It Takes an Umbrella, Not a Stick

I’ve been involved in a very interesting discussion on one of the LinkedIn groups that I participate in, and I thought it would be worth blogging about to bring the conversation into the public arena. The discussion started when I proposed an informal three-way linking arrangement among law firm members of the group. Basically, web site A would link to web site B, web site B would link to web site C, and web site C would link to web site A. It is similar to reciprocal linking, except the sites don’t swap links, but rather link to one another in a chain. The advantage to this kind of concept is that it helps each site build its link portfolio, and the links carry more weight since they are not reciprocal links.

What has surprised me about the conversation is the amount of resistance to the plan. There is a lot of worry about being banned by Google. Technically, this kind of arrangement is a violation of Google’s policies…as is just about everything that my company does. It was pointed out that in 2007, Google banned a bunch of real estate web sites for reciprocal linking. So is there some risk involved in something like this? Sure. But in my opinion, it is just as risky to do nothing.

Which is the better situation? Your web site not having any visibility because you haven’t taken steps to promote it, or your web site getting banned? Answer: there’s no difference! Either way, you’re invisible.

I think one point that I probably have not been clear on is that I am not at all suggesting that you should RELY on any particular link building strategy. I think that is where the above referenced real estate web sites made their major mistake. These were sites being promoted by amateurs who relied on link swapping to build their link portfolio. You don’t need a single technique; you don’t need a stick. You need an umbrella! In other words, you need to use lots of different strategies to get links from lots of different places.

Swap links. Do three way linking. Distribute articles. Post blogs. Submit to directories. Distribute press releases. Post blog comments. Build social networking pages. Submit to social bookmarking sites…

Do you get my point? Again, search engine optimization ain’t about using a stick. It’s about using an umbrella. If this sounds like a heck of a lot of work, it is. But either you do it or you don’t. Either you promote your web site or you don’t. If you’re NOT going to promote your web site, if you’re not going to be aggressive in doing things to improve your search engine rankings, then you might as well stick to Yellow Pages advertising.

Want to talk about how to promote your law firm web site? Call Work Media at 888-299-4837 or email info@workmedia.net. We’ll be glad to talk to you.

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.

Stumbling for Law Firms: How to Use StumbleUpon

Probably not many legal marketers reading this are actively using StumbleUpon, and that could be a mistake. The site displays random sites submitted by other users based on your interests. I doubt many legal marketers really have time to just sit and watch random web sites appear. However, where StumbleUpon becomes useful is in submitting web pages of your own into the StumbleUpon system to be seen by others. StumbleUpon is very popular and has the potential to put your web site in front of a lot of eyeballs.

There is one caveat: you must create the appearance of being an active user, and not just a marketer trying to get your site in front of people. Follow these rules and your “stumbling” will be more effective.

Make sure you set up a good profile with a nice photo. Failing to set up a good profile will emphasize that you are a marketer only looking to promote your own web site, rather than a part of the community.

Every time you submit a site, take the time to provide a well-written description and appropriate tags.

When another user recommends your site, send that person a personal message.

Only submitting your own web pages makes you look like a spamming marketer. Recommend enough other web sites that it is not clear that you are trying to promote a particular site of your own. Try to submit sites that you think other people would really be interested in.

For your pages to receive maximum exposure, they should be strong enough for other people to recommend. The pages you submit should therefore be light on fluff and heavy on value or usefulness. Pages that do nothing but try to sell your services will likely receive few recommendations. The more approval you get from people who see your site, the more visibility you will have in the StumbleUpon system.

StumbleUpon also has its own advertising platform that allows you to pay to have your site displayed to users in a particular category. There is a legal category. Impressions in StumbleUpon cost a nickel each. That may sound expensive, but it is actually a good value because an “impression” in StumbleUpon means someone is actually viewing your web site, rather than an ad for your web site.

I am currently working on a new book specifically about this type of thing, but in the meantime I recommend you check out The Law Firm Internet Marketing Book on Amazon.com for more Internet marketing strategies for law firms.

If Your Web Site is Sinking, It’s Time for Deep Linking

When you are working on building a catalog of links pointing to your web site, you need to remember to think deep. Deep linking is the act of linking to sub-pages of a web site, and not just the home page. You need to remember these two rules:

1. You should seek keyword links that point to web pages optimized for those same keywords.

2. You can really only optimize a single web page for a couple of keywords.

So if your web site has different pages optimized for different keywords (and if that is not the case, you need to call me today), then you need different keyword links pointing to each of those pages specifically. Here is an example. Let’s say you have a web site with pages covering the following practice areas: automobile accidents, maritime accidents, and aviation accidents. To help raise the search engine visibility of each of those pages, each one needs keyword links related to the subject of the page. The automobile accident page needs links such as “automobile accident attorney,” the maritime accidents page needs links such as “boating accident lawyer,” and the last page needs links like “airplane accident lawyer.”

What you have to keep in mind is that search engine optimization is a business of specificity. Specific pages are optimized for specific keywords, and those pages need specific keyword links.

You may be wondering how you go about getting links with specific keywords in it. If you rely on other web sites to hopefully link to you, then you are at the mercy of those other sites with regard to what keywords they use in the links, if any. Most of the time those types of links will just contain your web address, which is useful for the fact that it is a link, but not as useful as a link that uses a keyword.

One of my favorite strategies for creating links that contain the keywords I want is article marketing. Write an article related to some keywords, and then place a couple of keyword links in the article resource box to the pages you want to promote. Then distribute the article to lots of article directories. If you want to get more complex (and more effective), you can do something called article spinning, which will result in lots of technically unique articles being distributed rather than duplicate articles. Another way is by posting on others’ blogs with a keyword as your name (but you will need to find blogs that allow “dofollow” links).

I invite you to check out my book, The Law Firm Internet Marketing Book, to learn more about this type of stuff. You can also contact me at Work Media if you would like some more in-depth help.

Multi-Channel Marketing Integration for Law Firms

The process of combining your marketing initiatives into a unified campaign is called multi-channel integration, and it is not just something done by big companies with big budgets. It is also something that you should be doing for your law firm. For clarification, the concept I’m talking about is using email, your web site, social networking, blogging and other relevant channels in an integrated marketing plan, rather than just relying on one or two of them.

To clarify, let’s look at an example. Maybe your web site has an autoresponder form for people to sign up for your newsletter. Autoresponders are high leverage tools because they automatically send a series of pre-programmed messages to those who sign up. The emails you send should be informational and high value, but they can also be used to promote your web site, your Facebook page, or whatever. Your blog RSS stream would be used to update your Facebook page and other web properties. Your blog content will contain references and links to your various other web properties. Basically, everything should link to everything else.

And there is the matter of your offline marketing – print, TV, etc. All of your offline printing should contain at least your main web site URL. There has been a trend in advertising recently to begin a conversation with the viewer with offline advertising that tries to lead him to the advertiser’s online marketing.

For the ultimate example of this type of marketing integration, look no further than everybody’s favorite domain registrar, GoDaddy.com. The TV advertising created by GoDaddy is fun, sexy, and a little bit controversial, and it does a great job of driving the viewers of the commercials to the GoDaddy web site where they can view uncensored versions of their commercials and more Web-only content. If you’ve ever bought anything at GoDaddy.com, you also know that they are the masters of the up-sell (but that’s another story).

The main point to come away with here is that any single online or offline property should not be viewed as a standalone entity; it should instead be looked at as one component of an integrated campaign using properties that all relate and make reference to one another.

I would welcome the opportunity to talk to you about this stuff in more detail. Contact Work Media at www.workmedia.net, or check out www.law-firm-internet-marketing.net for more law firm-specific Internet marketing strategies.

What to Do with that Business Card You Just Got at a Networking Event

Here is a networking strategy that I like because it combines your real world networking with your online networking. When you receive a business card from another person in a networking or other type of event, as soon as you are at your computer, search for him or her on Facebook and LinkedIn. If that is the case, send a friend or contact request (depending on the site). It won’t take your new networking connection long to forget you. Someone you meet today may not remember who you are two weeks from now. But if you get them on your friends or contacts list, then you can make sure the person never forgets you.

Once you have found your real world prospect’s social networking profiles and added him to your list, a good next step is to join groups that the person belongs to. Post responses to group messages, and post your own information when relevant. You want your name to appear often in summaries of group activity. This will keep your name not only in front of you new prospect but also other members of the groups.

Make sure you are active enough on the particular social networking site for your name to appear on updates. In LinkedIn, for example, if you just make a minor change to your profile, your name will appear in the updates that are emailed to members who are part of your network.

Just think of your online connections as a pool of people to whom you can expose your brand and your message. The bigger that pool, the more opportunities will arise from your online marketing. One good way to do this is to make sure that you add people you meet in the offline world to your online pool.

Here are a couple more sites to check out for legal marketing advice:
www.law-firm-internet-marketing.net
lawfirminternetmarketing.ning.com
workmedia.net

Law Firm SEO…the Time is Now!

The economy is lousy. Businesses of all types are laying people off or going out of business. Unless you are one of the luck recipients of a huge undeserved bonus, chances are you are not doing as well as you were a year ago. So now is no time to be spending your marketing funds on search engine optimization, right?

No way!

This is the time to INCREASE the amount of resources you devote to search engine marketing and optimization (SEO). There is always going to be some lag time (sometimes substantial) between the time that SEO is done and when you see results. So position yourself NOW to dominate in the future.

The economy will eventually improve. The percentage of the population (and thus your target market) that uses search engines to find businesses, including law firms, is going to continue to rise. The number of firms competing for the top spots is only going to increase. Do you want to be the aggressor, and increase your search engine visibility, or do you want to the be the firm that waits for a “better time,” only making it more difficult to catch up in the future?

So maybe you’re already the top-ranked site in Google for a search of your market and services. You can just cruise along, right?

Hell no!

It is highly likely that there are firms being aggressive right now, optimizing their sites and generating impressive inbound link catalogs. If you stop, you will get passed. Avoid complacency. Keep building your link catalog. Keep blogging and distributing content. You can bet some of your competitors are.

Don’t wait until you think you can afford to engage in a search engine optimization campaign. Time is not your friend here. Climbing the search engine rankings is often a very slow process. Start working on your search rankings today so that when economic conditions improve, your web site will be the one people find when searching for your type of services.

So…what are you going to do?

If you want to learn how to do this on your own, please check out my book The Law Firm Internet Marketing Book.

A Quick and Dirty 5 Step Law Firm SEO Blueprint

So you’ve got a web site but don’t know how to drive traffic to it? Get in line. You’re not alone. Improving search engine rankings is what I do all day every day, and my company employs many different strategies. We work hard at it, both servicing our clients as well as testing new strategies. The easiest way for you to accomplish getting your site ranked is to hire a company like mine.

However, maybe your resources are limited or you’re just a glutton for punishment. If that is the case, I am going to give you a super quick technique for creating a blueprint you can use for getting your web site ranked for a particular keyword.

Step 1. Do a search in Google for your target keyword. Avoid overly generic or broad keywords like “attorney.” Your keyword should be specific to your target market, such as “St. Louis criminal defense attorney.”

Step 2. Click on the top listings that represent real competitors (i.e., competing law firms in your market, as opposed to law firm directories or portals). Look to see if the keyword is used in the title, how many times it is used in the body copy, and where else it is used.

Step 3. Tweak your front page to match the criteria discussed above. Optimize!

Step 4. Go to search.yahoo.com and do a “link:” search for the top sites for your keyword. Your search query will look something like “link:www.website.com.” This will give you a good idea of the minimum number of links you need pointing to your site.

Step 5. Now get ready to do some work. Build a catalog of links to your web site as large or larger than your competitors.

Certainly, we’ve glossed over a lot of details. Anything you need to know is contained somewhere in print or online. If you are willing to put in the work, you can learn how to run a campaign like the one described here. Of course, you can always take easier route and hire a company like Work Media.

Law Firm Marketing Success: Measurement is the Key

So how do you know what marketing strategies you should be using to promote your law firm? You have many options. You can do paid search and SEO (both of which I highly recommend), TV advertising, radio, newspaper, Yellow Pages, and the list goes on. You might start by finding out what marketing methods are working for other successful firms in your market.

One problem is that the strategies used by your competitors may not be the same that work for you. If you really want to find out what works, the only sure-fire way is to try different strategies and carefully track the results of each. You need to make a direct connection between the leads you generate and the marketing that generated those leads. You can measure performance by using a special URL with different advertising campaigns. For example, a print ad in a newspaper might display a URL like “www.myfirm.com/special”. Then checking your web site stats for traffic to that URL will give you an idea of how effective the ad is.

There is one flaw in this technique. Some viewers of the ad will not use the full URL, instead just typing your root domain name. This is at least a starting point. Displaying a different phone number for each ad is a more accurate way to generate data. Then you can tell which ads are working by how many calls come in for different phone numbers. It’s pretty cheap to do and there are quite a few companies that can provide the service. Just a couple to check out are callsource.com and capturethecall.com. Just search Google for “call tracking” to find more.

Yes, this is a lot of work. But finding the right marketing mix can mean the difference between success and failure for your marketing. And if you’re going to promote, you might as well do it right.

To learn more about online marketing for law firms, check out my book The Law Firm Internet Marketing Book on Amazon.com.

Legal Trend Hopping with Print on Demand

Print on demand (POD) is a technology that my firm has made heavy use of for self-promotion. It is a fantastic technology for use by publishing companies, as well as any independent business that wants to produce its own books. In this post, I want to discuss a concept related to POD that I call “trend hopping.” The idea is to use print on demand technology to quickly create books or other products focused on very timely subjects – subjects related to your areas of practice.

POD allows you to quickly create products based on the public’s interests at the moment. One example is mesothelioma from asbestos exposure, which is a hot subject in the legal industry. Your could write a book on this subject and make it freely available to anyone who visits your web site. The book could provide more information about what mesothelioma is and what a person’s legal rights are.

Intuitively, it might seem like an expensive form of marketing, but it’s really not. To order copies of your book yourself will probably cost you $2 or $3 per copy. If you use paid search to drive traffic to your web site, you might be paying $25 or $50 per visit. So in the general scheme of things, another couple of bucks is not much relative to the cost of getting traffic to your site, and it just might improve your chance at signing up a client.

Trends always change. Just because people are interested in something right now does not at all mean that they will be tomorrow. The kinds of cases you pursue today may be different tomorrow. Traditional printing does not deal with this situation very well because it requires the publisher to estimate the number of copies of a book that will sell (or that you want to give away). Predicting when a trend will end is difficult.

POD eliminates the risk completely. You don’t have to worry about printing and storing books in advance. With POD, you will only print the number of books that you need and no more.

Contact Work Media, a Nashville-based search engine marketing firm, to learn more about using this and other strategies to promote your law firm.