This is a review of a Benchmarking study I conducted for the American Bar Association quantifies the question:
How much business does SEO generate?
This has been an oft disputed theory – although frankly I’ve never understood the dispute – but there are certainly factions within the legal online marketspace who argue vociferously that SEO traffic should not be a law firm’s objective. And we’ve certainly seen many examples of low quality traffic; however, my personal thoughts echo SEO audit superstar, Alan Bleiwiess who commented on this issue:
Wait. Who says traffic from search doesn’t lead to sales? I need to meet such people. If for no other reason, than to laugh. Uncontrollably. In their faces.
So instead of letting theories clash (and to see if Alan is right)… I thought I’d actually look into the data. Turns out, SEO traffic generates inbound phone calls at a pretty consistent and strong rate. Utilizing call tracking software and and only counting first time callers we found:
SEO generates 3.35 calls for every 100 visitors.
Granted its a small sample size – and these are mostly long standing clients of mine – so they are well taken care of from an online marketing perspective (yes, I’m biased). For the most part, we’ve pruned out garbage content; focused traffic on local traffic instead of global traffic and heavily invested in high converting terms from a content perspective. You will note, from the graph above, there still is a wide array of success here – from about 1 call/100 session to 6 calls/100 sessions. (And yes – we are digging deep into each of these firms to understand what those differences are – but that’s a study I’m keeping just for my own clients.) We also found, those firms in the study who were PI firms – that average rose to 4.5. And if you really want to nerd out and go back to your graduate stats course – the correlation coefficient between the two was .70.
Now of course, not all of these inbound inquiries are prospective clients – it may very well be someone’s spouse looking up his wife’s number to coordinate picking up the kids from soccer – or more frequently a PPC salesperson prospecting for clients. BUT…. overall there is a clear and solid line between search traffic and prospects.
You can read more on the study in the ABA Journal or see the stats behind the study here.
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 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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 exceptions, but 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.
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.
Direct – People who type in your website directly. www.yoursite.com
This is “Google” for “Paid”
We’re using “All Search” for “Organic” here.
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
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
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).
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.
Here at Mockingbird, we love data. We love data because data allows us to make decisions based on what works, rather than what we think might work. We love data because it allows us to explain to our clients why they should be spending less time, money and effort on X while spending more on Y. Have I mentioned that we love data? Ok great.
This love for data is why all of our clients have their phone number displayed clearly at the very top of their website – and not just any number, a call tracking number.
What a Phone Number Can Tell Us
Phone numbers in marketing can do much more than connect your clients to your business (connecting your clients to your business is priority number one). Here’s a short list of all the information a phone number can give you:
How many calls your business receives,
Which marketing channel generated those calls (organic traffic, PPC, referrals from Avvo, etc),
How long each call lasted,
The location each call was placed from,
How much you spent to acquire that call,
Whether you converted that caller into a client, and
Your ROI on said client.
Don’t go calling your phone company just yet… This is all done by using call tracking software, which masks your firm’s main telephone number with a unique (sometimes toll free) tracking number. This number changes based on how that person found your website, allowing the software to track how many calls came from AdWords vs. Bing Ads, and so on.
Panicking at the thought of losing your catchy number? Take a couple deep breaths; it may not be as important as you think.
Let Go Of Your Catchy Phone Number
**Insert some Disney song reference here**
I have a confession: I have no idea what my girlfriend’s phone number is. I think it starts with a two.
I have another confession: I call my neighborhood Teriyaki restaurant once a week. I don’t know their phone number, either.
If a number is really important to me, like my girlfriends’, I save it in my phone as a contact. If it’s not so important, like the teriyaki restaurant, I do a quick Google search for their name, and then click-to-call their number.
On the rare day I’m without my cell phone, I search for phone numbers on Google, and then immediately dial – retaining the numbers just long enough to press each button. I like to think I’m using this brain space for more important things (maybe I’m not).
My behavior is representative of many people in 2015, and brings up a noteworthy point: information is so accessible these days that the actual phone number is becoming less and less important. Gone are the days of keeping a Rolodex. Now, we can easily save a new phone number into our phone or quickly look it up through search.
And unlike humans, computers don’t care if that number ends in 1-2-3-4 or rhymes with “DUI”.
Area Codes and Local Phone Numbers
Area codes can factor into your local search efforts, so you should have a local, direct phone number that rings to your law firm. Use this number in all of your website directories (especially Google My Business). However, don’t let acquiring a local tracking number keep you from using call tracking software. Since they aren’t hard coded into your site, tracking numbers don’t affect local search efforts. Additionally, they’re highly dependent on what the phone companies release to the public/tracking companies, so you could be waiting a while.
Whatever you do, don’t hard code a bunch of different numbers in a bunch of different places. Make it as easy for Google to connect the dots. Call tracking software doesn’t actually change the phone number on your site, it just masks it; your NAP (name-address-phone number) consistency is safe.
Call Tracking Software We Like
We use Avvo Ignite whenever a firm lacks an intake process. Avvo understands lawyers. They also understand SEO. They’ve put both of these things together and made a product that can help a firm not only track the number of leads, but the leads within the purchasing funnel. Warning: you have to use it to get the most out of it.
When intake software isn’t necessary, or when a client doesn’t utilize a majority of the features within Ignite, we also recommend Call Rail. This product seems to have a nice selection of local and toll free numbers, and integrates very easily into WordPress via a plugin and API key. As an added bonus, it plays well with multi-location firms with more than one number displayed throughout your website.
There are many, many more companies that offer solutions similar to the two above. What call tracking software is your firm using and which channel is driving the most leads? If you’re not sure, we’re happy to help you figure that out.