April 23, 2013 • Micah Buchdahl
In the 15 years or so that law firms have had websites, many developers in this space have come and gone. Truth be told, a number have found that dealing with lawyers can be exhausting. Others have stuck around and prospered, realizing that law firms are often willing to devote significant resources to online marketing.
I’ve enjoyed working with law firms on developing first, second, third, fourth and in some cases, fifth generation websites. As most readers of Web Marketing Today know all too well, the Internet is constantly evolving and what is right today may be wrong tomorrow. The developers that have survived and grown in the legal industry have done so by rolling with the punches and staying current.
With that in mind, this month I asked some of the more prominent developers of law firm websites to pick one from their arsenal that they are most proud of, and tell us why. In doing so, I’ve approached a few different styles of developers — both in terms of what they do and the type of law firm they focus on. For the reader — especially the law firm or professional service provider thinking about what it needs to do online next — this should provide some excellent case studies for consideration. At some point, I’ve interacted with all of these companies, either on a project or through reviewing proposals on behalf of a law firm. The purpose is not to rank, review, or critique, but simply to showcase a recent project. Notice a wide range of styles, formats, and strategies implemented by each of these companies. I was especially fascinated to see what each developer chose to highlight, when posed with the same inquiry.
The following are listed in random order. All have done some great work. While this certainly is not an all-inclusive list — I’ve worked with dozens, if not hundreds, since 1996 — my goal was to include some of the longer-term companies. If I were creating a request for proposal for a new law firm site today, I’d start by looking at the areas highlighted below by the companies themselves.
Inherent, based in San Francisco, has been around since 1993 — practically the beginning of websites — and has developed more than 300 law firm sites, with many in the midsize-to-large firm category.
The McElroy, Deutsch site is tablet and smartphone friendly.
The site it has chosen to highlight is for McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, with more than 300 lawyers in ten offices across seven states. Because McElroy, Deutsch is tech-savvy, it needed to make sure the website was tablet and smartphone friendly. That is certainly a capability that is critical, in 2013, for the end user. The home page utilizes an assortment of images, avoiding Flash. This is another area that has seen change in recent years: Flash simply does not fit into the design function for the type of information-focused site that law firms generally require. The data sections — attorney biographies, practices, industries, publications, events, and offices — have the option of cross-linking. The biographies offer tabbed content sections, rather than a one-page-fits-all resume or narrative. Among the other features of which Inherent is most proud includes:
Hover functionality allows visitors to sneak a glimpse at the attorneys, viewing each attorney’s photo and phone number before visiting their full biography page;
High-quality PDFs of the attorney, practice area and industry pages are available, created using up-to-date information from the content management system;
Vanity URLs are used throughout the site, improving the search engine optimization of the attorneys, practice areas, industries, publications, and office.
The printer-friendly page tool removes excess items, such as navigation, prior to printing, reducing wasted space on the printed page.
Founded in 1999, Duo Consulting is based in Chicago and has moved from being a website developer to more of a consultant for anything “online.” Duo points to the site for Freeborn & Peters, a Chicago-based law firm. The site focuses on industries served — not practice groups — which makes it unique.
The Freeborn & Peters site focuses on industries served, not practice groups.
According to Duo, Freeborn Chief Marketing Officer Ian Turvill inherited a site in 2011 without a lot of current content and with little social media compatibility. The new site development tied into a branding initiative. The uniquedesign allows small-device mobile visitors to be directed to a separate mobile style sheet.
Among the features that Duo highlights on the Freeborn website are as follows.
Unique gesture-based navigation. Most notable on the frontend is the unique side-to-side navigation. It is functional on desktops devices and, also, the site can be navigated entirely via hand gesture on hand-screen-sensitive devices.
Mobile optimized. Decisions related to the mobile and usability resulted in Duo’s creation of a mobile style sheet that emphasizes usability features such as “fat” buttons (for fat fingers), press-to-call phone numbers, mobile-friendly search functionality, and quick access to main menu functions (box with three lines is the universal icon for menu).
New attorney bios. Signaling good intentions to both upgrade and grow content, Turvill mandated a rewrite of all attorney bios. Each bio begins with a quote selected by the attorney that ties to the firm’s core values.
Read more at the link above and via Law Firm Websites: A Developer’s Review | Web Marketing Today.
July 2, 2013 • Andy Curry
When people come to your website they get their first impression about your business. What kind of impression is your site giving them?
If your site looks boring, unprofessional, confusing, or lifeless, then your business will receive the same impression. Thus, it’s important that your website looks good, works right, isn’t confusing, and most importantly, markets your business.
How can you tell if your site needs a facelift? One way is whether or not you’ve created a new look in the last five years. If you haven’t, there’s a good chance you need to do some website remodeling. Another good way to tell is to compare your website to your competitors’ sites and see how you stack up. You will likely be shocked at where you’re missing the boat if you simply spend an hour or two looking at competitors.
Consider the following examples. If you were looking for a dentist and knew nothing about these two dentists, whom would you call?
The first illustration is vibrant with color. Immediately, you know this dentist does dental implants, sleep dentistry, teeth straightening, and more. With the second example website, you have to click around the site or read a lot of text to find out the same thing. Normally, people aren’t going to do that.
Furthermore, I get the impression the first dentist is up with the times. Therefore, he’ll probably be very careful and not hurt me when he works on my teeth. I also get the impression his practice is clean, fun, and professional. I do not get that impression with the second site.
Next, as you review competitor websites, you may stumble on a great idea that could get you a significant increase in customers.
Check Time on Site
What’s more, be careful about the assumptions you make about how people are interacting with your website. People are in a hurry these days. They seem to feel like they need to make a quick decision and they don’t have time to read all your information. Just because you think what you have to say is important does not mean your potential customer will see it that way. If you want to test this point for yourself, check your analytics and track how much time people spend on your website. You will be shocked at how little time people spend on your pages. And if you really take a few minutes to look at your analytics, you’ll see where people spend most of their time when they go to your site. If you have an About Us page and a Testimonials page, check your analytics. You will likely find people spend a lot of time on those pages. That said, it makes sense to put a lot of time, thought, and marketing on your most popular pages.
Give careful thought and planning to the pages where people spend most of their time. Make those pages attractive with eye-pleasing colors. Don’t crowd pages with text people won’t care about. Ask yourself what you think customers would want to know. Stay away from the classic trap of what you think people want to know. For example, when people are searching for you online, one of the first things they want to know is what your phone number is because they’re ready to make contact. While this seems obvious, I have seen many sites where I had to hunt for the phone number. Most people won’t do this. The easier you make it for potential customers to contact you, the more business you can get.
The next thing people want to know is your address — where you’re located. They’re formulating in their mind how long it’ll take to get to you and whether it’s too far away. Although this seems trivial, I’ve discovered them through lots of testing.
Read more at link above, or via Time to Revamp your Local Website? | Web Marketing Today.
As search engines get better at understanding human behavior, winning their attention has become less about tricks and schemes, and more about delivering solid user experiences.
As a result, the business-owner-as-SEO (search engine optimizer) should get comfortable playing four different roles: webmaster, journalist, social media manager, and conversion analyst. In this article, I explain what each role entails and the reasons why you should fill them.
Getting your website set up according to search engine best practices has the greatest potential for search impact and should be the cornerstone of any search engine optimization strategy.
This involves four aspects:
These are only a few key on-page optimization factors to consider. Being able to address these issues quickly is an essential webmaster skill. Fortunately, all of these elements are easily manageable through most website content management systems commonly used by small business owners.
SEOs must source and publish compelling, search-friendly content that motivates users to take action.
Content marketing can accomplish a great deal for your small business in terms of helping you rank better in search engines, and there’s no one better to create it than you, the business owner.
Whether you, someone you employ, or a freelance writer is the one doing the writing, it is critical that you include regular web content updates in your digital marketing plan.
So, if we are writing web content to further marketing objectives, why the comparison to journalism? The answer lies in the type of writing that characterizes content marketing.
Many small businesses fail to realize that the point of content marketing is not to promote their business by writing about products and services over and over again. That type of content does not engage, solve a problem, or keep people coming back for more.
Instead, when business owners act as both an objective information source and reporter, their insights provide greater value to prospective customers. Make your blog posts, articles, and other content the solutions to your customers’ problems, and they will thank you with their business.
Read more at the link above~~
Chances are that if you’re running a public facing blog, you’re probably happiest when someone actually reads it. Preferably lots of someones. Your blog’s stats can give you some great ways to get to know a little bit more about your readers, and what it is about your work that most attracts them.
While the more liberal artsy types among us might shoo off the idea of obsessively stat trawling as something for the more scientifically inclined, there’s actually something for everyone lurking just beneath the surface, whether that’s inspiration or cold, hard logic. If you want people to read your blog, making use of your stats can give you an arsenal of information to help make that happen. In our Stats Wrangling series, we’ll be digging in to how to get to grips with your blog stats, one module at a time. But in today’s post, we’ll start with a whirlwind tour of the whole works.
The first thing you’ll want to do is to head to the Stats tab of WordPress.com, once you’ve logged in. That’s going to take you to the fifty mile view, the big picture, of what’s happening on your blog right now, in terms of the people visiting and reading it.
From up on high you can get a nice overview of what’s currently “trending”, or most of interest to the people visiting your blog. And that can give you some ideas in and of itself. But to get right down to business, you’ll want to dig into the different sections of your stats, and click through the “summary” sections, where a lot more information lurks.
Some of you out there may find this Google Analytics feature overview to be mostly review. That’s awesome! That means you’re really taking ownership of your data. However, if you’ve never used any of these features, only experimented with them a little, or aren’t sure you’re using them correctly, you should read on.
From the time you set up your account and put your tracking code on your site, Google Analytics, starts to capture and display a lot of data.
But the one thing Google Analytics doesn’t know right out of the box is your business and the definition of a successful transaction or interaction on your website. By itself, the data doesn’t tell a story, or answer the detailed questions about your visitors without help from you.
Some of the questions basic GA data doesn’t answer by itself:
Adding features like Demographics & Interests, and Ecommerce can help you see more about who your visitors are, the products you’re successfully selling, and how much revenue you’re earning.
But there are three features of Google Analytics that really help you answer these questions (and many others) in a nuanced and detailed way:
When used properly, they can add meaning to your data, and transform it from flat tables of numbers to a story of how visitors are interacting with your website.
Armed with these details, you can making more educated decisions about how to serve your audience.
Several years ago at An Event Apart conference I had the privilege of seeing Jared Spool speak about user experience, and one of the things that really stuck with me was the idea that in many cases, alphabetical order is the same as no order at all.
What? Really? “No order at all?”
Yes. It’s a common default way of ordering information, but what makes alphabetical order weak is that it may not take into account important context cues that make the data meaningful to the person viewing the list.
In the case of looking at numerical data, a similar principle can be applied: sometimes looking at all the data is just as good as looking at no data at all.
Or, as it was captured in a quote from this year’s MeasureFest:
Segmenting your data is one huge step forward in discovering who, out of your counted visitors, are really the visitors who count.
You can look at your landing page report and see that your home page is the most popular landing page of your entire site. You can even see that it’s the highest converting page in terms of volume of conversions.
Looking at all the data in the default view, you could infer that your home page is the absolute most important page for getting conversions on your entire site.
But you could guess that without ever looking at the numbers, because it’s fairly common for home pages to be the first step involved in the user experience. So you’re left with your #1 page for traffic and conversions as a basically meaningless “no shit” statistic.
So how do we make that data more meaningful?
Read more at the link above~~
After Google’s most recent local algorithm update, the rules have changed for local SEO. Columnist Greg Gifford discusses how you can do well in local search in 2015.
Greg Gifford on November 10, 2014
The year is almost over, and many businesses are starting to look forward to 2015 and discuss their marketing plans. Luckily, David Mihm, the local search guru at Moz, just released his annual Local Search Ranking Factors survey, which helps give us local marketers more insight into which ranking factors matter the most.
The survey shows a definite shift toward more traditional web ranking factors. Last year’s Local Search Ranking Factors survey had Google Places and Citations weighted heavily, but this year’s study shows that on-site signals and links are the most powerful factors.
This shift is consistent with Google’s recent local ranking algorithm update, Pigeon. Many Local SEOs claimed they weren’t hit by Pigeon – but it’s more likely that, because they took a more wholesome approach to local SEO, their sites simply had more authority to begin with.
The most important point we try to hammer home to potential clients is that you can’t fool the nerds at Google. Everything you do, both on and off your site, should be working toward the end goal of making your user experience awesome… not trying to fool Google into placing you higher on search results pages.
So, taking what we’ve been able to figure out about the Pigeon update and adding in the results from the 2014 Local Search Ranking Factors survey, here are two simple tips to help you set the stage for Local Search success in 2015:
Yes, it’s really that simple… but at the same time, it’s really not that easy for local businesses. Take a look at your competitors in your vertical – nearly every website has the same or similar content, and most sites don’t have that many inbound links.
Read more at link above~
OCTOBER 20, 2014 • KEVIN WEBSTER
If you’re a one-person company, or have a team of just two or three people, it may seem that using web analytics to fuel your business is a time consuming distraction rather than a sound use of valuable hours.
However, if you have invested significant time and money in your website, and in online or offline advertising, you should track results to maximize your return on investment.
For certain, you need to be smart about how you go about using web analytics. Like anything else involving data, charts, and graphs, it can be very time consuming. Cutting the wheat from the chaff is an important concept here, and creating the right reports to look at weekly is critical.
The questions you might be asking are “Why is this important?” and “How is this a better use of my time than another marketing activity?”
Read more at link above~~
Merely looking at graphs and numbers in Google Analytics for today, this week, or this month won’t tell an entire story. It will simply give you a glimpse of your current performance.
To really analyze in depth, add context. One of the simplest ways to do this is by comparing two similar periods of time. By comparing and contrasting, you are trend spotting, and that is the real detective work.
This Week vs. Last Week
This is one of the most important comparisons to make when you are actively making content or layout changes on your website. It’s a small enough sample size that you can visualize a minor move, up or down, in conversion rates and traffic patterns.
It also allows for you to get a very precise comparison if your business is affected by days of the week, such as a B-to-B organization that is closed on the weekends. If we select this Sunday through Saturday, and compare it to last Sunday through Saturday, you will account for all the typical variations in our web traffic. For short term changes, look for the following.
There are actions you take that can affect not only how much web traffic you receive, but the value of that traffic, and the content that the traffic consumes.
These could be local festivals near your physical store, or trade show attending by your sales and marketing teams.
For example, let’s assume your team went to a trade show to promote a new product. A meaningful timeframe comparison is the day of the trade show and after, compared to the same number of days before the trade show. Specifically, if the trade show was May 1, and today is May 13, we’d compare those 13 days to the thirteen days before.
Here are some things to look for.
These would all be good indicators that your product was well received, and that your sales and marketing teams did an effective job promoting it at the trade show.
In the case of a local business, it’s sometimes more meaningful to look at overall traffic volume compared to specific conversions and inquiries. However, a few things that might indicate greater name recognition because of walk by traffic at, say, a festival.
This is another effective comparison. Holidays, weekends, and annual events that take place at roughly the same time each year are all included in the analysis.
This comparison looks at the overall growth of monthly web traffic versus last year. This is a high level review of the results of your web marketing efforts, looking at the following items.
If you looking at one time period, you’re only looking at numbers. When you compare time periods, you are beginning to do real web analytics.
By adding historical context to measurements, you are fostering discussion with your internal team and contractors, or you are beginning an internal dialogue that can lead to better insights.
November 12, 2013 • Kunle Campbell
My first car was a battered 12-year-old Volkswagen Passat. It broke down countless times and each repair was expensive for the poor student that I was. In a bid to reduce the escalating repair bills, I started to learn how cars worked by reading, researching, and asking others to teach me a thing or two. After a few months, I knew about carburetors, fuse boxes, alternators, and even how to replace a car’s kick-starter. It saved me a fortune. I then only used mechanics for major engine issues beyond my basic scope.
As a small or mid-sized business, hiring a quality search-engine-optimization consultant or agency can be expensive and a painstakingly tricky terrain to navigate. Guiding and effectively managing SEO consultants is equally challenging. What questions do you ask them? What tactics are working? How were results achieved?
Here are 10 do-it-yourself SEO tips that business owners or marketing managers can try before hiring an SEO agency or consultant.
Having an offline, real-world understanding of your market and target customers is only half the story. Habits and behavior often differ online in comparison to the offline world. A prominent offline presence does not equate to a dominant online presence. A leading national store that stocks and sells curtains and blinds, for instance, might have much tougher competition from online-only curtain and blind retailers.
Search online for products and services you offer and take note of the most prominent websites. Study their customer reviews and benchmark their social media presence and activity. You will likely find businesses you have not come across.
You probably understand your industry jargon and are aware that your customers might use different terms than your trade colleagues to refer to your services or goods. The process of keyword research provides a rounded understanding of key phrases, search terms, and also online demand for products or services.
All business owners and managers intending to market online should know how to run keyword research.
Also understand your industry’s head key-phrases (general and highest search volume) and long-tail key-phrases (varied and more specific key phrases usually over four words).
Consider printing out and sticking your keyword research on a notice board as a constant reminder of your online focus.
Now that you have an understanding of the most searched keywords and the most relevant long-tail words, you should have an idea of what pages on your website address those search queries.
Having a list on paper or a spreadsheet of all top, mid, and low-tier web pages and their corresponding keyword focus forms the basis of your website’s architecture. Each high and medium priority keyword from your keyword research should have a corresponding page on your site.
Long-tail keywords should be used in blog posts and FAQs.
Now that you have an idea of the pages that should be on your site, the next step is to build the best site in your industry with the help of a professional web designer or agency and with user-testing focus groups.
Google’s head of web spam, Matt Cutts, advises site owners to build great websites that users love and want to tell their friends about — sites that users visit over and over again. Any website built in 2013 should be mobile responsive to cater for smart phone browsers. WordPress is terrific for most small and mid-sized businesses due to its simplicity, flexibility, support, in-built SEO features, and access to a vast library of free and premium plugins.
You don’t have to start a blog, but start publishing your own content on a scheduled basis. I am not advocating turning your business into a publishing company by posting content every day. Scheduling weekly, bi-weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly updates is my recommendation — consistency is key. Also bear in mind that content does not necessarily need to be text — for example, an architectural firm could publish professionally taken photographs of its projects or Realtors could publish weekly video bulletins. Publishing content that is tailored to the content consumption habits of your target audience is the goal.
Join Google+ and then figure out one or two other social media platforms to hone in on. You have lots of options to choose from, like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and more. Social media enables you connect with your customers, publishers, and an audience for the content that you produce. Understanding and nurturing these relationships would swiftly produce results and help your SEO in the long run.
Public relations plays a key role in off-page SEO. You should know how to:
Have a basic understanding of Google Analytics. Understand the type of reports each Google Analytics tab covers — Audience, Acquisition, Behavior, Conversions, and Real-Time.
This will help you appreciate the concept of traffic and its sources as well as let you read monthly or weekly reports provided to you by your SEO or web design agency.
The importance of analytics in digital marketing is akin to financial reports in accounting.
Familiarize yourself with SEO by reading a factual SEO guide and then subscribing to an SEO blog — time permitting. Here are my key recommendations.
Anytime you are stuck or need answers, jump into SEO communities to ask questions. Google’s Webmaster Forum offers the largest SEO community on the web. Another good community is the Webmaster World Forum. Others I recommend are Moz’s Q&A Forum, SEOChat — which is where I started learning about SEO, SEO Round Table, and Search Engine Watch Forum.
These communities are also good places for hiring SEO consultants or agencies.
I hope these 10 steps help you save money, get better rankings, and avoid being ripped off. They could also help you become a better SEO client by asking the right questions and utilizing the agency or consultant you hire to its fullest potential.