Should Attorneys Rely On The Data In Law Firm SEO Reports?

by Oct 24, 2016

This is the fifth post in our blog series, “Taking Control Of Your Law Firm’s Online Marketing.” Stay tuned for more series posts in the coming days.

In our last blog post, we discussed the importance in having control over your law firm’s website and blog. Attorneys should have access to their law firm’s website and blog and use them effectively as part of their online legal marketing. Part of using those assets effectively is being able to measure results. Attorneys should be able to access, verify, understand and use the data that accompanies their web presence.

When they’re able to do those things, they know what works, what doesn’t, and they can make efficient marketing decisions.

Why does your online legal marketing data matter?

When attorneys do effective online legal marketing, they’re able to attract qualified new leads that turn into case files and that generate profits for their law firm.

The data that goes along with your online marketing strategy matters. It can help your law firm determine what is or isn’t working. It can help you determine how effective your online marketing is. When you approach online legal marketing with effectiveness and efficiency in mind, you can avoid wasting time or money on methods that don’t bring new clients to your law firm.

When you can access, verify and understand that data, you can use it to inform your decisions. You’re less likely to fall for meaningless metrics that keep you paying for services you don’t need and that don’t translate into actual business for your law firm.

Don’t depend on “reports” to tell you about data.

If you’ve ever had a marketing company or SEO company approach you with a report that claims that something is “wrong” with your law firm’s website, you might have worried. But before you start worrying that there’s a problem with your online legal marketing strategy, keep in mind that relying on reports from a SEO or marketing company may not be a good use of your time or marketing dollars.

Many times, these reports are more like Mad Libs than useful marketing tools. The reports may be stories in which a blank gets filled in to push your buttons. Those blanks can include reports that add your firm’s name or website, discussing aspects of your site that can be “improved,” giving your website a “grade” and so forth. These reports often serve one of two purposes: to sell you products or services or to retain your business.

If you’ve received a report from one of these companies, consider the following.

Where does the legal marketing report data come from?

For example, some marketing companies may say that they get their data about your law firm’s web presence “directly” from Google. What do they mean by “directly”? Are they simply conducting Google searches for your law firm? Are they using Google Analytics or other kinds of analytics tools?

A marketing company may be using analysis methods that can’t see “under the hood” of your law firm’s website but can make certain assumptions from publicly available sources. These methods may not be accurate. But the SEO and marketing companies that provide these reports can make it sound as if the data they’re giving you is legitimate and trustworthy.

How reliable are these sources?

When you’re looking at the data sources in a report, don’t accept the data at face value. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • Are they objective?
  • Are they verifiable?
  • Are they trackable?
  • Are they reproducible?
  • Would the source of that data condone the use of the data? For example, if a report says that they got the data from Google, would Google approve of the way they’re using the data?

Who (or what) created that law firm website report?

Know how a report is created and where it comes from. As an example, there are plenty of sales tactics available online that provide attorneys with free marketing reports. Some of them allow you to type in your web address to generate a report. These reports may be biased and critical of your law firm’s website, which may then create a need to use the services of the company that generated the report.

What are those reports based on? If you run several of them, you may see that a lot of them are quite similar. For automatically generated reports, attorneys should ask whether the company who provides the report also created the software that does the analysis. When attorneys ask this question, they often discover that the company didn’t create the software and may not even know how the report is created.

There are also reports created by humans. Whether you’re paying someone to create a report for your law firm’s website or a report is created for you as part of the sales process, ask about who’s creating it. What kind of background does that person have?

That matters not only in terms of SEO, but also in terms of understanding how a law practice actually works. It’s unusual to find a SEO company or marketing company that actually understands how a law firm operates. It’s also unusual to find a company that understands how a potential client interacts with with your law firm’s website, Google, review sites, directories, and all the places that people find and interact with attorneys online before they make a decision to contact them.

What can that report actually tell you about search engine rankings?

What can the report actually tell you about search engine rankings for your law firm? Many of these reports may try to tell you something about how well (or how poorly) your law firm website is ranking in general or for certain keywords. However, these reports will rarely tell you the exact searches that are being conducted to determine your “ranking.”

When they do mention the searches, these searches are not the searches that your potential clients usually conduct. For example, if you’re a California-based DUI attorney who is told that you need to rank well for the phrase “DUI attorney California,” you’re unlikely to get a lot of business that way. Not only is that phrase highly competitive, but many potential clients don’t search for a DUI attorney that way.

Learn more about how your potential clients find your law firm online.

There is no “top” of Google. There is a first position for any search that varies from browser to browser, that depends on a user’s search history, the day, what Google has indexed, the state of your competition, an influx of new content…there are all kinds of different factors that can affect ranking.

If someone says that your firm ranks tenth for a particular term, as if that ranking were static, inquire about what biases are applied. In most cases, the people who produce such reports are unable to articulate those biases because, for example, they’ve subscribed to an automatically generated report that they do not control.

These reports are convenient for marketing companies in two ways. Either the report indicates to your law firm that there’s something wrong with your website and the solution to that “problem” is something that the company can sell you, or the report indicates some kind of progress for your law firm’s web presence so that the company can retain your business.

Know how data translates into revenue and ROI for your law firm.

Learn how the data that you get from your marketing reports translates into new case files, rather than the vanity metrics that some marketers use to try and make attorneys believe something is happening when it’s not. Traffic for the sake of traffic is meaningless. “Clicks,” “Hits,” “Visitors,” and other similar concepts don’t necessarily mean much in terms of your law firm’s bottom line and may not do much to help you achieve your goals of reaching new clients through your website.

When those terms are not clearly defined, it may not matter how many “clicks,” you get. You could get thousands of clicks a day, which might sound like your site is doing well. But if those clicks are actually from robots in Europe when you practice in Minnesota, those clicks don’t do you any good. Those clicks don’t come from qualified potential clients. They’re a metric used to give the illusion of progress to your report. And when you rely on those metrics, you’ll be confused when lots of clicks aren’t translating into lots of new clients for your law firm. That can cause you to waste time wondering about what’s happening and spending money on services you don’t need to try and fix the problem.

If you’re reading information from a report, know what the data is based on. How is the data filtered? Can you drill down on the traffic that’s actually useful?

When you’re in control of your data and you understand what they mean, it will save you a lot of wondering. It will keep you from blind dependence on someone else who may or may not have your best interest in mind, and it will allow you to make gradual improvements to your overall web presence.

Have access to the raw data for your law firm’s website.

Make sure you have access to the raw data for your law firm’s online marketing. When your law firm has access to raw data, you don’t have to depend on marketing “reports” from a SEO company or a webmaster that could be cherry-picking the information they give to you. When you control and understand the data for your law firm’s web presence, you’re able to control how you use your time, how you spend your money, and your law firm’s future.

Other posts in this series:

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