Why Microsoft/Bing Advertising is Worth It

Microsoft Advertising, which is largely Bing Search Ads, is an opportunity that law firms shouldn’t sleep on. Keywords for lawyers are some of the most competitive on Google, where the user bases of both consumers and advertisers are vast and saturated. Bing doesn’t have that same market, which means less competition and a better cost per acquisition (CPA) in many campaigns.

 

Demographics

By demographics I’m not referring to audience factors when designing an ad campaign, I’m talking about the general demographics of the users of the platform. Bing tends to be more popular among less tech-savvy individuals, as those who use it tend not to care too much about their search engine. Its users tend to be a bit more blue-collar and older than the average Google user, which can be used to your advantage.

Bing is the default search engine on a wide array of devices on the market, and anyone who isn’t a die-hard Google loyalist won’t care if the internet on their computer leads them straight to Bing; as long as it gives them an answer to their search query they’ll be happy. 

 

Utilizing Bing

The benefit of Bing is that its audience isn’t very tech-savvy. Where Google users might be aware and wary of search ads, Bing users might not even notice that they’re ads in the first place. They’re just looking for an answer to their search, and if your ad looks like it’ll provide that, they’ll click on it. 

By only using Google Ads, you are excluding a significant share of your target market. The share you are excluding could even be more representative of your target audience than who is currently seeing your ads. 

The other benefit of Bing is that it’s ad costs tend to be cheaper than Google’s, meaning you can use more targeted keywords without paying Google prices.

We encourage our clients to think of Microsoft/Bing advertising as something to invest in alongside Google, especially for firms with lower budgets. The two platforms are not mutually exclusive, and neglecting one in favor of the other is simply bad business.

If you need help setting up your Microsoft Ads account, contact Mockingbird. We’ll help you get your business off the ground.

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.

Google Rolls Out Huge Changes to Search Results

Expect your PPC campaigns (and therefore probably your SEO traffic) to go a little haywire this week.  Google has abruptly rolled out a very large change to the search engine results page (SERP) interface…. removing all ads (and apparently everything) from the right rail – see Siberia below.

Siberia

Here’s What We Know

  • The changes impact desktop searches only.
  • There are now four ads above natural search results and three below.
  • The changes only impact “commercial” queries – presumably most of the more transactional legal terms, but probably less so for queries researching a particular issue (see example below).
  • The change is permanent (for now).

BAC

What it Means (I think)

  • Clearly pushing more ads above natural search is going to shift traffic from organic to paid…. SEO players lose, PPC players gain (and so does Google.)
  • In the already overpriced legal PPC market, there’s even more competition for just 4 prime spots (remember, SERPs used to have up to 11 ads, including most legal queries) which is going to drive up already irrational (read: unprofitable) PPC bidding among lawyers.
  • (Smart) lawyers will look to diversify their paid marketing channels – driving up bids in Bing.  (For more on the economics of this see my 2013 post – Google Adwords Costs 150% More than Bing Ads.)
  • Local now becomes even more important for lawyers (and remember, it was just August when the number of local results constricted down to the three firm “snack pack”.

 

In summary, there are fewer ads total; however, they take up more of the prime real estate – which impacts both natural and paid results.

7 Reasons You Should Bid on Your Brand Name

Branded SearchWhen speaking about digital marketing, I’ve been asked time and again if companies should bid on their own brand name in Google AdWords and Bing Ads. “Should we create paid search campaigns based on our brand name? If we rank #1 organically, why pay for traffic that we’re going to get for free anyway? Isn’t it just wasting money?”

In short, SEO and PPC, when run together, are greater than the sum of their parts. Of course PPC costs money, and a branded paid search campaign might cannibalize a portion of your organic traffic, but according to a study from Bing, companies see an average of 32% more clicks when they appear in both organic and paid results.

That’s huge! But how does this happen? How do you get more clicks when you’re already ranking number one? Well, here are the 7 reasons why you should bid on your brand name and how it can help you get more clicks, leads and clients.

#1 – It’s Really Cheap

Keyword relevancy plays a big part in determining cost per click. Branded campaigns usually have the highest possible quality scores because “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” Thanks Dr. Seuss, I couldn’t have said it better. When you bid on your brand name as a keyword, your quality score will be near perfect, because you are you! This high quality score keeps your costs lower than low. It won’t be free, but it won’t cost much.

#2 – It Makes Your Other Ads Cheaper

Instead of guilty by association, think cheaper by association. Your branded campaign’s high quality score raises the average quality score of your entire AdWords account. Your other campaigns benefit simply by being associated with a super high quality campaign. Boosting your average quality score will help lower all campaigns’ cost per click, making non-brand ads slightly cheaper.

#3 – Be the Right Answer & Own the SERP

serp exampleRanking number 1 organically is great, and something every company should be able to achieve for their own brand name. However, search engine results pages (SERPs) have a lot of different pieces. You have organic results, paid results, map listings, knowledge graphs, sitelinks, tweets… it’s a long list. If done correctly, you could cover the entire first page with properties you can manage, but it will always start at the top with paid advertising.

Users are also more likely to click through to a site if they see it multiple times. Prove that you ARE the site people are looking for by showing up again and again. If someone sees your paid ad, then your organic result, there is a sense of recognition and trust that begins to develop. Own your brand name and establish yourself as the correct answer to their question.

#4 – Hide Bad Things Below the Fold

Have some bad press you wish would stop showing up in search results? Going back to my last point, try to cover the SERP with properties you can control. Paid advertising pushes organic results down. If you’re taking up the whole page, there’s no room for bad press. Adding paid advertisements to a SERP that’s already filled with your website, maps and social profiles could be just enough to get those nasty stories onto the rarely seen SERP page 2.

competitor bidding#5 – Don’t Let Competitors Steal from You

Sometimes, competitors will bid on your brand name to try and steal clicks. There are some limitations and regulations, especially within the legal industry, but it is not entirely illegal. If you’re not bidding on your brand name and a competitor does, they will show up first – above your organic listing. This is NOT OK. Defend yourself and protect the top spot with a branded campaign to make sure you aren’t losing traffic to the guy down the street.

#6 – Generate Instant Leads with Click to Call

clicktocallCall extensions are a great tool you can apply to paid search campaigns. Having your phone number show up next to your ad, especially on mobile, is a great way to capture leads (not just traffic). If people are searching for your brand on their mobile device, help them get in touch with a single click. Not only does this button attract the eye, it’s an instant lead generator for anyone who clicks on it.

#7 – Control your Sitelinks

Those little links under your main website are usually great ways for users to dive right into specific content. However, you can’t 100% control which pages show up. Google displays what it thinks is most important, and sometimes, Google gets it wrong. With sitelink ad extensions, you can customize each link and direct people to where you want them to go. This is a great way to help control the look and feel of your brand on the search results page.

In Conclusion

I believe these 7 reasons end the argument of whether or not companies should launch branded paid search campaigns. It makes perfect sense to invest a small amount and increase your clicks by 32% over having organic alone. I say get more out of your brand. Run some high quality paid search campaigns and capitalize on the name you’ve worked so hard to build.

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.

How We Replaced PPC with SEO and Saved $30,000

These are the results I love to share.  Back towards the beginning of the year, I spoke with someone who was concerned about  high PPC budget – she was spending roughly $2,500 monthly on Adwords and weren’t sure if the spend was paying off. In looking at the site’s performance it became clear that the client had most of her eggs in a poorly structured, untargeted PPC basket AND the site seemed to be grossly underperforming in SEO.

Over the past 6 months, we’ve turned her traffic upside down . . . . resulting in PPC savings of roughly $30,000.  While traffic is down about 15%, we’ve replaced the PPC spend with (free) SEO traffic and restructured an unprofitable advertising spend.  Here’s how:

replacing PPC

Step 1: Assess PPC ROI

We did a thorough business review of her PPC campaign – to assess just how much business the spend generated and calculated what her cost per client was for this channel.  (It was really bad.)  Armed with 8 weeks of eye opening data, we drastically cut the Adwords budget and launched a (small) Bing campaign at the same time . . . with CPC’s roughly 90% lower than her original bids. Take note: PPC is never the only answer.  If you look really carefully, you’ll see that we never entirely did away with PPC – its still bumping along, delivering a small trickle of traffic from both Adwords and BingAds – – – generating business at a very low cost per client (read: extremely high ROI).

Step 2:  Fix SEO Problems

Once we dug in, we found the client’s site had some major SEO problems and while they took some time to fix – roughly 3 months – the changes resulted in a 400% increase in her natural search traffic – essentially replacing the traffic drop from cutting the PPC budget.  Interestingly, even if the SEO hadn’t been borked we still would have killed the PPC campaign as it was literally costing her more than she was making from the clients.

Step 3:  Slowly Dial Advertising Back Up

Moving forward – now that we have solid business tracking (so we can ID cost per client by each marketing channel) we’ll slowly dial her PPC campaign up so her margins reflect her business objective:  ie. cost per client makes business sense.  We can also explore additional advertising venues and measure them on their ability to hit these cost per client benchmarks.

 

The net result?  The client is now bringing in roughly three times the business with the same marketing spend.  AND she could cut off her SEO spend and unlike and advertising spend, the traffic would continue.

Google Adwords Costs 150% More than Bing Ads

Back in July I wrote a post called You are Foolish if you run Google Adwords but not Bing Ads that outlined the economic theory explaining how Bing Ads return a higher ROI although lower volume than Google Adwords.

I’ve been running PPC campaigns on both platforms for Atticus’ clients and have confirmed the theory.  Interestingly, depending on the market forces, Bing is dramatically more effective at delivering not only more cost effective traffic, but more traffic overall.  What follows is comparative data for Adwords and Bing Ads for one client in a particularly interesting market.  While this is an extreme example, consider it an example of Bing delivering vastly better ROI.

This is a fairly simple campaign – with four different Ad Groups representing four different practice areas.  I copied the campaigns verbatim from Adwords into Bing (thanks for the nifty import tool Microsoft).  The only difference is in geotargeting, which I had to manually adjust for the Bing campaign, as they offer much less granularity (read: worse) than Adwords.  So this is NOT a pure apples to apples comparison as the Bing geo is admittedly larger, but as close as I could make it.

 

Bing Ads vs. Adwords Click Volume
Bing Ads vs. Adwords Click Volume

Now the volume difference was a surprise – and perhaps partially explained away by the larger geo area covered by Bing Ads, although I suspect there are  competitive forces at play there as well that are driving the performance.  The real kicker is the cost per click for Adwords running 150% higher than that for Bing Ads.  And this is the figure that drives ROI.

Adwords traffic costs 2.5x Bing Ads for Identical Campaigns
Adwords traffic costs 2.5x Bing Ads for Identical Campaigns

 

 

So let me say it again:  You are foolish if you run Google Adwords, but not Bing Ads.

SEO Regicide: Content the King is Dead

Content content content.

“You need more content.”

 “You need to rewrite news articles every day!”

“You need to blog more.”

“Publish or perish.”

“Google launched Hummingbird – you need to write FAQs!”

Psssssst . . . . lawyers . . .  all of the SEO experts are telling you (and all of your competitors) the same thing.  And like compliant lemmings, you are all doing the same thing.

Psssssst . . .  It doesn’t work anymore.

The Rise and Fall of the Content Dynasty

The genesis for the focus on content began about 5 years ago.  Changes in consumer search behavior gradually took effect – whereby users began looking for increasingly specific answers with increasingly granular content pages.  The “long tail” of search became the industry’s hottest new buzzword.  SEO experts, ninjas, and mavens started churning out pages with very subtle differences –  “Best Seattle underage DUI Attorney”, “Top 10 Settle teen DUI Attorneys” “Great Seattle Drunk Driving Lawyers for drivers under 21” ad nauseam.  The industry adopted the boorish practice of rewriting news stories and vomiting them back onto blogs that quickly became poorly written rehasings of yesterday’s news.

And for a while it worked (at least in generating traffic for the SEO consultants to return triumphantly with “success metrics” for their misguided clients – the fact that the phone never rang didn’t seem to matter – but I digress, that is a topic for another post.)  The legal industry became publishing sweatshops – with individual firms churning out hundreds, even thousands of articles a month.

Eventually, the search engines, as they always do, caught up with the SEO spammers.  Penguins and Pandas and most recently, Hummingbirds were let lose on the algorithms.  Content, the King, was under attack.

Content is Dead

The Succession of the King:  Quality Content

The search engine talking heads defended their King – retreating back to the ever-popular refrain – “write quality content and we will reward you with a bounty of traffic.”

So the SEO experts and mavens and ninjas did as they were told . . . infographics and guest blogging were born. Top 10 Lists proliferated like bunnies on a steady diet of Viagra. In time, most legally focused news stories was dissected and built into beautiful graphical statistical displays.  Guest blog brokers were born.  Just like with King Content, the disciples of his son, Quality Content initially did very well.  But as others caught up, they became increasingly less effective. Because everyone was doing it.

So the search engines sent warnings about guest blogging.  The cycle repeated itself again.

Quality Content is NOT Enough

This death of King Content and his prince son, Quality hit me square in the face a few weeks ago at Webcam –  a small but amazing conference in Bend Oregon.  Marshall Simmonds, who used to be the in-house SEO for the New York Times  (arguably one of the most high quality original content publishers) heralded the end of a dynasty:  Content is no longer King.

Eu Tu Simmonds?

And he’s right. We are now at a point in the evolution of the web where generating quality content is no longer sufficient for success. There’s frankly just too much of it.  The trick, the real hard part of marketing, today’s unscaleable solution and the successor of the crown is marketing content.  And by “marketing content” – I don’t mean “content marketing” – the aforementioned practice of vomiting out hoards of webpages.  I literally mean undertaking marketing efforts to promote your quality content.  This can take the shape of many different channels – social media, networking, the dubiously named “author rank” or even the marketing pariah of the SEO world – Public Relations.  Marshall’s pronouncement was utterly confirmed for me when I looked at the referring traffic for some legal sites and found that Press Release providers (PRWeb etc.) frequently showed up as the #1 referring site. For years, I have mocked the press release tactic as a dying relic of yesteryear  – but I’ve been wrong – because now, the genuine distribution of content is what makes the magic happen.

The reality is that the Quality Content mantra assumed that when you have quality content, links are going to happen.  This is no longer universally true – especially in hypercroweded content landscapes like legal.  To be successful, you must embrace proactively marketing that very good, high quality content.

Content is dead, long live Content.

Does My Site Look Fat in this WordPress?

If your site runs on WordPress, it is highly possible – even likely – that your site needs a diet.  WordPress makes it mind-numbingly easy to create lots of different pages by recycling your content, or snippets of your content, into various related pages.  This has been grossly exacerbated by uninformed SEO consultants  pushing their clients to aggressively “tag” blog posts.

Tagging

WordPress Often Generates Too Many Pages

First, understand that search engines don’t necessarily review all of the pages on a site, but instead use the site’s authority (from links etc.) to determine just how many pages they will both crawl (find) and index (add to the consideration set for search results).  Therefore, sites with low authority and lots of pages may find that most of their pages receive zero traffic and aren’t ever seen by search engines.

Let’s use Atticus Marketing as an example to showcase why all of these extra pages are problematic.  Yesterday, I published a great post on the differences between three mainstream CMS systems. Not only have the search engines failed to send any traffic to my lovely content, they haven’t even indexed or even crawled it at all!  They don’t know it exists. This despite the fact that I’m doing all of the social media marketing: posts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus, Tweets and Retweets.

Here’s why:  Atticus is a very young site, with just 34 different sites linking to it AND I’ve built out lots of extra pages through WordPress’s Categories and Tagging functionality. Every time you create a category or a tag, WordPress generates a page to organize content with that category or tag.  These pages are optimized for the category/tag.  This functionality has the capacity to generate lots of pages with content that already has a home on your site – duplicate content that search engines eschew. (Note that tags are worse because the interface is very freeform, encouraging writers to generate multiple versions of similar tags).  You can see how this gets out of control:  on AtticusMarketing.com I have a paltry 10 pages and 25 blog posts – yet Google indexes 186 different pages for the site.  The reality is, the vast majority of these pages just contain content that exists elsewhere on the site.

The reason the search engines haven’t deigned to even look at my lovely new content is because my site’s authority and multiple duplicate content pages combine to convince them that much of my content just isn’t worth their time.

Tagging and SPAM

Look at this from a search engine perspective, to understand why a combination of page volume and site authority determines how many pages are reviewed.  Let’s review a more extreme example, from the Carter Law Firm, where a site utilizes WordPress tagging functionality to generate a litany of spammy pages.

The blog is well written, has some beautiful imagery, appropriately utilizes external and internal links and embraces edgy topics including Topless Day and revenge porn.  Unfortunately at the end of every single post is a long list of entries for both “Filed Under” i.e. categories and “Tagged With” i.e. tags.  Here’s the entry for the post on “Ask the Hard Questions Before Starting a Business”:

tag spam

This one piece of (very good) content is now going to be replicated on 15 different pages across her domain – most of which will have nothing but a verbatim copy of this content.  And many of these pages are “optimized” (I use the term very loosely here – but optimized with on-page elements like Title Tags, H1s, URL etc.) for very similar content:

  • “How to start a business” vs. “How to start LLC” vs. “start LLC”.
  • “Arizona business attorney” vs. “Arizona small business attorney” vs. “Phoenix business attorney” vs. “Phoenix small business attorney”.
  • “Business operating agreement” vs. “Limited Liability Company operating agreement” vs. “Operating agreement for LLC” vs. “what is an operating agreement”.

This is a content spam tactic intended to capture variants of long tail search queries.  In reality, search engines figured this out years ago and the site owner is doing nothing other than artificially inflating her page count – most likely to the detriment of her search performance.

How to Avoid These Problems

Personally, I enjoy the tag clouds that are generated by tagging my posts and there is definitely a user benefit of being able to see articles grouped along common threads.  To use tags and avoid an inflated page count, simply Noindex your Tags. (Be careful about noindexing your categories, to make sure your URL structure for your posts doesn’t include the category folder.)   The Yoast SEO plug in has simple check boxes for this, as does the All-In-One SEO pack (below):

Tag Spam 2

However, when implemented carefully, tags can be effective in generating inbound search traffic, but follow these best practices:

  • Limit your site to 5-8 general, broad categories.
  • Tags should have multiple posts of a similar topic associated with them.
  • Tags should be genuinely different, not replicated spamming for verbal nuance i.e. Not: “divorce laws” and “divorce law”.
  • The posts should be displayed as snippets (not the entire article).
  • The tag page should contain its own unique content – you can do this with the SEO Ultimate plugin.

If all of this sounds overly technical and confusing, buy a WordPress book or invest some time with someone experienced in both SEO and WordPress – leaving the tagging to the graffiti artists .