Lawyers of Distinction’s New Top Dog

Mockingbird Marketing is pleased to announce that Lucy Davis of Seattle, Washington has been accepted as a member of Lawyers of Distinction. Lawyers of Distinction limits its membership to the top 10% of attorneys in the United States, and accepts only those who pass their objective evaluation of an attorney’s reputation, experience, license, qualifications, and disciplinary history. Through their vigorous research, Lawyers of Distinction has chosen to bestow this remarkable honor on our dear friend, Lucy.

Lucy Davis is a highly experienced and compassionate personal injury attorney at Davis Law Group in Seattle, WA. With many years of close client relationships, Ms. Davis takes a different approach to advocating for innocent victims of negligent crimes.

Ms. Davis is a member of the King County Bark Association and the American Kennel Club. She is also a strong supporter of the Courthouse Dogs Foundation.

In her spare time, Ms. Davis likes to take long walks and spend time with her family. During the summer months, she spends her time outdoors, either bike riding or boating around Lake Union and Lake Washington. Naturally, Ms. Davis is a die-hard UW Huskies fan, and enjoys attending the Dawg Wagon tailgate party.

Ms. Davis received her Bachelor’s degree from Springfield University, and her Juris Dogtor from Manhattan Law School in New York.

On behalf of Mockingbird Marketing, we want to congratulate all of the skilled attorneys who have been awarded the distinction of being in the top 10% of attorneys in 2017. We can’t wait to see the great things that 2018 brings, especially for Lawyers of Distinction.

*Disclaimer: Lucy is not a lawyer, but she really did win this award. This post is satirical and meant to be humorous. If you’re in for even more of a laugh, take a look at Lucy’s marvelous acceptance speech.

When the Top 10% Means Nothing

One of my clients was recently contacted by Lawyers of Distinction, an online legal directory claiming to only list the top 10% of lawyers. But what are they using to determine who qualifies as the top 10%?

“Lawyers of Distinction uses its own independent criteria, including both objective and subjective factors in determining if an attorney can be recognized as being within the top 10% of attorneys in the United States, in their respective field. This designation is based upon the proprietary analysis of the Lawyers of Distinction organization alone, and is not intended to be endorsed by any of the 50 United States Bar Associations.”

Doesn’t get much more vague than that.

Let’s say you ignore these first warning signs because you’re struck by flattery, and you start to poke around the site to see who is listed and what perks come with the exceptional honor of being in the top 10%. You may stumble upon the membership page and notice that your award will cost you $425 per year, at the least.

Lawyers of Distinction Membership Packages

What that $425 membership is really paying for is the link back to your site, and the plaque you can prominently display in your office. You also have the option to buy more plaques at $100 each, because who doesn’t need a plaque in the lobby and the restroom?

I was curious to know what the next steps would be for my client who had been nominated. Here’s the page I was taken to from the email he received:

Lawyers of Distinction Application from Email

Pretty basic information. But I wondered what would happen if I were to “Apply for Consideration” directly on their site…

Lawyers of Distinction Basic Application

Almost identical.

With a giant red flag waving in my face, I wondered how legitimate this company is. So I looked up their address using Google Street View:

Conrad wrote an eerily similar post two years ago about the American Institute of Personal Injury Lawyers whose corporate office was also located at a UPS store.

You’d think a company dealing with the top 10% of lawyers would have a physical location. Especially if they’re boasting their combined power with Avvo.

“Avvo has become an integral component of attorney marketing. Avvo provides comprehensive attorney profiles, client reviews and peer endorsements. The problem with Avvo membership alone is 97% of all U.S. Attorneys have Avvo profiles. With lawyers of distinction membership you can “distinguish yourself” and leverage your Avvo rating. The combination and synergy of these two memberships can make the difference in your push for top search engine optimization in your local geographic market and nationally, resulting in additional clients. Harness the power of this combination to fortify and solidify your strong legal reputation for excellence. We congratulate you!”

So in the spirit of the New Year, let’s cut out the shady directories and use our resources on more valuable marketing tactics.

But if you’re really just interested in the Costco discounts, they can hook you up.

Lawyers of Distinction Discounts

Evaluating Best Biz Local Lawyers (A case study in backlink analysis)

Estimated read time: 5 minutes

If the average person supposedly sees ~5,000 advertising messages a day, I’m positive lawyers see 20,000. There is always a new legal directory that “drives more clients than any other legal directory” or SEO’s promising #1 ranking for the search term, “attorney” in your respective geographical market.

What follows is the backlink analysis methodology we employ to evaluate the benefit (or harm) resulting from listing our clients on a specific directory.  It’s pretty simple and uses free tools…. so you can emulate our approach the next time tomorrow when you get hit with an email from a new legal directory.

The Value of Legal Directories

High end legal directories are great sources of prospective clients, citations (a critical factor in local SEO) and occasionally links (a critical factor in local and organic SEO).  Avvo, Justia, HG and (ahem) even FindLaw are the most obvious; but there are plenty of smaller effective ones as well.  We happen to like the guys over at LawDeeDa and practice area specific sites like DUI.com.

But not all directories are created equal – and a backlink profile relying heavily on low end, low quality, spammy directories is Penguin Penalty fodder.  But how do you separate the directory wheat from the chaff pending Google penalty.

But there are so many directories, it’s overwhelming. I know it’s overwhelming because my clients are constantly consulting me on whether this opportunity is legitimate or not. Here’s one of the more recent legal directories to hit my inbox for review:

Best Biz Local Lawyers

I’ll now walk you through my evaluation of Best Biz Local as a potential citation/link opportunity. You can follow these steps in the future when promising directories and link opportunities come across your inbox.

Step 1: How do I get listed? Ooh ooh I see a “Submit Link” tab in the main navigation. That looks promising, let’s go there… And any interest I had in this directory is gone. In order to submit a link you have to link back to bestbizlocal.com or you’ll “be declined automatically.”

Best Biz Local Link Exchange
Source: http://www.marketing.bestbizlocal.com/submit-link/

They only want me for my links? Ouch. Luckily I don’t want theirs either. This sort of “excessive link exchange” is frowned up by Google and could land your website in some hot water for participating. Number 5 on the Mockingbird 10 Commandments tells us to be white hat to a fault. We don’t want to engage in anything that could harm our clients long-term, even if does give them a short-term boost. For the sake of a learning experience, let’s pretend I didn’t see that red-flag and continue on with my normal evaluation process. On to step 2…

Step 2: Is this site authoritative in the eyes of the search engines? Google uses a site’s authority as a trust signal, for example if you get a link from the New York Times, your site must have something good to offer. The go-to tool to determine a website’s domain authority is Moz’s Open Site Explorer. While far from perfect, it scores a site based on a domains backlink profile. Let’s check out the results…

Moz Open Site Explorer For Best Biz Local

20/100 actually isn’t as bad; a 20 is on par with what we see for the average law firm website. It’s low for a directory, but not terrible. This would not turn me away from using this directory. Again, this is assuming I didn’t see their link scheme right off the bat.

Step 3: Does Google trust this site? If this website asked to borrow your phone on the street would you let them, or would you pull the “sorry it’s dead…” card?  The go-to tool to determine a website’s trust flow is called Majestic. You can use Majestic’s Site Explorer feature with no SEO expertise. If you are have a link or are considering obtaining a link from a website like Best Biz Local, you want the trust flow number to be as far from 0 as possible.

Best Biz Local Majestic Score

Bestbizlocal.com’s score is 3. For reference, the average we generally see on law firm websites is in the teens. A major directory with such a low score is very concerning to me. If you look more closely at the picture you’ll see why the trust flow is so low — this site has nearly 150,000 external backlinks from only 6 referring domains. Those 6 sites are linking to bestbizlocal.com A LOT. There is no way to “naturally” link to another site thousands of times like that, so that was red flag number 2 for me.  And its safe to assume that a)this site doesn’t get any natural traffic and b)given their own spammy backlink profile, any links or citations on the site are, at best not going to help.  Sites relying heavily on these types of directories are heavily at risk of a Penguin penalty.

Now, this is not the perfect evaluation method for a potential directory/link opportunity. Sometimes you know right off the bat the linkexchangeforfree.com (disclaimer: made up website) is not a good website to obtain links from. Smaller directories, especially local directories, rarely have a plethora of links themselves, but (done well) they also won’t have either the reciprocal link requirement or a litany of links from a tiny subset of domains.

Summary

If you are presented with a new legal directory, or any sort of link opportunity, first take a deep breath and then take 10 minutes to follow these 3 steps to evaluate if it’s worth it or going to hurt you.

  1. Check out the process for a listing submission. Are you required to link back to their site? Are you required to pay a monthly fee for the link? If you see anything that directly violates these guidelines, take heed.
  2. Determine the website’s domain authority with Moz’s Open Site Explorer. Higher is better, but low is not always bad.
  3. Find out the trust flow score with Majestic. Be careful with anything under a 5/100. If Majestic doesn’t trust the site, you probably shouldn’t either.

If you are curious about any particular legal directory you’ve seen lately, or would like my help evaluating a site before you submit a listing, shoot me an email (dustin at mockingbirdmarketing dot com) and we can chat!

Best Free Legal Directories: 2016

There are thousands of legal directories out on the web and more popping up each day. Some are awesome and some are atrocious. In this post we’ll focus on what Mockingbird has deemed as the best free legal directories from 2015.  Why best?  Because they deliver … clients, or search authority that delivers clients.  But mostly… clients.

First, let’s review 4 compelling reasons every lawyer should be actively creating listings on these sites.

  1. Clients – As with any marketing effort, your end goal is to gain more clients at a lower cost. It doesn’t get easier or more cost-efficient than acquiring a new client through a free listing on a third party website.
  2. Citations – When Google sees citations for your business showing up consistently across the web (same name, address, and phone number), the more inclined Google will be to serve up your business in localized search results.
  3. Links – It’s all about the links baby! Linkbuilding is one of the most daunting tasks we face as SEOs. Directory listings are the lowest hanging fruit in terms of legitimate linkbuilding. (Be careful though, low quality links can do my harm than good.)
  4. Directory sites dominate – More often than not, legal directories command much of the real estate in SERPs (search engine results pages). The screenshot below shows results for the search query “Nashville Divorce Lawyer” – notice how 4 of the 7 results show are for directory sites rather than individual firms? If you don’t have a listing on the sites that are consistently dominating search results, then you are missing out on a lot of eyeballs and potential clients.  We’ve been saying for years that this is going to change… and we’ve been wrong year after year. So play the directory game, because they are already winning.

Nashville Lawyer Search Query

Best Free Legal Directories – Ranked by Mockingbird

Below are Mockingbird’s favorite free sites ranked by our (incredibly official) Birdie Rating that accounts for things like: ease of use, whether or not the link is followed, competitiveness, and search presence.

Avvo

Birdie Rating 5
Link: No follow
Why we like it: Industry leader; attorney endorsements; continually does well in the search results.  Unfortunately Avvo’s removed the follow link on your profile a few years ago; but you can still drive business with a robust profile and/or aggressive engagement in their Q&A section. (Oh – and Conrad used to run their marketing back in the day when it was just the speck of an idea.)

Justia

Birdie Rating 5
Link: Followed
Why we like it: ROT (return on time) is maximized – along with a link from Justia, you also get a listing in the Oyez directory and in Cornell directory.  We also love their founder, Tim Stanley, who is mad-scientist-smart about all things legal marketing and the original founder of ehmmmm… FindLaw.

Lawyer Legion

Birdie Rating 4
Link: Followed
Why we like it: Ties to NORML and NCDD so it’s especially great for DUI lawyers

Lawdeeda

Birdie Rating 4
Link: Followed
Why we like it: Strong link; non-competitive; we love the founder Brint Crockett who has done more than his share to expose legal marketing chicanery.

 

Lawyer Central

Birdie Rating 3
Link: No followed
Why we like it: User friendly

Findlaw

Birdie Rating 2
Link: Followed
Why we like it: High authority site offering a strong link (listing bonus includes free calls from commission-driven sales people in perpetuity)

Martindale Hubbell

Birdie Rating 2
Link: No link – citation only
Why we like it: Uses birth date as safeguard against manipulation and spammy tactics; strong domain that consistently performs well in legal search queries

Popular Membership-Based Legal Directories

Listed below are niche practice area sites that require paid memberships and/or an application for acceptance into the directory. 

Bankruptcy:
nacba.org

Consumer Advocates:
naca.net

Criminal/DUI:
ncdd.com
aapda.org
norml.org
nacdl.org

Elder Law:
nelf.org
naela.org

Employment:
nela.org

Family Law:
nacchildlaw.org
aaml.org

General:
nlg.org
bestlawyers.com
superlawyers.com

Immigration:
aila.org

Mediation:
attorney-mediators.org

Trial:
thenationaltriallawyers.org
nlg-npap.org

Trust & Estate:
actec.org
naepc.org

Looking Ahead

It’s a new year; do yourself a favor and take a few hours out of your weekend to create listings in the above directories.

If you would like to see the slide deck from Mockingbird’s webinar, view the recording, or just say hi, please feel free to email me directly.