Flossing and Blogging

Ahhh… new years resolutions.  Like “I’m going to blog more.”

I remember my business school friend, Josh Strauss proudly proclaiming to our MBA section that his new years resolution was to floss – and now I think of him every time I pick a stray strand of overcook beef leftover from lunch from my teeth with some waxed string.

Its early January and lawyers across the country are reinvigorated and optimistic – time to “take their firm to the next level” and “up their game” with a renewed commitment to marketing.  Which often entail promises of blogging to feed the “Content is King” beast.  (Turns out content is NOT king, but I digress.)

Blogging is a commitment – call it an annual commitment and not one to be taken lightly.  And just like that tiny roll of overpriced string in your medicine cabinet – if you stop half way through the year, things start to decay.  Nothing looks sadder and more marketing pathetic than a blog long abandoned but still posted on the homepage.

“This post from 2015…..” screams “I’ve given up and I have nothing left to say.”

Now, don’t get me wrong – blogging is super valuable.  (Especially when you do it on your own site to improve your SEO performance and not another domain, but I digress again.)  Blogging can generate links.  Can generate inbound traffic. Can establish your thought leadership. Can forge relationships. Can generate business.   These are all good things.

But.

If you are going to abandon your blog, just like Josh abandoned his flossing regimen some time around April, you are better off not getting started at all.  My guess is that those of you with the self discipline to pull out that floss once a day will do just fine blogging, but otherwise… try something else.

 

(oh – and incidentally, less I turn into a hypocrite – my new year’s resolution…. publish something every business day.)

Blogging for the Sake of Blogging

the malleability of content
…You put content onto a blog it becomes the blog.

Sometimes you need to write a blog post. You might not have anything to say, but as the date since your last post gets further and further away you realize it’s time to publish something. Anything.

I’ve previously argued in favor of not having a blog unless you’re committed to updating it on a regular basis. Still, even the most committed of writers gets busy from time to time and starts visualizing tumbleweeds blowing across their blogroll and dust accumulating on that post from a couple months back.

There’s only one thing to do. Get motivated, get your ass in gear, and knock out a post to get things moving again. It might not even be good (this post sure isn’t), but it still beats continued procrastination.

Writing isn’t something you can force, but it is something you can jumpstart with a little creativity. There are a few ways you can rekindle inspiration if you’ve been distracted with “actual work” and haven’t had time to prioritize your blog.

Here are a few surefire tips for knocking out a quick blog post even when you’re completely swamped:

Write about what you know

The less research you need to do for your topic, the easier it’ll be to write something semi-intelligent. Topics you already know a lot about are great because you can pull from past experience or existing knowledge without having to spend hours fact checking or looking for sources. Oftentimes the knowledge you take for granted will be valuable to readers outside your field who may not share your expertise.

Focus on generalities

Not every blog post needs to be a deep dive into the specifics of your chosen topic. Sometimes a quick hitter, high level overview is more than enough. If enough readers find it interesting, you can always go back and write a follow up post later that tackles the same subject in more detail.

Link to other articles or people

Your blog doesn’t need to be 100% your own material. You’re more than free to share interesting articles and topics being written about elsewhere. Offering a quick analysis or counterpoint to something someone else wrote can be a great way to mine content.

Publish your post (and don’t second guess)

If you feel like you’re merely blogging for the sake of blogging, second guessing your own work is all too easy to do. As long as it’s not a habitual thing, you should allow yourself the occasional “lazy” article. What feels lazy to you could still be useful to some.

Meta bonus tip: use a list format

Lastly, if you’re struggling to structure a post or chunk a topic into easy to write snippets, turn your article into a list. There’s a reason no amount of mockery will stop Buzzfeed from continuing to knock out listicles at a breakneck pace. Lists work, they get shared, and they’re pretty easy to write quickly.

In Summary

Even though as an agency we’ve railed against the obnoxious misconception that “content is king,” there is still validity in staying consistent with your posting. You won’t always know which posts are going to resonate with your readers, and waiting for the perfect topic can quickly become detrimental to getting anything done.

None of this is groundbreaking, but it should be useful if you’re stuck wondering whether a blog that’s now three months from the last publication date could use a bit of a refresh. At a certain point you need to get back in the habit of writing…even if it feels a bit like word vomit at first.

As long as you’re still writing in your voice, sharing something (marginally) interesting, and staying (tangentially) on topic, there’s value to be gained from keeping active.

The alternative option is to shut down your blog and admit defeat. That works too. But if you’re going to maintain a blog you need to stay committed to posting (semi) regularly.

Should law firms have a blog?

law firms with blogs
Not every law firm has a blog. In fact, most don’t.

The number of firms with blogs has been holding steady at about 26 percent. Still, the fact that only one in four law firms has a blog doesn’t stop the common misperception that it’s a marketing necessity. Like most things related to marketing, the question of whether you or your firm should have a blog has an unsatisfyingly vague answer: it depends.

The reality is, blogging can be an extremely effective tool for building a brand, differentiating your business, and driving inquiries. On the flip side, it can also be a huge time suck that detracts from other easier opportunities that would yield greater results.

A post from Above the Law on the value of lawyers having a blog makes the point nicely, stating:

“The thing about blogging, despite whatever anyone says, is that it’s work. It takes time and effort to regularly sit down in front of a blank screen and churn out 1,000 words. You have to enjoy writing or you’re not going to do it… blogging is a pie-eating contest, and the prize is more pie.”

What does that mean for you? Should your firm bother with having a blog?

Before you decide, answer the following questions.

  • Do you like writing?
  • Do you have a distinct voice or something interesting to say?
  • Will you be consistent in your efforts?
  • Is this the best use of your time?

If the answer to any of those questions is “no” then you have a pretty clear answer as to whether your firm should have a blog. As tempting as it is to follow the (perceived) norm, there’s a reason 75-percent of law firms aren’t making blogging a part of their marketing strategy. I can guarantee you it’s not because 3 out of 4 firms are too lazy to blog consistently (although some most certainly are) but rather because they’ve decided other efforts will yield better results.

You don’t need to blog to be successful

Anyone who tells you blogging is an essential part of your marketing strategy is being misleading at best and dishonest at worst. A great blog is a fantastic way to market yourself and your firm, but it’s also only one possible component of a successful marketing mix. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for being successful, and authenticity matters. If you’re not a natural writer, don’t have an interest in publishing content regularly, or have a laundry list of other items that need to be addressed, you should scrap the idea of blogging all together.

The only thing sadder than a “blog” page on your site with a list of articles that hasn’t been updated since 2015 is having an external blog that’s costing you a couple hundred dollars each month to be a “thought leader” no one knows about.

Be honest with yourself and set your firm up for success by only taking on a blog if you’re committed to making it work. You can’t dip a toe in and expect anything. You have to genuinely enjoy it, and even then, it’s hard work finding an audience. However, if time is money, think long and hard about what you’re giving up in order to write another post that gets 4 or 5 visits and 0 comments.

SPAM is for Eating, Not for the Internet

Google recently posted a blog with some tips on how to keep user/bot generated SPAM from ending up on your website. I’ve italicized user/bot because I don’t want you to get your SPAM confused… We’ve written about Google Analytics SPAM numerous times. This stuff is a little different, though it can be related.

Protecting your website from user generated SPAM is important because it can cause serious issues with your website in the eyes of Google. SPAM can be a source for malware or injected links. It can even go as far to result in your website being hijacked completely. Google doesn’t want to show a malicious website (or potentially malicious) to any of its beloved users, so act accordingly!

The major source for user generated SPAM on a Law Firm website is your blog comments. If you aren’t already, you should enable email notifications whenever someone comments on one of your blogs. This way you can act quickly.

Here are the tips from Anouar Bendahou, Search Quality Strategist at Google, to fight this type of SPAM (I’ve bolded my favorites):

  • Keep your forum software updated and patched. Take the time to keep your software up-to-date and pay special attention to important security updates. Spammers take advantage of security issues in older versions of blogs, bulletin boards, and other content management systems.
  • Add a CAPTCHA. CAPTCHAsrequire users to confirm that they are not robots in order to prove they’re a human being and not an automated script. One way to do this is to use a service like reCAPTCHASecurimage and  Jcaptcha .
  • Block suspicious behavior.Many forums allow you to set time limits between posts, and you can often find plugins to look for excessive traffic from individual IP addresses or proxies and other activity more common to bots than human beings. For example, phpBBSimple MachinesmyBB, and many other forum platforms enable such configurations.
  • Check your forum’s top posters on a daily basis. If a user joined recently and has an excessive amount of posts, then you probably should review their profile and make sure that their posts and threads are not spammy.
  • Consider disabling some types of comments. For example, It’s a good practice to close some very old forum threads that are unlikely to get legitimate replies. If you plan on not monitoring your forum going forward and users are no longer interacting with it, turning off posting completely may prevent spammers from abusing it.
  • Make good use of moderation capabilities. Consider enabling features in moderation that require users to have a certain reputation before links can be posted or where comments with links require moderation. If possible, change your settings so that you disallow anonymous posting and make posts from new users require approval before they’re publicly visible.Moderators, together with your friends/colleagues and some other trusted users can help you review and approve posts while spreading the workload. Keep an eye on your forum’s new users by looking on their posts and activities on your forum.
  • Consider blacklisting obviously spammy terms. Block obviously inappropriate comments with a blacklist of spammy terms (e.g. Illegal streaming or pharma related terms) . Add inappropriate and off-topic terms that are only used by spammers, learn from the spam posts that you often see on your forum or other forums. Built-in features or plugins can delete or mark comments as spam for you.
  • Use the “nofollow” attribute for links in the comment field. This will deter spammers from targeting your site. By default, many blogging sites (such as Blogger) automatically add this attribute to any posted comments.
  • Use automated systems to defend your site.  Comprehensive systems like Akismet, which has plugins for many blogs and forum systemsare easy to install and do most of the work for you.

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

 

How to Sound Like an SEO Expert (without really knowing anything)

So, this post comes courtesy of a phone call I had yesterday with a prospective client.  It started out like many:

I’m not sure what I actually get for my monthly SEO retainer.

A little investigation and I found a huge mess….. which in turn led to a Facebook missive:

That awkward moment when you have to tell a law firm that their previous agency’s $5,000/month SEO budget didn’t pay for H1s or Title Tags.

Perhaps H1s come with the $6K package.

Now – you don’t have to know what H1s or Title Tags are…. you should be doing lawyerly things; but anyone making a living peddling SEO damn well should.

If you aspire to make a living from (your perceived) deep pockets of lawyers… here’s my guide to sounding like an expert without needing to learn what you are actually doing.  (Some buzzwords courtesy of Gyi Tsakalakis – a professional instigator –  although it was Michael Romano who came up with: <h1>Ripped Off</h1>)

Meerkat/Periscope/Facebook Livestream

Livestreaming started with Meerkat and Periscope and has recently had a resurgence with the launch of Facebook’s Livestream feature. Impress prospective clients with your cutting edge tech savvy, the way I watched a speaker at a legal marketing conference (that was essentially a thinly veiled pay-to-pitch event) Meerkat his entire talk.  Boy was he cutting edge – and by the end of said Meerkating, three audience members proudly stood up to announce that they too had become Meerkaters during the talk and had also Meerkated the event.  (seriously I can’t make this stuff up.)  Lets ignore for the moment, the serendipity that would have to occur for a prospective client to actually be starting their lawyer search on social media, be linked to a specific lawyer and have both of those things coincide with the moment said lawyer decided to Periscope his knowledge to the Persicopeverse.

RankBrain

Back in October of 2015, Google launched their Artificial Intelligence update to algo’s – RankBrain – with much ballyhoo and mystery. Turns out the cutting edge of the SEO nerd community hasn’t noticed a big change; although some have suggested this was going to be the end of linkbuilding as we know it (it wasn’t).  Dropping the phrase will make you sound current and mysterious – it might also defect obvious questions that require actual work to respond to: “what about linkbuilding?”

Blab

Want video conferencing limited to four participants?  Enter Blab.  This is a great word and  can be used in all its forms:  blabbing (verb), Blabber (proper noun), blabber (verb), blabbed (past tense), blabby (adjective). I’ve heard some truly ridiculous blabbery during a Blab.  Justblab to prove Blab’s bleeding edgeness…. check out this buzzword laden description from Mashable.  Be the first to write that post on your blog:  “Blabbing Your Way to Profits for Law Firms, Lawyers and Attorneys.”

“Content is King”

This is a great phrase to use with clients who complain about lack of results – turn the responsibility back on them and yell triumphantly “content is king”…. you need to blog more, post more rewrites of last week’s accident news, expand your FAQs and chase the long tail.  Because, clearly, the web is lacking content about every single aspect of the law. (Learn the truth here:  SEO Regicide – Content the King is Dead.)

GoogleJuiceGoogle Juice

This is an oldie but goodie – the mysterious GoogleJuice farmed in MountainView and harvested by plucky Google nerds that bestows rankings upon websites. This one is dedicated to a former coworkers who once told me “we don’t have to worry about SEO, we have a lot of Google Juice.”  Frequently used in conjunction with PageRank.

Pinterest

Need to up your perceived social media savvy?  Drop “pinterest”, a site many have heard of; although no one has figured out how a collection of pictures of argyle sweaters, or finely crafted timberframe interiors will get people to hire a lawyer. Fortunately your (self)proclaimed Pinterest savvy transfers an overall sense of social media authority – you are the consultant who can figure out how to get clients to publicize their pending nuptial demise by liking their divorce lawyer on Facebook.

Ninja | Maven | Rockstar | Guru

Still feeling like the one eyed man in the kingdom of the blind?  Calm your nerves by bestowing one of these self-aggrandizing “titles” upon yourself – trust me the National Association of SEO Ninjas is NOT going to come knocking asking for verification.  Ninjas, Mavens and Gurus are often described (by themselves) as  “thought leader”, “recognized expert” and/or “bestselling author” in their Twitter and Facebook profiles.

For maximum impact combine terms from above:  this can be a phrase “Meerkat Guru” or an entirely new word: “Blabjuice”.

And lawyers – if you think you are smart enough to hire a good SEO…. consider taking my simple test:  Are You Qualified to Hire and SEO Agency? or purchasing the SEO Consultant Balderdash Translator from the Legal SEO Store.

Is Your Blog Destroying Your Website’s Performance?

Legal Marketing SEOs have been saying it for years:  “Content is King”.  We’ve blamed the failure of our clients marketing efforts on the clients:  “the reason your site isn’t delivering is because you aren’t writing enough content.”  “You need to blog more.”   “Your site is SEO’d, you just need to write more.”

Here’s the dirty secret:  there is plenty of legal content out on the web.  In fact, I dare you to find a piece of legal content that doesn’t have over 100 pages on law firm websites optimized for it.  Its not the content stupid.  I wrote extensively about this about a year ago: SEO Regicide – Content the King is Dead and yet hapless SEOs still keep blaming their failures on their clients’ unwillingness to vomit out vapid content onto the blog on their SEO’d sites.  (I still don’t know what an SEO’d site is btw.)

Worse: your die-hard commitment to churning out dull prose about yesterday’s car accident on the intersection of Main and Walnut, is most likely hurting your site’s performance.  YES – content hurts – and the mind numbingly dull news rewrites being dumped into blogs on a daily basis pollutes not just the internet as a whole, but the ability of your site to generate traffic… traffic from people who are looking to hire you for your car accident expertise, instead of the slip and fall accident reported first in the Local Herald back in November of 2012.

Seems that all of those SEOs exhorting you to write more have forgotten about the apparently forgotten… Panda. The penalty that looks for dull, thin, poorly written garbage content and enacts a site-wide penalty – which hits the few good pages you do have.

How to Tell If (Google) Thinks (Most of) Your Content Sucks

What follows is overly simplistic – but as we’ve looked at data from hundreds of law firm sites, the following pattern has emerged.  Simply do a site:mywebsite.com search and see how many pages are indexed and then use Google Analytics, filter by natural traffic only, then look at: Behavior – Content – Landing Pages and count the number of pages that are generating inbound traffic over the past three months.  (Now this assumes you don’t have any ridiculous technical errors auto-generating duplicate versions of your content.)

In the graph below… note the outlier down at the bottom right hand corner.  This law firm has invested thousands of dollars barfing vapid content at a regular pace of 4 posts a week for the past two years. They wanted to know if… if… they should continue their content strategy (I shudder to actually write “content strategy”).  And yet – over the past 3 months more than 82% of their pages had not delivered a single visitor.  I plotted a few of our long-term regular clients to provide some perspective – other sites saw between 25% and 88% of their pages generating SEO visits (and you can bet we aren’t pushing more content to that one site sitting at 25%).  Note that it is not just volume of content – one site with close to 900 pages has almost 60% of them driving visits.

Content Hell

So…. if you find the ratio of pages to landing pages  below the 25% benchmark… perhaps your problem really is content.  Too much of it.

6 Content Marketing Tactics for Lawyers that Actually Work

You may have heard that content is an essential element to driving traffic to your site. The problem is that most content out there just doesn’t cut it. You need to create unique and engaging content will make people want to share and/or link to it–the kind of content that Google notices and rewards websites for.

The question is, how do you get those links? As an attorney, it can seem like a struggle, especially when content from other “sexier” verticals are vying for attention, shares, and those ever elusive links. As an attorney, however, you have knowledge and expertise that, if presented properly and with the right timing, can be extremely successful.

Below are some tactics we’ve seen that could be the the ticket to driving more quality traffic to your website:

Write an Op-Ed piece About a Big News Story

As a lawyer, you have a unique opportunity to contribute your expertise to a specific issue or topic that people are talking about about on the news.

Here are some Op-Ed headlines that come to mind:

  • The big question about [New Law] that hasn’t been answered.
  • What the plaintiff in [Recent Controversial Lawsuit] needs to prove in order to win.
  • 5 Reasons Why [New Proposed Law] will be difficult to enforce.

While many attorneys write about the news, most of what I’ve seen is a rehash of the story, lightly peppered with a few comments and opinions.  Instead, write a piece that offers a real argument, and spends 750-1000 words supporting your argument with examples and evidence. Make it compelling, unique, and accessible. You can publish these op-ed posts on your own blog and share it on reddit, Facebook, or other social media channels. Also, in addition to writing about news stories on your own firm’s blog, you can reach out to local reporters and offer yourself up as a source to provide a legal perspective. This is usually easier to do if you have a few successful posts under your belt.

Use PR to Promote One of Your Own Big Cases

Are you working on a case that you believe has the potential to make the news? If so, you may want to consider doing some PR.

Let’s say you’re an employment lawyer working on a whistleblower case that you believe has some legs. Get in touch with a PR professional whom you trust to get an idea if journalists would want to pick up your story. If you don’t know anyone in PR, make sure you get a recommendation from a professional who will give you an honest opinion about your story (and not just bill you for their time).

If you want to make the most of your case’s publicity, be sure to create a webpage on your site dedicated to the case, with all formal complaints and official court documents available in one place so reporters don’t have to hunt for them. Also, post links to supplementary materials that relate to the area of law that the case is related to, preferably something from your own site is best but also be sure to include anything from an external website that could shine light on your topic. Essentially, you need to make a page so good, complete, and comprehensive that it would be silly for a reporter, blogger, or anyone talking about the case to NOT want to link to it.

When your story starts taking off, request that your PR person notifies you about every online publication that happens to pick up your story. If you manage to get on a high traffic site, see if you can’t find a way to participate in the discussion in the comments section–which can be a good way for you to drop a link to your resource page on the case if it already isn’t there in the body of the article.

Give a Legal Perspective About Your Favorite TV Show or Movie

You remember when Bane held the entire city of Gotham in The Dark Night Rising? Maybe you could write up a compelling reason for how that villain has a valid criminal insanity case, should it ever be brought up in court. Oh yeah, and when you’re done, see if you can post it to lawandthemultiverse.com and get a link back to your site!

Perhaps you’re a Harry Potter fanatic, and have read all of the books from front to back 5 times. How easy would it be to write down a list of all the laws that you can find in the non-muggle world and then submit that list to Reddit and promote that list through Facebook?

Are you an employment lawyer? You could spend a couple of weekends tallying down all the possible cases for harassment or wrongful termination in shows like AMC’s Mad Men or NBC’s The Office. Or, if you were really ambitious, you could create a chart comparing all shows that take place in an office made in the last 10 years. Do something like that, and you’ll probably never need to build another link again.

Chances are you have an interest or hobby that overlaps with your expertise in the law. This gives you an opportunity to tap into a much larger audience who will share and link to your content.

Provide a Comprehensive Resource Focusing on a Frequently Asked About Topic

While most Google searches will turn up an article or resource that provides the information you’re looking for, oftentimes it doesn’t provide content to the level of depth, detail or quality that you need. For example, while there are plenty of pages out there about how to file a workers compensation claim in a particular state, how many law firm websites provide a comprehensive resource with all the forms and special instructions for filing out certain form fields in one place? If you fill that content gap by creating such a resource on your website, that resource could eventually become the go-to page for anyone who needs to fill out a workers comp claim.

When creating an online resource, put yourself in the shoes of your clients.  A comprehensive resource that gives potential clients a good idea about their situation will not only help prospective clients gain confidence in your knowledge as an attorney but is also a good signal to the search engines that you’re providing great content and that your site is worthy of ranking and getting traffic.

Unfortunately, if your site doesn’t have many links to begin with, chances are a lower quality resource on a more established site is likely to rank higher than what you’ve created. This is why it’s important to reach out to owners of other websites who may want to link to your resource. While outreach is beyond the scope of this article, you should check out this great resource from Page One Power.

Create a Community Page

One of the easiest and most effective things a law firm can do to get links is through the relationships that you already have in your community. What organizations and non-profits does your firm support? Show them a little love!

Create a page giving testimonials for local organizations and vendors you do business with and link to them. These might include:

  • Community Theaters and Arts Organizations
  • Local expert witnesses you work with.
  • Charity Runs/Walks/Bike Rides
  • Trade organizations
  • Labor Unions
  • Legal Organizations (The National Lawyers Guild, National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Local Bar Associations)
  • Small businesses (possibly former clients)
  • Local Chapters of National Charities (Toys for Tots, United Way, Special Olympics)
  • Pro-bono work for local businesses or non-profit organizations
  • Organizations or clubs (even a recreational club like a sailing club) where a firm member is a board member (You can link to the firm from the bio page. “Attorney smith is a partner at Smith & Smith PLLC”
  • Art purchased for the firm (Take a picture and send to artist and they may link back to the site).
  •  Local businesses your work with. This includes
    • Service Providers: Janitors, Electricians, Moving Companies, Painters, Plumbers, Carpenters.
    • Caterers
    • Delivered Goods
    • Leased equipment
    • Employee training
    • Local IT company
    • Car Dealership (for company vehicle)
    • Local Restaurants (Company Happy Hour)
    • Local Design Firms

Once you’ve created this page, shoot off some friendly emails saying that you mentioned each business or organization favorably on their site. If the website has a testimonials page, give them permission to copy the testimonial you’ve written and put it on that page–hopefully with a link back to the original testimonial on your site.

Create a Unique Scholarship Idea

One of the most successful link building campaigns that I’ve seen a lawyer do was based on a scholarship that a DUI lawyer did that required applicants to (confidentially) admit that they had driven while buzzed in the past. This scholarship offer caused quite a stir and the attorney received great links from high authority national news sites.

While most scholarships probably wont get the kind of publicity that the DUI one did, there’s still a lot you can do with them. For example, you could have each applicant write a short essay about some issue that people care about AND something that is relevant to your practice. If you’re an immigration attorney, for example, you may want to ask applicants to write an essay voicing their opinions on recent immigration reforms. The winning essay would then be posted on your website’s blog and then shared via social media. Perhaps you could even make social media traction (number of shares, etc) be a criterion for winning the scholarship. You get free content and content promotion, and a student gets a financial leg up. Win-win.

Creating Content is Only Half of The Picture

While it’s important to understand what quality content is and to be able to tailor your content with your audience, without links or authority on your site, you can’t expect that your content will just be picked up by Google and your traffic will roll in. If you’re writing about a story on the news, reach out to journalists in your area, take them out to lunch or coffee and volunteer yourself as a resource when it comes to certain stories. If you’re hiring a PR firm to publicize one of your cases, make sure you’re doing everything you can to promote your case on the social media/web side. If you’re creating a resource on your site, whether it be a guide, a video or a scholarship page, be sure to reach out the people who have the ability to amplify your content. When you combine quality content with targeted outreach, you’ll be surprised how far you can go.

Why Your Content Sends You Zero Traffic

YUNO

“So I’ve been blogging for a few months now. Why am I not getting any traffic?”

One of the most persistent myths in online marketing is that creating content will always lead to more traffic. Content is essential, yes, but with over 2 million blog posts popping up every day, the answer is likely that Google thinks one of those other 1,999,999 posts is more worthy of directing traffic to.

I know it sounds harsh, but hear me out. It doesn’t mean that your content is poor. Nor does it mean that it doesn’t deserve to rank. It simply means that the criteria Google uses to evaluate whether your content is relevant or valuable are not met. If you’ve been producing content for a while now and you haven’t been seeing an improvement, your content may be suffering from one or more of the following problems:

No One is Searching for the Topics You’re Writing About

One of the first things that you need to do as a content writer is to determine the kind of search volume there might be around your chosen topic. Search volume is essentially how many people are searching for the kinds of answers, information, opinions, or edification that your content aims to provide.

Use Pay Per Click data for Topic Research

One common tool that SEOs like myself use to research a topic’s search volume is Google Keyword Planner. Google provides this tool free of charge to give search marketers an idea of how much they should pay for a particular keyword when doing PPC advertising.

speeding-ticket-keywords

Using the keyword tool gives you a good idea of the kind of traffic you can expect should you get a piece of content to rank. It’s important to note that while the average monthly searches for each keyword seems relatively low, I have often seen successful pieces of content bring in more traffic than the average monthly searches for any targeted keyword. This is because the same piece of content will often show up for several different search queries. Also, because the numbers provided by Google Ad Planner are not 100% accurate, it’s important not to take them at face value; they are often best used for seeing the relative difference in search volume between keywords rather than the actual search volume for each keyword.

Try to build content around the keywords that have higher search volume and that you don’t see your competition writing about. Oftentimes you can succeed in getting this content to rank quickly, and send traffic to your site faster than with the more competitive terms. This is why it’s good to explore the Adwords Planner and see if there are any “out of the box” keywords to focus your content around. A quick look at the ideas for the search term “speeding ticket” shows this little gem:

pay-traffic-ticket-online

Wow, a keyword with over 4,440 searches a month and low competition! This looks like an opportunity to create a post like: “Paying a Traffic Ticket Online? 10 Reasons Why You Should Reconsider.” As you can see, Adwords Keyword Planner can be a very powerful tool for content idea generation. Use it for keywords in your practice area and see what you come up with!

Use Quora and Reddit for Topic Research

Another way to research what kind of content people are looking for is to go to sites like Quora or Reddit and do a quick search. The questions on these sites are user generated, so they often reflect what searchers are looking for that may not occur to you. For example: I looked up “speeding ticket” on Quora and the first question that came up was “Are traffic tickets public record?” Answering this question would be a perfect topic for a traffic attorney. Chances are that many more people out there want to know the answer to the question than just the person who asked it on Quora.

Search Volume isn’t Everything

Although it’s important to be conscious about keyword search volume, this may not always be important for your business. Information about how to get out of a speeding ticket (Keyword: “how to get out of a speeding ticket”), for example, is information many people will find interesting or useful at some point of their lives.  Information about how a particular law firm or attorney is good at getting people out of a speeding ticket (Keyword: “traffic attorneys in tacoma reviews,” on the other hand, will target a much smaller and more specific audience. A good rule of thumb here is that the more specific (or “long tail“) a search phrase is, the fewer people there will be searching for it.

Although it’s good to want more traffic, don’t neglect the long tail! The long tail search terms will bring in less traffic, but often the people using long tail search terms have much more specific intent. If you are a traffic lawyer, one website visit from someone interested in getting out of a speeding ticket in Tacoma will be much more valuable to your business than 100 visits from people who are just generally interested in how to get out of a speeding ticket.

Still no traffic?

So you’ve thoroughly researched a topic with high search volume, written about it, bravely pressed publish and…crickets. What went wrong? Well, it’s possible that…

You Don’t Have Enough Authority

If you have a brand new site, and happen to produce the most brilliant, engaging and informative page on on how to get out of a speeding ticket ever written, chances are that you still won’t rank very high for it. Even though a topic may have high traffic volume, and you write the perfect piece of content for the audience interested in that topic, you’re likely competing against many other high authority sites (Avvo, Nolo, etc) that have written similar content.

While Google uses many factors to rank content, authority is one of the most important. Google measures authority by the number of links pointing to a particular website. A brand new blog will have zero links pointing to it from other websites, and thus have little to no authority. The New York Times, however, has over  200,000,000 links from over 800,000 different websites. If the New York Times writes an article about getting out of a speeding ticket, chances are high that this article would rank in the top 10 results in Google within a day. Even though the Times article itself may have zero links to it, the authority of the site as a whole (or Domain Authority) helps boost this brand new page.

Since most web pages don’t get many links from other websites, domain authority is a very important factor when it comes to ranking content. A page with a lot of links (or Page Authority), however, even from an unknown blog with low domain authority, will tend to rank higher than pages from high authority websites with no links. A common strategy I’ve seen for many sites is to build a page with incredible content, promote that content through social media and direct outreach to webmasters, and once that content acquires a lot of links, it will start to rank and bring a lot of traffic. This organic search traffic will begin to attract links passively from people who visit the page from search and then link to it from their blog or resource page. These pages will not only have strong page authority, but will tend to increase the domain’s overall authority, which means your interesting content page will help your more “boring” link-less pages to start ranking.

How To Get Links to Your Content

In order to get people to share and link to your content, it has to provide some value to your target audience. Here are some reasons why people might share or link to your content:

  • It’s useful and informative
  • It mentions or talks about people (And the people you mention link to it)
  • It provides an unusual or unique perspective
  • It’s entertaining
  • It’s controversial
  • It’s timely
  • It’s funny
  • It has compelling data or data visualizations

When you have content that satisfies 1 or more of the above criteria, the next step is to make sure that this content gets in front of as many of the right people as possible. Ideally, you want to expose your content to as many people as possible within the first day of it being published. While discussing the tactics involved with content promotion could take up a whole book, here are my three favorites:

  • Research the names of social media influencers in your niche such as popular bloggers and create an outreach list. Email each influencer a personalized email, sharing your content and ask for their opinion or feedback on the content. Don’t ask for the share. If they like the content, they will share it. Ideally it’s best to establish rapport with these influencers by commenting on their blogs or sharing their posts on social media first.
  • Explore forums, Subreddits, Quora, and Google Plus Communities (yes, some people do use Google Plus very actively) and post your link if you feel the audience might appreciate what you have to share. Be careful not to just “leave” your link on a forum without thoroughly researching the forum and knowing the forum rules. Spamming forums will get you banned.
  • Advertise your content. Facebook advertising is one of the cheapest ways to get your content viewed by thousands of people in your niche. You may also want to experiment with advertising on Reddit and StumbleUpon.

While many of these tactics don’t lead to links directly. Oftentimes this will help your content get noticed by bloggers and webmasters who do have the ability to link to your content. Make sure that you concentrate all your outreach and promotion efforts in one day if you can. The more people that view and share your content within a limited window of time, the more likely that content is  going to gain momentum, leading to even more views and shares.

Having trouble getting links? It’s quite possible that…

Your Content is Thin or Lacks Originality

What if you have content for a topic you know has high search volume on a website that has high authority and you’re still not ranking? What’s missing?

Answer: Your content could be thin or unoriginal.

What is thin content?

Thin content barely qualifies as content. Many websites are stuffed with pages that only contain a short paragraph that reads like a summary of a topic rather than an in-depth exploration of the topic. In my experience, you’re better off having 10 pages of great content than thousands of pages of thin content.

What is unoriginal content?

I’ve seen sites with innumerable pages optimized for every conceivable keyword. Although the content itself may pass a plagiarism check, it’s often virtually indistinguishable from all the other content on the site. While churning out content for the sake of search engine traffic used to be an effective tactic, the increasingly sophisticated Google Panda Algorithm has learned to weed out this cookie cutter content. Indeed, while there are plenty of law blogs out there with hundreds of posts, these posts have zero comments, zero links, and little to no kind of social media engagement. On average, most of these blog posts only get 1 to 2 visits per year from organic search, often with a high bounce rate. Instead of paying a blogger to crank out posts every other day, you’re probably better off spending that money taking your team out to lunch.

What can you do to improve your content so that it gets noticed by humans and search engines alike? You can:

Personalize it: How might your personal experiences give the content some color and humanize it?

Localize it: Is there something peculiar or unique about your city or region which would be useful or interesting to local readers? The legal field in particular has plenty opportunities to talk about state and municipal laws.

Deepen it: Is there some background you could add to the content if you did just a little bit of research?

If you don’t do at least one of these three things, don’t expect your content to rank. But if you have and you’re still not ranking, my guess is that…

You Have Non-Content Related Issues

While search volume, authority, and content quality are the main elements for getting your content to rank, oftentimes there are non-content related issues that can throttle your traffic. If you have great content, you’re promoting it well and the content targets the right audience, you probably have these issues:

Technical SEO Issues

Do you have a misplaced line of code in your robots.txt file that is telling Google to ignore all your web pages? Perhaps your site’s download speed is so sluggish that Google is deciding to rank pages from faster websites over yours. Or maybe you have a lot of pages from an old website that are improperly redirecting to your new one.

Although Google is getting smarter about looking past technical issues, there are still many technical issues that can cause problems with SEO. A solid technical audit is essential to ensure that your website properly set up to be crawled and indexed. Before you start running the race, make sure your shoes are tied.

Black Hat SEO

Another non-content related issue is black hat SEO. It’s possible you’ve hired someone to work on your site who has used black hat SEO tactics to help improve your rankings. Google is constantly on the lookout for evidence of these tactics. Once caught, your site could be slapped with a penalty that can take a lot of work to recover from. While diagnosing whether or not your site has been penalized is out of the scope of this article, usually if you see a huge drop in traffic (especially after an unusual surge in traffic) the possibility is high that you’ve received some sort of penalty from Google.

Be sure you know what you’re getting into before hiring an SEO agency. If you can, get recommendations from colleagues and friends that have been happy working with the same agency for more than a year. If an agency is doing black hat work for you, a penalty will likely surface within a years time. Also, be sure that you are aware of some of the warning signs that you could be working with a less than legitimate agency.

Go Forth and Create Great Content!

If someone in the past has told you that they tried getting traffic through content creation and it didn’t work, they probably didn’t know about or follow the above guidelines. You need content with great quality, a site (or pages) with good authority, and content that is relevant to what people are actually looking for. Satisfying these three criteria isn’t easy, but if you do, you’ll start seeing more traffic than you know what to do with.