SEO Shouldn’t Be Everything

4 SEO Practices You Can Ignore

 

The task of search engine optimization (SEO) is a never-ending one. Search algorithms change, user preferences shift, and plug-ins become outdated. Nevertheless, you can find countless listicles of advice on the basics of SEO (don’t worry, we see the irony of this post). This might give you the impression that SEOs know what they’re doing, or at least have worked out the failsafe paths to success. Despite all the knowledge and experience out there, there seem to be at least a few areas where the common advice can be ignored.

 

1. H1s (And H2s and H3s)

Let me preface this by saying that headers are important. Don’t abandon your headers. What I will admit is that H1s aren’t as vital as some might want you to think. As long as your headers are sequential, it really doesn’t matter if they start with an H1 or an H3. What’s important is that your content is organized in a way that both search engines and users will understand, and not necessarily in that order. 

 

2. Constant Content

We’ve talked about this quite a bit over the years, but it’s worth mentioning again: content for content’s sake isn’t as valuable as some SEOs might want it to be. This means that it’s better to produce a lower amount of content and focus on making it high quality rather than spewing out a fountain of low-quality content. No matter what anyone says, don’t invest time and effort in a blog that you don’t want.

 

3. Word Counts

SEO best practices say that the ideal length of a piece of content is somewhere between 800 and 1500 words. In reality, different websites have different needs. If you’re writing a comprehensive guide to all of the inconsistencies between state and federal criminal laws and how to handle a case that is impacted by those issues, you might need a bit more than 1500 words. If you’re adding case results, they probably don’t need as many as 800 words. Use your own best judgment when deciding how long a piece of content should be, but remember that fully fleshed out topics normally do better than brief summaries.

 

4. Writing for Keywords

Keywords are still a primary aspect of SEO, but you shouldn’t strain your writing to better fit a keyword. As AI becomes better equipped to understand users, the intent is becoming more important than keywords. As long as the topic of your content is clear and it answers a question in an authoritative way you shouldn’t try to fit in every synonym for your keyword.  

 

In Summary…

The three pillars of good content are E-A-T: expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. This means that the focus of your content should be providing quality advice from a platform that makes users feel secure. Your audience should be your priority, not the search engine. If you are creating a product that your audience appreciates, the search engine will follow.

Screwing Lawyers: Calculate The True Cost of Your Agency’s Long Term Contract

I hear this story about once a day from a frustrated lawyer… “Our marketing isn’t working.” “My agency doesn’t tell me what they are doing.” “Our rankings haven’t improved.” “The vendor won’t let us into Google Analytics.” And so on and so on.

Being frustrated with your marketing isn’t uncommon or even unfair.  Sometimes best efforts belly flop (even at my own agency.)  But the lemon juice poured in the fresh cut is recognizing that you are contractually stuck with the ineffective, lazy, useless, opaque “efforts” of your marketing agency for the foreseeable future.

I received this email today from a frustrated firm:

“Just a quick update: we unfortunately found some fine print yesterday that we had previously missed. It looks like we are stuck with FindLaw until November of 2020.”

The true cost of your long term marketing contract isn’t the value of the contract to the agency ($8,200 a month for the next 36 months…) but actually the opportunity cost of all of that lost business your firm could be generating if your agency was actually effective. Using extremely rough math…that $8,200 monthly cost equates to roughly $300K over the life of the contract, but it really should be measured as three years of your firm struggling to find clients while your bottom line bleeds…drip drip drip…into your agency’s top line.

Using basic business metrics, if that investment returned just a pathetic 4x (i.e. cost of client at 25% of the value of the matter) that $300K expense is really $1.2 million dollars in revenue your firm isn’t capturing. And, your underperforming agency has NO incentive to turn this around – because their profitability is inversely related to how hard they work for you.

So let’s be clear: entering into a long term contract with a marketing vendor benefits them, not you. As soon as you are locked in, as this is a service industry, your agency’s profitability skyrockets by doing as little as possible for you. This is compounded by the deliberate obfuscation of performance data. Ask yourself why your long term agency contract precludes you from access to your site’s Google Analytics or Google Ad campaigns. What do they not want you to see? What are they not doing for you?

You are supposed to be sophisticated savvy lawyers. Imagine how you would act if you could be hired under the same terms that you hire agencies: long term, guaranteed retainers with no requirements to share what you are allegedly doing for your clients? Would you do client work or instead hire hordes of cold callers to assail the front desks of your next prospective victim?

Oh, and before you sign…read the fine print.

Page Indexing Issues being fixed by Google

UPDATE 4/10/19: Google has announced this issue has been fully resolved.

Last Thursday, webmasters started noticing issues with Google’s indexation of pages throughout the web. Google had been removing pages from their search results for no apparent reason.

Google acknowledged the issue on Saturday, while also incorrectly reporting that the issues had been fixed. They haven’t provided any specific information around what caused the problem in the first place.

google search liaison indexing issue tweets

On Sunday, Danny Sullivan tweeted from the Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) that they are actively working on completely resolving the issue and that it was mostly fixed.

In his tweet, Danny also stated that the problem is solely on Google’s end, however, if there are high-importance pages that you noticed have been de-indexed you can request re-indexing through Google Search Console’s URL Inspection Tool.

request (re)indexing url inspection tool

John Mueller pointed out that even once the issue has been fixed, webmasters shouldn’t expect that all their website’s pages be added back to Google’s index. Additionally, he stated that “Awesome sites with minimal duplication help us recognize the value of indexing more of your pages.”

john mueller google indexing issues

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.

.Law Comes Clean About SEO

I was bemused to see a tradeshow booth from .law at the recent AAJ conference in Louisville (which was awesome btw).  And further bemused to know that Carl Jaeckel would be speaking to the conference about the TLD.  To be honest, I sat in the back of the room, huddled with fellow internet marketing shiny object curmudgeon, Gyi Tsakalakis as we plotted gotcha questions to fry Carl on stage.

To catch you up to speed if you know nothing of .law…. in 2015, this new Top Level Domain (TLD – think “.com” “.gov” and now “.law”) was introduced and aggressively advertised as an SEO silver bullet by the marketers behind .law.  (IMO $200 a year for domain registration seemed a beyond slightly excessive.)  This marketing included a bogus “case study” conducted by SEO veteran Bill Hartzer, vigorous PR outreach, a slick brochure (which seems to have been purged from the web), “sponsored” articles placed in legal and marketing blogs and a backlash from Google directly.  Regardless, the case study was touted widely among those selling the new TLD, including FindLaw and John Morgan of Morgan and Morgan, the chairman of the new domain selling service.

Over the past two years, our firm dealt with more than 10 .law domains that failed to generate anything in the way of Search Traffic – at great expense to the lawyers duped into purchasing the domains on the false pretext of SEO awesomeness.

But…. Carl (Morgan’s former CMO and COO of .law from the very beginning) gave us the straight honest truth, albeit two years late. At the AAJ conference, in response to a point blank question about the SEO benefits of the new .TLD, Carl replied:

I’d love to sit here and lie to tell you that you put on a .law and it will amazingly shoot you to the top of the search rankings. – Carl Jaeckel

So there you have it…. the .law marketers were lying all along (and they knew it… there’s a very good reason John didn’t move forthepeople.com to forthepeople.law.)  When I introduced myself and spoke with him later, thanking him for his candor, Carl blamed the “marketing people” for the false SEO promises.

But, when someone comes peddling these new domains (and they will), don’t fall for fuzzy vagaries of what Google may or may not do in the future to change their perspective on TLDs. The SEO silver bullet will NOT be based on “a new .law suffix that could set off a domain gold rush” (which was the 2015 title of an ABA Journal article that has also since been purged from the site, at whose bidding, I don’t know).

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…..)

Local Spam: The Solo with 60 Offices

Spamming the Garden State

Let me start by saying that I’m calling out a single lawyer here, simply as an example. There are thousands of law firms engaging in these spammy tactics either in-house or through their “agency” or marketing “expert”.  And let me also reiterate the point of my latest post:

Faking office locations is NOT marketing – its stealing.

  • 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).

Which brings me to an example of local spam, albeit an extreme one – Solo practitioner Andrew Calcagno who has more offices across my home state of New Jersey than toll booths. In fact…. according to his Google listings, Calcagno staffs no fewer than 66 different locations…

Fortunately, at the Elizabeth Office you can get your acupuncture done while waiting for your lawyer, or your acrylic nails buffed at the Bayonne office.

       

Hurt on the beach? Try Calcagano’s “office” just one block from the sand, that looks suspiciously like my Aunt Doris might live there during the summer.

And nothing says success like swanky office space at 460 Park Avenue in the heart of New York City….  Except of course, the 17th floor of the building is entirely occupied by Dermatologist, Dr. Steven Victor.  How do I know this?  Because the very nice receptionist there told me so.

      

Need a McMansion Litigation Lawyer?  Try their “office” on Agress Road in Millstone, NJ

And at least Google won’t get fooled by the Regus office in Hamilton Township…

And it seems that Walmart (or women’s clothing chain, Joyce Leslie) has started offering DWI Legal services as well at their 100 Enterprise Drive in Dover, NJ locations.

 

Although, double check your car door is locked at the Passaic office….

I could go on and on.  Suffice to say I think its highly unlikely an attorney could plead ignorance of an overly aggressive agency creating all of these “offices.”  Besides, his website lists about 20 of them directly:

But speaking of overly aggressive agencies, I wondered who might behind all of these listings – afterall a single attorney probably doesn’t have the time to create and maintain 60+ “offices” – regardless of how virtual they may be.  So digging just a little further, I uncovered…. post coming tomorrow.  🙂

Immigration Attorneys: We Want You!

So…. Since starting Mockingbird, we’ve never proactively sought business.  For the most part it has come to us.  BUT…. I’m now proactively looking for more immigration attorneys to add to our client list.  Over the past two years, we have locked down online marketing for a handful of immigration attorneys.  And at the risk of making this sound like I’m selling a set of steak knives or a used Ford Taurus – its an easy, repeatable, fool-proof system that has delivered stupendous results.

I’m writing this this morning after coming out of a conversation with one of our immigration clients that sounded something like this:

“Please turn down the efforts – we’re turning away business – I don’t even bother to reply to half of the voicemails.”

Here’s the inbound traffic growth this client has experienced since we took over his account (from a big box Legal Marketing “Expert”) – he’s now driving 9 times the traffic than prior to our engagement:

Here’s another situation – where we’re driving close to 10 calls per day to a small immigration firm.

Why Immigration? The answer is twofold threefold:

  1. We’ve spent a large amount of time (and money) learning what works and what doesn’t in Immigration.
  2. Much of our effort and experience and learnings are generated from the hypercompetitive markets of Personal Injury, Mass Torts and Criminal Defense.  Simply applying the best practices from those aggressive and overcrowded markets to the less competitive and frequently more distributed immigration market is all it takes to make a huge impact.
  3. (And yes, some of this is undeniably due to the xenophobic politics of the day.)

 

 

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….