Is Google Moving to Kill Retargeting?

This morning, Google announced an updated setting allowing users to turn off retargeting ads (which they euphemistically refer to as “reminder ads”.

“Reminder ads like these can be useful, but if you aren’t shopping for Snow Boot Co.’s boots anymore, then you don’t need a reminder about them,” – Jon Krafcik, Google

Note that in legal, these retargeting ads have been hit or miss – with some practice areas completely verboten due to privacy concerns (although some lucky PI advertisers still have been able to sneak through the Google ad review process. However, other practice areas that have a less personal nature (take business litigation for an extreme example), retargeting is incredibly effective, as the cost is extremely low to reach people who have already expressed an interest by being on a site.

CNN knows that despite living on the west coast, I’m an L.L. Bean fan….

Will this have a big impact? I’d say yes – Google accounts for roughly 90% of the retargeting market. However, it will ultimately be the ease (or difficulty) with which individual users can opt out of specific ads that will dictate the impact this change has on advertisers’ retargeting campaigns.

How to Inadvertently Hide Your Content (And Gut Your Site) with Pop Ups

Got another call from a lawyer whose website, he thought, was underperforming. A quick review of the site shows why….

While the site is visually fine, note that all of his practice areas display as pop ups on the same URL…the individual practice area content doesn’t actually exists at his URL: http://grenierlawgroup.com/practice-areas/. (Note below – the URL for this practice area is stuck at /practice-areas/, as is all their other practice area content.

And you can see that Google can’t find any pages about specific practice areas:

I’ve seen this with attorney profile pages as well. So…when you are DIYing (and you really can) your websites…be sure that all of your content has a page (read: distinct URL) on which to reside.

Questions your AdWords Agency Doesn’t Want you To Ask

Over the years, I’ve written a variety of posts to help law firms separate the SEO wheat from the chaff here here and here. It seems the same level of either gross ineptitude or deliberate opportunism has firmly planted itself in the AdWords world as well.  So I bring you, four very uncomfortable questions you should ask your current or prospective AdWords agency.

  1. Access – Do you have access to your AdWords account?  We provide our clients with Admin level access to their AdWords accounts.  If you don’t even have read access to your account, what is your agency hiding? My perspective is that it is YOUR account, we get to work on it, not the other way around.  Without access, this means that if clients leave their agency – they have to start all over again – this is a great model for the agency, but horrendous for the law firm.
  2. Reporting – Does your AdWords accurately track all types of conversions through sophisticated reporting infrastructure to get granular on conversions – phone, form, chat and even text messaging.  This means you can dial in to the actual keyword, or ad within an A/B test to tell you what’s working.
  3. Payment Transparency – we are crystal clear with what % of our spend goes to Google and what goes to us…. Ask you agency the same question and see just how straightforward they are with your dollars.
  4. Exclusivity – I don’t believe we can effectively (or ethically) advertise on the same Channel (AdWords) for two different clients in the same market at the same time.

And note, I’m not getting all high and mighty suggesting you should only hire a Google Premier Partner.  There are a (sprinkling) of solid AdWords agency’s not in Google’s program, BUT they are few and far between.

Stop Googling Yourself

If you grew up with an older sibling, cousin, or mean-spirited family member you might remember the “game” where your own hand was forcibly and repeatedly pushed into your face while the offending party mockingly taunted, “why are you hitting yourself?”

The game, if you can call it that, really only served the purpose of making you feel bad. It was a stupid exercise and entirely unwinnable.

Fast forward to now. You have a business. The days of having someone else bullyingly smush your hand into your face are way behind you. You’re all grown up.

Instead, you sit down at your computer and play a new equally unwinnable game: you Google yourself.

Why are you Googling yourself?

It’s easy to rationalize why checking in on your online presence by pretending to be a prospect would be the right way to stay tuned in to what’s really going on.

But it’s not.

Here are the reasons Googling your business is about as constructive as repeatedly hitting yourself in the face.

  1. It’s incredibly inefficient

How does a handful of one-off (and highly personalized) Google results provide you with any actionable information?

The best-case scenario is a lot of back patting and self-satisfaction. You’re number one in the rankings for the search you ran while logged into your gmail account and sitting in an office at the business you own. Well done. Now what?

Inversely, the worst-case scenario is your result is buried pages deep and now you’re combing through dozens of competitors that are kicking your ass for whatever search you just ran. What do you do with that information?

Either way, the answer is to start digging into more detailed metrics. Why not skip the first part and focus on the items that really matter?

This leads to the next reason…

  1. You have better metrics at your disposal

The most misleading rationale for Googling your business is the idea that you, “want to know how things are going.” That’s deceptive at best.

You already have a strong sense of how things are going.

You have access to your own books, your own analytics, and all your account information. You’re firmly dialed into the daily results and have a strong sense for how business is trending.

At the end of the day, most business owners will prioritize profit. This means clients and revenue are the most important metrics.

Beyond the bottom line of money and clients, qualified leads and inquiries are what drive your sales pipeline and keep business growing. Measuring inquiry volume, close rates, average cost per inquiry, and your average cost for each new client is where you can see the data that actually impacts your success or failure.

If your lead volume has dropped from an average of 100 inquiries per month down to 50, is it going to provide solace that you’re still ranking number one for a few key searches?

Similarly, if you’re not finding yourself on page one, but your website is generating a high number of quality leads from search, there’s a high likelihood you’re only focusing on a couple isolated data points from a much bigger set.

  1. You’re not your customer (and never will be)

Google has estimated that approximately 15% of their search volume is completely unique. That’s about 500 million searches a day that Google hasn’t seen before.

Your prospective customers aren’t always finding you the way you’d expect.

Yes, some high-level search terms are nearly universal, but that’s only one piece. Rather than trying to simulate a few results from the “research phase,” it’s more valuable to look at the complete picture.

What do your clients consistently ask about? What are their biggest concerns? How can you address those questions on your website in such an effective way that they’re immediately convinced they don’t need to look anywhere else?

Take time to read your competitors’ websites. What are they saying or doing that differentiates them from you? What can you do to stand out?

Building unique and creative content that provides a perfect answer for a never before seen Google search is going to convert better than another “me too” white paper, resource, or article on a topic that’s covered on 1,000s of pages across the web.

You should already know your customer’s profile, needs, concerns, and goals. Mimicking a query for the search term you hope they’ll use to find you is a fruitless exercise.

  1. It can have a negative impact

Worst of all, your attempts to monitor your own online presence can actually be detrimental to your online presence. How’s that for a Catch-22?

You probably already know that clicking on your PPC ad is the equivalent of taking money directly from your wallet and handing it to Google. But even when you don’t click on that ad you’re generating an additional impression.

When an ad appears frequently and fails to get clicks it starts being shown less and your cost of bidding for that search term goes up.

The impact on your organic rankings is less dramatic, but clicking on competitor listings and spending time on their site stewing about how your business is better still sends a signal to Google that this was a quality result.

None of this should suggest there’s no value in knowing where you rank relative to your competition. There is.

Yes, the importance of individual rankings is often grossly overstated. But there are still plenty of reasons this information can be useful and should be monitored.

That’s why there are tools available like GetStat, SEMrush, and BrightLocal that allow you to obtain more accurate analysis. That way you can get more reliable data without impacting your site’s performance in the SERPs.

Still not convinced Googling yourself is a bad idea?

Fine. You’re going to do it anyway. Human nature is a funny thing.

At least make sure you’re using a VPN and a private browser whenever you sit down for another session of slowly smacking yourself in the face.

And before you do, please take a few extra seconds to consider “why are you Googling yourself?”

Is Your Brand Synonymous (to Google) with Personal Injury?

Google AdWords broadmatch is very broad. In fact it’s broader than I had thought.

Essentially, AdWords knows that “attorney” means “lawyer” “law firm” and lots of other variants. It is so broad, in fact, that branded queries for law firms: (i.e. Smith Jones and Williams”) are starting to turn up ads for competing law firms, even though there’s nothing in the branded query that denotes a law firm specifically. Semantically, “Smith Jones and Williams” could be accounting, or a pizza restaurant, or a document or an island, or a treaty from the 1700s… but Google has learned that people looking for that specific firm are actually looking for a criminal defense lawyer and are showing ads for other localized criminal defense lawyers.

Here’s an example I did from my Seattle office, for a huge personal injury law firm in Texas. Note that three ads for Seattle based PI firms show up for the very specific query: “Glasheen Valles”.

 

What this means tactically:

  1. Lawyers should bid on their own brand name. This includes the firm as well as individuals.
  2. Broad match in AdWords may be a path towards spending a lot of money on expensive PPC terms. A sophisticated campaign should be MUCH more specific.

 

Next Level Marketing…. Local Legal Spam across NY and NJ

About a month ago I wrote about the strange case of the solo practitioner, Andrew Calcagano who staffed 66 offices across the tri-state area.  Here’s the follow up post regarding his agency, Next Level – who according to one of the testimonials on their site….

“They maximize our exposure in a way no one else does.”

Well, at least that part is true.

Let me start with this:  Next Level produces amazing, slick, professional quality video.  They also spam the hell out of the legal market across the eastern seaboard.  And while Next Level pulled all mention of Calcagno from their website after my post… there were plenty more to do a little review on like:

The Law Offices of John W. Tumelty

Solo practitioner with seven “offices” across the bottom tip of NJ.

Proner and Proner Attorneys at Law

Despite their name “& Proner” and “Attorneys at Law”, the only attorney I can find on the website is Mitchell Proner, although he manages to have no fewer than five different locations.

Team Law

Team Law is upfront about their “appointment only” office space (on their website at least).

Lombardi and Lombardi

This 10 lawyer firm manages to spread their attorneys across 6 offices across the Garden State, although their Point Pleasant locations looks like I might get to order some friend popcorn shrimp along with my legal help.

And according to Yelp, 62 Broad Street is really the location of Jack Baker’s Lobster Shanty – to be fair, perhaps this did get turned into a law office once Jack’s shut down.

I did check out more of their clients’ alleged office spaces and in many cases, found some that might have been genuine spots; athlough there was a strange prevalence of law firms sprinkled inside medical office buildings.   But…. the pattern remains, small (even solo) firms, pushing 5-66 different locations is simplty Local Spam.  And, to reiterate my point from my previous post: faking office space is stealing, not marketing.

  • Its stealing from clients who want to hire (and think they are hiring) a law firm who is just down the road.  Remember 43% of people make their lawyer hiring decision based on proximity – so faking an office location when you are really 100 miles away is lying about the most important hiring factor to prospective clients.
  • Its stealing from other lawyers – well positioned in their local community – who are losing out to geographically distant firms. (And sometimes not even firms, but marketing agencies scumbags masquerading as law firms who sell local leads to non-local law firms).

Join me this Wednesday, for a webinar to discuss a case study on a State Bar that stepped in (or “stepped up” to deal with rampant local spam.  Join us:  Local Spam, Lawyers, State Bars and an Ethical Quandary.  (And Next Level Marketing people…. if you’d like to join the webinar and defend your tactics, consider this an open invitation…..)

Caught Stealing… Why Your Local Spam is THEFT and Not “Marketing”

A month or so ago, I gave an amazing webinar with Local Search nerd and founder of Sterling Sky, Joy Hawkins  Frankly, the webinar was awesome because of the subject matter and Joy… this is no humblebrag.  Joy and I spent the better part of an hour talking about Local spam…. the underhanded dirty practice of faking office locations as a marketing tactic to artificially expand a law firm’s geographic reach.

Escape FindLaw Contracts

During the webinar I made the comment, that this practice is not a marketing tactic, but instead theft… that law firms are stealing business from other lawyers with fake locations. One of the webinar attendees commented, “thank you, thank you, thank you for finally calling this out for what it is.”

So here goes again:  Those of you engaged in local spam are stealing, not marketing. And those agencies helping you do so should be shunned.  

If there’s any question note this:  according to a Google study, 43% of prospects select their law firm based on the proximity of the lawyer – so lawyers faking locations are screwing not only their competitors, but their clients as well.

I’ve seen the devastating impact on the bottom line of many firms who suffer from competitors virtually elbowing their way into a market.  In any given month, 10% of our clients’ marketing investment is targeted towards combating those fake listings.

To date we’ve been quiet and private about those firms and agencies marketing with Local Spam caught stealing from our clients.  That stops today.  More to come….

 

Google moving (some) organic results above the map?

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

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

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

Get The Most From Your AdWords Search Terms: 2 [Simple] Tips

The number one reason I love Google AdWords (aside from us now being a Premier Partner) is that their advertising platform enables you to target potential clients who are actively searching for your service. Not only do they place your ad in front of users who are searching for your service, but you can actually see what they searched for before clicking your advertisement. This transparency gives you an immense amount of power. In this post I’ll describe how to use that search data to quickly and easily perform 2 key tasks:

  1. Identify negative keywords
  2. Content idea generation

How to Access Your Search Terms Data

Let’s take a step back. The first thing you need to do is navigate to your “Search Terms” tab in your Google AdWords dashboard. Follow these steps…

  1. Login to Google AdWords
  2. Navigate to the specific campaign you want to work on
  3. Select the “keywords” tab and then select “search terms” in the second menu so you see a screen similar to this:

AdWords Search Terms

Now that you can see how people are finding and clicking on your ads, you’re ready to use that data. Take a minute to scroll through your search terms; if it’s your first time, you may be surprised at what you find.

Identifying and Adding New Negative Keywords

Now that you’re looking at the list of search terms you’ve paid for – you’ll want to identify anything that is irrelevant or not likely to lead to conversions. It’s good to go through at least every few weeks (more frequently if you are running a large budget campaign) and make sure you are excluding terms you don’t want to pay for in the future.

Here are some real client examples from an immigration attorney…

  • is rihanna getting deported” (I don’t think this person is looking to hire a deportation defense attorney for Rihanna.)
  • immigration paralegal openings in clearwater utah” (Unfortunately the law firm isn’t located in Utah and not looking to hire new paralegals.)
  • how many immigrants has trump deported” (Albeit an interesting question… this client doesn’t have the answer, and more importantly, this person is not looking to hire an attorney.)

If you find terms like this that you want to exclude from triggering your ads, simply select the checkbox next to the search term and then scroll to the top navigation and click the “add as a negative keyword” button.

It’s important to mention that as a best practice, you should upload a list of negative keywords before ever launching your AdWords campaigns. This way you are proactively mitigating the irrelevant and unprofitable keywords. Here are some freebies we include on most of our campaigns (dependent on practice area of course):

  • Cheap
  • Pro bono
  • News
  • Job
  • School
  • Statistics

Using Search Terms Data for Content Idea Generation

The queries you find in your search terms data can be utilized as a tool for organic search strategy as well. This list of terms is often a goldmine for generating new content ideas. You can see what people are interested in and actively searching for and make sure you have content on your site that answers those questions. Once more, if you already have relevant content, you can use the search terms report to get insight into how you can optimize the content on page to match the searchers verbiage.

For example, here are more examples from the same immigration attorney…

  • can I get a green card by marrying a permanent resident?
  • which green card is safe from deportation?
  • what are the newest immigration laws?

All of these questions can and should be used as a springboard for new content. If you can become the trusted resource for information about your practice area than you are winning.

Wrapping Up

Make sure you are not neglecting the search terms report in Google AdWords. Not only will it help you cut costs and focus on the relevant queries that drive business, but it can also help support your content and overall SEO strategy.