Online marketing has become much more user-friendly over the past 10 years. Lawyers are now able to execute proactively on a wide variety of marketing tactics that previously would have required a Computer Science degree combined with deep experience in the technical obscurities of search engine optimization.
No longer – today attorneys can publish at will, network via social media and create websites while watching college football on a Saturday.
There is, of course, a line between simple do-it-yourself and the complex problems that result from stepping beyond your capabilities. Unwittingly crossing that line can spell disaster for a firm’s marketing initiatives and thus, the key to DIY is to know when you need to call in a professional.
I’ve seen too many sites implode from self-inflicted errors that were implemented with the best of intentions (not to mention those devious attempts to trick search engines, but I’m sure that doesn’t apply to you.) What follows is a very simple example that demonstrates how a good idea can go horridly wrong as well as a simple guideline for assessing when you might be getting yourself in over your head.
The site homepage for MLKB&R looks pretty nice at mlkbr.com.
However, I discovered that some developer unwittingly generated three verbatim copies of the homepage. If you type "www.mlkbr.com" or "www.mlkbr.com/home" into your browser address bar, you'll get the exact same content. That's at least three different URLs for the homepage.
In this case, the site is telling search engines that there are duplicates of the content -- which is a basic search engine "no-no." Search engines have invested heavily in rooting out and penalizing sites like this one engaging in the duplication of content.
A site’s homepage is its most important page, so now we have a site proactively duplicating its homepage. The technical issues around this are less important than knowing that good intentions have torpedoed the effectiveness of the site. How do we avoid that?
Obvious and Easy DIY
- Write. Write about the questions you hear every day from prospects. Write for humans, not computers or law school professors.
- Promote your content and your firm with your genuine online network.
You May Be Able to Go It Alone
- Create a WordPress website (seriously – this is pretty easy).
- Manage your listings on directories after a firm’s name or address change.
- Install and monitor reporting infrastructure (specifically Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools and call tracking software).
- Manage pay-per-click advertising with an eye towards return on investment.
Absolutely Get Professional Help
- Website redesign/migration.
- Management of multiple domains.
- Making updates in the face of Penguin/Panda/Pigeon Google algorithm updates and penalties.
- Responding to notifications in Google Webmaster Tools.
One Last Thought
As I was speaking with Larry Bodine about this article he asked me to touch on how to select a high quality professional. I demurred, as the topic is frankly too self serving . . . but let me leave you with one caution: the SEO industry is packed with self-proclaimed experts who prey on lawyers and frequently do more harm than good. Don your cynical hat and chose exceptionally carefully.