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.

6 (not scary) Steps to Setup a Google Account [Gmail] with an already existing Email.

Be honest: how many email accounts do you have? Now actually be honest: How many email accounts do you use? If your answer is “one” to both questions, congratulations! You win at the internet! If it took you a while to count, please read on.

Logging in to tools is a major reason why many of us have multiple email accounts. Things like Google Analytics, Search Console, Google My Business, Google +, and Bing Webmaster tools all require emails registered with either Google or Microsoft to gain access. Nobody has time to keep track of all of this (unless we are your VP of Marketing).

I’m about to share with you a step by step guide on how you can clean up your logins and use a single email account with these tools. It’s as simple as setting up an already existing email account with Google. There’s a very similar process to setting up a Microsoft account with a non-Microsoft email that I’ll cover in a different blog some day.

I highly, highly, highly (did I say highly?) recommend that you create/dedicate an email on your company’s domain name rather than using a free Hotmail, yahoo or inbox account. If you don’t have an email on your firm’s domain give us a call so we can help.

Please note: if your firm’s email is hosted through G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Business), then you’re already registered with Google! If you’re firm’s email is hosted through Exchange or Office 365, then you’re already registered with Microsoft!

Quick Steps to Setup a Google Account with a non-Gmail Email:

Step 1: Log out of any Gmail account(s) you’re currently logged in to, then open https://accounts.google.com.

Step 2: Click the Create Account link below the gray “sign in with your Google Account” box.

Step 3: Below the “Choose your username” field, click I prefer to use my current email address link.

Step 4: Enter your non-Gmail email address you would like to register with Google.

Step 5: Finish filling out the new account form and accept Google’s Privacy Policy and Terms.

Step 6: Confirm your new account with the email address you provided.

Longer Explanation and visual guides for Setting up a Google Account with a non-Gmail Email:

Step 1: Log out of any Gmail account(s) you’re currently logged in to, then open https://accounts.google.com.

If you’re already signed in to a Gmail account and this is the same address that you’d like to use for Google’s suite of tools, you’re done! You address is already associated to Google.

Step 2: Click the Create Account link below the gray “sign in with your Google Account” box.

google account create new account login

Step 3: Below the “Choose your username” field, click I prefer to use my current email address link.

prefer to use current email for gmail

Step 4: Enter your non-Gmail email address you would like to register with Google.

Once you’ve clicked this link, you’ll be able to enter your current (non-Gmail) email address for this setup process. This is the most important step in this process. As mentioned, I highly recommend setting up or dedicating an already existing email that is on your domain (example: admin@bestlawfirmever.com).

fields for creating google account with current email

Step 5: Finish filling out the new account form and accept Google’s “Privacy and Terms.” This includes:

  • Name (first and last)
  • Password & confirmation of Password (don’t make it the same as your luggage combination)
  • Birthday
  • Gender
  • Mobile phone (use a number that accept texts messages for recovery purposes).
  • Default homepage (as if your homepage isn’t already Google.com)
  • Location

google privacy terms

**Google’s Privacy and Terms are likely to change**

Step 6: Confirm your new account with the email address you provided by following the final instructions given (normally this is to simply click accept in the email you’ve received to the email address you’ve just registered).

Now that you’ve registered your email address with Google, you can give access/ownership of Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google my Business and any other Google tools that you use to this email account. If you’ve taken my recommendation of using a dedicated email that’s on your domain, you’ll never have to worry about the temporary front desk/law student/in-house marketer from leaving and taking all your data with them.

Now Celebrate. You’ve just made your life a whole lot easier.

Online Reputation Management: How to do Reviews

Reputation management is yet another candidate in a long list of considerations you need to take into account when managing your online presence. In addition to proactively keeping your citations correct, building links, posting fresh content, structuring your site, and on and on, it can be tiring to know there’s one more thing that threatens to undermine your hard work and past successes. But anyone who tells you marketing is easy is a liar. There’s a reason this is our job.

 

What is reputation management? Why is it important?

The concept of reputation management is as simple as it sounds. If you want to be found (and subsequently hired), you need to put your information out on the internet. Moz’s 2014 Local Search Ranking Factor survey listed review signals as having 10% of total influence on search rankings. In addition, online reviews are trusted more than ads in almost every medium, and 35% of clients say they use online reviews to research new attorneys (thanks to the legal technology team at Software Advice for going out of their way to provide the raw info from that study). Having profile pages on sites like Avvo, Yelp, Google+, etc., makes you more likely to be found when someone searches for your practice. But getting clients isn’t just about whether your online presence is big or small, it’s also about whether that presence is good or bad. It doesn’t matter if you’re the top of the local pack for “personal injury lawyer New York” – if you show a 1-star average from 10 reviews, people will skip over you and go to the next attorney in line.

Managing your reputation means getting high-quality reviews from clients across multiple platforms, making sure those ratings are glowing and natural (no spam!), and dealing with bad reviews as they occur. It also means ranking well for search results directly related to your business, so that your results stand above any bad PR pieces that show up in the SERPs. But that’s a lot of moving pieces, so this post is just going to focus on one of the most obvious parts: getting good reviews. Let’s look into what you can do to have a great online reputation.

 

Getting clients to review you

The most important step towards getting good reviews is providing excellent service. You will find it very hard to get praise if you don’t deserve it. But once you’ve jumped over that minor hurdle, the next the best catalyst for reviews is asking. If you don’t ask for reviews, the only people who will give you any are the ones who seek out opportunities to do so. This usually lends to you looking worse online than in real life because angry clients are far more likely to go out of their way to review than happy ones.

At Mockingbird, we find that the best way to ask for reviews is in person after the case is over, then letting clients fill out the review in their own time afterwards. Strike up a conversation when the client comes by to fill out paperwork or make a payment, and tell them how much a review means to your business. Getting a verbal agreement from your client is one of the most effective means of guaranteeing they will review you afterwards. Look them in the eye, and gain their approval with a handshake. After that meeting, make the process is easy as possible by following up with an email linking them to your relevant profile(s) – except for Yelp, more on that in a bit. Another benefit of asking for reviews individually is that you can pick and choose who you want to represent you online. If you won a case but you don’t think the client will be receptive, consider not reaching out for a review.

Some people just don’t have the time to watch all their review sites and check in with each individual client, so they turn to automated review management tools like GetFiveStars or other automatic review solicitors. The usual trick with these is to send an initial email asking for feedback. If the reviewer gives a low score, they are thanked for their opinion and nothing else is done. If the review gives a high score, they are instead prompted to voice their opinions on one of several sites. We’ve tried this before, but our conversion rates were almost non-existent. The major problem is that this tactic is used for business with large client volumes, like restaurants or hair salons. Law firms and attorneys don’t deal with nearly as many clients, so you end up with a pretty bad return on investment. If you’re still interested in watching for reviews, consider a tracking software like ReviewTrackers so you don’t have to constantly visit your Justia and Avvo profiles.

 

Optimizing your impact

The strength of reviews is dependent on a lot of factors beyond your average ranking. Moz’s 2014 Local Search Ranking Factors survey emphasizes the following:

  • Quantity of reviews
  • Authority of sites hosting those reviews
  • Diversity of sites hosting those reviews
  • Freshness of reviews, and the rate those reviews were added
  • Whether your rating shows up next to your search result (need 5 or more Google+ reviews)

The first on that list is quantity, which has become more important over the past year. Only about 8% of potential customers consider a business trustworthy if there is 1 review. For 85% of potential clients to consider you trustworthy, it’s good to have at least 10 reviews. Now these should be quality reviews so you can’t expect this to be done in a few days or even a few months. Like everything in SEO, good reputation management takes time.

In addition, you should be aware of what sites your reviews show up on, because there are a lot of options. A surprisingly large amount of users go through Yelp, along with Super Lawyers, Martindale-Hubbell, and Avvo. You can get reviews on Google+, Avvo, Justia, Yelp, and other directories, but ask your clients where they found your business so you what to focus on.

Yelp is a unique beast in that they don’t want you to ask your clients for reviews, something we’ve discussed in one of our LMQ videos. However, Yelp’s suggested ways to “remind customers”, such as profile links in your e-mail signature or stickers on your business door, aren’t effective for attorneys (and can be very tacky). We firmly believe that you should still proactively ask your clients for reviews, but avoid invoking Yelp’s ire by not explicitly stating where to go. A softer approach is more appropriate: “We really appreciate reviews because it helps our web presence, several places you can go are: [your top 3 targeted directories]”. In a follow-up email, don’t send them a direct link to your Yelp page, but ask them to search for your name.

Important Note: Even though you won’t be regarded as trustworthy if you have no reviews, potential clients will find you even less trustworthy if you have mostly bad reviews. Do not ask for a review unless you’re confident it will be a positive one.

 

The evils of astroturfing

It’s common to want an easy way out of this problem. Despite your best efforts, clients may not be likely to review you and not every review will be a raving 5 stars. At these times it may be tempting to look for another way to get your ratings up. But fight the urge. In addition to be less than fair to potential clients, it’s also dangerous for you.

Yelp is big on keeping reviews legitimate. They’ve sued attorneys for faking reviews before (we blogged about that incident), and they go over reviews to make sure nothing looks spammy or forced. Avvo will investigate reviews by hand multiple times, even to the point of asking reviewers to provide evidence that they worked with given attorneys. Remember that these sites make their livelihood off of consumers’ trust, so they are just as willing to crack down on scummy review practices as potential clients are. Even state governments have taken action against fake reviewing companies.

There are other tactics out there from attorneys and firms trying to slip under the radar. But this is the same story with so much of SEO – people try to game the system, and sometimes succeed for a short time, then get smacked once the system improves. Remember that if you want a good reputation, the best thing you can do is provide excellent service. Once people are willing to talk about how great you are, just nudge them in the right direction.

 

We’d love to hear your feedback in the field of review management. Have you used review management software? What do you think is the best way to get reviews? What do you think of Yelp’s opinion on review solicitation? Let us know in the comments.

You can find the sequel to this post here: Dealing With Bad reviews

Why It Takes 5 Years for Email to Generate 1 Law Firm Client

Fortunately, lawyers haven’t stumbled all over themselves in a rush to adopt email marketing in the same way they have social media . . . BUT I still see email marketing being pitched as a primary client development tool.  And rarely does the email newsletter pan out.  The reality is, there are many many steps in the law firm email sales funnel – and every step can torpedo this channel. Here’s the simple math you need to consider when investing in an email marketing campaign:

  • Decay Rate of Email List:  Emails don’t tend to hang around for long – people change jobs, cancel addresses or simply abandon a legacy address.  Towerdata states roughly 2% of an email list is lost every month.
  • Deliverability Rate:  Not all commercial email ever makes it through to an inbox due to spam filters and the like.  ClickZ sites an 88.5% deliverability rate for commercial email.
  • Open Rate:   Mailchimp sites an open rate for 21.33% for legal emails – essentially meaning for those emails that do make it to an inbox – only one in five is actually opened.
  • Click Through Rate:  The same Mailchimp study points to a 3.25% click through rate (note that a good email should have your phone number so they can call you directly.)

Now, let’s make some optimistic assumptions about law firm marketing:

  • Small to medium sized law firms get roughly 300-800 visits monthly.  Let’s round up and call it  1,000 and very optimistically assume one out of every twenty five visitors signs up for your newsletter (resulting in 40 addresses a month).
  • Visitors to law firm websites call at a rate between roughly 2 and 5% depending on the quality of the site’s marketing.  We’ll use 5%.
  • Of phone calls to law firms, roughly one in four is from a qualified prospect – i.e. a potential good client.
  • Law firms close half  of the business they want.

That’s a sales funnel with a daunting eight steps.  Here’s what it looks over a year if we deploy a monthly email campaign:

Email Sales Funnel

 

So after a year, based on these assumptions (and feel free to come up with your own conversion assumptions and play this out for yourself), that’s 0.015 clients – – – – put more simply, even with these optimistic growth rates, on average it will take four and a half years to generate one client.  Some more back of the napkin math: between content development, CAN SPAM compliance, unsubscribes, email capture, we spend 2 hours developing each email at $100 an hour – that’s a cost per client of $10,800.

The Exception

By all means use email (even automated campaigns) to proactively communicate with vetted prospects.

But harbor no illusions that this channel is the answer for filling the top of your sales funnel.  The reality is, email requires a very large volume of recently sourced addresses to make an impact.  Still hopeful? Consider the last time you easily gave up your email address online – and then look at the “Promotions” or “SPAM” tab/folder on your email provider and consider the last time you opened one of them, let alone clicked through.

Most law firms, simply can’t generate enough addresses in the top of the email marketing funnel for anything to come out of the bottom.

Lawyers: Your Email Marketing Channel (Might) be Dead

In May, Google started rolling out a new interface for gmail  that organized email into five different buckets, accessed via tabs  – including one marked “promotional”.   The promotional category includes all email focused on deals, offers and almost everything sent en masse from email service providers.  This new interface is being rolled out to Gmail’s 126 million US subscribers.

Gmail Tabs

Make now doubt about it – email – the super low cost, high ROI channel, is now less effective.  (The cynic in me suggests that Google’s move is part user experience and part an attempt to shift yet more ad dollars to different channels, like . . . . PPC.)

So far, email marketing companies have predictably downplayed the impact of the changes to email campaigns.  Constant Contact SEO Gail Goodman acknowledged “small decreases in open rates among Gmail users.”  MailChimp published an early study indicating a drop in click through rates of 7-8%.  Note that this was conducted at the end of July – at that point it is unclear (I think) how widespread the rollout of the new interface was – so these numbers may be extremely optimistic.

It will be interesting to see how users adapt to the new interface over time – will they forgo the “promotions” tab altogether, or flock there when in a “purchasey” mood – as some email marketers have suggested.  Hard to say – my personal suspicion is that we are seeing the beginning of a huge decline in the volume of marketing emails and a very heavy push towards high quality.  I simply can’t imagine ever opening a second mailbox at the end of the driveway that was stuffed with nothing but the weekly circulars from the local grocery stores.

What to Do?

If your firm has an active email list here are some ways you may be able to earn yourself into the primary tab – or at least minimize the impact of being shunted into a bucket with  Hawaiian timeshares, housecleaning services and adult dating sites.

  1. Focus on engaging subject lines.
  2. Abandon the canned, mass email content from legal email marketers that is recycled among all of their other clients.
  3. Segment your users (and your email content, subject lines) so you are speaking as closely to each customer’s interests as possible.
  4. Abandon the volume perspective – because email is so cheap to send, it encourages quantity instead of quality.  Reverse that mindset and don’t send anything if you don’t have anything interesting to send.
  5. If all else fails – ask users directly to be moved into their “primary” tab.