FindLaw’s Atrocious Social Media Product

File this one under another egregious example of tech salespeople peddling overpriced, ineffectual products at the legal community. I spoke with an attorney today who drops around $1,400 a month for a bundle of services including the FindLaw Digital Marketing Boost and FindLaw Engagement Builder, and the FindLaw Social Media Marketing Tool. Now, I’ve written ad nauseam about the idiocy of most social media marketing in legal, so I was curious exactly what FindLaw is pushing. And for $1,400 bucks every month. That’s like having twins attend an overpriced east coast prep school.

So what does the FindLaw Social Media Marketing Tool deliver?

  1. It lets you schedule blog posts to Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google Plus (and let’s not get caught up on the fact that FindLaw is still referring to Google Plus as if it’s a relevant product.)

 

If you really want to get fancy, this seems like a cheaper alternative.

Seems to me, the free Hootsuite subscription and/or a well chosen WordPress plug-in is more than enough. To call this Social Media Marketing Platform out as a separate, value added line item is ludicrous. It’s like paying extra for a speedometer on a car or laces with a pair of shoes.

If you’d like to prove me wrong, please do so…here’s a link to the Quick Start Guide: FindLaw Social Media Product. I can just hear the commissioned salesman pushing the transformative promise of social media marketing.

Just the latest example of a big box company taking it to lawyers who don’t understand. And if you think I’m overstating the case here, this proposal included a rate hike for his monthly website hosting – increasing by about $175 a month to just over $800 monthly. Oh – and that rate? Locked in for another 12 months.

Counterpoint Guest Post: Social Media Done Well…..

Last week I wrote (another) anti-social media piece – Cute Kittens do NOT Generate Lawyer Business and received a disagreeing comment from Howard Iken.  Howard’s comment included the following quip: “social media is icing on an already well-done cake.  But just like icing, the social media marketing should be a small part of the meal.”  Love it.  Couldn’t agree more.  So I invited Howard to post an intelligent longer counterpoint to my overriding antipathy towards social media marketing amongst the legal field….

Conrad – I love your blog and normally agree with your opinions. But I felt obligated to weigh in here because I firmly disagree. I think there is a place for social media in any healthy campaign. But first, here is where I agree with you – the vast majority of legal social media effort is a complete and total waste of time and money. If you do not do it with purpose and knowledge you might as well stop right now.

I think the problems we attorneys face are the following:

  1. Consultants are always taking advantage of us. That is a nice way of saying we are being constantly scammed! And consultants love touting social media.
  2. Social media sounds sexy, and cutting edge. Just saying that phrase is awfully hard to resist.
  3. Everyone successful is doing it!   As least that is what you are told.
  4. 79% of online-Americans use Facebook.   A huge untapped audience is waiting!

Pew Research – http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/11/11/social-media-update-2016/

Here is where I disagree with you. My two cents: natural SEO is king but should always be accompanied by an appropriate amount of social media efforts. You should also include a certain amount of pay per click. If online marketing were reduced to a delicious slice of cake, the most satisfying slice would look something like this:

 

* Social media should be the icing on the cake. Never in huge amounts, and never the bulk of your effort. The overwhelming bulk of your effort should be in natural search.

Here is the part where I agree with you. If your efforts at social media completely and totally stink you should immediately hang it up and concentrate on more productive directions.

Signs your social media efforts stink:

  • You write the usual legal drivel and expect the placement of FB like buttons to encourage people to share your drivel. Your drivel is boring to read and is even more boring to share.
  • Your FB, Twitter, or LinkedIn posts consist of random article sharing from the internet. Why expect anything good from driving people to sites other than yours?
  • Your posts consist of funny, cool, or snarky comments that will be forgotten about 9 seconds after someone reads them. Sure – all you need is a second of someone’s attention to get a Like.   That like will get you another 8 seconds of continued attention before fading into oblivion.
  • Your posts consist of quick headlines or reposts that lead your readers to pages and pages of legal drivel. Similar to my first point. I consider myself a decent writer but I rarely enjoy reading my own articles !
  • The most-stinky social media posts of all – an endless series of posts and tweets announcing to your non-existent audience that you are an attorney and open for business.

Proper uses of social media (in my own humble opinion)

  • Drive people to your website
  • Drive people to your website (did I mention that twice?)
  • Lure people in to the best-damned writing and subject matter you can conceive of. People do not seek out legal drivel but you can offer them compelling stories.
  • Specifically target demographics that are more likely to click through and more likely to share your content with potential clients. Yes – this can be done effectively.
  • Give your SEO cake a nice, elegant icing that looks interesting to potential clients. Looking cool is not the end goal but it is always great if you look cool to the clients you are already targeting.
  • Notice I call social media the icing on the cake. It should never be too thick. It should never overwhelm the actual cake.
  • Throw in PPC (pay per click) decorations on your cake. That is whole separate subject. But it is a subject that also applies to social media.

Conrad – I have watched you conspicuously call out a lot of people selling SEO snake oil. I love seeing someone like you call BS when you see it. You have great opinions and impressive SEO chops. But I have to call it like I see it. You are wrong on this one. Social media does have its place in the search marketing arsenal. Properly done social media is always a help to the overall online effort.

Howard Iken, Esq. Managing Partner, Ayo and Iken, Florida.

 

Cute Kittens do NOT Generate Lawyer Business

File this in the stupid social media column.  I thought we had all learned that the number of FaceBook friends, Twitter followers, Google plusses, Snapchat SnapQuantiences and Meerkat Meerkittens had nothing (or so close to nothing its not worth blowing your time on) to do with generating business.  But apparently I’m wrong…. the legal marketing industry is still preaching this stuff, so I’ll keep pushing back, even though I’d rather chew rusty nails then revisit the topic.

But first, let me start with the punchline:  people who “liked” the picture you posted of your Maine Coon kitten sitting in a jack-o-lantern are unlikely to hire you because of it. They also, are highly unlikely to build a good strong personal relationship with you over social media. And they certainly aren’t going to post on Facebook: “I just got a DUI, do you know any lawyers?”

More likely, they just really like kittens. Or Halloween. Or they are 7 years old.  Or they live in Holland. Or they are my mother-in-law.

I didn’t think this post needed to be written, but apparently it does.  I’m taking all names out of the following interchange I shared on Facebook. What follows is NOT tongue-in-cheek irony….

There were a few voices of reason:

Previous comments are absolutely right: paid social for “as needed” legal services like divorce and DUI are unlikely to be an effective use of marketing budget. No matter how good your content is, you aren’t going to convince someone to get divorced or arrested to use your service. And unlike with search marketing, you can’t narrowly target people searching for your service.

And one commenter had it totally nailed:

But why was she “(Kidding!)”? Being Awesome – in law and as a person is the best thing you can do to drive business.  SEO, Social Media and TV ads will never change that.

Now, its possible that over time, through your cute kitten post, you are able to connect with someone who happens to love Maine Coon kittens, who happens to live within 10 miles of your office, who happens to share mutual interests with you beyond kittens, who happens to take the time to build a relationship with you, who happens to have a legal need down that road, that happens to be in your area of practice, and who happens to choose to use Facebook instead of Google to start their search for a lawyer…. but I suspect your time and kittens are better spent on a different marketing channel. Put your kittens down…. and start working harder on being awesome.

 

 

The Beginners Guide to Facebook Advertising

Tackling the many advertising options offered by Facebook can be a challenge. Do I want more likes on my Facebook page? Can I direct people to my website? What’s a boosted post? These and many other questions may be running through your mind, but don’t worry, I’ll be here to guide the way.

Why Facebook Ads?

First and foremost, you may be wondering why a lawyer would even want to advertise on Facebook. Although legal matters can be extremely personal, you have to think about how people make large purchases. They research, compare, and then buy. The traffic you receive from a Facebook ad may not be high converting, but they could be later, so think of these as branding campaigns. But with the extremely low cost of running ads on Facebook, it doesn’t hurt to dip your toes in the water.

Boosted Posts

Boosted posts are the easiest way to get familiar with Facebook advertising. A boosted post is essentially a post you might share with friends and followers, the only difference is you can now target people outside of that circle. You can target a specific location, a certain age group, and even narrow it down to job title and interests (this can be particularly helpful for workers’ compensation campaigns).

A boosted post could be a link to a recent blog on your site, or an update about your firm. Almost anything you share on your Facebook page can be used as a boosted post (consult their ad policies for more information).

Once you’ve published the post live on your page, you’ll find an option to boost underneath (there are other ways to get here, but I find this to be the easiest).

Boosted Post Button

You’ll then choose your targeting settings.

Facebook Boosted Post Demographics

And set your budget.

Boosted Post Budget

You’ll be able to preview your post before submitting in both desktop and mobile versions.

Boosted Post Preview

Once submitted, your post will be visible when someone matching your targeted audience scrolls through their newsfeed. With this kind of post, a potential client can click through to your website, visit your Facebook page, like your page directly from the post, comment, like, and share.

For these kinds of advertising campaigns, it’s usually best to run them for a short amount of time. The campaign pictured below ran for one week with a total budget of $200, yielding 169 clicks to our site, which equates to just under $1.20 per click. Not too shabby.

Mockingbird Boosted Post

Once you’ve mastered the art of the boosted post, you may be ready to start running even more targeted ads to generate leads, whether through video, geo-targeting, or larger branding ads.

Legal Connect with Google Workshop – Two October Events

We’re happy to announce not one, but two Legal Connect with Google events for October.

This is a free, day-long, hands-on Workshop specifically designed to assist lawyers in evaluating their online marketing effectiveness.  Classes are focused on local, natural and paid search and are taught by Google employees and Mockingbird founder, Conrad Saam.

So if you wanted to attend the pilot event this week at Google HQ in Mountainview, but were unable to, there’s now a second and third chance.

Victoria Fabiano, Google Strategic Partner Manager
Victoria Fabiano, Google Strategic Partner Manager

Dates and Venues

October 7 and 8 in New Orleans.   Details and Sign Up

October 17th in Google’s New York City Office.  Details and Sign Up

Workshop Description

During this intensive Workshop, experts from Google and Mockingbird guide attendees through a 12 page worksheet to evaluate the efficacy of their current online marketing efforts, with an eye towards identifying specific weaknesses or missed tactics. This is NOT a conference with talking heads delivering thinly veiled sales pitches from sponsored powerpoints, but instead a hands-on, interactive education, empowering attendees with actionable tools & tactics.

This is a HANDS ON workshop, you will need a laptop and access to your Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools and AdWords accounts, as well as your firm’s website CMS.

Elizabeth Olinger, Google Account Manager
Elizabeth Olinger, Google Account Manager

The Agenda

  • 8:30am-9:00am | Registration & Continental Breakfast
  • 9:00am-9:15am | Kick off & Welcome
  • 9:15am-10:00am | The Online Legal Marketplace
  • 10:00am-11:00am | Google Analytics & Business Metrics
  • 11:00am-11:15am | Break
  • 11:15am-12:15pm | Search – Organic
  • 12:15pm-1:15pm | Networking Lunch
  • 1:15pm-2:15pm | Search Local + Advanced Linkbuilding
  • 2:15pm-3:15pm | Search Paid

 

#Hashtag Idiocy: #JustBecauseYouDon’tUnderstandItDoesn’tMeanYouShouldDoIt

Most of the time, when people drop hashtags all over their posts and tweets, like rabbits pooping in a garden, they are really saying:

“I don’t really know how social media works, but it seems to be a big deal, so I’m going to drop a “#” in front of random words.  #IGetSocialMedia #Really #Hashtag”

Sometimes it means,

“I really don’t get this so I decided to hire someone to do it for me (its, just that they don’t understand it either, but I don’t know that.”

The proliferation of hashtags in legal marketing, without a clear understanding of how they work, has led to the subsequent proliferation of hashtag marketing consultants. This practice, is reminiscent of the SEO “gurus” of 5 years ago, whose primary role was to “tag” content so “The Google can understand what it is about”.  This practice, of course led to WordPress sites with a  massive proliferation of duplicated garbage tag pages – lawyer, attorney, law firm, car accident, car crash, car wreck.  You get the idea.  We’ve spent thousands of our clients’ dollars unravelling these garbage pages, but I digress….

#BackToHashtags

Why?

Why are we so enamored with hashtags? We hear about them all the time. I’m going to go to Wikipedia for the definitional reason:

A hashtag is a type of label or metadata tag used on social network and microblogging services which makes it easier for users to find messages with a specific theme or content.

“Makes it easier to for users to find message with a specific theme or content.”  Remember that.  It means that either a)people are looking for your specific hashtag or b)its part of widespread trend.  So just because you’ve heard about hashtags for #savethewhales or the #superbowl or maybe an #smx conference or a loved brand like #patagonia, doesn’t mean people are looking for #caraccidentattorney with hashtags.  And, in the off chance, people are going to click on your #lawyer hashtag – all they are going to see is a bunch of…. other lawyers who want their business as much you do. Great idea marketers.

In all the examples below, I’m pulling tweets from a twitter search for “car accident lawyer” – and let’s not get further distracted talking about the idiocy of that tactic…. i.e. people don’t start their search for highly personal, highly private issues like an accident lawyer, divorce lawyer, dui lawyer, domestic violence lawyer etc on twitter, but I digress again.

There are a variety of garbage hashtag mistakes:

The Useless Single Word

This is done #simply #by #inserting #a #hashtag #in #front #of #words #the #writer #thinks #are important.

idiocy

#lawsuits #lawyer #litigation?  It does read like those old “tagging” strategies for website content doesn’t it?  The presumption here of course, is that someone is doing a hashtag search for #lawyer…. or there’s some degree of virality to this content.  Right…. anyone else think, all of a sudden, #Litigation, is going to start trending?

The Useless Concatenated Words

The next variant is smushed together words.  Think #BlackLivesMatter – that has a big following and is regularly searched.  But….. probably not #caraccident or #personalinjury.   Sorry #Pribanic&Pribanic.

overloaded-idiocy

And in my example above, note that if someone is looking for #pittsburgh (which isn’t out of the realm of possibility), its probably NOT because they just got rear ended by a Lexus on Main Street, Pittsburgh.

The Epically Bizarre Phrase

If two words are good, what not more?  #doineedalawyerafteracaraccident  This looks like my cat walked across my keyboard.  What possible marketing/social media/google juice/twitterverse explanation can you possibly have for this?

hattag-words

Interestingly “Legal Monthly” describes itself as “The official Tweets of the San Diego Legal Times Monthly”  Except, of course, there is no such thing as the San Diego Legal Times.  And their feed is nothing more than thousands of tweets with #hashtaggarbage from law firms and law firm newsletters across the country.  Now I could be wrong here, but someone is presumably paying for this “social media marketing consulting”.  Like the Porter Law Firm in the example above.

Hashtags and SEO

But Conrad, I was told this will help my Google rankings!

I’ll keep this simple:  The number of Twitter followers or Facebook friends or Pinterest Pins or Meerkat Meerkats are NOT an SEO ranking factor. Same holds for #hashtags. Or #hash #tags. Social media marketing gurus who suggest otherwise understand neither (or they are deliberately bilking you).

Think critically about why you spend money on marketing consultants.  What are they doing?  How does it work? Does it pass the sniff test? And just because you don’t understand it, doesn’t mean that you need to spend money on it – otherwise your marketing dollars are a cost, not an investment.

#StopBlowingYourKidsCollegeFundOnStuffYouDon’tUnderstand

How to Sound Like an SEO Expert (without really knowing anything)

So, this post comes courtesy of a phone call I had yesterday with a prospective client.  It started out like many:

I’m not sure what I actually get for my monthly SEO retainer.

A little investigation and I found a huge mess….. which in turn led to a Facebook missive:

That awkward moment when you have to tell a law firm that their previous agency’s $5,000/month SEO budget didn’t pay for H1s or Title Tags.

Perhaps H1s come with the $6K package.

Now – you don’t have to know what H1s or Title Tags are…. you should be doing lawyerly things; but anyone making a living peddling SEO damn well should.

If you aspire to make a living from (your perceived) deep pockets of lawyers… here’s my guide to sounding like an expert without needing to learn what you are actually doing.  (Some buzzwords courtesy of Gyi Tsakalakis – a professional instigator –  although it was Michael Romano who came up with: <h1>Ripped Off</h1>)

Meerkat/Periscope/Facebook Livestream

Livestreaming started with Meerkat and Periscope and has recently had a resurgence with the launch of Facebook’s Livestream feature. Impress prospective clients with your cutting edge tech savvy, the way I watched a speaker at a legal marketing conference (that was essentially a thinly veiled pay-to-pitch event) Meerkat his entire talk.  Boy was he cutting edge – and by the end of said Meerkating, three audience members proudly stood up to announce that they too had become Meerkaters during the talk and had also Meerkated the event.  (seriously I can’t make this stuff up.)  Lets ignore for the moment, the serendipity that would have to occur for a prospective client to actually be starting their lawyer search on social media, be linked to a specific lawyer and have both of those things coincide with the moment said lawyer decided to Periscope his knowledge to the Persicopeverse.

RankBrain

Back in October of 2015, Google launched their Artificial Intelligence update to algo’s – RankBrain – with much ballyhoo and mystery. Turns out the cutting edge of the SEO nerd community hasn’t noticed a big change; although some have suggested this was going to be the end of linkbuilding as we know it (it wasn’t).  Dropping the phrase will make you sound current and mysterious – it might also defect obvious questions that require actual work to respond to: “what about linkbuilding?”

Blab

Want video conferencing limited to four participants?  Enter Blab.  This is a great word and  can be used in all its forms:  blabbing (verb), Blabber (proper noun), blabber (verb), blabbed (past tense), blabby (adjective). I’ve heard some truly ridiculous blabbery during a Blab.  Justblab to prove Blab’s bleeding edgeness…. check out this buzzword laden description from Mashable.  Be the first to write that post on your blog:  “Blabbing Your Way to Profits for Law Firms, Lawyers and Attorneys.”

“Content is King”

This is a great phrase to use with clients who complain about lack of results – turn the responsibility back on them and yell triumphantly “content is king”…. you need to blog more, post more rewrites of last week’s accident news, expand your FAQs and chase the long tail.  Because, clearly, the web is lacking content about every single aspect of the law. (Learn the truth here:  SEO Regicide – Content the King is Dead.)

GoogleJuiceGoogle Juice

This is an oldie but goodie – the mysterious GoogleJuice farmed in MountainView and harvested by plucky Google nerds that bestows rankings upon websites. This one is dedicated to a former coworkers who once told me “we don’t have to worry about SEO, we have a lot of Google Juice.”  Frequently used in conjunction with PageRank.

Pinterest

Need to up your perceived social media savvy?  Drop “pinterest”, a site many have heard of; although no one has figured out how a collection of pictures of argyle sweaters, or finely crafted timberframe interiors will get people to hire a lawyer. Fortunately your (self)proclaimed Pinterest savvy transfers an overall sense of social media authority – you are the consultant who can figure out how to get clients to publicize their pending nuptial demise by liking their divorce lawyer on Facebook.

Ninja | Maven | Rockstar | Guru

Still feeling like the one eyed man in the kingdom of the blind?  Calm your nerves by bestowing one of these self-aggrandizing “titles” upon yourself – trust me the National Association of SEO Ninjas is NOT going to come knocking asking for verification.  Ninjas, Mavens and Gurus are often described (by themselves) as  “thought leader”, “recognized expert” and/or “bestselling author” in their Twitter and Facebook profiles.

For maximum impact combine terms from above:  this can be a phrase “Meerkat Guru” or an entirely new word: “Blabjuice”.

And lawyers – if you think you are smart enough to hire a good SEO…. consider taking my simple test:  Are You Qualified to Hire and SEO Agency? or purchasing the SEO Consultant Balderdash Translator from the Legal SEO Store.

Moz’s Local Ranking Factors Report

Every year, I get an email from Moz asking for input into their Local Ranking Factors survey.  The survey is conducted amongst a small group of SEO nerds. Due to the competitiveness of legal marketing, be glad to know our niche is especially well represented- I’m joined by legal marketing geeks, Mike Ramsey, Gyi Tsakalakis and Casey Meraz.  This year, the study came out shortly after Google launched the snack pack (catch up here), so the results are particularly interesting.

If you want to geek out, you can read the full Moz study here.

Overall Ranking Factors

Ranking Factors continue to diversify – meaning there are a wide array of things you need to get right.  Vendors who provide just one piece of the puzzle are rarely going to be enough to drive success (and yes – I fully acknowledge this is a self-serving comment.)  The factor consistently gaining in significance is behavioral performance (i.e. click through rates, time on site etc.) – this has been backed up by numerous studies.  In legal, this emphasizes issues like brand, meta descriptions, a site’s look and feel/user interface and accessibility of information.

And despite the ongoing assertions of social media pundits – Social is entirely immaterial to local performance – coming in dead last among all ranking categories.  Joy Hawkins (who is our secret go-to person when we get utterly stuck on a complex Google My Business issues) explains social and search:

I gave social signals 1% for organic impact because I do think it’s possible that they could impact ranking – I have just never seen a single case where they did. I always quote Matt Cutts where he indicated that when it comes to social signals it’s a correlation and not causation. Businesses that are active on Facebook also usually care about their ranking on Google and are actively trying to improve it. One doesn’t cause the other.

David Mihm, the author of the survey, offers his take on the waning (if not entirely dead) impact of Google+ in ranking:

At this point, I view Google My Business essentially as a UI for structured data* and a conduit to AdWords. While Google’s original “business builder” vision may still come to fruition, it clearly won’t be under the social umbrella of Google+.

Top 10 Ranking Factors for Local (now Snack Pack)

  1. Physical Address in City of Search
  2. NAP Consistency in Structured Citations
  3. Proper Google My Business Categories
  4. Proximity of Address to the Point of Search (i.e. physically where is the searcher)
  5. Quality/Authority of Structured Citations
  6. Domain Authority of Website
  7. Product/Service Keyword in Google My Business Business Title
  8. City, State in Google My Business Landing Page Title
  9. HTML NAP matching Google My Business Location NAP
  10. Click Through Rate from Search Results

Of particular note is the focus on quality including the prevalence of accuracy in Google My Business information (note David’s comment above).

Ranking Differentiators for Competitive Markets (i.e. legal)

My favorite facet of the survey is the focus on competitive markets – essentially almost all of the legal marketing space.  After getting the fundamentals right, this becomes the tactical focus of our engagements and frankly, these are often the hardest components of search – the stuff that can’t be automated, simplified or easily copied.

  1. Consistency of Structured Citations
  2. Domain Authority of Website
  3. Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain
  4. Quality/Authority of Structured Citations
  5. Proper Google My Business Category Associations
  6. Physical Address in City of Search (in the past month, we have been consulted twice on helping law firms decide what building to move in to.)
  7. Quantity of Native Google Reviews
  8. Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Google My Business Landing Page URL
  9. CTR from search results pages
  10. Quality/Authority of Unstructured Citations (i.e. Newspaper articles)

Note the heavy heavy focus on quality above.  You don’t achieve these tactics through $10 for 1,000 twitter followers or a paid citation campaign.

Non Local Local Results

Heh?  This is really localized natural search – i.e. results for local queries (even those without a geo-modifier) that return typical SEO results.  I don’t want dwell on this, as this is a post about Local (i.e. mapped) results, but for natural search with a local component (which represents at least 95% of legal searches – the focus is on providing accurate location signals through Google My Business and a heavy focus on site authority (i.e. high quality links).  In fact the top 2 signals according to the survey are link related.

Negative Ranking Factors

Of course, no SEO conversation would be complete without a discussion of penalties.

  1. Incorrect business category
  2. Listing at false business address
  3. Mis-Match NAP or Tracking Phone Numbers
  4. Presence of malware
  5. Reports of Violations in your Google My Business location
  6. Mis-matched NAP/tracking phone numbers on Google My Business page
  7. Mis-matched Address on Google My Business page
  8. Multiple Google My Business locations with Same Phone Number
  9. Absence of NAP on website
  10. Address includes suite number similar to UPS Mail Store or other false address.

The negative ranking factors center around incorrect NAP as well and inconsistent information in…. here it is again…. Google My Business.  Given the prevalence of geo spam among lawyers (i.e. “virtual offices” or fake offices shoehorned into your friends insurance office), I expect we will continue to see a greater focus on reporting of non-real offices.   Frankly, the only impact we saw among law firms with the Pigeon roll out was severe penalties on some significant local spammers; so none of this really surprises me.

Snack Pack

Acknowledging that the Snack Pack launched just prior to the survey (and so the following is probably more intuitive rather than based on any studies, Moz asked about change in tactical focus given the snack pack.  Across the board, the increased focus was on quality signals (NAP, Authority, Citations).  The only quantity factor was Google specific reviews (i.e. the more the better but note the focus on Google, NOT reviews across the web – Avvo, Yelp etc.).   Tactical losers focused on quantity (which I read to mean low cost, low value, low authority – easily replicable) links, citations and…. my favorite punching bag…. social shares.

8 Questions to Determine if your SEO Expert is… an SEO Expert

bambino con baffi fintiWhat follows is an admittedly arrogant post.  And I’m transgressing on a principle I teach my kids – you can’t build yourself up by knocking others down.  BUT… I keep talking to law firms, flummoxed by the lack of results from their SEO experts, only to find some really rudimentary mistakes.  What follows are a few questions to suss out just how expert your SEO talent really is.

1.  My site was hit by a Penguin Penalty – how do I get my traffic back?

Platitudes around the disavow process are often the answer to this question – and while disavow is important (and easy, if not tedious) – it is NOT sufficient.  A Penguin Penalty recovery involves not just removing the offending links, but replacing the value they had previously delivered to your site with new links. White hat linkbuilding is the hard, creative, uncertain, expensive and most valuable thing SEOs can do.  In fact, it is so difficult, that many “SEOs” don’t even try.

2.  How do you use Screaming Frog?

Screaming Frog is an extremely flexible tool used to scrape and analyze key elements of a domain at the page level.  It can identify everything from your duplicated title tags to broken links on competitors’ pages.  As analytics rock-star, Annie Cushing said,

“if you aren’t using Screaming Frog, you aren’t really doing SEO.”

Wait for the awkward silence when you ask this question…

3.  What are the last conferences your staff has been to?  Have you spoken at any?

Technology is ever changing – and agencies have a responsibility to keep up with those changes.  Reading Search Engine Land is a good starting point, but ultimately there is nothing to replace being in the middle of the action, interacting with the experts at geek-centric conferences such as SMX, Mozcon, and Pubcon.  Ideally your SEO expert has spoken at some of these conferences (and I don’t mean pay-for-shill talks, thinly veiled as legal marketing conferences.)

4.  We’re writing about 4 blog posts a week, should we keep it up?

SEO “experts” often quote the tired “Content is King” refrain to answer this question and perhaps delve into the vagaries of long-tail theory.  The reality is, vomiting out more low quality content does nothing more than convince the search engines that your site is full of… low quality content.  This problem was greatly exacerbated by web marketers between 2012 and 2014 who did little more than parrot “Content is King” at legal marketing conferences.

The, “should I keep spewing out more content?” question is best answered by using Google Analytics to review your posts for traffic and links.   If you find that 90% of those pages have no inbound traffic, very few pageviews and that no-one has linked to your rewrites of local car accidents thinly copied from the local newspaper, you might want to switch up your content strategy. Conversely, if you find all of your content is seeing action, then by all means, keep writing.  Read more here: SEO Regicide.

5.  We use Yext, so we don’t worry about NAP consistency.  Right?

Yext is just one tool in the NAP consistency fight (NAP – Name, Address and Phone Number) and while Yext handles roughly 50 major second tier directories, it does NOT manage the top 4 data aggregators; Moz’s Local product does.  Therefore, if you’re relying on tools to improve your NAP consistency, it’s important to utilize more than one — both Moz and Yext, for example.  Additionally, both tools need to be proactively monitored and managed to have a real impact – especially if you are dealing with a name change, address change, cleaning up geo-spam or eradicating poorly implemented tracking numbers.  Finally, neither Moz or Yext handles legal specific directories such as FindLaw or Avvo.  Solid legal SEOs have a list of legal specific directories that require manual management as well.

6.  Are heading tags built into my site’s template?

This is a question you can diagnose yourself.  Just because someone can (poorly) code a website, does not make them an SEO expert.  Review the heading tags across your site to see if a lazy or uninformed web developer has used them to style the template.  We had one site with the H1 tag copied across every single page of his site.  Oh – and it read “original text”.  This issue seems so simplistic, yet I see it repeatedly.  To do this, you can view source and search for H1, H2, etc., install SEO quake into Firefox and use the Diagnosis button for a page by page review, or if you are feeling ambitious (and have a site with fewer than 400 pages), use the aforementioned Screaming Frog.

7.  We want to launch a new website focused on <insert specific practice area>.

This is a favorite request for website developers who pretend to be SEOs.  They’ll churn out “SEO optimized” websites upon request and delivery of a nice fat check.  Of course, they are missing the aforementioned difficult part of SEO: linkbuilding (see question #1).  The reality is, from a linkbuilding, NAP and citations perspective, marketing two sites is more than twice as expensive as marketing one.  And if you go off the deep end with a full blown multi-domain strategy, you’d better have a very deep bank account.  Multiple domains can be appropriate for a firm with disparate practice areas – say DUI and Family law – but note that you’ll be investing extra marketing dollars to push both of them successfully.

And for my bonus question, we get #8 about social media…

8. Will you help us get more Facebook Likes and Twitter Followers to help our SEO?

This goes back to another SEO theory that has been dead for at least 3 years – that social media popularity drives search results.  Multiple spokespeople from The Google have been crystal clear that this is NOT the case.  Note that there can be a correlation between the two – with savvy content marketers using their wide and active social network to push great content to key influencers, which drives links, which drives traffic, but… ignore the social media marketers parading as SEOs who suggest the key to ranking for “Atlanta Divorce Lawyer” is a few thousand more twitter followers from Uzbekistan.

Except for Pinterest.  You totally should do that.  Really – it works.   Trust me, I’m an SEO Expert.