Are Local Listings Still Important?

Over the years, search engines have gotten smarter and smarter. These days, strategies that may have worked for online marketing a year ago may be obsolete. One of the strategies that have come into question lately is taking advantage of local listing directories. Today, we’ll discuss how Google sees local listings, how consumers use local listing websites, and whether or not local listings are worth your valuable time. So, let’s get right to it.

Why This Question Is Coming Up In The First Place

A couple of years, Google started to crack down on what became known as “link farms”. When publishing new webmaster guidelines upon this update, Google mentioned that “low quality directory or bookmark site links” could cause problems. See the image below for a screenshot of this publication.

Google's link quality guidelines

Because Google specifically pointed out low-quality directory or bookmark site links as an issue, many local business owners have decided to stop using local directories entirely. But, what did Google really want when making this announcement?

The goal here was to get rid of spam websites that offered no value to the online community. While there were some local directories that would be considered spam sites, not all directories fall into this category.

The Key Is Being Able To Differentiate Quality & Spam

While to the untrained eye, every directory may seem to be the same; that assessment couldn’t be further from the truth. There are several tell-tale signs of quality and of spam. Here are some of the signs you should be looking for…

Tell-Tale Signs Of Poor Quality Directories

  • Directory Only Websites - If the directory website you’re considering only offers a directory, chances are that it’s a spam website. The reality is that having a directory adds very little value to the web; there are directories everywhere already! For a local, national, or even worldwide directory to offer value, they have to offer something unique. For instance, a blog or forum that answers common questions for consumers would be a sign of a directory attempting to add value to the world wide web.
  • Poor Design Quality - Often times, link farm owners will put their websites up in a matter of hours; putting very little attention into design quality. So, if you notice that a directory seems bland and poorly designed, it’s best to stay away from that one.
  • Reciprocal Link Directories - If a directory refuses to list your company without you first placing a link to the directory on your website or paying a fee, chances are that the directory is spam. Sure, most directories do offer paid upgrades. However, quality directories will generally offer free accounts as well.
  • Google Search - In many cases, websites that have been penalized will not show up in the top position of Google search for the directory name. For instance, our directory is Control Your City. If you search our name, we will be in the top position! While poor directories may show up when you search; if one has been penalized, chances are that it will not!

Tell-Tale Signs Of Good Directories

  • Something Unique - A good directory offers unique value to internet users. This value may be in the form of a blog, a forum, a service, and more. The ultimate goal here is to find directories that offer something that sets them apart from the millions of other directories online today.
  • Free Accounts - If the directory offers free accounts with no reciprocal link, chances are that it’s a good directory. That’s because for quality directories, the actual directory isn’t the only thing of value they offer. As a matter of fact, for most, the directory is a way to get you interested in the company as a whole so they have an open door to contact you for sales.
  • Good Design - If the owner of a directory wants to build something that will be of high value, they will most likely put quite a bit of time, money, and effort into making sure that their design is top quality.

Why Directories Are Important To Search Engines

Directories are important to search engines because they give the search engines a way to validate information about your company. Local directories list what’s known is the industry as your N.A.P.; your Name, Address, and Phone number. If your company is listed on several directories, and your N.A.P. is consistent across the board, it shows Google and other search engines that the information is valid; ultimately increasing your chances of showing up in first page results.

In many cases directories also list links to business websites. While high amounts of low-quality links can be a bad thing, choosing the right directories could lead to a better link profile for your website. Because links are the highways of the internet, Google takes the quality of links pointing to your website into account when generating results. So, by listing your company on high quality directories, you can show Google that you’re building a great set of high quality highways designed to lead consumers right to you!

Why Directories Are Important To Consumers

These days, more people look at company reviews before making a purchase than ever before. As a matter of fact, Search Engine Watch recently ran a survey that asked consumers whether or not they pay attention to reviews on local directory websites. The response was an overwhelming “Yes”! The survey found that 85% of consumers do indeed read local directory reviews when making a decision of whether to work with a company or not. The survey also showed that the reading reviews trend is really growing, check out the screenshot below…

Search Engine Watch Review Data

 

Should You Spend Your Time On Local Listings?

Absolutely! All of our research has shown that building quality local listings around the web gives consumers more and more options to review your company and read reviews by others. On the marketing end of things, ensuring that your N.A.P. is correct across the board and the listings that allow links do include them will help you appear higher in search engines.

Start Creating Your Local Listings Now!

You can sign up for Control Your City’s local directory for free using the form to the right. If you’d like help building local listings around the web, call (503) 464-6502 now to find out how we can help!

Attorneys | How To Find Your Online Identity

If you’ve been doing your research, you know that if you want to make it online, you need to work to become an authority figure. However, it’s impossible to become an authority figure in your industry’s online community without first finding your online identity. As an attorney, you’ve found your identity in the real world. You’re a professional that focuses on this or that area of law. However, how does your identity translate online? Should you position yourself in the same ways you would offline? How do you even get started with building an online identity in the first place? Today, I’ll answer all of these questions and more.

Should You Position Yourself Online The Same Way You Would Offline?

This is a very tough question to answer. While there are tons of similarities with running an online business and an offline business, as an attorney, you’re in a unique position. The answer really depends on how you’ve positioned yourself offline. Our research shows that attorneys do best when they display the following characteristics online….

  • Personal Interest In The Community - Above all else, we’ve noticed that attorneys with a strong personal interest in their local community tend to do best. For instance, our most popular attorney client coaches his community’s little league baseball team. Some clients may take part in donating their time to the local food bank, speaking at local schools, coaching sports, or even setting up a mock trial at a middle school. If you’re doing these types of things, your community is going to love you for it online or off. I’ll show you how to use your interest in your community to build your online identity later on in the article.
  • A Great Smile - Offline, how much you smile may not mean to much to your target audience, but online, it means the world! When looking for services online, people like to work with other people. You know the kind of people that are fun, have profiles that are incredibly inviting, and seem easy to approach. Conveying this message online always starts with a genuine smile!
  • Willingness To Provide Free Information - If you don’t have a blog already, we strongly advise that you get one going. A blog gives you a way to answer general questions for your community without having to sit down with each person one by one. More importantly, when you answer questions in your blog, you build interest in your services, position yourself as an authority in your particular area of law, and build relationships with your community.
  • A Keen Focus On A Niche - How many times do you think the term “General Practice Attorney” gets searched in your area? I’d be willing to bet that a keyword like “Family Law Attorney” or “Divorce Attorney” or “Car Accident Attorney” get far more traffic than “General Practice Attorney”. The simple fact is that when consumers are looking for an attorney, or really anything else for that matter, they’re very specific about what they want when they type in their searches. It’s also important to remember that in niche areas of law, becoming an authority is much more simple than trying to become an authority in a blanket category like “Attorneys”.

How To Start Building Your Online Identity

Believe it or not, getting your online identity rolling is a fairly simple process. All you need to do is follow the steps below…

Step #1: Getting Prepared - Preparation is key in just about any process. That’s definitely true when it comes to creating your online identity. To prepare, grab a pen and paper and start jotting down things that make you different from the other attorneys in your area. Here are the most important things to include in your list…

  • Your Practice Areas - Even if you’re a general practice attorney, you want to pick 3 or 4 areas of law where you’d like to attract the most clients and build your identity around those areas of law. If you’re not general practice, you’re one step ahead of the game because you’ve already got your practice areas picked out!
  • Your Community Involvement - Are you a little league coach, do you take part in mock trials, working with the boy scouts or girl scouts, or take any other action to assist your community? If so, take a note of everything you do!
  • Your Core Values/Goals - The online community loves working with attorneys and other service providers that have a great set of core values and goals. Think about how your values differ from other attorneys that practice in your areas of law in your community. Now, simply write down what sets your values and goals apart!

Step #2: Start Working On Colors - Colors play a major role in how the online community is going to see you. As an attorney, there are a few things you want your colors to convey to your audience. First off, you want to show them that you are trustworthy. The color that most displays trust is blue, so we strongly recommend using blue in your website. Now, using blue as your base color, figure out what other colors you’d like to include. Click the link above for more in depth details about how colors could affect your brand.

Step #3: Create A Community Involvement Page - Once you’ve got your website up and rolling with a great color scheme and tons of information about you, it’s time to start creating a community involvement page. As mentioned above, consumers like working with attorneys that show a strong personal interest in their communities. We’ve found that attorneys with a specific page dedicated to explaining their community involvement and how others can get involved tend to do very well. From a consumer standpoint, you’ll build trust by showing you care; from a search engine standpoint, local involvement shows relevance to the target audience you’re trying to reach!

Step $#4: Get Your Blog Rolling - As mentioned above and in several posts in the past, it’s incredibly important for attorneys to have a blog. Getting your blog going is simple. Commit to writing at least once per week and start immediately! When writing your blog, keep in mind that people don’t just want to hear about laws, they’d also like to hear about you; so, make sure to add in a bit of your personality!

Step #5: Get Social - I know, some people say social’s the way to go, others say do something else. The reality is, a huge percentage of the world and arguably your target audience spends their time on sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more! If you want to reach them, there’s no better way to start than to get on social media! Trust me, there’s a reason tons of huge companies put more than half of their marketing budget into Twitter or Facebook!

Final Thoughts

Now you’ve got everything you need to get your online identity rolling. So, what are you waiting for? Go out and take control of your target market! If you’d like assistance building your online identity, contact us today!

7 Tips To Make An Attorney's Blog Great!

As an attorney, it’s incredibly important to have a blog. Having a blog allows you to connect with your audience in ways that a simple website just can’t accomplish. Blogs also give you a great upper hand when it comes to keyword relevance, but you already knew that! However, there are a few things that local attorneys should really pay attention to when they’re blogging. Here are 7 simple tips that can help you to make your blog great!

Tip #1: It’s OK To Be A Follower Every Once In A While

Everywhere you go online, you’ll learn about how you want to be an authority. I understand that it’s important to position yourself as an authority in your industry, but you’re not going to be able to do that without being a follower first. For instance, we’ve done pretty good here, but we still follow great blogs like Search Engine Land, Moz, Local Vox, and more; they help us stay ahead of the curve. To build yourself up as the authority attorney in your area that everyone wants to go to, start following other authorities. Doing things like commenting on their blogs, following them on social media, and more can really help you in the long run!

Tip #2: Don’t Talk About The Same Thing Over, and Over, and Over!

I can’t tell you how many attorney blogs I’ve happened across that seem to talk about the same thing over and over. It seems like every third or fourth post is the same thing you just read. When it comes to blogging, redundancy is not a good idea! Sure, you want to get your point across, but you don’t need to write 10 posts that say the same thing to do that. Another reason you may be doing this is because you’ve got no idea what you should be writing about. AttorneySync wrote a great post that can help you figure that out.

Tip #3: Stop Being So Complex

As an attorney, chances are that you’ve achieved a higher level of education than most of your clients will have achieved. So, when writing your blog posts, you may find yourself getting overly complex; as that may be the type of content you’d look for if you were researching the topic. Unfortunately, your audience isn’t going to have as easy of a time digesting complex content as you will. Even if they did, the average person decides if they want to read your post or move on within 8 seconds. Few people will want to read textbook like posts after the first 8 seconds. So, instead of being complex, simplify things to make your content more appealing.

Tip #4: Use WordPress

We’ve tried all kinds of different content management systems. We’ve even gone as far as building our own CMS. However, we’ve got to admit that when it comes to blogging, the top content management system out there is WordPress. WordPress is incredibly user friendly and allows you to add free plugins that can help with SEO, blog management, marketing, appearance, and more!

Tip #5: Allow Comments

A blog is a place for community. The larger your community, the more your blog will do for your firm as a whole. That’s why I’m so shocked at the number of blogs out there that don’t allow readers to comment on what they’ve read. Don’t turn your comments off. Instead, do what you can to make your comment form robust and inviting!

Tip #6: Use SEO by Yoast

You may have read the name on our blog in the past. SEO by Yoast is by far, the best WordPress plugin we’ve found to help with optimizing your blog! It focuses entirely on white-hat factors that Google is looking for and walks you through making your posts stand out to search engines!

Tip #7: It Doesn’t Have To All Be Business

Often times, attorney blogs are all about business. Although, that’s a great way to get your keyword relevance across to the search engines, it’s not going to help much with creating a community. Sometimes it’s best to put business aside and write about yourself, your family, your hobbies; anything you can think of that will help your audience get to know you better. This will help you build the relationships that will make your blog successful.

Final Thoughts

As mentioned above, having a blog is incredibly important for attorneys. Following these tips, you’ll be able to make your blog great! If you’d like help managing your blog, contact us today!

Attorneys | Will The Pigeon Update Hurt You?

Recently, Google processed an update to their algorithm called the Pigeon update. Geared specifically to local search results, this update had many local search marketers pulling their hair out as they wondered where the local pack had gone. So today, we’re going to talk what we’ve noticed about the Pigeon update including, specifics about the local 7 pack, if traffic had died down for our local attorneys, and what benefits (if any) that this update came with for attorneys. Well, we’ve got quite a bit to discuss, let’s get right to it.

What Is The Pigeon Update?

As with any algorithmic change, Google has been very quiet about exactly what they planned to accomplish through the Pigeon update. Why they do this is very simple. If everyone knew exactly how their algorithm worked, it would lead to 2 things; both of which are very bad for Google.

  1. Easily Game The System - With knowledge of exactly what Google’s magic recipe consisted of, low quality websites would be able to game the system; essentially leading to result pages full of spam. This would lead to a bad user experience for Googlers and would ultimately cause some serious damage to Google as a whole.
  2. Google’s A For Profit Business - Without doing a ton of research and figuring out what makes Google tick, the best way to get to the top seems to be to pay for clicks. Since Google is a for profit business, keeping algorithms a secret is in their best interest. It will cause more and more business owners with little time to spend to spend money instead.

While Google does its best to keep its algorithms secret, great marketers have the ability to use data they’ve found to get a good understanding of the meaning behind algorithms. Here are some key points we’ve found so far…

  • Local 7 Packs Are Vanishing - 7 packs on local search results seem to be disappearing. Instead, we’ve noticed quite a few 3 packs and single local results popping up along side organic results.
  • Directory Sites Are Doing Well For Head Terms - Head terms include those short tail keywords that everyone thinks they want right off the bat. These include terms like “California Personal Injury Attorney”. We’ve noticed a rise in sites like Yelp, Merchant Circle, and others showing up for these terms and a definite downgrade in local business websites showing up.
  • Somehow Local Businesses Are Getting More Traffic - So this was the strange part for us, we’ll talk about it in more detail later. Along with several other major marketing firms including Search Engine Land, we’ve noticed that clients with stellar marketing strategies seemed to be getting more traffic after Pigeon; even though the 7 pack had seemingly disappeared.

How Did This Affect Local Attorneys In Particular?

For our attorney clients, the Pigeon seemed to be a great thing. Don’t get me wrong, at first I really freaked out a quite a bit. Many of the keywords my clients were showing up in the pack for ended up not showing a local pack at all. I thought my clients were going to start calling me asking, “Where did all of my traffic go, and Why am I not getting calls?” However, that didn’t happen! After digging into the Analytics and Google Webmasters’ Tools accounts for my clients, I cooled off almost immediately. Here’s a quick breakdown of what I was seeing…

  • Local Attorneys Were Getting More Traffic Than Ever - Directly following the Pigeon update, local attorneys seemed to be getting more traffic than ever before. For one of our clients, we saw an uptick in traffic of more than 12%! “Phew”, I sighed as I wiped the sweat off of my forehead!
  • Long Tail Keywords Became King Overnight - We’ve always had a passion for long tail keywords. That’s one of the big reasons that we generally add blogs to our clients’ websites. Well, we’re glad that’s one of our practices because long tail organic keywords seem to be the reason for traffic increases we’ve noticed.
  • Organic Traffic Increases Far Exceeded Local Traffic Drops - As mentioned above, our clients started seeing tons of hits from long tail keywords. Generally, these keywords don’t result in a local pack; so, we noticed an incredible increase in organic traffic for our clients.

Is This Update Beneficial To Attorneys?

In my humble opinion, the answer is a big YES! The Pigeon update is actually a great thing for attorneys that are maintaining a blog on their websites. The increase in long tail keywords means that potential clients are finding the answers they need on your website. By taking advantage of changes we’re seeing in this update, not only can you drive more leads to your legal practice, you can start to really refine those leads. If done properly, this could lead to higher conversions!

Do You Want Help Taking Advantage Of The Pigeon?

If you’d like help making sure that you’re getting the most out of the Pigeon update, we’re the team for you! Contact us today to find out exactly how we plan to help!

How To Build Relationships With Reporters

There are tons of things you can do to get links. However, high quality links that come from major news websites seem to be a bit difficult to come by for most. The good news is that once you start earning these links, you’ll start to see a huge improvement in your search engine rankings, traffic, and in most cases even conversions. So, that leaves a big question in the air for marketers…”How do I get major news websites to start linking to me?”

In my opinion, the best way to accomplish this goal is to make friends with the editors of these major news networks, but how is that done? How is it that you can make friends with the likes of editors from USNews & World Report, AnyOption.com, Elance, and more?

In my search for ways to get on major publications, I read tons of articles; most of which talked about H.A.R.O. (Help A Reporter Out). So, that’s where I started. However, I learned one thing very quickly…sites like H.A.R.O. have thousands upon thousands of users that I would have to compete with. So, I tried to compete. I wrote stellar emails, found great topics that I would be perfect for, and more. The only problem was that my stories still weren’t being picked. So, it was time to think outside of the box.

After The H.A.R.O. Fail

Once I realized that using H.A.R.O. was becoming a waste of time I really started thinking about ways to get my stories in front of major publication editors. Then it hit me! Major publication editors are just like popular website owners. As the owner of a popular finance website, I get tons of thin emails asking for me to feature this story or that. However, if I hadn’t built a relationship with the sender in the past, most of those emails go into the junk folder. So, I had to find a way to build meaningful relationships with editors rather than simply asking for favors.

The good news is, after a bit of trial and error, I found something that actually worked. Granted, it takes quite a bit of time and effort, but the juicy links that come as a result of it are well worth the work. Anyway, there was one realization that really pulled things together for me. That realization is that….

Many writers for top publications also run their own personal blogs!

This was huge for me. As a blogger myself, I realized that I had something in common with writers and editors for major publications. Now, it was time to take our common interests and exploit them for the chance to be featured on great websites. So, how did I do it? Here’s the step by step plan that I came up with…

Step #1: Find The Right Publications – When I came up with this strategy, I was working on what would become one of the most profitable websites I’ve owned to date; my blog, CNAFinance.com. On my blog, I talked about frugal living, using and maintaining credit cards properly, investing, etc… So, I had to find major publications with similar topics. One of the first ones I came across was USNews & World Report’s Frugal Tips Blog. The topics on the blog mixed incredibly well with what I had to offer.

Step #2: Find Your Way In – When you find the publication for you, it’s time to start looking closely at author bios. You may be surprised, I know I was. As a personal finance blogger, I already know the names of tons of others in my industry. As I started to look at author bios, I started to realize…I know these people. And the few I didn’t know had links to their blogs on their profile pages! It was then that I knew I had my way in!

Step #3: Build Relationships with the Bloggers – Next, I started to reach out to the bloggers that were most prominent on the Frugal Tips Blog with USNews. However, I didn’t mention USNews & World Report or the fact that I’d like to be featured at all! Instead, I sent an email asking how we could help each other. The emails went something like this…

“Hi, my name is Joshua Rodriguez. I’m sure you’ve seen me around the blogosphere here and there. Anyway, I’d like to know if you’d be interested in helping each other out a bit. I’d be happy to do a guest post trade, twitter feed trade, or even trade blogroll links. Also, if there’s any other way we could help each other, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

Although not everyone responded, this email did get quite a few responses and helped me to create several relationships with top bloggers in my industry around the web.

Step #4: Baby Your New Relationships – For at least a month or two, I’d email the bloggers that responded once per week. I would share their posts on my social profiles and ask if there was anything else we could do to help each other. As a result, I started to make friends! Friends that would be happy to help me with anything I asked because they knew that I would do the same. So, the time finally came…

Step #5: Ask For the Connection – Once I felt like the relationships were up to snuff, I started to ask for a connection with the USNews editors. I started sending emails that read like this…

“Hey Jason, I noticed that you landed a spot on the USNews & World Report blog. Awesome job there man! How’d you do it? Do you know if they need any more writers? If they do, how would I go about getting started? Thanks in advance for helping out….I’ll be awaiting your response.”

Step #6: Take Advantage of the Connections – Once I started to send emails out asking for connections to be made, to my surprise, I started to get a ton of emails back from top notch editors around the web. You will too! However, it’s important to remember not to keep these editors waiting. Now that you’ve got your way in, take advantage of the connections as quickly as possible. Because I did so, I landed a spot on the USNews & World Report blog, the AnyOption.com blog, and on Elance. I’ve also decided to expand this process and start making my way into more publications!

Have I Seen Traffic Increases?

To be honest with you, at first, I started to wonder if all that work was a waste of time. As I would get work published on the bigger sites mentioned above, I would get a day of great traffic; then stats were back to normal. Although I loved seeing the bounces in referral traffic, I wondered why I wasn’t seeing organic traffic increases. Well, soon enough, I found out that it was only a matter of time.

Shortly after getting started, my blog’s Page Rank jumped from a 2 to a 4, my domain authority skyrocketed (Moving from 23 to 39), and within a few months, I started to really notice an increase in organic traffic, sales, and newsletter sign ups!

Final Thoughts

I’ve always found it to be astonishing how with the right plan, we have the ability to make amazing things happen online. What continues to surprise me is how incredibly valuable relationships can be. With the plan above, and an honest desire to work with the top notch writers in your industry, you’ll make several relationships fairly quickly. As a result, not only will you earn the opportunity to write for top publications, you’ll earn links from authority blog owners and niche site owners you connect with along the way! So, what are you waiting for, it’s time to start building those relationships!

Onsite SEO Checklist For Attorneys & Professional Services

As the marketing director and one of the founding partners here at ControlYourCity.com, I’ve got to start out by saying I don’t like what SEO has become. The simple fact is that many people that call themselves SEOs are doing little more than putting spam everywhere they can on the internet in hopes that it will help rankings. With that said, I can’t discount the fact that it’s still important to keep old school SEO going…especially for attorneys & professional services.

What I mean by old school SEO is simply focusing on onsite factors that will help Google and other major search engines crawl your website and get a better understanding of what you have to offer. You shouldn’t be focusing on this or that anchor text from this or that website, but onsite factors still matter. Depending on your industry, you’ll take advantage of onsite SEO in different ways. So, today, we’re going to provide a checklist specifically tailored to attorneys & professional services.

  • Optimize Your Title – Google and other search engines expect your title to properly describe what users can expect when they click on your site in search results. There are a few key factors attorneys and professional service providers are going to want in their titles. They include your location, what you do, and your name or firm’s name. So let’s say you’re a car accident or personal injury attorney in Westlake Village, CA. Your title should be something along the lines of “Personal Injury Attorney | Westlake Village, CA| (Company Name). Ohh, check out what Google shows as the first result for “Car Accident Attorney in Westlake Village CA”…

Proper Titles Pay Off

  • Optimize Your Description - It always surprises me when I take on a new client that doesn’t have a description written for their website. When writing a description for a website that advertises attorneys or professional services, it’s important to remember to include both what you offer in more detail as well as the location you’re marketing your services to. Lets take a look at the same search from above…

Good use of description tags

NAP Data

  • Create Separate Pages For Separate Offices - As I mentioned above, Google uses your name, address, and phone number to verify the validity of your business. If you convoluted this data by including more than one set for more than one office on the same page, it can cause problems when it comes time to market your website. So, instead of listing several locations in the footer of your website, make a dedicated page on your site for each branch. Then, include the contact information for your main office in the footer of your website.
  • Make Sure Location Pages Are Unique - Google and other search engines don’t like thin content that provides no value. However, I see it all the time on attorney and professional service websites. Instead of making unique pages for each location, I’ll see the same content with the location changed on each page. All this does is load your website with duplicate content that adds no value for the user. Instead, it’s best to take this opportunity to introduce your staff at the office, talk about the particular community the office is in and why you’re happy to serve that community, and more! The more unique you make these pages, the better your chances are of showing up on the first page of search!
  • Include A Blog In Your Design - Blogs give you the opportunity to reach out to your audience in ways a website without a blog can’t! Through a blog, you can provide answers to common questions, generate great user engagement signals like social shares, and create link bait that will make other authorities want to mention you on their blogs. To learn more about why attorneys and professional service providers should have a blog, click here!

Final Thoughts

Although SEO is important, it shouldn’t be taken beyond onsite SEO. By following the check list above, attorneys and professional services can make it easier for Google and other major search engines to want to show their sites on the first page. For a free inbound marketing audit or to find out how we can help you, contact us today!

Attorneys | Will Google's Change Affect You

In today’s world of high tech gadgets and unimaginable information at our fingertips, there are tons of attorneys out there that rely on high search engine rankings to continue the growth of their client base. With more than 80% of consumers performing an online search before hiring a legal professional, it’s hard to discount the impact high rankings could have on a particular attorney’s ability to gain more clients. With that said, Google has recently performed an update to their hummingbird algorithm that many experts are calling the biggest Google update we’ve seen since the year 2,000. So, one of the biggest questions for search-minded attorneys is, will this update affect my practice?

So Will This Have Any Affect On Attorneys?

To be honest, the update may or may not have an affect on your overall ability to build your client base through search. However, it will most likely have an affect on how that happens.

Throughout the past 15+ years, Google has been the biggest provider in search; and has gathered quite a bit of data with regard to how consumers search for information. With all of this data, Google now has the ability to not only display results relevant to words in a search, but understand the true reason for the search. Based on the context of the search, Google is now going to make an attempt to show you the results that will answer your particular questions; instead of simply providing tons of information about a broad topic.

This Is Great News For Some, Bad News For Others

What Attorneys This Is Great News For

The attorneys that have taken part in quality, white hat marketing techniques will benefit the most from this. That’s because these attorneys aren’t optimizing for particular keywords. Instead, they’re doing the following…

  • Maintaining A Blog - Instead of focusing on a small group of keywords, attorneys who have been taking part in quality online marketing have been maintaining a blog; essentially focusing on answering the common questions that consumers may have. As a result, these attorneys already have quite a bit of incredibly valuable and detailed information hosted on their blogs. As a result, when consumers search for these answers, attorneys who have maintained a quality blog that provides valuable answers to pressing questions will most likely show up for searches associated with what they do. What those searches may be, who knows! Nonetheless, if you provide quality answers through a blog, you’re going to show up.
  • Focusing On Their Audience - Great attorneys with great marketing strategies not only make an effort, but focus quite a bit of their efforts on understanding their audience. As a result, these attorneys have pages on their websites that their target audience will find invaluable; leading to more social shares and interaction. These signals will show Google that the attorney associated with them provides great content that people find useful!
  • Engaging With Their Communities - To get a better understanding of what your local community expects from you, it’s important to be an active member of that community. By engaging with their communities, attorneys get more of an understanding of exactly what their audience wants to see; and can provide that on their websites; ultimately leading to more traffic and more clients.

What Attorneys This News Is Bad For

If you’re doing things in a positive way online, chances are that this updated is great news for you. On the other hand, if you’re trying to fool the search engines into showing you on the first page, this is definitely bad news. If you take part in the following, this update is bad news for you…

  • Keyword Optimization - For a long time, many internet savvy attorneys have been focusing on high rankings for specific keywords. For instance, they want to rank for keywords like “Personal injury attorney in (insert city here)”. However, Google has found that consumers search all kinds of terms for this particular keyword and each search has an intended purpose. So, if you’re simply optimizing for a specific group of keywords, you’re going to miss out on the vast majority of searches associated with what you do.
  • Displaying Thin Content - The biggest part of this update is to understand what searchers what to see, and show them detailed content that will answer their questions. Many attorneys have tons of pages of thin content where the only thing different in each page is the city name…that doesn’t fly any more! Thin content just won’t work!

Final Thoughts

If you’re an attorney looking to increase your online presence, it’s become more important than ever to use white hat strategies. If you’d like professional help making your firm shine, contact us today!

How Google Decides If Your Website Is Quality

It’s always been important to have a quality website. Even in the old days when it was easy to fool search engines into perceiving your site as a quality source of information; you could get rankings, but without quality, you couldn’t get sales. These days, quality has become even more important. As a matter of fact, a high quality website with little exposure is most likely going to get better rankings than a low quality site with quite a bit of links pointing in. Why? Well, because people like to see quality and Google wants to show people what they want to see.

What Does Having A Quality Website Really Mean

Having a quality website means far more than simply producing high quality content. The only problem is that even marketing experts didn’t have a guide to follow when it came to building quality websites…that is, until a recent post by one of our favorite Google guys, Amit Singhal. In his most recent post, Mr. Singhal explains exactly what we should be doing when building quality websites for our business or clients. Here are the major points that Mr. Singhal informed us of. To read the full article, click here!

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article? - If you can’t trust the information that you provide, you can’t expect your visitors to trust it either!
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature? - Google has been focusing heavily on in depth content that answers all questions or concerns consumers may have about a particular topic. By providing that type of content, you provide quality.
  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations? - This type of thing is considered to be a black hat marketing technique and Google is nipping it in the butt. Simply put, stay away from any and all duplication.
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site? - Now that’s a serious question isn’t it? That just goes to show that these days, Google’s core focus is to display trustworthy websites to their audience….this may be why they released that info about https:// being used as a ranking signal.
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors? - Any authority in any industry is going to want to avoid making simple mistakes like spelling mistakes and incorrect fact quotes. Now you have more of a reason to avoid these types of things!
  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines? - Just like anyone else, search engines don’t like to be fooled. However, they do like it when websites make an honest attempt at providing quality information to their audience. So, if your topics are chosen based on rankings, IT’S TIME TO STOP!
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis? - As mentioned above, Google doesn’t like duplicate information. So by providing original information, chances are, your site will rank better!
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results? - This is one of the biggest factors. If you don’t add any value to what’s already out there about a topic, there’s no reason for Google or any other search engine to display your work. So, take a look at competitor sites that rank well, and make sure to provide something of value that they don’t have.
  • How much quality control is done on content? - When you publish new content, do you check your sources? Do you proof read? Or, do you just write what you’ve got to write and click publish? To make sure your site is quality, there’s got to be some sort of quality control.
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story? - Some of the topics you write about can be seen from different angels. So, if you write about one of these topics, make sure to cover it from all sides.
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic? - If you have an authority site, chances are it will rank well. If not, you can still rank, but it will take a bit more work.
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care? - Mass production generally leads to poor quality. Google is no stranger to this concept.
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced? - As mentioned above, you can’t just write and click publish anymore. It’s important to make sure that there are no errors and the article is aesthetically pleasing.
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site? - This is another sign that Google really values trustworthy content.
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name? - If not, it’s time to work on branding! You can start by claiming your free local listing in our directory!
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic? - In the olden days SEOs would focus on word counts. However, Google is far smarter than they used to be. Now they’ve got ways to make sure that your content addresses the topic completely. If not, chances are that you won’t rank well.
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious? - Anyone can come up with an article full of obvious information. However, it’s your job to cover the sections of the topic that aren’t so obvious.
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend? - Quality content makes users want to share it.
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content? - It’s OK to have advertising; as long as that advertising doesn’t take away from the main content.
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book? - If you would expect to see it in print, chances are that it’s quality!
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics? - This is what we in the industry call thin content. Don’t be a creator of thin content; instead, be the expert that creates detailed resources full of valuable information.
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail? - As in any other facet of life, attention to detail is incredibly important.
  • Would users complain when they see pages from this site? - If Google users complain about what you’ve got to offer, chances are that you’re not offering quality!

Final Thoughts

Having a quality website is incredibly important if you plan to drive leads to your business from the internet. If you need help getting your website up to par, contact us today to find out how affordable our help really is!

Attorney SEO Services|Rank First Guarantee Lies!

Before we get into today’s article, I think it’s important that we start with a quote directly from Google.

Google Screenshot Warning About Shady SEO

 

OK, so the text in the screenshot’s a bit small. This is what it says…

  • No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.

Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submit” to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through our Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap and you can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever.

A Bit Of Back Story

As a partner and the chief marketing strategist in an online marketing firm, I speak to quite a few different people, from customers to service providers, and more! As our firm grows, more and more attorneys in particular are becoming interested in what we have to offer. However, after speaking with quite a few potential clients, some who turned out to be actual clients and still are to this day, I learned that there are quite a few predatory SEO agencies that feed off of the perceived financial ability of attorneys as well as the perceived lack of knowledge with regard to the world of internet marketing that attorneys have.

One of the most common scams that seem to be plaguing attorneys these days is the idea that anyone can guarantee the #1 position in Google search, or on any search engine for that matter. Don’t get me wrong, it is possible to do the right things to associated with inbound marketing; which in turn increases your site’s authority and allows it to rank better in search. However, that’s not what these con-artists are promising. Nope, instead they’re getting in touch with attorneys and promising the #1 position on a silver spoon. That just doesn’t happen!

So Is There A Place For SEO At All?

The fact that no one can guarantee a rankings in Google just blows the credibility of SEO for attorneys all out of the water doesn’t it? Well, not really. Let me explain…

SEO is an onsite process. Instead of buying links, spinning articles, and trying to fool the search engines. You can do a few things on your website that essentially make it more important in the eyes of search engines. Things like adding title, description, and keyword meta tags can do a great deal for your presence in search. However, SEO shouldn’t be the main focus of a good inbound marketing campaign for attorneys. Sure, it’s great to rank better, but rankings don’t always equal more clients…especially if you’re ranking because of a shoddy link building agency that can only rank you for obscure keywords that no one uses!

So What Does A Good Inbound Marketing Campaign For Attorneys Consist Of

To be honest with you, most campaigns are unique depending on what’s expected to happen with the website. However, here are three things that are important to do in just about any online marketing campaign for attorneys…

Website Overhaul

In most cases, when we take on new attorney clients, they either don’t have a website, or their website is incredibly outdated. For an online marketing campaign to be effective, it’s important that the website you drive traffic to is a quality one. While updating websites for attorneys, we keep make sure onsite SEO factors are up to par, load times are great, and the design is impeccable.

Add A Blog

The internet was created so that people can connect with others from around the globe, and get answers to just about any question at the click of a mouse. Adding a blog to your website gives you a place to answer the questions about law that people are looking for. Obviously, you don’t want to give legal advice, and disclaimers may be necessary. However, providing general answers to the most common questions associated with your industry is a great way to build your online authority.

Start Connecting

Finally, one of the biggest factors in the growth of your website is the connections you make with your community, your target audience, and other industry leaders in your area. We go about connecting with these audiences in several different ways. Depending on your goals for your law office, you may want to take part in blog commenting (Not spam commenting; comments with a reason! We’ll get into that in another post.), social networking, forum posting, maintaining local listings and more!

The Result

As the result of having a great website and being active all around the web, you’ll start noticing that your traffic is starting to increase. Not only are you getting traffic, but you’re starting to get calls from consumers that need an attorney! Also, because you’ve done things the right way, you’ll start noticing rankings increases for competitive terms revolving around your industry. Ultimately, you’ll start seeing the fruits of a positive, organic, inbound marketing campaign!

Do You Need Help Marketing Your Legal Practice?

If you’re looking for an inbound marketing agency that focuses on effective, yet ethical strategies, contact us today! We’d love to help!

Local Businesses - Get More Blog Readers

In the past, we’ve talked about why blogs are so important to attorneys and other local businesses. We’ve given you tips on how to make your blog pop, and pointers on getting started. You’ve gotten in the habit of posting on a regular schedule, your content is great, and you get a comment here and there; what a sigh of relief…that task is done, right? Wrong! The simple truth is that blogging is never done. Now that you’ve got something for people to read, it’s time to get more readers to actually find your blog. So, today, we’re going to talk about a few ways that local businesses can increase the readership of their blogs. Let’s get right to it!

How To Get More People Reading Your Business’ Blog

Use Captivating Titles

One of the most important things to remember when writing your blog posts is that the post title is incredibly important. When people search for information you’ve got to offer in a blog post, the first thing they see is your post’s title. You want to make sure that the title captivates the attention of the audience and makes them want to read more. For instance, take a look at the title of this post. I mulled around a few ideas including…

  • How To Get More People Reading Your Blog
  • Driving Traffic To Your Blog Is The Next Step
  • Is Your Blog Being Read.

Then I got to thinking….who am I targeting with this post. Ultimately, I’m giving tips for local businesses, so I figured that should be in the title. Also, I thought about why local business owners would come across this post. The answer…they want more traffic! So, instead of using one of the generic titles above, I decided to call out to local businesses and tell them exactly what they can expect for the post. So, we ended up with Local Businesses – Get More Blog Readers! Not only does this title tell you what to expect, but it will most likely pop to local business’ since I addressed them first!

Take Advantage Of Description Meta Tags

Another thing that people will see in the search results is a description of the page. See the image below…

Google Shows Meta Descriptions

 

In the above example, we used the title “When attorneys start to take on the process of online marketing, blogs become incredibly important. Find out why here!” By taking advantage of a description meta tag, we were able to include a call to action right in the search results, making people want to click into our post! However, if you don’t include a description, Google will pull as much data as they can. In most cases, this data shows up in broken strings of unfinished sentences. For instance, take a look at this example….

No Meta Description

In the above example, you can see that the description is made up of 2 broken sentences. Now, ask yourself. Would you be more likely to click on a listing like the one above with a call to action and clear description, or would you be more likely to click on the listing with broken sentences for a description. Chances are, you’ll be clicking on the one that used a meta description.

Get Social

You know, it’s interesting to me that there’s such a stigma around using social media for marketing. Some say it’s effective, some say it’s not, and I say if it’s not effective, you’re not doing it right. When it comes to getting more people reading your blog, social media is one of the best places to turn. Using tools like TwitterFeed.com and Tweepi, you can grow an audience and automatically display your posts to them as you write. Generally, about 15% of our blog traffic comes from social, and yours can too!