Updated March 1, 2015
This blog post is a topic presented at the American Association for Justice in Chicago on Sept. 9, 2014. Hosted by Tobias Millrood, this is the first marketing-only conference hosted by AAJ, featuring many of the best legal marketing professionals such as Ben Glass, Stacey Burke, and Gyi Tsakalakis.
Please feel free to ask questions in the comments section below so everyone can benefit from the Q&A (and because user-generated content is a good thing 🙂 ).
So, fallacies. This post and related presentation focus on the fact that fallacies are no way to create a marketing strategy. By nature, some of the things I talk about below are facts and some are generalizations. In this post, you will find outright fallacies and data-driven scenarios discrediting antiquated theories and strategies. Some have told me they have read this post which validated many of their own beliefs, while others told me I was wrong or shouldn’t be afraid to promote a generalization. I disagree, and you can too; please post any thoughts in the comments below!!
#1 People Don’t Read, They Skim.
People will read stories that are relevant to them. Skimming is the human eye searching for content it wants, and it typically follows a standard practice for English readers: left to right, top to bottom. The scan is to locate content that is relevant and authoritative, and then they read. Whether they “skim” the content or not depends on whether it meets those two factors. Other factors affecting whether to read or skim can be age, education, gender, the device, time of day and surrounding distractions.
#2 Everyone Uses Google.
OK, in terms of effectiveness, Bing and Yahoo! do suck. I used Bing as my default search engine recently for about a month and was starting to pull out what is left of my hair. They’re not bad, but they just can’t keep up with Google’s familiar features and accuracy.
However, a lot of searches happen on Bing and Yahoo! According to Neilsen’s latest (and this fluxes up and down a few percentage points), Google controls about 70% of the web’s search results. And while that is a general statistic, I can tell you from data and experience that Bing and Yahoo! are great places to advertise. Here’s why:
- They’re cheaper.
- They typically target an older, less savvy user (in case you want that target).
- You can use older SEO tactics that don’t quite work on Google.
To be clear, this is not a way to create a long-term strategy or to radically change your methods. The point here is to not forget about other viable channels besides Google.
#3 No One Clicks Paid Ads.
Google makes more than 90% of its revenue from its paid search efforts. In the 4th quarter of 2013, Google generated nearly $17 billion in revenue. Someone is clicking those ads. And paid search, better known as pay-per-click, is awesome. Paid search gives you tremendous flexibility and control, as well as tools to measure ROI. The bottom line is that you do not have a complete “strategy” if it doesn’t include paid search.
#4 People Want a Sleek Design.
For years we have heard the request in website design for a client’s design to “pop” or have a “wow” factor. We often ask a firm what type of sites they like to get an idea of who they are. They will direct us to sites for Apple, Audi and maybe golf course on Maui. All nice sites, but those sites have different goals. And frankly, a law firm is not as desirable as an Apple or Audi. People want a design to help them get to the information they seek.
A design should be determined by these two primary factors: 1. your audience; and 2. a competitive analysis.
#5 I Have to Spend Big Bucks on Web Design.
Like many things in life, websites can be very affordable. Go to 99Designs, or my personal preference, Design Crowd, and you get a good site designed, as well as logos and other collateral. You can get the site built in WordPress, and it is responsive, so it works on all devices. I’d say this is your “Toyota” of web designs; it will look good and run great.
But what you may not get is a strategy, or a design that supports the firms branding and unique needs. You’ll miss out on a truly excellent design. You see, most people don’t realize when they are looking at a great design. They just know they like it more. That’s the planning, balance, color palette and essentially, usable art that generates cases.
Bottom line: If you just need a quick website and want to keep your costs down, go to DesignCrowd or try this popular template. But if you run a truly successful practice and you are fighting the competition for serious cases, that extra design and planning will make a difference.
#6 I Already Have a Mobile Website, So I Don’t Need a Responsive One.
This is simply not true, and it can be detrimental to your placement in search engines. And here is why: Google says specifically on their own website that they want “responsive” websites.
Notice it is the only bolded part of the page!
#7 The ‘Fold’ is Critical.
The “fold” is an old advertising adage that stems from getting as many interesting headlines above the folding area of the newspaper. This way, when a passerby would see it at the newspaper stand, their attention would be piqued and they would buy. Makes sense.
When website design came around, most of us operated on small monitors (800 x 600 resolution), and in order to scroll you had to move the mouse into the corner to a down arrow that looked like this: ∇ . Thankfully, times have changed. Scrolling is widespread, and the screen sizes we use are much larger and wider now. The fold is less critical now, so don’t try to force too much information above the fold. A website should focus on the user-friendliness or “usability,” which means not cramming so much information that the website becomes difficult to read or confusing to operate.
Tip: For mass tort attorneys who may accept clients in all 50 states, do state this clearly above the fold.
Tip +1: If you se habla espanol, say it up top.
#8 ‘Send Us Over Your Headshots’
Data shows that an attorney bio is typically in the Top 5 or Top 10 of most-viewed web pages. For whatever reason it may be, for someone considering hiring you — or perhaps a judge or juror — it is a popular page, and that means it is important to your users.
The first place the eyes are going to go, less than two seconds before making a judgement, is to your picture. Make it a good one. Pictures can last 10 years and cost only hundreds of dollars. I talked about this in more depth in this previous post at CAL-ABOTA last year.
Everyone can take a great photo. Do it, and put it on your bio.
#9 Logos Help You Stand Out.
No, logos catch attention because they are images typically filled with colors, so the human eye goes right to it. If those logos are worth their salt, then their significance needs to be explained. Most people have no idea what Martindale-Hubbell’s “AV” rating means — if it’s important, explain it. Super Lawyers logos are ubiquitous, and were designed for the Plaintiff’s bar. Use logos as bait to bring people in — but logos will not help you “stand out.”
#10 About The Firm = About Them
Whether your firm has a team of six or 60, there are advantages to both. One might think that the larger firm is best since they have the resources, but are they agile enough or creative enough to have the whole entity working together on all their cases? As you create the “About Us” page, remember to think about what value your firm presents to your next potential client.
Data overwhelmingly shows that the About Us page is frequently a Top 5 most popular page. This is an important page that addresses a user whose attention is piqued. Capture that opportunity. Give the reader reasons to hire you because of what you can do for them.
#11 Write a Lot of Blogs.
If you have ever read Gerry Spence’s blog, it is literary excellence. Gerry makes me want to be a lawyer with his passionate, even provocative, pursuit for justice, intertwined with his appreciation of basic human emotions, like love.
Gerry’s posts are super high-quality (albeit few and far between) musings that people certainly don’t skim — they read.
Lawyers and many other professionals, like Gerry, have unique and conscious perspectives of the world around them. From sidewalk cracks to improperly loaded big-rig trucks, lawyers spot day-to-day dangers. And good blog posts can be rooted in such basics.
And if you want to blog but are stuck, call me and we’ll get you back on track in a phone call. For those of you who don’t want to blog, it is probably best if you don’t.
#12 SEO’d Content & Keyword Density
I was asked as recently as last week about “optimized content.” When I asked what that meant, the person told me it was about ensuring the keywords appeared in the article “a lot.” Content is kind of like food in a way — it’s either good or bad. And “it’s just OK” food is bad food.
Content should be concise, easy to understand, informative and, for the sake of marketing, use a call(s)-to-action. (Hint: that “call me” in #11 was a call-to-action.)
An example of poor SEO’d/keyword-stuffed content is: Our firm’s Missouri nursing home abuse lawyers have handled over 100 nursing home abuse cases through the St. Louis area, and can help your family with your nursing home negligence case.
You’ve heard it since 5th grade: garbage in, garbage out. Write good content.
#13 We Should Build an App.
We appreciate the innovators and, in fact, we’ll ask you to be one a little bit later. You don’t need to be an innovator with an app for your law firm. There are many other ways to use that money. If you are dead-set on getting one, have it well-planned. Define a goal, plan a structure for it and how it will be maintained for at least a year. Otherwise, save your money.
#14 People Don’t Use Yelp to Look Up a Lawyer.
So the obvious here is: Yes, yes they do use Yelp. You need to Yelp yourself and look for other review sites that have your firm on them. Failure to monitor this can end up with one of these…
WOW, that’s bad. Yelp yourself. And if you have a bad review and need some help to fix it, email me.
#15 Yelp is the Most Important Review Website.
Yelp isn’t going anywhere, and probably won’t be acquired to be dismantled, so it does matter. But, the review website that matters most is the one that appears for your law firm and lawyer’s names. These include but are not limited to, Google Reviews, Yahoo Reviews, YellowPages.com, Manta, and so on.
#16 Bad Reviews Don’t Affect Google Ranking.
This is another one that I heard discussed while in Baltimore at AAJ in 2014. Google announced nearly four years ago their feelings about reviews. I’m sure you get the idea, but if you want to read the full post it is linked here.
#17 SEO is Dead.
The glory days of mostly technical knowledge and the secret society who knew the value of the “M” word (hint: asbestos disease) is long gone. Google’s 2,200 PhDs and data scientists have honed Google into a scary-smart machine that can spot those trying to game the system — and have done so to push more people to use paid search, which makes Google money (See fallacy #3).
SEO will forever be more creative and more difficult, evolving just like other things, however it is by no means “dead.” Be cautious of those who make such a claim.
#18 I Have to Be #1 in Google for ‘Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer.’
On Day 1, Conrad Saam used a narrative about an auto accident and then had people Google search on their phones if they had been in that accident. He then asked those who ran the search to stand up. It was an excellent demonstration to prove a point. He proceeded to ask people what they had searched for, and told anyone else standing to sit if they had made same query. Everyone’s search was different — whether it be “Chicago car wreck lawyer,” “Chicago personal injury lawyer,” “Chicago car accident,” and so on. The point being: don’t focus on a single keyword strategy. Focus on a traffic strategy to generate qualified traffic to your website.
#19 All Backlinks are Good.
A fundamental to SEO and prominent Google placement is the number of links that point to a website. Alright, I’ll sum this up — this is rooted to the earliest days of Google, when Larry Page and Sergey Brin originally called it “Backrub.” At Stanford, they determined that links were like votes for a site’s authority. Shortly thereafter, the name Google was created, and Larry Page called it “PageRank.”
So everyone scrambled 10 years ago to get links, reciprocal links, etc. In 2012, we created infographics like this one about swimming pool accidents in order to “share” them around the web, which means we asked people to link to it. Today, we’ll still be thinking of creative ways to generate quality links, but please be careful should you decide to hire someone because of their link offerings. Unsolicited emails are everywhere offering 1st page placement, and some of them even discuss a number of links.
The decision will be yours, but consider this: good links are hard to come by. They require quality content, and helpful or even philanthropic contributions. Or perhaps viral entertainment.
#20 Low-Income Clients Don’t Use the Mobile Web.
If you are reading this post, you probably don’t have an discount carrier account with Cricket Wireless or Boost mobile. And you probably have high-speed Internet at home. Now, you think, “well yeah, of course I have high-speed Internet at home!” You see, you can afford the luxury of high-speed Internet, because that is what it is — a luxury.
Millions and millions of Americans’ sole access to the Internet is via their phone. Once again, a responsive website comes in to save the day, and you can learn more in point #1 on this post.
#21 Social Media is for Kids.
This is mostly true, but that doesn’t mean it will be that way forever and kids grow up. So, here I am asking you to be an innovator. A lot of people have already started, but there is so much room right now. How to use social media for your firm is an entirely tailored subject on it’s own, so let us know if you have a question.
#22 Newsletters Are Old-School.
Usually old-school is associated with words like “irrelevant” and “outdated,” and this is why I label it a fallacy. Newsletters and the addresses you collect, whether physical or email, are marketing material you own outright. No Google update can change that. As Ben Glass said: “these folks are in your tribe.”