Friday, March 22, 2013

The Return of Long Tail Attorney Search

OK – long tail search never really went away but the ever changing landscape of the search engines are certainly giving it a new emphasis. This was recently written on Search Engine Watch and here are some of the biggest drivers leading to an increased emphasis on long tail search for attorneys…


As we have previously discussed, mobile search for attorneys is expected to exceed PC based search by 2016. We also recently learned that 77% of mobile search takes place at home or work – not exactly places requiring high mobility. In short, mobile search is the future of search.

One of the more interesting aspects of mobile search is the growing popularity of voice-based commands over typing. Thanks to the technology provided by smart phones, more people are talking to search instead of typing leading to longer and more specific queries (i.e. long tail search).


How many times have you heard an attorney (or yourself) judge results by how they (you) show up for a specific search term? Did you ever think to ask yourself that what you are paying for may also be what other attorneys are also paying for? Why invite such high levels of competition and at such high costs? Since 50-70% of attorney searches online are typically non-repeatable searches, why focus only on the smaller number of terms that cost more? As we have reported, attorneys are spending record amounts of money on PPC terms and driving up the costs at the same time. Remember: everything online is a function of competition and being a lemming is not typically the smartest way to lead.


Last year Google made 665 changes to their search algorithm. In addition the quantity of changes, Google also made two of the arguably most impactful changes with the Penguin (Links) and Panda (Content) changes.  These changes were so transformational that it has led many in the SEO community to literally change all of the rules they worked under for many years…or go out of business altogether. Some law firms responded by successfully changes to a more rich-content strategy with social media while others simply gave up on SEO and started buying PPC ads again. Remember, Google makes over 98% of their money from their paid advertising and the more people who give-up, the more competition and higher prices they will command…which is exactly what they want and you should not.


There is an old saying that “you cannot manage what you cannot measure.” When it comes to attorney marketing online, most failure comes from a lack of quality measurements. In short, many attorneys continue to infatuate on search term rankings, traffic levels, etc. while losing site on the whole reason they advertise to begin with: new cases and client generation. Why would an attorney want to be #1 for a specific search term that is more ubiquitous at the expense of a more case-specific term? To wit: Is being #1 for “Kansas City Injury Attorney” any better than showing up #1 for “Need Attorney For Truck Accident Injury on 435”. Which term do you think is more case specific? BTW, both of these terms came from actual searches to a client’s site…I am pretty sure how they would answer this question. The question is a function of conversion. So if you measure success by your overall level of visits, wouldn’t more case specific (long tail) visits naturally convert better? Then why, assuming the same level of visits, would an attorney want better results for lower converting terms? Again, false measurements lead to bad results.

If you are an attorney who wants to be successful online, you need to understand how ‘targeted” content and an active content strategy is the key to capturing long-tail search results, leading to new case and client generation.


Being a successful attorney online is not complicated if you clearly define your goals and utilize good and knowledgeable resources to help you achieve them. One of the most cost effective ways to doing this is by creating a long-tail search strategy around true measurements (cases and clients) of your results. Or you can choose to be a lemming and see where that leads you.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Beam Me Up Scotty – Back To The Future of Mobile Search!

An article came out today about the future of typing – especially as it applies to the explosion in use of smart phones and mobile devices. It is not uncommon in recent years to hear of stories from doctors about people having problems with their thumbs. Why? Well one of the first questions a doctor may not ask you is how much time you are spending on your smart phone each day. Predictive typing has been around for a few years now but it is simply leading to us our inevitable destination – the end of typing all together…thanks to the smart phone.

Boldly going where STAR TREK has gone before

Over 40 years ago, a generation of Americans watched as a TV series called STAR TREK took us to a new world and “boldly go where no man has gone before.” In addition to funky green aliens and bad acting, the show captured our hearts and imagination – as did the technology in use. At a time in America where wired home telephones were the latest in communications, the actors on STAR TREK used “communicators” that closely resembled a Remington razor. Twenty years later, we starting using our own communicators and shrunk the keyboard. Good thing I didn’t sleep through that typing class in high school.

 The explosion of the mobile world

Over half of all American’s ages 18-29 now have a smart phone. 20% of these users use their smart phone as their primary internet connection. By 2014, there will be 223 million smart phone and tablet owners in the US. By 2016, many experts expect mobile visits to a website to exceed PC visits. In short, we are quickly becoming a mobile internet world…which is quickly changing the way we communicate and live our lives. With the advent of mobile activity has come the explosion of “Apps” that are fundamentally changing “how” we access and use information online. Up until a few years ago, all roads started with the search engines. Today, we are finding more useful information through targeted apps. As the adjacent chart displays, Apps have now become the fastest growing consumer of our time – while TV and internet access have largely flat-lined in growth

Great – I already have a website but…

Conversations with attorneys 5-10 years ago largely centered on the simple need for a website. With 89% of consumers now expecting you to have a website and 95% of people now starting their search for an attorney online, these questions are now become scarce. Most attorneys now realize that new client generation and referral conversions demand an online presence. As most people have come to this conclusion, the goal post has been moved once again – thanks to mobile search.

Mobile websites & conversion

Most websites were built for PC based access and browsing. What people can inherently do and not do on a PC is NOT what they can now do on mobile devices. For example, “contact us” forms exist on almost all attorney websites so people can contact you on their PC – which lacks the ability to call you. Ask a criminal defense, family law or personal injury attorney what their conversion rates for calls are as opposed to contact form submissions? Even a used car salesman can guess correctly at this answer.

To take this a step further, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Since 88% of mobile users take action on the same day of a mobile search, will somebody who comes to your law firm’s website and wants to quickly contact you be easily able to do so?  What barriers to rapid contact has your website created for them?
  • Since 80% of users will abandon a mobile website if they have a bad user experience, what will a referral client who comes to my website on a smart phone and iPad see in comparison to my potential competition for the same client? What kind of first impression will it make on them and how would that help converting them to a paying client? Moreover, what is the cost to you of losing them to another referral attorney? 
  • Since 80% of smart phone users will NEVER leave their home without their phones, what are you doing to improve your visibility and their ability to access and contact you easier than other attorneys who also have a website and want their business?

Mobile website design versus responsive design

Now that an increasing number of law firms understand the need for a better mobile presence, the question now becomes how to achieve it. Historically, website designers would create a seperate “mobile version” of a website, or “mdot”, that would recognize the browser type coming to your website and display which version of the website to apply to that user. These separate sites commonly required further website design efforts, lacked SEO of the main home of the site, and failed to optimally work with ALL current and future mobile devices. In response, came a newer technology called “Responsive design” that now allows you to design ONE WEBSITE that will automatically recalibrate its display to ALL device types. This mobile technology is now the only mobile technology that Google has endorsed for mobile use on a website.

Now what?

If you are an attorney, you need to understand that the mobile world is here to stay – just look in your pocket in case Captain Kirk’s bad acting 40+ years ago was not convincing enough. If you have invested in your 1.0 website to support your practice, it is time for 2.0. Most of us have upgraded our phones at least once over the past 6 years – many attorney websites now need to same upgrade due to the recent explosion in mobile use and search. Upgrading your website alone WITHOUT mobile is no better than Captain Kirk asking Scotty to beam him up 40+ years ago while holding the latest and greatest Remington razor in the hand…