Archive for March, 2011
Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
One of the best ways to ensure your legal website is successful and profitable is to study other sites from your particular niche. In particular, if you are attempting to vie for the top spot with one of your closest competitors, then the importance of profiling that competitor and fully understanding what they are doing to excel in online marketing can be critical to your own firm’s success. The only way you can pass your competitor in search engine rankings is to directly compare your site statistics to theirs. Believing you can ignore your fellow attorneys who are struggling to reach at least some of the same clients you are is a mistake—after all, they may be using new and innovative strategies you haven’t even considered.
Determine your Closest Competitors
Although it is likely that you are already well aware who your closest competitors are, just to be positive, type on Google the keywords and key phrases related to your own website and see which other sites rank well for the same words. Once you have identified the websites which use the same keywords and phrases, check their backlinks to see where they are acquiring them. Backlinks are incredibly significant because they are viewed as a type of “recognition” given to your legal website from other legal website owners. All search engines bestow a higher reputation for superior backlinks—especially if they are from other quality websites within your specific niche or legal specialty. And, of course, the more significance your site is perceived to have, the greater it will rank. Finally, read through the competitor’s websites so you can check the content of their legal website pages, making note of the number of pages on each website, the number of words on each page, and the internal link structure of each site.
Check out Competitor Backlinks
If you are looking to gain lots of information regarding those oh-so-important competitor backlinks, or are simply looking for the best SEO keywords for your own legal website, give SEOprofiler a try. (www.seoprofiler.com). Simply enter the URL of one of your legal competitors in the search box at the top of the page and press the return key. Once the information comes up, you can click on the blue tabs to switch from section to section—each tab contains different information regarding your competitor’s backlinks. You can move your mouse pointer over any question mark icon on the results page if you want further information. This level of SEOprofiler is free, however if you upgrade to a premium membership you can do a bit more sleuthing.
If you are merely interested in finding out how many visitors or hits your legal competitors are garnering each month—a good indicator of how effective their website is—then there are several sites that will give you varying degrees of information. First, try TrafficEstimate, which is free. Search for a competitor’s web address to see the estimated number of visitors to the site in the past month. Although the resulting number is, at best, an estimate, it will give you a good ballpark figure. You can also try Alexa (www.alexa.com) which is also free; you can search for any website and see how it ranks compared to all other websites in the word. Alexa will give you a good idea of your competitor’s online performance. Again, don’t take the numbers for the gospel truth, however they can be extremely useful for comparing similar legal websites, or sites within the legal industry. Of course most of the sites promise to give you the best, most up-to-date stats on your competitors, however the results can be a little less than. Of all the sites, SEMrush most consistently gave the most accurate results regarding competitor’s website info. The downside is that you must pay to get a full data list from SEMrush, however the ability to see the keyword lists and how your competitor’s rank for those terms is appealing. Google Trends, Google Insights and Google AdPlanner are also good options for testing various components of your competitor’s site, and all are useful to some extent, however—as expected—they will be testing based on Google search.
The bottom line is that to boost your own legal website’s performance, it is always a good idea to look at your competitor’s performance. You never know what jewel you may find that can be integrated into your own website, boosting traffic and bringing in quality clients.
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Tuesday, March 8th, 2011
The role of your law firm’s landing page is to both echo and amplify the message that drew your potential client to the page in the first place, thus decreasing the likelihood they will bounce off the site, and greatly increasing the chances they will convert. If at all possible, your landing page should include some sort of targeted banner which follows your potential clients around as they click from page to page, taking them back to the landing page whenever they click the banner. Tests have shown that conversion rates go up dramatically when a banner is used—although it may take extra effort, it both enhances the visitor’s overall experience and leave them feeling that they haven’t just been dumped on your law firm’s website then abandoned. Your landing page is where your potential clients will get 85% of the specific services your legal firm offers, meaning that 85% of those visitors will click away if they don’t immediately see something compelling. Your landing page should be warm, welcoming, and above all, honest, and should make them want to know more.
Using a Tagline on Your Landing Page
When a potential client visits your legal website for the first time, the first question they will either consciously or unconsciously be seeking to answer in their mind is “What’s in it for me?” Because of this, it is imperative that your legal website’s landing page—the very first page seen by visitors—communicates clearly the benefits your legal firm offers. The tricky part is that these benefits must be conveyed in less than ten seconds. One way to accomplish this seemingly-impossible feat is to include a tag-line which succinctly summarizes your firm’s specialties in a very customer-oriented manner. Make sure to place this tagline so it is immediately visible even if your reader chooses not to scroll down. If you are unsure of the best way to craft such an all-important tagline, try using a solution-oriented statement which both emphasizes the value the client will receive from calling your legal firm, and describes your personal promise, using words your reader would use. This tagline is possibly the most important factor in your quest to anchor your landing page and reach the highest conversion rate possible.
Following the all-important tagline, the second concern most visitors to your website will have is “Can I trust this legal firm?” It’s incredibly important that your landing page—as well as subsequent pages—give your readers a strong sense of credibility and quality. Many companies don’t bother placing their legal firm’s name, contact details and landline phone number as a footer on each and every page. This is crucial in reassuring your readers that your law firm is entirely legitimate. Despite the fact that we exist in a high-technology world, visitors who see a real address and a real landline phone number will find it very comforting. Include a link to your contact page, and on that page include your e-mail address, phone numbers, both cell and landline, and a physical address. (This is in addition to the footer on each page. You don’t ever want your potential clients to have to play hide-and-seek with your well-hidden contact information—they will find it incredibly annoying and will probably move on to another site). Include a link to your “About Us” page which includes background and information about your firm, the attorneys who practice, your specialties and your mission. Staff photos are great for adding a touch of humanity to your legal website, so incorporate them whenever possible. If you have client testimonials, display them prominently as this is a great trust-builder.
Converted visitors come back. Converted visitors trust you, and communicate this trust to others—they talk freely about their experiences with your law firm, share on social sites and drive more traffic to your site. Converted visitors share your links freely, and most importantly, converted visitors become faithful clients. In the overall picture, happy, converted clients are much more important than simply more traffic.
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Tuesday, March 8th, 2011
SEO is a technique which is widely used to make your legal website or blog more visible in an environment (the Internet) where there are already plenty of websites with the exact same type of law firm or legal specialty as your own. Most research will tell you that if you want to get the desired traffic to your legal website or blog, you need to be within the top 10 in the search engines. As you probably already know, however, competition to be in that top 10 is fierce, and staying there once you’ve made it is just as difficult.
SEO crosses the barriers between search engines, as they all operate by the SEO Bible, and allow your business to attract more of the “perfect” client, thus increasing your offline business. If your law firm has spent thousands—or more—creating the highest quality, most creative legal website around, but have left it running in an un-optimized manner, then you are simply spinning your wheels on the Internet. In older advertising terms it is something like have the most fabulous sign made up for your firm, then sticking it in the storeroom, where obviously your targeted clients will never see it.
While SEO is imperative, ethical SEO is critical for natural or organic search engine rankings. Major search engines such as Google are highly developed and able to easily understand the credibility of SEO techniques. By the same token, they can quickly identify unethical search engine techniques, with a potential consequence of blacklisting your website or even banning it. While “black hat” techniques can boost your search engine rankings quickly, in the long run it is a bad choice. In case you are unclear about what constitutes “black hat” techniques, here are some of the most common:
- Keyword stuffing involves the repetitive use of the same keyword phrase over and over in your meta tags, comment tags, alt tags or the actual copy on your website. Repeat your targeted keywords no more than six or seven times within each 200 words.
- Inserting hidden text or links that are readable by search engines but cannot be seen by your human visitors is not good use of SEO. All search engines consider these hidden text and links to be spam and will penalize the page, or possibly the entire site.
- Cloaking involves a software program to direct search spiders to a group of pages which are created to “trick” the spider and re-direct the user—while cloaking can have some proper uses, by and large it is used to deceive search engines, and is therefore considered spam.
- Creating mirror sites or duplicate content and placing them on multiple servers with different domain names, and search engines will not only suppress duplicate content but will also count them as a violation of the search engine’s spam guidelines.
- Link farming refers to putting hundreds of links on one page to sites which are essentially unrelated to your site content and can contain poor quality content that is useless to your potential clients. Reciprocal links can associate you with “poor neighborhoods,” so you should avoid link farming at all cost.
- Irrelevant link exchange is often considered unethical SEO, and no matter how tactfully or carefully you hide them, hiding repetitive keywords is also considered unethical.
These types of spam can cause your firm to lose your rankings and be booted off the search engine index; while search engines have varying rules for spam detection, the end result will be the same, and it can be extremely difficult for your firm to recover from a ban, which is why ethical SEO is so critical. Used correctly on your legal website or blog, proper search engine optimization techniques will almost certainly get you ranked higher in the search engines, and achieved legitimately, organic links can last indefinitely. Acquire your search engine rankings fairly, and maintain them ethically for far-reaching positive results.
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Thursday, March 3rd, 2011
The potential benefits of a well-executed legal blog are immeasurable. Aside from giving your organic SEO a hefty boost by filling your blog pages with keyword-rich links, a legal blog will also build your reputation as a legal authority. Although these benefits alone are enough to jump on the legal blog bandwagon, consider that a well-written, often-updated legal blog can also boost the reputation of individual attorneys, create a solid, high-quality legal persona, increase your connections within the legal realm and increase the likelihood of receiving positive press mentions. In order to ensure your blog accomplishes all these things—and more—keep the following tips in mind when creating and maintaining your blog.
Post on a Regular Schedule
If you jumped wholeheartedly into the idea of a blog, but have found the reality to be a rarely-updated blog page, then you may actually being doing more harm than good. When a potential client clicks onto your legal blog site and finds it hasn’t been updated in three months, they may leave with a very unfavorable overall impression of your law firm. The assumption may be that if you don’t take the time to update your blog, that perhaps you are either overbooked—in which case a client will look elsewhere for an attorney—or are simply a procrastinator who doesn’t take the time to tend to necessary tasks. Neither of these assumptions would be beneficial to inspiring trust or gaining new clients. Aside from the negative impression a potential client will garner from a neglected blog site, there’s no SEO benefit to infrequent updates. Google must be fed regular content in order to place a high value on your law firm’s website and blog.
Remember That Online Copywriting is Different to Offline Print
Online readers, as we all probably know by now, behave in a completely different manner than offline readers. Online content is often viewed as somehow less valuable that reading a newspaper, magazine or book. This could be simply because it is free—and sometimes “free” translates into a perception of lower quality. Because of this, and because most all of us are always pressed for time in our busy world, readers are much more likely to skim-read your blog copy, and less likely to actually read to the end of an entire article—especially if there are included links. Remember as you write to use short sentences, and keep your calls to action early on in the copy rather than at the end where they may well be overlooked.
Be a Guest Post Blog Contributor
One of the easiest and best ways to build a following for your own legal blog is to contribute to other legal blogs, writing on your specialization area. Guest posts are great in that they give you inbound links to your own website, while also gaining attention for you own firm’s blog. Many blog experts advise that you have a high-quality blog written, or at least outlined, before contacting other legal arenas and offering your expertise. Remember that others treat their blogs as a business, just as you do. Whether you are writing your own blog, or guest blogging, remember that a blog is, in essence, a conversation. Don’t post and consider your job done, rather take the time to read and respond to comments from readers—even the negative one!
Encourage Visitors to Come Back Often
Make it as easy as possible for your potential clients to return to your blog by allowing them to subscribe, offering to e-mail them when a reply is made to their comments, or encouraging them to sign up for your legal firm’s newsletter. In other words, go the extra mile—or two or five or ten—in order to ensure that your casual browser becomes a repeat visitor, and ultimately a satisfied client.
Is Your Attorney Blog Easy to Find?
It should go without saying that you should be promoting your blog through your legal website, on your home page, and on every subsequent page. If you do e-marketing, make sure you include links to relevant posts on your blog. Mention your blog on the social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter often—after all, if your blog is difficult to find, what is the point?
Use Great Headlines and Lists
Every headline or title of your blog needs to be stellar. Your blog headline is the “hook” which grabs people’s attention (or not) and must be both short enough to fit into a tweet, exciting enough to grab people’s attention, and explanatory enough to give people the incentive to read the entire blog. It is definitely worth the time spent to ensure your headline is the very best it can be. People tend to respond well to lists, especially “Top Ten Tips For…..,” “15 Ways to….,” or the “Twelve Best….” Lists tend to be more easily scanned, and can condense lots of information in a relatively small amount of space.
Offer Your Readers High-Quality and Value
Your legal blog articles must be valuable, useful, and informative. Many times legal blogs in particular are written by experts on the subject who are afraid of offering solid advice for fear the reader will simply take the advice and skip hiring the lawyer. Don’t be frightened of being honestly useful. You, as the attorney, are still the expert, you are simply showcasing your area of expertise and knowledge and educating your future clients. Even those readers who don’t end up as your client may still share your content or link—when the rewards to your firm are so great, it’s never a bad idea to offer high-quality, information.
Finally, although you may truly be the most knowledgeable person in your field, keep the legalese to a minimum and don’t talk down to your readers. Web readers may be pressed for time, but they are hardly stupid, so never come across as though you are speaking to them from your pedestal way on high. Your legal blog can be an incredible asset to your law firm, so take the time to make it something you are truly proud of.
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