2014 saw some of the biggest changes ever with regard to Google search, including a massive shift toward mobile and huge changes in local search. Before we jump into a new year of advanced online marketing tactics for law firms, let’s recap a few changes that had a major impact on your marketing efforts in 2014.
Huge Shifts in Google’s Algorithm
The moment Google started ranking unique content that only had 300 words is the exact moment everyone started pumping out massive amounts of thin content. At GNGF, we produced 8,000 pieces of shorter legal content in 2013 and another 10,000 pieces in 2014. And it worked great—for a while.
Then Google decided that it preferred longer, more in-depth content that still maintained its relevance. This does not mean that a small blog post will hurt you. Shorter posts are simply not as effective as they used to be. Now we are looking to create:
- Blog posts that are at least 1,000 words
- Practice area pages that are 1,000–1,500 words long
- Attorney bio pages that exceed 1,000 words
Google also decided to kill authorship as a result of low adoption. This means that you will no longer see photos of the author or other authorship attribution in your search engine results. This happened in line with the active decision by the search engines to reward thin content less and longer posts more.
The not-so-easy solution is to start writing your own blog posts again. If you decide to outsource your writing, make sure that the selected company knows how to write long, quality, legal pieces. Your blog should still be written for your audience and not necessarily in legal jargon. Try writing less often, but when you do, write longer posts. Also, check your bio pages and practice area content. It is likely time to add more copy to those pages.
The Death and Resurrection of the 7-Pack
Google often displays local returns for legal keywords with a map in the upper right-hand corner of the search results page. This is known as the 7-pack. After the Pigeon update, Google began displaying bizarre results. In many locations, the 7-pack had simply vanished.
Over the last several months, we have noticed that modified versions of local listings are returning. These new versions include the following: 5 and 3-Pack (most common), 7-Pack (rare), and occasionally a lone local listing. This has big implications for firms trying to attract clients that are within a specific geographic distance from their office.
This means that you need to clean up your directory listings. It is still recommended that you have a minimum of 50 listings. Take a look at your reviews and get your average numbers of reviews per site up to about seven or eight on Google+, Yelp, and Avvo. After the last update, directory listings are making a comeback, so check your area for Lawyers.com and Findlaw. Take note that Avvo has been really doing well online, so fix your profile there, get reviews, answer some questions every week, and seriously look into advertising on their platform.
3 Marketing Tactics for 2015 and Beyond
Following is a list of tactics that you need to implement in 2015 if you plan on staying ahead of your competitors.
#1Spend more money online
Playtime is over and the gig is up. Law firms have figured out that there is money to be made with online marketing and everyone has started to up their game. This means you should plan to spend more on everything, from social media to Google AdWords.
Facebook played a terrible trick -- they convinced users to buy “more engaging” fans, then promptly devalued your Facebook authority for low engagement with a major algorithm shift last spring. If you want to use Facebook for branding purposes, you need to pay to play. Spend about $10 a week boosting your posts, and once a month spend an additional $120 running a Post Engagement ad. This will blast your content out to the friends of your fans. Make these posts engaging and include great images.
Other mediums for advertising have cropped up, including Avvo ads and resources like Outbrain. If you are only spending on Google PPC, you should start to spread your monthly investment around to a few other sources.
Retargeting is a must for any law firm running PPC campaigns. Search retargeting is a form of behavioral retargeting employed by online marketers that target an audience based on the previous searches they conduct on other websites. Unlike site retargeting or site remarketing, search retargeting is designed to find new customers which have likely never been to a marketer's website before.
You need to be sending targeted ads to visitors depending on the pages they visit. If a visitor lands on a motorcycle accident page, then send that person a motorcycle display ad. Keep these running at full cycle without throttling the ad duration.
#2Links still matter
You or someone you know may have bought links in the past. This is becoming treacherous territory. Increasingly, GNGF is spending time fixing law firms’ bad link profiles. Save yourself time and money by not buying links in 2015. You need to become strategic about your link efforts. Run a scholarship, sponsor a team or event, or host your own gala. These are all ways that you can build strong links and benefit your community. With the amount of negative SEO going around, you should be looking into some aggressive link building in 2015 as a method of protection against those who are cheating the system.
#3Mobile, mobile, mobile
As a law firm, at least 25 percent of your users should be coming from mobile devices. If they aren’t, you are doing something wrong. This means you must focus on the mobile experience. Now, oftentimes, we design the mobile site in a responsive layout first and then work backwards to the full-site design.
The mobile user has different behaviors, and in order to capitalize on this traffic, you need to be thinking like that user. He or she likely needs directions, wants to call you, or is being referred to your firm. Make sure your phone number and directions are above the fold. Check to see how your attorney profiles propagate on mobile and think about your image sizes. Mobile website load time should be less than one second. If you have not taken the jump to a mobile responsive design, now is the time. This should be your first quarter action item.