Client Reviews are important for potential clients, but does Google pay any attention?

Reviews have become an entrepreneur’s most burdensome task. It can seem daunting and difficult to reach out to clients, and ask for a review online, all while staying ethical, and avoiding Google penalty for paying for reviews.

Still, we do it because everyone says reviews are important, but do they know what they’re talking about? How important are positive client reviews for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

Let’s ask Google. On a related Google’s support page, they make the following statement:

“Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking.

That means in the local ranking, which currently consists of a three-pack map (with the option to view more places) is affected by the listing’s number of reviews, and the overall ratings of those reviews.

So, you want 4 and 5-star reviews, and you want a lot of them, but you don’t want them from bots. You want them to be real clients who have taken the time to review your business.

The statement on Google’s support page continues:

“Your position in web results is also a factor, so SEO best practices also apply to local search optimization.”

So, this means that it’s not only the number and the quality of the reviews on your Google listing, but it’s also the organic performance of your business website, which is connected to the Google listing, that matters in determining which businesses go in the three-pack of Google local search. Your website needs to be optimized for search engines.

According to this statement the three businesses that make it to the three-pack map are likely going to have a good amount of positive client reviews on their business listing, and they will also likely have an optimized website. Let’s put this hypothesis to the test.

Above is a screenshot of a local three-pack result for “general practitioner” when searched from Powder Springs, GA.  The first listing has no reviews, and no website. How could that be? Well, it could be that there were no other general practitioners in Powder Springs, GA apart from these three. In this case Google gave us these three choices simply because that’s all there was within the local area.

However, if you search for a general practitioner in a high-population metropolitan area, such as Washington, D.C. we see that One Medical dominates all downtown.

One Medical has three locations, all three of which are featured in the three-pack map. Each of the listings point to different pages on the same website, which is onemedical.com. Also, they all have at least 15 reviews, with an average rating of over 4.3.

If you actually visit onemedical.com, with the help of an SEO browser extension, you will find the reason this company dominates the space. The website has a domain authority of 60+. This website is one powerful website, and that is the sole reason it dominates in the three-pack map.

If you have a website with a domain authority above 60, you are going to naturally dominate the local three-pack map, regardless of the reviews, just because your website is so powerful. However, there are other industries that are not so dominated by one player, as it tends to be in the medical field.

For example, if we do a search for divorce lawyers in Washington, D.C. we get three independent (from each other) lawyers and law firms: Goodman Law, Hunt Law, and Kuder Law.  All three have a website this time, but Kuder Law only has one single review while the other two have over 20. Does Kuder have a powerful website too? Nope. Their domain authority is only 23.  The only thing of value is they have 9 images on their listing. They have images of the office, the workers, the building, etc.

Clicking on “More places” reveals that there are at least three other law firms that have more reviews than Kuder Law. One of them, Capital Family Law, even had 25 reviews. However, Capital Family Law had only one picture. Could it be that pictures are an important deciding factor? It could be, and therefore we recommend uploading images to your Google business listing. However, we do know for certain that reviews are a major deciding factor, so it will never hurt to focus on that.

Reviews are a great way of gaining trust within the community, and they are possible through good marketing programs. In these two examples, in two different industries, we saw that the digital marketing was involved. In the first example the website domain authority was an important factor in deciding who made the local three-pack map. In the second it was the number of reviews. This is why it’s important to hire a trustworthy SEO company. Organic traffic is so valuable to the business that the investment is worth it.

At Sundown Marketing we are that trustworthy company that businesses rely on to make stellar websites and bring a thorough, and time-tested SEO program to help you build your business. Check out our SEO and reputation management programs, and then call us for a free consultation! We can be reached at (800) 649-1764 or through our website contact form.

Are You Telling The Right Story On Your Homepage?

As an attorney, you face plenty of challenges advocating for your clients in the courtroom or against insurance companies with deep pockets. But with nearly 1.2 million attorneys in the U.S., one of your biggest uphill battles is against the search engines and your peers.

With hundreds or thousands of attorneys in your area competing for the same client, how can you differentiate your firm and attract the best cases? Your track record is essential, as is your brand, but you can stand out and create more interest by telling stories throughout your website.

The Effectiveness of Storytelling in Marketing

Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to breathe life into your digital marketing campaign. By giving your law firm and its services an identity, you can quickly engage your audience and connect with them on a more emotional level.

People who approach attorneys generally need help solving some type of pressing issue. They may be physically, emotionally, and financially in peril and looking for someone that can provide some hope. When you tell a story that quickly connects with them, you have a stronger chance of gaining their business.

Stories unite people with a common bond. When someone is dealing with the aftermath of a serious car accident, and you tell a story about helping a client in similar circumstances, that person is likely to respond.

Storytelling can also be used to transmit meaning and knowledge. Concepts that might be difficult to grasp become more clear when shared within the context of an interesting story.

In addition to being a valuable strategic tool, you can use stories to engage consumers that have become numb to the standard types of content. It gives them a new and engaging experience with an attorney and makes the interaction on your website a memorable one.

How to Use Storytelling to Attract More Cases

People hire attorneys they believe they can trust with some important matters. You can humanize your firm to build rapport and trust with potential clients that are looking for solutions.

Once you’ve established that connection, you’re one step closer to a consultation appointment and a new client.

Here are several ways your firm can use storytelling to attract more clients:

Understand Your Audience

Before you create any content or craft your story, develop a cohesive picture of your target audience. What are their demographics, values, and pain points? Once you have this information, you can tailor your story so that it resonates with them.

Is your typical client looking to maximize recovery on a personal injury case? Or, are they interested in affordable representation for an estate or family law issue? What emotions do you generally sense from them when they contact your firm? Do you find that they are familiar with the legal process or want some education?

The answers to these questions vary greatly across practice areas and firms. But, answering these questions first will help you create a story that is most appealing to your typical client.

Emphasize Your “Why” Instead of Your “What”

With thousands of attorneys in every U.S. state offering similar services, what your firm does may not be enough to differentiate it from the place down the street. You can spend some time on the “what,” but it’s vital that your story place significant emphasis on your firm’s “why.”

When you explain why you fight for the rights of clients, you make the clients the subject of the story instead of the law. As an example, you can tell readers that you believe one of your missions is to fight for the rights of injured workers against unsafe and unfair employers that are backed by powerful insurance companies.

Create an Emotional Connection

Legal marketing is equal parts strategy and art. Your job, or your marketer’s job, is to connect with a potential client’s mind as well as their heart. Decisions are often made more on instinct than logic, and emotion is a key driver of these choices.

You’re obviously a capable attorney, but piling statistics onto a prospective client may not be the best approach. Instead, you can tell stories that create an emotional connection with your reader, and that prompts them to make a decision.

One of the best ways to create an emotional connection is by inserting your reader into the story. For example: “After a crash with a commercial truck, you may have many questions. ‘Who will pay my hospital bills?’ ‘How will I survive with lost time from work?’”

Use Client Testimonials

Some of your most credible stories will be written by past clients. According to BIA/Kelsey, 97% of people (so nearly everyone) read reviews for local businesses. Incorporate client testimonials into your website content to communicate your story through the eyes of someone that has experience with your firm.

Produce Ongoing Quality Content

Putting your story on your website’s homepage is an excellent start. But this is also a theme that you’ll want to carry through your other pages and ongoing blog and social media posts.

People like to see a consistent message, and this can help your firm create an authentic brand. As you learn more about your audience and expand your firm’s services, your story can continue to unfold to incorporate those areas and send the message that you provide the best client experience in the area.

Contact Sundown Legal Marketing Today

Fortunately, many attorneys are gifted storytellers but don’t think to use that skill to market their own services. For more information on using this effective tool in your website content, reach out to Sundown Legal Marketing. Contact us today at (800) 864-1764 or online to schedule a free website evaluation or with any questions about our services.

Backlinks – A Must Have In Any Successful SEO Program

If you research the backlinks of some of the pages at the top of Google search engine results pages (SERPs) for the most competitive keywords in the financial industry you will find that they all have thousands and thousands of backlinks from Google Display ads. At least that we found while researching top keyword placements for a Financial Services industry keyword term a couple years ago. This led us to believe that Google might take into account the very same backlinks they have always publicly said they do not take into account: their own ads. Display ads, to be specific.

So, the top notch Paid Advertising Team at Sundown Marketing Group decided to test out this theory. Our team chose one of our clients who had not yet had much SEO work done to their website. They felt this client would be the perfect candidate because at the time they would not allow us to add any content to their website, thereby giving us a blank canvas to work with.

 

The team created the display campaign, created copy, headlines, descriptions, images and links. They focused on the keyword “car accident attorney” and then let it collect data for three months – June, July, and August of 2019. The team hypothesized that a small display ad budget of $500 would create a small increase in organic traffic, in part due to the backlinks that are generated in the ads. They believed this would happen due to the evidence seen in an Ahrefs backlink report that showed a significant amount of display ads for the top organically placed websites.

Results:

The display campaign produced some traffic, but a near 90% bounce rate, and no form submissions.

But this was to be expected; display ads are more for branding than traffic. So, what happened to the organic placement of the website for “car accident attorney”? Was it impacted?

During the first month website placement for “car accident attorney” cruised up slowly from about 35 to 25. The following two months it was erratic, going up and down but on average the site was shown at the 25 spot. It seems to have helped slightly.

What about the overall organic traffic?

There seemed to be an initial spike in traffic, but nothing too significant overall. You could say there’s more stability in the few weeks after the initial spike comes down.

Overall users were down almost 3% during the time of having the display ads. However, almost every one of the other measurements were up: overall sessions, pages per session, average session duration, even more contact form submissions resulted from the organic traffic during this time.

Those are all very good things, but it can’t be logically correlated to the display ads.

At least one thing is sure – a $500/month budget won’t make a real difference in your organic traffic. But it may help you rank better organically for the keywords you are targeting. Again, evidence seems to suggest that the larger the budget the more organic traffic you’ll get as an indirect result.

At Sundown Marketing Group we are constantly searching for the most effective way to best position our clients online and trying to uncover cutting-edge marketing/SEO ideas. If you’re a small to mid-sized law firm we can help you grow your business. Contact Sundown Marketing Group today at (800) 864-1764 or contact us online at Sundown Marketing Group to schedule a free consultation!

Do You Have A Marketing Plan?

At Sundown Marketing Group, we have helped law firms market themselves for over 15 years. From big markets to small markets, there has always been one constant; law firms with a well thought out marketing plan, get more cases than firms that do not have a plan. In the days of the yellow pages, firms with the best positions in the most books typically received the most calls and often secured the most clients. We have moved on from those days, but the concepts remain the same.  Get your name and your message in front of as many people as you can while sticking to a specific budget. In today’s world of sensational, in your face, advertising your marketing message must be concise, clear and visible.   Whether it is radio, billboards, TV or the internet you have just a few seconds to get someone’s attention and sell yourself.

With that in mind, we have come up with 10 tips you can implement today to help your firm achieve its marketing goals and dominate your competition.

  1. Decide who will oversee your marketing program and who will have the final decision about all things marketing. Although getting input from other members of the firm is important, the decision on how to proceed should be kept to as small a group as possible. Often, as the group gets larger, less gets done. Paralysis by analysis really comes into play here.
  1. Decide what type of cases your firm wants to attract and prioritize them. This may seem unnecessary, since the firm may practice in several areas, but it just isn’t worth advertising for some types of cases (i.e. real estate closings). This type of work usually comes through relationships or referrals. If your budget is limited, you should mention all your practice areas on your website but save your advertising dollars for the types of cases that require name and brand recognition. Examples of these would be car accidents, criminal defense or divorce cases. There are always case types that are more profitable than others, so you should prioritize them.
  1. Create a budget and stick to it. Marketing of any kind carries a burden of uncertainty. Have a budget that the firm can afford, even if there was a zero return on the money. That is not likely to happen with the right plan, but it should take pressure off the firm. Also, stay away from every “new” idea that comes along. We see this a lot. Stick with the proven methods but give them time to work. Jumping from one plan to another wastes a lot of time and money.
  1. Determine your “total” current investment on marketing. If you have a person at the firm dedicated to marketing efforts, what is their true cost? What is their cost in hourly pay, benefits, education etc.? You must then add in the amount you are spending on marketing outside of your internal human cost (i.e. Google Ads, Facebook Advertising). This will be your actual marketing investment. You then need to determine if your marketing person is as effective as someone who specializes in law firm marketing. In the long run, it may be less expensive to pay an agency, whose job it is to work for you, as opposed to paying an employee to do a similar job.
  1. Know your competition. If everyone in your area is spending $5,000 per month to market their firm and you are spending $500 per month, your program won’t get the same results. Your law firm is your biggest investment, bigger than the stock market or a new car, so invest in it regularly and wisely.
  1. Decide on firm involvement. Determine how much of the firm’s marketing is going to be done internally (dedicated person or people) or externally (agency), or a combination of the two. The first step is to build the best website in your area. This is your calling card and your initial impression on prospective clients. The next step is to get that website found. Digital marketing can be the hardest marketing to do, because the rules are always changing. But it is also an area where you can work with someone else to complement your efforts, with the least amount of time taken away from the firm.
  1. A digital presence is the cornerstone of any business. Everyone has a website, but to really stand out, you should be covering as many of the digital bases as possible, website, video, social media, reviews, internal client referrals and paid ads.
  1. Be consistent. That is the hardest thing for firms that handle their own marketing. A successful program, in the eyes of Google, will have a website that is content rich, has fast load speeds, few errors, proper tagging, quality back links, videos, social media links and the website is updated with new content on a regular basis. Consistency also comes in the form of social media updates on firm activities, community involvement and helpful information for the public.
  1. Build your brand. Be consistent with your firm’s message. Create a steady stream of branding opportunities and stick with them. If you have a tag line, use it on everything. Some of the most successful marketers, in any business, have a great tag line; you should too.
  1. Build up your reviews and testimonials. For most prospective clients, reviews are one of the primary deciding factors when it comes to hiring a lawyer. Facebook, Google and legal directories are all great places to show people how good you are. Don’t be afraid to ask a happy client for a review. You can count on the fact that your competition is doing it.

If you need help with any of these ideas, call our office today. We provide a no cost marketing analysis and can get you headed on the right track in no time. Contact the experienced legal marketing team at Sundown Legal Marketing at (800) 649-1764 or through our website contact form.

Are You Missing Out On Clients? You May Be If Your Website Isn’t Mobile Ready

A website is an essential part of business today. From providing information about your firm and practice areas to driving prospective clients to take action, your website lays the foundation for your connection with clients. However, that means your website needs to appeal to clients based on how they use it. You may have a beautiful, dynamic desktop website, but if it’s not mobile-friendly, you’re missing out on an important part of your online presence.

Mobile technology today

In our technology driven world, mobile internet traffic surpasses desktop traffic by approximately 3% per year. Desktops and laptops are used at home and in business, but most people utilize mobile devices while on the go. People of all ages use smartphones and tablets, to work online, browse social media, and read the news. The constant access to content has created a society that demands instant information, including while on the go. As a result, many websites have adapted to create mobile-friendly formatting, so that website visitors can get what they need whether they’re sitting at a desk with a traditional computer, using their tablet while commuting to work or from their mobile phone while shopping on the weekend.

Reasons to have mobile-friendly websites

Mobile-friendly websites are not just a convenience for a small percentage of users any longer. It is a necessity because of the way people use mobile technology today. However, it’s more than just simply about accessibility on mobile devices. There are a number of reasons that mobile-friendly websites are a good idea for your firm. Understanding these reasons can help highlight the value of this approach for your firm’s business goals.

Users want mobile access. Even though people use desktops for work or personal reasons, chances are they also use mobile devices. People have gotten so used to instant access to information that they expect to be able to find anything on their mobile devices that they would on their desktop computers. Without a mobile-friendly website, your prospective clients will not have easy access to information about your firm on their mobile devices.

Make it easier for prospective clients to contact you. Mobile ready websites provide any website visitor with the ability to instantly contact you using easily clickable buttons (phone or email).

Google likes mobile-friendly content. Google’s all-important algorithm prioritizes mobile-friendly websites. Google knows that most people are online using mobile devices, so they want their search results to match the search needs of the majority of their users. By optimizing your website to be mobile-friendly in formatting and content, your SEO content will be more effective, and your site will rank higher in search results when prospective clients use your keywords and phrases in searching. Whether your prospective clients are searching on desktop or mobile, your mobile-friendly site will make Google happy and help you site to rank well.

Mobile-friendly content is more sharable. Sharing is an important way to spread information. From links on social media to text messaging websites to friends and family, people want to be able to share what they see and like. However, if your site is not mobile-friendly, sharing from desktop to mobile doesn’t work very well. Even if a client wants to share information with others, the information the new client gets won’t be in a format that appeals to them, and they may not take the time to save the link to read it on their desktop.

Stay competitive. Your competitors, especially those with successful internet marketing programs, have already integrated a mobile version of their website. If you want to keep up, get busy.

Ways to make your website mobile-friendly

It’s not difficult to make sure that your website is mobile-friendly. Whether you are building a new site or working with an existing site, here are things you can do to make your site easier to use on mobile devices:

  • Make your site responsive. That means it will automatically adapt to the size of the screen used, including mobile devices. Along similar lines, it’s important to include the viewport meta tag so that browsers will fit the width of your site page to the device your customer is using.
  • Think about the information your prospective clients need. By making important information clearly visible, your users won’t have to figure out how to navigate a site to find valuable information. This may be your menu, your homepage, or your contact information. You can use site metrics to find out the type of information your users view most often to help you decide.
  • Avoid flash. Not only is flash bad for SEO, but it can slow down your site’s loading time considerably. Not all mobile devices support flash, which means some people won’t be able to load your site properly.
  • Pay attention to button and font sizes. Users can get irritated quickly if they have trouble clicking buttons or reading content on their mobile devices. No one wants to have to zoom in on a site just to easily navigate your site.
  • Compress images. High quality images can slow your site’s load time dramatically. By compressing all of the images on your website, you will be able to give a website visitor a better user experience regardless of their device preference.
  • Test mobile and desktop versions of the site. Whenever you make changes or update your content, be sure to test both versions of your site. That will ensure that your site is mobile optimized and your users will be able to access all the information quickly and easily.

Whether you’re redesigning your site to make it more attractive to your target demographic or you want to take advantage of mobile technology with your site’s formatting, a mobile-friendly website is an important part of successful online business. More people use the internet on mobile devices than desktops, so having a mobile-friendly site means being able to engage with the majority of your target demographic. By making changes to your site so that it adapts to mobile devices, you’ll be able to share information with your clients and achieve your firm’s business goals, as well as your website metric goals.

If you have questions about mobile search or building a mobile friendly website Sundown Legal Marketing specializes in helping law firms review their current internet footprint, developing a comprehensive internet marketing plan and implementing every aspect of that plan. Contact us today for a free website evaluation and a no obligation assessment of your internet marketing plan. Call us today at (800) 864-1764 or online at Sundown Marketing Group.

Building a Killer Law Firm Social Media Presence

Social media has long been a popular marketing channel for major brands. You see companies like Nike, Starbucks, and even Airbnb dominating the landscape with their exceptional social media marketing tactics.

While people enjoy interacting with these consumer brands, it might seem like the legal industry has largely ignored social media as an effective marketing channel. But this isn’t entirely the case as social media use among law firms and independent attorneys becomes increasingly popular.

A recent Attorney at Work survey reveals that 96% of the more than 300 lawyers surveyed use social media. And 70% say their use of social media is part of an overall legal marketing strategy. Here are some of the benefits of developing a social media presence for your law firm and a few steps you can take to get started.

The Benefits of a Social Media Presence for Your Law Firm

Social media isn’t easy, but the results are worth it. Social media still hasn’t reached its peak of popularity, but a stunning 3.5 billion people, or 45% of the population, actively use social networks daily. That’s a massive audience, but why should your law firm bother with social media marketing? Here are a few of the benefits of having a social media presence:

  1. Create Brand Awareness

Consumers are spending more time on social media, so a strong social presence can help get your firm’s message in front of its audience. According to the latest Sprout Social Index, 44% of consumer report increasing their use of social media, which is a benefit for brands that want to increase visibility on social platforms. And 87% say they are likely to visit a brand’s website if they follow them on social media.

  1. Attract Prospective Clients

Social media is an effective tool for attorneys to attract new clients. The American Bar Association reports that 35% of lawyers who use social media have gained new clients from these channels. But law firms that are active and engaging on social media have the potential to push those numbers much higher.

  1. Engage Your Target Audience

Even though many people use social media to connect with loved ones, they also increasingly engage with brands on social platforms. This provides your law firm with a valuable opportunity to deliver engaging content and answer questions, whether it be about auto accidents, family law, criminal defense, or some other area of practice.

  1. Establish Your Authority

Most people who are struggling with a legal issue are looking for answers and some reassurance. While you don’t need to provide your services gratis online, you can establish yourself as an authority in your field and gain the trust of potential clients. Share useful information that will interest your target audience and help prove your credibility.

  1. Boost Your SEO Efforts

Even though social signals aren’t considered a direct website ranking factor, various search engine authorities report that they can help your SEO efforts. According to Search Engine Journal, Google has changed its story multiple times regarding whether website links shared on Facebook and Twitter are used as ranking signals.

Even so, there continues to be a strong correlation between social signals and ranking position. In short, it’s worth it to build your audience on social media, drive more traffic to your website, and potentially get higher search engine rankings for your efforts.

Some Tips for Using Social Media for Legal Marketing

Even if you’re convinced that your firm needs a social media presence, where do you begin? Here are some tips for getting started with social media marketing so that you get the best return on your investment.

  1. Pay Attention to the Basics

No matter where you choose to advertise your business, you need to get the basics down first. Some of the social media marketing details you should focus on include:

  • Choosing the right social network to invest in. It might be tempting to pick all of them, but your efforts would be better spent on choosing a few that you know your audience uses most. Facebook is a common choice for law firms since it’s the world’s largest social network. Others are Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube.
  • Set some realistic goals. Before you begin, decide what you’d like to achieve with social media and establish some measurable goals. Do you want to increase traffic to your website? Maybe you want to boost your brand’s visibility and authority. Regardless of which goals you choose, make sure you include them in your marketing plan and measure them on a regular basis.
  • Create a detailed content strategy. What type of content do you plan to create for social media? How often will you post?
  1. Post Engaging Content

Law firms can use social media to engage people on social media in a variety of ways. Consumers love stories, so share stories about the origins of your firm, its history, and its achievements to build an emotional connection.

In addition to promotional content, provide valuable and credible information that can give readers peace of mind or the information they need to make a decision about hiring your firm. You can share relevant industry news as well as excerpts from blog posts related to your main practice areas.

  1. Use Visuals That Pop!

Visuals are essential to engagement on social media. Many people will scroll past a wall of text but will stop to read a colorful infographic or watch a short video. Your social media strategy should include sharing basic legal information, statistics, inspirational quotes, and tips that are in video format or that use strong graphics.

  1. Monitor and Respond to Online Conversations

Social media isn’t meant to be a one-way conversation, where your firm tosses out occasional posts and waits for the clicks to roll in. To be successful, you should be actively engaging with your audience.

You can start by searching for social media conversations related to your firm and any related topics, such as “medical malpractice.” You can monitor these conversations to get an understanding of user sentiment as well as join in to make connections and boost the visibility of your brand online.

Want to Explore Your Legal Marketing Strategy?

If you or your law firm are not active on social media, you are missing a massive opportunity to promote your brand, drive potential clients to your website, and increase engagement. Sundown Legal Marketing can help develop your legal marketing strategy or give you assistance with managing your current profiles. Give us a call at (800) 649-1764 or reach out to us online for a free evaluation.

 

 

How to Maximize SEO ROI

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has evolved from a mysterious buzz phrase that savvy business owners used to seek out to be cutting-edge results, to an everyday effort used by most website owners. Today it has been formulated into a-la-carte programs offered by all sorts of marketing agencies (both reputable and not-so reputable), but how do you know what you are paying for and whether it is returning an acceptable Return on Investment (ROI)?

Your SEO program should be aligned with your business goals. You may have received a negative review that you want to push down in search results, you may have competition that you want to outrank, or you may just be a law firm owner who wants more clients. Whatever your goals are for your SEO program, they should be identified from the beginning so you can define success.

A typical law firm’s goal for a website is to rank on the first page for a specific set of keywords that produce a high volume of searches. For example, “personal injury attorney” or “criminal defense attorney”. Ranking highly for these keyword phrases will be difficult because they are so generic and because the sites that typically rank at the top of Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for these keyword phrases are often nationally recognized legal directories like findlaw.com or lawyers.com. Still, if you do your best to at least improve your rankings for that keyword, say from the fourth page (position 35) to the second page (position 15), it is likely that you will also improve for other keywords even more significantly. For example, “personal injury attorney in Mobile, AL” or “criminal defense attorney in my area”.

If no business goals are clearly defined the default goal is to increase overall organic traffic. This is a good goal to have because it also produces good return on investment since organic traffic often turns into conversions. These people may watch a video, call the firm, fill out a form, ask a question, etc.

Still, it is beneficial to have clear goals so that you can target your traffic increases for one lucrative segment of your prospective clients. Sometimes an agency will make recommendations on which keywords to target based on current rankings of the website. At Sundown Legal Marketing, we do this for our clients through the use of a tool called SEMRush. This process is outlined in our article on “Striking Distance Keywords”.

Once keywords are identified, and SEO work has been done to the website, you are ready to start reviewing results. Any improvement in ranking has value even if it is just an incremental change (i.e. moving from page 4, position 38, to page 2, position 12). However, value is in the eye of the beholder, so how much you should pay per keyword at this stage is difficult to say.

However, once the keywords move into the top 10, or page 1, then you can very easily place a dollar value on the keyword because you can compare it to the cost of purchasing a Google ad for that keyword.

To calculate the value of a keyword, look up the average volume for that keyword by utilizing a third party tool (we use SEMRush), then multiply that by a typical Click Through Rate (CTR) of 2%, then multiply that by the average cost of that keyword according to the Google Keyword Planner. So if SEMRush says the keyword receives 2,900 monthly visits, and the Keyword Planner says your keyword costs $5/click, and you factor an industry standard 2% CTR, then a keyword that is showing your website organically in the top 10 spots could be worth up to $290 per month. You could take a little bit of value off each position as it goes down. For example, $290 for position 1; $260 for position 2, and so on.

This is all just to put a value on a keyword. Doing things like this help us determine the return on investment of our SEO programs. It is essentially the method that paid search managers use and it is a way to help you understand where your money is going when you have a Digital Marketing campaign.

At Sundown Legal Marketing we like to take the smoke and mirrors out of our campaigns and be as transparent as we can. If you are unhappy with the service your current marketing agency is providing, or feel that they are not returning an acceptable ROI, please call us for a free initial consultation! Our team of legal marketing experts is ready to help you craft an internet marketing campaign for your law firm. We can be reached at (800) 864-1764 or through our website contact form.

Law Firms Working from Home

The world is changing quickly – faster than most people ever thought possible. Even before the recent coronavirus outbreak, our society was becoming increasingly digitized. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, this trend is likely to accelerate exponentially, impacting many industries that had been slower to embrace new technologies and approaches such as having employees work from home.

The coronavirus situation has forced a lot of law firms to employ remote work policies for their attorneys and staff in order to continue operations during the midst of the crisis. But for those who are just adopting a work from home policy, it can be challenging to get everything set up smoothly and efficiently.

Here are some important areas to address for lawyers and law practices that are switching to a work from home model:

Fielding Incoming Calls

Although many office phone systems support essential remote work features like call forwarding, the staff may not be familiar with how to use the features that can help make working from home more efficient. Be sure your system supports the ability to seamlessly route calls to the intended recipient even when everyone is working remotely. If this is not the case, implement a new phone system that better supports what you are trying to accomplish.

Another potential challenge is receiving incoming calls at home. Many people do this with their cell phone, but this could be problematic. For example, if you live in an area where you have bad reception, it will result in poor call quality and difficulty communicating with your clients and other staff. There are some ways you can overcome this. Most cellular companies now support Wi-Fi calling, so if you are able, set this up on your cell phone. Another option would be to install a landline or voice over internet protocol (VOIP) line at home to be used only for your firm’s business.

Home Internet Connections

With everyone at home during the coronavirus pandemic and a growing number likely to remain working from home, internet speeds can be an issue in some areas. Some providers also have data caps in which the speed slows down after you reach a certain amount of data usage. Another issue is that if you hook up to Wi-Fi in your home, your laptop or desktop computer may be one of multiple devices that are drawing data from the same network. Instead of using Wi-Fi, consider connecting your computer to the internet through an ethernet cable. This will give you a more stable connection that bypasses the Wi-Fi network and results in a faster speed.

Teleconferenced Court Hearings

In recent weeks, many of the courts that remain open have switched from in person hearings to teleconferences that rely on the participants to initiate the call. And with so many other firms and companies rapidly switching to remote work, many of the teleconference providers are getting overloaded. This could result in poor connections, difficulty hearing participants, and possibly having to cancel and/or reschedule the hearing. To reduce the chances of this happening, it is best to sign up with at least a couple different teleconference providers. In addition, ask participants to connect through a stable wired internet connection (if possible) rather than a Wi-Fi or a cellular network.

Videoconferencing and Text Communications Best Practices

With more and more people working from home, teleconferencing or videoconferencing will need to be used more frequently to replace in person meetings. This will require many of the same considerations as with the teleconferenced court hearings. Choose one platform primarily and make sure everyone is using it, ask everyone to use the most stable connection they have available to them, and make sure you have more than one option in case your primary platform goes down. Another issue some do not think about is accidentally revealing private emails and other confidential information during screen shares. If you are going to use screen sharing, close all apps you do not want others to see.

In addition to teleconferencing and videoconferencing, you will also want to have a platform that can be used for the firm’s staff to exchange instant messages. You can use group texts on your cell phone for this, but it is usually easier and more efficient to use an online platform like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Facebook Messenger. As with other forms of communication, be sure everyone is on the same page and using the same system. Also make sure to set clear expectations with regards to what documents and other information can be shared through a messaging platform.

Managing Documents

Picking up on the last point, you will need to have a system in place to efficiently and securely manage sensitive and/or confidential information. A cloud-based document management system will be easier and more efficient to back up the documents and utilize them than something that is set up locally in your house, but there are security concerns as well. Be sure you are using a system that has bank grade security, and also make sure to set up strong policies for how documents are to be handled so as to avoid any security breaches that would expose your clients’ information. For example, do not allow the staff to send documents back and forth through personal email accounts or other less secure forms of communication.

Overcoming Work from Home Challenges

Although working remotely has many advantages, this approach is not without its drawbacks. One of the most common issues is that working from home can often blur the lines between work and personal life. Spouses and children can interrupt, and it may be easier to get distracted by things like social media or just putting a load of clothes into the laundry. The lack of real human interaction can also have an adverse psychological effect on some people, particularly extroverts who have a hard time working in an isolated environment. Some studies have also suggested that creativity and innovations are more likely to happen when people work together in a central location rather than remotely.

To address these issues, it is important to have detailed discussions with staff about the work/life balance and sticking to a schedule. This does not have to be a lecture; rather, it should be a supportive and encouraging conversation letting them know that you understand the challenges they are dealing with and stressing the importance of separating their work from their personal lives. You should also have daily teleconferences or videoconferences to stay in touch and make sure everyone is on the same page, and schedule regular in-person meetings where you can connect and collaborate with each other.

For the time being, you will of course need to follow the recommended social distancing guidelines during in-person meetings. This may mean sitting several seats away from each other in the conference room as well as the basics like washing your hands, using sanitizer, and not shaking hands or embracing each other.

Capitalizing on the Work from Home Trend

When this is all over, organizations across a wide range of industries will be moving their employees off-site and having them work from home. This means that consumers will be spending a lot more of their time connected to the internet. For attorneys and law firms, this is one silver lining that is often overlooked. Increased online use means more legal consumers in one place, and a greater opportunity to grow your practice through an effective digital marketing approach.

Now is the time to review your online marketing strategy to identify what areas need to be improved. Are you happy with the design of your website? Are you happy with the number of website visitors you are getting and converting into clients? How many clients are you getting from social media? Do you even have a social media presence?

These are important questions to ask, because the firms that effectively adapt to the realities of our increasingly digitized society are the ones that will end up thriving in the future. If you need help improving your web presence, we invite you to get in touch with us to review your current marketing approach and see how we can help you.

About Sundown Legal Marketing

Sundown Legal Marketing specializes in helping law firms review their current internet footprint, developing a comprehensive internet marketing plan and implementing every aspect of that plan. Contact us today for a free website evaluation and a no obligation assessment of your internet marketing plan. Call us today at (800) 864-1764 or online at Sundown Marketing.

Law firm management in times of crisis

The COVID 19 (coronavirus) outbreak is the worst health crisis that this country and the world has seen in our lifetimes, and it seems to be bringing our entire way of life to a screeching halt. There has been a run on numerous household items, and as of this writing, many states have shut down bars, restaurants, and other establishments, and the federal government has recommended that there be no large gatherings of any kind.

In the legal world, we like to throw the around the word “unprecedented”, but this crisis is on an entirely different level. To say the situation is “fluid” would be the understatement of the year – things are happening at warp speed, and it seems that federal, state, and local governments are updating their crisis mitigation policies by the hour.

So, during a health crisis of this magnitude, what can your firm do to effectively manage the situation?

The first thing we would say is that the days of ignoring this story, focusing on “business as usual”, and assuming that it will go away are long past. This crisis is real, and it is affecting literally everyone. There is no escaping it and there is no ignoring it.

In this new reality, firms need to be proactive and stay out in front of this, particularly when it comes to your interactions with employees, clients, vendors and service providers, and prospective clients.

Here are some of the most important steps law firms can take to effectively manage their practice during a health crisis like the coronavirus pandemic:

Take Care of your Employees First

There is a lot of future uncertainty, and everyone is scared right now, including your employees. They may be worried about getting exposed to the virus, or even more so about spreading it to an aging family member if they contract it. They might also be worried about their jobs – how much work there will be in the near term, whether they will be temporarily laid off, or what will happen if this thing goes on for a while.

Now is not the time to be vague or obtuse; you need to communicate clearly with your employees, keep them in the loop, assure them that you care, and let them know what is going on with the firm. Every firm is unique, and each will handle things a little bit differently. Some firms have decided to have their employees work from home, while others are keeping their office open and taking extra measures to ensure that everything is continually wiped down and sanitized.

The way this is handled will depend largely on what is happening in your local community. For example, if your office is in a heavily populated area where there are a lot of confirmed cases of the virus, it would probably make sense to close down for a while and do all of your consultations and legal research remotely. With the technology available today, most firms can function fairly smoothly even while away from the office, at least in the short term.

Clearly, you will also want to cover the basics. Reiterate the need to wash your hands repeatedly, not touch your hands to your face, don’t shake your clients’ hands while this is going on, keep a healthy distance from others, and if you are sick, stay home and do not come into the office.

Inform your Clients on What is Happening

Ongoing communication with your clients will be very important during this time as well. It doesn’t matter what stage you are at with their case or in what capacity you are working with them, your clients need to hear from you and be reassured that you are continuing operations. You should also let them know that you are taking all precautions to protect their health and well-being. Send an email communicating this to them, and you may also want to give some of them a call to check on how they are doing. Many people are having a hard time dealing with everything that is going on, and just a short phone call reaching out to them and letting them know that you care can go a long way.

Create/Update your Health Crisis Management Plan

If you do not already have a plan in place for managing a health crisis, now is the time to create one. If you do have a plan, chances are it did not account for a scenario like this, so you will probably need to revise it. This starts with creating a series of “what if” scenarios:

  • What if one of the attorneys or staff tests positive for the virus?
  • What if one of our vendors or service providers tests positive?
  • What if one of our clients tests positive?
  • What if one of our employees who is infected passes the virus to one of our clients?
  • Are we legally required to give paid leave to employees who test positive under the newly passed federal legislation? If not, should we pay them anyway?
  • What happens if one or more of the employees refuses to come to the office because they are concerned about their health?
  • What is our plan to survive if this crisis goes on for a while and things are shut down for an extended period of time?

You should also put together a plan for how to most effectively and efficiently work remotely if your office needs to. Bring together others in the firm and get everyone’s input on how best to handle this type of situation. Think about logistics, how you plan to secure the supplies you will need, and other important issues that will need to be addressed if everyone has to work from home.

Chances are, the current COVID 19 outbreak will not be the last global pandemic our country will have to deal with. By creating a comprehensive health crisis plan now, you will be able to learn valuable lessons from the current situation and be well-prepared the next time it happens.

Prepare for Future Challenges when the Crisis is Over

We are in uncharted territory, and none of us can predict with any degree of accuracy what our country and the world will look like after the COVID 19 crisis is over. But one thing we can be pretty sure of is that these events will trigger an economic recession. Will it be as bad as the banking collapse back in 2008? It could be, but hopefully it will be far less painful.

In times like these, the best approach is to prepare for the worst and assume that we are in for a sharp economic downturn when all of this is over. If that materializes, it could be more challenging to bring new cases into your firm. When consumers are struggling to meet their basic needs, they will be less willing to pay for legal services.

That’s the bad news. But there is a potential upside to all of this. After the coronavirus situation is over, there will be significant societal changes, and among them will be an accelerated trend of employees working from home and students learning from home. This means consumers will be spending even more of their time online, providing greater opportunities to reach legal consumers all in one place.

With this in mind, it is more important than ever for law firms to have a strong online presence. Your website is your most important digital property, and you must treat it as more than an electronic calling card. Your website should be attractive, dynamic, and engaging, and it should show perspective clients that you are an authority in your area(s) of practice.

Another thing that is very important with regards to your digital presence is the ability of prospective clients to find you. This is accomplished through an effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategy that includes regular ongoing legal content. You should also be actively engaging with consumers on Facebook and other social media platforms where they spend a great deal of their time.

There is a decent chance that things might be slower for your firm in the coming weeks and months. With less work on your plate, now would be a great time to assess your current web marketing strategy (if you have one) to determine if it is accomplishing what you want it to. If not, this is the time to make the needed changes. If you need help with any of this, feel free to reach out to us any time and let us know what we can do.

About Sundown Legal Marketing

Sundown Legal Marketing specializes in helping law firms review their current internet footprint, developing a comprehensive internet marketing plan and implementing every aspect of that plan. Contact us today for a free website evaluation and a no obligation assessment of your internet marketing plan. Call us today at (800) 864-1764 or online at Sundown Marketing.

A “How To” Guide on Building Trust

When someone is searching for an attorney, it means they need help with a legal issue that they cannot resolve on their own. They are looking for a lawyer who has the experience and skills to effectively deal with their issue, but more importantly, they are looking for a legal professional that they can trust.

Client relationships are built on a foundation of trust, and a successful firm is built on strong client relationships. Establishing trust from the outset is critical, because if a prospect does not believe you are trustworthy, they will just move on to the next lawyer on their list. Once you have convinced a prospect to retain your services, you need to deliver on what you promise, so you can maintain their trust.

Here are 7 ways that lawyers and law firms can earn the trust of clients and prospective clients:

  • Be Transparent

Whether it is on your website copy, blog content, newsletter, voicemail greeting, or however else you communicate with prospective clients, you should have a unified message across all communication platforms that is open, honest, and lets prospects know what you and your firm are all about.

Avoid any type of deception on your website or anywhere else. For example, if you have a chat box on your website that says, “answers to your questions”, make sure you are actually answering their questions, rather than just trying to sell them a consultation.

Also make sure to be transparent about your pricing. If you work on contingency, disclose that in your communications so they are assured that you will only take attorney fees if you win their case. If you charge a flat fee, try to give them some idea what it is. Fees are often based on a number of factors, such as the complexity of the case and how many hours you will be putting in. At the very least, give them a worst-case ballpark figure, so they know whether or not they can afford your services.

  • Show them Who You Are

One of the best ways to establish rapport with a client is to get them to see you as a human being, rather than just another lawyer. Post photos and detailed biographies of the attorneys and staff on your website that includes pictures of spouses, kids, etc. Talk about some of your personal interests and hobbies, your passions, why you got into law in the first place, maybe some charity work you are involved in, and other details that will help you connect with clients. It would also be a good idea to create some videos that allow you to speak directly to prospects and establish a personal connection with them before they even enter your office.

  • Show Them What You Can Do

A major part of establishing trust is showing your prospects that you can successfully handle cases like theirs. This is done in a number of ways. Of course, referrals are great, because you will have built in trust with a prospect who is referred by someone you have effectively represented in the past. Client testimonials can have a similar effect, especially those that are detailed and tell the prospect a story that they can relate to. Video testimonials are best for this.

Another way to show them what you can do is by creating detailed area of practice (AOP) pages and FAQ pages on your website, as well as blogging frequently about compelling topics that are related to your area of practice. Each AOP page should contain detailed information about a certain type of law you practice (e.g., car accidents, truck accidents, medical malpractice, divorce, business litigation, etc.), providing the reader a comprehensive overview of the topic and giving them a good idea of what to expect with this type of case. This type of content is written with authority and demonstrates your depth of knowledge in a particular practice area.

Somewhere on the AOP page, you should also highlight your experience and credentials and emphasize your ability to effectively represent prospects who need this type of legal help. Talk about the years of experience you have, verdicts and settlements you have secured, the way you approach these types of cases, and any other factors that distinguish you from others.

One word of caution – be careful about your language on your web pages, blogs, and other forms of online content. ABA guidelines prohibit attorney websites from using terms like “expert”, “specialist”, or anything else that implies that you are superior to other attorneys. You can, however, use terms like “experienced”, “skilled”, and “knowledgeable.” With some thought and care, you can craft digital content that highlights your strengths without breaking any of the rules.

  • Be Responsive

From the first time a prospect engages you, it is important to respond in a timely manner and continue to be responsive throughout the course of the client relationship. In the beginning, not responding quickly enough could cost you a potential client. Individuals who are looking for legal help typically narrow their choices down to a handful of attorneys and law firms that they decide to reach out to. And in many cases, the first one that gets back to them has an inside track toward earning their business. The best approach is to have a process in place that allows you or your office staff to connect with prospects quickly.

You should also have a commitment to get back to a client within a certain period of time. Even if you do not know the answer to their question, contact them anyway to let them know you are researching the issue and will get back to them as soon as you have an answer. Responsiveness goes a long way toward building trust with prospects and clients, so be sure to make this a high priority in your practice.

  • Be Friendly

When a prospect or client contacts your office, greet them warmly, be kind to them, and give them your attention. A client needs to know that you care and that you empathize with their situation, and the last thing you want to do is make them feel like they are interrupting something else that’s “more important”. When you are with a prospect or client, the best rule of thumb is to treat them like they are the most important person in the world.

Lawyers are busy, and there are always times when you are interrupted while you are with someone. When this happens and there is something else you must attend to, be apologetic and let them know you will be back with them as soon as you can. You value your time, and in fact, it may be worth several hundred dollars per hour when you are working in your client’s case. Their time is valuable too, so always be respectful of it and do everything you can to give them your full attention.

  • Set Proper Expectations

When you meet with a prospect about becoming a client, give them a good overview of the process and what they can expect if you end up taking their case. Make sure you give them realistic expectations and do not overpromise. People tend to feel much more at ease when they have a good idea ahead of time how a case is going to go, what will be required of them during the process, and the most likely outcome. Your client will appreciate knowing all of this, because it will help them mentally prepare for what is ahead.

  • Show Them that You are on Their Side

We talked earlier about empathizing with your client’s situation. This should come through in all of your communications, and you should do everything possible to convince them that you will be their strongest advocate. At the end of the day, this is what will be most important to a client.

As the saying goes, “they don’t care what you know until they know that you care”. If your client knows that you are on their side and fighting hard for their rights and interests, they will give you their full loyalty and trust. And just as importantly – they will also be far more likely to give you the highly coveted referral business you will need to help accelerate the growth of your practice.

About Sundown Legal Marketing

Sundown Legal Marketing specializes in helping law firms review their current internet footprint, developing a comprehensive internet marketing plan and implementing every aspect of that plan. Contact us today for a free website evaluation and a no obligation assessment of your internet marketing plan. Call us today at (800) 864-1764 or online at Sundown Marketing.