Thursday, June 7, 2012

Social Media – Where Do We Go From Here?

Just when things look like they couldn’t get any worse for Facebook; a new survey was recently released indicating that 34% of Facebook users are spending less time on Facebook than six months ago. On top of that, nearly 50% of the respondents spent around the same amount of time on Facebook. Why the lack of interest? Maybe it has something to do with perceived user value? It’s a pretty simple concept really: if somebody finds more value in A than B, they will demand more of A. Looking at my own daily experiences, Facebook competes for my other offline and online time reading news sites, blogs, websites, etc. In short, the more value I find being on Facebook, the more of my time it will demand…and lately that too has been in question. Just how many narcissistic posts about where somebody currently is or what they just ate for breakfast can get a little, shall we say; boring.

Google +’s  “me too” Answer To Facebook

As I have noted in previous posts about Google +, Google + is like they guy who shows up at a party at 2 am in the morning and yells “let’s get this party started!” Even former Google engineers have referred to Google + as a “pathetic afterthought” and make it out to be symptomatic of Google losing its way. Since Larry Page took the reins at Google last year, it seems like everything they do these days hinges on the success of Google +.  To wit: just this week Google announced the movement from Google Places to Google + Local. Why the change? Why else – Google wants more Google + members and seemingly everything else they have tried up to this point to generate more Google + users have failed in comparison to Facebook. So when all else fails – try and coerce again.

Google + Local to Drive Google + Membership

Now that business owners are once again confused by changes to formerly Google Local, then Places and now Google + Local, they will continue to try to understand, claim, optimize and generate client reviews for their local listings. The catch? Only people with a Google + account can leave reviews. But this all didn’t start here. A few months back, Google found yet another way to generate Google + users by adding thumbnails adjacent to the certain listings on the Google results pages. How do you do this? Easy, you need a Google + profile and then you can follow these instructions. Wayla! More confusion for regular business owners and more Google + accounts as a prerequisite to play.

Facebook’s IPO Problem

Most good technology investments have a financial business model in place to generate revenues – which is what attracts good investors. When Facebook priced its IPO at 100X earnings compared to Google who is selling at 11 (and controls 82% of the search market and 98% of the mobile search market), one has little to scratch one’s head over when Facebook loses 30% of its value in the first few weeks. Facebook has a valuation problem based on revenue growth and anybody who watched the movie Social Network should understand that this problem was clearly in sight for all to see long before the IPO ever took place. All these people that ponied up millions of dollars over the years to Facebook were expected a big return on their investment and thanks to Morgan Stanley, all glory is fleeting.

Where Do We Go From Here

 Social Media could very well be at a crossroads. On one hand, you have Google who seems to want to cannibalize any and all of their services to support a system, Google +, that nobody outside of Google really wants to use. On the other hand, you have Facebook that has 900 million users, 34% of which indicate that they are losing interest and a company that now has to somehow generate a boat load of revenues to keep the dream alive and their investors happy and not jumping for the shore once the IPO shareholders sell window opens up. Now that’s a pretty tall task for any 28 year old whose whole business model is built around the promise that Facebook is “free and always will be.” Perhaps Mark should have learned from Google whose motto “don’t be evil” has led to the senseless hatred of panda’s and penguins everywhere.

As for the rest of us, new innovation fostered by freedom of thought and need will clearly help steer our appetite for better and more useful innovation in the months and years ahead. Where will all this come from? Who knows! But is it very likely where we know it will not come from. As Henry Ford was fond of saying “A market is never saturated with a good product, but it is very quickly saturated with a bad one.”

Friday, May 18, 2012

Google Penguin Got You Down?

Every year, Google makes around 500 changes to their search algorithm but when April of 2012 rolled around, Google unloaded a whopper in their Google Penguin release. A lot has been recently written about the impacts of this release and we are still measuring the effects. The bottom line is that a lot of websites were affected both positively and negatively and most people want to know why. Google won’t tell us because they make money selling their paid advertising which is the one thing they will help you understand.  What we do know is the following:

Link Building Just Became More Complicated

Receiving links from “irrelevant websites” can hurt you…and hurt you bad. Google now wants to see links coming from websites and web pages that are related to your website. If you are an attorney, you ideally want links for other legal related websites and web pages – not from Viagra sites and unrelated blogs. Getting relevant links is nothing new but now getting penalized for having bad links really is.

WHAT TO DO: Generate links from relevant websites and/or web pages. If you are a divorce attorney, try to get links from other divorce attorney websites, blogs and/or legal directories

Having good anchor text in a link has always been a good way to send signals to Google as to what the linked to page is all about and how to rank it for that term. The problem is that too much of a good thing looks unnatural to Google and they will now penalize you for it.

WHAT TO DO: Diversify the anchor text from your inbound links. Use a number of keyword variations and no keywords (eg your URL address) in some of your links as well. If a link’s anchor text reads “personal injury attorney”, it is best to have the anchor text on a website, blog and page that also makes mention of those same keywords in the text and tags.

Keyword Stuffing & Placement Just Became More Detrimental

Far too many law firms get hung up on ranking at the top for one or more specific search terms. This is certainly not a bad thing but it does come at the expense of where the majority of your traffic will come from: long tail search terms. Long tail search terms tend to be more case specific searches and commonly lead to higher conversions. These are also searches were you don’t typically see Google Places listings along with the organic search results which allows you to better compete outside of the Google Places envelope in which you reside.

WHAT TO DO: Diversify the optimization and keywords used in your title tags, H tags, and content on each page. They should read natural and not like a broken record.

Other Things to Consider

  • Unique content means more than just passing a copyscape test. Building unique content means creating unique content value that can be measured in natural inbound links, page views and citations from social media and other sources. 
  • Creating your own content and controlling those content locations have become even more important. Clearly it is effective to generate authority from relevant sources and the best way to do this is by creating and controlling your own by adding additional relevant websites, blogs, social media etc.
  • If you have seen a significant drop off in your website traffic since April 2012, the first place you need look is at your link building. In many cases, rogue link building that took place months and even years ago can now come back to bite you. Run a link analysis on your website and try to clean up all the bad links coming in. 
  • This will not be the last Penguin update so be prepared for more changes and gyrations in the months and years ahead. Clearly Google made some mistakes in this current release and as always, they will continue to tweet and tune as they move forward. Remember, Google makes their money by selling advertising, not in helping you understand why they intentionally keep you guessing.

Friday, April 20, 2012

New Nielsen Study: 70% Of People Trust Online Consumer Opinions

A study was recently released by Nielsen that affirms what most of us already know: online consumer opinions have a HUGE impact in today's marketing. If you are an attorney, here are a few things you should know:

- There are now over 18+ major websites that now support consumer reviews
- Most consumer reviews are negative and can hurt your business without you ever knowing
- Most consumer reviews NEVER GO AWAY unless acted upon


Think about the last time you went online to buy something. Have you bought a book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble? Did you look at the book reviews online BEFORE you purchased the book? How about buying any other product online - did you read the reviews for them? How about buying a car - did you look up the pricing and reviews on Edmunds or Kelly's Blue Book online? Or how about a local business or restaurant - did you read review about them on Yelp, City Search or Google Places? Chances are, most of us can say yes to one or all of the above questions.

Consumer reviews online have direct impacts on nearly every product and service we purchase today - online or offline. The bottom line is that consumer reviews can either hurt or help you and IT IS UP TO YOU to decide which. Control and promote them and they can help. Ignore them, and you do so at your own peril.


According the Nielsen's new findings (see the adjacent chart), 92% of people still trust recommendations from people they know - this is why referrals will always remain one of the most important marketing arms of your legal practice. This number has increased by 18% since 2007. 

What is interesting however is that 70% of people will accept the opinions (referrals) for people they don't know - which has increased 15% over the past four years! 

Looking at the more traditional forms of advertising (interruption based advertising), we see the opposite trend with drops of 24% for television, 20% for magazine, and 25% for newspaper ads from 2009 to 2011...ouch!


When is comes to information and reputation management, you can either proactively control it or let it control you. For most attorneys, reputation is everything. In the past if somebody would write a positive or libelous opinion about attorneys in a newspaper or magazine, it would most certainly grab their attention. Just look at the waiting room of any prominent attorney and you will likely see a host of written publications involving them. If this traditional print information was so important to them then, then why is it not a focus now online? After all, looking at the trends listed above, it is clear that opinions on the wall are increasingly of less value then the opinions about them online - a trend you cannot ignore.

More on how the create an effective consumer review strategy.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Is Google + a Minus For Attorneys?

There is an old saying in marketing that you should "fish were the fish are" so when Google announced their competitive offering to Facebook, many people took immediate notice. This was then, this is now:

- Google + has 90 million registered users VERSUS 845 million for Facebook
- PC users on average are spending 3 minutes a month on Google + VERSUS 6-7 hours for Facebook.

These numbers were courtesy of a recent report in ComScore and further reported on in the Wall Street Journal

As I previously posted in July of last year about Google +, I had my doubts about the effectiveness and sustainability of Google + for a number of reasons: chiefly amongst them was the value proposition and intuitive ease of use provided by Google with this new system. I recently heard a lecture where the speaker referred to Google + as the best social media system that nobody uses. The WSJ went further to describe Google + as a "virtual ghost town" compared to places like Facebook - surprise!

Of all the analytical measurements people use on the web, time-on-site is one of the most critical in measuring user value: Facebook has it is spades and Google + clearly does not. It is becoming clear at this point that not only do people create Facebook accounts, but they also use them. Google + might have had a large initial signup - but how many have returned? Social media is largely about connections and reach and what is the point in hanging out in a ghost town? I suppose you could have a good gunfight but who would know?

For attorney marketing, my advise in July still stands: fish were the fish are. If nobody is hanging out on Google +; what type of ediscovery could you possibly gather, how many of your referral partners will follow you, and how will you generate more visibility and new cases from it?

More on Google + for Attorneys :

Friday, March 2, 2012

4 Steps To Create An Effective Online Review Strategy For Attorneys

Yesterday online review company Yelp Inc. exploded onto the scene with a strong IPO with first day trading up 61% from their strike price – not bad! Yelp’s IPO follows recent IPO’s of GroupOn and Angie’s List, with Angie’s List still fairing the better on the two on the street. Yelp currently averages around 66 million unique visitors a month and users have created more than 25 million consumer reviews to date.
Why Are Online Reviews Important to Attorneys?

There is a 90% chance that somebody has already written a review about you online. To date there are at least 20 major online review sites where anybody can write anything about you and your practice and unsolicited reviews are very often negative! How long will these reviews remain online? Well, according to recent IPO’s like Yelp, it looks like forever at this point!

As we have previously reported - according to studies by AC Nielson; 70% of people now indicate that they trust online consumer opinions. This is second only to opinions received from friends (90%). The question of whether or not you need an attorney website and/or an online reviews strategy is no longer optional when reviews about you and your practice are now being written online – like it or not.

Impacts of Online Reviews on Your Referrals

As yourself a question about how you behave today before you buy a product or service. I know when I buy a book, product or get a referral to a service provider; I almost always look online at what people have said (online reviews) about each before I contact them. Your clients and referrals now behave in the same manner. In the world of the internet, your referrals now have something they had never had in the past- a fast an effective means to help validate, measure and compare the quality of a referral.

In today’s world, attorney referrals are commonly given out in numbers – thanks largely to a process fostered by your insurance companies in their malpractice avoidance procedures. Because of this, a referral to you may also include a referral to 1-2 other attorneys that the potential client must now consider and compare. In the past, they would simply call you and the others and make decisions from the phone call. Today, referral clients look online and make judgments about you BEFORE THEY CALL YOU based on such items as how your website, blog, news and online reviews are in comparison to the other attorneys referred to them. Still think online review management is not important? What do you think happens when they see at least one negative review online about your practice? Your chances of converting that referral business just went down and that negative review is costing you money!

4 Steps To Building a Successful Online Review Strategy

  1. Start by creating a proactive review strategy for your practice. In this case, create a preformed email that includes a link directly to the reviews section of your Google + Local Page and Your Yelp Page. Send out these emails to all of your clients who had a successful outcome with you IMMEDIATELY AFTER that outcome – this is the best time to ask them to create a positive review for you online. Follow-up with them as needed in order to get a steady flow of reviews in Google
  2. Ever wondered why some Google Local and Yelp listings have those 5 gold review stars listed and others do not? That is because the listings with the stars have more reviews – typically 7 or more to display prominently in the search results. Set a goal to have at least 7 positive reviews to help improve your conversions and performance from your Google Places Listings
  3. Check your reviews on a regular basis. There are at least 20 places to check: Google Places, Yelp, Ask, CityVoter, CitySearch, iBegin, Bing, Dogpile, NoMoreClipboard, Yahoo, Blogs, Demandforce, SuperPages, Mojopages, Manta, Local, Yellowpages, Lycos, Avvo, and
  4. If you have negative reviews written about you, try to track back who the client is and request that they remove the review. If you are unsuccessful, write a response to the review (in your Google + admin screen) or simply be proactive and push the negative review down the list with more recent positive reviews. Remember, the more positive reviews you have listed at the top, the least likely the negative review will impact you.

If you need help in setting up and executing your online review strategy, contact us today for more help…

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bankruptcy Legal Demand Growth Takes A Hit In 2011

The Hildebrand Institute recently released their 2012 Client Advisory and there was some interesting growth trends (and lack thereof) that took place from 2010-2011:

As we can see from the chart:
The winners were: IP Litigation, Labor & Employment, Litigation and Real Estate.
The biggest losers: Bankruptcy, Tax, and M&A

What can we learn from this from a legal marketing perspective? It is always hard to tell by trying the steer a tanker by its wake but here is what I am seeing:

- The bankruptcy wave may have peaked sometime last year or the year before
- Litigation still remains strong
- Labor & Employment law is still going strong
- Has real estate started to turn the corner? Some states like Arizona have sold a good deal of their inventory over the past 24 months which could be a sign of things to come...