I first want to thank the Circle of Legal Trust, and Michael Ehline in particular, for letting me be part of the group and contribute to this site. For me, the Circle has been a valuable camaraderie and platform for exchanging ideas with attorneys interested in having more control over their own search marketing. I’m convinced that being as involved as possible in your own internet marketing is the best way to be successful online and I hope my article can help contribute in some way.
A couple weeks ago, I volunteered myself to lead a Circle of Legal Trust Google+ Hangout and write an accompanying article. I made the offer dependent on there being at least a little interest and someone picking a topic. Anthony Castelli, personal injury attorney for almost 30 years and one of the COLT originals, obliged and suggested the following topics:
- Finding words for personal injury lawyers that convert.
- Creating landing pages that convert.
I thought a lot about these two topics and why they were suggested and realized that they are really asking for a solution to one problem. Of course, for any attorney interested in generating business from search engines like Google, it is the problem – how to get more clients.
The question is more interesting, though, when placed in its proper perspective. You see, Anthony Castelli is not new to any of this. A quick search for something like “ohio personal injury lawyer”, no matter your location or search history, will probably yield at least one result for his main website “castellilaw.com” on Google’s coveted first page of search results. Achieving rankings like that for such a competitive, broad search is no easy feat.
But that’s not all. He has several websites that rank very well for all kinds of related searches. He has produced an impressive collection of YouTube videos with over 100 subscribers and 100,000 views. He is active on all the major social networks. He interviews world-famous bikers and has an extensive reputation online. He even sells books he authored on Amazon!
So, why would he be interested in more conversions? Why would he need any help? Most lawyers just getting into all this stare at their lonely blog and wonder how they can ever even get to that point.
No matter how long you’ve been doing this, no matter how well your websites are doing, at some point along the road you’re going to hit a plateau. You may feel like you’re doing everything you know how to do, reading all the right blogs, following all the right tips, staying on the cutting edge, but the proverbial glass ceiling is still there keeping you from reaching that next level. Maybe the latest algo change has even taken your legs out from under you. Whatever it is, sometimes we all just need a few new ideas to add to our arsenal than can help us get things moving.
Local, Local, Localization
As some of you know, I spend much of my time working in-house at a certain law office in downtown Albany, New York. The practice prides itself on providing affordable fees and focuses mostly on Vehicle & Traffic law cases. This means we depend on volume, and lots of it. Because of plea-by-mail policies, the firm can represent clients in the majority of the 62 counties in the state. Each county contains several city, town, and village courts where traffic matters are heard.
To capture the attention of as many searchers’ eyes as possible, we have created several “microsites“, each dedicated to capturing queries for specific towns or courts (for example). While none of these microsites are a major source of traffic or leads by themselves, in aggregate they do wonders for the business. As of this year, we see an average of over 4,500 unique, organic search visits every month.
And I’m confident you could do better. In the case of Mr. Castelli, you’ll notice that while he’s a major heavyweight for searches in his home city of Cincinatti, he may be missing out on a lot of potential clients in other major markets like Dayton or Columbus.
“But if I don’t have an office in that city how can I get local searches?”, you may ask.
You may have noticed that search results can be very different depending on what type of device you’re using or where you are physically located at the time of the search, even when entering the same query on the same search engine. This “bubble searching” is a major part of Google search and seems to be the trend going forward as the Knowledge Graph and Google Now develops. When logged in to any Google account, users get personalized results as well as customizations based on search history (even when not logged in) turned on by default. (On a related note)
So, as an example, open up a new tab and do a google search for “speeding ticket lawyer”. You’ll notice that the results seem to suggest that Google thinks you may be looking for a speeding ticket lawyer somewhere in your area. Now, click on the “search tools” button (skillfully circled in the screenshot below), change your location to your favorite vacation destination and notice what changes (and what stays the same).
Now try changing your location to “Albany, NY” and you will probably see something like this:
Local search is much more than the Google Maps results you sometimes see mixed in with the rest of the traditional blue link results. In a search like this, for example, the results are very localized. In the screenshot posted above, you’ll notice how two of our geographically-targeted websites help us cast a wider net and bring in local searches. You can use this same strategy with your own practice. Choose a few cities where you have no online presence and build a site, or a page on your main site, targeting that specific area. If you practice there and someone is searching there, you may have just gotten a new lead. It may not be a huge traffic booster, but it can be a great way to pick up some very targeted searches that you have been missing out on so far. If you have doubts, remember that 1 in 3 Google searches have local intent. One in three!
Getting Them There Is Only Most of the Battle
As Mr. Castelli understands, though, converting an interested searcher into a client is the end game and ranking well in the search results is only the first part of that problem. Having an ultra-localized result can give you a great relevance advantage, but once they click through to your result it’s really on. Now, you may be thinking – “Ok, I know what’s coming next. He’s going to make fun of my website because it was built in 1990 and looks like crap” – but you wouldn’t be 100% right. While an attractive, modern website design has been proven to impress clients (just ask Jonathan Rosenfeld), not one size will fit all and it may be most important to understand your target audience’s demographic and your own unique selling points.
For example, I mentioned that the firm I work with prides itself on offering affordable legal fees. That’s their selling point. Naturally, we are looking for the clients who want the cheap guy, who are making their decision not based on the fancy office or phone messaging system, but on the bottom line. Most of our clients probably don’t know much about color theory. All they care about is that they can get the information they’re looking for and contact us right away.
From my own observations, I’ve found that most people don’t expect much in terms of beautiful design from an attorney’s website but, no matter their aesthetic persuasion, they do want it to be a good experience. If people are visiting your site but not converting, take some time to evaluate the page. Is the navigation confusing? Is there too much information? Do you give them too many choices? (there’s a better article but I can’t find it) If you need some honest opinions and fresh ideas, you can always get in on the +Circle of Legal Trust discussions on Google Plus and have David Slepkow and the gang ruthlessly critique your site. If you’re willing to take the shots you’ll get some great tips from several different perspectives, some that may even help you stop chasing clients away.
Become A Google Unto Yourself
Google is famous for coming up with creative solutions to big problems. It is known for collecting more data than we can imagine and using that data to launch products or improve existing ones. Google knows what people are searching for on a large scale, but no one knows your clients better than you do. Think of yourself, your practice, as a search engine. Just like Google knows the searches we make, when we make them, the ads we click and don’t click, the posts we +1 and share, you know the words clients use, the questions they ask, things they expect. You also know the terms of art associated with your area of practice and the forms people may be seeking. You know what the courthouse looks like and you probably have a better picture of it than anything currently published on the web. Just think of all the data you have. If you’re running out of ideas for keywords that convert, why not sit down with you staff and brainstorm. Compare what you come up with against a few searches until you find those “content holes”, or answers that are not being filled by your or your competitors.
About a year ago, I noticed that potential clients were always asking what their fines would be at the end of their case. In New York, fines for traffic violations are based largely on the plea or conviction entered at the end of the case, so there was no way to tell them definitively what to expect. This gave me the idea to create a site where we posted Fine Notices from real V&T cases that we handled. Today, it’s one of our most trafficked sites.
Going back to the example of our favorite Ohio personal injury attorney, you’ll remember that Mr. Castelli enjoys a great deal of exposure for searches involving “personal injury lawyer”, “motorcycle accident lawyer”, “wrongful death”, etc., but the related term “negligence” has been, well, … neglected. This may be one possible area, one that the Adwords Keyword Tool does not suggest btw, where he may be able to attract and retain a few more clients.
Once you start becoming interested in “search engine optimization” and checking where your site ranks on Google it can be very easy to get caught up in the latest tools and tricks. One long-time favorite SEO tool is the Adwords Keyword Tool. it’s a great resource, intended for making decisions about Adwords spending, that you can use to see search volume on different terms and get some ideas for related searches. A lot of people have demonstrated a lot of good ways to use the information provided there, but if you get caught up thinking that’s the only way to find keywords, you may be setting yourself up for that plateau. As Google shares less and less data with webmasters, it may also pay dividends to learn to be creative now and rely less on any of the tools that are still available.
See You At The Hangout
I hope this little article has been of some use. If you have any questions or comments, or even if you don’t, please join us on the Google+ Hangout on Friday. I’ll be leading the discussion there this week but there’s always some helpful conversation happening at every Hangout. If you can’t make it, I’m always on Google+ and happy to discuss anything internet marketing related.
Points to discuss at the Hangout not covered in the article:
– SEO for Bing
– The benefits of “wow factor” web design
– A “no data” strategy?