Special Guest: Dan Weeks
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Name one thing that all lawyers hate. And you can’t even say “BlueBook” anymore, because it’s kind of become a little bit of a joke.
Advertising. All lawyers hate advertising.
Ok, so it’s probably not totally true. I’m sure there are a few who like it. But I’d be willing to bet that any survey of lawyers in this country would bear me out on that. I’d imagine the percentage of lawyers answering “hate with the hellfire of Satan himself” would go even higher if we asked specifically about online marketing.
Why do lawyers hate online marketing? Setting aside the (somewhat) accurate line about lawyers hating business, there has to be a more specific reason why lawyers hate dealing with advertising. It could be that, as a profession, we’re embarrassingly bad at it. I mean, like HUGE embarrassingly bad.
Why do lawyers suck at online marketing?
But I actually thing it’s something a little more cerebral: we don’t understand it. We don’t know what works, what doesn’t, or why. How can we do something better if we don’t know what works? Sadly, most of us pick one of two options: we ignore it or we accept the advice of third-party vendors blindly.
The results suck, and it’s long past friggin’ time to STOP that crap! I doubt that I have the actual mental endurance to truly protest, but we need to start an uprising here!
As a profession, let’s all agree to generate ads that don’t suck, and to take an active role in promoting our law firm’s effectively! How? Ok, that’s where I get stuck…
Grade your online marketing with LawyerMarketingScore
Thank goodness my guest on today’s Legal Technology Review Podcast, Dan Weeks, has an idea. Well, “idea” is the wrong word. It’s more of a Vision. A Vision of a world where lawyers know what the hell they’re talking about when dealing with online marketing. It’s either a Utopia or the prequel to the Terminator movies, but it’s quite an interesting Vision!
Oh, and he has created a tool to help him do it, called Lawyer Marketing Score.
Looking at a friend’s personal injury practice, Dan saw a problem. “Dan,” his friend said, “I don’t know if I should fire my SEO company, or recommend them to my closest friends from law school.” Look at your law firm’s online marketing and tell me that you aren’t in the exact same situation. You can’t. Why? Because you have no idea what’s working for you and what isn’t, except that your online marketing vendor says it is.
Cracking the code of online marketing
How does Lawyer Marketing Score address this problem? Dan’s friend needed to know some specific information that nobody out there was providing – a benchmarking tool that provided relevant information. How do you get the relevant information? Well, Dan decided his tool needed to be three things:
- Hyper-local – The tool needed to identify the most successful search terms not on a national or global level, but in local markets. After all, most law practices are small, local businesses.
- Tied to a Vertical Market – Different search terms apply to different types of law firms, and even to narrow sub-sub-specialties within a certain practice area.
- Relative & Actionable – What good is knowing that your website scores “57/100″ without any context? You’ll never know what to change. But if you have information about your local competitors, including their comparative levels of success, now you have information you can act on!
And guess what – Dan has the experience, education, and willingness to tolerate teaching lawyers how to advertise to do it! He also has something I consider incredibly valuable – the desire to be the independent adviser for your law firm’s online marketing. He’s not selling a website design service. He’s not telling you why his website is better than the other guys.’
Instead, he’s arming you with the information you need to understand your online marketing. How does your vendor compare to other vendors in town? Is your online marketing working or not? What are other successful law firms doing that you’re not, and what potential new areas are under appreciated in your market?
While it’s in an open beta test right now (restricted to personal injury law firms at the moment), Dan discussed – at length – how his tool works (that’s not to suggest that he’s long winded – although I certainly am – just that there’s a LOT more information in the podcast, so go check it out!).
LawyerMarketingScore’s 3-Part Analysis
Basically, Lawyer Marketing Score works like this: It analyzes your website not based on absolute traffic or inbound analytics. Instead, Lawyer Marketing Score compares how your law firm stacks up against other law firm’s in your market. To do this, it focuses on three key metrics:
1) Clicks from Google
Using extreme cunning and guile (and, apparently, a lot of FOIA requests), Dan compiled a list of the top personal injury search terms used in each of the 210 major U.S. markets. Not just any search terms, though. They had to be tied to PI law (including words like “lawyer,” “law firm,” or “attorney”) and be transactional (including words like “accident,” “injury,” “slip and fall,” or “medical malpractice).
Essentially, they had to be search terms used by people basically raising their hands and shouting “I’m ready to find an attorney in this area. NOW!”
Armed with the list of top keywords in each market, Dan used Google’s Keyword tool to narrow that list to only those keywords that Google charges at least $10 to use in advertising. You might think that you got a great deal on a cheap keyword, but face it, there’s a reason nobody else wants it.
Using publicly available information, Dan then found out which law firms rank for every one of those search terms, in each market. Then, he figured out what each law firm’s ranking was for each of those terms. He can even estimate how many clicks each one got!
His research demonstrated that in every market, the law firm with the #1 ranking for any search term gets by far the most clicks. Over 90% of the total clicks went to the law firms in the top 10 for most search terms.
Can a small law firm compete in a big market? According to Dan, absolutely. How? Awareness and focus. Pick highly specific terms. You may only rank in 6 out of 300 terms, but if you clean up those 6, who cares?
2) Lawyer Directory Services
The second part of the website analysis looks at how your law firm’s website does vis-a-vis the free and paid lawyer directory services like Avvo, FindLaw and Lawyers.com. After all, those three directories routinely rank in the top 10 for many of the top lawyer-based keywords.
It’s actually quite important, because many of those directories serve as a sort of search engine within a search engine. So Lawyer Marketing Score measures your law firm’s degree of coverage in each directory service, for each keyword.
What does that mean? Well, it looks at whether your law firm is listed in those directories in response to several keywords, or just one? Does your law firm appear in legal directory searches in multiple cities, or just one? Given the traffic that these directories have, knowing how well your law firm fares in each can be critical for understanding their role in your online marketing.
Furthermore, it can help you make much more tactical use of scarce advertising funds if you decide to purchase advertising in any of those directories. Does your Avvo profile rank fairly high? Then maybe you need to invest in Lawyers.com to boost your results there. Are you spending money on FindLaw, only to learn that FindLaw just doesn’t rank well in the keywords you need?
Are you based in Los Angeles? According to Dan, LA has the highest online marketing spending, and it’s the only market where Yelp ranks higher than Avvo, FindLaw and Lawyers.com for people looking for a personal injury lawyer. So, if you’re based in LA, why aren’t you using Yelp more?
3) Website Best Practices
Sure, you’ll find out how your law firm ranks on search engine results, but how do you figure out how you got those rankings. More importantly, how can you improve those rankings relative to other law firms. Good think Lawyer Marketing Score includes comparative scores for website practices!
This metric is based on a few different factors:
What does Google think of your website?
Google Webmaster Tools have phenomenal ways to test the performance of your website. Critically, these performance tests weigh heavily into where Google ranks your website when determining search engine results. Lawyer Marketing Score lets you see how your online marketing ranks for three key metrics:
Desktop Site Speed – how fast your website loads on a desktop computer.
Mobile Site Speed – how fast your website loads on a mobile device.
Mobile Usability Score – analysis of how well your website content is accessed and presented on mobile device screens.
How does your website score on third-party analysis tools?
Beyond just relying on Google, Lawyer Marketing Score uses several third-party services to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your online marketing. Using services like WooRank, your website is scored on dozens of attributes, flagging critical SEO problems like keyword stuffing.
Using this score, you can compare your online marketing with your local competitors to get a much more focused idea of where your website needs to improve. After all, isn’t that why you’re doing this?
How effective is your Link Building strategy?
If you’re not familiar with the concept of online authority, it’s time to get caught up. Back in the day, SEO practices frequently amounted to using as many basic keywords in your content as possible and buying links to your site. The more other websites linked to yours, the higher your website ranked.
Unfortunately for those websites, Google is constantly working to limit those types of tactics. On the other hand, getting legitimate links from legitimate sites that people actually read, that’s the kind of thing Google likes. Lawyer Marketing Score evaluates the websites that link to yours, and lets you know how much authority you have.
Think of it as a version of KenPom.com‘s rankings, after factoring for strength of schedule. Having a lot of links can be nice, just like beating that other team by 50 seems to look good. But once you factor for that team being dead last in every statistical category in your entire league, that 50 point win isn’t as valuable as the 1 point nail-biter against the top team in the country.
You don’t want more links, you want better links. A good place to start is finding out what you have now, which is exactly what Lawyer Marketing Score helps you do.
In the end…
Online marketing will never be a positive experience for most lawyers. Unfortunately, for many of them, it’s entirely because they simply don’t know how to make sure their online marketing efforts are successful.
Now, you do.