moving closer and closer to an advertising driven world, as Google has introduced advertising directly on competitor Google My Business listings. To the right is an example from Greg Sterling, at Search Engine Land which shows an ad for a competing car dealership showing up directly within search results. Greg notes that the advertisement is located almost an hour away…which, at least in the example, flies against the highlighted importance of “local” to consumers.

One important note – according to Greg’s review, firms can’t pay for ad free listings – which means any business may have competitor advertising embedded directly within their localized results. This “ad free profile” business model has been widely utilized by directories in (Avvo) and out (Yelp) of the legal market. From my experience this generates nasty backlash from prospective customers and Google is clearly trying to avoid that, although I’m not certain that the prospect of having competitor ads showing up by default on branded queries is going to engender any goodwill either.

If you’ve got an example of one of these ads in legal…please send a screenshot over.

Avvo Accidentally Emails Thousands of Lawyers with Cancellation

This just in:  Avvo seems to have accidentally emailed thousands of lawyers with a cancellation of advertising services email.  The problem… seems that these are going out to non-advertisers (if not their entire database) as well.

Subject Line: Your advertising contract with Avvo is about to be canceled.

Your advertising contract with Avvo is scheduled to be cancelled.

We are sorry to see you go. Before we part ways, we would like to know what we could have done to keep your business.

Take a moment to answer this 5-question survey so we can understand how to improve our products and services.

We will send you a $5 Starbucks gift card as a token of our appreciation.

The cynic could suggest that this is just a smarmy, albeit desperate sales tactic to drive inbound conversations with the Avvo sales staff (and more than a few on Solosez have.) However – I suspect this is really a genuine mistake; although it won’t do much to engender any more goodwill for the online directory. The sheer volume of the emails (and time of day) makes it unlikely that this is a desperate attempt to have lawyers call into Avvo. Having said that, I’m pretty sure Julie Clarkson never would have let this happen!

(Of course, it would be funny if everyone “took” the survey to get the $5 Starbucks gift card…. just sayin.)

UPDATE: I asked the Avvo marketing peoples to weigh in….

The email attorneys received from Avvo earlier this morning was sent in error; please disregard it. We apologize for any confusion.

 

 

On Being Different Instead of Better

Once a week, on my commute in to work, I listen to a podcast called Two Bobs that helps agency owners make their agency outstanding. More often than not, the concepts that apply to the highly creative and technical world of online marketing apply just as readily to legal.

“Sometimes it is better to be different than to be better” – David C. Baker

Lawyers have a very hard time differentiating themselves among other lawyers – especially from the perspective of potential clients. It’s not that it’s hard to do, it’s just that most lawyers wrap themselves in lawyerly imagery – scales of justice, gavels, middle aged white men with red ties etc. Most lawyers make the mistake of positioning themselves as…lawyers…or at best, in David’s construct…the “better lawyer.”

Quite obviously, being a lawyer is not a differentiator from which a prospective client can select among a sea of potential legal representation. Even being the “best lawyer” is hard to truly assess. This, despite the slew of award icons prominently displayed on legal websites – AV Rating, Avvo Rating, and even entirely fake and bogus paid awards like “Lawyers of Distinction.” In the marketing world, we call these “trust marks” – and they are a visual attempt to convey “best lawyer” positioning. The problem, of course, is that there are a myriad of these trust marks, most of which are completely meaningless to average Joe Consumer. Being “best” is simply a very difficult position to hold – especially in the awards arms race of legal marketing. This extends to the personal injury world where the arms race is self aggrandizing award boasts. “Over $300K recovered…more than a million dollars in awards…largest settlement…” Blah blah blah.

Being different isn’t difficult.

Being different is easy.

It requires courage to embrace the fact that lawyers compete not on the “best lawyer” continuum, but on the, “why should I hire you?” continuum. And the reality is that most prospective consumers know they can’t accurately assess “best” and instead try to answer the second question.

Being different is a positioning that transforms the lawyer selection process in the prospect’s mind from, “which lawyer do I want to hire?” to “which person do I want to work with?” And in the prospect’s mind, being different never has anything to do with evaluating lawyers on the lawyerly continuum. Try as they might, lawyers simply can’t be more lawyerly than other lawyers.

On the other hand, a lawyer or law firm can be an openly gay lawyer, the expert in self driving vehicles, the immigrant lawyer helping others follow in her footsteps, the city’s oldest law firm, the lawyer who used to be a cop/prosecutor/in-house at Allstate, the law firm supporting black lives matter, the state’s largest law firm, the athlete who organizes local road races and happens to practice law (h/t to Turkowitz), the tech nerdy paperless firm, the ex JAG, or the small town lawyer who grew up just a mile from his current office.

To the right prospect, each of these differentiators above is much more personally appealing than sifting through countless lawyer profiles trying to identify the better best bestestest most lawyerly lawyer lawyer.

Because, sometimes, its better to be different than better.

Is Google My Business Sending People to your FAX Machine?

Google My Business may be accidentally displaying your fax number as your phone number. I now have three data points from three different firms over the past week in which the fax number is being prominently displayed as the phone number. This is especially damaging for branded queries which typically return the knowledge graph (including the phone / fax number).

Here’s a very real, worst case scenario:

“Harry, you should call Bill Smith, he’s a great lawyer.”

Harry looks up Bill Smith on his laptop, sees the Knowledge Graph, dials Bill and gets the horrendous fax connect audio. Harry makes a split second decision that if Bill can’t figure out his own phone number, then there’s no way Harry is going to put his legal future in Bill’s seemingly incapable hands. Harry, goes back to Google and looks for a new lawyer.

It’s a simple check – run a query for your law firm’s name in Google. Then your name. See what phone number shows up and actually dial the number to verify it’s going through to your front desk. Then check Yelp (yes Yelp), Bing, Avvo, and other directories.

I’m not sure exactly why this is happening – highly possible spiders are running through sites and erroneously identifying fax numbers as phone numbers. Suffice to say – assume it’s broken and verify that your phone number isn’t delivering an annoying beeeeeeeepppppwhiiineclangclang to prospective clients.

Avvo now hiding your info?

I was disappointed to hear on a legal listserve about two weeks ago the whispers of a plan by Avvo to remove contact information from profiles unless the lawyer was paying.  I thought perhaps it was a misunderstanding, as it seems that a directory devoid of…. directory information, makes it universally less useful.  But now that Internet Brands has acquired Avvo, and Mark is no longer behind the helm….

Just got a notification from Avvo Internet Brands that confirms their new product called Premium:

Our new offering, Avvo Premium, now includes the following features:

  • Display your contact information in search results and on your profile
  • Remove competitors’ ads from your profile
  • Have your profile prioritized in search results
  • See your contacts from calls, emails, and website visit
  • Select your best client reviews and promote them at the top of your page
  • Summarize your practice with a personal summary at the top of your profile

Of course, that contact information was always a part of the free profile and didn’t require Premium.  Apparently no more.

With this pivot, Avvo is essentially shifting from being a useful directory where consumers can find the best lawyer for their specific situation to functioning solely as an advertising platform. They have every right to do this, but from a user experience standpoint it would be a disservice to remove essential information from highly qualified attorneys solely because they’re not actively advertising with Avvo. With Google’s focus on user experience – I wonder how this removal of key information may impact Avvo’s performance in the SERPs – will be interesting to monitor over time.

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.

Avvo Sells….

I joined Avvo back in 2006, when it was just the flea of an idea.  Today Avvo announced they’ve been sold to Internet Brands for an undisclosed 🙂  amount.  Congrats to Mark, Sendi, Sachin, Josh and the rest of the team who made this happen and many thanks – especially to Mark for kicking off my career in Legal SEO over a decade ago.

Avvo Logo

Google moving (some) organic results above the map?

This is the second time I’ve seen this and thought it noteworthy.  For a long time now, we’ve had ads, then Local, then organic (sadly banished to the bottom) of SERPs.  This has heavily driven a push towards local (and the proliferation of spam in local, but I digress) and my personal love, organic SEO has suffered.  Interestingly, we’re now occasionally seeing a smattering of organic showing above the map.  Below is a query for divorce lawyer – note the Avvo listing sitting squarely between the ads and the Snack Pack.

I checked in with local search nerd, Joy Hawkins who said she’s seen it occasionally as well, but didn’t have a good understand of what or why they were triggering. My personal (and thin, anecdotal, unverified and otherwise speculative) perspective is that Google is pushing more subjective “quality” elements into search results.  Note Avvo – which ranks lawyers by quality of their background includes the word “Best” in their title tag.  We’ve also seen quality elements coming up law firms being displaying in Featured Snippets – I wrote about this for Law Technology Today a few weeks ago: Significant Changes to the Search Engine Results Pages.

Or perhaps its just another test that will come and go…..

A *strong* Case for Avvo Pro

Avvo has done really well with email marketing – and they are very good at using email to drive business to their advertisers.  And I just received a great email from Avvo that reinforces that point oh so very visually:

 

So – Heidi’s direct contact information shows up not only directly in Avvo’s search results pages, but also in their follow-up emails.  Would this tip the scales in favor of contacting Heidi over Stephen?  Not sure…. but if I was reading this on my phone, and speaking with an attorney was just a click away.  At $50, if you have reasonable volume of views on Avvo, that may be some $ well spent.

Full Disclosure here:  I still hold a bundle of early stage Avvo stock.