What Content Management System To Use?

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While there are plenty of options available for blogging, I usually recommend using WordPress.  It’s easy to install, easy to use, and isn’t super complicated.  After a few hours of instruction, anybody can master wordpress regardless of their “technical savvy”.  Once the blog is setup properly all you really have to do write posts and be able to post images, videos, etc.

Your first order of priority is selecting a theme which you want to use.  There are many companies that make custom themes, but they are pricey and in many instances worse than other themes available online.  I recommend using themeforest.net, and I have purchased and used dozens of themes with very little issues.  Once you find a developer you like, it’s easy to understand the functions even in themes that you have never used previously.  I recommend having the home page display your blog posts, but not everyone is the same and some attorneys want a front page with additional information.

The next major hurdle is adding plugins and customizing the install to your needs.  Plugins are simply programs developed by other users that can accomplish certain things such as adding an upgraded image gallery.  You can integrate most of these plugins to any theme, but sometimes you will only be able to use them in sidebars, footers, etc.  The most effective plugin availble right now is made by Yoast SEO.  It really helps you clean up the simple on-page issues and makes sure that your site properly optimized.  If you haven’t already, give wordpress a try on your next blog….you won’t be disappointed.

Integrating Google Authorship Into Your Firm’s Blog

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If you haven’t noticed the small thumbnail pictures taking over the first page of Google, you obviously haven’t been paying attention.  I have noticed a substantial increase in the amount of attorneys who are utilizing what is called Google authorship for their main website.  The idea behind this concept is simple.  When you create a profile on Google’s social media platform (Google+) you can claim certain content on their internet to indicate that you are the author.  By using a few lines of code in your site you too can have that catchy picture show up in the SERPS next to your website.

While having a thumbnail picture can certainly increase conversion, there has to be more to it than that.  I’ve experimented on my own and read many articles/forums regarding this issue and I believe that if you don’t start using authorship you will be left in the dust.  Essentially, its a way present yourself as an authority figure in your particular niche.  Creating content on reputable sites as well as your own is very important and can give you that edge you need over your local competition.

Don’t be fooled by some internet marketer who wants to charge you a fortune to set this up.  It’s very easy and you can do it yourself in less than 30 minutes with a little research.  I recommend creating a Google + profile and just playing around with it for a few hours.  Familiarize yourself with how it works and look at some of the more successful attorneys to get an idea of what they’re doing right.  You will be increasing your authority in no time and I’m pretty sure you’re efforts will be well rewarded in the near future.

Using Long Tail Searches To Increase Traffic

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This is a technique used by many bloggers and affiliate marketers which can really be effective if you’re willing to create lots of engaging content.  Most people that try this method don’t think it’s effective because it takes a long time to have a positive effect.  If you are an attorney or currently working on an attorney website, you realize how difficult the competition is and it can really be nearly impossible to take them head on for “money keywords”.  While not always the case, it can be effective to concede that fact and focus on increasing targeted traffic for some not so competitive terms.  Now is the time to setup a legal blog and focus on long-tail searches.  So what is a long tail search and how can it be used to get more clients?

A long tail search is simply a keyword phrase that has more words so not many people are optimizing for that particular phrase.  For example let’s use Chicago criminal defense attorneys.  Chances are most people will be going after “criminal lawyer in chicago, chicago criminal attorney, etc.”.  It can be very difficult to compete if you don’t have a large budget, but that doesn’t mean that you should just give up.  By creating a more specific blog post about a topic you can still outrank them without spending a fortune.  For example, write a post about “field sobriety tests after a dui arrest in Chicago”.  I can guarantee you that the competition will be much less and you can actually rank on the first page.  While this phrase will obviously have less traffic, if you write a few hundred over a period the traffic really adds up.  Once your traffic begins to increase you can then start focusing on the more competitive terms which you were unable to target before.

Many business models utilize this strategy including the most successful e-commerce store on the planet.  Amazon.com has made a killing dominating the long tail searches.  You can pretty much find anything on amazon and that was their strategy from the beginning.  They work  closely with 1000’s of vendors and not only does this make very obscure products available, but it drastically reduces their cost of holding expensive inventory.  It seems to work for them, it can do the same for your practice.  This key here is target phrases that are targeted and to write LOTS of quality posts.  This method is not going to yield quick results, but if you put in the time and do it correctly, it can substantially increase the amount of calls coming into your law practice.

How Blogging Helps Solos Beat the Big Firms (and How Firms Make it So Easy)

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Black Thursday

If you’re an attorney, you would have to be living under a rock if you hadn’t heard of Black Thursday, when many of the U.S.A.’s largest and most prestigious law firms went on a pink slip rampage. Nobody knows for sure how many bodies were thrown overboard, but estimates are anywhere from 800 to over 1,000 attorneys lost their positions.

What’s even more unsettling are the whispered rumors that this is just the beginning.

It’s not hyperbole to say we are living in extraordinary times.

I’m not saying any of this to scare you. Note the positive headline for this blog post. We feel that now is the time for unprecedented opportunity–for those brave enough to reach out and take it.

You know there are plenty of “solos” out there. Single attorney law practices have existed forever, but they were never able to really compete with the big firms.

Until now, that is.

Extraordinary Times, New Opportunities

There are two forces that work in favor of the solo practitioner, now: the rapid rise of technology and because of that, a sea-change in consumer behavior.

It used to be that a solo just couldn’t muster the kind of marketing money and muscle a big firm could. And that’s still true, in a sense. But what is also true is that it doesn’t matter, anymore, precisely because technology and consumer behavior are changing.

A solo does not beat the big firms by doing the same things they do. A solo beats them by doing things they could never do. Let me tell you a story as an example:

A woman (let’s call her Sarah) is beginning to think she needs to acquire the services of an estate planning and elder care attorney. Where do you think is the first place she is likely to begin her search?

If you guessed the internet, give yourself a gold star, you are correct. Sarah goes to Google and types some words into the search box. What words do you think she types in?

I’m not going to answer that here, but keep that thought in mind as we take a look at the strategies employed the Big Firm and the Solo.

The Big Firm

The Big Firm is as “old school” as it gets: posh offices, senior partners and partners up to the rafters, and a website that hasn’t changed in over five years. After all, to their thinking, what is a website but simply an online brochure? There is no need to change it: their services haven’t changed, nor has their phone number. If you could transform a stuffed shirt into a website, the Big Firm has managed to do so. The Big Firm can afford to spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a month to pay a marketing firm to run a Google AdWords PPC campaign to keep that phone ringing.

Almost none of the people in the firm know what AdWords is. Every little technological advancement is fought tooth and nail, and most of the firm’s senior partners can barely use email. The younger attorneys have their Blackberries super-glued to their hands, and they seem “with it,” but beyond email and FindLaw, they’re nearly hopeless.

The Big Firm still spends a considerable sum of money every year on Yellow Pages advertising and print ads in the local paper (which is filing for bankruptcy).

The Solo

The Solo, on the other hand, (let’s call her Amanda) works out of her home office. Amanda’s website is a blog. Every other day or so, she writes a new article and posts it, adding to her already considerable archive of previous posts–all about the same topics: elder care law and estate planning.

Other law blogs and even regular news sites link to her blog, sending her traffic. Reporters call her and email her to get her opinion on a proposed change in nursing home regulations in the area. Other lawyers and even judges in the area read her blog.

Amanda gets an email from the contact form on her blog. Sarah has written to her, saying she did a search online and Amanda’s blog came up number one. Sarah tells Amanda she spent a lot of time reading Amanda’s posts and they have already helped her make some important decisions regarding her parents. Because of this, Sarah would like to set up an appointment to meet with Amanda to discuss the possibility of engaging her legal services.  For a real life example and more information, please visit  Lansing Criminal Defense Lawyers – www.theclarklawoffice.com/practice-areas/criminal-law/

The Solo’s Secret Weapon

When Amanda first set up her solo practice, she did all the things she thought she was supposed to do… and it nearly put her out of business. Her “brochureware” website brought in no clients. Nobody found her online when they did a Google search. Nobody looked at the Yellow Pages and saw her expensive ad.

Luckily, a friend of hers who was into “techie stuff” told her about blogs and how single-person and small businesses were using them to market themselves. Amanda looked into it and soon found Blawging Lawyers.

At first, she didn’t know a lot about blogging or how to market a law practice with one, but with the educational materials and support from the instructors and her fellow Blawging Lawyers members, Amanda got up to speed in only a few months.

Now, she’s even using social media networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, which she’s using to send potential clients who also use these services to her blog. Amanda can hardly believe it. The country is slipping into a recession, but she’s doing better than ever.

Meanwhile, the Big Firm is thinking another round of layoffs will be necessary. The senior partners are discussing it.

We invite you to learn more about Blawging Lawyers.

Blog Marketing and SEO Strategy for Law Firms

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Inside Blawging Lawyers, we’re big on SEO (search engine optimization). We “bake it in” right from the very beginning in all of our lessons, so that our members learn it in a very non-technical fashion (because the best on-page SEO is simply the most relevant content presented correctly).

Since our last post — How Blogging Helps Solos Beat the Big Firms (and How Firms Make it So Easy) — was about solos, I thought I’d write something beneficial for firms this time. This isn’t a solos vs. firms thing, it’s just that firms need different strategies and tactics when it comes to marketing with blogs and in general online.

You’re Doing it Wrong

Having said that, most firms’ website are horrifying. Yes, they need to use different strategies and tactics, but by that of course I mean the right ones. Here are some mistakes many law firms make with their website:

  • It looks like it was made in the mid-90s and never changed
  • It’s filled with stuffy, pretentious legal-speak gobbledy-gook marketing lingo
  • Other than pronouncing how great the firm is, no other real information is provided
  • Each page in the site has the same title tag as all the other pages
  • Graphical links are used instead of text links
  • The content of the pages offers no compelling reason to justify retaining the firm
  • Other than the name of the firm may be a string of partner names, there is no indication that human beings work in the firm, who they are or their practice area

If all the other law firm sites were like this, too, nobody would notice. But more and more, blogs and social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are being used successfully to market law firms. These blogging law firms appear in search results when consumers research online to find an attorney (and make no mistake about it: that’s exactly what they’re doing–consumers turn to Google and the yellow pages are dead).

Law Firm Blog Marketing

A solo setting up a blog as the main site for a practice makes perfect sense, but how should a firm do it? Should there be one blog, or many? What domains should be used? There are many questions. Without giving away all the best stuff on the inside of Blawging Lawyers, here are some tips for firms that wish to redesign their marketing methods:

  • If a firm covers more than one area, each area should have its own blog and domain or subdomain of the firm’s domain. For example: criminaldefense.lawfirmname.com. Google loves subdomains.
  • For firms that cover multiple practice areas, the attorneys for these areas will blog for the practice area blogs (if a firm has several family law attorneys, they will all write on the family law blog, for example).
  • If a firm specializes in just one area, the blog should replace the previous site entirely, and each attorney will contribute articles to the blog
  • Multiple practice area firm blogs need to point back to the firm’s main site like spokes in a wheel point to the hub.
  • Clearly placed contact forms and information need to placed at the top of each blog (preferably top right).

As you can see, the biggest hurdle to get over is simply that it is the attorneys themselves who do the marketing (certainly ghostwriters may be used, but it’s preferable to be as “real” about this as possible).

Advantages

The advantages of the above tactics are:

  • SEO – If a firm can’t be found via search for keywords related to the firm’s practice areas (not the name of the firm, which nobody will search for) then it may as well not exist on the web. The tactics I’ve outlined above will greatly increase the chances that the firm’s online properties, both singly and collectively, will have higher search rankings. This starts a cascade of other benefits, such as…
  • Greater traffic to the site, which means higher conversion rates.
  • Far more convincing and persuasive marketing information, which will greatly increase conversions.
  • The firm will be more prepared to attract, hire, and retain the next generation of attorneys, who will be much more web-savvy.

On the Inside

The above is barely the roughest of overviews for this subject. We cover the details of strategy and implementation inside the members area of Blawging Lawyers. If you really want your firm’s marketing to succeed and thrive by taking advantage of change (instead of just merely suffering it), then we invite you to join us in Blawging Lawyers.