By Scott S. Smith, California Business Journal.
As smart as most attorneys are, they often can be scammed by those who claim to be digital marketing experts who can guarantee they will get the firm’s website on page one of results from search engine searches by potential clients.
“There are a lot of sharks swimming in the search-engine optimization [SEO] space because it is somewhat mysterious and those of us who work in it have to use our experience and make educated guesses about Google’s ever-changing requirements to get a site ranked high when a topic is searched,” says Doug Bradley, president of Everest Legal Marketing, LLC., specifically created to serve lawyers.
“Every attorney tells me that they never had any course on marketing in law school, so they want to be able to trust the specialists and get back to what they know. Organic results from investing in this take time and anyone who promises otherwise is either using the technical tricks that might be frowned on by Google or they’re not being honest.”
They’ll ride the arrangement as long as they can and if the firm pushes them too hard for better results, “their attitude is likely to be, ‘since you’re not patient enough for this, we’re terminating the contract,’ sometimes taking the new website they created and its content with them,” Bradley explains.
About a third of the agencies offering SEO services to lawyers do a credible job, Bradley says. “The rest,” he adds, “overpromise and under-deliver, usually because they have little experience working with lawyers or knowledge of the law.”
Like most successful entrepreneurs, Bradley learned lessons about how to excel in this field — the hands-on way. “I got my first car when I was 16 and it was a piece of crap,” he recalls. “I didn’t have money so I did all the work myself, with a lot of bloody knuckles and frustration, but I got really good at it. This has been a theme throughout my career.”
He double-majored in business administration and broadcasting at the University of La Verne, while holding a full-time and a part-time job, earning enough to purchase his first home with his wife. “The process-built character and my work ethic, which I wouldn’t trade for anything,” he says.
After learning about sales success — and rejection — selling yellow page ads, the Great Recession made him realize their days were numbered, so he took a job with Lawyers.com. Within two years, he turned around a failing territory and had learned about SEO and content marketing for attorneys.
When that site was bought in 2013, Bradley — and 200 others — were laid off, so he went to work for a bankruptcy restructuring service company. “I learned a lot, but this wasn’t in line with my long-term goals, so my wife and I decided to take a giant leap.” They launched Bradley SEO Marketing in January of 2017, which is now incorporated as Everest Legal Marketing.
Google gives preference to articles and blogs that have in-depth and educational original content, which cannot be found on other sites. With human moderators and through the miracle of artificial intelligence, Google bots can determine whether something is well-written and authoritative, a serious problem for those who hire inexpensive writers in other countries. Bradley posts blogs written by retired attorneys or paralegals that are 700-800 words.
“It is possible to get a high ranking with a 300-400-word blog in rural cities, but in L.A. or San Francisco you are competing against others posting 1,000 words on a topic,” he says.
For viewers who might not want to read a long article, a blog can provide links to more in-depth articles on the attorney’s website, which receives a positive credit in the SEO ranking score. An SEO expert will be able to incorporate the right “keywords” (single words or short phrases that often appear in searches on a topic) to be discovered by the right readers.
“You can find popular blog topics by thinking about questions someone might be researching, such as “how do I know if I have a medical malpractice case?” or “do I need a lawyer to guide me through the probate process?” But you need an overall strategy that ties these together, rather than just answering questions that are topically all over the place, in order to generate productive leads,” Bradley says.
Additional, law-related blogs should not overwhelm the potential client with too much textual detail. “Break a general subject down into different sub-topics for blogging,” Bradley says. “In each one, whet the appetite of the reader with answers that show you are an expert, without making them feel they know enough that they really don’t need you.”
Other ways that a law firm can increase Google’s assessment of its credibility as an authoritative source is with profiles in legal directories, reviews by independent organizations, client testimonials, backlinks from prestigious firms or resources, and articles in legal publications.
Even large practices that do most of their own website management and content production often farm out these aspects to agencies like Bradley’s — there are hundreds of directories for legal specialties where potential clients might search). They will also outsource other time-consuming tasks like posting on social media — mostly LinkedIn for referrals and Facebook for consumer-oriented practices — and email marketing, which tends to be under-appreciated as a way to directly reach a target demographic.
“Having a website that can be found by potential clients and not just sit in the background,” Bradley say, “is the key to marketing success.”
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