A 301 Redirect Can Be A Valuable Tool, But When Should You Use One

A 301 redirect is a useful feature whereby you can forward one page to another page, and it is often used for new websites that have new URLs for the same pages. For example, the old domain might have had something like:

Domain.com/car-accident-lawyer

And the new domain might be something like:

Domain.com/car-accidents

Notice that the domain is the same, but the directory has changed from /car-accident-lawyer to /car-accidents. In this case, most SEO professionals will just add a 301 redirect on the old page to forward to the new page.

This may be the most widely misused SEO tactic of all, because this is an incorrect use of the 301 redirect.

A 301 redirect should only be used as a last resort, which means there are usually only two instances where you should use them:

  1. In the case of page consolidation after keyword mapping. This is where you are consolidating pages that have the same keyword focus, to make one page more potent as opposed to having 5 weak pages about the same keyword, you consolidate them into one page that has more potential to rank.
  2. In the case of a referring domain that you don’t have control over. Let’s say you have found a backlink pointing to your site, but the page that it points to is incorrect, or no longer exists. In this case, the backlink is pointing to your-domain.com/old-page. If this page no longer exists, and you cannot get a hold of the webmaster of the referring domain to change the backlink to the existing domain, you would add a 301 redirect from /old-page to /new-page.

How NOT to Use 301 Redirects

Most SEOs approach a new website build with a simple strategy: give me a list of all the old pages, and a list of all the corresponding new pages, and I will just add a 301 redirect from the old pages to the new pages. That’s it. Then you go home and have dinner.

Wrong. That strategy will almost always guarantee a loss of organic traffic.

What should you do?

You should work with the web developer to keep all the URLS the same from the old site to the new site. In other words, all the pages on the new site should have the same URLs as the pages on the old site. The /car-accident-lawyer page on the old site should be /car-accident-lawyer on the new site. Again, only use 301 redirects for deleted pages, and for backlinks from referring sites that you have no control over.

Why is This Important?

John Mueller of Google has said to make sure all your links are direct links. This means you have no excuse to be using 301 redirects for internal links. You have control over your entire website, use direct links for your internal links. If you use 301s as a cure-all for SEO, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

Case Study:
In 2017, we gave a client a new website. Back then I still had not read John Mueller’s tweet about using direct links, and while optimizing the client’s new website, I used 301 redirects across the board.

 

Here’s the organic traffic response:

 

By contrast, fast-forward to 2020 for the latest website revamp. By this time, I had seen Mueller’s advice, and took it. All the pages were exactly the same on the old as well as the new website, and therefore I used no 301 redirects for this new website.

Here’s the organic traffic response:

As we can see, not only did we not lose organic traffic with this new website launch, we gained organic traffic. How often can an SEO say that he gained organic traffic after a new website launch? The trick is to keep all your URLs the same.

Why Does this Strategy Work?

The science behind this strategy is all about backlinks. Whatever backlinks your website accumulates, if they are being redirected, they don’t have the same “link juice” as direct backlinks. I know there have been many articles written about this subject, but the results don’t lie.

Neither did John Mueller, apparently, because I have taken this strategy and applied it to websites that have not had new launches. In other words, I am scanning all my websites’ backlinks, and if I see that any of them are pointing to the old “http” version, I reach out to the webmaster of the referring website and ask that he update the backlink to the new “https” version of the website. What does this do? It eliminates the redirect, thus making that backlink more powerful.

Contact Sundown Marketing Group For All Of Your SEO Needs

If you are considering a new website and need SEO help to retain your website traffic, contact Sundown Marketing Group for assistance. We have helped dozens of local businesses launch their new websites, and we know what works, as well as what doesn’t work. Call us today at (800) 649-1762 or via our website contact form to schedule your free consultation!

A Slow Loading Website Can Destroy Your Web Marketing Program

No matter how compelling the message is on your law firm’s website, you are going to have a difficult time turning potential clients into actual clients if your website pages load too slowly. When a prospect gets frustrated waiting for your page to load or cannot find you online at all due to poor rankings, they are going to go someplace else to solve their legal matter, most likely hiring one of your competitors.

Some lawyers do not want to be bothered with the technical aspects of their online presence but ignoring page load speed could be disastrous for your business. Here is what you need to know about page load speed, why it’s so critical, how you can check it, and some tips for making your site lightning fast so that you can get better results.

What Is Page Load Speed?

Simply put, page load speed is how fast the content on your law firm’s website loads. Also referred to as “page load time,” this is the time that it takes to fully display the content on one of your site’s specific pages after it gets a click.

Why Page Load Speed is Vital for Your Law Firm Website

Many law firms understandably use their website to build awareness around their brand and gather new leads from potential clients.

According to statistics collected by The National Law Review, 94% of people that need legal advice use a search engine. And 62% of legal-related searches are non-branded, meaning a client hasn’t selected an attorney but is searching for something along the lines of a “divorce attorney near me” or a “personal injury lawyer in Alabama.”

So, people are overwhelmingly looking for legal help online. But what does this have to do with the speed of your website? The important thing to understand is that page load speed matters for several reasons:

Page Speed and the User Experience

When you think about page speed, your first consideration should be the user experience. If your page loads so slowly that a visitor forgot why they were coming to check you out, they are going to hit the “back” button and contact another law firm.

If you claim to be a knowledgeable attorney that cares about the needs of its clients and then makes them work to get information from your website, you’re not sending a consistent message.

Page Speed Impacts Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

One of Google’s greatest concerns when analyzing websites is user experience, and they have designed their algorithm to reflect this. When you have a high bounce rate, a slow page slow speed, or both, Google is going to punish your site with lower search engine rankings.

This is old news. Back in 2010, Google announced that page speed was a ranking signal for desktop searches, and it became a ranking factor for mobile searches in 2018. Mobile is particularly important because now more than half of all searches take place on a mobile device. The bottom line is that your website should be as fast as possible, both on desktop and mobile.

Page Speed Drives Your Business Results

If you think about it, higher search engine rankings mean more people will see your brand and visit your website as potential leads. If your page loads too slowly, people will leave, and your bottom line results will suffer.

According to Kissmetrics, just under half (40%) of consumers will abandon a webpage that takes longer than 3 seconds to load. And only a 1-second delay in page load time can translate into a 7% reduction in leads, losing your firm valuable business.

How Can You Check Page Load Speed?

If you want a numerical value to use as a gauge, you should be aiming for a website that loads in under 3 seconds. There are a variety of tools you can use to see how fast your law firm website loads. It is a good idea to make use of several of them and test your site periodically.

A good starting point is Google’s own tool, called PageSpeed Insights. It is a free tool that analyzes your page and gives you a grade. Beyond this, it provides suggestions for ways that you can improve your page load speed.

Another tool you can try is called Pingdom. This feature-rich tool allows you to specify the page you want to test as well as some other parameters, such as the country and type of device (desktop or mobile). This tool will also give you a detailed analysis with performance insights and suggestions for your page.

Tips for Speeding Up Your Law Firm Website

As with anything else online, the way web pages load is a bit technical. But most internet users don’t have to deal with what is going on behind the scenes. While you want to inform your visitors and deliver a positive experience, some of the information you load onto your site might slow it down.

The good news is that there are a few things you can do to overcome this digital marketing Catch-22 situation. Here are some of the top ways to speed up your law firm’s website:

  • Large files – Images, videos, and other large files take an eternity to load into a browser. You can address this with image compression, caching, and the use of a content delivery network (CDN).
  • Plugins, apps, widgets, and themes– These items can be inefficient and slow down your page, so they should be used selectively and sparingly. Caching and minification can help improve your results.
  • Slow servers– You need the right web hosting provider and type of hosting to handle your traffic.

When it comes to law firm digital marketing, there are plenty of items on your plate. Not only do you have to make sure that your website loads quickly and is easy to use, but that it also contains engaging content that will convert visitors into clients. Tackling all of this on your own is possible, but you will get better results by working with a specialist just as your clients will when they hire your firm for their legal issues.

Sundown Legal Marketing specializes in helping law firms maximize their digital marketing potential. We review your current online properties, develop a strategic plan for improvement, and execute those ideas to help you get the best results possible. Contact us today for a free assessment by calling (800) 864-1764 or reaching out to us online.

How do you know where you are going, if you have no idea where you’ve been?

When you launch a new digital marketing strategy for your law firm, it’s important to know what kind of impact your efforts are making. Digital analytics can deliver a wealth of information about the effectiveness of your program as well as give you the tools to help you make better business decisions in the future.

Any law firm that cares about its online presence should also be familiar with Google Analytics. This tool allows your firm to track and analyze every detail of its website’s activity. Here is why using Google Analytics is vital, and some of the ways you can leverage different indicators to track your performance.

Why Legal Marketing Analytics Matter

Google Analytics is a free web analytics service that can help you shape the success strategy of your business. All you need to do to use the service is to set up your account and copy a simple piece of code onto your website. The system will immediately begin collecting valuable data.

The data you get from Google Analytics allows you to measure, analyze, and manage the performance of your online marketing efforts in real-time. In fact, there’s so much data available that it might be overwhelming if you don’t know how to customize it to meet your needs.

What Your Law Firm Can Learn from Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a vital digital marketing tool, but one that is seriously underused by most law firms. It allows you to measure the results of specific advertising campaigns, as well as the performance of your website and SEO efforts. Here are some of the things your firm can learn from Google Analytics:

  1. Get to Know Your Visitors

When it comes to making business decisions, your firm likely wants to optimize the client experience so that it is as rewarding as possible. You’ll have a better chance of success if you can form a detailed picture of your site’s typical visitors and what they are doing while visiting your site. Some of the information you can extract includes:

  • Demographics— When you know what gender and age groups the largest sections of your audience belong to, you can customize your site to make it more useful to them.
  • Language and location— For the purposes of local search, where are most of your site’s visitors located? Do any require bilingual services?
  • Device breakdown— If a large portion of your site’s visitors are using mobile devices, this underscores the necessity for making all of your online content mobile-friendly.
  1. Identify Your Best Content

Google Analytics can show you which pages on your website get the most visits. You can drill down to the average time spent on each page, and the bounce rate for a page, so that you can optimize it for better engagement and create similar content that will bring in more visitors. Likewise, you can figure out what content doesn’t resonate with your audience so that you can focus your marketing dollars more effectively.

  1. It Helps Your Site’s SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an essential part of any online marketing strategy and something that can drive business growth. If your law firm can achieve more organic (free) traffic to its site, it will also get more new clients.

Google Analytics can help your SEO efforts in a variety of ways. Some of the key performance indicators (KPIs) that help with SEO include:

  • Website Traffic— You can monitor raw numbers and trends in website traffic, such as the total number of impressions and clicks, as well as the time spent on a page.
  • Bounce Rates— Not every visit is a quality one. If a visitor comes to a page and then immediately leaves, you might want to revisit your content to make it more engaging and ensure that what is on the page matches the title and meta description.
  • Top Search Terms— What are the top search terms that bring visitors to your website? Are these terms that convert to clients? If so, you can build more content around them.
  1. Track Top Referral Sources

If your firm is getting its traffic and conversions primarily from one or two sources, you probably want to identify those and leverage them for additional business. Through Google Analytics, you can determine the top sources of your traffic in several ways:

  • Traffic Channels— Google Analytics can tell you the percentage of your traffic that comes from organic search, direct, referral, display, and social media sources. If you are paying for traffic, such as with Pay Per Click (PPC) ads, you can use this data to determine your Cost Per Lead.
  • Specific Sources— Beyond a traffic channel, such as social media, you can also pinpoint specific sources of traffic. For example, if you get a lot of traffic from Facebook or Twitter, it might be worth stepping up your social media marketing efforts on those platforms.
  1. Analyze Audience Behavior

When a potential client reaches your site, what do they do next? Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be a mystery. Google Analytics can track each visitor’s behavior and give you insight into areas that you are doing well and some opportunities for improvement. Some KPIs include:

  • Exit Pages— We already discussed Bounce Rates, but Exit Pages tell you the pages that were the last ones visited before a person left your site.
  • Sequence Segments— You can also analyze the path that visitors take through your site to see which pages they visit and measure conversions based on those paths.
  • Return Visit Behavior— Google Analytics can track the behavior of returning visitors to your site and tell you if these visits lead to higher or lower conversion rates.

Does Your Law Firm Need Help With Digital Marketing?

Most attorneys didn’t go into business or start their firm to build websites or concern themselves with online marketing campaigns. You should focus on the practice of law and serving the needs of your clients, while trusting an experienced legal marketing agency to work on improving your digital footprint, improving your online reputation and driving prospective clients to your firm.

Sundown Legal Marketing has years of experience in the digital legal marketing space and specializes in helping lawyers grow their firms through increased online visibility. Contact us today at (800) 864-1764 or reach us online for a free website and marketing evaluation.

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.

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.