More Control for Less Money

The question of the day: do you have control of your web site? Do you really? Can you change your page titles at will? Can you change your web page copy? Can you add new pages? Can you add links to those pages?

How about this…if you decide you want to move your site to a new server or hosting company, can you repoint your domain name?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then you do not have control. You are at the mercy of whatever company set up your web site and content management system. And if you lack control, then you can forget about being able to do the things that will cause your web site to rank highly in the search engines. Success in search engine marketing cannot be left to chance.

We recently became aware of a practice used by at least one of the big companies in this industry. Apparently, depending on what kind of relationship you have with the company, if you want to point the domain name elsewhere, they require THREE MONTHS to do it. Three months for something that should take about a day. Now that is lack of control.

So what can you do? First off, avoid working with companies that tie you into a content system that is very restrictive. Avoid long-term contracts. Avoid letting another company have control of your domain name (as in the example above). And avoid hiring a large company that is already working with hundreds of law firms, many of whom may be your direct competitors.

Think small law firm marketing company that will give you a high level of personal service and let you keep control. This kind of situation will not only serve you much better in terms of having a web site that will generate leads for your firm, it will probably cost less. More control for less money. Now that’s a good deal.

Ready for 2010?

One of my goals for the new year is to write for a minimum of 30 minutes every day on the subject of search engine marketing, so starting in 2010 this blog should be updated much more often. But in the meantime, I am busy preparing myself to come out swinging. I have created some custom organizer pages (yes, even though I am a computer nerd I still prefer to use a paper organizer to manage my affairs) that will help me take care of all the important facets of my life, including health and family. Not just business. And I’ve scribbled and drawn out elements of our marketing plan on a whiteboard for everyone in our office to see. And we’ve set specific goals for the new year. Plan, plan, organize, organize. This is the time to do it so you can hit the new year running. Anyway…

…hope you have a great New Year’s! Be careful out there…

Word is Getting Out

I think word is getting out about the unethical practices of some of the bigger companies in the legal marketing industry. Part of it has to do with companies such as ourselves that do our best to try and educate legal professionals about this situation, and part of it is law firms finally realizing that they are not getting what they are paying for.

We have a client we are working with that has a site that was built by a large legal marketing firm, and we have been locked out from doing many of the things that we REALLY need to do. We also got contacted by another firm that knew of the first firm (this firm also has a site built by the same large company) and wanted to hire us as well. We turned the second firm down because it would have been in conflict with our first client (promoting the firms for the same markets and practice areas), but just the fact that the firm sought us out is evidence that the tide is turning.

It is almost 2010. Law firms are getting more savvy about what they are paying for in terms of Internet marketing. That bolds well for companies such as ours that operate in an ethical fashion and work like hell to get our clients’ sites to the top of search engine rankings. The giants are falling…and for that, we can be thankful.

Everybody have a great Thanksgiving!

Don’t Get "Locked Down"!

Due to some difficulty we are having getting started with one of our client’s web sites, I wanted to take this time to reiterate the following:

Do not hire a search marketing company that does the following:

> Requires a ridiculously long-term contract that is basically for nothing more than putting the site up.

> Is promoting many of your competitors.

> Does not give you full control of the site.

Our client, who has a contractual web site obligation with one of the big companies in the legal marketing industry (initials “F.L.”), has been told that the ability for him to modify his web site’s page titles and meta tags has been “locked down.”

So…you’re not going to promote the site (you might say you are, but come on…), and you’re not going to let me do the things I need to promote it?

That is a bad deal. Look, avoid the temptation to take the easy road by just hiring a company because you have heard the name or because the specialize in the legal industry. Hire a REAL SEO firm that knows what it is doing and will do everything it can to get YOUR site to the top.

Welcoming Some New Clients to Work Media

Work Media would like to welcome a couple of new legal clients into our family: Clark & Clark, criminal defense lawyers based in New Jersey, and USA Hurt, a personal injury firm based in Chicago.

Clark & Clark is also presently a client of the large company that provides Internet marketing for so much of the legal industry (initials “F.L.”), and some of the things we have been told about the way the other company operates are ridiculous. I’ll say this one more time: ask how many competing firms your SEO firm is representing! Do you really expect them to have you as a priority over their other clients in the same market?

USA Hurt is also a client of our friends at Joseph Media Group, who specialize in creating outstanding television commercials for law firms.

Work Media has a chart in our office with every metropolitan statistical area in the country. MSAs where we have a client are highlighted. It is our goal to have one client in every major market. Because when you are a Work Media client, you are our number one priority, and it is our intention to help you DOMINATE your market. Can your existing Internet marketing company say that? Call us today at 888-299-4837

The One Question You MUST Ask Any Company You Are Considering Hiring to Promote Your Firm’s Web Site

Here is the question: how many other law firms are you promoting in my market?

This assumes that you have already established that the company has the experience to do the job.

One thing that perturbs me about this industry is law firms hiring a company for their search engine optimization that is already promoting many firms for the same market. SEO is war. How can an SEO firm fight like hell to get your website to the top of Google along with dozens of other firms? The math just doesn’t work out.

It’s not just that the SEO company is competing against itself…it’ s competing against companies like mine. We don’t have competing interests, and we don’t lose. If your firm is promoted by a company like FindLaw, which is probably promoting a dozen or more other firms for the same market, you don’t want to compete against a firm being promoted by us. It is highly unlikely you will come out a winner in that situation.

To reiterate: You only want to compete against firms that are represented by other SEO companies. Not your own.

7 Step Law Firm Web Page Optimization Checklist

My partner and I have worked with quite a few law firms by this point, and we are still surprised at how many web sites we look at that have serious content or coding flaws. Some of these sites are not bad at all in terms of design, but design alone won’t get it done if you are seeking search engine visibility. Here is a checklist of items to make sure your web site meets the minimum level of optimization for search engine rankings.

1. Make sure your physical address is on the home page, in text. Pictures don’t count. There needs to be some text on the page with your city and state.

2. Create a home page title that contains your geographic market as well as main area of practice. Ideally, your home page title will also be based on keyword research to make sure you are using the phrasing that more people use to search for law firms in your market.

3. Give every page of your web site its own specific page title. Again, it would be useful to do some research so that you can insert traffic-generating keywords in titles throughout your site.

4. Have some copy and text links on your home page. If your home page consists solely of Flash or some other non-text technology, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage right off the bat. You want to have lots of text for search engine robots to read.

5. Use text links to practice area pages that contain the practice area in the page name. For example, your home page might have a link that says “Divorce” to a page titled “Divorce Law.”

6. Use your meta tags. Place a set of keywords in the keywords meta tag, and try to use those same keywords in your web page copy. Also give a good, keyword-rich description.

7. Use header (h1) tags to emphasize each page’s primary keyword. For example, if your home page is meant to rank for the phrase “Memphis Personal Injury Lawyer,” then it is helpful to have a header on the page with exactly that phrase.

So there you go. If your web page does not meet all seven of these criteria, then you are lacking some basic on-page optimization parameters that could definitely help improve your web site’s search engine rankings. As always, I would be glad to talk to you if you need some help. You can email me at jwork@workmedia.net, or check out http://www.law-firm-internet-marketing.net for more tips and advice about promoting your law firm’s web site.

Article Video Robot: Software to Ruin Your Reputation

In Internet marketing, fast is the name of the game. Got an article? Don’t just submit it to one article directory, submit it to a hundred. Don’t do it manually, use software. Then turn it into a video and submit it to a bunch of video directories using video submission software.

And so it was with great excitement that I recently started trying out Article Video Robot. I absolutely LOVE the concept of this service. The idea is that you load a text articles into a web site that automatically reads portions of the text, which is then combined with animated static images to create a video from the article. You can even then mass distribute it from the same program. All in under three minutes! For busy professionals like lawyers who don’t have much time to devote to Internet marketing, this is a fantastic strategy.

Great idea. It only it worked.

This is junk software for people creating junk content to try and make money on affiliate sales. For a business like a law firm, where reputation is very important, this software is to be avoided.

There is nothing wrong with the idea of creating videos by combining an audio voiceover with still images (it’s a low tech technique that we use all the time), but transitions should be smooth, and the voiceover should sound somewhat professional. We found that a large amount of time was required to tweak the videos into respectability. Three minutes? Try three to six hours. The system is awkward to use, and in the end, it is quicker for us to just create videos manually, even using plain ol’ Windows Movie Maker.

One of the main problems is that the computerized voice readings of article text tend to need a LOT of tweaking to sound reasonably human. The software gives you the option of recording your own voice for each “frame” (which corresponds to a paragraph of the text article) of the video. But by the time we do all that, it would have been just as fast to manually record an audio track and mix it with some still shots using our own software. Any video you create in three minutes using Article Video Robot will be trash.

The company claims to offer a trial period, but we were refused a refund even though we used the software less than two weeks. The stated reason is that we had done four video submissions (which was actually two videos, due to two failed attempts at using the system), which was too many for a refund. What I wonder is how we were supposed to thoroughly try the system out without actually creating and submitting videos.

I wish I had the time back that I spent trying to use this junk software. But a refund would have at least left me with the feeling that this is an honest company trying to create an honest product that just quite isn’t there yet. Instead, I am left feeling like I got ripped off.

Article Video Robot is definitely not recommended for any law firm’s use. If you want to use video distribution to promote your law firm, you should find another way to get it done. Or contact Work Media. We’ll be glad to help out.

Law Firm Marketing: Do One Thing Every Day

For most of the last week, I have had my head buried in a project that was inspired by some conversation on a LinkedIn group that I participate in. It was a programming-heavy project that required many hours of work. I had to pound on it until it was done.

But a funny thing happened during the six days (counting a weekend) that I spent working on it. I stopped promoting. I realized yesterday that I had not written a new blog post in several days…had not made a Twitter post in several days…I really had not done any promotion.

For a small business, promotion is existence. The business that doesn’t promote itself, more often than not, is a business that goes out of business.

I am reminded of something said by one of my favorite marketing pros, Dan Kennedy. To paraphrase:

Do one thing every day to put business in your pipeline.

Every day, without exception, before you lay your head down for the night, do at least one thing to generate business. Send an email. Do a blog post. Post on a forum. Write a letter. Do something.

Have you done something today to generate business?

Need some help orchestrating your firm’s internet marketing plan? We’re here to help. Contact Work Media at info@workmedia.net or call 888-299-4837.

Ping.fm Settings Advice

One thing I learned while experimenting with Ping.fm yesterday is that it is not really a good idea to use the “default” setting to send blog posts. It posts blogs with no titles, which you don’t really want to do. In my case, doing so completely messed up the front page of this web site because we stream our own RSS feed to our front page. Not having a title broke the design of the page, which we did not notice for several hours. So…when using Ping.fn, use the blog setting for your blogs and the updates setting for other things, but avoid the default setting.