Blogging about news stories is very controversial in the legal field – especially in the personal injury one. Since the general public tends to have a negative attitude toward this field of law, personal injury attorneys who create content around news can be easily criticized as “ambulance chasers.” In many cases, this label might be an accurate description of what a lawyer is engaging in. We’ve personally seen articles written about car accidents, etc. that seem to be directly aimed at reaching the victim and converting him or her into a client.
Don’t do that. It’s rude.
But don’t make the mistake of assuming all news blogging is rude blogging. It’s not.
News blogging, in general, falls in the traffic generation and branding categories. There’s a lifecycle of interest in a news story. Writing in a timely manner on a “hot” subject captures the attention of a larger audience than when the news story has died down (this is where the Google “Freshness” algorithm update comes into play). Blog on a popular news topic and Google will send you a significant amount of traffic. Through this you introduce more consumers to your law firm and educational resources.
Another consideration: people who interact with the news stories you blog on may be going through a similar situation as the characters in the article. One of the worst feelings people can experience is isolation. If people feel their problems are unique to them, the shame from being different may prevent them from coming forward. Covering real news stories about real people experiencing real problems can help third-party readers who are going through similar situations feel more at ease about what they are experiencing. Producing that kind of good feeling is marketing gold – because PNCs are more likely to contact someone who makes them feel better about themselves than a random attorney with a 10/10 AVVO rating.
So how do you do it?
Here are some tips for writing an effective blog post about a recent event:
Eliminate the protagonist and antagonist as audience members. If you are a personal injury attorney, don’t write for the victim to read. If you are a criminal defense lawyer, don’t write for the person arrested to read. That’s ambulance chasing, and your audience won’t stand for it.
Identify the actual audience. Having excluded the characters in the story as audience members, try and determine who will actually be reading the post. Did the Consumer Products Safety Commission just recall a popular baby swing? Guess who cares about that. Did a local high school lose a student in a horrific and avoidable street racing accident? Who’s online looking for information about that?
Identify and write what the audience will appreciate. Were children drugged at a daycare so they would all nap at the same time? People with toddlers want to know a) how this could have happened and b) how to prevent this sort of thing happening at their children’s daycare. Answer both questions. Did a respected teacher at a local elementary school pass away when his motorcycle hit an 18-wheeler? Students who knew and liked him want to pay homage. Write a tribute.
Link to external resources. Is a community having a fundraiser to support the children of parents who died in a vehicle accident? Link to the event page. Tell your blog to open the link in a new window or tab (so that they stay on your website and have a second chance to see it once they are done with the linked-to resource). For you techies, that means adding the target=”_blank” tag to your link. You might also consider using the rel=”nofollow” tag to prevent link juice dilution.
Link to similar stories or category pages on your own blog. Has there been a rash of fatal drunk driving accidents in one city over the last three months? Reference and link to those within your article.
At the Rasansky Law Firm, we have seen cases come in through this strategy (in addition to some nice SEO benefit for other web pages in our network!). Some cases we receive are from readers who saw our post, found that they could relate to the situation, and called for a case review. Other leads we receive are from the victims themselves (two of the examples listed above are actual cases where the victims called us after reading the blog post). We didn’t write the article to attract them, but these clients so much appreciated what was written that when they were ready to hire an attorney we were the ones they came to.
Every market is different. Test for yourself.
One more word of advice – this time from author Seth Godin:
The world is jam-packed with books and manuals on how to do the [magic] trick, whatever the trick is. If it’s so easy to figure out how to do the trick, why do so few people do it? Because, of course, it has nothing to do with knowing how the trick is done, and everything to do with the art of doing it. – Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us
Knowing how to understand an audience and write for it is much easier than actually doing it. It’s a skill that requires practice – and in some cases – delegation to a seasoned writer or team of writers. Done correctly, reporting on news stories is a fantastic way to generate traffic, build links, and earn cases.
About Steve Wade
Steve Wade is a member of the Rasansky Law Firm’s client relationship team who specializes in developing interactive experiences for existing and potential clients. Joining the team in February 2010, he rigorously applies the never-changing principles of human nature to the ever-changing tools modern client-relationship nurturing requires. Connect with Steve on Twitter or Facebook.
Importance of Site Speed
Site speed takes in to account the amount of time all elements of a web page take to load. This includes images, video, content, etc. Anyone that’s spent time on the Internet knows how frustrating it can be to wait… and wait… for a website to load. In fact, Google added site speed as a ranking factor in 2010 because – as we all know – Google’s search aims to return the most valuable and useful results for search queries and a slow site is, well, just not that useful. Who has time to wait for a site to load when there are nine other organic search results to choose from? I’ll have to agree with Jay-Z and say, “On to the next one.”
In addition to user experience, site speed can also affect how many pages are crawled. According to an article on visiblefactors.com there is a direct correlation between site speed and the number of pages crawled. Simply put, the faster pages load, the more pages that can be crawled. A faster site can also reduce bounce rate and increase the number of pages visited which can lead to more conversions.
Tools for Testing Site Speed
There are tools available for testing and monitoring your site’s load time. Not surprisingly, Google Webmaster Tools and the newest version of Google Analytics have sections specifically targeted to analyze site speed and performance. The Site Speed report was added to all Google Analytics accounts earlier this month, no longer requiring site owners to add an extra tracking code.
Got Firebug? With this plugin you are able to download Google’s Page Speed tool and Yahoo’s YSlow, which analyze individual pages of your site and provide a report of performance issues. Not only do these tools show you areas of concern, but also give you tips on how to improve these issues. The Page Speed tool gives pages a grade on a scale of 100, and while it may be possible to get a score of 100/100 (yet unlikely – Google’s home page has a score of 98/100), this grade is not the end all/be all and your page speed time itself should remain the real focus.
Improving Site Speed
Some of the most common issues affecting site speed and page load time involve website compression, image optimization, and the amount of HTTP requests and DNS lookups. Compressing a web page with a program like gzip can significantly decrease the size of the page that the browser loads without changing the page’s content (this does not include images and media). Optimize images and video by ensuring they are in a web-friendly format like GIF, JPEG, PNG and FLV for video.
We knew the day would eventually arrive and it finally has. Google has announced that businesses can now create pages on Google+.
This opportunity is huge for people who want to connect with customers regarding their brands, products and/or local businesses. As Google+ continues to grow in popularity, your law firm has the potential to benefit greatly.
According to Google, if you create a business page on Google+, you will be able to “connect with the customers and fans who love you.” But that’s not all, if you ask Google. They have gone even further to say that “not only can [your clients] recommend you with a +1, or add you to a circle to listen long-term. They can actually spend time with your team, face-to-face-to-face.”
What do you need to do to get started? First, visit http://plus.google.com/pages/create. Then, develop your page and start sharing with clients and prospects. It’s that simple.
A Few More Tips for Your Google+ Business Page
Just like a Facebook business page or Twitter account, to truly be successful on Google+, you need to be actively involved. That means you should be sharing helpful and interesting information on a regular basis. You should also be engaging with your clients and fans. View what they are posting and make meaningful comments too.
If you are not convinced that you need yet another social network, you should know that Google is planning to include Google+ pages in search results. You need to make sure that your page is ready and can be found by your prospects!
For information on our attorney Web marketing services, including SEO and social media marketing, give us a call at 888.886.0939.
When it Comes to Google, Fresh is Often Best!
Google has continued to keep Web marketers and search engine optimizers on their toes by announcing another major change to its search engine algorithm.
What You Can’t Forget About Google…
Sometimes one of the fundamental aspects of Google is forgotten – that it is a business. Google is a business that is constantly looking for ways to improve the experience of its users. With that being said, the search engine makes hundreds of updates to its algorithm every year. One of the latest changes, though, is worth your attention. The algorithm modification has been coined as “The Freshness Update.”
The Content That Will be Affected
The new algorithm update is designed to push fresh content that is based on recent events, hot topics, recurring events, or topics with frequently updated information to the top of search results. Keep in mind that this is content that is time sensitive.
For example, if you are an insurance litigation attorney who represents residential earthquake claims, fresh content you write about the recent Oklahoma earthquake could wind up at the top of search results. However, content that is not outdated quickly, such as “5 Ways to Choose an Insurance Litigation Attorney,” wouldn’t be impacted by the new change.
Google describes the algorithm update this way:
“Different searches have different freshness needs. This algorithmic improvement is designed to better understand how to differentiate between these kinds of searches and the level of freshness you need, and make sure you get the most up to the minute answers.”
How Big is This Algorithm Change?
Initially, Google claimed that the change would affect about 35 percent of searches, but later clarified this statement. According to Google, the algorithm change “noticeably impacts 6-10% of searches depending on the language and the domain you’re searching on”.
What This Means to You
It’s hard to ignore this latest update by Google. In fact, it is actually a great opportunity for lawyers. Google has made it clear that content is even more important than ever before. That means you should be updating your website with content, and a lot of it.
For information about how we create Web content for lawyers, contact us today at 888-886-0939.
Both Google and Bing have admitted to using social endorsements (i.e. “likes”, “tweets” and “+1′s) as a signal when ranking sites in search results. But just how much of an effect is it having on your website? Well…it depends. At the moment, the answer is probably not very much, but as personalized search evolves, social signals are bound to become more important. Google only has access to your Google+ data, which is growing but still small. Bing on the other hand, had access to Facebook and Twitter data, which is huge. At the recent Search Marketing Expo in New York, one presenter claimed that social endorsements will be the next link building. Could that really be true? Let’s take a look at some searches in Google and Bing and see how much of a difference it makes if I am signed in versus when I am signed out.
Test #1 – Signed In
Search query: [fairfax car accident attorney]
Google Result: Ben Glass gets the first organic spot AND he has a social endorsement from someone whom I am connected with on Google Plus.
Click the images to see the full size version.
Bing Result: Ben gets the first organic result without any social endorsements, then consumes the middle of the page with pages that have been endorsed by many of my Facebook friends.
Test #2 – Signed Out
Search query: [fairfax car accident attorney]
Google Result: Ben takes the first spot again, without any indicators of social endorsements, although we know they have occurred. I did this search while signed out and with private browsing turned on.
Bing Result: Ben nabs the first two spots, but the page is very plain without the social endorsements. I did this search while signed out and in with private browsing turned on.
Technically, There was no change in the rankings for this search term, because of the social endorsements that Ben’s site has received. However, we must consider the psychological impact that social endorsement would have on searchers if they are displayed on a search result page. Are searchers more inclined to click links they know have been endorsed by their friends? The answer is a unanimous “yes”.
This test represents a very small sample of how social media is affecting search results. For extremely competitive keywords with strong, authoritative sites ranking at the top, the effect could be minimal. But for niche sites and pages deep within your site, a social endorsement could be the difference between a page 1 ranking and being completely invisible.
We can expect this to become an even bigger factor as Google Plus grows in the social network that Google hopes it will. For now, we can see that Bing is relying heavily on Facebook data to provide search results, as they should. (No doubt this irks Google!) We recommend making sure that every page on your website has a Facebook ”Like” button, a Twitter “Tweet” button and a Google “+1″ button. In general, attorneys are not always considered to be trustworthy and the right social endorsement could change that for searchers. More to come on this topic, but remember that social media is not going away and we all need to embrace it.
For years, we have heard from various sources that the “best practice” for title tags is to keep them under 70 characters. In the video below, the guys at SEOmoz prove that Google is indexing titles as long as 1,000 characters.
So while we now know that Google is indeed looking at longer titles, it is still best to keep them around 70 characters. As social media becomes increasingly important and posts are shared automatically, titles should definitely be short. Start with keywords at the beginning of your title and save branding for the end. Here is an example of a title on the Foster Web Marketing blog:
We try to keep titles compelling for readers while thinking about what searchers are typing into Google and Bing at the same time. It can be a tough balancing act, but it’s worth spending some extra time on this. Your title is the first thing that a search crawler sees AND it is the text displayed on a search results page.
Also, because we (and pretty much everyone else focusing on content as a major inbound marketing tool) use Hootsuite to automatically send out social media posts from our RSS feed, the title becomes the “tweet”:
A title is so much more than a piece of bait for a search engine. It has to be interesting, compelling, concise and descriptive. Need help with your content? Don’t hesitate to give us a call at Foster Web Marketing at 888-886-0939.
If you are not a data junky, Google Analytics can be a little overwhelming. But here’s the deal: Google Analytics tells you (almost) everything you need to know to dominate search engine rankings AND convert visitors into contacts and clients. Here is what Google Analytics can tell you about your attorney website:
How potential clients found you and what search terms they used.
How long they stayed on your website and how many pages they viewed.
What pages on your site are awesome and what pages stink.
Here is what Google Analytics does NOT tell you and why I said it tells you “almost” everything:
The names and IP addresses of people who visit your website.
Matching search keywords with individuals who fill out web forms and call you.
But even though privacy rules won’t allow Google to share this data, you can find all the information you need to determine your next marketing step. Here is one practical example of turning this data into better web marketing.
“Bounce rate” is an extremely important ranking factor. A high bounce rate means that visitors are staying for less than 30 seconds before leaving the page and your website altogether. To Google, this is an indicator that the page is of low value and they may stop sending people there by not ranking it on the first few pages of search results.
Take a look at your top 10 pages by clicking “Content” in the left menu and then “Top Content” just below it. Here you will see your top 10 pages by visits. Start with the page with the highest bounce rate.
Let’s say you have a page that gets a lot of views, but has a 90% bounce rate. It means that you are doing something right, but you aren’t closing the deal. Go to this page and try to detach yourself. What if you were looking for a lawyer? Would this page grab your attention? Try making adjustments to the first things that people see on the page such as the header, photos and videos.
Video in particular is an extremely powerful way to engage visitors with your site and decrease your bounce rate. If you already have an attention-grabbing header and video, you must be missing a compelling call to action, like a free book or report. Every page on your website should have a relevant call to action. ”Contact Us” doesn’t cut it. You need an image of your book or offer to appear prominently in the sidebar and you should call attention to it in your post.
Most lawyers don’t think like sales reps. Words like “conversion” and “lead” need to be at the center of every marketing discussion. If your call to action convinces a visitor to click on a book or offer and fill out a web form, not only have you gotten a new lead to nurture, but you have also dropped the bounce rate, raised the time on your site and increased the number of page views (since they will now have gone to at least 3 pages: entrance page, offer landing page and “thank you”/download page).
As we move into the new age of search engine optimization, you should be focusing on content, video and links from high-authority websites. Google is eliminating one shortcut at a time and pretty soon, the following methods will be completely extinct. As it stands now, they are outdated, unethical and against every rule Google has ever written.
Keyword Stuffing – The content on your website should read very naturally. Loading your content with keywords will put you on the fast track to a high bounce rate. On a side note, stay far, far away from content spinners. A “spun” version of the first sentence of this article might look like this: “As we advance into the fresh era of looking machine perfection…”. This is a dead give away that you are trying to cheat the system. Plus, no one will read content like that!
Doorway Pages – These are pages that are stuffed with keywords that attract searches and then forward the visitor to a completely different page. A bad idea for obvious reasons.
Hidden Text – Search engine optimizers who dabble in black hat SEO have gotten pretty creative. Hidden text is one of the tools in their arsenals. This tactic includes adding text that is the same color as the background of the page, so the reader cannot see it, only the search engines. It could include stuffed keywords or links. Another big no-no.
Buying Links – This is highly controversial since there are some links you have to pay for that are really good, like the Better Business Bureau. In general, stay away from any situation that seems shady. No paid link is worth potentially getting crushed or even banned by Google. Directories (in most, but not all, cases) will soon be a thing of the past. Invest that money in a writer who produces content that will draw attention organically.
One common misconception is that hiring an SEO professional to work on your website is a bad thing. This is absolutely not the case. In fact, if you don’t have an SEO expert working on your site, you are definitely missing traffic, leads and clients. There are many SEO tactics that are considered “white hat”. These include proper on-page optimization, dynamic sitemaps and getting links for guest blog posts and press releases. The architecture of your site, the quality of your code and the speed of your website are also major factors. You can see why you would want to hire someone that really knows what they are doing.
For more information on building a website that will rank highly in search results and get you more clients, give us a call at 888-886-0939.
Like it or not, Google Panda will affect your web marketing. But…there is good news. If you take a deep breath, re-evaluate a few strategies and press forward, you can actually benefit in a big way from Google’s algorithm changes. Here’s the gist of it: Google wants better, cleaner, more accurate search results and they have the data to make it happen. You can absolutely forget about gaming Google, or any other search engine for that matter.
Before we talk about ways to make Google fall in love with your site all over again, here is exactly what they are looking at. (Remember…you have access to this same data in Google Analytics!)
Bounce Rate – As defined by Google, “bounce rate” is the percentage of single-page visits (i.e. visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page). Why is this bad? Because the searcher didn’t find what he or she was looking for and was not interested in your site.
Pages/Visit – The more pages a visitor checks out, the more interested they should become. Google is looking for very natural indicators that your site is worthy of a good ranking in the search results. Think about this as you browse the Internet for a service or product.
Time on Site – Unless your visitors are falling asleep at their computers, spending a lot of time on your site is a great thing. This means that they 1) are not “bouncing” and 2) are looking at multiple pages. That is unless you are smart enough to have video on your website, which means they could be there for an hour or more.
Inbound links are still extremely important and we’ll talk more about that in the future. For now, focus on on-page optimization for your website. What does this mean in the new age of search? Content. But not good content…great content. If you have to write less content to make sure it’s interesting and satisfying search queries, then so be it. Of course, more lines in the water is a better way to catch a fish, but only if you have good bait!
Okay, let’s talk about solutions and more specifically, how you can gain the edge over your competitors because of this change. You already know you need excellent content. You’ve known that for a while now and it just got more important. But how else can you keep people on your site longer? The answer is simpler than you might imagine.
Video. Like this one right here.
Video accomplishes so many marketing goals. It engages your web visitors, builds trust by showing them your face and letting them hear your voice. Plus, it keeps them on your site longer. If you aren’t doing video, you need to be.
In short, Google Panda is all about getting back to basics. You need to create an experience on your website that is enjoyable, informative and educational. Don’t expect results overnight. It just doesn’t work that way. If you stick to the program though, you can expect more and better traffic, which in turn will generate leads and clients.
For me, the month of June is right in the heart of wedding season. So when I initially read about Google +1, my first thought was, oh that’s nice, Google gets to bring a date. But some of the special ladies (re: products) Google has recently decided to introduce to their family (re: users) at social gathering (re: social media) haven’t been much to write home about.
Before I overextend this metaphor any further, think about their latest Social Media role outs. Buzz is a failed afterthought, Wave never caught on, & the only people I know using Profiles work in SEO.
SOMETHING TELLS ME +1 WILL BE DIFFERENT
Google knows how much of a driving force social media has become, and how badly they have failed at it. Their CEO Larry Page even outright said it, “I clearly knew that I had to do something and I failed to do it.” Mr. Page claims that all future Google products will add social functionality. +1 is the first of these new products to launch.
While talk is cheap, Google employees’ annual bonuses typically are not. That is unless Google‘s 2011 social strategy (of which +1 seems to be a big part of) is a failure. Business Insider back in April uncovered a company-wide memo alerting Google employees that “25% of their annual bonuses will be tied to the success or failure” of Google’s 2011 social strategy, whether they are directly involved with Google’s social efforts or not.
Now I know Google’s CEO said that all new Google products will have a social component, but even still, that seems like a pretty large chunk of change to be tied to the success of something they aren’t even working on. Not so says Page, who adds in the memo, “When we release products, try them and encourage your family and friends to do the same.”
Remember, by and large (and I mean LARGE), Google’s revenue comes from display ads and pay-per-click advertising. That’s it. Some experts think up to 96% of Google’s revenue comes from advertising. So it strikes me as a little bit strange that they are tying 25% of ALL employee bonuses to the performance of social media products, a division that generates such little revenue for them currently.
While I do not know how a law office payscale works, I cannot imagine firm partners tying employee bonuses to the success of the firm’s softball team, especially if not everyone is on the team.
So this bonus conundrum tells me a few things about how Google views +1, and ultimately leads me to asking myself a series of questions.
1. Is Google +1 just another way to gather user data as a means to drive up keyword prices in Adword?
While my current answer to that is ‘its too soon to tell’, my gut tells me yes. Advertising is how Google makes their money. +1 is a great way to gather user data. You do the math.
2. How much (if any) impact on rankings will +1 have?
I have to think +1 will be an SEO ranking factor in some capacity. How much of a factor it will be is something I am not sure even Google knows right now. It probably depends on how people use it, and how Google views +1’s impact on search quality.
While I’m sure the code is sophisticated enough to thwart companies from hiring folks to simply mash their +1 button all day and night, there are probably still ways for companies to juke the system. Early reports are speculating that adding the +1 button causes Google to get that page crawled or re-crawled as Google’s own +1 FAQ practically confirms it.
The short answer is +1 will probably stay a minor ranking factor in the near future; quality and quantity of backlinks will stay the #1 ranking factor.
3. Is Google trying to be like Facebook?
I’d argue that Google has BEEN trying to be like Facebook, just doing a poor job of it. Anyone who doesn’t see Facebook as the next 300 LB Gorilla simply doesn’t get it. A start-up bigwig I chatted up a few months back told me all his angel investor friends see Facebook’s unseating of Google as not a matter of if, but simply a matter of when.
Will +1 be the thing to keep Facebook at bay? Maybe. But probably not. Certainly this sheds some light onto why Google places such value on the 2011 success of their social products. Enough importance to tie 25% of all employees’ bonuses to it.
4. How does it affect my legal clients?
That’s what you really want to know, right?
If you do decide to add +1 to your site, I wouldn’t tell everyone you know to keep clicking the button in your practice areas, hoping to increase your rankings. To me that would be a colossal waste of time.
But if adding a +1 button causes you to write better, more interesting content in the hope of getting +1 clicks (we call those intrinsic rewards), that would be a success. Or if it causes you to interact with your clients more, asking them to click the +1 button on areas of your site they find the most useful, that would be a success.
To me, +1 is never going to be a magic bullet for increasing keyword rankings. It is simply going to a be a tool that rewards sites for creating good content and increases social interaction.
And isn’t that what a great social media tool is really suppose to be?
Google sure hopes so.
UPDATE: According to Google, they are working on fixing some of the load time issues brought up in point #2. For more information about what you should know before adding a +1 button, consult this guide.