Archive for September, 2011
Wednesday, September 28th, 2011
Car accidents, even minor ones, can be very unsettling to both drivers. Know in advance what to do in the event of an accident. Your primary concerns should be the safety and well-being of all parties, and taking steps to protect your interests in the aftermath. Here are a few steps that will help you respond appropriately.
If anyone involved in the accident sustained injuries, call 911 immediately. Don’t try to move someone with injuries or allow yourself to be moved. Paramedics can determine the extent of injuries and move victims without causing more harm to the victim. Leave the vehicles where they are if there were injuries or the physical damage to the vehicles was extensive. Otherwise, move the cars off the road to a safe place. Be careful when exiting the vehicle, doing so on the side away from traffic.
For the Record
Call the police to report the incident. In some areas, the police respond only to serious accidents, so give them the basic facts and ask for instructions. Whether the policy of local police is to respond or not, you will need to exchange information with the driver of the other vehicle. Get their name, address and phone numbers, insurance information and license plate number. Provide your information as well.
Take pictures of both cars and any other evidence you can, such as skid marks or rubble from the damage. Use the camera from your cell phone if you have one. Alternatively, some drivers buy a disposable camera and keep in the glove compartment specifically for this purpose. This may make it easier when you hire an Atlanta auto accident lawyer.
What To Avoid
When speaking to the police and to the other driver and/or passengers, cite only the facts. Do not admit or imply guilt, by apologizing, for example. The shock and anxiety people often experience following a collision, even a minor one, color your perspective, and it’s not uncommon for drivers to feel it was their fault in the immediate aftermath of an accident, even when it wasn’t. This is important, because in many states, liability is decided under a system called comparative negligence. This system recognizes that in a lot of cases, both parties had at least some responsibility for the accident. Admitting guilt at the scene could affect how much liability you are later assigned. Speak with an Atlanta auto accident attorney about your case today.
After the Fact
Call your insurance company as soon as possible after the accident to report the facts. They will need to know when and where the incident occurred and the other driver’s information. They will also ask if a police report was filed and whether any injuries occurred. Don’t offer any additional information. Then, if you feel there is a need, you can contact an Atlanta car accident attorney, who can advise you whether any additional steps are needed to protect your interests further.
Wednesday, September 28th, 2011
As Rudyard Kipling noted, “Words are of course the most powerful drug used by mankind.” Lest you’ve forgotten the cardinal rule of website success, I will say it again: While the look and feel of your legal website is crucial—and perhaps second on the overall list—content is the heart and soul of any website. The ultimate goal of your legal web pages are to build a relationship with potential clients, and while the glitz and glamour of your design may initially “hook” your reader, if your copy is not extremely compelling, they will click on by with lightning speed.
Not to mention the fact that search engine bots just happen to be the blindest users who will ever visit your site—web crawlers virtually ignore the flashy design and go right to the meat of the content to determine how your legal site is indexed and found. Search engines ferret out quality content, and content happens to be the only factor they value, so you can see just how important unforgettable the legal copy on your pages can be.
How to make it Personal
The Internet gets more personal by the day, therefore writing in third person using long legal terms your readers may have trouble understanding will only ensure they pass you by and find a website they can understand. Your potential clients come to your website because they have a problem they need solved in the most expedient manner possible. Your legal copy needs to make a personal connection with you and your firm, and legal blogs especially should convey your personality. Reach your clients by speaking directly to them—in plain English without the technical/legal jargon.
Hold Your Visitor’s Attention
Compelling copy grabs your reader, holding their attention to the very last sentence. When you are writing legal copy for your website or blog, put yourself in the shoes of your potential client. What is their problem? How can you solve the problem? How is your solution different/better than that of your competitors? How can you, right this very minute, make your reader’s life easier and better by solving their legal problem? Don’t forget to slip in a reference about how you can also save your client time. Because we are all so crazy-busy, anything that saves us time and/or trouble becomes very appealing.
Break up Your Page
You are probably aware that readers of web pages scan your legal website pages more than they actually read. Huge chunks of copy can be overwhelming, causing the visitor to leave your website quickly. Frequent paragraph breaks, headings which tell the reader exactly what the paragraph is about, and bulleted lists can all help your reader get to the end of your page. We love short bursts of text, short, easy-to-read sentences, balanced white space and bold black headings, so incorporate those things in your legal blog and web pages.
Edit before Publishing—then Edit Again
Don’t edit as you go along, rather wait until you are finished and can see the whole picture. When you stop to edit as you go along, you compromise your creativity. Once your legal article or blog posting is complete, then go back and remove any undesired elements. Once your content satisfies you, proofread, proofread—and proofread yet again. If you were meeting a prospective new client for the first time, it’s a sure bet you would go out of your way to make a great first impression. Your legal website or blog is your first impression for a score of potential clients, and, let’s face it, the old adage about never getting a second chance to make a first impression is quite true. If your first impression is full of spelling, grammar or punctuation errors, your professional image can be critically damaged. Many copywriters read their words out loud to ensure they have the rhythm they were aiming for, hopefully the rhythm of natural speech.
Wednesday, September 28th, 2011
Janet Ellen Raasch
Janet Ellen Raasch is a writer, ghostwriter and blogger (www.constantcontentblog.com) who works closely with professional services providers – especially lawyers, law firms, legal consultants and legal organizations – to help them achieve name recognition and new business through publication of keyword-rich content for the web and social media sites as well as articles and books for print. She can be reached at (303) 399-5041 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A truly engaged employee is one who believes so strongly in an organization that he or she invests discretionary effort in its success. In other words, a truly engaged employee is someone who regularly goes above and beyond his or her job description.
What does this mean in a law firm? While equity partners (and those on the track to become equity partners) are best thought of as owners rather than employees, everyone else should be considered an employee.
The engaged non-equity track associate involved in document review will notice and point out an interesting new detail. The non-engaged counterpart could ignore this detail, because it might make the job more difficult.
The engaged paralegal or legal assistant will cheerfully work evenings and weekends as a courtroom date draws near. The non-engaged employee will complain and sulk.
The engaged mail room person will deliver a registered letter to a lawyer as soon as it arrives, allowing for timely consideration and response. The non-engaged employee will wait until the next scheduled delivery cycle.
And finally, the engaged marketing director/manager/support person will devote extra time and effort to creating a truly customized client proposal, rather than simply answering RFP questions with the usual non-specific content.
In addition, employee engagement is not limited to the workplace. An engaged employee will rave about his or her law firm outside the office as well — whether to neighbors on the sidewalk, fellow parents at a soccer game, or someone they meet at book club or a cocktail party.
When you consider these examples, it is easy to see how truly engaged employees can propel law firms from run-of-the-mill to highly successful. “Defining and communicating the unique story or message at the heart of your law firm is essential to employee engagement,” said Laura Wegscheid.
Wegscheid discussed why law firms should enhance employee engagement in order to improve morale, operations and the bottom line. This presentation to the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association (www.legalmarketing.org/rockymountain) took place Sept. 13 at Fogo de Chao Restaurant in Lower Downtown Denver.
Wegscheid is a senior consultant with Cast Communication Design (www.castcommunicationdesign.com), an internal communications consulting firm focused on helping businesses engage and align their employees.
The value of engaged employees
Modern research organizations use rigorous science to assess levels of employee engagement and link engagement to performance.
In 2009, Hewitt discovered that businesses with highly engaged employees have total shareholder return 19 percent higher than firms with average engagement.
According to a study of a large professional services firm by the Hay Group, the firm’s five most-engaged regional offices generated 43 percent more revenue per consultant (think lawyer) than the firm’s five least-engaged offices.
“According to Colorado Bar Association statistics,” said Wegscheid, “the average attorney has $446,500 in billable per year. A 43 percent increase adds an additional $191,995 to this amount, for a total of $638,495 per lawyer. That translates into $1.9 million extra for a firm of 10 attorneys, $3.8 million for 20 attorneys and $5.8 million for 30 attorneys. This is a lot of money.”
Research clearly demonstrates that the more engaged your employees, the better your revenue, productivity, earnings, shareholder returns, employee retention and customer loyalty.
According to Gallup, about 16 percent of employees at any business are actively disengaged. “Some call these people ‘CAVE dwellers,’ for ‘consistently against virtually everything,’” said Wegscheid. “They will actively try to destroy your organization.
“An additional 29 percent truly believe in your business and are actively engaged in making it succeed,” said Wegscheid. “That leaves the majority of your employees — approximately 55 percent — who are neither disengaged nor engaged. Smart businesses focus on transforming these ‘neutrals’ into highly engaged employees.”
How to encourage employee engagement
Good internal communication is one of the best ways to move employees out of the middle and into the “high engagement” zone.
“Internal communication is evolving,” said Wegscheid, “with the balance shifting from a model weighted by formality and control towards a model that facilitates employee engagement. Few organizations fall squarely into one of these four models.”
The inner circle model has the highest level of formality/control and the lowest level of employee engagement. Executives confer behind closed doors with no employee input. Information travels through formal channels from the top down to managers, who tell employees what to do – but not why. “Most, but not all, organizations have moved beyond this model,” said Wegscheid.
The cascade model is still quite controlled, but has a little more employment engagement. Decisions are made at the top and information flows from the top down, but managers are expected to share some information with their teams.
In the dialogue model, decisions and information still flow from the top – but are often accompanied by an invitation to ask questions. Feedback is limited to topics raised by leadership. The process is formal, but two-way, with the goal of making sure employees understand the information that was communicated.
“Most organizations, including law firms, currently operate at the cascade level and perhaps at the dialogue level,” said Wegscheid.
The community model combines the highest levels of employee engagement with informality and freedom of expression. “This model shares a mindset with social media,” said Wegscheid. “Knowledge is not controlled at the top, but contributed by and commented on by all participants in a network. Everyone has something to contribute.”
In the community model, leadership is still needed but messages can be initiated by anyone, encouraging the free flow of information throughout an organization. In this model, individuals feel comfortable sharing expertise and learning from each other, which results in spontaneous collaboration by employees at all levels to solve a problem, rather than formal teams composed only of executives. Employees as well as owners feel invested in the results.
“Because of sensitive information, proprietary relationships and a billable hour model that does not reward efficiency, the community model can be challenging for law firms,” said Wegscheid. “However, there are elements of this model that can be incorporated.
Engaged employees are those who understand and believe in a law firm’s message. This message can be created at the top and then delivered formally to employees (a low-engagement model). Conversely, it can be created collaboratively (with facilitation by firm leaders) and made part of an ongoing conversation among employees (a high-engagement model). Or it can be somewhere in between.
“The important thing,” said Wegscheid, “is to understand the value of employee engagement and actively consider which steps your firm can take to improve it – and consequently improve the firm’s bottom line.”
Tuesday, September 27th, 2011
By now most of us are at least somewhat familiar with the SEO strategies used to boost our legal website up into the much-coveted first page place of honor. Because Google gets smarter almost by the hour, it continuously comes up with more advanced algorithms which strive to halt the use of so-called “black hat” SEO tactics, while encouraging the use of organic SEO. While the term “organic search” sounds a bit like something you might find at the Whole Foods market, it is simply the latest buzzword for a search which returns a ranking result based on keyword relevancy and overall content. This is in direct contrast to the listings which are based solely on who dug the deepest into their pockets to appear at the top. The idea of organic search rankings is to quickly return to the user the most relevant results based on the page’s content, the relevant links which point to the page and a smattering of other so-called “objective” criteria.
Advantages of Organic Law Firm SEO
The primary advantage of organic SEO is that we tend to trust the results more, and they are often much more relevant than sponsored results. Organic searches typically will produce higher click-through rates for your legal website (all other things being equal) thereby maximizing traffic to your web pages. If there is a downside to organic SEO, it is simply one of time. Organic results rarely come quickly, rather build slowly but surely.
Of huge importance in legal web pages and legal web blogs is promoting your brand, and putting your resources into organic search results can give you a decided marketing edge in this area. Most of us are skeptics when we see a television commercial, an ad on the Web or a sponsored ad on a search engine because we are fully aware that the ads are commercially motivated and may not yield us the results we are after. Another high-ranking advantage of organic SEO is that it’s free! Google has remained adamant about not charging for inclusion in their index of billions of pages, therefore organic SEO is one of the few things which you really don’t have to pay for.
How to Boost Organic Search Engine Rankings
In order to fine-tune your legal web pages to the preferences of the major search engines, you must first know what each search engine is looking for, and why the law firm at the top of the page is able to hold that position week after week. Some search engines tend to index more of your pages than others, meaning no two search engines will be analyzing exactly the same pages.
Location is Key, Keywords are Critical
Most search engines first consider the same aspect of those who sell real estate—location, location, location. In this instance location refers to where your keywords appear as well as how often your keywords appear in relation to other words on your legal web page. The assumption is that any page which is relevant to your overall topic will, of course, mention your keywords near the top of the page, in the headline and in the first few paragraphs of text. While your keywords are critical, if a search engine discovers you have repeated keywords hundreds of time in an effort to climb up the search engine ladder, it will judge your entire site to be spam. Such a slap on the wrist can be extremely hard to recover from, so use your keywords judiciously.
Other Important Considerations
Make sure your legal website is clean and easy to navigate—not only will your potential clients thank you, but the search engines will have a much easier time locating your legal web pages as well as all the sub-pages. Take great pains to link each of your legal website or legal blog pages to other pages within your website if you don’t want your rankings to go down. High quality links which are directly relevant to your legal sites can strategically boost ratings; if you include relevant links from government or education sites, you will see a much quicker upswing. Finally, if you have a clear theme which runs through each page of your site, you stand a better chance of a good ranking.
Headlines and Copy
And, of course, nobody reaches the ranks of the privileged few at the top without clear, keyword rich headlines in strategic locations, and high-quality content which boasts keywords scattered naturally throughout the pages rather than appearing as though they have been artificially added. Your copy must be enticing, unique, and optimized all at once. The longer your site has been around, the more authoritative it is judged to be, at least by the search engines, so make sure you are abiding by the basic rules of organic SEO, and be patient. Soon, you will be rewarded by your law firm’s site popping up on the very first page of the search, and you will be out of the choppy waters and into smooth sailing.
Call us today for a free discuss about your law firm website at (769) 218-6099.
Saturday, September 24th, 2011
If you are fortunate enough to have reached and maintained your legal web page ranking goal, the next step is to commit to a certain level of maintenance to keep them at their present coveted position. It can be said with reasonable assurance that throughout your attorney SEO campaign you will notice three stages, or three critical areas of importance as they relate to keywords. Occasionally you may see an initial surge or spike soon after your legal pages are published, crawled, indexed and scored. If your pages demonstrate an authority in your particular niche (and they certainly should) they may well remain buoyant, however if your legal site’s keywords have millions of competing sites with the same keywords, that initial spike can spiral downward quickly.
Managing the Rollover Effect
Following the initial spike of your legal pages ranking, you could also see something known as the roll-over effect. This is relatively common especially in legal blog sites in which there are a set number of posts on a page, then the results roll off the page into an archive, or into pages further down the line. The problem lies in those important links on your legal site; when the page rolls into an archive or a page 2, 3 or 4, the links roll over as well, causing your pages to take a significant dip in search engine ratings.
And Finally—the Comeback
Once your legal website has firmly established trust, stability, quality and relevancy, that roll-over dip which likely filled you with dismay will be relegated to only a dim memory. When you are considered an authority on your subject, and those who are searching for answers to critical questions find them in spades on your legal sites, you have likely passed the search engine algorithm litmus test.
Your Ultimate Goal
The goal you should be shooting for is to naturally attract more of the quality potential clients you want, and less traffic you don’t want, and one of the best ways to accomplish this is to consistently focus on keyword selection on an ongoing basis. Keyword management is fast becoming critical to your overall bottom line, therefore each and every keyword in your arsenal must deliver maximum bang for the buck. Be ruthless when you find under-performing keywords which are not delivering conversions. Add new keywords, but only after you have done some in-depth keyword research. Raw query logs and reports are helpful in showing you which terms your potential clients are actually searching for, so take advantage of them. Refine any broad-match keywords or phrases with exact matches; you will see your traffic refined, your conversion rates increased, and your search engine ranking climbing quickly.
Don’t Forget Negative Keywords
Many people are unfamiliar with negative keywords, which are essentially keywords that you don’t want to be found under. Again, check the raw query logs and reports, but look for queries which are really irrelevant to your legal website or legal blog, and add the terms to your negative keyword list. It’s extremely important that you monitor your keywords on a regular basis in order to gauge their continued effectiveness.
Check Out Your Competition
Just as you need to monitor your keywords, you also need to continuously monitor your closest competitors. Although you may be king of the mountain today, other law firms can gain dominance through SEO as well, toppling you from your throne without warning. Because 42% of all searchers click on the top search engine result, it is certainly a position worth fighting for and constant tending to. In the end, just as anything worthwhile requires ongoing attention, so will your legal website and legal blog. Monitor your keywords, add quality content often, strive to include quality links, and soon you will have achieved organic search engine nirvana.
Thursday, September 22nd, 2011
Hostgator – 2nd day in a row! What ever happened to REDUNDANCY! I am sure the standard Hostgator reply will come now… U R Killing us!
Monday, September 12th, 2011
Redesigning your law firm’s website can be time-intensive, expensive and likely frustrating and difficult. It can even leave those within your firm with hard feelings due to different beliefs regarding the future of your firm. Should your firm decide to take the re-design plunge, the SEO firm should be involved right from the get-go. If your firm has a sound SEO strategy in place, it can definitely make a difference in internal firm debates, allowing you to choose the best platform, programming language and layout. Having your SEO firm involved early in the firm’s redesign can also alleviate the possibility of additional development work following the launch of the new site. If your legal firm doesn’t already have an SEO firm, now is the time to choose one—preferably one that can communicate effectively with your website design company.
Optimization vs. Compliance
While most web development firms will extoll their abilities to produce search engine sites, don’t confuse this with SEO. While it is true that web development firms can certainly create an SEO-compliant site, they are likely not going to be conducting true site optimization for your law firm. Although there are exceptions, there are few development firms which have the capabilities to conduct more sophisticated market and keyword research or to find weaknesses through conducting analytics reviews. What your web development firm can do is create a basic SEO compliant site and perform basics which include ensuring search engine compliance by creating web friendly code. On the flip side, your SEO firm should certainly be able to supply a standards manual which will enable SEO compliance.
How to Utilize Your SEO Firm During Redesign
Of course your law firm’s specific SEO budget will dictate their level of involvement in your web redesign, but unless you are using Joomla, Drupal or WordPress, you need to make sure your SEO reviews your content management system to make sure nothing is blocked. A review of your CMS platform by your SEO company is a pretty simple and inexpensive task which can ultimately save your company literally thousands of hours. The SEO firm will also review your finished templates for compliance to the standards manual guidelines. As far as content optimization goes, the SEO firm will want to thoroughly review every one of your law firm’s traffic-driven pages to ensure they have integrated keyword research and are optimally positioned. Most SEO firms will simulate spider crawls and check for broken links before the site goes live, and this final review is really important to the overall success of your website. Oftentimes companies don’t even know there are serious problems with their website until it is late in the game.
Questions to Ask Before Taking the Plunge
Search engine optimization is both an art and a science, and is absolutely essential in positioning your law firm’s website in the search engines with the highest-ranking keywords. There are questions you should discuss prior to re-designing your firm’s website, the most important being to ask what the problems with your current site are. Even if you, or even everyone in your firm is tired of the look of your legal website, that’s not necessarily a reason for a re-design. The more important question is how your clients and potential clients feel about the website. Consider a survey or poll on your website to garner some feedback—even though your clients probably aren’t professional web designers, even the “Average Joe” can usually spot a bad website. Don’t update your site just because you think you should do it once a year, like you do your spring cleaning at home. Consider your goal. Is it to increase traffic, improve conversion rates, or reduce bounce rates? The answers to these questions make a huge difference in not only whether you should redesign your website, but how you should structure the redesign. Make sure you have goals that are measurable, or you will be right back in the same position this time next year.
What Effect Will a Redesign Have on My SEO?
If you have specific problems with your legal website, resist the temptation to overreact. It’s quite possible that the perceived problems can be fixed with optimization rather than a full-blown design. If so, all the better. Certain changes you may decide to make in the design of your legal website can significantly impact your search traffic, so it’s a good idea to have your SEO firm take a good look at the overall picture before you begin. Site redesigns are notoriously long and laborious, so make sure you have some safeguards in place; will you maintain and optimize the old website while building a new one, or will it languish in neglect? Finally, if you are planning drastic changes to the design of your law firm’s website, you need to know that things may get worse before they get better—change is difficult, and clients may be confused by your new layout. As long as your firm considers all aspects of changing your website design before beginning, you should have smooth sailing.