Getting Started With Your Law Firm Website


I got a question yesterday from a lawyer who did not have a website for his firm, and was thinking about doing it on his own. But he was intimidated about getting started, and how much work it is do develop quality content. Specifically, he got the impression from one of the big legal marketing companies he’d spoken with that if he didn’t have a fully-formed, large, content rich site when he launched, he would be “penalized”, and it would be somehow worse than doing nothing.

But that is just not true. Yes, developing a great site can be a daunting task. But starting small is completely fine, and if you are doing it all on your own, it makes complete sense.

What is true, is that there can take a while for a site, even a good one, to gain traction in the search engines. But if you have 3 decent pages of good content, then get them up on the web! There is no time like the present.

And as the site ages, Google will gradually recognize your site as a legitimate resource. Which means content you add later will have more credibility, and rank faster.

A slow rollout of even a page a month is not a bad idea if that’s all you think you can handle. Or just write an occasional blog post on a topical subject relevant to your practice.

The key is, that whatever you publish, make it a worthwhile, and unique.

Don’t Create Filler Pages

What you don’t want to do is create a lot of very repetitive pages with only a few sentences or a paragraph that is unique, and the rest is boilerplate filler. That is a waste of time, and Google will potentially penalize or devalue your entire site.

And certainly don’t put up 50 bank pages with a one line subject, and Coming Soon! Wait until you’ve got something written to actually post it.

Do It Now!

WordPress and other content management systems make it easy for non-techy people to build their own sites. A little DIY hustle and a lot of passion can be surprisingly effective.

Sure, there are pitfalls, and mistakes you may make. Getting some SEO advice from someone you trust can be invaluable. But something is always better than nothing.

Posted by dave on Tuesday, June 7th, 2011 at 10:56 am and is filed under leads. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Lawyer Lead Pricing


I saw a question on a forum about how to price leads to customers, which got me thinking about all the factors and misconception that goes into pricing.

Misconception 1: Leads for lawyers are expensive! They will pay $80 just to click on Mesothelioma ads and $25/click for DUI ads! Certainly the price for an actual customer lead must be a significant multiple of that.

Well, no, it’s not quite that simple. Those extreme cases at the high end of the market are not representative of most lawyer leads.

All lawyer leads are not created equal. While some leads are incredibly valuable, since they can lead to 5 and 6 figure cases, like mesothelioma, serious personal injury, and medical malpractice, the majority of leads are for more mundane, lower level cases. Hiring a lawyer for bankruptcies and traffic ticket cases may only lead to legal fees from a couple thousand down to a few hundred dollars.

I am also skeptical that most firms can actually turn a profit on $25/click DUI ads. Converting 20% of clicks to leads would be extremely good, which would make it $125/lead. Then converting 10% of leads into clients is probably average, making the cost per client acquisition $1250.

A DUI case can run for anywhere from $1000-$5000. Maybe more for a multiple offense felony trial, but most DUI cases are pleas, and are on the low end of that fee range. So unless a law firm has very high close rates at high fees, I don’t believe they can make a profit paying $25 a click or more.

Misconception 2: Lawyer leads are like lead in other industries and verticles.

Not true.  In most retail or service industries, the  customer lifetime value metric is an important part of the value of the lead. But most legal services are for a one time need, so this does not apply. While getting a customer to your store, or a client for your landscaping company many yield future purchases or years of payments, attorney leads have little value beyond the immediate legal need of the client.

Pricing Leads

Determining a fair price for leads is a complicated matter. It depends on so many factors, the quality of the leads, the exact type of inquiry, and the average fee of the case closed. There may be significant regional differences, too. The same lead in San Francisco is probably a lot more valuable than one in St. Louis.

One thing that is always true however, is that the clients who are the best at sales will value your leads the most. So working with great partners who work the leads effectively and know how to sell to customers is extremely important.

Finally, maximizing lead prices is not always the best strategy. To keep happy clients, I believe you don’t want to charge a rate too high and too close to their point of pain where they are barely making it work. There will always be occasional bad run of lead closing, and you don’t want the person to doubt whether it is worth it.

There is a lot to be said for working with a client who will be happy to pay for years to come with a minimum of hassle.

If you are a lead vendor, you also want to consider the cost of finding a buyer. Churning clients can be a major problem, depending on how good your sales process is.

For myself, I’d rather make a little less per lead and focus my efforts on generating more leads with a clients who are happy to pay, then to squeeze every last cent out of every lead.

More on what lawyer leads cost.

Posted by dave on Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 at 10:51 pm and is filed under leads. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

How to Write High Quality Legal Copy for the Web


A lawyer may be superb at cross-examination but may not necessarily excel at writing legal copy. Some law firms outsource their legal copy writing to companies who understand what constitutes success on the Internet and how to attract new clients to these law firms. If outsourcing is not in the budget or if a law firm or solo practitioner wants to create their own web copy, certain fundamental rules must be followed.

read more

Posted by dave on Thursday, September 9th, 2010 at 5:37 pm and is filed under seo. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Legal Marketing Offer Overload


I get at least 3-5 legal marketing email offers a week, just for directory listings or website memberships.

Join our site! Exclusive regions available! We will refer cases directly to you!

Some are free to sign up for a listing, and have “premium” memberships for prominent placement. And the big names in the legal business can charge you hundreds or thousands of dollars a month just to be listed.

But no one ever tells you what these listings will specifically do for your law firm. How many referrals or contacts would you estimate I might get from your site per month/year?

Silence.

Or maybe, the answer is “well, all you need to do is get one client from our site, and it more than pays for your listing!” Ok, sure, how likely is that?

Or maybe the answer is “we are expanding rapidly, so we can’t give you an estimate, but we expect to be a dominant force in the search engine rankings.” Well, get back to me when you are actually generating measurable value for my membership.

Frankly, the whole business is disappointing. I want one of these offers to give a real and measurable benefit. It doesn’t seem like it should be so difficult. I would sign up clients in a heartbeat if they could answer these questions, and demonstrate some value.

I really want them to succeed. Sometimes, I even consider taking a flyer on a $195/year listing at some legal directory that at least superficially appears to not be terrible. But there are just too many of them, and it is both highly speculative, and a hassle to sort out if it was actually worth it.

The Direct Leads Alternative

That’s what I love about the direct leads business. It’s simple and easy to measure. You either get leads, or you don’t. The leads either convert to clients, or they don’t. You either make a profit on the leads you paid for, or (wait for it…) you don’t.

You never have to guess what is going on, and whether you are getting anything for your money. It’s perfectly obvious very quickly.

It works for attorneys, and it works for me. And I don’t have to hustle and scam people on speculative offers and promises. I just have to do a good job generating the leads, and the rest works itself out.

Posted by dave on Wednesday, October 21st, 2009 at 1:35 pm and is filed under leads. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

The “Be Everywhere” Lead Generation Strategy


I occasionally talk to attorneys and law firms who want to improve their search engine rankings to get free traffic, in order to “stop having to pay for Pay Per Click ads”. This really makes no sense, for several reasons.

The most important metric for any advertising, is whether you are making a decent ROI & profit on your spending from each advertising source. Assuming you have the capacity to handle the business and there isn’t a opportunity cost limitation, why wouldn’t you continue to invest in something that is making you money?

As is smartly pointed out over at the Keyword Advisors Home Improvement Leads blog, it makes sense to own as much of the search results real estate as you can, for brand name searches as well as other keyword searches. Just a few of the benefits of your site appearing on both the organic and paid search parts of the screen are are:

  • Make your site seem like the inevitable & best choice. If someone sees your site or product in multiple places on the screen, it can have a “These must be the best guys” effect on the person searching, and can help you pre-sell and convert.
  • Block out competitors. If you don’t have an ad there, someone else will. Why cede the click if you don’t have to? (especially a profitable one!)
  • Better control over your sales pitch. With organic search engine results, it can be tough to tailor you message exactly how you want. The search engines ultimately decide what text to display in most cases. With an ad, you can precisely test and customize your message based on those specific keywords. Having both an “objective” search result listing as well as a targeted ad on the same page can be a powerful combination.

As with any online marketing or lead generation strategy, the proof is in the numbers. Test and measure whatever you can. There are countless online marketing companies that want to take your money with no real assurance that it is going to bring you business. But if you can advertise or list your law firm anywhere that brings you clients at a positive and measurable net profit, then it’s an easy decision to make.

Posted by dave on Thursday, June 4th, 2009 at 2:53 pm and is filed under leads. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Search Engine Marketing Writing – What’s the Point?


In reading this article on Search Engine Optimization at law.com, I learned:

  • There was a controversy about Findlaw selling something (unethically?) to help sites with search engine marketing
  • What search engine optimization is
  • How search engines calculate page importance
  • A page of SEO jargon
  • 5 tips for search engine success

Ok, I actually didn’t learn anything, at least nothing very useful or actionable. But it’s not because there isn’t any good information written here, there really is. But the information barely scratched the surface on any of these topics.

This article has no clear point, focus, or objective, and it’s not clear who the audience is for this article. It was as if the intro paragraphs to 5 or 6 different articles were just pasted together.

The title of the article is “Getting Search Engine Optimization Right”, and I don’t think it helps anyone do that.

Ok, So What’s Your Point?

A good article or page for your web site must have a clear purpose for a known audience. It should answer a specific question, or offer actionable tips on an area of interest.

  • Simple tips to improve your website conversions.
  • What could happen to me after a shoplifting charge in Texas?
  • How do I know if I am getting my money’s worth from my online marketing firm?

An article with real focus will connect with your audience, and help you accomplish your goals online. Those goals may be clients, sales, newsletter sign-ups, links, or just credibility as a subject matter expert.

Always Imagine what the reader will take away from what you are offering.

And don’t try to do too much. The author in the above article had the seeds of many good articles, but failed to produce one.

Posted by dave on Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 at 3:56 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Findlaw Violating Google Guidelines (and Scamming Customers?)


Via Oilman, Findlaw, the largest legal website and lawyer referrer around is attempting to sell links to other law sites for $1000/month. The offer is quite shameless in how it explains and outlines how these links will benefit your site and improve search engine rankings.

The problem is that this is a clear violation of Google’s policy against search engine spam, and these links will almost certainly be devalued when reported. (Google’s top cop, Matt Cutts has already taken note and commented in the thread at oilman’s site, so it appears to already be a done deal).

So now it’s just a question of whether Findlaw will stick with the deal and deceptively sell these links that will no longer have any search engine rankings enhancement value.

Why are Paid Links a Bad Thing?

Links themselves are a key element of how the search engine algorithms rank sites. Links are like votes, and the sites with the most authority, or PageRank, have the most value, especially when topically related. So it would make sense that links from Findlaw would be extremely valuable to any site in the legal space.

However, a link that is paid for is not considered an honest and unbiased vote. Therefore, when discovered, either by the algorithm or manually, paid links are discounted by google and other search engines, and given no weight in rankings.

It will be interested to see what results from this, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some big legal players do pay the monthly link fees, and never realize that they are getting nothing for their money.

Posted by dave on Thursday, August 14th, 2008 at 11:37 pm and is filed under scams, seo. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Search Engine Optimization Article on Law.com


I found a pretty good article on law.com about the value of search engine optimization for lawyers. I basically agree with all of the key points and the overall theme that SEO done well can have tremendous value for law firms, or any small business. And the specific SEO techniques and advice are all on the money.

The author doesn’t appear to be a subject matter expert herself, but did some decent research, and interviewed a talented SEO guy, Brad Fallon. She also cited top notch SEO resources like webmasterworld, seomoz, and Aaron Wall’s seobook.

The issue I do have is with the “hook” of the article, the story of the legal secretary who fixed the company website and launched it to the top of google in 7 days, and saved the busness and her job. I’m not saying that it didn’t happen – it’s certainly possible – but if it is true, then there was a lot more going on then just some research and hard work by an amateur.

It is not realistic to think that just anyone could relaunch a site and shoot to the top of the rankings and pick up business-saving traffic levels in a week’s time. I’m sure most SEO experts would agree with this, and would also tell you that anyone who promised such extraordinary results would most likely be scamming you.

And no, I’m not trying to suggest that most SEO is so tricky that only experts can pull it off. You can get pretty far in a lot of markets with quality content, and good site navigation and title tags.

But in a relatively competitive business like DUI attorneys in a major market, you can expect that a lot of your competition has the basics right. So what else can make the difference in top rankings?

Analysis of a New Site and a “Bad” Site

The woman in the story, Araceli Parra, states clearly that the site as it existed before her work was a “really bad site” before she fixed it, 2 years ago. The (new) site number1duioffice.com actually looks pretty good to me at a quick glance. It has lots of good content, and the basic SEO seems fine. However, according to a domain check at domaintools the domain has only been in existence for 2 years, , so it is not immediately clear what the bad site was before her work. So we’ll have to dig into that to figure it out.

Site Age

The age of a web site matters alot. Some SEO experts say it’s actually the age of the links in to a site that are the most important, but either way, it’s very difficult to get a new site to rank well for competitive terms. I think it is possible that a two year old site could rank #1 (and #2) for a presumably valuable term like oakland dui lawyer (well done!) as it does now, but I don’t believe that is would happen instantly upon launch, and be sustained for 2 years.

There must have been a previous site, or something else going on here. Let’s dig into the links.

The Value of Links

Buried pretty far down in this article is an important quote about one of the most important areas of SEO, aquiring good links. Says Brad Fallon:

“Probably 80 to 90 percent of what matters for your search-engine rankings is the quantity and quality of incoming links”

This is an absolutely key point. So let’s take a cook at these links. I use a paid tool called seoelite, for this purpose but I’m guessing aaron wall’s free backlink tool would be fine too.

According to my tool, this site only has a couple of actual backlinks into the site. That doesn’t make much sense on the surface. (One of these links is from an SEO firm taking credit for the site, so between them and Ms. Parra, they should get their stories straight!)

How can a new site with only a couple of links rank well for these terms? As it turns out, a couple of these links are from sites that are permanently redirected to this new site. A permanent, or 301 redirect, is the search engine friendly way to redirect all the link juice, and authority from an old site to a new site. Aha! We may have found the source of this site’s strength.

The Source of the Power

One of the redirected sites is duioffice.com, which has a decent number of good links, and has been around since 2000. That’s relatively old in the lawyer world, so the redirect from this site is almost certainly a critical source of the new sites power and authority.

There is another dui lawyer domain redirected to number1duioffice.com, and also a redirect from a redirect coming in via duioffice.com, so there are a number of things going on here.

Just as an aside, I wonder why the bothered to change the primary site from duioffice.com to number1duioffice.com? I probably would have just fixed up duioffice which is a better domain, then having to worry about all the redirecting. But it certainly seems to be working out fine for them.

Bad Site? Not So Bad.

I could go on into a discussion about the previous site by viewing in on the internet archives, and the short answer is, sure, the old site probably needed a lot of basic optimization. And no doubt the new site and the work that Ms. Parra did was important in getting the value out of that site, and that her new content may well have been critical in getting the most important thing from the web site – phone calls and customers.

But the bottom line is that there is no way that any of that would have happened without the well aged, quality “link juice” that came from the original site. She was sitting on a nice oil field, and figured out where to drill, maybe because she was smart enough to realize that, or maybe she just got lucky and had no idea what was even there.

Conclusion

This article is somewhat deceptive about the results she achieved, and whether that is really possible in the vast majority of cases. Most people are simply not sitting on an old site with some nice links that is badly optimized.

Again, it is perfectly plausible to build a great site with great content, well optimized, get good links, and do extremely well in the medium and long term. It happens all the time. But it is rare and difficult to be an overnight success starting from scratch.

Posted by dave on Monday, July 28th, 2008 at 7:59 am and is filed under seo. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Lawyer Marketing Pitch From AttorneysDelivered.com


As part of an occasional series analyzing the countless pitches lawyers receive for internet marketing, SEO, and related services, I present AttorneysDelivered.com.

Here is the unsolicited marketing offer (yes, spam) I received from AttorneysDelivered.com, a lawyer directory listing website.

The email was as follows:

My name is (removed). My company launched an attorney product/platform that was recently spoke of on LAW.COM/ALM’s official blog and other places so I am just reaching out to see if you are interested.

It is a very inexpensive, PROVEN platform/profile that is serviced and designed to show up high on the search engines for important keywords, generate more customers, build valuable links that point back to your site, etc. . .It does a great deal for the price. . . and as a member of our directory, we will send you any relevant leads we receive.

Here is an example of what your profile page would look like:

http://lawyers.attorneysdelivered.com/divorce/new-york/great-neck/Barton-Resnicoff.html

Signup Link: https://lawyers.attorneysdelivered.com/signup

Just so you know you aren’t wasting your time, you can see what LAW.COM and ALM.COM have to say about our system:

http://legaltechnology.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/04/attorneys-deliv.html

I am always interested in this offers, since in event that such a site had a legitimate value, I’d gladly be a buyer for many of my sites. But, not surprisingly, most of these offers are scams. And I do get asked by attorneys for help in figuring out who can be trusted.

And, debunking can be fun. So let’s do it!

Analysis of Email Offer

Let’s start by analyzing the pitch and the information contained in this email. The email clearly states that buying a listing on their site will benefit your law firm in generating rankings and traffic to your site. Fair enough, we’ll look into that later.

It also cites law.com as an authoritative recommendation for this service. And, it shows an example of a profile that you will get for your money. Two thoughts on these points:

  1. I don’t think an anonymous typepad.com blog post is a very good stand-in for an endorsement from law.com, even if it does appear to be owned by the same company.
  2. I’d recommend they have someone spell check the example listing of their featured law firm profile page. (I’m particularly suspicious of the word “Perferred”) [they did at least fix this --Ed.]

We’re not off to a great start here from a marketing perspective, but maybe this is just nitpicking their email pitch.

So let’s be fair and dig a little deeper into the actual value offer this directory could provide for your law firm.

Analysis of Offer on the Site

From the web site http://www.attorneysdelivered.com/member-benefits.html we learn that benefits of being listed include branding and search engine rankings. Let’s break them down.

Branding Benefit

Image of google search result copied from AttorneysDelivered site

According the offer, their page will rank well for your brand. The example is on a Google search for “Steven Kazan Law firm”, their page shows up on Google’s first page. See their example image to the right.

This is a seriously weak “benefit” for the following reasons:

  1. Anyone searching for “Steven Kazan Law firm” presumably wants to find the actual official firm web site. And they will, rightly so, right at the top of the search results. So who cares if there is another page related to the firm further down on  the search page?
  2. This ranking is not a significant accomplishment, as the “competition” for this search phrase is extremely limited. They have a page about the firm, and all the keywords are in the title tag, so it’s basically a freebie.
  3. The term probably has no search value beyond the specific traffic to the firm’s official site. Are they such a big firm that they are a widely sought brand, and other firms might try to poach traffic from someone looking for their competition? Very unlikely.

So, that’s a bust. Let’s move on to the next benefit of this legal directory listing.

Rankings Benefit

Here is something that could be of clear value: rankings for decent search terms, that could result in traffic to your site, and ultimately more business. The offer gives specific examples of rankings achieved by this site for a client firm for searches for “asbestos lawyer in alemeda ca” and “asbestos lawyer in oakland ca”.

We will stipulate for the moment that these phrases have some significant search traffic that will could translate into valuable clients for a firm. (Many SEO scammers claim results for search phrases that have little real world value). For a real client, I would want to research how many searches are done on these phrases or similar phrases, but we will assume that they are decent, and have some value.

Google Search Result: asbestos lawyers in alameda ca

Google Search Result: "asbestos lawyers in alemeda ca"

So how does the benefit offer match reality? My search for asbestos lawyer in alemeda ca resulted in no hits for this firm’s AttorneysDelivered.com profile page as suggested. However, it did find their “lawyer pitch” page. Interesting, and probably fluky because of the specific word order, and prominent placement of their lawyer solicitation page on their site. Actual lawyer profiles are deeper in the site navigation, and may not rank as well.

But even if this particular page stays in the rankings for this one specific phrase, it would not be a typical example of expected results for similar searches.

Google Search Results: "asbestos lawyers in oakland ca"

Google Search Result: "asbestos lawyers in oakland ca"

The next search is for asbestos lawyer in oakland ca. The results are more interesting, and more promising. The AttorneysDelivered page for Steven Kazan is the #3 listing, and the client’s actual site (KazanLaw.com) is the #1 ranked site. There is something going on here. But why is the firm site outranking the AttorneysDelivered page that is supposedly creating this valuable rankings benefit?

A quick analysis of kazanlaw.com shows that it is an old site (registered in 1999), has a bunch of old backlinks, including valuable, trusted links from dmoz.org & the Yahoo directory.  AttorneysDelivered.com is less than 1 year old, with a much smaller number of links to it. So from this (very) superficial analysis, it makes sense that the kazanlaw.com site is more highly ranked.

And here’s the real kicker: if you look on the bottom of the home page of kazanlaw.com, you will notice a graphic and link to their AttorneyDelivered profile page. It would appear that the folks behind kazanlaw.com are either partners or benefactors of AttorneysDelivered.com.

This is clearly a case of the tail wagging the dog. A valuable home page link from a well ranked, authoritative law firm site is driving the rankings of their own marketed profile page! And they are trying to sell it as if it’s the reverse.

The Verdict on AttorneysDelivered.com

There is no question that AttorneysDelivered is making a deliberately deceptive pitch here. They are claiming benefits to their listings that does not exist.

It’s always possible that there may be traffic value for a law firm listing on this site, but given the evidence established here, I would not trust the people behind this at all. To be avoided.

UPDATE: Attorney Ben Glass believes attorneysdelivered.com might be violating ethics rules for lawyer advertising. Yet another reason to avoid this offer.

UPDATE2: A week later, I’m still getting this identical spam email, complete with broken embedded links which I didn’t even mention before. But they did at least fix the spelling error on the sample profile page.

Posted by dave on Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008 at 9:43 pm and is filed under scams, seo. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Free Advice Can Be Dangerous – In SEO and Law


Derek at CapeCodSEO writes about the dangers of “free advice” in the SEO world. People tend to obsess over minor details and narrow tactics about what they think their site needs to rank competitively. If you give a tip on one of these tactics, you may be inadvertently misdirecting them to focus on a trivial point to the exclusion of the larger goals. And when it all comes crashing down, you may face blame for that failure.

This should be obvious to criminal defense lawyers if you consider the following analogy: Would you give legal advice to someone about a DUI charge, based only on their interpretation of the events? Of course not.

Criminal defense attorneys know that a client’s notion of what happened when they were arrested is often grossly misleading, and ultimately not relevant to the goal of a proper legal defense. You need to review the police report and any other evidence before you can hope to offer useful legal advice. Clients who focus on how a cop was “mean” to them need to understand that aggressively taking on a police officer in court is usually not going to win your case.

Expert Advice Depends on Asking the Right Questions and Understanding Your Goals

SEO itself is only a tactic to get web traffic in service to the goal of getting more business. Yet, I’ve seen a lot of smart attorneys who know a little bit about SEO techniques do some absolutely crazy and dangerous things with their web sites.

Some criminal lawyer sites use on-page tactics that even if they work for rankings improvement, are almost certainly killing conversions and self defeating. And it’s no surprise when the site traffic and rankings plummet.

The bottom line is find an expert you trust, in law or SEO, to do a comprehensive assessment of your situation, and understands your goals for big picture.

Posted by dave on Tuesday, July 8th, 2008 at 9:43 am and is filed under seo. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.